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The national English curriculum and the national English assessment system : Close relations or total strangers? Martin Wedell School of Education FACULTY.

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Presentation on theme: "The national English curriculum and the national English assessment system : Close relations or total strangers? Martin Wedell School of Education FACULTY."— Presentation transcript:

1 The national English curriculum and the national English assessment system : Close relations or total strangers? Martin Wedell School of Education FACULTY OF ESSL 1

2 Today 1. Why is implementing a new curriculum a complex process ? 2. How are assessment results used in today’s ‘performativity culture’? 3.How is the process of (English) curriculum implementation affected by having curriculum goals and national assessment as ( +/- ) total strangers 4.Why do current approaches to (English) curriculum implementation planning make the ‘total stranger’ scenario moreor less inevitable? 5.Is there any alternative? Can we approach curriculum planning and its assessment in a manner that helps to make classroom English teaching and its assessment (slightly) closer relations? 2

3 Education systems are complex What we see ( or do not see!) happening in (English) classrooms depends on the thinking ( beliefs / expectations ) and behaviours of millions of different people Who for example ? Living/working in many different places. Where for example? 3

4 What happens in classrooms is influenced by… PeoplePlaces National policy makers Regional and district level educational administrators Institutional/School leaders Teachers Learners Parents Homes, Schools, and Government Offices in Crowded city centres and leafy suburban settings Provincial towns More or less remote villages 4

5 Despite the complexity (English) curriculum changes are common Indonesian ELT curriculum changes (Sahurrudin 2013 :568) (a)1945’s grammar translation-based curriculum, (b)1958’s audio-lingual based curriculum, (c)1975’s revised audio lingual-based curriculum, (d) 1984’s structure-based communicative curriculum, (e) 1994’s meaning-based communicative curriculum, (f) 2004’s competency-based curriculum. g) 2013’s ‘integrative thematic curriculum’ Have (e) & (f) led to BIG changes in what you see teachers and learners doing in every Indonesian English classroom ? 5

6 Implementing Curriculum changes is not simple The central lesson of large-scale educational change that is now evident is the following: Large-scale, sustained improvement in student outcomes requires a (i) sustained effort to change school and classroom practices, not just structures such as governance and accountability. The heart of improvement lies in, (ii) changing teaching and learning practices in thousands and thousands of classrooms, and this requires (iii) focused and sustained effort by all parts of the education system and its partners. (Levin and Fullan, 2008: 291) My italics and numbering 6

7 3 key points Goal of any educational change is to change what actually happens in thousands of different (English) classrooms - (English as a subject to English as a language?) (English) Classrooms are bound to be different- Changes will not be implemented at the same rate /follow the same route everywhere To eventually see some version of change in all (English) classrooms, there needs to be focused and sustained effort over time by all parts of the educational system and its partners. And yet curriculum change planners still tend to plan as if all classrooms will start implementing a new curriculum in the same way on the same day… 7

8 4. Cultural and Societal expectations / pressure 1. Assessment content and format New ELT Curriculum goals 3. Teacher education ( ITT / INSET ) 2. Syllabuses and Learning materials 8

9 Curriculum goals and assessment If the goal of a national English curriculum is that English should be taught as a language (not a subject) and that learners should be able to understand and use (some) English by the time they leave school … What might one expect any national assessment of that curriculum to try to ‘measure’? What kinds of assessment items might one expect to find in a curriculum-based national exam? Is this what the Indonesian national exams are like? 9

10 Curriculum and assessment often ‘total strangers’ eg: Iran The main approach of the curriculum for teaching foreign languages is based on a perspective that language is a tool to communicate and exchanging thoughts, so learning a foreign language requires acquiring communication ability which could be achieved through communicating a language actively in especial situation” ( Dahmardeh, 2009: 121). the tests were mostly designed to assess reading comprehension, knowledge of grammar and vocabulary as well as translation and there was no sign of communicative purposes. (Darmadeh : 2009 : 271) 10

11 Ethiopia Curriculum Content is both topic-based and linguistic … All four language skills are developed equally and language chosen is functional, relevant and realistic for teenagers” (emphasis added) (The Ethiopian Ministry of Education, 2008). Assessment : Ethiopian School Leaving Certificate Examination (ESLCE) Reading comprehension, vocabulary and grammar 11

12 Assessment always wins If people in a (curriculum) change context (parents- learners-teachers-institutional leaders) see an obvious lack of harmony between the behaviours and practices underlying the proposed (curriculum) changes and those that are perceived to help learners pass high-stakes exams, it is the practices that support success in assessment that will win. (Wedell 2009:25) 12

13 National assessment results are ‘powerful’ ? The purpose of assessment is no longer purely to support learning / to assess what a learner has learned and to decide whether s/he can progress further through the education system. Instead, as part of the increasing demand for education to be accountable, education systems across the world are subject to the demands of a ‘performativity culture’ ( Ball 2003) Which needs assessment results to exist 13

14 Assessment results central to ‘Perfomativity culture’ The purpose of assessment becomes to judge the performance of education systems, their institutions and those who work in them through the collection, recording and (public) classification of assessment result data. The result of national exam could be used as a mapping tool to evaluate the competency and quality of Indonesian education, and could also be used as an achievement comparison tool between one school and another (Uning Musthofiyah 2013) 14

15 Assessment results influence those who influence education National Policy makers- want ‘objective evidence’ that their policies are being ‘successfully’ implemented, and want their country to compare well with other countries in international ‘league tables’ PISA /TIMMS etc Local/regional education officers - want to show how capable they are by demonstrating that schools in their areas to do well (in national exams) School heads- want show their effectiveness by demonstrating that their schools can do well in (local / national) exams The exam has become very political, with teachers, principals and local governments pushing students to get good scores for the reputation of the schools and the area. (Uning Musthofiyah 2013) 15

16 Teachers- want to demonstrate their ability, and/or keep their jobs, by ensuring that their learners’ results help their schools to do well (in national/ local exams) Parents and learners- want to pass whatever tests exist, for the original reasons of wanting to successfully reach ( a good school at) the next level of the education system. So all the people we identified earlier see national assessment as very important – use results for non-educational purposes What then happens to curriculum implementation if the assessment is a total stranger 16

17 Curriculum and assessment as ‘total strangers’ -Problem 1 The new curriculum is ignored National educational policy makers may find that – at local level – local administrators and institutional leaders see teaching the new curriculum as less important than teaching to the tests. I can tell you we did not encourage teachers to follow the curriculum. I had tried it before and it was very disappointing; it is risky to my career, also to my school … I believe once you understand the NMET, you can throw the curriculum and textbook away. That is what I told my teachers in my school … I believe without the curriculum and the textbook; I can also teach students and their marks will not decline. Ideally, I should follow the curriculum and that would be helpful to improve students’ English, but I think the school needs us to focus on the test (Wei and Wedell forthcoming) 17

18 Curriculum: assessment as ‘total strangers’: Problem 2 Much planned support for curriculum implementation wasted However much time, money and effort is spent on preparing new materials that are consistent with curriculum goals (often carefully and appropriately designed) and /or on training teachers to teach the new curriculum (almost always far too little curriculum- teachers will get 5 days training) often ( largely) wasted. Since assessment matters most, many teachers will avoid using parts of any new English materials / new teaching approaches that do not clearly help learners do well in national assessments. 18

19 Head of English dept- rural school China I think the tasks in the textbook are too complicated, I feel maybe one or two students can reluctantly say a few sentences. They lack the vocabulary and they know the National Matriculation English Test (NMET) will not test oral skills. They are simply not motivated to practice it. I cannot waste my precious classroom time teaching these activities. Wei & Wedell (forthcoming) 19

20 Curriculum: assessment as ‘total strangers’ Problem. 3 Classroom teachers work in a world of ‘mixed messages’ Teachers in English classrooms are in a state of tension between trying to balance the messages from materials ( and any training) which usually emphasise balance teaching grammar and vocabulary with time on helping learners to develop language skills through ‘communicative activities’ / group and pair work and messages coming from the influential people in their immediate working world (school leaders, learners and parents) ‘cover the book’ on which the assessment is based – make sure you deal with grammar and vocabulary and don’t worry about missing out ’communicative activities. 20

21 Curriculum: assessment as ‘total strangers’. Problem. 4 Social divisions expand further One reason why the development of skills in English is a goal of the national curriculum may be parental pressure (Brock Utne 2010, National Council for Education and Training 2006), because parents see the ability to use English as important for their children’s future prospects. Governments respond to try and provide equality of opportunity. But while all (most) learners at school may pass the national assessment, the focus on ‘teaching to the test’ in state schools means that few learners develop (any/many) useable English skills. Learners whose parents who can afford it, send children to learn such skills at private language schools. 21

22 Sumatra- Jambi- Suburban Middle Class area Teachers and learners alike conceded that real progress in English was only possible by studying privately outside the school. One teacher put it bluntly: “They can’t success (sic) in English if they don’t take a course.” Over 50% of the school pupils had taken private courses in English during the time they were in the junior high school, with an average length of eleven months, at over 20 different institutions. (Lamb and Coleman 2008:9) Those whose parents with low financial incomes may feel submissive and inferior to encounter the National Exam since they could not attend after- school educational training which takes high cost of money (Uning Musthofiyah 2013) ‘Total Strangers’ may make societies less equal. 22

23 Curriculum : assessment mismatch distorts curriculum implementation Human and financial investment in curriculum planning and implementation does not lead to the desired ‘use’ based English curriculum goals being met by most learners. People across the education system (but particularly teachers) are torn between classroom practices /behaviours promoted by the ‘training’ and curriculum materials, and knowing that such practices will not prepare learners for success in the unchanged (or barely changed), national exams. Apparent provision of English for everyone, in fact leads to greater polarisation between those who ‘have English’ ( the language- through access to private classes/out of school opportunities) and those who only ‘have English’- (the subject ) through school exposure. Most teachers pretend to teach ‘English’ and most learners pretend to learn it. School English remains a subject not a language. 23

24 Why does it happen? Policy makers are too ambitious! My experience (Chile-Kenya-KSA-Hungary-India-China) suggests that English curriculum changes are almost always too hurried and too ambitious, to allow assessment to remain a ‘close relation’. The goals of curriculum change today usually assume that the English classroom will somehow easily become more learner-centred, dialogic, interactive (Wedell and Malderez 2013) and so start to teach English as a language This is NOT a simple change – involves changes to people’s thinking about what teachers and learners need to know and be able to do, and to assumptions about appropriate teacher and learner roles and behaviours in classrooms. Planning / funding is usually short term - such complex changes in people’s thinking and behaviours may take years?.(Fullan 2007, Polyzoi et al 2003) 24

25 English as a ‘subject’ English as a ‘language’ 1. Teacher = ‘lecturer’ 2. Teachers need limited L2 proficiency – control learner language 3. Teachers use one textbook with +/- predictable sequence 4. Teachers need a limited range of classroom techniques/ management procedures 1. Teacher supports/ guides learning through encouraging interaction 2. Teachers need good personal proficiency to cope with potentially unpredictable use of language 3. Teachers use a range of learning materials - adapted to own learners’ interests 4. Teachers need to be able to organise and manage varied classroom techniques and groupings 25

26 Curriculum and assessment as ‘close relations’ = chaos Making such changes to ‘being a teacher’ ( a learner, a supportive principal, an aware parent…..) takes (a long) time. If national assessment immediately became a close relation, and reflected the ‘use-focused’ goals of a new curriculum - most learners would fail, since most teachers would not yet know how to support them! Shock! Horror! assessment results are important to so many people / are used in so many (non educational) ways. So safer for assessment to remain a total stranger - even though achieving curriculum goals is made +/- impossible. 26

27 What to do? English is NOT a very ‘high stakes’ subject in Indonesia (ie: governing entry to University), so do there need to be national English assessments at all? Do they need to happen three times during each child’s education? Indonesia promotes educational decentralisation – so could deciding on how to implement the curriculum and designing and marking (of most) English assessment become a district or school level responsibility? 27

28 Positive example Follow Finland! Finland (a VERY small country with very highly trained teachers ) – scores very highly in international league tables, BUT each child takes only ONE national exam. There is a national curriculum, but curriculum planning is the responsibility of teachers, schools and municiplities, not the State…… Another important teacher responsibility is student assessment (Sahlberg 2011:88-89) Curriculum and Assessment are therefore closely related and support each other. Could we learn anything from this? 28

29 How? Here? - Indonesia ? The basic message (‘spirit’) underlying the English curriculum today is probably quite simple- something like Teach English as a language?? Something else?? BUT adapting existing classroom practices and roles to fully reflect that ‘spirit’ is a long-term process. Different teachers in different places will do it ‘imperfectly’ (to begin with), and to very different extents. 29

30 Flexible curriculum change and flexible assessment If national policy makers (acting on the principles of educational decentralisation) would openly acknowledge that the (English) curriculum WILL anyway be interpreted differently in classrooms in different places? Educators at local levels are the best judges of how to implement an appropriate version of the curriculum in their English classrooms, and of how to match English assessment with what local teachers are trying to do assessment could support local teachers’ attempts to teach in the ‘spirit’ of the curriculum 30

31 Aim for Closer relations If assessment reflected teaching in local classrooms, might teachers feel more encouraged to try to adapt the ‘spirit’ of curriculum goals for their contexts, because they know that they play a role in deciding on assessment ? Learners, seeing that ‘using English’ is valued (in exams), become more willing to cooperate when teachers try to encourage curriculum-related activities in class? Over time, as teachers become more confident, might versions of teaching English as a language become more widely visible in classrooms- might more learners learn more English? 31

32 A very ‘big’ educational change Making the already official decentralisation real, Through actively encouraging and supporting localisation of curriculum implementation and assessment is itself a complex, long-term change (like a national curriculum change itself) Many people across society/education system would need to adjust their thinking and behaviour- in terms of eg: Approach to curriculum implementation planning Purposes for which assessment results are used Perceptions of teachers/local education officials 32

33 Important questions to ask before making any changes? Is society ready to give teachers more responsibility? Do teachers actually want the extra responsibility? Would they prefer just to keep teaching and assessing English as a subject because it’s easier / familiar? Do learners really want to learn English as a language- are they happier ‘learning’ for test-taking purposes? Is there rally long-term commitment to leading, funding and providing support to help teachers teach and assess English as a language? …..????? 33

34 Staying the same is of course an option? Keep pretending that national assessment supports implementation of hoped-for curriculum changes let many English teachers continue to pretend to teach the ‘English’ curriculum let national testers continue to pretend to test it.. and let many learners, those dependent on state school education, continue to pass national tests, but NOT learn ‘English as a language ’ Value for ‘money’???? 34

35 A more positive alternative? Indonesia already devotes substantial human and financial resources on the teaching and assessment of English. $$$$$$ hours Indonesia already has a decentralised education system Instead of continuing to insist on uniform implementation of new national English curriculum goals, and on assessing learners’ ‘performance’ through inappropriately designed national examinations, could we rethink, and instead spend resources on developing the professional capacity of local education officials and teachers by helping them to understand the English curriculum goals, how to develop locally appropriate versions of teaching towards them, and how to support classroom teaching through locally designed assessment?…. Would this, in the long run, benefit English learners, and Indonesian education? 35

36 References Ball, S The teacher's soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy, 18 /2: Brock-Utne, B 2010, Research and policy on the language of instruction issue in Africa I International Journal of Educational Development 30 : Dahmardeh, M. (2009). English language teaching in Iran and communicative language teaching. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Warwick, England. Retrieved from Fullan, M.G The new meaning of educational change (4 th Ed). New York. Teachers College Press. Hubber, 20011a High Stakes and Normalised Testing Power point presentation. Deaklin University Lamb, M and Coleman, H (2008) Literacy in English and the transformation of self and society in post-Suharto Indonesia. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 11 (2). 189 – 205 Ministry of Education. Ethiopia (2008). Retrieved from of_Education_Tsegay_Ammenu_Dubbale_Research_Expert_GECFDD_Ministry_of_Educatio n_Hamid_Mustefa_English_Language_Expert_Ministry_of_Education_Tsegaw_Berhanu_Eng lish_Language_Expert_Ministry_of_Education National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) Position paper: National Focus Group on the Teaching of English. New Delhi. NCERT. Retrieved from Polyzoi, E, Fullan MG and Anchan A.P ( Change Forces in post-communist Eastern Europe : Education in Transition. London. Routledge Falmer. 36

37 National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) Position paper: National Focus Group on the Teaching of English. New Delhi. NCERT. Retrieved from Polyzoi, E, Fullan MG and Anchan A.P ( Change Forces in post-communist Eastern Europe : Education in Transition. London. Routledge Falmer. Sahlberg.P Finnish Lessons. New York. Teacher’s College Press. Uning Musthofiyah 2013 Evaluating the national exam in Indonesia. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/ /Evaluating_National_Exam_in_Indonesia Wedell, M Planning for educational change: putting people and their contexts first. London. Continuum Wedell, M and Malderez, A Understanding Language classroom contexts: the starting point for change. London. Bloomsbury Wei, W and Wedell, M ( forthcoming). Unpacking the impact of a high-stakes English test on the implementation of a new English curriculum: an urban and a rural case from China. Language, Culture and Curriculum 37


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