‘Language Across Curriculum’: Need for a paradigm shift

While working as a District Elementary Education Officer in the nineties of the last century, I had the privilege of interacting with a large number of teachers teaching at the grass root level. Soon after reaching a school for inspection, I used to ask the teachers: “How many of you teach language in this school?” The common answer was: “ One  teacher, Sir.” “What about others? Don’t you teach Language?” “No, Sir, I teach Maths, she teaches Social Studies, he teaches……” I pretended to be surprised. “But, don’t you think, all of you are basically language teachers?” I used to ask. They were visibly shocked. How ignorant a District Education Officer could be, they must have wondered!
Do we need a teacher specifically for a particular language when all teachers are basically language teachers? Isolating language from the overall learning experience of a child goes against the theories of learning. How can we forget that all learning during our childhood was through language itself?
Language plays a central role in the learning experience of the child. It enables the child to form concepts, explore symbols, analyze a given problem and to solve it, organize information and interact with his or her environment. Therefore, irrespective of the subjects they teach, all teachers should give due weightage to the centrality of language in the learning process of the child and any pedagogic intervention should recognize the role of language in the transaction of the curriculum. The concept of Language across Curriculum acknowledges the fact that language education does not take place in the language class alone, it takes place in each and every subject.
While discussing the goal of language curriculum, the National Curriculum Framework of India also advocated a language across curriculum perspective. “A language across curriculum perspective particular relevance to primary education. Language is best acquired through different meaning making contexts, and hence all teaching is in a sense language teaching” (NCERT,2006:4).
Language across curriculum is based on three basic tenets: (a) language is more than surface structure, (b) the entire school as an environment influences the learners’ language development and (c) language plays a key role in virtually all school learning. ( Fillion, 1979: 48). Irrespective of the subject area, learners assimilate new concepts largely through language. When they listen and talk, read and write about what they are learning in non-language classes, they use language as language and consequently, while increasing their concepts in non-linguistic fields, they enhance their linguistic skills as well. Therefore, all the stakeholders of education need a broad language perspective that integrates language and content learning ( Mohan,B.A.: 1986:18).
The centrality of language in the transaction of the school curriculum leads us to content-related instruction that provides cognitively engaging contexts for language practice and integrates language development with content learning (Curtain, H and Dahlberg, A.,2010:281).
Language is a major tool for a child to decode the world around her, it is also a tool for her to learn about the world. For a child, a language is not limited to the domain of social interaction, it is also a resource for her thinking and reasoning. Therefore, don’t make the child a victim of the compartmentalization of your curriculum, design you curriculum in such a way that the cognitive development and the linguistic development of the child go hand in hand. All the teachers are equally responsible for presenting the language with its panoramic view before the inquisitive mind of the child.

Curtain, H. and Dahlberg, C.A. 2010. Languages and Children: Making the Match, Pearson: New York.
Fillion Bryant. 1979. Language across the Curriculum, McGill Journal of Education. Pp. 47-60.
Mohan, Bernard A. 1986.Language and Content. Addison-Wesley:Reading