Why do we need Writing Centers in our Universities?

Unlike the Writing Centers of the US universities, ‘Writing Center’ is an unknown entity in the Indian Universities. All postgraduate students can write academic papers, can’t they? Go to a library, read the books and journals recommended by your professor and prepare your term papers or your assignments . There’s no body to guide you, no body to tell you how to avoid the pitfalls of plagiarism, how to write critically and independently. What is MLA style sheet? Nothing to do with the MLA ( Member of the Legislative Assembly!
Are writing Centers writing labs? How does the University community view the functioning of the writing centes in the USA? Referring to the status of the writing centers in American colleges, Lisa Ede makes a significant observation, “our second class status is symbolized by our basement offices and inadequate staffs and budgets.” (Ref: “writing as a Social Process: A theoretical foundation for Writing Cente, retrieved from http://casebuilder.rhet.ualr.edu/wcrp/publications/wcj/wcj9.2/WCJ9.2_Ede.pdf
I am glad that I was associated with the writing Center of our University. Unlike the writing centres of the American universities, this Writing Centre was planned not so much in the space of building English language skills but as a more specific intervention that supported the “academic writing and critical thinking” of the students irrespective of the medium in which they had studied earlier during their school or college days. It was designed as a one to one consultation space for the postgraduate students of Education and Development to refine their thought on the formats of their assignments and to provide them timely help on specific assignments. The primary objective of the Writing Center was to help the students to write better and to construct arguments more logically, precisely and convincingly.
The most challenging task faced by the students coming to the Writing Center was the challenge of cohesion and coherence, thematic as well as linguistic. Often, there was a mismatch between the coherence of thought and the coherence of expression. Again, even when some students were competent enough to develop an argument orally, they were confused do so in writing. “ You speak so nicely and you articulate your ideas so brilliantly. Why do you feel so uneasy in expressing them in writing?” I used to ask some of them who were afraid of writing an assignment as per the norms of a particular discipline. I realized that what these students needed was scaffolding. They had the ideas, they had listened to their professors with a critical bent of mind and had read a number of scholarly books, but were unable to present their point of view in a cohesive manner due to their insufficient exposure to the domain specific writing style. It was not a question of their lack of proficiency in English, it was a question of the lack of exposure to the domain specific conventions and the rhetorical practice.
The Writing Center also helped me in gaining a new insight into ‘process writing’. With many students, structuring their ideas in writing was more problematic than structuring their paragraphs and it was often noticed that the lack of linearity in processing the thought content affected the processing of the writing output.
On the basis of my interaction with a highly motivated group of students coming from English as well as other Indian language backgrounds and hailing from the various parts of the country, I do believe that all the Indian colleges and universities should make provisions for ‘writing centers’. The fact that you are a native speaker of a particular language does not guarantee that you can write academic papers in that language. We learn writing as a developmental process, through mentoring, experimenting and exploring. We don’t learn it just by listening to the academic discourses of our professors. Don’t lull them with your rhetoric, give them a hands-on experience.

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