Select Page

English proficiency test for teachers ill-conceived

Dear sir,
The English Language Proficiency Test which teachers recently wrote, was based on the 1999 English Language Teacher Development Project (ELTDP) developed by external consultants from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom.
This means it might not even be at the Namibian level of English curriculum in education. The teachers are from various backgrounds i.e. those who were taught in Afrikaans at tertiary level ended up teaching in English as it is the medium of instruction. Others graduated from the now defunct training colleges. There is also a variance in the English language for each subject; for example, there is English for Mathematics, English for Physical and Life Science and English for History. That is the reason the teachers have specific subjects in which they have mastered. Each teacher is struggling to make learners pass and there is hardly coordination between subjects during teaching. That is why learners pass the English Language and fail other subjects in English, or vice versa.
The English Language Proficiency Test might have shown some weaknesses in education, but it is not a proper yardstick to prove that teachers cannot read, speak or write the Queens Language. This is not proof as to why learners are or have been failing. That is the same as asking all qualified drivers in Namibia to write a Learner-Drivers’ license test. Many of them, if not all, will fail the test. Does this mean that these people do not know the road signs and regulations?
Let both Ministers of Education and their staff write a management test to see how they will perform! The timing of the test and the consequent release of the supposedly confidential results was wrong. The teachers were at the ‘peak’ time; preparing learners for examinations and both needed maximum concentration. The learners’ confidence in their teachers has diminished during this crucial time. Due to a lack disciplinary measures in place at schools, the teachers may also fall victims of (verbal) abuse by learners. Teachers will perform their duties out of frustration and anger.
The damage done by the test surpasses its good intention. Now the Ministry of Education, learners and parents have a good reason to conclude that the learners will obviously fail this year. Even those learners who performed poorly in previous years will apportion the blame on the teachers who taught them. I will be the last person to buy into the Ministry spokesperson’s reasoning that ‘This test was not a test to fire but plan training for teachers.’ Let me ask: Will the Ministry approve a person for promotion even if that person has poorly performed in the ELPT?
Steven Mvula
Human Rights Activist
Letter shortened – Ed

About The Author