[CITIZENS' Mail - (10-04-2018)] | Daily News

[CITIZENS' Mail - (10-04-2018)]

Withering English education

Daily News of April 6 reported that the rate passes at the G.C.E (O/L) in 2017 was 51%. I would therefore like to put forward a few suggestions to the Minister of Education to improve teaching of English as a second language in Sinhalese medium schools as follows:-

1. To start teaching of English language from Grade 1 itself or to adjust the level of rade 3 textbook to suit the level of the absolute beginner.

2. To pay more attention to teaching of English Grammar from Grade 3 onwards.

3. To recruit retired English teachers on contract basis as they have a competent knowledge and the young teacher can obtain their advice and guidance.

4. To conduct “refresher courses” for the teachers who are not competent enough, once a week, zone-wise so that they may become competent after one or two years, at which time deployment of retired teachers could be discontinued.

It is very clear that the current Grade 3 English textbook is too high for the absolute beginner who is made to step on to the ‘third rung’ of the ladder at the starting point itself. This book contains three and four letter words and almost all the pages are full of illustrations with lesser words making it suitable for a student who has already done English language for one or two years before coming to Grade 3.

It could be found that a large number of students have been dropped out at the starting point itself. Grade 3 and only the fittest have come up to the respective level in English language in par with the other subjects due to automatic promotions. The student who is stagnated at Grade 3 in English language is similar to a passenger who has ‘missed the bus’ at the first ‘halting place’ whilst the bus continues with its forward journey with the other passengers until the final destination. It is not practicable for the teacher to do the Grade 3 and Grade 4 textbooks at the same time for the sake of the student who has not been able to complete Grade 3 textbook successfully.

The other set-back is the inadequacy of attention paid to teaching of “Grammar”. Both grammar and conversational English are equally important. One out of so many ways of improving conversational English is to get small groups to converse in English whilst the teacher is there to do the corrections, just to start with and march forward. A separate programme should be set up for this subject as an isolated issue which needs equal attention.

Anthony J. Perera



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