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Sunday, 6 July 2014

Honing language skills

Intellectual e xch ange: The training sessions have been a great platform for the teachers to network and get ideas from one another.

Intellectual e xch ange: The training sessions have been a great platform for the teachers to network and get ideas from one another.

The progress made by government school teachers in an English language programme to upskill their learning and teaching methods, has been encouraging.

IT was an occasion to celebrate for over 200 educators who attended a recent event showcasing the success of an English language training programme, a collaboration between the Education Ministry and British Council.

The teachers from primary and secondary schools in the country together with the trainers from British Council were from a previous and current cohort of teachers involved in the Professional Up-Skilling of English Language Teachers (Pro-ELT).

The programme, launched in September 2012, is to provide effective language proficiency training and teacher training to English language teachers nationwide, said the Education Ministry’s English Language Teaching Centre director Dr Ranjit Singh Gill.

The programme provides 480 hours of training over 44 weeks through a blended delivery model comprising 240 hours of face-to-face sessions with trainers as well as another 240 hours of online self-study supported by e-moderators.

Dr Ranjit Singh said the second cohort of 9,000 teachers are currently undergoing the programme. He added that the first cohort of 5,000 teachers saw significant improvements with 76.4% of the teachers advancing at least one band on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale.

The CEFR is a guideline used to describe achievements of learners of foreign languages. It describes language ability on a scale of bands or levels from A1 for beginners up to C2 for those who have mastered a language.

Dr Ranjit Singh stressed that the teachers participating in the programme are “good teachers”.

“Indeed these teachers are on a programme intended to enhance their language proficiency but this does not in any way reflect their ability.”

Nur Zeeha Ramli, 40, from SMK Raja Chulan, Perak, said the programme had greatly benefited her as she had become a lot more confident in speaking English and this had helped her in the classroom.

“It is also a great platform to network with other English teachers and has allowed us to exchange ideas and share experiences. Our classes are more interesting since we are borrowing ideas from one another.”

Since the programme takes a blended teaching approach she has developed a greater appreciation for technology.

“These days students get bored easily so we need to think of ways to keep them engaged,” added Nur Zeeha.

British Council Malaysia country director Gavin Anderson said the event was dedicated to recognising the teachers and their success stories.

“The event is an opportunity for the teachers themselves to demonstrate to their colleagues and peers some of their most valuable outcomes from the training.

“There’s a session called ‘Meet the States’, where you talk to teachers representing each of the 13 states and the federal territories.”

He also spoke of the 23.6% of teachers from the first cohort who did not register improvements on the CEFR scale.

Anderson said this did not mean that they had not improved at all.

“What they’re being measured on is a quite a wide band. Just because they didn’t meet the threshold to move up, doesn’t mean that their language proficiency hasn’t improved ... it just hasn’t improved by a large enough amount that you can recognise in this scoring system.

“Obviously the long term outcomes that the ministry hopes for is that students will be better at speaking English, and the UPSR and Form Three results go up over time, but it’s much too short term to be able to talk about that yet,” he said.

English Language Training expert and consultant Prof Simon Borg said beyond the improvements on the CEFR scale, the teachers have also gained in other ways.

“When you hear the teachers talk about how they are benefiting, they talk about other factors.

“They talk about increased confidence, renewed enthusiasm in teaching, a positive attitude towards learning and changes in their own classrooms,” he said, adding that not all of these are necessarily formal objectives but are important impacts.

The showcase also featured various workshops, discussions and presentations delivered by Malaysian teachers and British Council trainers.

The workshops showcased practical classroom sessions on communicative and motivating teaching and learning which Pro-ELT teachers have been introducing in their primary and secondary school classrooms.

The event also featured several demonstration lessons and video presentations highlighting the work that teachers have been involved in as part of their Pro-ELT experience.

Mazna Sulaiman, 47, an English teacher from SMK Lubok Buntar, Kedah, who was part of the first cohort of teachers under the programme, said that while it provided many compelling online materials that she wanted to share with her students, most of them had no access to the Internet.

“I then tried to find a creative way around ... so I compiled and presented the content in the form of a tiny booklet called 5 Sentences a Day towards Excellence.

“Students can easily carry the booklet in their pockets and take it out while waiting at the bus stop or wherever.

“If they can memorise five words or sentences a day from the book, it will really help them improve their language,” she said.

Mazna said one of the concepts she learnt from the programme that really made an impact on her, was the theory of multiple intelligences.

“Different students have different approaches to learning. Some are more linguistic while others are more visual or logical or interpersonal.”

As such, Mazna introduced English-based projects and activities to her students to tap into their various learning styles.

“I think it’s my job as a teacher to improve my students and gain their interest. I’ve learnt a lot from the programme and I love it,” she said.

Vekram Krishnan from SMK Pulau Sebang, Malacca, said that attending the Pro-ELT training sessions each week required time management skills on his part.

Krishnan said he was confident that he had enhanced his proficiency of English as well as his knowledge on the teaching and learning process.

“I’ve learnt new methods and have incorporated the use of IT to make my lessons more interesting. I believe this has really motivated my students to want to learn.

“After attending the programme, I started conducting my lessons differently, that is by moving away from the mundane classroom routines and adding fun and variety to my teaching.

I am really grateful to my outstanding trainers,” added Krishnan.

Hor Loke Kei, 54, joined the programme in March as part of the second cohort.

The teacher from SJK (C) Confucian, Kuala Lumpur, with 34 years of experience, said he was impressed with the manner in which the trainers conducted themselves in class.

“The trainers are very polite. They have very elegant ways of phrasing sentences even when they reprimand students and this makes them feel more comfortable under their tutelage.

“They’ve influenced me to use a more positive approach in the classroom and I hope it will helpmy students,” he said.

Tags / Keywords: Education , Pro ELT , British Council , showcase , event , English , teacher , training


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