I don't know but I think the MOE seems to be flaying hands in different directions trying to seek a solution to our dismal English standard. But we don't seem to be making much progress. If current situations are to be gauged, the language command is even worse now. And so this week, another attempt to revive our English - English teachers were asked to sit for our Cambridge Placement Test (CPT) plus a Pedagogy Standards for English Language Teaching (PSELT) assessment.
I think they're conducting it in different phases and my state happens to be in the first phase. I was sick and not around when they conducted the test initially. But apparently it ran into problems as the pages took ages to load or did not load at all. I guess it's probably due to the huge spike in the load the servers had to handle. Anyway, I was passed a set of papers with instructions today. So head still a little heavy coupled with lethargy, I went through it. Questions weren't that easy. I had to guess answers for one listening section cos my itchy fingers clicked on the listening icon twice. I was wondering why there were two listening icons... forgot that it was for 2 rounds of listening... *slap head* And I wasn't paying attention. LOL! So, had to make do with some guessing work.
Another change of policy, another flurry of activities. To which end will this latest endeavor bring us? I don't know. One thing for sure though, the standard is still declining. Teaching English is a nightmare these days. Having 4 classes (no thanks to a skewed KP) belonging to the bottom of 3 different forms is enough to convince me that I am barking up many dead trees. Engagement only happens most when I use more BM than English in class... simply because the students don't understand much else in English. Most people will find that hard to imagine, I know.
I was doing a 2 sentence comprehension with my Form 1 class recently. It goes something like this...Jack is my friend. He invited me to his birthday party at the zoo.
This was followed by 5 objective comprehension questions (I've become quite good at cooking up questions with very little) and majority of the students still were not be able to answer all the questions correctly. Some even got all wrong! And this is even after I read with them and explained the sentences to them. These are 13-year-olds, mind you! It used to be 10-12 sentences per comprehension but after discovering how some could not even copy correctly, I reduced it. And I am still reducing..... At this rate, I might as well be using flash cards to teach these 13-year-olds who have gone through 6 years of primary schooling. My Form 5 classes aren't much better. How to discuss issues when there is no language to begin with?
The MOE is also incorporating new methods of assessment which are supposed to look into the use of specific instruments to measure specific skills and ensure that students have the necessary skills as they move from one level to the next. However, we can deploy all sorts of programmes with glamourous sounding names but if a proper foundation is not laid at the elementary level, teachers at the secondary level will be just as lost, if not more lost. We are ill equipped to teach elementary level.
And one of the elements in the laying of a good foundation lies in the quality of instructor. You cannot get quality instruction if the instructor is sub par. And I think I am not wrong in thinking that there are many English teachers who lack the necessary skills. Sometimes, I cringe when I read some students' work which have been marked by their teachers.... I have come across teachers who cannot form correct sentences and they have post graduate qualifications! How on earth did our local institutions of higher learning pass out such grads? And I have read through marked students' essay with glaring errors. How can students learn the right thing when the teachers themselves don't seem to know?
I attended a literature course once and the instructor was super duper boring. His ideas were innovative but if one checks out enough books (or follow enough ESL sites) you find them quite easily. It was his delivery which I found totally uninspiring. Among our midst, there was an old timer of a teacher who would have been able to deliver a more interesting perspective. She wasn't asked. Suffice to say, many found the course boring. Wrong people for the job... how to inspire? And I guess that's how many of our students feel.....
So what next, after these Placement Tests? Will the MOE send us for English lessons? What about those of us who flunk (oops.... not flunk but those who score dismally)? Will we be given other subjects to teach? Will the MOE hire only those truly qualified English teachers after this? As for me, I look forward to the day I can switch subjects. Have had enough of teaching English...
The CPT actually is good cos if feedback is given to each teacher, it tells them where they stand. Without realization, there cannot be any step forward. Cos our teachers are like our students too, constantly led to believe that they are up to par when they might not be. This being a system built on preferential treatments.....