Fun English learning for Orang Asli pupils

Joint effort: Chew (right) handing over the printed modules for Samuel to deliver to the pupils in Pahang.

bratsbratsENGLISH language lessons have been made more fun and engaging for pupils from two primary schools in Muadzam Shah, Pahang, thanks to an initiative by some 30 Bachelor of English Language and Linguistics (BELL) undergraduates from Universiti Malaya (UM).

Called Easy English with BELL, the initiative, which began last year, has seen the setting up of a website filled with learning modules comprising videos, quizzes and exercises for Years Four to Six pupils at SK Runchang and SK Kota Perdana.

Cognisant that their target pupils – many of whom are from the Jakun tribe of the Orang Asli community living in remote areas – have limited to no access to Internet connectivity and digital devices, the team delivered 160 printed copies of the modules with help from former SK Runchang English language teacher Samuel Isaiah early this year.

“To get connectivity for remote learning, the pupils have to travel 5km from their homes. Their lack of devices is also a problem that needs to be tackled to enable inclusivity in remote learning,” said Samuel, who was a Top 10 finalist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2020.

The printed modules included not only exercises, but also cartoons, tongue-twisters, word search games, jokes, riddles and language tips.

To motivate the pupils in their learning, book vouchers were given as a reward upon their completion of the modules.

Student Adam Hakimi, who was the project director, said he and his team were initially nervous about achieving what they set out to do.

“The majority of us are from the cities. We have few ideas of how education is conducted within the Orang Asli community,” said Adam.

Timely boost: The Orang Asli pupils at SK Runchang posing with their modules early this year. (Note: Mask wearing in class was not a mandatory requirement when the photo was taken.)Timely boost: The Orang Asli pupils at SK Runchang posing with their modules early this year. (Note: Mask wearing in class was not a mandatory requirement when the photo was taken.)

Starting out, UM Faculty of Languages and Linguistics senior lecturer Dr Chew Shin Yi, who guided the second year BELL undergraduates on the project, reached out to Samuel and English language teachers at both schools to understand the pupils’ proficiency level.

Chew credited Samuel to providing insights into the learning progress of the pupils, and being the bridge of communication between the undergraduates and the schools.

“I knew Samuel from a Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) master trainer’s course we attended together in 2016.

“I could see he was passionate about his Orang Asli pupils and until today, he is more than willing to assist us in making the project a success. We are very thankful to him for that,” she said.

Having put together feedback from Samuel and the schoolteachers, the undergraduates leveraged on online resources to design the modules from home due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We really appreciate the support that we received from UM and the help that we received from Samuel and the schools involved, especially Hamizah Jaffar, an English language teacher at SK Runchang,” said Chew.

The Easy English with BELL initiative was part of the undergraduates’ Social Engagement course, which is aimed at encouraging tertiary students to serve the community.

The undergraduates had wanted to organise a three-day English camp for the pupils in April last year but their plan was shelved due to the pandemic.

It is hoped that through the Easy English with BELL initiative, the undergraduates were able to enhance their module designing skills, as well as attract pupils to learn the language and bridge the learning gap during the pandemic.

The online learning modules were made available to the two schools in July last year, and were adapted for use at SK Bukit Pantai and SK Kampung Selayang in the Klang Valley under UM’s Sekolahku Universitiku programme in October.

The undergraduates will carry out another social engagement project called “My Tribe, My Pride” next month.

To access the learning modules, go to

Gan, 21, a student in Selangor, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. Throughout the year-long programme, participants aged between 14 and 22 from all across the country experience life as journalists, contributing ideas, conducting interviews, and completing writing assignments. They get to earn bylines, attend workshops, and extend their social networks. To join Star-NiE’s online youth community, go to

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