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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 36| September 05, 2010|


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The right English

Md. Aminul Islam Sajib

Few days ago during my Pre-Test examination, my English 1st paper exam was held. There was a letter writing section with the title "Write a letter to your friend telling him/her what you intend to do after your SSC examination." I wrote that I intended to go to my village and spend time educating the illiterate. The truth is, I am going to learn PHP, Javascript, CSS and Wordpress theme development after my SSC examination.

Well, it sounds funny when you hear it. But you may wonder why I didn't write the truth. The fact is, if I did write that, my teacher is most likely to give me fewer marks. Why? It is because, chances are he would consider my actions of less significance and thus give me poor marks. On the other hand, if he sees that I followed the book and there were no grammatical or spelling errors, I would get a good mark. In the end, why take the risk?

The fact is, most students in Bangladesh who are studying in Bangla medium are very weak in English because they are not taught the subject in the proper way. I have seen many students copying paragraphs, essays and letters from their textbooks or the numerous guidebooks available in the market. Their exam scripts end up being a carbon copy of a book. Those who cannot memorize their essays in English, make gross errors in their grammar and spelling. Most of the times, they have little idea of what they have written.

For many days I've been curious to know what students wrote in the very common essay "Your Aim in Life". I found 100% of the students whom I have come across do not write the actual aim they have in life. Instead, they write what is given in the books. This simply means most students are memorizing whatever information their books offer them. The question is, what are they really learning from this?

English is a compulsory subject in primary, secondary and higher education in Bangladesh. I am yet to find out what goes on in higher education, but in secondary level, I know that the majority of students use their memories to pass their exams. This has two adverse effects. One, they continue to make lots of mistakes in grammar and spelling. Two, they are actually learning nothing. In the worst-case scenario, if an unseen question is found, students are left with no option but to skip it.

What are those paragraphs for?
We need to learn how to write an essay or a letter in English so that we know how to write whenever required. But why do we learn paragraphs and essays in school? I do not know the exact answer but I do believe that the reason for teaching free writing is so that a student is capable of writing anything in English, from personal experience to literature or story writing. Today we have a new addition to our English second paper, "Completing Story". An incomplete story is given in the question paper, and the student is required to give a suitable title and write the rest of the story. The objective is of course, to use students' imaginations to come up with their own stories.

Our teachers have to take the initiative to end the practice of memorising and encourage students to write by themselves. If that is done, I believe, students of Bangla medium will no longer remain weak in English language skills.

(The writer is a student of Class-10, Hazrat Shah Ali Model High School, Mirpur, Dhaka.)


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