Teaching Problems

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PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHERS AND THE PROBLEMS FACED WITH TEACHING THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE An analysis of the obstacles in the way of effective pupil-centred teaching and learning of the English language in Tanzanian government primary school with recommendations

Katy Allen MBE Director, Village Education Project Kilimanjaro

Presented at The Forum on Community of Practice of Learner Centred Learning in Tanzania held at the Tanzanian Episcopal Conference Centre, Kurasini 18th – 19th August 2008

PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHERS AND THE PROBLEMS FACED WITH TEACHING THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. An analysis of the obstacles in the way of effective pupil-centred teaching and learning of the English language in Tanzanian government primary schools with recommendations. Katy Allen MBE Director, Village Education Project Kilimanjaro

Contents: Summary Backround Introduction Lack of good command of the English language both spoken and written History of English language teaching in Tanzania and the use of the NOEC How do children learn? The current situation and the root causes of the problems English for pre-primary, Standard I and Standard II Consideration of what is needed for good English teaching and learning for Standard III to VII (The New Oxford English Course) What can be done? Recommendations Bibliography Appendix 1 – Jean Piaget and the stages of cognitive development Appendix 2 – The NOEC and syllabi topics

Page 2-4 4 4-5 5-6 6-7 8-10 10-15 15-19

19-25 26-29 30-31 32 33-34

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Summary: I have 14 years’ experience working in government primary schools through the NGO Village Education Project Kilimanjaro. It is apparent from working in the schools, from visiting the EQUIP programme in August 2007, and from conducting a district seminar and other training and observations that pupil-centred learning is not taking place on any significant scale in the teaching of English. Only an honest evaluation will assist any future development of primary English education. It is contended that most Tanzanians over the age of 50 know quite good English with good pronunciation, and many are fluent speakers. However, if you speak to people below the age of 50 there is a noticeable degradation of their English language ability commensurate with their younger age. It is impossible to hold a conversation in English with most Standard VII pupils. The standard of English has declined considerably. Most of the primary school teachers are in the under-50 category; most have poor knowledge of English and no confidence in speaking it. English teaching in Tanzania was first taught in Standard V, then in 1958 it was taught in the primary schools from Standard III. At that time the New Oxford English Course was used, and within two years pupils knew sufficient English to have all their education conducted in English from Standard V. There were various changes and now English is taught from Standard I, and indeed in pre-primary. In teaching English to young learners it is essential to consider how children learn. There are recognised stages of cognitive development that every child passes through, and teaching material should take account of this. There is also a very great need for the motivation to learn English for both the pupils and the teachers. The majority of primary school teachers have an insufficient command of English to be able to teach it effectively. Teachers with insufficient subject knowledge have very little if any confidence. Without subject knowledge then subject application cannot take place, and it is unfair to place expectations on primary school teachers of child-centred learning or participatory practices. Where should they start if they do not understand the materials and their own knowledge of the language is so shaky? Lack of subject knowledge is one of the main causes of the present problems in teaching English in primary schools. The teachers are not assisted by their materials. The materials are not prepared with the...
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