Video in the English curriculum of an Indian secondary school

Jayalakshmi, G. D. (1994). Video in the English curriculum of an Indian secondary school. PhD thesis The Open University.



This case study explores the potential of video in helping teachers and pupils to break out of entrenched but arguably unfruitful methods of English language teaching in Indian secondary schools, provides evidence that it can have a substantial impact, and analyses the conditions in which this is possible.

The study could be described as action research drawing on ethnographic methods. I introduced a 'package' of video-based English lessons to the Core English Curriculum of an Indian Central School, and observed the consequences. The package was prepared by me, but taught by the students' regular teachers.

First I observed for a month the nonnal, textbook-based teaching in the English classroom. Then the teacher was trained to use the video package, which was based on the contents of one of the chapters in the text-book they used. Finally, I observed the introduction of this package in the classroom. My data came from audio-recordings of the classes, diaries kept for me by the students, interviews and informal discussions with teachers and students, and my own observations of the classes and the school generally. In addition, I was able to draw on my own experiences of having been a student and a teacher in India.

Chapter 1 outlines the background It discusses the unique position of English in India - its history and current social status - and describes schooling in India, placing Central Schools and their Core English Curriculum in context. It sets my research agenda as the study of the introduction of video in a 'real life' setting, as opposed to the 'artificial' experimental or quasi-experimental situations of much previous work.

Chapter 2 surveys the literature I draw upon. As there is very little previous research bearing directly on this topic, I have had to refer to a wider body of partially relevant literature on: (i) use of television for education in India; (ii) second language classroom studies with an emphasis on the development of communicative competence; (iii) classroom studies with special reference to group work; (iv) bilingualism.

Chapter 3 explains the advantages of a case study based on ethnographic methods, and considers some of the potential problems and limitations, notably the risks in generalising from one study.

Chapter 4 deals with theoretical issues and practical methods in developing teaching materials for the project. I discuss research into the use of video in second language teaching, and explain how I drew on it to develop the video material itself, task sheets for students to work on in groups after watching video extracts, and a teacher-training package. Group work is not essential in introducing video, but I argue that it is the best way of using the medium. The next three chapters deal with the introduction of the video package, and the context in which it was introduced. Chapter 5 describes the school. Chapter 6 is a chronology of the various stages in the introduction of video into the English classroom. Chapter 7 then analyses this introduction in terms of the various participants involved - the problems faced by each, and the conflicts that arose between them.

Chapters 8 and 9 concentrate on the classroom. Chapter 8 examines the traditional English classes, analysing the teacher-fronted, transmission mode of teaching that prevails, and identifying twin roots of this pedagogy. First, there is the indigenous Harikatha tradition (in which the written word is treated as a sacred text for reverent, uncritical commentary); and secondly, there is the imperial tradition, arising directly from the introduction of En~lish as the medium of educational instruction in India. The manner in which these traditions affect classroom pedagogy today is critically evaluated.

Chapter 9 analyses the classes after the video package had been introduced. It focuses on talk, now the students' rather than the teacher's language, for with the introduction of video in the classroom, the students had to learn to work in groups on the task-sheets. The television screen did not inspire the same uncritical reverence as the written word. The chapter reveals how the ritualised routine of the transmission mode broke down with the introduction of video; and how it encouraged the students to take more control of their own learning environment.

Chapter 10 discusses what the research can claim to have discovered.. Video does seem to have considerable potential in helping teachers and students to break out of the traditional methods of language teaching in Indian schools, moving the students further on the path of developing communicative competence in English. But more research is needed, and I make concrete suggestions for such studies. With due caution because of the dangers of generalising from one case-study, I draw implications for teachers, schools and government if best use is to be made of the potential of video in English teaching.

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