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British Council Pro-ELT trainer, Rian McGuinness (centre) in a training session with teachers.
British Council Pro-ELT trainer, Rian McGuinness (centre) in a training session with teachers.

PUTRAJAYA: THE introduction of the Professional Upskilling of English Language Teachers programme, or Pro-ELT, by the Education Ministry has yielded encouraging results.

The Ministry’s English Language Teaching Centre unit head Dr Jayanti Sothinathan said 76.4 per cent of teachers who participated in Pro-ELT moved one level up in their English language proficiency test.

“Due to its success, the focus of research this year is now centred on the impact of the programme towards the students’ mastery of the language.

“Pro-ELT is intended to enhance the English language proficiency of our teachers so as to ensure that every student is taught by a teacher who is proficient in English,” she said.

The initiative under the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 outlines plans to enhance students’ grasp of the English language, and aims to further strengthen teachers’ English language proficiency as well as their pedagogical skills.

Pro-ELT, conducted in schools nationwide, was first introduced in 2012 with 5,010 teachers and this number has increased to 9,000 this year.

The Ministry aims to up-skill 24,000 English teachers by 2016.

Jayanti explained that for the second cohort of the programme, qualified English Language trainers from the British Council were selected in to provide 240 hours of face-toface sessions and another 240 hours of online learning.

“The training materials and resources specially developed for this programme addresses the pedagogical needs of the participants while ensuring their experience in the training room is transferred to classrooms.” There are two methods under the programme — cluster and centralised — which takes 40 and 16 weeks respectively.

The cluster method is for participants inurban,suburbanandsomeruralschools located 25km and less from the training centre, whereas the centralised method is meant for teachers in rural or less accessible schools.

The cluster method requires participants to attend a six-hour face-toface session per week during school term and approximately seven days of training per year during the school holidays.

The centralised method, on the other hand, will require participants to attend a total of eight weeks of face-to-face sessions and another eight weeks of online interaction after school hours.

Jayanti said the Ministry had drawn up plans to work towards enabling teachers to achieve an English language proficiency at the C1 level, the second highest under the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

“The criterion for participant selection is their English language p ro f i c i e n c y w i t h p ar t i c ip an t s undergoing an Aptis pre-test, an assessment designed to help identify standards of English, testing their ability in four skills, namely, speaking, listening, reading and writing as wel as grammar and vocabulary,” she said.

Exemptions from Pro-ELT will be given to participants who achieve a proficiency level of C1 or better.

Those who are currently in another upskilling programme, or will retire within the next four years, are also exempted.

“Once filtered, the teachers then attend the Pro-ELT programme at their designated schools before sitting for the Aptis post-test to indicate their proficiency improvement,” Jayanti added.

While the programme is designed to increase the proficiency level of teachers in service, Jayanti said the exit policy for learners at teachers’ training colleges is to obtain a band of C1 or above, ensuring that they are equipped before entering the workforce.

Pro-ELT trainer from the British Council Rian McGuinness ,said Malaysian teachers are professional in their teaching because they are dedicated and willing to embrace new ideas.

He said after training the teachers for almost six months now, the teachers have progressed tremendously as they seem more confident during face-toface sessions.

“They express their opinions and are more engaging during in-class activities.

“The level of language mastery is good in terms of English proficiency but I can tell that they lack practice.

If they don’t speak English at home and or do not spend enough time practising at work, then they will get rusty.

“The fact that people have good conversational English is not the same as having a full, professional range of English skills,” said McGuiness, adding that the government is heading in the right direction in making sure that teachers acquire skills that are rapidly becoming a necessity in the era of globalisation.

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