1. History of ELT in Bangladesh
Bangladesh and English Language Teaching
During the Pakistan period, as a legacy of British rule, English was a second language in Bangladesh. The
educated or even fairly educated people had to use English for official, professional, educational and
other purposes. However, after the War of Liberation in 1971 in independent Bangladesh the official
status of the English language changed to that of a foreign language. In this monolingual country people
could do almost everything in Bengali, thus not using English in real life communication, they started
facing problems when they were required to communicate in English. More recently, in the EFL situation
in post-liberation Bangladesh, English has regained an important unofficial status. English is used on
many government, semi-government and private organizations along with Bengali.
The changing scenario:
The effect of using the traditional teaching methods has proved to be counterproductive, encouraging
rote learning. The students study English as a required subject, work hard to memorize the textbook
contents and language forms and get high marks in their exams, yet the majority are unable to acquire
even a minimum competence in the language needed for effective communication.
Parents in general regard learning English as a necessary for their children as they believe that it opens
up doors to a better future. More opportunities for business, travel, studies, jobs, etc. within the
country and with other countries as well have made it necessary to shift the emphasis towards teaching
communication abilities, especially conversational skills. Sensing the growing demand and the
administrators realize that something has to be done to improve the present sorry state of English.
Place of English in the National Curriculum:
English is studied as a compulsory subject in our curriculum to meet specific purposes, e.g. to provide
overseas employment, to help to transact foreign trade and commerce and to facilitate higher studies.
English is taught also to enable learners to be acquainted with the culture, tradition, history and the
country in general of the target language and also to pursue knowledge and pleasure about the world.
2. Learners study English for 14 years. During this long period both English and Bengali are given the same
Use of the Language:
The National Syllabus and Curriculum Committee has specified that: ‘The English language syllabus aims
to focus on the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing as leaners-centred activities within
communicate contexts’ ( New syllabus for secondary and higher secondary levels, NCTB, 1995). But in
reality, when English is used in a class, the teachers are more focused on teaching reading, translation
and writing as these are the exam-oriented skills.
Most of the teachers fail to recognize that the imaginative function of language is as important as the
representational one. As Fisher and Terry (1982) point out, they also do not pay much attention to ‘the
development of language in all its models or functions but just concentrate on the representational
Problems in Speaking:
Bygate (1987) opines, ‘Speaking is in many ways an undervalued skill… which deserves attention’. In the
present circumstances the students are able to read works in the original, but unfortunately are unable
to ask for a glass of water’, (Dawson and Pospisil, 1993). Most language teachers agree that to get the
students talking is both the difficult and also the most satisfying thing, student’s main problem lies with
expressing their thoughts. And the possible reasons behind poor proficiency in speaking are:
English is seldom used socially and is confined mainly to the classroom ( in reality not even that)
Overemphasis on grammatical accuracy, rather than on fluency, leads to a fear about
Overuse of the mother tongue in English class hampers the development of spoken skills.
Moreover, spoken skill is not at all assessed in the primary and secondary level. When it is tested in the
tertiary level, only language structure and grammar is evaluated, and if it is tested as part of a literature
course, then only literary knowledge is assessed. Both of these methods of assessment encouraging the
learners to memorize formulaic expression. Hence, there is no correspondence between the observe.
‘Often, owing to evaluate measures and grading policies, teachers tend to place a higher value on
written work than on oral work’.
Institutions: Government and Private
In Bangladesh, educational institutions belong to both governmental and private sectors. The students
in most of the government schools in the rural areas are not aware of the aims and objectives of
3. learning English, except that they have to pass the exams. Of all the students, some benefit from the
study of English, no doubt, but some others do not need to study English at all for 14 long years.
In our country textbooks at the rate of one title per class are produced by NCTB, which all the
mainstream schools have to use. All these books use the communicative approach to some extent. And
every book includes literary texts which are integrated with the main topic of the unit. The teachers
depends solely on the textbook contents and methodology for what they call teaching English.
Methodology Currently Used:
Traditional teaching methodology teacher-centered grammar translation method, is not suitable for
teaching communicative English, but only for meeting the requirements of the present examination
system. That is why, even if a teacher knows how to make his/her learners practice oral skills, s/he does
not find it worth practicing. There is a need for a methodology change in the reaching of ‘foreign’
literature to bring it more into line with the learner-centered, collaborative approach of the
Therefore, the above discussions are about the history and drawbacks of ELT in Bangladesh where is
scope available for improving the systems of teaching English.