How to improve teaching of English in primary schools

Dar es Salaam. Amid debate on the possibility of adopting Kiswahili as the medium of instruction in public schools, attention has shifted to mass failure in English language in this year’s Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).Results released last Thursday show that only 34.35 percent of candidates passed the subject with grades A, B and C. In contrast, the pass rate for Kiswahili was 87.91 percent.Also read: Necta releases 2023 Standard 7 resultsMathematics had the second worst pass rate after English at only 48.83 percent.Also read: Why maths is still a problem in Standard 7 examStakeholders who spoke to The Citizen said the English failure percentage would have been worse had candidates from English-medium schools been assessed separately.They cited several possible factors, including low proficiency in English among teachers in public primary schools.“The shortage of competent English teachers is so acute that teachers with limited proficiency are being compelled to teach the subject, especially in public schools. This not only adversely affects the quality of education, but also hinders pupils’ ability to learn and master the language,” Tanzania Education Network (Ten) national coordinator Ochola Wayoga said.Education, Science and Technology deputy minister Omary Kipanga admitted that there was a “deficiency”, which was posing a significant challenge as far as English language skills among pupils were concerned.“The ability to communicate effectively in English is a valuable skill that opens up opportunities in higher education, employment and international relations,” he told The Citizen.Mr Kipanga noted, however, that the Education ministry was committed to addressing the issue by implementing strategies meant to attract and retain qualified and competent English teachers.“This includes investing in teacher training programmes, providing professional development opportunities and offering competitive salaries and benefits to incentivise educators with the right skills and competencies to take up and stay in the teaching profession,” he said.The deputy minister added that the government was also working with universities and other education stakeholders to develop innovative ways of improving the teaching of English and enable teachers to deliver high-quality lessons.“We must work together to achieve that. By strengthening our English language education system, we can ensure that pupils are equipped with the skills they need to compete not only locally and regionally, but also globally.”And according to Mr Wayoga, the lack of professional development opportunities for English language teachers in Tanzania was another major factor contributing to substandard teaching of the subject in public schools.“Many teachers do not have access to training programmes or workshops that could help them improve their English teaching skills. As a result, they often rely on outdated teaching methods and materials, which are not conducive to effective learning,” he said.A lecturer at the Catholic University College of Mbeya (CUCoM), Dr Joviter Katabaro, said low motivation and morale among English teachers in Tanzania was a cause for concern.“Many teachers feel demoralised and unappreciated, which affects their enthusiasm and dedication to teaching the subject effectively. This lack of motivation ultimately impacts the quality of education pupils receive,” he said.Dr Katabaro added that efforts should be made to attract and retain qualified and proficient English teachers in Tanzania.“This could involve offering competitive salaries and benefits to attract talented individuals to the profession and providing opportunities for career advancement and growth,” he said.An education stakeholder, Mr Mwakumba Mwemezi, said failure to teach English the way it was supposed to be taught had significant implications on the quality of education pupils receive and, ultimately, their future prospects.He cited inadequate training and professional development opportunities for teachers as an overriding factor.“Many teachers in Tanzania are not adequately prepared to teach English effectively, as they lack the necessary pedagogical skills and linguistic competence,” Mr Mwemezi said.Mr Benjamin Nkonya from the Tanzania Association of Managers and Owners of Non-government Schools and Colleges (Tamongsco) said the organisation had made significant strides in hiring competent English teachers.This had been made possible by rigorous recruitment and hiring processes, continuous professional development and a commitment to providing competitive salaries and perks, he added.“We have been able to attract and retain the best English teachers in the field.“We believe that the government can achieve similar success in public schools by prioritising and investing in the professional development of English teachers,” Mr Nkonya said.“Offering competitive salaries and benefits, providing ongoing support and mentorship and creating a supportive and collaborative work environment can help attract and retain high-quality educators. Additionally, implementing stringent hiring standards and qualification requirements can go a long way in ensuring that only the most competent individuals teach the subject.”Mr Nkonya added that Tamongsco was committed to working with the government and advocating the necessary changes that would ensure that all students had access to education of the highest quality. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (

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