TISS – Hyderabad

TISS - Hyderabad


TISS-Hyderabad currently offers 4 courses in early language and literacy at the MA level, and 3 courses at the M.Phil level. Each of these are briefly described here. In addition, it proposes to develop one new course at the MA level that is targeted to be offered from the academic year 2018-2019.

Early Language and Literacy Courses at TISS-Hyderabad - M.A. Education Programme

Understanding Language (Compulsory Course – 2 credits)

As the result of completing this course it is hoped that the student will:

  • Begin to understand language as a symbolic interactional process, which is foundational for all social science disciplines.
  • Begin to understand the complex relationships amongst language, culture, cognition and communication.
  • Become familiar with the nativist vs. culture debate regarding language learning.
  • Get an idea of the multi-layered rule-governed structure of language, and the processes of variation and change.
  • Understand the functions of language, the differing roles of oracy, literacy and non- verbal (especially visual) language, and their implications for education.
  • Become sensitized to issues of language domination and its effect on the experiences of children; and become aware of the student’s own attitudes towards the languages of the marginalised.

Language Mind and Society (Elective Advanced Disciplinary Course – 4 credits)

Following are the course objectives:

  • To sensitise the participants to the nature and structure of language addressing such issues as language acquisition, variation and change;
  • To make participants aware of how language is constitutive of being human;
  • To develop a critical understanding of the role language plays in the construction of power structures in society and develop a critical awareness about the gendered 
use of language;
  • To examine the relationships amongst multilingualism, cognitive growth, scholastic achievement and social tolerance;
  • To examine the role of language in schools; and
  • To appreciate the properties of India as a linguistic and sociolinguistic area and 
its implications for pedagogy.

Language in Education (Elective Curriculum and Pedagogy Course – 4 credits)

Objectives of the course are:

  • To enable participants to view questions of language pedagogy within the framework of understanding the nature of languages and linguistic diversity in India.
  • To develop a sensitivity to, and appreciation for, speech variations, especially those associated with marginalized social groups, while learning how to enable children from such groups to master the standard forms of speech and writing.
  • To help participants become familiar with issues of reading pedagogy and be able to critically assess textbooks and other teaching/learning materials.
  • To help participants formulate goals of language pedagogy at the post-literacy stage, and to critically analyze textbooks and other teaching/learning materials.
  • To enable participants to critically assess present methods of evaluating children’s language skills, and to develop alternative strategies.

Teaching of English (Elective Curriculum and Pedagogy Course – 4 Credits)

It is hoped that by the end of the course the student will have:

  • Developed a critical understanding of the role of English in India, including both its contribution and advantages, and also its deleterious effects at the levels of individual, society and culture.
  • Developed an understanding of the variety of situations in which English is taught in 
India, both at the school and university level.
  • Understood the main methodological issues regarding English instruction.
  • Developed a critical view of the textbooks currently used for the teaching of English at various levels in India.
  • Developed an eclectic, pragmatic view that will enable him/her to teach English at various levels, to plan curricula, develop instructional materials, or conduct training of English teachers.

Children’s Literature (Proposed Elective Curriculum and Pedagogy Course – 4 credits) – To be Developed.

Early Language and Literacy Courses at TISS-Hyderabad - M.Phil Programme

Three courses are offered to students interested in early language and literacy at the M.Phil level:

Looking at Language (Optional – 2 Credits)

This is a foundation course, intended to introduce the student to the nature of language as a symbolic system and a medium of communication and of social and cultural process. The course touches briefly on issues of language and power and on the language development of an individual child.
The main ideas informing the course are as follows:

  • According to Susanne Langer, the transformation of sense impressions into symbols representing ideas is a fundamental activity of the human brain. This activity is what makes thought possible. 

  • There is a vast universe of symbols and signs – ranging from archetypal symbols to those which are socially constructed and those which are individually constructed. Even in regard to a language, the language itself is a symbol, the words of the spoken language are symbols, the way words are pronounced have symbolic value, and the written words are composed of letters which are symbols or signs. 

  • To some extent, different languages encode/symbolize reality in different ways. 

  • A language is not a thing, but a collaborative process of meaning making. Subgroups which 
communicate with each other most intensely have the greatest uniformity in language and 

  • Though there may be a great deal of social or geographic variation in a language, all varieties 
are grammatical – that is, rule-governed. However, for political or social reasons, one variety of 
the language may be regarded as ‘pure’, while other varieties are considered ‘impure’. 

  • The individual child’s language development is a cognitive process that takes place in a social 
 As Sybil Marshall says, creativity in language use means being able to find appropriate symbols to express one’s experience. 

By the end of the course the student should: 

  • Have become aware of the significance of symbols, in society, culture, religion and in his/her 
own life. 

  • Have become aware of the way symbols are used for manipulation – in politics, advertising, etc. 

  • Understand that language is a social process, subject to pressures for variation and for 

  • Understand how communication processes create social groups, and how the language of some 
groups is highly valued and that of others devalued. 

  • Become aware of social differences in the process of acquisition and development of language 

  • Become sensitive to the creative use of symbols, especially in young children. 

Approaches to Beginning Literacy – (Optional – 2 Credits)

The main ideas informing the course are as follows:

  • Learning to be literate is part of the process of a child’s learning to make meaning.
The process is affected by the basic cognitive capacities shared by all human beings, by the particular linguistic and social context of the children, and by individual differences between children. Print literacy is one mode of meaning making. Other modes, such as visual representation, drama, movement and music also contribute to print literacy development, but they are also highly important in their own right. 

  • In English-speaking Western countries approaches to beginning literacy have varied a great deal throughout the last century. The traditional method of teaching beginning literacy in Indian languages (letter, abbreviated vowel signs, words, and sentences) has great strengths, but also drawbacks. For historical reasons literacy learning in the West has been complicated by a poor fit between the spoken language and the script. In Indian languages the fit between language and script is much better, an advantage that must be exploited. 

  • Effective literacy instruction must employ several complementary approaches—combining phonics, organic reading and writing, and whole language. 

  • There are various reasons for children having difficulty in learning to read: classroom processes (classroom size, number of students, linguistic and social diversity, teacher’s attitude toward children, and classroom dynamics) and individual differences (emotional differences, lack of coordination between different aspects of reading and writing: decoding/encoding, vocabulary and syntax). 

  • There are a number of innovative methods developed recently for teaching beginning literacy in Indian languages. In addition, there are several related approaches for teaching multigrade classrooms. 

By the end of this course the student should:

  • Understand the development of the theory and practice of different approaches to the teaching of beginning literacy, both in India and the West. 

  • Have developed a critical perspective on approaches to beginning literacy, and be able both to pursue further research in the field, and make informed decisions in regard to pedagogic practice and government policy related to language. 

  • Be able to teach a class of young children to read, and/or be able to train teachers to do so. 

  • Be able to make early interventions with students having problems with beginning literacy.

Culture, power and language education (Optional – 2 Credits)

This course is intended to deal at length with the issues of dominance and power in the language classroom which were touched upon briefly in the foundation course ‘Looking at Language’. The present course gives the student who has taken the earlier course an opportunity to explore the issues more deeply. It may also be of interest to students who have not opted for language pedagogy as their major focus.

The main ideas informing the course are as follows:

  • Language variation (between languages and within one language) is natural and inevitable.
  • In a stratified society, social and/or linguistic variation may differ along a number of interrelated dimensions: caste, socioeconomic class, educational level, tribe, region and so on.
  • The culturally dominant group defines the standard variety of the language – both the spoken and written forms.
  • The culturally dominant group also defines what may be termed the standard lifestyle.
  • In such societies language differences symbolize cultural/lifestyle differences.
  • Both the dominant group and the subordinate/marginalised groups construct images of themselves and of the other group.
  • The dominant group sees its variety of the language and its lifestyle as the norm, but individuals within the dominant group may differ in the way they construct the subordinate group.
  • Individuals in the subordinate group often differ in the way they construct their own group and the dominant group. Some persons have internalized the dominant group’s negative image of themselves. Others contest the dominant view.
  • It is necessary to look critically at the language curriculum, the language textbooks, and the dynamics of the language class to see whether the language, life experience and knowledge of the subordinate/marginalized child is given respect and due space.
  • If marginalized children are given the opportunity to speak and write without fear of ridicule, they often can express themselves very powerfully.
  • Improving the situation requires action on several levels, including government policy regarding curriculum and textbook production, and training of teachers to increase their own sensitivity and that of the other children in the class in regard to sociolinguistic differences.

Finally, ways have to be found to empower marginalized children to become aware of the differences between their speech and writing and the standard, and to define the context in which each is appropriate.