English Language Teaching

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Literature Review: English Language Teaching Strategies for Learning-Disabled Secondary School Students

Date : 26 November 2004

Introduction

One of the aims of the Singapore Ministry of Education is to ensure that all school-going children receive a minimum ten years of general education. Streaming is one way to ensure that all students are taught according to their academic ability, and "learn at a pace which they can cope." (Coping with Singaporeans' Concerns, 2001, p. 4). At the primary school level, remediation programmes such as the "Learning Support Programme (LSP) and the Encouragement Achievement and Better Learning (ENABLE) Programmes" are made available to assist students who have been assessed as weak in English and Mathematics (Coping with Singaporeans' concerns, 2001, p. 4).

At secondary level, the Normal Technical (NT) stream was implemented in 1994 to cater to students who are less academically inclined. The majority of the learning-disabled students will be found in the NT stream. In NT stream, students follow a less rigorous curriculum which focuses on English and Mathematics, and more hands-on learning experiences. The NT curriculum basically prepares students for vocational/technical academic and career paths. Unlike primary schools where there are remediation programmes to support students who are identified as weak in academic performance or "learning-disabled", little attention is given to NT stream students, especially students with learning disabilities. This can be attributed to a number of reasons such as exclusion of NT stream students' performance at National Examinations from the school league table, and inadequately-trained general education teachers to teach students with special educational needs. For any remediation programmes that are available, they are provided at an ad hoc basis by out-of-school "ethnic self-help groups and voluntary welfare organizations" (Coping with Singaporeans' concerns, 2001, p. 4).

Research has revealed that NT students suffer from "low self-esteem", "achievement motivation", and "poor study habits" as they progress up the levels in secondary schools (Chan, 1996). One of the main reasons for the poor academic performance of NT students is that most NT students face problems following lessons in class. All subjects, with the exception of Mother Tongue subject, are taught in English, and most NT students suffer from poor competency in English. The reason being most of these students use non-English languages or dialects at home and in other social context. .

English is one of the four official languages in Singapore. English is also the language of public administration, commerce, education and the lingua franca among the different racial groups in Singapore. Therefore, according to the Singapore Ministry of Education, "the ability to speak and write English effectively, therefore, has become an essential skill in the workplace, and a mastery of English is vital to Singapore's pupils." (MOE, English Language Syllabus 2001, p. 2). Teachers play a critical role in modeling the appropriate English language use, both spoken and written, for students in school. (See Appendix I for Ministry of Education's 2001 English Language Syllabus for Primary and Secondary Schools)

The following literature review will examine look at the research and literature on language teaching for learning-disable students, particularly at secondary school level. First, it will describe the definitions of "learning disabilities" and the academic characteristics of adolescents. Next, it will review studies on teaching approaches and strategies for reading and written expression. This will be followed by a brief analysis of the applicability of the reviewed teaching approaches and strategies in the Singapore schools.

Definitions

IDEA has defined those with specific learning disabilities as "a heterogeneous group of students who, despite adequate...
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