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An Application of CLT Approach and Education Policy: Introducing a New Syllabus

ASMAUL HUSNA

Syllabus Designing: According to Candling (1984), a syllabus is based on accounts and records of what actually happens at the classroom as the teachers and learners apply a given curriculum to their own situation. This is concerned with learning tasks and activities and also with who and how to establish the curriculum. This is a framework following which activities can be carried out.  

The necessary components of a language syllabus are as follows (van EK 1975):
i. The situation  in which the foreign language will be used , including the topics which will be dealt with;
ii. The language activities in which the learner will engage;
iii. The language functions which the learner will fulfill;
iv. What the learner will be able to do with respect to each topic;
v. The general notions which the learner which the learner will be able to handle;
vi. The specific(topic-related) notions which the learner which the learner will be able to handle;
vii. The language forms which the learner will be able to use; &
viii. The degree of skill with which the learner will be able to perform.

So a syllabus is designed according to the needs of a particular classroom. Any syllabus will express, however indirectly, certain assumptions about language , about the psychological process of learning , and about the pedagogic and social process within a classroom (Breen 1984:49).

Education system in Bangladesh: There are mainly two types of education now in our country
i) Bangla medium (under National curriculum of Bangladesh)
ii) English medium (under Cambridge curriculum)

In Secondary and Higher Secondary Levels of Bangla medium, there are three systems:
a. General Education
b. Madrasaha Education &
c. Vocational Education  

The National Curriculum & Textbook Board (NCTB) is responsible for the preparing curriculum and syllabus and also for publishing books. Today my  discussion is on designing  a syllabus for the students of class ix of General Education system of Bangladesh based on English For Today (For Class 9-10), published by The National Curriculum & Textbook Board (NCTB), Dhaka.

English language in Bangladesh
In Bangladesh a number of foreign languages are taught at universities. But only English is taught as a compulsory subject across primary, secondary, higher secondary, and even the tertiary levels. English is used as a lingua franca for global communication. English gives the easy access to the ever-expanding knowledge of science and technology, arts and education, innovations and discoveries as all the books, journals, reports, research-findings are available in English. It is the language of information technology without that life is impossible. English is the language of national and international labour market.  

Making English study effective from primary to tertiary levels needs a lot of inputs and resources like trained teachers, communicative teaching materials and financial, infra-structural and management facilities. These resources are not equally available or favourable for learning English in all the educational institutions of the country. In some urban elite schools these inputs are mostly available. But most of the rural schools lack in some or   all these resources. As a result, teaching-learning English in these schools cannot be done in the way it should be.

Now in Bangladesh Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach is followed and it emphasizes on communication. That means the development of the four skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) should get the priority but our institutional exams and public exams give priority only to two skills: reading and writing. So here English is taught and learned in a exam oriented way.

English For Today (For Class 9-10)
The book English for Today-EFT (For Class 9-10) has 22units and 119 lessons. At the starting of the book, there is a book map, describing the topics, skills, functions, grammar/structure and vocabularies for every lesson. There is Teachers’ Guide (TG) for the teacher that gives the solution of the exercises and guides how conduct classes for every lesson.

Communicative syllabus
The rules of communicative syllabus design stand on the fact that learners learn a language by using it for purpose those are of real life in everyday or created in the classroom. The appropriate language for these purposes or situations are learned or taught. Here one or more grammar items or structures, which can be used for requesting or in this situation, can be listed. Sometimes concepts or notions like place, time, amount or space etc. are also listed in this type of syllabuses. Thus a communicative syllabus may be of any of the following types:

i. Notional or conceptual syllabus, in which notions like time, place, space or part and whole etc, are listed
ii. Functional syllabus, in which functions like greeting, requesting, commanding, offering help etc, are listed.
iii. Situational or setting based syllabus, in which situations like at the post office, at a dentist's, at a restaurant etc. are listed.
iv. Topic based syllabus, in which language points are put under different topics or areas like family, health, environment, hobby etc. which are relevant, appealing and interesting.

So a communicative syllabus is based on notions, functions, topics or settings and it is also possible to combine different focuses in a single syllabus. For example, the notion of time can be taught with the function of asking and giving time, the topic being travel, in a setting of a railway station. It is further possible to make a shift from one syllabus type to anther for the same group of students.  Because the learning and teaching aim is to address students' need. This approach is called as eclectic approach. A communicative syllabus is flexible enough to cope with this collaboration.

Again a syllabus can be of any of the following shapes or formats:
a. The linear format: In this format one language item is presented only once. A structural syllabus often takes this format.
b. The cyclical format: In this format each item reappears once or more with a more advanced level.
c. Story-line format: In this format a story is divided into units. A thematic unity is maintained within each unit. Language topics are taught by continuous story telling technique.

So the EFT (ix-x) book is based on the activities of notional, functional, situational and topic based syllabus and these activities have been presented in the cyclical format.

Who are the Teachers?
All the English teachers are from Bangla medium education and they have studied Bachelor (pass course/honours) and Masters Degrees from colleges and very few are from universities .In fact maximum English teachers are other subject teachers. Most of these English teachers have not studied English as a subject at degree or graduate level.  At present, a good number of teachers are   trained by Govt. Teachers’ training colleges, ELTIP, different NGOs, NAEM and some other different government and non-government organizations. But the expected output is missing according to the input. Here we must accept the drawback of our education policy that we are following exam-oriented English education that applies only the reading and writing activities when the EFT book, Education Policy and Curriculum  are  designed  based on CLT approach. That means four skills must be practised. So if some of the teachers are interested even, they cannot develop the students’ English language skills as the whole system is exam oriented (based on only two skills). So English is learnt-taught as a subject, but not as a language.

Teachers’ training
Without the teachers’ training, the career cannot run smoothly of a teacher and this one is followed here regularly. So it is a good side that most of the teachers are trained under a short term or long term training course but they need to be followed up and updated by retraining after a particular gap of time.

Working days (yearly)
Total day: 364 days
Total working days (without regular weekly holidays and other vacations): 228 days.

Aim of designing this new Syllabus
i) To design a syllabus according to the education policy.
ii) To design an appropriate syllabus for all over the country.
iii) To develop all the four skills of English language: listening, speaking, reading and writing.
iv) To make student more proficient to communicate in English.
v) To make students more proficient for the advanced studies.
vi) To suggest a new practice book for skill development.
vii) To suggest a new modification of English for Today (EFT for ix-x).  &
viii) To suggest a modified exam system.

Books
1. English for Today (practical): SUGGESTED

For class ix-x
i) Printed  & CD (audio + audio visual)
ii) Topics from: English for Today
: Other subjects those are more interesting.
: Language games
: Values related topics/stories
: Songs/Poems
: Fairy tales
: Famous cartoon/movies
: video clips/description of famous places.
iii) At least eighty percent voice will be by foreign speaker that means by the Bangladeshi speaker’s voice will be used for all sort of instruction.
iv) There will be TG for the teachers and they will be trained up with their normal training.

2. English for Today (for class ix-x): NEEDs to be MODIFIED
i) This book is a very good book from all sides but there are huge activities. So less import or some lessons need to be reduced.
ii) Every step/activity of EFT must be followed by the teachers as there are required number of units and lessons after the reducing. (Both the two books will be available on the net.)

New Syllabus(For Example)
Subject: English 1st paper
Book: English for Today (for class ix-x)
English for Today: Practical (for class ix-x)
Total marks: 100

Part A: Seen comprehension
Objective questions: marks (4x3=15)
1. Multiple choice/True or false                                                           05
2. Fill in the blanks with a suitable word from a box                         05
3. Information transfer/matching sentences from substitution table/matching phrase or words                                                          05
4. Open ended question                                                                         05
5.  Fill in the gaps without clues                                                            05
6. Re-writing in a different form                                                            05
7. Summarizing the passage                                                                   05

Part B (Vocabulary Test): Marks (10x2=20)
8. Fill in the blanks with clues                                                                   10
9. Fill in the blanks with clues                                                                   10

Part C (Writing Test): Marks (10x2=20)
10. Making sentences from substitution table                                      10
11. Rearranging according to sequences/answering
questions from a paragraph                                                                    10

Part D: Practical (speaking & Listening Test)
Marks (10+15=25)                                                                  
12. Listening to a conversation/description and answering
Questions (multiple choice/true-false/gap filling)                                  10
13. Speaking with class mates/teachers on a topic                                10
13. Telling story/summary or describing a picture / situation/ movie/drama (must be selected by the student)                                   05

1st Terminal Examination
English for Today: Unit 1-4
English for Today (Practical): Lesson 1-6

2nd Terminal Examination
English for Today: Unit 5-8
English for Today (Practical): Lesson 7-12

Annual Examination
English for Today: Unit 9-12
English for Today (Practical): Lesson 13-18

Conclusion
I don’t think it is too much ambitious. It can be applicable all over the country. If practical exams are possible of some other subjects, then why can we not develop listening and speaking skills of our students just by modifying the exam system? The problem is with the implementation of the education policy and curriculum because it is an exam oriented education system. And all the skills are not focused in the test. But curriculum and education policy is skill based. This syllabus and exam system can be introduced from class viii-xii .The interest and dedicated attitudes of our teachers and the students and the demand of communicative skill development of this time are the strength and confidence of us. We just need a brave decision to step forward.

ASMAUL HUSNA: BA (Hons.), MA in English, Jahangirnagar University. MA in ELT (Appeared: ABD), University of Dhaka.

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