Elementary skills, as the term indicates, are the building blocks of quality education among children. However, there is a disparity among urban and rural children when it comes to elementary skill development. This is one of the key reasons why some rural children lag in education.
Children in rural India attend school in their neighbourhoods or villages, and don’t have access to facilities that children in cities have. Most schools in cities have provision for special skill-based training that improve elementary skills such as listening, reading, writing, and speaking among the students.
The Indian education system relies heavily on English as the medium for higher and specialised learning, especially in vocational courses. Since the rural students are taught English in a theory style, their grasp of the language has remained abysmal so far.
However, the standard classrooms are undergoing transformation today. There is an increasing involvement of latest technology in education. The teaching process is putting a greater emphasis on learning through mediums like audio-visual, etc. Integration of technology into education to encourage the rural students to develop elementary skills would empower them to deal with the daily life challenges in a better way. To improve the overall standard of rural education, it is crucial that more focus is given to the development of four major elementary skills.
Listening is the foremost elementary skill and serves as a precursor to speaking. As evident through the course of history, even an infant slowly starts uttering words in a particular language after having listened to it for close to a year. The lack of listening skills undermines the understanding of the language, which is the reason many rural children are unable to speak good English.
There are various activities that can be of great help in improving listening skills among students and motivate them to focus on the language. These include:
· Listening to recordings- recorded speeches of famous people
· Interviews and discussions among students
· Regularly listening to chat shows, news programmes, weather, and sports reviews
· Watching English language films
· Listening to various accents, correct pronunciation of words
· Listening to jargons, catch-phrases, etc.
The need is to give students good exposure to environments conducive to speaking English. Involving students in activities related to substitution of word, phrase, or sentence is a well-known practice of developing speaking skills. Teachers can make students participate in activities such as:
· Word substitution
· Creation of sentences
· Greeting others
· Expressing gratitude
· Small talk
· Expressing emotions
The power of reading cannot be over-emphasised when it comes to learning language and developing a student’s language skills. Long periods spent on reading are bound to make language skills better. There are plenty of fruitful exercises that can make students improve their reading skills:
· Individual reading assignments should be given to each student
· They could be encouraged to read aloud to correct mistakes of pronunciation, emphasis, and flow.
· They should be encouraged to read in a flow, and not word-to-word
Writing skills are crucial for effective future communication and given below are some activities that can augment these skills among rural students.
· Daily journal writing
· Writing about objects seen in photos
· Writing reviews of films or favourite TV programmes
· Writing news headlines
· Creating a birthday message for a classmate
· Writing about their wishes and favourite activities
It must be acknowledged that everyone makes mistakes while learning elementary skills. The important thing is to not shy away from improving these. Teachers must be very subtle in correcting any errors. They should not interrupt at every step because that might make the learners nervous, hesitant, or disinterested in further learning. Learning of linguistics is a slow paced and never-ending process and encouragement to practice further is more important than correcting errors.
Mastering the four elementary skills of linguistics, that is,listening, speaking, reading, and writing is vital to a successful academic learning. Teachers in rural areas need to give due importance to these skills. They must be strategic and patient in teaching their students. There is no doubt that they are constrained by factors like remoteness, lack of resources, disinterest from parents of their students and other factors afflicting education in rural India. However, it would be wrong on the part of the teachers to ignore the real reasons why their students lag in learning.
By fostering elementary skills in rural students, teachers can successfully turn around the condition of education in those areas, and enable their pupils to confidently compete in the employment sector with the urban students.