23
Aug
12

TEACHING LITERATURE

 

LITERATURE IN ENGLISH

READINGS IN ENGLISH

I’m greatly heartened by the Prime Minister’s call to include English Literature in the school curriculum.

Being a firm believer in the adage “Reading maketh a man” and a long-time advocate of English language and literature, I truly hope that the Education Blueprint which will be revealed shortly will confirm the (re)introduction of  literature as a component of the English curriculum.

To allay the fears of students, teachers and parents who think that English Literature comprises only the classics of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Wordsworth and Lawrence,  perhaps what needs to be clarified is that the field is much wider than just these well-known authors, poets and playwrights.

Perhaps “Literature in English” or “Readings in English” are better terms to use, as they can be extended to include all kinds of writings in English be they by British, American, African, Chinese or Commonwealth authors and poets. There are many commendable works by writers and poets who are not British or Americans, including those from India and Malaysia.

Both classics and contemporary works can be included as well as the more modern genres like newspaper reports and feature articles. Both complete works or abridged editions can be used depending on the language proficiency of the students and the teachers who teach them.

What needs to be systematically done is to list and categorise the works in terms of their themes, subject matter and levels of linguistic complexity. Schools can be given a choice as to which novel, play or collection of poems and articles they prefer. At the lowest levels, fairy tales and Enid Blyton can be part of the collection.

I would like to suggest that rather than introduce Literature/ Readings in English as a stand-alone subject, it should be incorporated into the greater English Language curriculum. A practical approach would be to add two extra periods where teachers and students are exposed to a variety of narratives, writing styles and genres using a wide range of vocabulary.

Classroom methodology can include reading aloud, pronunciation drills, dictation, role play, writing summaries and book reports, identifying quotations and interesting idioms and turns of phrase. Films and recordings can be presented to motivate both the teachers and students and sustain their interest. Assessment of learning can be in the form of individual or group projects and/ or answering subjective questions in the relevant section of the English Language test/ examination paper.

Without being utterly boring and harping on the good old days when people of my generation learned and loved the English Language through English Literature, I would like to assert that any extra reading especially of good writings, will only enhance one’s capacity to use the language well and to communicate effectively whether passively (in reading and listening) or actively  (in writing and speaking).

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