December 2008
Volume 12, Number 3

Contents  |   TESL-EJ Top

Rebuilding English from the Bottom Up: Negotiating Basic Literacy with/for Working-Class Adolescents in Kolkata

Gael Fonken

St. Cloud State University, Minnesota, USA <>


This ethnographic reflection foregrounds the efforts a K-12 English-medium (EM) school in Kolkata is making to pull EM schooling more fully into India's multilingual ethos. By focusing on the special needs of a small group of struggling working-class girls, the successes of the majority of working-class students at this school become more visible. Through a description of the activities emerging from an experimental "remedial" classroom, I imagine a curriculum designed especially for first-generation English learners. Although such adaptations would be more complicated to implement officially, my intent is to highlight the potential EM schooling has to meet the needs of a country whose majority is still chronically undereducated. For English to become truly Indian, students of all types need to be freer to use it creatively. As a guest teacher from the U.S.A., I recount some tentative moves in this direction, made possible by the special environment at this school.

Keywords: EFL, ESL, India, literacy, adolescents

Full Article (HTML)  |  Full Article (PDF)

© Copyright rests with authors. Please cite TESL-EJ appropriately.

Editor's Note: The HTML version contains no page numbers. Please use the PDF version of this article for citations.