‘Mastering English starts at home’
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
PRACTISING English at home would go a long way toward helping students become fluent in the language and improve their grades, said a senior school official.
Speaking yesterday on the sidelines of an exhibition organised by the Brunei History Centre, Nur’afifah Mat Serudin, head of the English Department at Katimahar Primary School, said parents should be more engaging and put more effort into speaking to their children in English.
Nur’afifah, who also teaches English at the school, noted that proficiency in English amongst her students still needs a lot of improvement, attributing their poor command of English to a lack of parental support and practice.
She said many students at her school are unable to string a proper sentence together in English because they only speak their native language at home.
“They speak English in my class for an hour. But when they go home, they communicate in Malay with their parents,” she said, adding some even speak in Malay during her lessons.
“Some speak to me in Malay, but I speak to them in English to encourage them,” she said.
She said there should be a sense of urgency to improve students’ grasp of English at the primary level, noting that students at Katimahar frequently struggle with English pronunciation and grammar.
For example, she said students in her class often mistake ‘me’ for ‘I’.
“If I ask who likes pizza, they’ll answer ‘I’,” she said, adding that her students also often make grammatical errors in their written work.
She said many of her students also use ‘shortcuts’ in their sentences.
“It’s common to hear ‘Teacher, toilet?’when they ask to go to the washroom. So I make it a priority in my class to teach them the proper way of speaking English and ensure they speak English only.”
Nur’afifah said she set up a ‘penalty jar’ where her students had to pay 50 cents every time they spoke Malay during her lessons but it wasn’t effective, as some parents complained.
“If I were to grade students based on their English proficiency, on a scale of one to 10, I would say we are at four,” she said.
In a bid to encourage students to become fluent in English, Katimahar Primary School has adopted ‘English Language Month’, an initiative introduced by the Ministry of Education in primary schools across Brunei to strengthen students’ English proficiency.
Carrying the theme ‘Having Fun with English’, Nur’afifah said this year they wanted to ensure that all English language activities are engaging and fun.
“We don’t want to make it all about academics this year.
“Teaching English isn’t easy. We try to make it child-centred (as opposed to teacher-oriented) and we work and discuss (things) in groups.”
The Brunei Times