The Tamil Nadu State Council for Higher Education’s (TANSCHE) meeting on October 29 and 30 in Chennai is being awaited with great expectation as certain important proposals will be taken up for discussion.

Sources say that Vice-Chancellors, Controllers of Examination, and experts from Boards of Studies of State arts and science universities, have been called for the meeting. Among the proposals, a few important ones are, introducing single-window counselling for post-graduate courses, offering options for students in the five-year integrated course to get a degree on quitting after three years, and extending language and English for undergraduate students from the present two semesters to four semesters. The last proposal is being viewed with great interest as it has a bearing on students as well as faculty.

It is a common grouse among academia and industry that candidates passing out of arts and science colleges lack communication skills. While many colleges claim that they offer special courses and conduct finishing schools to hone the communication skills of their students, this does not seem to be enough from the conversion rate in terms of number of students getting placed in campus recruitments.

English and language teachers in college believe that universities failing to offer curriculum-based English and language for four semesters (two years) can be considered a major reason. Leading the crusade in this regard, A. Ganesan, former Head, Department of Tamil, N.G.M. College, Pollachi, and President of Gandhiyadikal Educational Welfare Association, has been writing to several authorities, including Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

“While students of conventional arts and science courses get an opportunity to study English and another language for four semesters, those studying in the newer courses, especially the commerce-based courses get to study language only for two semesters. The importance that is given to major and allied subjects is not given to language in colleges. Even subject teachers and some Vice-Chancellors believe that studying language and English in college is not necessary,” Mr. Ganesan says.

Teachers who teach commerce say that business English and communication is incorporated in the commerce syllabus. Hence, there is no need for separate English classes. Ruing the state of affairs where English and language are being neglected when compared to other subjects, K. Rathinasabapathy, Associate Professor, Department of English, PSG College of Arts and Science, says that there is a big disparity between students pursuing the conventional courses and those who are not.

“There is an urge to utilise the English and language periods to incorporate more subjects,” he says.

English and language teachers see the disparity not only as a lack of language skills, but also failure of the student to develop as an all-round personality. They believe that learning English / language as a skill is different from learning it as a subject and that only language teachers can teach it as a skill.

There are also other considerations such as employing more English and language teachers, which can be a burden on the college managements.