Although Tamil is one of the four official languages in Singapore and is part of the curriculum as a second language, extensive research has not been done on it in Singapore. This is especially so in the field of grammar instruction. In view of this, we decided to embark on a research aimed at examining the methods used by teachers to teach Tamil grammar and the rationale behind these methods.
What we wanted to find
Research in this particular area was significant as it provided insights into the approaches used by Tamil teachers for teaching grammar and their rationale for using them. In addition, it allowed an assessment of the adequacy of the methods employed. Though the data analyzed in this research was Tamil grammar, the insights gained from the analysis are applicable to other language teaching situations as well.
What we did
In order to gain an insight into the approaches employed during the teaching of grammar, teachers from two primary and two secondary schools were observed and audio recorded during grammar lessons. Subsequent to this, the lessons were transcribed word for word and the teaching methods employed by the teachers were noted down in detail. Then the teachers were asked to evaluate the description and provide rationale for the methods utilized by them.
What we found out
Though the syllabus emphasized the use of the Communicative Approach, an approach which disposes learners towards communication in the real world, the findings showed that the realities of the classroom resulted in the use of a range of approaches such as the Audiolingual Approach, the Structural Approach, etc. The teachers’ use of different approaches was dictated by a variety of variables such as: the nature of the grammatical structure, the ability of the students, the mode of assessment, etc.
The variables in operation in the class necessitated the use of different approaches for a variety of contexts and pedagogical purposes. As such it became evident that no single approach, no matter how current it was, could be deemed as the most effective approach. Instead, the different approaches were found to be appropriate for different pedagogical purposes and contexts. At times these methods had to be “localized” or modified for the Singapore context.
Where we go from here
Since the findings indicate that there is no single effective method, it would be a good idea for teacher training to equip teachers with a knowledge base of these various teaching methods or approaches. This would allow teachers to select the most appropriate methods for a variety of pedagogical purposes and contexts.
Since the appropriateness of methods is context dependent and there is a need at times to localize methods to suit specific pedagogical contexts, it is recommended that theorists and practitioners work together to come up with pedagogies that are better suited for a specific sociocultural context.