Many English teachers are tasked with teaching a large group of students that differ immensely in English language proficiency levels because for many students from the suburbs, English is either a 3rd or 4th language. This makes the language foreign, rather than a second language, to them. Apart from not being able to read and understand the language well, many of them lack the confidence to converse in English, causing teachers to conduct lessons in mixed languages; English-Bahasa Melayu. With a lack of consistency in using English in the classroom, the students’ mastery of the language remains a struggle.
In a scenario where students demonstrate low confidence and poor comprehension of English, face to face interaction plays a very important role. When face to face, teachers can look out for signs (body language, facial expression, etc) that indicate if the student is able to absorb and comprehend the lesson. In the wake of Covid-19, all face to face communication came to a halt. While the world began transitioning to virtual platforms, teachers had to deal with the reality that internet connectivity wasn’t a luxury many students enjoyed. To understand the extent of the problem, FINCO surveyed 198 teachers at primary and secondary schools from eight states and found that:
Trying to offer remote learning for students, many with limited understanding of English, those who struggle to read, combined with a lack of resources, teachers were feeling the pressure. After a month into MCO, it became clear that reaching out to all students was rather an impossible feat. So, the teachers worked on reaching out to as many students as they could with the main objective being that students continue to learn something within or beyond the textbook. Teachers identified students who lived near each other and had them work together to complete their schoolwork. They even went to the extent of preparing resources and answer sheets for parents to facilitate the students learning at home. For those students who were able to submit their work, teachers spent hours online marking work and individually providing feedback.
Unfortunately, students in the more rural and secluded areas missed out on most of the efforts initiated by teachers, leaving them even further behind. With so much school time lost and returning students at different stages of learning, FINCO is working closely with MOE to ensure teachers from schools with underprivileged students are provided with training that helps to sharpen their skills at assessing students’ learning, and creating lessons that address their different learning needs. Delivered online, this training was launched in Negeri Sembilan in July and we have already seen the teachers diligently trying out the strategies in their remote classes.
As difficult as MCO has been for teachers and students, we have seen many teachers take this opportunity to build new skills that will build their resilience to whatever challenges they may face in the journey ahead.
This article is written by Iman Fairuza binti Rozhan, FINCO Reads Activator Negeri Sembilan. If you are interested to work with FINCO schools based in Negeri Sembilan, get in touch with her today at [email protected].