AS A parent whose children go to a government school, I can certainly identify with those who opine that more emphasis needs to be given to the English language.
To begin with, I think the standard of English in primary schools is not up to par. Children are only learning phonics in Year Two.
Learning phonics is a process in phonological awareness; the process of sounding out letters, segmenting and blending words in order to read. It is one of the prerequisites to successful reading.
Most children in this day and age would have attended at least one or two years of kindergarten, and if so, would have gone through this stage and are proficient readers.
A syllabus that repeats what children have already been taught puts them at risk of being disinterested and bored. This is the main reason why my daughter does not like learning English at school.
This being the case, the education authorities might argue that not all children would have had kindergarten education prior to primary school. This might be true for many children in rural areas.
However, our government school teachers should not limit themselves to teaching what is only prescribed in the national curriculum.
A good teacher should be one who is able to tailor the curriculum to the needs of the pupils.
When it is obvious that a large proportion of the pupils are proficient readers and users of the English language, the teacher should take the initiative to move on and to teach other more relevant aspects of the language.
That way, a teacher is not only delivering a curriculum but teaching the subject.
I strongly feel that children should be taught the richness of the language through its usage. No one can learn to use a language by only learning from textbooks.
Children should be inspired to know the language through exposure to various genres.
Today, there are no shortage of beautifully written children’s stories by award-winning writers.
Many are fun, witty, captivating and imaginative. Often, these stories are illustrated by stunning artworks. Take for example, The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.
Why limit learning to textbooks when there are so many good books out there? Teachers often tell children that they should read to improve their language.
It shouldn’t be a case of just telling them; they should take the initiative and do it with them.
The purpose of language is for communication. Sadly, I do not see children being taught to use language to communicate their thoughts and ideas at the primary level.
Now, communication can be in both oral and written form. I feel that the national syllabus is lacking in both.
Again, I go back to learning from textbooks. When ideas are derived from textbooks, children are merely copying the product of someone else’s mind.
The beauty of the language is that there are infinite ways of expressing one thing. Language is the window to one’s mind.
Children’s minds develop when they learn to think and express themselves in a language. It is a skill that warrants practice.
The written form of language comes as a product of first speaking, and then reading. The more they speak and read, the better they are able to write.
As a child born in the 1970s, I am a product of a government school system myself.
I found myself struggling to write a good piece of writing, be it creative or argumentative writing. My writing skills were acquired after I left school and went abroad for tertiary education. I continued to hone my skills at work.
My wish for my children is that they would be inspired by the good English writers out there and be able to communicate confidently through speaking and writing.
Tan Cheng Yi
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