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'Teach English as foreign language'

Published:Friday | August 17, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Grace Baston: The teaching of standard English to students whose first language is Jamaican must be approached as one would the teaching of any foreign language. - File

Nadisha Hunter and Lauren Williams, Gleaner Writers

Even as some educators raise concerns about the significant decline in the English language result for this year's sitting of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations, they are suggesting strategies to elevate the standards in coming years.

The result of the examination, which was released last week, indicated that only 46.2 per cent of the students passed English language this year, compared with a pass rate of 63.9 per cent last year and 64.9 per cent in 2010.

Principal of Campion College Grace Baston, said the result was disturbing and troubling but the problem existed because some students did not have English as their first language.

"I believe that among the factors contributing to this low level of achievement is our failure to recognise that English is not the first language of the majority of Jamaica's children," Baston said.

"The teaching of standard English to students whose first language is Jamaican must be approached as one would the teaching of any foreign language," she said.

GET TO KNOW KIDS

Baston also argued that teachers need to take the time out to be more familiar with their students' vocabulary and grammar.

"Obviously, the teacher will be more successful in enabling this language learning and acquisition if he/she is familiar with the structure and vocabulary of the student's first language," added Baston.

Jamaica College principal Ruel Reid said the English language curriculum needs to be revised.

"I am advocating that we need to shake up the curriculum, use the oral component in terms of assessment. We need to motivate the kids because a lot of children think that it is not something you have to prepare for," he said.

Reid added: "So a lot of it has to do with how we motivate our youngsters and part of that motivation is to make sure that the teaching and learning approach is interactive and motivating," he explained.

For Sharon Reid, principal of St Andrew High School for Girls, it is a serious cause for concern and principals of various institutions will have to work together to fix the problem.

"I guess as a nation, certainly at the level of principals' associations, we will have to look at and analyse just what could be the cause. Well, we are going to have to share best practices, but remember always one has to look, too, at the level of intake, in terms of whether or not the students who are taking the exam are ready for the exam," she said.

In the meantime, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites has extended an invitation to the CXC, for an enquiry in the poor performance of candidates.

The team, which will be led by the Council's registrar, Dr Didacus Jules, should be in the island for the meeting next week.

"We have asked the director general of the CXC to come to Jamaica so that we can include him in a full discussion of the results that have been published.

"Clearly we need further investigation. We are not going to panic, but we are going to look and see what happened and how we can improve in the shortest possible time," Thwaites said.