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Poor English Language Blamed On Bad Book Policy 

By Yvonne Massa*

CameroonPostline.com — Lack of book policy, inefficient training, inadequate textbooks, overcrowding and laxity on the part of students all have been blamed for the poor English language usage that prevails in the country.

“In a class of about 100 students, not up to 50 students have textbooks. Added to this, students don’t read and do their assignments,” said an English language teacher, Akame Komesue. Akame was speaking at the 11th annual congress the Cameroon Association of English Language and Literature Teachers Association, CAMELTA, which held at the University of Buea, August 15-17, under the theme “Achieving Excellence in English Language Teaching – Setting the Pace in Tune with the Changing Times”.

“Students have poor foundation. Some students leave their homes with closed minds. As such students in examination classes do not know how to write,” Akame noted. She said as a way to solve the problem of poor performance in the English language teachers could have private classes with students who are willing in order to improve on their language power.

But to make matters worse, CAMELTA Vice President in charge of Publications, Edward Ayugho, said there is no national book policy. “If someone thinks he can hurriedly do something because somebody somewhere can recommend it for school use, they compile chunks of poorly edited materials and they appear on the school book list and teachers have no power to alter it. So when garbage goes in, garbage comes out,” Ayugho argued.

According to Ayugho, the reason for the poor performance of students in English language can be viewed from both sides; from teachers and students. He said teachers are left to be policy makers; those who craft the policies that influence teaching in classrooms. He added that the communicative approach used in teaching English which does not pay attention to correctness also affects the performance of students.

“It is unfortunate because when teachers use this approach, the idea, to them, is to communicate to be understood, but during exams learners are assessed for correct usage of language rather than just communication,” Ayugho said. The didactic materials used to teach students as Ayugho puts it, also determines students’ performance.

Ayugho proposed that teachers should guide and encourage students to read and not to read for them even though it needs time and commitment but it seems to be the only alternative.
“A teacher should know that he/she is a therapist and a learning assistant to the learner and not the doer of things for the learner,” Ayugho said. Jacqueline Nkongho from GBHS Mudeka told The Post that the question of poor performance depends on both the students and the teachers.

“Some students go to school not to learn because they may be forced by their parents to go to school and thus do not have the interest of learning. Some students do not have textbooks nor note books which can enable them to study,” she said. In addition, some teachers ignore certain things which may be of help to students. Nkongho said some teachers do not follow the scheme of work so, they do not teach children appropriate things since they do the wrong thing at the right time.

She, however, said that teachers have always been doing their best. “They should draw students closer to them so that the students can open up to them,” Nkongho said. She added that children should buy their textbooks, especially Literature textbooks because they are treated in class and that teachers should devote extra time for slow learners.

Meanwhile, Roger Kechawah Mbianda, an English language teacher at Lycée Bilingue de Ndzih, Menoua, said teachers are not well trained as such it is not possible to expect anything good from them. “If teachers were well trained, they would know what materials to give out to students,” said Kechawah Mbianda. He also said when so many students are in a class it is not possible to address the problems of particular students. Besides, parents don’t often buy books for their children and those who have do not read them.

Said Kechawah, “Students should be motivated; books should be given to students who are willing to read to help them to study and they should be informed about the advantages of mastering English. School administrators should recruit well trained teachers; teachers who master the subject matter and the pedagogy of teaching.”

The conference was organised to bring teachers of English and Literature in Cameroon together to understand themselves and to improve on their teaching skills. “This is in line with the aim of the association which is “to improve the practice of English Language teaching and learning and to break down the isolation that teachers experience both in classrooms and in their schools,” said one of CAMLETA’s delegates, Margaret Agwe.

Simon Abore, President, Southwest Regional Chapter, CAMELTA and English language teacher at Bilingual Grammar School, Molyko, Buea said English language in the Region is not the best because more teachers have decided to stay in the urban centres and neglected the rural areas.

However, he invited all his colleagues to join the folk so that they can continue to benefit from training and scholarship opportunities from the International Association of English language teachers, TISOL, US-based, where CAMELTA is affiliated and the International Association of teachers of English as a foreign language, ITOEFL, in UK.

The conference was attended by the representative of the Minister of Secondary Education, Ivo Leke Tambo, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Buea, Dr. Nalova Lyonga and CAMELTA National President, Dorothy Forbin. Earlier during the opening ceremony, Forbin had given a brief background of the association and stated some of its achievements.

“CAMELTA was launched on April 17, 2001 in Yaounde by Regional associations in the Northwest and Southwest with the help of the British Council. The association has been carrying out chapter activities and does in-service training of members, achieving excellence in English language and building bridges in English Language Teaching”. She added that two teachers, Florence Muluh and Emma Mojoko have once received an award in the UK on behalf of CAMELTA.

*(UB Journalism Student on Internship)

First published in The Post print edition no 01369

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