A letter to the teachers of English: 83Curriculum revision: some lessons to learn (2) [Archives:2005/836/Education]

April 25 2005

Dr. M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb.

Dear Fellow teachers,

The curriculum revision I am talking about has been a 'storm in a tea cup', creating rather than solving the problems of the old curriculum. To mention a few, there aren't reference materials to teach the new courses in the university concerned; competent teachers to teach these course are hardly available; the time which can be allotted for each of these course may not be enough to make the learners understand the content of it; the English classes are large and discussing these subjects in large classes compounds the problem. Let me look at some of the courses suggested in the new curriculum.

Pragmatics, one of the courses in the new curriculum, is a new field of linguistics and suitable books to teach this subject are hardly available in Yemen; while this course is included in the curriculum of the M.A programme in one of the Yemeni universities, what is the justification in including this subject in the curriculum of the B.A. programme in another university? Ideational politics of literature is another course in the new curriculum; sounds fantastic, doesn't it? What does it mean? I asked some of my friends who teach literature and a few M.A holders in English; they are at a loss to get the grips of the title. I wonder what the content of this course will be and I feel pity for the students who study this subject, leave alone the teacher who teaches.

Communicative grammar, another course in the new curriculum, is definitely a new field of grammar and a valuable subject; my question is 'Is communicative grammar not a burden to those who are learning the foundation grammar?' I am not an old-is-gold sort of conservative to suggest that you should not have anything new, nor am I saying that communicative grammar is a waste of time. I am only saying that our students in the graduate programme of the Faculty of Arts are not linguistically strong enough for such difficult subjects. On the other hand, the new curriculum could have set guidelines for teaching the grammar courses in the old curriculum in a more useful way.

A new curriculum is not necessarily one with new courses; the existing courses can be retained, if they do good to the learners; the revised curriculum has been in a hurry to 'throw the child with the bath tub', because the bath tub was found defective.

A similar thing happened when the new English curriculum consisting of the Crescent English Course Books was introduced in the Yemeni schools; the old course books were unceremoniously thrown away, though they had many useful items, some of which were more useful than the present books.

Periodical revision of curriculum is welcome and is a step in improving the education system in a country both at the school and university levels, but the people involved should be careful in revising the curriculum and should not take it as an opportunity to incorporate their own ideals irrespective of the results the revision will bring in. As stated earlier, a curriculum should reflect the needs of the learners for whom it is meant and more importantly it should result in producing students who will be useful to the society they belong to. I am afraid the new curriculum I have been discussing, which has involved a lot of expertise and expenditure, has not succeeded on this count. It may be high on its 'scholarly look' with tongue-twisting titles and mind-boggling phrases but, in my considered opinion, will fail miserably as a need-based curriculum that will enable the learners to come out of the Faculties as employable graduates to be useful to the Yemeni society.

Yours fraternally,