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Engineering and English: A study in failure

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The Times of India |

Keep quiet and do your chorus.” Hold your horses. We are not talking about a Greek play–there is no song, dance or recitation. This is, in fact, an instruction uttered by a teacher in a well-known engineering college in the city. The befuddled students after trying to wrap their heads around the sentence realised the professor was asking them to complete their “chores” and not break into a spontaneous song and dance sequence. Poor communication skills of teachers may have made them the butt of jokes in many classrooms, but this is not a matter that can be taken lightly. Failing to deliver a lecture cogently and make students understand a concept means their job is not well done. Good communication skills become all the more vital since many of the concepts are technical and students deserve a coherent explanation. However, many engineering colleges in the state are reeling under this sorry state of affairs. According to Prof T Murugavel of SVCE, the reason behind this dismal state could be because many do not enter the profession with a penchant to teach. “Many are still under the impression that science needs no grammar. But, these old beliefs cannot work today ,” he says. He suggests that while hiring teachers, the interview panel should consist of not only subject experts but also a language expert to test if the new recruits can deliver concepts effectively .

The menace of teachers with poor communication skills is not just restricted to engineering, other departments are increasingly struggling with it. While educationists are of the view that explaining concepts in the local language can drive the matter home, they also feel this would not give students room for new learning to take place.  A national study this year by an employability evaluation company found that 51% of graduates, mainly engineers, were deemed unemployable because of poor English. A student of Jeppiar College shares his experience, “We have had presentations where teachers would copy and paste passages taken from the web. We don’t necessarily learn anything and many students just do rote learning.” Contrary to the belief that teachers are not given enough training, academicians point out that there are plenty of opportunities. Recently , many partnership programmes with the British Council were undertaken in the state. Professor I Arul Aram, associate professor at College of Engineering, Anna University , says ideas in the mind become stillborn in the absence of good language. “Even if teachers are from Tamil medium, it is not difficult for them to learn English. Enough effort has to be put in,” he says. – Courtesy

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