How better are the primary teachers in teaching English? Well, a new study shows that the primary teachers find trouble in teaching English language and have been in trouble for a long time.
The primary teachers do not know enough and lack confidence especially in the area of grammar, said the study Knowledge About Language (KAL), published on the CLiE website teachers. CLIE is a joint committee of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB) and the British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL).
Professor of Linguistics (Lancaster University) and former Chair of the Committee for Linguistics in Education (CliE) Willem Hollmann, pointed out that the gaps in teachers’ knowledge and confidence are not their fault. He said that this was a serious issue for children’s performance as well as for the teachers’ own confidence. He also mentioned that the gaps are mainly the government’s fault together with the other obvious guilty party – grammar book publishers, who hardly ever consult academic grammarians on their publications. As a result, some books contain quite a few errors, he added.
KAL covers the sounds of a language, its grammatical structures, its levels of formality. It may also include ways in which the language changes across space (with different accents and dialects), and across time (as languages evolve).
The 2014 Primary National Curriculum (NC) in Britain specifies the KAL that teachers are required to teach. The NC also contains implicit expectations. For example, it lists correspondences between written letters and spoken sounds. The standard used for these correspondences (in the International English (UK) Phonetic Alphabet) is Received Pronunciation (RP). Yet, says the paper, this is just one accent among many.
Professor Hollman noted that there are no large-scale studies into teachers’ actual KAL and the present studies only focus on knowledge about grammar, as opposed to KAL more broadly. “Unsurprisingly, given that most teachers have been taught very little about grammar themselves, the authors of these studies are typically led to conclude that knowledge and confidence are unsatisfactory,” he said.