R. Krishnamoorthy

The programme has deteriorated into a ritual: study

TIRUCHI: The "short" Bridge Course in English under way in arts and science colleges fails to serve the desired purpose of rectifying the steep fall in the standard of teaching and learning English, if an analysis made by academics is any pointer.

Compared to the seventies when the Bridge Course was more than remedial, devoted that it was to the consolidation and extension of the students' knowledge in English, it has now deteriorated into a ritual and a token gesture devoid of any force to recharge the linguistic and literary acumen of the students, it says.

In 99 cases out of 100, the Bridge Course is reduced to a one-time crash programme lasting for five days at the most with no follow-up by means of spaced-controlled repetition, states a detailed study made by A. Noel Joseph Irudayaraj, Head, Department of English, Bharathidasan University, and Tamil Mani, English Lecturer, Nehru Memorial College, Puthanampatti.

Unlike in the past when internationally trained teachers co-ordinated and monitored the bridge courses organised in the colleges throughout Tamil Nadu, at present, students are not supplied with effective and individually workable materials produced by native speakers.

The study lists as causes for the decline in the standard of English the change of the medium of instruction in colleges from English to Tamil since 1971, conversion of Pre-University courses into Plus-Two pattern with an emphasis on science-related core subjects, the permission granted for the Plus-Two English medium students to write their examination (inclusive of subject papers) in their mother tongue or regional language, and the widening of the gap between the terminal behaviour of the students after Plus-Two and the required entry behaviour at the bridge course level.

Superficial revival

Even as the advent of information and communication technology (ICT) in 1990 impelled the colleges to rethink about the bridge course in the college curriculum, the revival was only superficial.

The duration of the course was drastically reduced from four weeks to just two or three days with the focus on the so-called "functional aspects" of English.

The most appalling aspect about the bridge course in the present scenario is that it is conducted in a haphazard manner. The genuine, laudable objectives (like enabling the students to shed off their fear for English and to feel at home with English in the college curriculum) have been given a go by and a mania has been created around "innovative techniques" and "novel materials."

There cannot be a readymade textbook for any bridge course, the analysis points out.

Remedy

To find out a remedy for this unhealthy situation, the study calls for an understanding of the real components of a bridge course, its true objectives, and the appropriate, beneficial methodology to be adopted.

A Bridge Course should lead to two goals: a) As a campaign to sensitise students to their linguistic predicament on the road to self-sufficiency and competency, and b) As the inauguration of the three-year-long co-curricular program to be implemented through weekly, fortnightly or at least monthly sessions and workshops, the study insists.

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