[lg policy] English, a 'foreign language' in Trinidad and Tobago(?)

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sun May 19 16:42:39 UTC 2013

English, ‘foreign language’ in TT

By LARA PICKFORD-GORDON Saturday, May 18 2013

*In an attempt to inculcate Standard English usage and improve students’
literacy, the Education Ministry plans to treat English as “foreign
language.” *

The proper use of Standard English is being encouraged, and an “oral”
component was introduced for students preparing for the National
Certificate of Secondary Education (NCSE).

This was disclosed by Gaynelle Holdip, Director of Curriculum Development,
during a sitting of the Joint Select Committee of the Parliament at the J
Hamilton Maurice Room yesterday.

The improper use of Standard English by teachers was raised by MP for Diego
Martin Central, Dr Amery Browne. He noted the ministry’s focus on Language
Arts, but said from his interaction with primary school teachers across the
country he saw “a number of teachers within the system, who themselves were
unable to properly communicate in Standard English, and children learn
fundamentally by example.”

Chief Education Officer, Harrilal Seecharan, said the Ministry’s analysis
had identified literacy, not Standard English, as an area to be addressed.
According to the Ministry’s language policy, Standard English is treated as
separate from Creole.

“We acknowledged that there are issues with Standard English, literacy is
one of our priority areas we are working on,” Seecharan said. Another focus
of the ministry was teacher training, and reform of primary schools, and an
emphasis on numeracy and literacy.

“The issue of Standard English will be taken up as part of the training for
teachers, not Standard English in isolation,” he said.

Gaynelle Holdip, Director Curriculum Development, said the Ministry had
introduced an oral component in Form Three. She said, “in effect we began
to treat English as a foreign language. We do recognise that the issue is
widespread, because at the home very often one speaks the Creole, and in
the public arena, one is expected to speak Standard English.”

Holdip said even public figures who thought they were speaking Standard
English were not.

She disclosed that two years ago, the ministry hired a consultant to help
define its Language policy. Holdip said, “we are really considering
treating English as a foreign language, and bringing in some of the
techniques that one uses to address the teaching of foreign language, and
bring it in to the teaching of English.”

She said students interfaced with many teachers at school, and it was not
only the responsibility of the English teacher to teach Standard English.
She said Browne’s comments brought a new thinking for the ministry to
engage teachers of other subjects, to use Standard English.

JSC chairman Corrine Baptiste-McKnight said that while reading was done in
Standard English, comprehension was still a problem, and it seemed as if
Grammar had “fallen through on the syllabus.” She gave the “far out”
suggestion that all schools be declared “English-speaking zones.”

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