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Implementing English for Today books in secondary schools in rural Bangladesh

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Abstract

In this age of globalization, English language has become the most prominent medium of expressing ideas, feelings and views to international community. Unlike other countries, English language is considered as the sign of intellectuality and proficiency in the job market of Bangladesh. Considering the fact, the government of Bangladesh has designed English for Today (EfT) textbooks by following the communicative language teaching approach for the students of Bangladesh from primary to higher secondary level. However, teaching EfT textbooks in rural areas of Bangladesh does not match with the teaching of urban areas. This study was designed to explore the challenges of implementing EfT textbooks in secondary schools of rural area. Three schools were chosen from three different upazilas of Sherpur district. It was a qualitative research and the data were collected through class observations, interviews with teachers and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with students where 30 students of class IX and 3 teachers took part. The result suggests that implementing EfT textbooks is challenging in rural area for several reasons such as lack of proficient English language teachers, class size, lack of motivation, insufficient technological facility and some difficult contents of EfT textbook. Additionally, the study presents the view of teachers as well as students' regarding the EfT textbook. Finally, the study concludes with few suggestions regarding the EfT textbook and usage of it in the rural area which may be helpful for the policy makers to reduce the challenges.
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English Education Research Initiatives, Ranjit Podder & Nafisa Begum (Eds)
Published by CoE in English, Teachers‟ Training College, Dhaka; December 2018. ISBN: 978-984-34-5440-3
16 Implementing English for Today books in secondary schools in
rural Bangladesh
*Mohammad Mustafizur Rahman
Abstract
In this age of globalization, English language has become the most prominent medium of expressing
ideas, feelings and views to international community. Unlike other countries, English language is
considered as the sign of intellectuality and proficiency in the job market of Bangladesh. Considering
the fact, the government of Bangladesh has designed English for Today (EfT) textbooks by following
the communicative language teaching approach for the students of Bangladesh from primary to higher
secondary level. However, teaching EfT textbooks in rural areas of Bangladesh does not match with
the teaching of urban areas. This study was designed to explore the challenges of implementing EfT
textbooks in secondary schools of rural area. Three schools were chosen from three different upazilas
of Sherpur district. It was a qualitative research and the data were collected through class
observations, interviews with teachers and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with students where 30
students of class IX and 3 teachers took part. The result suggests that implementing EfT textbooks is
challenging in rural area for several reasons such as lack of proficient English language teachers,
class size, lack of motivation, insufficient technological facility and some difficult contents of EfT
textbook. Additionally, the study presents the view of teachers as well as students‟ regarding the EFT
textbook. Finally, the study concludes with few suggestions regarding the EfT textbook and usage of it
in the rural area which may be helpful for the policy makers to reduce the challenges.
Keywords English for Today, scenario of teaching EfT, challenges, secondary schools, rural
Bangladesh
1 Introduction
English has become the dominant global language in the present world (Crystal, 2003).
Today English plays the role as a lingua franca is used as a means of communication
among speakers of other languages. In this highly communicative era, Bangladesh
government has emphasized on English Language Learning (ELL) at the primary level and its
inclusion continues till the tertiary level of education. Here, the English language is taught as
a compulsory subject form class one to class twelve.
In 1996, Bangladesh government first introduced Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)
for the secondary level with the goal of improving students‟ „communicative competence‟
through the practice of four language skills (Rahman & Karim, 2015; Shurovi, 2014; NCTB,
2012). This is the main focus of CLT for teaching English in all over the world. So, English
* Resource Teacher (RT), Secondary Education Sector Investment Program (SESIP) &
Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) Student, Session 2017, Govt. Teachers Training College, Dhaka.
E-mail: asm.mustafizur@gmail.com
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syllabus is improvised by National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB), an autonomous
organization under the Ministry of Education (MoE) in Bangladesh.
Now, the NCTB textbooks for English syllabus are designed to focus on the four language
skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing as learner-centred activities within
communicative contexts (Begum & Islam, 2017). The textbook provides the students with a
variety of materials such as reading texts, dialogues, discussion, pictures, diagrams, tasks
and activities. So, students are expected to be interactive in the classroom by participating
in pair work, group work and individual work (Hamid & Baldauf, 2008). In language
learning, teaching materials have a great impact on the students while the learners practice
a language (Richards & Rodgers, 1986). As teaching material, English for Today (EfT)
textbooks are practiced mandatorily in the classroom for teaching English from class one to
class twelve (Farooqui, 2008). However, teaching EfT textbooks, teachers of English
language face several challenges in the classroom. At the same time, students also face
challenges while they go through the textbooks. So, this study intends to explore the
challenges where teachers and students of rural area face difficulties at the time of using the
EfT textbook.
1.1 Statement of the problem
The EfT textbooks have been designed by using different types of texts, dialogues,
discussion, pictures, diagrams, tasks and activities. The books also contain social, historical,
cultural and environmental topics of Bangladesh, newspaper articles, literary texts, different
events and festivals etc. In every lesson, there are some tasks that require pair work or group
work and the purpose of these tasks is to develop students‟ „communicative competence‟. But
it is seen that there are no listening comprehension passages in it for the listening tasks. Even,
no compact disc (CD) is provided with the book because it is assumed that teacher will read
aloud the passages which are given in the teacher‟s guide. In the examination, most of the
students get good marks in English but they cannot speak naturally or write correctly (Kabir,
2012). On the other hand, students of the rural area get poor marks in English which are
noticeable at the time of board results. Though the textbooks are same in urban and rural
areas, we can see the difference between the results in every year. Even the percentage of the
failure in English is high in the rural area than the urban area. So, there is an effect of the
textbook on the students‟ performance.
1.2 Rationale of the study
Though the EfT textbooks are used in both urban and rural areas as the core teaching material,
we can see the differences between the students‟ performances. The percentage of the result
in English is good in the urban area whereas the percentage of rural area is poor. So, this
research paper tried to investigate where the rural students face difficulties at the time of
learning English and which materials are difficult for them. At the same time, the paper also
explored the challenges of implementing the EfT textbooks in rural area and also recommend
pedagogical implications to develop or modify the materials of EfT textbook (for classes 9-
10).
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2 Research questions
The following questions are adapted for this research:
1. What are the challenges for implementing English for Today textbooks in rural secondary
schools of Bangladesh?
2. Why do the students of the rural area face difficulties at the time of using English for
Today textbooks?
3 Literature review
In Bangladesh, teaching and learning English is a challenge for both teachers and students.
The traditional Grammar-Translation Method (GTM) was used in teaching language but later
considering the students‟ needs, the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach was
introduced in Bangladesh in 1996 (NCTB, 2012). The main objective of CLT is to prepare
students for learning the target language so that they can use it in any real life situation
(Khan, 2013). The main objective of CLT is to help the students to learn a language so that
they can use it in any real life situation. About CLT, Freeman says “Communicative
Language Teaching aims broadly to apply the theoretical perspective of the Communicative
Approach by making communicative competence the goal of language teaching and by
acknowledging the interdependence of language and communication” (Freeman, 2000). GTM
emphasizes on rules and grammar of a language where CLT focuses on the ability to interact
by using the language. So, CLT approach had been adapted in Bangladesh for developing the
communicative competence of students and enabling them to interact in a real context.
According to NCTB Curriculum and English Language Syllabus of Secondary Classes level
(Class 6-10), the English syllabus aims to focus on the four skills of language - listening,
speaking, reading and writing. Being learner-centred, the textbooks of secondary level
includes activities which promote communication in real life.
In language learning process, teachers use some materials which are helpful for the students
to learn a language perfectly and perform in everyday life. English for Today textbooks are
used in English classroom as the material of teaching. These books have been designed in
such a way where it is expected that all the materials of the books will fulfill students‟ need
and assist the teacher to implement CLT in the classroom. For example, the contents of the
textbooks include facts of real-life incidents, social situations and practical scenarios of
Bangladesh, which make the learning of English relevant, interesting and enjoyable. So, it is
assumed that teachers will facilitate the learning process and students will enjoy the process
of learning as the contents of EfT will be easier to them.
But, it is a matter of sorrow that in a prolonged period of 22 years, CLT approach could not
put a green mark of satisfaction in the teaching and learning process of Bangladesh. Though
the students cross the secondary level by getting pass marks, they are unable to communicate
in English naturally and spontaneously in practical life. In a research, Quader (2000-01: 6)
says, “Despite learning English for 1600 hours at the pre-university level, learners cannot use
English, and have been perceived to be at least six years behind the proficiency necessary to
perform at the tertiary level of education”.
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In the context of Bangladesh, it is a great concern for teachers as teaching English is not an
easy job to accomplish by following CLT approach in the class. Several reasons are
responsible for being a passive teacher in our country. Firstly, teachers of Bangladesh are
products of GTM and lack competency on CLT (Huq, 2014). As the teachers of Bangladesh
do not have enough training facility, it is difficult to show competency on CLT in the
classroom (Begum & Islam, 2017). Rasheed (2012) states that in a poor country like
Bangladesh, it is difficult for the government to motivate the teachers by providing a good
salary. As a reason, students are more dependable on guidebook than the EfT textbooks.
Otherwise, teachers are often unable to conduct class by following the CLT approach due to
time limitation, a large number of students and lack of technological support (Begum &
Islam, 2017). Additionally, Huq (2014) feels that students of Bangladesh are shy and
unconfident in English language classes which demand a teacher-centered classroom. As a
consequence, STT is less than TTT in the English language classes of Bangladesh (Huq,
2014). Chowdhury & Farooqui (2011) state that many teachers still teach by following the
traditional language teaching method and students are rarely asked to be involved in
communicative activities, and they also say that “it is interesting to note that their actions
manifested nothing more than a faint allusion to their training” (Chowdhury & Farooqui,
2011, p.157).
In a research, Rashid and Majid (2014) claim that most of the language teachers think
whether it is enough to teach the language using the course book tasks, which are regarded
artificial because they are designed for teaching purposes only. Additionally, the study of
Pouezevara & Khan (2007) shows that mobile is useful to train the teachers of secondary
level. In the study, the prominent information about the TQI-SEP (Teaching Quality
Improvement in Secondary Education Project) training program which is designed for the
secondary level teacher by the government of Bangladesh. This program aims to develop the
abilities of teachers to improve the classroom practice as well as CPD (Continuous
Professional Development) of the teachers. Moreover, Huq (2014) believes that students of
ELT should imply their academic knowledge in real teaching rather saving it in the storage of
education. So, the usage of correct methodology will have a more positive influence on
students‟ attitude which will lead to acquire a language like English.
4 Methodology
Interviews with students and teachers were adopted as the method of data gathering, and the
data were analyzed qualitatively. The interviews of the students were conducted through
Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) where the questions were asked concerning EfT textbook
(for classes 9-10). On the other hand, the interviews of the teachers were conducted
individually and the classes of those teachers were observed before their interviews.
4.1 Sampling
The participants of this study were 30 students of class nine and three English teachers from
three different secondary schools. The sample for this research was selected based on
convenience sampling and purposive sampling where the schools were chosen from three
upazilas of Sherpur district.
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Research Instruments
Respondents
Sample Number
Classroom Observation
Checklist
English language class
(English for Today)
3 classes (1 class of each teacher
from 3 schools)
Focus Group
Discussions Guideline
Secondary level students
(class nine)
30 students, 3 FGDs (10
students in each FGD)
Semi-structured
Interview Schedule
English language teachers
3 teachers (those classes were
observed)
4.2 Sources of data
The data for this study were collected through the interviews with the students and teachers as
well as observing the English classes. Students of class 9 participated in three FGDs where 10
students took part in each FGD and one FGD was held in each school. Teachers‟ interviews
were conducted individually where teachers were asked some questions regarding EfT
textbook. On the other hand, three English classes were observed before taking the
interviews.
4.3 Tools
Two sets of questions were used as a tool for taking interviews and FGDs. One set question
was for the teachers‟ interviews and another was for the students to guide them in FGDs.
Furthermore, a checklist was used for the class observations.
4.4 Data analysis
The data of qualitative research intend to explore individuals‟ experience, their views and
their actions (Moustakas, 1994). Therefore, data analysis focused on the identification and
classification of clues in this regard and based on research questions as well as the themes
that emerged from the data.
Creswell (2007, p. 148) describes qualitative analysis as a procedure where data are reduced
“into themes through a process of coding and condensing the codes, and finally representing
the data in figures, tables, or a discussion.” Accordingly, firstly, interview data were
transcribed; then, the transcript was examined as drawing up a list of coded categories and
each segment of transcribed data into one of these categories. Finally, the relationships
between codes had been examined, and some categories were combined. A category was a
conceptual unit formed by grouping several related codes.
5 Results and discussions
As data were collected through class observations, FGDs with students and interviews with
teachers, the qualitative data have explored different kinds of challenges for implementing
EfT textbook in rural area classroom. The following segments will represent the collected
data based on research questions and the results that emerged from the data.
5.1 Contents of EFT textbook
Most of the students acknowledged that they faced difficulties in some lessons of EfT
textbook (for classes 9-10) because of unknown vocabularies, difficult pronunciation,
194
unfamiliar contents, representation of different types of charts and so on. Moreover, teachers
also mentioned some lessons which were also difficult according to the students‟ view. Some
of these lessons are „Pastimes vary‟ (Unit: 2, Lesson: 5), „The wizard of Apple‟ (Unit: 7,
Lesson: 7), and „Renewable energy sources-3‟ (Unit: 11, Lesson: 3). In addition, the
participants of two FGDs said that they faced difficulties in all the lessons of Unit-6, and
other participants from three FGDs had also faced difficulties in the lessons of Unit-8, Unit-9
and Unit-13.
On the other hand, one of the teachers said that most of the topics of the textbook are familiar
and the textbook is appropriate though he mentioned some lessons of „World heritage‟ (Unit
Eight) and „Unconventional jobs‟ (Unit Nine) as unidentified and difficult topics for the
students. He also claimed that teachers cannot complete the whole textbook as they need at
least two classes to complete a lesson. He also added that teacher has to skip some lessons to
complete the syllabus in time. Another teacher also said that some lessons are really difficult
for the rural students, and he gave an example mentioning the lesson „The wizard of Apple‟
(Unit: 7, Lesson: 7). But both teachers and students mentioned some common lessons which
they like most because of the relation to their real life, culture, events and the great
personalities of Bangladesh. Some of these lessons are „May Day‟ (Unit: 3, Lesson: 2),
International Mother Language Day-1‟ (Unit: 3, Lesson: 3), „Independence Day‟ (Unit: 3,
Lesson: 5), „Pahela Boishakh‟ (Unit: 3, Lesson: 6), „The greed of the roaring rivers‟ (Unit: 5,
Lesson: 1), „Zainul Abedin, the great artist‟ (Unit: 7, Lesson: 1), „The Shat Gambuj Mosque‟
(Unit: 8, Lesson: 1), „They had dreams 1‟ (Unit: 10, Lesson: 3), and „My roots‟ (Unit: 12,
Lesson: 1). So, from the views of teachers and students, it can be said that some of the
contents of EfT textbook are challenges to teach effectively in the rural classroom.
5.2 Activities of EFT textbook
Both teachers and students were asked about the activities of the EfT textbook. While the
students were talking in FGDs, all students confessed that they use different kinds of guide
books at home to do the tasks. They also acknowledged that sometimes the teachers try to
complete some of the tasks of EfT textbook in the classroom but most of the time they cannot
complete because of the limited class time. Even, all of the teachers said that they only give
emphasize on reading and writing activities. They also expressed that they cannot complete
the listening and speaking activities because of the unavailability of technological support
and the class time limitation. At the time of interview, one of the teachers said, “Listening
and speaking skills are mainly important but the education system (national examination
format) depends on writing. So, writing is important”. But one teacher confessed that the
school has audio speaker but he never used the speaker in the classroom for the listening
activities.
By observing the classroom, it was also found that only one teacher had given a task to solve
in the classroom from the guide book but other teachers did not complete any types of tasks
from EfT textbook in the classroom. Though all the activities of EfT textbook are designed
based on four language skills and the curriculum is expected that these skills will be practice
in class (NCTB, 2012), the teachers are emphasizing on reading and writing skills ignoring
the most important skills of a language listening and speaking skills. The main reasons for
195
this problem are the examinations are required only reading and writing skills ignoring
listening and speaking skills, big class size with large number of students that is difficult for
speaking tasks, and the lack of technology in the classroom for doing listening activities. So,
these things are the challenges for completing the activities of EfT textbook in the classroom.
5.3 Teaching method
In non-English speaking countries, CLT approach is widely used for teaching English as a
second or foreign language so that learners can develop their communication skills
(Mangubhai, Marland, Dashwood & Son, 2007; Savignon, 2003; Sakura, 2001). The EfT
textbooks are designed following the principles of CLT approach (Khanum, 2016), and in the
Preface of EfT textbooks, it is mentioned that the textbooks are developed based on
communicative approach. In this study, from the class observations, it was seen that none of
the teachers exactly followed the CLT to teach EfT textbook in their classroom though the
textbook requires CLT approach. Only one teacher partially followed CLT approach but other
teachers used traditional teaching method, GTM. The teacher introduced some difficult
vocabularies with their meanings before reading the passage but he read out the passage by
himself. Otherwise, his instruction, interaction with the students and way of teaching
acknowledged that he knew how to teach EfT textbook. On the other hand, other teachers just
read out the passage with its meaning. Surprisingly one of the teachers used guide book for
teaching in the classroom. As the medium of instruction, all teachers used only the native
language (Bangla) in the classroom where the students were also interacting with their
teachers in Bangla. So, using inappropriate teaching method is a challenge for implementing
EfT textbook.
5.4 Teaching aids
In English language teaching, the teaching aid materials play an influential role in facilitating
the learning process (Richards & Rodgers, 1986) and to motivate the learners in the learning
process which help them to understand the content knowledge easily (Milon, 2016). As the
teaching material, two teachers out of three had used EfT textbook where only one teacher
had used a guide book in the classroom. Moreover, there were no other teaching aid materials
in the classroom which could help for an effective class. But one teacher said that he uses
word game (using a piece of paper) in the classroom so that students become interested to
learn vocabulary. However, all of the teachers said that if the classes are conducted by using
multimedia projector, the English language learning will be more effective. In addition, they
claimed that teacher is not eager to teach the listening contents of EfT textbook due to the
unavailability of technological support. So, the lack of teaching aid materials is a barrier to
implement the EfT textbook effectively in the classroom.
5.5 Limited class time
From the class observations, it was seen that none of the teachers was able to complete a
whole lesson in a class, and it was also happened because of their poor management of time.
While the students were talking in FDGs, they said that most of the times they do not get the
opportunity to practice the activities of EfT textbook because of the limited class time. All
teachers also said that they cannot complete a lesson in a class (40-50 minutes class duration)
196
as every lesson contains lots of activities to do. One of the teachers claimed that teachers need
at least two classes to complete a lesson and that is why they cannot complete the whole
textbook in time as they have to skip some lessons to complete the syllabus. So, class time
duration is a challenge for teachers which is an obstacle to implement the textbook effectively
in the classroom.
5.6 Teachers’ competency
Teacher is an important figure in the teaching-learning process. A trained and knowledgeable
teacher can make a lesson effective, and it also depends on a trained teacher for implementing
a communicative curriculum successfully (NCTB, 2012). But in this study, it is seen that the
teachers are trained and they have teaching related degrees (B.Ed., B.P.Ed., and some other
trainings from TQI, ICT Division, Brac etc.) but they are lacking behind because of content
knowledge as they do not have any English subject related degree.
At the time of interviews, all teachers told about their qualifications where all of them had
completed B.A. (Pass) degree but none of them came from English subject related degrees.
Even except one teacher, none of the teachers is the teacher of English. One of the teachers is
a physical teacher and another teacher is a teacher of Bangla subject but they have to take
English classes due to the lacking of English teachers. About the professional development,
one of the teachers said that teachers must be trained after a certain period of time where he
had got his last training before seven years. So, teachers‟ qualification is also one of the main
challenges for implementing the EfT textbook properly.
6 Recommendations
This study has explored lots of things that are related to the challenges of implementing EfT
textbook. At the same time, some recommendations are derived from the findings of the
study which can help the teachers, content writers, curriculum specialists and education
policy makers to reduce the challenges to implement the EfT textbooks in the rural classroom.
The recommendations are:
a. EfT textbooks should be revised especially some contents can be modified with simple
language.
b. The activities of each lesson can be reduced to complete a lesson in a class (40-50
minutes class duration).
c. Class size needs to be rearranged for implementing the proper teaching method in the
rural classroom such as a number of students can be decreased to 30/40.
d. Education policy makers have to ensure adequate English teachers who have English
subject related degrees or training home and abroad.
e. EfT textbooks should be taught with the help of technology i.e. multi-media.
f. Teachers need to create an effective atmosphere in language classes by making different
types of materials such as posters, advertisements, maps, charts, language games etc.
197
g. Attention should be drawn on practising speaking skill in the classroom by designing
more speaking activities like role play, debate, etc.
h. Listening activities should be practised in the classroom by ensuring the availability of
technology (at least a pair of speakers).
i. Policy makers of education ought to allot marks on listening and speaking activities in the
SSC examinations.
7 Conclusion
The Ministry of Education (MoE), Bangladesh has already taken different types of steps to
ensure the quality of education and to achieve the goals and objects of the curriculum. But it
is a matter of great sorrow that English language quality of the rural area is not still
satisfactory. Even the English subject is a name of fear for the rural students. They have to
depend on their teachers for learning English but most of the teachers cannot fulfill their
students‟ needs lack of their skills, classroom facilities, technological support and so on. This
study aimed to find out the challenges for implementing EfT textbooks effectively in rural
area classrooms and to represent those challenges in front of the education policy makers so
that they can take proper steps which will help the rural students to learn the English
language effectively.
198
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As in other South Asian countries, the globalisation of English and a coincident growing demand for competent users of the English language have placed an increasingly greater emphasis on English Language Teaching (ELT) in Bangladesh. In acknowledgement, the government has introduced changes in educational policy to improve the quality of ELT in Bangladesh. The English Language Teaching Improvement Project (ELTIP) has made some remarkable progress, among other initiatives, by introducing communicative textbooks up to the higher secondary level for the first time and introducing major changes in the examination system. The inclusion of communicative activities in the new textbook has allowed teachers, for the first time, to shift from a teacher-centred to a student-centred approach. Various training programmes have been arranged for these teachers to cater for these changes and to facilitate a successful implementation of the new curriculum. In spite of this, contemporary researchers in ELT have argued that even though teachers go through training for professional development, they interpret new ideas on the basis of what they actually know and believe in. Literature also suggests that while teaching a language, teachers adhere to their experiences in teaching and learning rather than to the knowledge they receive in such trainings. Data obtained from a number of sources as part of this study indicated that this seems to be the case in secondary schools in Bangladesh. This chapter takes a critical look at current ELT policies of secondary education in Bangladesh. In particular, it focuses on the factors that are influencing teachers’ teaching practices and to what extent these training programmes are functionally relevant in helping English language teachers use the new communicative textbook.
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