I WAS elated when I read the report “Only imported English textbooks from next year” (The Star, Oct 5). At last, we are moving in the right direction! Implementation has always been the issue in the past but a dying man will grasp at straws after all.
However, after hearing stories from primary school English teachers who received training for these new books, I am very concerned. Though teachers sat for a very basic course on it last year, and were given this year to familiarise themselves with the books, they were only recently given further information and the guide. This means they have only two months to prepare themselves to teach in an entirely new way next year.
One can download samples of the books from the Cambridge University Press website to get a glimpse. The books themselves are very colourful and attractive. However, it is a very different system from what has been used in the past. The starter level Super Minds book gives many pictorial situations for the student to act out, chant and sing. There are hardly any words except for basic instructions so it is basically learning through play.
It is a good move towards getting our children to speak English. However, the teaching will only be as good as the teacher who, hopefully, has impeccable English. It will take creativity and a shift of thinking from teachers, school administrators and parents alike.
While I applaud English teachers especially, even with the current syllabus, for leading the way in incorporating play in their lessons, are they being given sufficient guidance, support and a free hand with this new syllabus?
In this day when there are written tests for Moral and Health Studies even for Standard One pupils, will the schools be able to incorporate this new way of learning into their exam-oriented paths set down by the Education Ministry?
Will the time allocated for English lessons be sufficient for this method of teaching?
Getting some 30 to 50 seven-year-olds to participate in role play in the classroom will need very good management by just one teacher (who hopefully is not harried over finishing the syllabus).
The adage that children should be seen and not heard is still present in many teachers’ thinking. Please don’t start a good thing only to have it fail because you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.
And please, our Science and Mathematics textbooks in English are still a disgrace! How about importing those next?