Corporate leaders are finding it hard to employ executives with proficiency in English and called for steps to be taken to arrest the decline of the English language among the workforce. In 2016, English is a compulsory must pass subject at the SPM level.
As an educator for almost 20 years, I believe that one is never too old nor too young to learn. However, what is the most effective way to let our children cope learning two or up to three languages as a subject at school? How can one be competent in English to help him or her in tertiary education and beyond?
Below are some suggestions on steps that parents can take during the children’s schooling years to ensure that their level of English proficiency does not hold them back at school, in their tertiary years and career.
Immersion in English-speaking environment
To be proficient in a language, one must be immersed in the environment that allows him or her to listen and speak the language. If English is not spoken at home or used as the child’s language of communication with his or her peers, give the child an opportunity to be exposed to English by setting-up an English-speaking play group for younger children or an activity group for the school-going children. If you lack of time or resources, enrol your child into a structured English programme.
Learning in a positive environment
Learning through fun is a natural way for learners to absorb and retain information. With words of encouragement and support from parents, teachers and care-givers, children go a long way as they associate learning with love and positivity.
Applying the language
Allowing the child to understand the tasks at hand helps him or her to understand the objectives and find meaning and satisfaction in the tasks given. The best part about learning English is not just about getting the child to understand the technical aspects of the language but to also open his or her world to the possibilities of acquiring more knowledge using the language and enjoying the language as a result of it. For instance, if a child loves music, he or she could compose a song in English.
As what Benjamin Franklin quoted, “Teach me and I forget, show me and I remember, involved me and I learn”.
Expose the child to external assessment
Once the child is reasonably competent in English, it would be best to expose him or her to some form of external assessment. The external assessment helps the child get accustomed to question structures other than what is tested at school. A popular external assessment amongst local and international students is International Competitions and Assessments for Schools (ICAS) by the University of New South Wales Global, Australia. It helps children gain a measure of achievement, provides parents and teachers with comprehensive reporting results, and gives helpful information on the child’s performance. Medal winning students in their final two years of schooling also qualify for bonus Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) Points which can be used toward undergraduate degree programs at the University of New South Wales.
Never too late or too early to start
“It is never too late or too soon, the old man had said. It is when it is supposed to be,” quotes Mitch Albom in his book, The Time Keeper. Learning is a lifelong process and it starts when you water and nurture the seeds that you plant. Need I say more?