Policy planning part 2: the present-day situation

If you were to describe the English program at your school, what would you say?  Would you talk about the textbooks you use, or the computer programs the children employ?  Would you talk about how much time you spend teaching, or how often English is taught in your school?  Or would you describe teacher beliefs and attitudes, and how children’s progress is tracked?

All of these things, and more, are what make up the total English program at your school, and each of these things is worth exploring as you continue developing a language policy plan.  Let’s start with the easy stuff.

Lesson time:  How many  minutes or hours is English taught per week in your school, per class?  Does that amount of time change from year to year, or is it constant?  Make a table to depict this information.  Perhaps each class spends equally much time on English every week, or perhaps the time spent varies, as shown in these examples below.Knipsel

Once you’ve done this, look at the data you’ve gathered and ask the following questions: how did your school decide on this schedule?  What is the reasoning behind this schedule?  Is there enough time allotted to the English program?  And also important, while your school may allot a certain amount of time to the program, is this time actually used for English every week?  Or does the English lesson get dropped from the schedule on a (semi-)regular basis?

Talk about these questions with others at your school and make a note of your findings.  As you do this, also note any problems that need to be addressed, along with any ideas that people give for tackling these issues.

History of the English program at your school: When did your school start teaching English?  For some schools, English has been taught for over a decade, while other schools have only recently started.  This will have an effect on certain aspects of the program at your school.  For instance, if the school started with English only four or five years ago, it’s reasonable to think it’s not entirely “full-grown” throughout the entire school.  Textbook series, however, are often written so that each one builds further on the information from the years before.  Teachers in the lower classes will soon make the adjustment to these textbooks, but teachers in upper classes may find themselves faced with a gap beteween that which the children can do and that what the textbook offers, as illustrated below.

Program in development

While a program is in development, there may be an “ability gap” between the material offered by the textbook and the material children are actually ready to handle.

If you find there is an “ability gap”, then it’s important to look at issues regarding this.  For instance, what do the teachers do, when faced with this issue?  Is there a plan of action, or do they just “follow the book” and hope for the best?

Talk about these questions with others at your school and make a note of your findings.  As you do this, also note any problems that need to be addressed, along with any ideas that people give for tackling these issues.

Materials used:  for each class, inventory what textbooks, games, dvds, and other materials are actually used for the English lessons.  Again, make a table of your findings.  Make it as systematic as possible.  Here is an example:overview-materialWhen you are looking at the material, think about the following questions: does this material fulfill the needs of the teachers and children?  Do the children and teachers enjoy using this material?  Also important, in what way does this material help realise the vision and ambition of the school, which you looked at earlier?  Is there anything you miss?  Is the material outdated and needing to be replaced?

Again, talk about these questions with others at your school and make a note of your findings.  As you do this, also note any problems that need to be addressed, along with any ideas that people give for tackling these issues.

In the  next blog entry, we’ll continue looking at the issue of describing the current state of the English program at your school.  Until then, it’s really important to continually include others in your work and to open up the conversation about the program in such a way that everyone feels free to contribute.  After all, writing a policy plan is meant to do two things: firstly, to lay bare the current situation, along with its foibles and its hidden Jewels; and secondly, to make space in such a way that everyone is encouraged to improve his or her teaching and can take pride for his or her part of the program.

 

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