This is the third in a series of media releases to raise awareness of the curriculum changes it explains.
- The introduction of English as a compulsory subject in elementary schools.
- The use of phonics to teach English
- the differences between new and old curricular
English in Elementary Schools
Almost all of our children are learning English as a second language, so English syllabus will build from the language they speak at home, children need to develop knowledge of English at an early age as English is the medium of instruction in the education system in PNG.
English has been the medium of instruction for many years but the fluency of most teachers is not good enough and the often use Tok Pisin and local languages to explain English words or statements. The department of Education is encouraging elementary teachers to upgrade their teaching qualifications to a diploma level so that they can use English to the expected standards.
The result of the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) in Papua New Guinea showed that children are not learning basic reading and writing skills. EGRA recommended the use of scripted lessons the teaching of phonics and greater student access to reading materials.
Scripted lessons are lessons that are written out for teachers to use on each day of the school year. The lessons are in numbered steps and for each step the teachers are given the information they need and some activities such as songs, games, and stories. Teachers can build the lessons using their own skills and creativity. The daily scripted activity will improve the standard of English teaching and reduce teachers planning workload.
English will now be taught as a subject in the elementary classes (EP, EP1 and EP2) in schools starting in 2015. This is a government directive through the task force report and the intention is to raise standards in literacy. It is important for students to learn English as a subject with Phonograms (sounds), syllables, vowels, nouns, verbs, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, and formation of letter shapes, use of punctuations and writing sentences and stories creatively.
The aims of the Elementary Syllabus are to:
- Introduce English as a subject
- Use English as a medium of instruction
- Prepare children for learning in English at primary school
- Build on the language and literacy skills learnt in the language syllabus
- Enable children to communicate in basic English in the classroom
- Teach children to read, understand and write in simple English sentences
- Encourage enjoyment of and interest in learning English
The new syllabus uses phonics to teach English. Phonics is one of the important skills children need to learn to read and write. Children are taught to sounds and make sounds. They learn that words can be broken down into sounds and that those words can be written to read and build words.
Some common words cannot be broken down. To be able to read simple sentences, children need to be able to some of the words by sight such as the “I”, “you” and “go”. These are called sight words.
Phonics allows children purposely to master reading skills at an early age, by developing sound awareness, word identification, fluency and vocabulary and text comprehension.
Research has revealed that children who used phonics early were not only able to speak, read and write efficiently in English they also performed academically well in most if not all of their subjects right from the beginning.
Phonics also helps teachers. English is a complicated language. It has 26 letters and 42 sounds (phonemes) and over 120 different ways to write those sounds (graphemes). For example, /f/ can be written as f, ff, ph and gh, as in ‘fish’, coffee ‘Phillip’ and rough.
Songs and stories with Phonics
Each elementary school week will have a theme accompanied by three songs supplied. The songs are on a micro-SD card that teachers can play on mobile phones or boom boxes. The ‘songs’ words and related activities will be written out in the lessons. It may be too soon for the children to sing alone, but letting them listen to sounds in English is important. Sound stories let the children become familiar with English sounds as they read them. They contain the songs learnt in that week.
Teaching sounds in Phonics
To teach the sounds in words, teachers will add ‘sound dots’ under sounds of words that they can write down for children to copy. For example ‘cat’ will have three sound dots: c.a.t. ‘Fish’ will also have three dots, because the ‘sh’ is one sound: f-i-sh. The children will learn to blend the sounds together into a word as the teacher says the sound and the words.
With a few more sounds, children will be able to read and write simple phrases like “ the cat and the dog sat on the mat”. Besides the words they will sound out, the children will also learn common sight words. Real stories will then be introduced.
Difference between the old and new elementary curricula
Under the previous curriculum, three subjects – language, cultural mathematics and culture and community – were taught in elementary schools. English was taught as part of language. It will know be taught as a separate subject and there will know be 4 subjects.
- Culture and Community
Due to the increase from three subjects to four and the raise standards in literacy and numeracy elementary classes will finish their daily lessons at 2pm instead of 12pm.