| From Structural |
Competency Based Approach
The teaching of English in Algerian schools has gone through few approaches: the structural approach, which was based mainly on the learning of separate syntactical elements (syntax-based approach), did not prove efficient since learners were just memorizing individually grammatical rules and applying them in unrealistic ready-made situations. The result was that learners could use the language neither fluently nor creatively; therefore, they did not know how to communicate using appropriate social language, gestures, or expressions. In brief, they were at a loss to communicate in the culture of the targeted language.
Later, another approach called the communicative approach was introduced giving birth to pair and group work that helped learners develop their communicative competence, i.e. appropriate, meaningful, spontaneous, grammatically acceptable and reasonably fluent linguistic interchange, both orally and in writing. Therefore, there was a kind of shift from form to function, from usage to use, from skill getting to skill using, in an authentic communicative competence. That kind of learning made use of real-life situations that necessitated communication. The teacher used to set up a situation that students were likely to encounter in real life, and let them react and respond accordingly either in pairs or groups depending on the task. That approach was welcomed by both teachers and learners who became active and more interested in their learning. But although learners managed to communicate efficiently using correct grammatical structures, their English still remained “a classroom English” that could not be driven outside of the classroom towards real life contexts,thus making the communicative approach a theoritical one. Furthermore, the communicative approach was also criticised on the fact that the students’ learning in that kind of classes depended mainly on the teacher (teacher-centred classes) who used to be the only holder of knowledge without him nothing would move.
But with the recent implementation of the competency based approach, learning has taken another dimension: classes have become learner-centred, thus allowing learners to be more responsible of their learning which they construct gradually either individually or in collaboration with others and also freeing them from the imposed use of learning prompts that do not take into consideration their specificities as individuals. As their motivations develop, they acquire certain skills and competences that will help them know how to act individually or with others to find solutions to unusual everyday life problematic situations. With the support of the teacher and their interaction with peers, they can even auto assess their own learning, find solutions to their problems and acquire learning strategies that will help them achieve gradually their autonomy and exercise their know-how-to-do beyond the school limits.
By Khalid Baghoussi (Teacher of English)
Education has always been a thorny subject and a heavy burden for all societies. Philosophers, intellectuals and educators have long been looking for a suitable way to build the so-desired “prototype”, which has to satisfy the demands of the society in an effective way, but their efforts have not been totally fruitful because of the continuous psychological change of the individual and the temporary and variable needs of societies. The narrow and selfish behaviour of ancient and modern societies towards education has led to an unavoidable failure in building what the ancient Greeks called the “kalos k’agathos”,i.e. the wise and good man.
The 20th century pessimism concerning education is perfectly apparent and its intellectuals are still trying to find answers to various disturbing questions such as who should be targeted first, individuals or societies? And who should normally be influenced by our schooling, individuals or societies? Of course the answers have never been easy to find, but if we get rid of our selfishness and subjectivity in dealing with the matter, we will certainly find answers one day.
We know today that true development is the one which starts with human (individual) development first rather than with infrastructure, economy, etc. So as long as we are primarily concerned about the materialistic side of our societies, considering the individual only as a tool to provide those commodities and neglecting his psychological, moral, social and linguistic profile, our standardized and ready-made schooling systems will never be able to build the so-desired bridge between education and society: the bridge that will enable us as individuals to be effective in our respective societies and most importantly in all communities.
In fact, we (teachers) have been indoctrinating our kids with our “savoir and savoir-faire”, thus producing exact copies of ourselves who have not advanced but remained unchanged and dependent on us for years. We have never given the learner a true chance to become less dependent on us and more responsible for his own learning. Hopefully, the implementation of the Competency Based Approach in some worldwide educational systems, including Algeria, may give its fruit in few years. This approach is supposed not only to abolish the teacher’s supremacy and the learner’s dependence on the teacher, but also to develop the learner’s personal skills, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours necessary for functioning proficiently in society.
By Khalid Baghoussi (Teacher of English)