The year was 1993 when I wrote my first course book for the English syllabus of first year students of Bachelor of Engineering disciplines being offered by various engineering colleges affiliated to Madras University.
By then, I’d several articles published in professional journals and dailies. I never thought I’d get to write books, let alone course books. To my disbelief it happened when I had a call from Mr Mohan, the then Manager of Allied Publishers, Madras. He requested me to write a course book for B.E. English syllabus. He also accepted my wish to design and write the book the way I wanted to.
There was a reason for this request. This happened in 1991. Most students and faculty in several colleges had been dissatisfied with the then English syllabus.
It was almost the end of 1991. I had been teaching for almost six years ‘Technical English’ to first year students studying several Bachelor of Engineering disciplines. Most students and faculty had been dissatisfied with their English syllabuses. This prompted me to conduct a Survey on Curriculum Development in English Language Teaching for engineering students in Thamizh Nadu to seek responses from students, faculty teaching English, faculty teaching engineering disciplines and practising engineers to learn the desirable changes they’d like to see.
My College Management (of Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering) was magnanimous enough to permit and fund the research project. I owe this opportunity to Prof Krishnan, my second Principal. I had 1455 students, 27 English lecturers, 128 lecturers from departments of engineering disciplines, 67 practising engineers as respondents providing feedback to questionnaires suited to each group. I followed this up with a workshop based on the Survey findings. The ELT specialists at the workshop resolved to strive for changing the curriculum through various measures.
And A Means to an End was born.
Though I’ve written several course books since, this book is special to me for several reasons. First, because this is my first course book ever. Second, I could provide what students, faculty and practicing engineers wished to see. They wanted variety in lesson content, practice in listening, speaking and writing, just a revision of grammar, ways to improve their vocabulary acquisition. This is what my book provided.
Learn the rest of the reasons in the voice of Prof. Jacob Tharu, former Head, Department of Evaluation, Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India:
The challenge of offering variety in the content presented has certainly
been taken up boldly and with, it seems to me, the feel of an experienced
teacher for what college students will respond to. The wide range of
activities (interestingly called “learning experiences”) do hold the promise
of interest and challenge for students of differing tastes, styles and abilities.
a particularly noteworthy feature is the provision of ‘help’ in varying
degrees to cater to learners at different levels. The elaborate support
provided in the “nugget” for revising grammar and learning about functions
is another useful feature. The book seems to me to do two things well. Each
sets out a solid base from which to gently push learners into meaningful
communicative activity. It also has that reassuring layer of explanation and
elaboration for those who want a text that ‘teaches’, patiently and thoroughly.
This was prescribed as a textbook by Madras University in 1993 and 1994.
The Publishers never came back to me to continue to write for them. I was told that their Head Office was not keen on publishing course books.
This is out of print now.