Teach English in Heye Zhen - Loudi Shi

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Tanzania! Where's that? It is a Swahili speaking country in East Africa just south of Kenya. However, no matter how close countries may be geographically, generalizations should not be made about anything, let alone educational institutions and learner levels. This is only one of the many problems facing students in Tanzania. My background in this topic comes from teaching in Tanzania for 26 months, which included a three-month training on techniques for the Tanzanian classroom and education system. The Tanzanian government wants to improve overall English proficiency. This is likely brought on by the high English understanding of their neighbors to the north. Kenya has an English medium of education, and so Tanzania made English the required language for all secondary school classrooms coupled with a certain level of “mandatory” attendance. I put that in quotes because practically that isn’t entirely true. This sounds like a good thing on paper because of the increased exposure, but it has issues. First, staffing is an issue across all levels of the system, which results in little to no actual English learning before arrival in secondary school. It becomes a “trial by fire” situation for the students. This is then linked with a federally mandated syllabus. For example, my first-year mathematics syllabus had me begin the year by counting to 10 in English. Six months later, they are supposed to be learning geometry. This is roughly nine or ten years of education in the American school system, where English is the first language, L1, for the majority of students. This pace has to be maintained, particularly in the first year, which has quite a few topics, because of national exams they are required to take their second and fourth years. This exam is completely in English, and it often has mistakes because it is written by teachers who went through this system and so didn't learn English properly themselves. In many cases, teaching is chosen as a profession as a last result, which means students are being taught by people who may not fully understand or really even care. This is not the case for everyone, and I am only speaking to my experiences and perceptions. Another issue with these exams is the pass structure. The required pass percentage is 30%, which in itself is a problem that I won't go into here except to say it doesn't truly show proficiency. Students are not required to pass all of their courses to move to the next grade. They only need a few. This means students who have never passed math end up in high-level mathematics still not understanding, but it is challenging to accommodate these students, given how much needs to be covered. All of the above paints a circle of poor understanding that continually reinforces its issues, and that's not every issue I have seen! It isn't all bad, in any case. The way the syllabus is written for some topics introduces vocabulary and structure that I didn't learn until university. Provide some of this early can be very useful when students move forward as it will be less confusing and encourage further progress. Another difference from the American system is the number of subjects they take, which has both advantages and disadvantages. I will only be focusing on the strengths here. These are a diverse learning experience with more built-in connections, such as how physics and chemistry relate. It also allows for teachers to work together in lesson planning to cover similar topics from different subjects at the same time. There are many more issues from poor classroom management and punishments, especially of the corporal variety to lack of student and teacher resources. How do we affect positive changes in these environments? The easy answer is institutional change, but much of that is very ingrained both culturally and bureaucratically. The best way that seems most feasible is to encourage and provide stronger teacher training specialized to the area that is not generalizing or disregarding cultural values and norms. It will take time, but it can improve.