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Time doesn’t stand still for young learners’ education

14th June 2019

Time doesn’t stand still for young learners’ education

Time doesn’t stand still for young learners’ education

Wendy Arnold MA in TEYL and Samuel Buol MA in TESOL

 

Abstract

In spite of the well-documented security challenges in South Sudan since December 2013, the Ministry of General Education and Instruction (MGEI) started the implementation of their English Language Policy Framework (ELPF) in 2017. This article will identify the process and findings of the Stages completed to date.

The constitution of the Republic of South Sudan declared English language as the official and medium of instruction. This was further reinforced by the 2012 Education Act that specifically stated that English would be the medium of instruction from Primary 4 and above. As a result of the above language Act an ELPF was developed in 2015 with set of objectives of English linguistic standards for teachers in order to facilitate the use of English as the Medium Instruction.

This article gives details of the implementation of the ELPF throughout Stage 1: Phases 1 and 2, and Stage 2: Phase 1. Assessors were trained, teacher’s language skills in five States were assessed, trainers trained, course materials developed, piloted and modified ready for a whole country roll out.

 

inconsistencies           inadequate         standardised            reliability          validity

 

Acronyms

APT = Arabic Pattern Teacher’s

CEFR = Common European Framework of Reference

ELPF = English Language Policy Framework

ELT  = English Language Teaching  

EMI = English as the medium of instruction

EPT = English Pattern Teachers

IELTS = International English Language Testing System

INSETT = in-service teacher training

MoGEI = Ministry of General Education

PRESETT= pre-service teacher training

UNICEF = United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund

 

Introduction

Even though the well-documented internal security challenges continue in South Sudan, time does not stand still for young learners’ education.

The constitution of the Republic of South Sudan declared that the English language as the official language, as well as the medium of instruction for education. This was further reinforced by the 2012 Education Act that specifically stated that English would be the medium of instruction from Primary 4 and above. As result of the above language policy an English Language Policy Framework (ELPF) was developed in 2015 and implemented in 2017. This ELPF includes a set of objectives of English linguistic standards for teachers in order to facilitate the use of English as the medium of instruction (EMI). 

This article gives details of the implementation of the ELPF throughout Stage 1: Phases 1 and 2, and Stage 2: Phase 1. Assessors were trained, teacher’s language skills in five States were assessed, trainers trained, course materials developed, piloted and modified ready for a whole country roll out.

Rationale

South Sudan is the youngest country on Earth and peoples of diverse linguistic background populate it. The English language is the official language, which is considered a neutral language and an effective tool for national unity, peace and development.

Primary level English Language Policy 2015

The ELPF states that early childhood development education, as well as, education in Primary 1 to 3 should use the indigenous language of the area. The Primary levels 4 to 5 are the transition years where both mother tongue (indigenous language of the area) and English are used. Finally, the end of Primary 5 should teach all subjects in the medium of English.

However, the ELPF cautions that EMI should only be undertaken if it is done well! By well, trained teachers who are competent in both English language and appropriate methodology should be delivering the syllabi.

Additionally, the ELPF recommends some aspirational standards for the English language levels of the teachers using the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) as follows:

Primary 1 to 3 teachers to have a CEFR B1 level
Primary 4 to 8 teachers to have a CEFR B2 level
English specialist teachers to have a CEFR C1 level
 A CEFR B1 level is an ‘independent’ user of language or 4.0 to 5.0 in International English Language Testing System (IELTS), as is CEFR B2 in IELTS 5.5 to 6.5, and CEFR C1 and above are ‘proficient’ users of language with IELTS 7.0 TO 9.0. (http://www.euroexam.com/equivalence)

Challenges

Background research for the ELPF found the following challenges:

inconsistencies between the curriculum and what the teachers and learners can do
present pre-service teacher training (PRESETT) and in-service teacher training (INSETT) cannot meet short-term demands to train teachers
most teachers are unqualified and untrained
some 40% of primary teachers are not paid and so are not fully regulated
Arabic Pattern Teacher’s (APT’s) and English Pattern Teachers (EPT’s) have poor levels of English
poor management and supervision of teachers
lack of physical infrastructure
inadequate teaching and learning materials
low participation of school committees and communities in school management
children exposed to a poor model of English 
Implementation of the ELPF

In 2017, Windle Trust International were contracted by the Ministry of General Education and Instructions, with funding support from UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund), to implement the 2015 policy framework. ELT (English Language Teaching) consultants provided the training to built national capacity for the following seven outcomes:

1.     Train a team of 10 English language assessors for South Sudan

2.     Produce standardised English language testing/assessment materials

3.     Conduct a rigorous English language needs assessment of teachers English language

4.     Train a core team of 30 South Sudanese English language specialists

5.     Production of locally designed and contextualised English language training materials

6.     Support the consolidation stage to pilot, review and modify the materials

7.     Monitor and evaluate the pilot

The ELPF seven outcomes were implemented with the following stages which will be discussed individually:

Stage 1: Foundation

Phase 1: Needs Survey

Phase 2: Pilot Preparation

Stage 2: Consolidation

Phase 1: Deliver and Review

Phase 2: Plan to Scale-up and Integrate

 

Stage 1: Foundation Phase 1: Needs Survey

The following aims were identified for this phase, which included:

Design a standardised English language testing/assessment framework in four linguistic skills for English language assessors for South Sudan
Train a team of 10 English language assessors for South Sudan to use the standardised English language testing/assessment materials
Modify the standardised English language testing/assessment framework in four linguistic skills during the training working with WTI and MoGEI staff to meet the needs of South Sudan context and produce a suitable standardised English language testing/assessment
In addition the following outcomes were included in the 8 days of training:

understanding of CEFR levels by mapping assessments
knowledge of how to write valid and reliable assessments for listening, speaking, reading and writing based on CEFR levels
At the pre-testing of the assessment materials stage, the following were the completed outcomes:

•       Trained 5 pairs of assessors to deliver the assessments

•       Pre-tested assessments with APTs and EPTs

•       Trained 10 Assessors to understand the inter-rater reliability process by evaluating 4 assessment papers and comparing their results with peers

•       Modified assessment tools

 

The needs analysis used the nationally designed assessment tools and was carried out as follows:

•       5 States selected for assessment

•       primary schools in: urban, semi urban, rural, semi-rural and village contexts were identified

•       5 pairs of assessors allocated one State each

•       10 primary schools visited in each State

•       198 primary teachers assessed (41 females and 157 males)

•       5 pairs of assessors took part in post-assessment inter-rater reliability process

 

Assessment results

·       Average listening and speaking skills (87% and 98%) of EPT and APT teachers in 5 States assessed was CEFR B1/B1+ but in reading and writing only 41% and 48% respectively scored CEFR B1/B1+. Some States  had teachers with CEFR pre-A1 reading skills.

•       States in the north of the country (near Sudan) had teachers with weaker English language skills than those in the south (near Uganda)

•       Teachers in urban areas had higher English language levels compared to those in rural areas.

 

Challenges during assessing

•       Delays in some States disseminating information to schools about the assessments

•       Assessment clashed with term exams and local holidays in some States

•       Security situation

•       Misunderstandings about the purpose of the assessments

 

Phase 2: Pilot Preparation

The following aims were identified for this phase, which included:

Design an English language methodology and language framework –  200 hours to be rolled out extensively
Train a core team of 30 South Sudanese English language specialists working with MoGEI (Ministry of General Education) curriculum department
Modify the English language methodology and language course during training and produce a locally designed and contextualised English language training materials.
Innovations

special focus on reading and writing skills based on needs analysis results
develop materials at 2 levels for P1-3 and P4-8 teachers BUT include grade specific content
develop an early literacy module linking letters and sounds
develop stories using early literacy strategies
Consultants

Lead consultant: Wendy Arnold MA in Teaching English to Young Learners

Week 1 to 8/7/17 = orientation on training
Week 2 to 3 – 9 to 22/7/17 =Primary 1 to 3
Consultant: Fiona Connolly MA in TESOL

Week 4 to 5 – 24/7 to 5/8 = Primary 4 to 8
Wendy Arnold, Fiona Connolly and writers group

Consultant: Dr. Harry Kuchah

Week 6 to 7 – 7 to 20/8/17 = Early literacy, large multi-grade primary classes
 

Dr. Harry Kuchah Kuchah with David Masua, Country director Windle Trust International

 

Materials design

The writing was carried out by 10 groups of 3 writers in each group to develop 20 modules (10 modules for Primary 1 to 3 and 10 modules for primary 4 to 8).

Materials Development output for Primary 1 to 3

Primary 1 to 3

10 x modules of 4 workshops @ minimum 3 hours each  = 120-150 hours

Trainer’s Manual and Teacher’s Workbooks

 

Materials Development output for Primary 4 to 8

Primary 4 to 8

10 x modules of 4 workshops @ minimum 3 hours each  = 120-150 hours

Trainer’s Manual and Teacher’s Workbooks

 

Additional materials created for Primary 1 to 3

1 x Letters and Sounds module of 10 workshops @ 60 minutes minimum (Trainer’s Manual and workbooks + Scheme of Work)

4 x traditional stories written and illustrated by trainees @ 60 minutes each minimum

Audio of letters and sounds to be used by trainers

 

Primary 1 to 3

17 audio of songs to be used by trainers

 

Primary 1 to 8

Picture cards                  Charts

Word cards                    Clay models

Puppets made from recycled materials

 

Challenges with the English curriculum for the students

Highlighted words in italics take the linguistic skill from CEFR A1 to B1 which is unrealistic.

English Primary 1 Unit 1: Greetings

Answer simple questions and give basic information confidently to different people in different situations related to greetings and farewell.

 

English Primary 2-Unit 1: politeness

Speak clearly and fluently using polite language

 

English Primary 3-Unit 2:Myself

Give clear and fluent speeches expressing opinions

 

English Primary 4-Unit 1:Games and sports

Read simple texts relating to unfamiliar contexts independently and fluently

 

Based on the pre-pilot assessment results, 54% of the teacher’s in both pre-service and in-service scored CEFR A2+ levels, with low reading and writing skills. This corresponds to the initial needs analysis findings in Stage 1, Phase 1.

 

Based on the pre-pilot assessment results, 54% of the teacher’s in both pre-service and in-service scored CEFR A2+ levels, with low reading and writing skills. This corresponds to the initial needs analysis findings in Stage 1, Phase 1

 

Quantitative

•       pre and post pilot assessments

Qualitative

•       observations of teacher training

•       observations of teaching practice

•       teacher focus groups on training

•       trainer feedback on materials

•       trainer focus groups on training

 

Caution: it is not expected that after 60 hours of language input that teacher’s CEFR levels will improve significantly. It takes approx. 200 hours of guided language teaching to move up a CEFR level !
We are looking for motivation to change values and beliefs about how language is learnt and how to teach language. This is away from traditional methodology to teaching.


(https://support.cambridgeenglish.org/hc/en-gb/articles/202838506-Guided-learning-hours

 

Analysis

•       20 days teacher training for pilot

•       50% loss of participants

•       Improvement of between CEFR 0.5 – 1 level in reading and writing

•       7% remained in the CEFR A2+ and below level

•       93% were in CEFR B1 level

•       CAUTION: many of the drop outs were in P1-3 group

 

Feedback from trainers

•       Initial worry about using modules not designed by themselves

•       Teaching practice time needs to be longer

•       Confidence gained as they became accustomed to materials

•       All teachers need letter formation instruction

•       All teacher need letter and sound (early literacy phonics) instruction

 

Outcomes

Stage 1 Foundation – Phase 1 Needs Survey

10 trained national Assessors in:

-       writing valid and reliable English language assessments of teacher’s linguistic competency

-       delivering English language assessments

-       pre-testing assessments and modifying

-       evaluating assessment results using inter-rater reliability processes

 

Stage 1 Foundation– Phase 2 Pilot preparation

30 trained national materials developers in:

-       writing appropriate teacher training materials for teachers at Primary 1 to 8

-       making teaching resources using recyclable materials

-       early literacy instruction

-       writing age appropriate stories to use in early literacy instruction

 

Stage 2 Consolidation – Phase 1 Deliver & Review

-       30 trained teacher trainers who understand the language and methodology for P1-P8 materials

-       30 trained teacher trainers who can use trainer made teaching resources appropriately

-       30 trained teacher trainers who can review teacher training materials and modify

Using the Council of Europe 2016 Preliminary consultative edition of CEFR for 7 – 10 year olds language descriptors it may take 3 years to reach CEFR A1 and for pupils to be able to :

Overall listening

I can understand a simple description of a room (e.g. my classroom, my bedroom).

Understanding conversation between other speakers

Can understand when somebody talks about their family or friends in simple sentences.

 

It may take a further 2 years for the pupils to reach CEFR A2 and be able to:

Overall listening

I can understand simple information on school activities and schedule.

Understanding conversation between other speakers

I can understand the main point(s) and some of the detail from a short dialogue.

It may take a further 3 years for the pupils to reach CEFR B1/B1+ and be able to:

Overall listening

I can understand a short narrative well enough to be able to guess what may happen next.

Understanding conversation between other speakers

I can distinguish when people are talking about the present, the past, the future.


There is a need for the MoGEI departments to collaborate for successful implementation of the English Language Policy.

When English becomes EMI from Grade 4 all the departments at the MoGEI become involved as all the curriculum subjects will be taught in English! Without enough teachers of all subjects from Grade 4 upwards, all the subject areas are compromised.

 

Phase 2: Plan to Scale-up and Integrate

Due to the current security challenges in South Sudan this part of the project is on hold.

 

CONCLUSION

Meanwhile the children remaining in South Sudan are experiencing a fragmented education with teachers who through no fault of their own have not had adequate training in either language or methodology. Time does not stand still for these children!

 

REFERENCES

1)    South Sudan Primary level English Language Policy Framework

2) Phase 1 – Assessment Final Report

3) Phase 1 – Materials Development Report

4) Pre-pilot assessment results

5) Manuals:

-       Needs analysis (used for pre-pilot assessment)

-       Post pilot assessment

-       M&E manual

-       Trainer’s manuals and workbooks (10 x P1-3 + 10 x P4-8 + letters and sounds

 

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