HANA is a shy teenager with a keen interest in learning. During the start of the new schooling year, her English teacher announces that their classes will have more fun activities that involve interactivity.
She and her friends soon find themselves playing language games, conducting storytelling sessions, having show-and-tell activities, as well as other activities that require communication.
Eager to learn more, Hana begins visiting her libraries to borrow English books to read and starts a blog to improve her writing skill.
Hana and her classmates are among the beneficiaries of the Oral Proficiency in English for Secondary Schools (Ops-English) - one of three programmes run by the English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC), a division under the Education Ministry.
The other programmes are the Professional Upskilling of English Language Teachers (Pro-ELT) and English Enhancement Programme for Secondary Schools (PPPBISM).
The programmes were introduced under the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, in line with the Upholding Bahasa Malaysia and Strengthening English (MBMMBI) policy to ensure every child is proficient in both languages.
“The centre, which is based in Bandar Enstek, Negri Sembilan, trains English teachers nationwide to improve their fluency, knowledge and methodology in the language,” said ELTC director Dr Mohamed Abu Bakar.
ELTC’s functions include providing effective training for the teaching and learning of English, conducting research to develop innovative techniques and materials for the teaching and learning of English, as well as prescribing standards for the continuing professional development of ELT practitioners.
Dr Mohamed said the three programmes under the blueprint had their own objectives.
Pro-ELT: Aims to upgrade the English language proficiency and teaching skills of teachers in primary and secondary schools. English teachers first take the British Council’s Aptis test to find out their language proficiency. Those who score below the C1 grade are required to go for the Pro-ELT programme. It offers 240 hours of face-to-face training and 240 hours of online activities.
PPPBISM: Targets hotspot schools, defined as those scoring below the 2012 national average of 77% in the SPM English language paper. The activities include remedial instruction, English camps and newspaper in education. School Improvement Specialist Coaches Plus individuals are also trained to guide teachers to more effectively meet the different needs of a range of students. This programme is specifically for Form Four students.
Ops-English: Aims to develop students’ listening and speaking skills, and is targeted at Form One and Two students. It focuses on the belief that the stronger the foundation in listening and speaking, the easier it is to build on reading and writing. Students participate in pair and group activities that encourage active listening and speaking, active thinking and sharing of ideas.
Dr Mohamed said: “We observed that many of the teachers lose touch with English because of circumstances, and not because of poor command of the language.
“A teacher could’ve been placed in a rural area where he is the only English teacher, so there is little opportunity to use English.”
Besides regular interaction, Dr Mohamed stressed that students and teachers should make reading part of their habit for better command of the language and to expand their vocabulary.
“We’ve noticed some improvements since the programmes were introduced,” he said, adding that the results are tracked by the Performance and Delivery Unit using the School Assessment Application System.
“For example, 76.4% of the teachers from the first Pro-ELT cohort moved up at least one band in proficiency when tested against the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages benchmark. 77% of the second cohort recorded similar improvements.
“The first cohort in 2012 had about 5,000 teachers; the second cohort in 2013 had 9,000. We are targeting to train 22,000 teachers by the end of the programme next year.
“Meanwhile, students who previously didn’t speak in English for fear of being teased by their friends are now asking questions and being more active in classes.”
In addition, Dr Mohamed said ELTC’s five-year target for PPPBISM is for 85% of the national average to pass the SPM English language paper, and for students who did the Ops-English programme to be able to converse in English by the time they complete their secondary school education.
“Ultimately, we want students to be able to understand, read, speak and apply the language with full confidence, and be fully prepared when English is made a compulsory pass subject in SPM.
“For teachers, we want them to be fluent and skilled in teaching the subject,” he said.