Better English teaching needed

Tuswadi ,  Aichi, Japan   |  Sat, 08/23/2008 9:58 AM  |  Opinion

In Indonesia, foreign language teaching in primary school is not something new. Nowadays many elementary schools both in big cities and even in small cities have bravely introduced English, especially in grades four through six.

The problem is in the capability of the teachers. Because in Indonesia, English is only a second or third language after Indonesian and local ethnic languages, it is understandable that many teachers are not proficient in English.

Apart from this, teachers who do not receive sufficient methods and training to teach English well will create more problems, because students will find the English-learning process boring.

Although it is very late for a country whose economy is the second largest after the United States, Japan, starting this year, has decided to make English a compulsory subject for elementary school students. It is still a controversial issue because many Japanese believe English should be taught at a later stage. But teachers are very enthusiastic to be able to teach English.

To improve the quality of primary English teaching in Indonesia, based on what I’ve learned from some elementary schools in Japan, there are at least five points of advice that Indonesian teachers may find useful.

First, the teachers must learn and master the methods and techniques of teaching English. The skills that are taught to students are mainly listening and speaking. The introduction of English vocabulary and simple sentences is also important.

Second, teachers should also continually learn to master the teaching materials.

Next, to successfully accomplish the first and the second goals, the school must help teachers obtain sufficient training. Without enough training, it is difficult for them to master the basic technique of English teaching.

In Indonesia, the National Education Ministry can cooperate with private institutions like companies that care about education to provide financial aid in holding regular English teaching training for elementary school teachers.

In Japan, teachers take part in lesson study sessions both individually and in groups. Teachers from various primary schools often go to other schools to observe the English teaching process. There they watch directly the teaching from the beginning until the end of class while matching each activity with a lesson plan they receive.

Then they get further information about teaching from the teacher in a discussion forum. It is often that the number of teachers joining the lesson study is overloaded so that many of them observe from the windows of the classroom.

Lesson study is now being highly developed in Japanese schools. It is a very good system to make lessons more open and attractive, make the teachers more open-minded and supportive of colleagues and thus make the schools themselves and their children more open and creative.

Lesson study also can be done by visiting private English schools. The experience wrought from the lesson study will enrich the imagination and creativity of the English teachers in preparing and delivering the materials to the students more interestingly.

Teachers must be smart and creative in making or preparing the teaching aids materials. In some schools of Japan, teachers are busy making the teaching aids after school hours. They must be varied and interesting; also many unique and challenging games and English children songs are used. Among the students of grades one through four there is no writing activity. There is no test, either. Thus, the students do not feel burdened and their motivation is always high.

Hopefully, with adequate and accurate basic English in primary school, students will find it easier and be more confident to learn English in higher grades.

The writer is a senior high school English teacher and a Monbukagakusho Teachers Training Program fellow at Aichi University of Education in Japan. He can be reached at

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