Chapter 3 Thematic highlight:
3.3 English Language Education
3.3.3 Teaching Performance .1 Major Strengths
Growing awareness to align focuses of the programme plan with the school’s developmental priorities and recommendations in the English Education KLA Curriculum Guide. In most of the secondary and half of the primary schools inspected, the English panel programme plans were aligned with the schools’ developmental priorities and
major concerns. A considerable number of these schools duly emphasised catering for learner diversity and one or more of the Four Key Tasks in planning their school-based English curriculum. Positive steps were taken in most schools to promote a reading culture in collaboration with the school library through organising a variety of reading activities and structured reading sessions. Most schools adopted an English extensive reading scheme and reading award schemes and some schools participated in “A Passage A day” – an online reading programme to cultivate students’ reading habit. Some schools incorporated language arts elements into the English curriculum, which was more evident at junior primary level.
Phonics and dictionary skills were systematically taught in some better-performed schools to nurture independent learning ability. A majority of the secondary schools adopted project learning to develop students’ language development strategies and generic skills but this was only evident in a small number of the primary schools inspected. Elements of moral and civic education were incidentally incorporated into the English curriculum or through cross-curricular learning and project learning in some schools. Most schools incorporated the use of IT for presentation in class teaching to stimulate students’ interest. The secondary schools performed relatively better in promoting self-access language learning as well as developing subject home pages with web links and resources banks on the school intranet to facilitate teaching and learning of English.
Organising language activities to encourage interactive peer learning. Among a total of 493 and 680 English lessons observed in the primary and secondary schools respectively, less than half of lessons at primary level and about a third of them at secondary level showed pleasing teaching performance. Most of the teachers were approachable and supportive. A majority of the lessons observed were generally well prepared with clear objectives. These lessons were mostly characterised by appropriate use of teaching resources, clear and systematic teacher presentation, good teacher-student rapport and well established classroom routines. It was encouraging that nearly half of the English lessons observed in primary schools and more than one-third of the secondary schools provided class interaction of good quality and that teacher-student and student-student interaction was actively fostered. Yet, only some teachers were able to provide clear demonstration and guidance in the course of language activities to bring about effective peer interaction to practise the target language and skills. In the more effective lessons, teachers adopted varied teaching strategies to cater for learners’ diverse needs. Moreover, due regard was given to purposeful, authentic and communicative use of the language to sustain students’ motivation and interest.
Appropriate design of assignments and assessment which were aligned with school-based curriculum development. Most of the schools inspected had clear policies and some had comprehensive guidelines on the setting of assignments and assessment to cover the four language skills. Continuous assessment was commonly adopted to gauge students’ progress and achievements. To cater for learner diversity, some schools aptly included in their assessment papers items of different levels of difficulty. In addition to teacher assessment, different modes of assessment such as peer, parent and self-assessment were adopted in project
a good variety of assignments including free writing tasks to develop students’ creativity and communication skills. About half of the teachers gave timely and adequate feedback to students, suitably highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.
Smooth operation of the English subject panel work with appropriate allocation of resources according to the developmental needs of the panel. The English panels in most schools were systematically organised with the panel chairperson(s) and level co-coordinators working cooperatively to support the implementation of the panel work. A majority of the schools made effective use of the Capacity Enhancement Grant and/or tap external resources to support the teaching of English. Most of the schools flexibly deployed funding and manpower resources to carry out split class teaching and offer remedial and enhancement programmes to cater for learner diversity. A majority of the schools set up an English Corner/Room as an activity area for conducting English-related activities, and the resources were relatively well utilised in primary schools. A majority of the NETs played a supportive role in promoting the use of English in the schools by conducting oral lessons as well as organising festive events and various interesting activities in English Day/Week. The expertise of the NETs in the primary schools was well tapped in promoting reading. A majority of the NETs in these schools conducted collaborative lesson planning and staff development programmes with English teachers to develop school-based literacy programmes.
184.108.40.206 Areas for Improvement
Weak self-evaluation in monitoring curriculum implementation for self-improvement.
In a majority of the schools inspected, the English programme plans lacked clear focused targets, appropriate evaluation methods and specific success criteria with emphasis on the impact of learning and teaching to gauge the effectiveness of curriculum implementation.
Though the annual review of programme plans and major activities conducted was an established practice, most of the English panels could not systematically review the curriculum and pedagogy using assessment data from various sources. As emphasis was mostly laid on planning and review of the teaching focus of individual levels, there was a lack of review of students’ performance across levels to facilitate vertical curriculum planning.
Aside from reviewing administrative panel work, in-depth sharing and discussion on pedagogy and students’ learning difficulties during panel and level meetings was only evident in a small number of schools. Most schools were not able to make effective use of their assessment and evaluation data to inform curriculum planning and pedagogy.
Inadequate attention to the creation of an English-rich environment on the school campus and outside class. In creating an English-rich environment, about two-thirds of the CMI secondary schools inspected displayed unsatisfactory performance. There was generally a lack of an English print-rich environment on the school campus while the English Corner/Room was not properly utilised as an activity centre in these schools to cater for students’ interests and to provide them with additional opportunities for exposure to English.
Similarly, a quarter of the CMI schools performed unsatisfactorily and about two-thirds were acceptable in the effectiveness of the English co- and ECA to provide students with
pleasurable learning experiences. Despite the good effort made to arrange English-related activities in primary schools, a majority of them were found merely acceptable in this respect as there was a limited variety of co- and ECA and that they were organised for a small number of selected students.
Inadequate emphasis on developing language skills, language development strategies and generic skills. A majority of the lessons observed at secondary level and about half of the lessons at primary level were dominated by teacher talk and were textbook bound. These lessons were characterised by a lack of appropriate teaching strategies for cultivating students’
generic skills, in particular communication skills, critical thinking and creativity. The questions posed by a majority of the teachers mainly stressed factual recall, usually with insufficient wait time and prompts to guide students to elaborate their answers, justify their views and stimulate their thinking. Apart from organising reading-related activities, there was inadequate effort in developing students’ reading skills and strategies. Teachers tended to emphasise coverage of language forms, resulting in inadequate opportunities given to develop students’ mastery of language skills. Furthermore, most of the teachers had low expectations of their students’ learning and little effort was made in developing students’
self-study skills. Among the different aspects of teaching, the performance in catering for learner differences in the English lessons was least satisfactory with about one-fifth and a quarter of the primary and secondary lessons rated as unsatisfactory in this respect. A majority of the teachers did not optimise split class teaching and remedial teaching. Little effort was made to try out differentiated teaching strategies or tailor the learning materials to cater for students’ diverse abilities.
Slow progress made in implementing assessment for learning. Much was yet to be done to achieve a balance between ‘assessment for learning’ and ‘assessment of learning’. There was a heavy reliance on pen-and-paper assessments. In some primary schools, too much emphasis was placed on dictation while students’ performance in speaking and listening was neglected. Similarly, different modes of continuous assessment including verbal presentation by students and classroom observation by teachers were inadequately used. There was also a lack of timely and quality feedback provided in lessons and on written assignments to help students reflect on their learning for further improvement. At secondary level, direct marking was generally adopted with little room for students to assume responsibility for their own learning and develop their editing skills. In some schools, excessive emphasis was placed on sentence making, resulting in the neglect of contexts and discourse. At the junior secondary level, the assessment items on usage tended to be decontextualised with undue emphasis on testing the students’ knowledge of the language form. Writing assessment tasks were too heavily guided, resulting in inadequate assessment of students’ integrative use of the language in meaningful contexts. The design of senior secondary assessment papers was too exam-oriented. Only some schools attempted to develop students’ critical thinking and creativity through appropriate design of assignments and assessment. Regarding the use of assessment data, a majority of the teachers were not adept at diagnosing their students’