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On February 2, 2015 | By admin

AICTE, the regulatory body governing several categories of higher educational institutions in India, has advocated the implementation of a digital Language Lab in the institutions. The norms outlined make it ‘essential’ for institutions to demonstrate the availability of such infrastructure at the time of inspection of the expert committee. The specifications are documented as follows:

“The Language Laboratory is used for language tutorials. These are attended by students who voluntarily opt for Remedial English classes. Lessons and exercises are recorded on a weekly basis so that the students are exposed to a variety of listening and speaking drills. This especially benefits students who are deficient in English and also aims at confidence-building for interviews and competitive examinations. The Language Laboratory sessions also include word games, quizzes, extemporary speaking, debates, skits etc. This Lab shall have 25 Computers for every 1000 students.”

While the reasoning of AICTE’s specifics in the norms is not articulated, many institutions seem to follow it in letter rather than in the spirit of meeting the stated objectives which I would like to interpret as follows:

“Institutions need to create specific Language Lab infrastructure that will help deliver remedial English classes for the benefit of those students whose listening and speaking skills are found to be deficient.”

The fact that many institutions take a short-cut by implementing ‘something’ just to satisfy the expert-committee is worrisome.

Let us examine this a little further. The fact that English is a foreign language to Indians in general cannot be over emphasised. The fact also remains that those in higher educational institutions needing remedial classes for betterment of their language skills are not a homogenous group and therefore there is no ‘ones-size-fits-all’ approach where some ‘content’ is ‘packaged tightly’ within a software platform without allowing the teachers to use their imagination and creativity to tailor a solution based on their student profiles will simply be inadequate.

I would urge language teachers and also members of the expert committees to study the research and findings of Prof. B Kumaravadivelu of San Jose University, California, USA on ‘Postmethod Pedagogy‘, wherein, visualising a three-dimensional system consisting of the parameters of particularity, practicality and possibility, he argues that a postmethod pedagogy must:

  • facilitate the advancement of a context-sensitive language education based on a true understanding of local linguistic, sociocultural, and political particularities
  • rupture the reified role relationship between theorists and practitioners by enabling teachers to construct their own theory of practice
  • tap the sociopolitical consciousness that participants bring with them in order to aid their quest for identity formation and social transformation.

Language teachers in educational institutions will therefore do well to educate their administrators to implement Language Laboratories that offer the flexibility and sophistication to deal with such diversity and heterogeneity of students and their learning styles so that the investment that they make in such infrastructure will serve its purpose and deliver the desired learning outcomes.

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