Saturday, January 29, 2011

News: Major Shift in the Literature Component of the Malaysian New English Curriculum

Dear All,

This news is rather old (28 April 2010) but for those who missed the reasons why there was a shift in the Literature Component, please read the news below as it comes from the horses' mouth.

Dr. Mohamed Abu Bakar, a friend whom I will usually  meet at ELT Conferences presents the MOE's views on this matter. He clarifies about the previous implementation of the Literature Component and elaborates on the additional time required to teach English.

Rodney Tan

The Star Online > Lifefocus

Wednesday April 28, 2010

A major shift



Graphic novels have been included in the literature component of the new English language curriculum.

STUDENTS in lower secondary will be reading graphic novels in the form of famous classics like Black Beauty and Journey To The Centre Of The Earth under the literature component of the new English curriculum to be implemented next year.

‘This fresh approach to teaching literature in Malaysian schools is aimed at providing students with an enjoyable learning environment,’ says Dr Mohamed Abu Bakar.

Plays have also made it into the list of prescribed texts for the first time, but instead of studying Shakespeare, students will be doing works like the new Form Four text, Gulp And Gasp by John Townsend (see chart).

“This fresh approach to teaching literature in Malaysian schools is aimed at providing students with an enjoyable learning environment as well as inculcating the reading habit,” says Dr Mohamed Abu Bakar from the Education Ministry’s Curriculum Development Centre.

Literature has always been recognised as a vital component of language learning. The new English language curriculum therefore formalises literature’s inclusion in primary school.

New methods will be utilised for teaching literature in schools to boost students’ confidence in the language. These include more “production” activities such as choral reading, acting out scenes from stories and producing works on different literary genres to enhance creativity among students.

The new texts for secondary schools will see the current works, introduced when then Education Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak first announced the introduction of the literature component into the English curriculum in 2000, finally being replaced.

Under the present curriculum for the novel component in upper secondary, schools choose one of three texts – John Steinbeck’s The Pearl, Keris Mas’ Jungle Of Hope or K.S. Maniam’s The Return.

However, about 70% to 80% of schools opt for Steinbeck’s novella, partly due to the availability of learning materials on the Internet.

Teachers also reported that students found the local titles “difficult” and could not relate to the subject matter.

Despite the constraints, the introduction of literature is viewed as a success. It has been reported that the passing rate of students sitting for the English Language subject has improved in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM).

Dr Mohamed is confident that the new texts, with titles such as Flipping Fantastic by Jane Langford and Qwertyuiop by Vivien Alcock will prove more appealing to teenagers.

He was speaking at a recent colloquium on children’s literature held at Universiti Malaya, organised by the English Department, Arts and Social Sciences Faculty.

Picking titles that would be acceptable to everyone, however, was no easy task for the selectors, especially in a multiracial and multireligious country like Malaysia. Furthermore, as English is a second language, the language used has to be appropriate to the average reader’s proficiency level.

The new English language curriculum for primary and secondary schools will take a modular approach. In addition to the four basic skills – reading, writing, listening and speaking – two new modules have also been introduced; grammar and language arts (which includes literature).

Following the government’s decision to discontinue the teaching of Maths and Science in English, the strengthening English policy was initiated. This means that the time devoted to English will increase by three periods in primary schools.

Of the three extra periods, two will be for language arts while one period has been set aside for the teaching of English grammar.

In all, there will be a total of 330 minutes of English per week in Years One, Two and Three and 300 minutes in Years Four, Five and Six.

No announcement has been made about secondary schools, but the number of periods will likely increase too.


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