British Council rejigs its English course

An English enrichment class run by British Council Singapore. The revised curriculum helps students in Sec 1 to 3 hone their comprehension and composition skills. Those in Sec 4 focus on 0-level preparations.
An English enrichment class run by British Council Singapore. The revised curriculum helps students in Sec 1 to 3 hone their comprehension and composition skills. Those in Sec 4 focus on 0-level preparations.PHOTO: BRITISH COUNCIL SINGAPORE

British Council Singapore has revised its secondary school English enrichment curriculum.

The revised curriculum will focus more on comprehension and composition, after a survey last year of the council's students showed that most of them found these components to be the hardest.

The changes were adopted in January this year - the biggest revamp in the council's syllabus since 2009.

Elaborating on the move, British Council Singapore director Roland Davies said: "Our view is that what children need to be able to do is to have the control and command of language, to be able to generate their own sentences and say original things."

From Secondary 1 to 3, students will hone their comprehension and essay-writing skills, while exploring issues such as fear, success, identity and thought. This will help them widen their vocabulary and bolster their general knowledge.

In Sec 4, the focus will shift to O-level examination preparations. Students will look at past-year papers, as well as learn time-management strategies.

Oral and listening skills, which were included in the previous curriculum, have been dropped, so as to streamline the 80 hours of lesson time with students each year.

The new English enrichment curriculum was co-developed by Mr Robert Playfair, who heads Secondary Courses at British Council Singapore, and Ms Monica Sharma Menon, an assessment book author who supervises teaching courses at the National Institute of Education.

The revisions to the curriculum come after the British Council English Survey 2016, conducted by research company Ipsos, found more than half of the students who took part felt that the comprehension and continuous writing components were the most challenging.

Although these components had already been covered in lessons, said Mr Playfair, the council had not realised how important comprehension and composition were to students here.

"The findings really brought that home to us, so we developed our new course to focus on those two skills," he added.

The survey was split into two phases. The first, involving in-depth interviews and mobile diaries, was conducted with 12 parents and 18 students in May and June last year. During the second phase, about 1,200 respondents, both parents and students, took part in a quantitative survey between July and December last year.

Over the past three years, about 5,500 students have attended British Council Singapore's secondary school English enrichment programme.

About 80 per cent of the council's students come from Ministry of Education schools, but international students are also among those who attend its secondary school enrichment lessons.

British Council Singapore has been providing enrichment programmes in Singapore since the early 1990s, and it also offers courses at pre-school and primary school levels.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2017, with the headline 'British Council rejigs its English course'. Print Edition | Subscribe