The improvement in the students’ performance in the 2017 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) English language paper was celebrated by many, including schools, teachers, students, parents and of course the Ministry of Education (MoE).
The ministry has been tireless in its efforts to improve the standard of English language amongst students. The MoE is constantly planning and executing programmes to ensure that students excel further to become globally competitive as stated in the Malaysian Education Blueprint (MEB) 2013-2025.
It has outlined several initiatives to help students improve their command of the language and one which is directly linked to student outcome is the English Language Enhancement Programme (Program Peningkatan Bahasa Inggeris di Sekolah), or more popularly known by its acronym PPKBIS, which was initiated in 2014.
PPKBIS aims to improve student outcomes through a systematic data-driven approach. It involves secondary School Improvement Specialist Coaches (SISC+) and English teachers who are teaching upper secondary classes. The impact of this programme is measured through students’ performance in the SPM English language paper. This programme will reach out to 204,000 students annually.
The success of this programme is attributed to the professional training provided by the English Language Training Centre (ELTC), Ministry of Education, to all the SISC+. These training sessions have covered topics such as differentiated teaching and learning, coaching and mentoring, and multiple thinking strategies that can help students excel in English language learning. The knowledge gained through these courses has assisted the SISC+ to impart effective and meaningful pedagogical techniques in teaching and learning to teachers.
SISC+ provide continuous support to English teachers in the districts under their purview. They plan workshops and activities to guide English teachers effectively. They also coach them on how to address the multi-level needs and varied competencies of the students. The workshops conducted as part of the training sessions provide models of good delivery and serve as a platform for SISC+ to exchange ideas and best practices.
An important component of PPKBIS is the School Support Plan (SSP) which started in 2015 and designed for Form Four teachers. It specifically targets the improvement of students’ writing skills, especially for those who will sit for the SPM examination. The teachers training sessions provide them the knowledge and skills on how interventions are designed to cater to the needs of students in a particular school. SSP also aims to develop reflective practitioners who are committed to students’ progressive development and improvement through responsive, student-centred pedagogy. Teachers are also trained to use various types of data to understand students’ learning gaps and design relevant intervention activities to overcome these gaps.
There are several pertinent stages in the School Support Plan. It begins with the process of identifying students’ weaknesses and their learning gaps through data analysis of the pre-test in the form of an essay. The findings guide the teachers to develop intervention strategies to address the gaps found in the students’ written work. The well-planned and thought-through interventions are then carried out in the classroom. The teachers are also involved in ongoing reflections after each intervention. They constantly review their plan of interventions for future actions. The significance of this continuous cycle is that it is repeated until the students’ learning needs and gaps are successfully addressed. The post-test of the same topic is evidence of the students’ improvement.
Teachers are optimistic in implementing the interventions they designed. According to them, this systematic approach in helping students improve is something that they had needed for some time, but have been unable to consolidate.
PPKBIS, a data-driven approach initiative, has shed some light on ways to further enhance English teaching and learning strategies among English language teachers. ELTC will continue to monitor the outcomes of PPKBIS to ensure that students reap the benefits of this programme.
Raja Nor Safinas Raja Harun is an Associate Professor at the English Language and Literature Department, Faculty of Languages and Communication, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris and Panel Member of the English Language Standards and Quality council.
Dr Khairul Aini Mohamed Jiri is head of unit at the Assessment and Evaluation Department, English Language Teaching Centre, Ministry of Education Malaysia.