New Straits Times

Teachers, not textbooks, are the ‘drivers’ in the learning journey

- IQBAL AHAMAT Kuala Lumpur

THE debate on imported English language textbook is ongoing even though the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) aligned curriculum is now in the fifth year of its implementa­tion.

Recently, some primary school teachers and parents raised concerns on social media that the contents of the textbooks do not represent the local culture.

After scrolling through the comments section, I believe I need to throw my two cents worth here:

1. “The primary school English language textbooks present foreign cities like New York and London, while my pupils do not even know where Kota Baru is.”

On this issue, I also feel bad for our pupils, especially those in rural primary schools. Foreign elements can be included in English language textbooks but they must come with local context so that the pupils can put all the lexical items learnt in the classroom into daily use.

2. “Our English language curriculum is aligned with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. It’s an internatio­nal standard. We have to follow the framework or else we will be left behind.”

Indeed many countries have integrated CEFR into their English language curriculum. However, it must be reminded that the framework is not only meant for the English language. It is for all languages.

If we examine the CEFR documents, there is no single sentence mentioning that the textbooks must be written by native speakers or imported from native-speaking countries.

3. “My pupils have no problems with the books. It allows them to get to know other cultures.”

If that’s the case, it is good for the teachers and pupils. In this case, we must acknowledg­e other pupils’ problems with the textbooks. Every individual has a unique upbringing, thus one size does not fit all.

Only teachers know their pupils, be it their proficienc­y, schemata or motivation. Material adaptation should come in handy when teachers find that their students are having problems with the foreign contents of the textbooks.

Adding, deleting, simplifyin­g, modifying and reordering are among the strategies that can be used in dealing with the textbooks. Teachers’ creativity must play a role and the contents of the book should not remain static.

There is an analogy made about textbooks, in which they should only act as a vehicle, while teachers are the “drivers” of the vehicle who will eventually determine the experience of the learning journey.

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