Is compulsory English a good idea? by Lucia Otrísalová

17/08/2010 16:35

The Ministry of Education plans to introduce English as a compulsory subject in primary schools, saying that in today’s world young people can’t really get by and make progress without having a solid knowledge of English. It sounds like an enlightened idea, yet the government might miss the desired effect by a mile.

An unnaturally increased demand won’t automatically generate adequate supply. Already now, English is taught by half-educated teachers whose only qualification for teaching English is their several months’ stay in Britain: they picked up some English while waitressing, packing boxes, or picking strawberries. This is not to say that formal qualifications are a guarantee of quality – they are not. Due to the low prestige associated with the profession, the training of future teachers has been put on the backburner. Only a small percentage of teacher trainees end up doing the job, so why pay them attention? The introduction of compulsory English classes from the first year of primary school will thus inevitably lead to a further reduction in the qualification requirements for English teachers. As a result, English will be taught by teachers who have taken a “maturita” in English, which will in turn take further toll on the quality of foreign language instruction in Slovak schools (which is poor anyway).

The minister’s proposal can in fact do more harm than good. In many respects, we are prisoners of our previous learning. If we want our later knowledge to be securely based, then the foundation we lay must be accurate. Faulty knowledge doesn’t simply decay; it still exerts an influence. Therefore, having a good, qualified and competent teacher in the early stages of foreign language learning is vital: s/he can make or break your learning experience.

In addition, making the learning of a foreign language compulsory, as our experience from the previous regime shows, usually results in students developing distaste for it. Our parents hated Russian; our children will hate English. History repeats itself – with minor variations. Moreover, the minister’s proposal is in a way redundant because, even without his interference, English is by far the most commonly studied foreign language in Slovak schools. In response to the dictates of the labour market, students voluntarily choose to study English, often not relying on the instruction provided at school and taking private tuition classes to maximize their language skills.

Minister Jurzyca’s plan of producing a generation of fluent English-speaking high school students by the end of the government’s term is ambitious, perhaps even overambitious. Even with a sufficient number of enthusiastic qualified teachers, it would be highly improbable: we learn only if we understand why; some children will always lack motivation. However, with the acute shortage of competent and motivated English teachers in public schools, the minister’s ambition is condemned to remain a distant dream.

Is compulsory English a good idea?

Date: 07/11/2010

By: Julianna

Subject: good idea, but...

I think the idea itself, that we need to learn a foreign language is good. But it seems like mr. minister wants to put the roof up first, and lay the fundamentals afterward. We need good teachers first if he wants a fluently-speaking-English generation. And what goosy said is also true, that we need good teachers for the other subjects as well. I think the ability to choose the foreign language would motivate the students a bit. I could choose English and damn good I did so. The German teacher was not worth a penny (sorry, but true...later she taught me German for 3years, but my Latin is better after 2months than my German). Needless to say, that the Hungarian schools has Slovak as the first foreign language, English or German the second, I would not impose in the kids a third compulsory, but an optional language only.

Date: 29/09/2010

By: goosy

Subject: hmm..myslim, ze ano

u nas na zs to bolo tak, ze boli dve triedy A a B, a ti lepsi ziaci boli v Acke a ti slabsi v Bcke. Ackari mali povinnu anglictinu a Bckari nemcinu, ale nemohli sme si vybrat. aspon si nepamatam, ze by sme mohli. tak ako nas zadelili v tretom rocniku, tak to bolo az do deviateho. Ackari sme mali anglictinu od tretej triedy a myslim, ze bola jednym z tych oblubenejsich predmetov. urcite viac ako napr. slovencina alebo fyzika:) nemcina mi vtedy pripadala ako zly vtip a myslela som si, ze Bckari sa ju musia ucit za trest, lebo su hlupi:) je sice pravda, ze niektori ucitelia co ma ucili anglinu nestali za vela a vacsiu cast z toho, co teraz viem, som sa naucila na kurzoch mimo skoly a sama doma vypisovanim si slovicok z knih a slovnikov, ale nie kazdy rodic ma dost penazi, aby prihlasil deti na kurz a v mensich mestach a na dedinach ani taku moznost nemaju. a nekvalifikovani nekompetentni ucitelia nie su problemom len anglictiny. takych ucitelov je vela a ucia rozne predmety. takze ja vnimam ako pozitivum, ze anglina bola na skole povinna a spolu s matikou boli vzdy mojimi oblubenymi predmetmi, aj ked povinnymi:) jedine, co sme si mohli vybrat na zs bola jedna hodina nemciny tyzdenne v osmom rocniku, ktoru otvorili pre nas anglictinarov. prihlasilo sa nas tam zopar, ale kedze nebola povinna a bola o siedmej rano, tak sme to dost flakali a chodili sme tam tak raz za tri tyzdne a nic sme sa nenaucili:) vacsina z nas Ackarov sa teraz v pohode dohovori po anglicky, a vsetci su urcite radi, ze sme mali anglinu povinnu. skor vnimam ako ujmu to, ze sme nemali povinne jazyky dva. ked som prisla na gymnazium, zrazu po mne chceli aj nemcinu na urovni mierne pokrocilych a to som skoro nerozdychala. takze ja by som povedala, ze ak je anglictina povinna na gymnaziach a predpoklada sa uz nejaka jej predosla znalost, tak by mala byt povinna aj na zakladnych skolach a takisto aj nejaky druhy cudzi jazyk

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