July 22: Ever found your school uniform displayed on the pages of your textbook?

Well, students of schools run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), did. In a colourful English primer brought out by MCD a few days ago. It is called ‘My First Book’, says a report in ‘The Times of India’.

These students saw a picture of their school-uniform, telling them what the alphabet U stands for. Unlike other primers showing the boring old umbrella. Similarly, I is for ice cream and not inkpot. And every child knows what that is!

MCD runs 1,800 primary schools in Delhi. So far, its teachers have taught in Hindi. But MCD has suddenly felt that English is the global language, today. It is also the key to technical knowledge in the computer age. Making municipal school children learn English at a later age makes many of them lag behind in the language, especially when compared to students who attend Delhi’s public schools. For they are taught in English from the very beginning.

Q is for Queue and not Queen any more [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]
Q is for Queue and not Queen any more [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]

But how could MCD make the English alphabet look easy to children who never speak it, much less read or write it? The answer is, by giving examples of things that they see around them and are bale to recognise easily.

So, Q for Queen is out and Q for queue is in. And there is no Indian child that does no recognise a queue either in real life or in books! The idea is to make children lose their fear about learning a difficult language.

‘My First Book’ has been designed by the Education Department, with some help from the National Centre for Education Research and Training ( NCERT ).

The idea for the primer came after the MCD officials read a report about a teacher in Jamaica, in the Caribbean islands or the West Indies as they are called. The teacher had asked his students to write poems on the autumn season. Then he realised that there is no autumn season in Jamaica, which is a hot, tropical island with swaying palm trees and many beaches.

The teacher understood that the English he taught his students always talked about things that they never saw in their daily lives. The English textbook had not changed from the time when the British ruled the island. It spoke of British queens and blonde girls. None of these things made any sense to the children. So, how could he expect his students to understand and like English, in such a situation?

The Delhi government too, has been facing a similar situation among students in the middle and senior level school students. These students are not at all interested in learning English. It speaks of things they have never seen or experienced.

This is the reason why the government of Delhi has decided to make English fit in with the local people’s lives. Many other governments around the world are doing the same thing, and why not? English is no longer only the Queen’s language, is it?

519 words | 5 minutes
Readability: Grade 6 (11-12 year old children)
Based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores

Filed under: world news
Tags: #india, #british rule, #alphabet, #queen

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