THE concern shown by the National Institute of Public Administration over our students’ poor level of English proficiency, “Poor English level a poser” (NST Letters, March 27), should make schools, parents and especially English language teachers reflect on their efforts in helping children master the language, both for academic purposes and for them to be prepared for the working world.
English teachers are still facing problems activating and developing language skills in learners.
Some students are motivated to learn the language, but their passion and perseverance are seasonal and only for short-term goals – achieving excellent grades to make everyone proud, or to meet the requirements for university admission.
Others perceive English as a difficult, unimportant and uninteresting subject to learn, and to love. Teachers need to integrate old and new pedagogies to engage students, regardless of the level of proficiency.
The use of information and communication technologies as well as collaborative teaching are recent strategies that may be effective, but let us also consider suggestions by renowned pioneers in education, including John Dewey, Friedrich Froebel, Johann Pestalozzi, Maria Montessori and Jean Piaget, who proposed various teaching methods to help teachers cope with learners with different personalities and learning styles.
Froebel agreed that the inclusion of songs, stories, games and gifts are suitable for children experiencing early childhood and elementary education, and with necessary and creative amendments in lesson plans, these teaching ideas are likely to attract teenage learners to learn English too.
Students can learn about pronunciation and enunciation through songs; stories help learners develop their curiosity and become critical thinkers; language games make it possible for them to learn and play at the same time while extrinsic rewards like gifts serve as icing on the cake.
Piaget thought that it was important for learners to interact with the environment and he also encouraged teachers to provide concrete materials that children can touch, manipulate and use during lessons.
This direct and informal style of teaching is suitable for weak learners who usually have problems understanding grammar, memorising vocabulary and appreciating literature.
Besides, learners should be allowed to express their thoughts during sharing sessions, as suggested by Dewey, as this will arouse their interest and increase attention span.
Since parents are mutually accountable in helping schoolchildren become proficient in English, they should play their roles by conducting spontaneous learning, as proposed by Montessori.
In this homely yet conducive for-learning environment, children will learn using didactic materials while parents act as facilitators.
Children are gifted with multiple intelligences, and it is our responsibility to discover and develop their individual learning styles.
Some may be able to sit back and listen, but others may need to move to learn.
Muhamad Solahudin Ramli,Marang, Terengganu The NST Opinion Letters 6 April 2015