Way English is taught in class means many students lose interest

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 April, 2016, 12:17am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 April, 2016, 12:16am

I feel frustrated over the kind of education many of our children are receiving.

I have been an after-school tutor for several local secondary schools since September and have had a recurring experience.

Students are made to copy an English passage from the textbook five times because they failed their dictation. I pick out a few words to check how well they understand them.

Most will say they have no idea what the words mean; some will be more blunt and say they do not care. I explain the meaning of the words. Some of the youngsters will take notes, some will nod, some will repeat the pronunciation after me. Some will again say they don’t care and go back to copying.

These incidents have prompted me to ask three questions.

Firstly, why do students copy the same passage over and over, without knowing the meaning and pronunciation?

Secondly, why do they not know the meaning and the pronunciation? And, thirdly, why would they think that the meaning and pronunciation do not matter while putting so much effort into blindly copying words?

Think about how we learned our native language. First, we were able to listen to and understand words, then, we learned to speak. Learning to read and write came last. This is not how students in local schools are being taught English.

I have come across so many who say they have been going to English lessons for years, but cannot read it, write it, or understand it when someone speaks to them in English. This is pathetic.

English is one of the core subjects in the school curriculum and yet all the time, money and manpower that has gone into teaching it has been wasted for many young people.

By then it is too late as they are past the optimal age for language acquisition.

Decent jobs in Hong Kong require employees to have a proficient command of English, but many of our young people are not equipped to apply for such jobs.

Any interest they may have had in learning English at school was destroyed as they were turned into copying machines, damaging their job prospects along the way.

When will the government wake up and realise why many of our young people feel so frustrated?

Charles Loy, Tsing Yi