• April 3rd, 2020

Opinion divided on English conference

WINDHOEK - English professor Jairos Kangira has welcomed calls for a conference on the subject, saying the current poor pass rate was alarming and a cause of concern to all stakeholders. 

Kangira said there are many factors contributing to the dismal performance of learners in English. 
He cited, among others, English teachers entering training with weak Grade 12 passes, a poor reading culture and insufficient courses or modules at tertiary level.

“The argument is that you need the best performers in English to teach learners in our schools,” he said. 
Last week, the ministry of education announced plans to host a conference as early as March to unpack the reasons for the persistent poor performance at schools.

Education deputy minister Anna Nghipondoka said in order to get to the bottom of low performance in English as a second language, in 2018, the ministry commissioned research to be done to inform them of the persistent poor performance.

In fact, the class of 2019 failed to meet the ministry’s target of 35 percent in English. 
However, Kangira, who lectures at the University of Namibia and doubles as the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, believes the insufficient courses do not produce competent and effective English teachers.

 “If we compare students with a BEd degree and those with a BA in English, we find that the latter are better than the former in terms of English content. In the BA English Honours programme, students study many linguistics and literature courses in depth through the four years they take to complete the programme. It is English and English only for the four years, just like those who study Biology or Accounting throughout the four years,” he said.

He added there is a need to revamp the BEd degree programme and mount in-service training for high school teachers. 

“Research has proved that learners who read books written in English perform better in the language as they gain some competence in English when they interact with the text on their own. The reduction of literature to a small section in the English curriculum has worsened the situation. We have appealed to have literature in English introduced as a subject in the new curriculum without success,” he added.

“Our arguments were that at least learners would have some English novels, plays and poems to read in preparation for their examination. This would also force teachers to read the text in order to teach their learners. Remember that most of our schools, especially in the rural areas, are under-resourced and having libraries is a luxury.”

The Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) secretary-general Mahongora Kavihuha is of the opinion that there is no need to host a conference on English.

“Because what we think as a union, we have been creating an impression – just like we did when we phased out in the beginning the vocational subjects from the schools – that every Namibian should be an academic or academician. Now we are re-introducing the vocational subjects in the schools. It is the same principle, we adopted thinking that for every Namibian to be productive and have a meaningful life, you must be an expert in English – that is a misconception and misunderstanding,” he stated.

He stated that the poor performance is due to lack of study materials and resources in schools.
“The deputy minister knows very well the materials and resources are not being provided to schools on time,” he stated. 

In addition, he said the country has to define itself very well on the type of English to use.
Although the country uses British English, it is not the same with other subjects such as Physical Science, where textbooks are written in American English, he said. 

 He said a learner would be marked correct for using or writing an American word in a Physical Science class but wrong in an English class.


Selma Ikela
2020-01-13 07:16:27 | 2 months ago

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