Signs are positive

English has promising future in state’s schools

KUCHING: There are hopeful signs of success to come for the implementation of English as a medium of instruction for Mathematics and Science in Sarawak schools.

Unbeknownst to most people outside the field of education, secondary schools have been running a supplementary programme called English-in-camp (EIC) “aimed at promoting the use of English as a communication tool in everyday situations”.

Last Tuesday at SMK Semerah Padi in Matang Jaya one such camp (the Kuching District Level 2019 camp) was held in which students from 22 schools in the district participated accompanied by their English language teachers.

SMK Semerah Padi principal Hadiah Amit, in her speech during the closing of the camp, said the programme placed students in a non-threatening and constructive environment so that they could learn to enjoy themselves when using English.

ATTENTIVE … These students pay rapt attention to the talk during the English-in-camp.

“EIC provides an environment where learning a language and experiencing cultural interchange will enrich the lives of the students,” she said.

She pointed out that the camp was quite a challenge for the organisers as it had to cater to different requirements, like ensuring the safety of the students, and the composition of participants from various ethnic groups had to be considered.

In this way, the camp enabled students of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds to learn from and about one another, and all the while using English.

Via healthy, educational and enjoyable activities, the participants were able to immerse themselves in an English-speaking environment.

Hadiah was understandably quite proud that most of the camp facilitators were students of SMK Semerah Padi, but she did not forget to acknowledge the other schools that sent their students and teachers to take part.

The head of the English language panel, Noor Hashimah Mohamad, was also present at the event, and so was the camp coordinator, Vimala Devi Nadeson Murugiah, who is also the national cum state technical officer for English language activities for secondary schools.

A section of the students taking part in the English-in-camp at SMK Semerah Padi. Vimala is on the right (front row).

When asked about the students’ general competence in English, Vimala pointed out that generally those who opt to take part in the programme tended to have good listening, comprehension and speaking skills compared to non-participants.

The New Sarawak Tribune was somewhat involved in the camp as a senior staff member of its editorial team, Harry Julin, was invited to give a brief talk to the students.

When it was over, he was quite impressed by the way the camp was organised as well as the positive response and attitude of the student participants.

“I was pleasantly surprised when some of the young facilitators greeted and welcomed me enthusiastically in English. Before I could say anything, they proceeded to interview me – all in English. It turned out that they used the information to introduce me to their fellow students in the hall,” said Harry.

On what his briefing was about, he said it was a little bit about newspapers in education (NIE), a bit about news reporting, and why students should consider reading newspapers whether the traditional ones or those online.

“If the positive signs that I noticed in the students and teachers were anything to go by, there is hope for the teaching and learning of English in Sarawak schools,” he continued.

“True, I cannot judge all schools by what I gathered at SMK Semerah Padi – which is just one school – but if a good number of them throughout the state are like that or even better, I am optimistic that our students in general would master English no matter what. We shouldn’t underestimate the will of children to learn something. They just need the right motivation, that’s all.”

Noor Hashimah gives a token of appreciation to Harry at the end of his talk.