Program to increase passes in English Language G.C.E. O/L exam
Test what you teach
Teach what you test
This is a saying which comes in testing and evaluation. When
questions or testing tools are prepared, this important factor should be
considered to make the testing tools valid.
Several feature articles appeared in newspapers highlighting that the
results of some core-subjects at the G.C.E. (O/L) Examination 2008, have
drastically gone down. Results of English language 2008 have declined by
8 percent. The percentage of failures in English language 2008 is 69.
What we should understand here is that 69 percent of students have
come down in English language at the GCE (O/L) examination 2008. In
2007, this number is 61 percent.
Shortage of English teachers in rural schools, a problem
This is really a very alarming situation and everyone should pay
attention to this grave problem. Having realised this big issue,
Minister of Education Susil Premajayantha summoned all the Provincial
and Zonal Subject Directors in charge of English education and briefed
the situation and requested to submit their one year and three year
plans with remedial measures to increase results in the coming years.
In fact, this is a very controversial topic that should be discussed
in detail. The students who come to Grade 11, have been learning English
for nine years. They start learning English formally in Grade 3.
They are provided with textbooks and work books for each grade and
there are teachers to handle these books. In fact-there are some areas
where we can see a shortage of English teachers.
In some areas lack of English teachers is very serious. For an
example Monaragala, Bibile and Mahiyangana in the Uva Province and
Wilgamuwa and Teldeniya in the Central Province. The schools with
adequate number of English teachers have produced very low results at
the GCE O/L exam. Low performance of students at the exam is a very
common sight everywhere.
I am sure everyone should realize this grave situation and immediate
remedial measures should be taken to find solutions to the problem. We
may contribute our service in different ways depending on our capacity.
Regarding the results of 2008, when we talked to the teachers of
English teaching English in Grades 10 and 11, they came out with their
ideas saying the question paper. English language was bit difficult and
marking was strict. In fact the English paper 2008 was the first paper
which was supposed to be based on learning competencies. The students
who sat the question paper learnt competency based approach in Grades 10
and 11. But was the that difficult to get at least an ordinary pass (S).
It is not reasonable to wash off our hands saying the paper was
difficult. The standard of the paper should also be maintained.
What we have to consider is whether the students build up confidence
in ensuring the English paper at the GCE (O/L) Exam. They should be
properly guided with a lot of practice, exercises and papers.
In fact when considering Uva province, the situation is serious. Most
students in Grades 10 and 11 are not in a position to use ‘is am and
are’ properly. The text books are very difficult for them. Although the
teachers of English put in great effort, the learning does not take
place as expected. Sometimes text books are a burden to them.
Text books are a burden to teachers of English as well. Out of forty
students in the class, only a few of them, may be less than ten can
understand what is taught during the English period. In a few Maha
Vidyalayas and model schools this situation is quite different.
I am sure not only in the Uva province, but also in other provinces
even in Colombo district this situation can be seen. We should frankly
accept the present standard of English in provinces especially in remote
areas. Type 2 and 3 schools and the plantation sector.
In fact we never say passing an exam is complete learning. Some
students who learn well, will not perform well at exams due to many
reasons. When English language is concerned only reading, writing
Grammar and Vocabulary are tested, students who can converse in English
have no opportunity to use that skill. School Based Assessment (SBA) has
been introduced in the school to help such children. But again we have a
problem. Whether SBA is genuinely done in the school.
If majority of students can not understand the present teaching - may
be competency based teaching - learning, the lessons or plans should be
made student friendly so that they can understand, at least to get their
attention. Otherwise most students in the class will get frustrated with
the lesson and gradually give up learning English. They will perform
very badly at the GCE (O/L) exam.
The following are some suggestions that could be implemented in
schools in order to increase results of GCE (O/L) English language. As
we discussed, if the majority of students can not understand we have to
pay attention to them.
In fact my suggestion is to group them according to their performance
at the previous test in the school. Students can be grouped when they
come to Grade 10 considering the marks they have got in Grade 9 year end
Basic lessons based competency levels using other resources such as
magazines, news papers. Story books can be planned for slow learners or
the students who have got less marks. In fact, their errors in language
should be identified some children say “He is go to school” some lessons
can be done to correct this error.
This is not an easy task for the English teacher. They may need a lot
of guidance, support and materials. It is the duty of the ‘In service
advisors English’ to visit such teachers and extend constant support in
a friendly way. ISAs should be in the classroom with English teachers
Provincial Department of Education or the Zonal Education Office can
take the responsibility in preparing special lessons for slow learners
targeting the GCE O/L exam. Special modules based on competencies can be
prepared with the participation of teachers.
These modules can be photocopied or printed and circulated among
schools as a special project.
Module should consist of some interesting lessons with activities,
illustrations, grammar activities and exercises at the end.
Marks of exercises can be maintained to see the progress of students.
These modules should be of basic grammar, vocabulary and reading and
writing activities although the students are in Grade 10 or 11, the
basic competencies or competency levels like ‘use of simple and capital
letters’ use of question mark, full stop ‘introducing nouns and verbs’
(In Grade 6) can be used to plan special lessons for them. One module
may consist of two or three competency levels.
In order to increase the passes at the G.C.E. O/L exam, students
should be given a lot of practice activities.
The more they answer the questions, the more they develop their
confidence. Nowadays it is a very common thing happening in the system
that everybody comes to help students with practice papers at the
eleventh hour-Grade 11 third term.
In fact some students are tired of attending student support sessions
This support should be given to them systematically so they can be
planned throughout the year or some sessions can be done in Grade 10. As
they are slow learners, they should first be provided with simple
practice papers, simple activities or question based on the competency
levels in Grade 6. Simple papers can be called ‘baby papers’.
Many baby papers should be practised in support sessions and their
progress should be maintained. Later these students have to face many
average papers and at last they should face a standard paper which is
similar to English language question paper at the GCE (O/L) exam.
Otherwise at the exam they might get confused.
The instructions which appear with the questions at the exam, should
also be discussed regularly. Most students cannot understand the
instructions (rubrics) and they write something else as the answers.
In this article what I want to point out is it is not fruitful doing
many support sessions for students for the sake of doing. These support
sessions should be well planned in advance with a good understanding of
the needs of students.
If the students cannot understand how to use “is, am, are they has
and have” - very basic things, no point of doing “passive voice,
indirect speech or conditionals. First let’s try to give basic things
for the majority of students to pass English to get an ordinary pass at
least. Their score may be 20 or 25. Our support should be to make it 35
or more. If it is 35 or 40 we should help them to make it 50.
If we try to implement a special program of this nature, I am sure
slow learners will open their eyes and do something within their reach.
Let the child beat the test
Let not the child be beaten by the test.