Elementary skills, as the term indicates, are the building blocks of quality education among children. However, there is a disparity among urban and rural children when it comes to elementary skill development. This is one of the key reasons why they lag behind in education

They attend school in their neighbourhoods or villages, and don’t have access to facilities that children in cities have. Most schools there have provision for special skill-based training that improve elementary skills such as listening, reading, writing, and speaking among the students.

The Indian education system relies heavily on English as the medium for higher and specialised learning, especially in vocational courses. Since the rural students are taught English in a purely bookish and theory style, their grasp of the language has remained abysmal so far.

The standard classrooms are undergoing transformation today. There is an increasing involvement of latest technology in education. The teaching process is putting a greater emphasis on learning through mediums like audio-visual etc. Integration of technology into education to encourage the rural students to develop elementary skills would empower them to deal with the daily life challenges in a better way. To improve the overall standard of rural education, it is crucial that more focus is given to development of four major elementary skills.

Listening ability: Listening is the foremost elementary skill and serves as a precursor to speaking. As evident through the course of history, even an infant slowly starts uttering words in a particular language after having listened to it for close to a year. The lack of listening skills undermines the understanding of the language.

That is the reason why rural children are unable to speak proper English. There are various activities that can be of great help in improving listening skills among students and motivate them to focus on the language. These include listening to recordings, recorded speeches of famous people, interviews and discussions among students, regularly listening to chat shows, news programmes, weather and sports reviews, watching English language films on television, listening to various accents, correct pronunciation of words and to jargons and catch phrases.

Speaking ability: The need is to give students good exposure to environments conducive to speaking English. Involving students in activities related to substitution of give word, phrase or sentence is a well-known practice of developing speaking skills. Teachers can make students participate in activities like word substitution, creation of sentences, greeting others, expressing gratitude, small talk and expressing emotions.

Reading skills: The power of reading cannot be over-emphasised when it comes to learning language and developing a student’s language skills. Long periods spent on reading are bound to make it better.

There are plenty of fruitful exercises that can make students improve their reading skills like individual reading assignments should be given to each student, they could be encouraged to read aloud to correct mistakes of pronunciation, emphasis and flow and must be encouraged to read in a flow and not word to word.

Writing skills: Writing skills are crucial for effective future communication. Activities like daily journal writing, writing about objects seen in photos, reviewing of films or favourite TV programmes, creating a birthday message for a classmate, news headlines and writing about their wishes and favourite activities can augment these skills among rural students.

It must be acknowledged that everyone makes mistakes while learning elementary skills. The important thing is to not shy away from improving these.

Teachers must be very subtle in correcting any errors. They should not interrupt at every step because that might make the learners nervous, hesitant or disinterested in further learning. Learning of linguistics is a slow paced and never-ending process and encouragement to practice further is more important than correcting errors.

Mastering the four elementary skills is vital to a successful academic learning. Teachers in rural areas need to give due importance to these. They must be strategic and patient while teaching. There is no doubt that they are constrained by factors like remoteness, lack of resources, disinterest from parents of their students and other factors afflicting education in rural India. However, it would be wrong on the part of the teachers to ignore the real reasons why their students lag in learning.

By fostering elementary skills in rural students, teachers can successfully turn around the condition of education in those areas and enable their pupils to confidently compete in the employment sector with the urban students.