Reviewing Recent English Class Activities Compared to the Students’ Quality in Four Main English Skills; Speaking, Listening, Writing, and Reading
Indonesian national education system (Undang-undang Sistem Pendidikan Nasional) states that education is an aware and planned effort or programs to implement learning process and learning environment which is purposed to make the learners actively develop their potent to have good quality in the aspects of spiritual, self control, attitude, intelligence, good behavior, and skills which are needed by themselves, the societies, and our beloved country. In order to conduct those goals, curriculum is needed as guidance for all educators to educate Indonesian generations, or to run formal teaching and learning activities. (Imam Machali: 2014)
The recent national curriculum which is applied in Indonesian formal school is Curriculum 2013, which is highly characterized by the approach it contains, namely scientific approach. M. Zaim (2017) has taken two ideas, from Longman and Tang et al. From Longman (2014), scientific approach is process of finding out information in science with testing the ideas through experiments and decision making based on the result of analysis. And Tang et al. (2009) stated that the main character of scientific approach is doing science. Through this approach, teachers can improve learning activities by breaking the process down into steps or stages where detailed instructions are there for conducting students learning.
Here we are going to go specifically to English subject, one important subject which is included in one that the students have to comprehend to pass national examination, which unfortunately has been removed from elementary school by the changes of current curriculum policy. It looks imbalanced when even kindergarten learners or even playgroup class learners start learning English to prepare the generation, as early as possible, to be able to develop their skill in the world level, knowing that there are a lot of information is not translated into Indonesian. Besides, the advanced technology, English films, and everything as the proofs that English is really important, are around us.
After the fact that English is not continued being taught in formal class in elementary school while the lower level (kindergarten, playgroup) learners start learning English, we are surprised by another fact that there are some junior high schools in Indonesia which use the international system, which means English skills are a must to enter this. These facts must be some confusion to parents for they have to pay more to send their elementary school students children to English course to be able to have or enjoy the international class facility of some junior high schools. The existence of English jumps from kindergarten to junior high schools, and some junior high schools demand more English skill for students who want to join them.
Those are general views about current condition of education in Indonesia, specifically about Curriculum 2013 and English subject. And let us see whether these facts are considered to have solution through the policy from our government. M. Zaim (2017) as well takes from Kemdikbud (2013) and Hosnan (2014) that the steps of scientific approach have to involve the activities of observing, questioning, experimenting, associating, and communicating. Those steps need to be applied or conducted in the classroom for not only English subject, but all subjects. Now we are focused in the implementation of those steps in English class. Those are what the teachers have to keep on their plan in teaching.
Moving to the condition of the students, that even until today, there are still many students complains about how the teachers teach the class, which is mostly about whether the teachers, in delivering the material, is easy to comprehend or rather complicated or even boring. It means that the students themselves are not ready enough for the concept of learner autonomy, and still choose to depend on what their teachers give them, include every single detail of the materials. Both students and teachers, with these conditions, then lead to the state where the scientific approach is rather hard to implement effectively. Then, conventional way is again seen as the best way knowing that both students and teachers are not ready to move on.
Though it is sad for us to admit, we still find that students really like teachers who explain in front of the class, really clearly in details, and give them easy questions for the tests or simple projects to do, then finally give them great score. This condition is might be merely because they do not really know how the teaching should be. It is needed sometimes to tell them how teaching has to be recently, related to the Curriculum 2013. Introducing higher order thinking in bloom taxonomy to the students is needed.
Firstly, observing. In English class, this observing activities can be done on text, pictures, videos, or sounds. So, observing can be done through reading or seeing some objects, and listening. This can train two skills of English, reading and listening. Both of these skills are categorized as passive skills in English. Through observing, the students are asked as well to write the new vocabularies they do not know and search the meaning through the dictionary. It is as well necessary to tell them how to use dictionary, so the word that they search and that they finally know the meaning, can be useful for them to use. For example, observing news about flood disaster that happens in Jakarta, and get the detail information of it.
Then, about the activity of questioning or asking. This activity can be done by making question about the text, objects, or sounds which they have observed. Through creating the questions, they as well learn how to arrange the right question based on grammatical rules. Not only learn how to speak in delivering their questions, but questioning also train them to be brave, and to know that asking, in learning activities, is something normal and it is not at all symbol of stupidity. Creating questions from what they have observed also teach them to have good curiosity. Curiosity is one important point that all learners should have. As the example, from the news about flood disaster in Jakarta, they try to find what, where, when, who, why, and how, and try to ask question about more details they need to know.
Experimenting can be done through discussing what they have got from the observation with their partners or in the group. Experimenting has relation with testing. Through this activities, the learners will try to put one by one the idea that they have and try to conclude whether an idea is appropriate or not, and they will try to find the solution, or better idea to solve the problems. This can be done through group discussion or even personal projects. They will learn to do mind mapping, to collect all the possible idea, and analyze the ideas through their logical thinking related to the learning topic. This is like matching some ideas with the topic, let us say, flood disaster in Jakarta, with the causes and solutions we can do.
Associating then is related to finding the relationship between one variable to others. For example, based on the topic of example we use, flood disaster in Jakarta, we try to find the relation between the condition of Jakarta, for example the habit of the society in Jakarta, the condition of drainage system, and the flood disaster that happens, and even they can think about the possible solution related to the knowledge they know about related things. While they do this activity, they as well learn about new vocabulary and learn how to arrange the sentences (or might be paragraph) in order to write their ideas.
The last is, communicating. Here the students will learn how to respect each other, pay attention to their friends while they are speaking to deliver their opinion, and of course they learn to speak. Communicating here includes when someone wants to response what has been delivered by his friends or to add some points of the ideas of their friends. The activity of communicating is also useful to teach them how to communicate in good way and to use proper words and sentences. Other kinds of communicating activity could be writing report about what they have discussed with their friends related to the topic of the English class.
Those are only some example of how to implement scientific approach in English class. With the advanced of the technology, of course the method can be developed well to make the students active and glad with the learning activity. Through those activities as well, the teachers can see the three main aspects of students cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. It is not as hard as how we think before about implementing scientific approach in English class.
Moreover, nowadays, with the multimedia of mobile phone which every student have, it is quite easier to make the learning activity more variant. One thing that all teachers should remember is that the goal is actually related to the mastery of English skills as how language should be used to in their daily life. In mobile phone, students can download and install a lot of applications (a lot of free applications are available) to support their learning. Mobile phone can be operated as well to discuss some topic, to have some tests which are more flexible in time and place, and many others. Besides, through utilizing mobile phone to learn, they can learn to socialize with their friends to discuss the topic instead of having long hours in front of the screen of mobile phone for gaming.
Again, seeing that English is foreign language which is not used but in English class, the students’ English skills are a little bit hard to be trained. Environment is needed for people to learn language, so they know to whom they must communicate to train their English speaking and listening skill. Besides, environment here means they have a lot of options in choosing what to read and what to write. Creative teachers have to be able to make the students learn everyday knowing that there is only limited time in English class to make the students master all four main English skills for them to use after they graduate.
Coming back to the reality, boredom is classic problem during any subject class. Moreover, full day school makes the students learn until the afternoon. During the class, elaborating the steps of scientific method will minimize the students’ boredom and make them actively learn in the class. Making all the students active and aware about the importance of learning is not easy, though, that then make the teachers choose the short way to teach. The teachers then choose to give specific clue for the students to answer the test so that the student can easily answer the question with right answer.
Curriculum 2013, though it seems faraway to be described as perfect package, but it seems farther to reach the ideal goal of language learning, in this case, English. The English class nowadays does not even change much even though the government has tried to change the system of learning in Indonesia. Again, there are only some people in the roles of government who plan the curriculum. The rest is about the actors of education, teachers and students. To have an open minded about education can be said urgent, for both teachers and students, to be able to reach national education goals.
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