Teach English in Honglan Zhen - Nanjing Shi

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For the summative task, I will be focusing on problems that students attending local kindergarten and primary schools in Hong Kong face, as well as suggesting how to approach them. This group of learners will be separated by their age groups: young learners and pre-puberty learners. However, before starting this essay, a quick introduction into the Hong Kong school system needs to be given. Hong Kong schools can be divided into local and international schools, with the local secondary schools being further categorised into bands of numbers 1 to 3, and ranks from ‘a’ to ‘c’, with the top schools being 1a and the lowest being 3c. This is important to note as only band 1 local schools regularly teach English in their curriculum, while schools in the lower bands do not have a strong focus in teaching English, resulting in varying levels of fluency in English within the local student population. Similarly, there is a wide range in the levels of English being taught in local kindergartens and primary schools. It is also crucial to acknowledge that there is a high pressure on young learners to work towards attending secondary schools in the first band in the future. First of the groups that will be addressed will be the very young learners who learn English as a foreign language. Most of the local children will attend kindergartens that teach phonics to these beginners a few times a week, and some will go to tuition centres for additional support. Like any young learner from any culture, they have much shorter attention spans compared to older students, but will respond very well to fun activities such as games, drawing, and singing songs, and can learn English very quickly this way. However, I have encountered many young students who come from households where no one in the family can speak English. Those that attend schools with a high focus in English are able to retain their knowledge as they can practice speaking English almost every day, however for young students who do not have that opportunity without support from outside the school environment, the English that was absorbed so rapidly in class is lost just as quickly. A solution to this would be to increase the exposure of English to the young learner in the school, as well as encouraging the non-English speaking primary caregiver of the young learner to learn English at the same time as the young learner, which would also give more motivation for the child to learn. I have seen young students improve very quickly in their receptive and productive skills when this happens. On the other hand, pre-puberty learners in Hong Kong face a different set of problems. At a young age, it is already normal to have a high pressure on these students to learn a lot, and quickly. Not just in learning English, but in other subjects as well. Pressures come from both the schools as well as parents of these pre-puberty students, because in each of the final three years of primary school, students have to take intense examinations which determine which band of secondary school each students may be eligible to attend. As a result, students have to be competitive and many learners who have not achieved a pre-intermediate level in English are often un-motivated and self-conscious to learn the language. Therefore, it is very important that teachers not only keep the lessons fun, varied, and interesting, but also structure the lessons with activities where students who are stronger in their English can work with students who are weaker. An example would be to include pair work or group projects where there is a mixed level of ability in class. Also, teachers should always be adopting appropriate ESA methods, as well has having a personable attitude to be approachable to the students, while also remaining professional, so that students are more motivated to learn. As demonstrated by exploring the problems that young learners in Hong Kong face, it is important that teachers recognise the pressures these students are under and realise that it is the teacher’s responsibility to maximise the students’ exposure to English in fun and interesting ways.