English in Preschool Curriculum: a Descriptive Study of the Teaching of English as an Intra-school Curriculum in a Preschool in Bandung

Many non-English speaking countries realize the importance of English in this globalization era. Mindari and Saukah (2012) believe that most countries in Asia, including Indonesia, feel that the role of English is more and more significant today so that they begin the English education much earlier in schools. Paul (Mindari and Saukah, 2012) confirms this by stating that millions of children in Asia are studying the language these days. It is reasonable for introducing English in early childhood education because the benefits for these very young learners to learn English are remarkable.Pence et al. (2008) have confidence in the importance of language learning in early childhood education since children’s language development is highly dependent on the quantity and the quality of the input they receive as well as their linguistic environment, such as at home and other children’s caregiving milieus where children spend considerable amounts of time, including in the preschool classrooms (Hart and Risley, 1995,1999; Hoff, 2003 as cited in Pence et al. 2008). Neuropsychological researchers, Brown and Jernigan (2012) found that the preschool years represent a time of expansive mental growth, where a set of milestone in this time period involves a rapid development of spoken language production and comprehension abilities. In this period, then, children need supports from education to develop their language abilities, so that they can refine these abilities for the language development in the next stages. In line with this, Vocis (2013) confirms that it has been
scientifically proven that at this age, children have a strong potential to acquire almost an infinite number of new information, especially when second or foreign language learning is concerned.

Experts have similarities and differences in determining the basic components of curriculum, whether it is for early education or any level of education. Cayadong (2011) describes four basic components of curriculum; (1) curriculum aims, goals and objectives, (2) curriculum content or subject matter, (3) curriculum experience, and (4) curriculum evaluation. Likewise, these basic components are asked in Tyler’s four questions; (1) what educational purposes should the school seek to attain? (2) what educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes? (3) how can these experiences be effectively organized? (4) how can we determine whether these purposes are being attained? (Posner, 1992: 13).

These components are interrelated each other. The first component to consider is the goals. Cayadong (2011) explains that curriculum aims, goals, and objectives explain what is to be done, what to be achieved, the vision, the philosophy, as well as the mission statement and objectives. In the meantime, Brown (1995: 71) defines goals as ‘general statements concerning desirable and attainable program purposes and aims based on perceived language and situation needs.’ Meanwhile he describes objectives as specific statements of certain skills, knowledge, or behaviors that the learners are supposed to learn in the end of a course.

After determining the goals, aims, and objectives of the lesson, the materials are selected. Curriculum content contains the materials to be taught, including the selection and sequence of the materials (Cayadong, 2011). Brown (1995) explains strategies in material development; adopting, developing, adapting, or the combination of the three. He elaborates that adopting materials involves deciding the types of necessary materials, locating as many different sets of these types as possible, evaluating them, using them and reviewing them. Meanwhile developing materials involves developing, teaching and evaluating materials. Adapting materials is similar to adopting materials, but it also includes adding, classifying and reorganizing the materials. In deciding the scope and sequence of the content in curriculum, Richards (2001) proposes that the scope of the content can be based on simple to complex, chronology, need, prerequisite learning, whole to part or part to whole, and spiral sequencing.

After the goals, aims, and objectives of the lessons as well as the materials are determined, the teaching methods should be specified. The curriculum experience, as Cayadong (2011) states, covers instructional strategies and methods which are used to teach the language. The methods that are used by the teachers describe their philosophical view on language as well as on teaching and learning.

The last part is the evaluation. Cayadong (2011) claims the curriculum evaluation identifies the quality, effectiveness, process and product of the curriculum. In evaluating the teaching and learning, Richards (2001) explains three types of evaluation based on the purposes. The first, formative evaluation is to find out what is working well, what is not working well, and what problems are being encountered. The second is illuminative evaluation which is to find out how different aspects of certain program works and to understand deeply the process of teaching and learning. Meanwhile summative evaluation is to make decisions about the value of the aspects in the curriculum.

English as a foreign language to be taught to children in preschools play an important role, particularly in developing children’s intellectual capacity. Taylor, Exon and Holley (1972) as cited in Curtis (1998) found that one of the purposes of nursery education is focused on the intellectual development of the children, in which teachers need to encourage their language use, help them to learn how to learn, and stimulate their curiosity.

Children in preschool level have not yet mastered written form of language; therefore oral-based competencies are more emphasized. Wortham (2006) states that the curriculum for oral language development can be organized into activities that promote children’s expressive and receptive language. Expressive language is a combination of phonetic, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic elements that the children use when speaking, while receptive language covers elements that they hear and understood, but cannot yet use in their expressive language. In the meantime, she further suggests that written form of language development that involves reading and writing are introduced to the children by inserting a language development program that provides that basis for literacy.
Wortham (2006) argues that children’s expressive language can be triggered by using activities that motivate them to use the language, such as play and work activities that require them to communicate to their teacher and other children. She also adds that children expressive language can be stimulated by teacher-directed or teacher-facilitated activities such as classroom discussion, conversations, and story-retelling. Meanwhile receptive language is started from the beginning of the class when teachers communicate to their children until the end of the class. Lessons might be selected and sequenced differently among preschools. Moon (2000) argues that the way teachers select and organize their lessons reflects their beliefs about teaching and learning. For instance, in deciding vocabulary selection, Richards (2001) proposes five ways; the degree of teachability, similarity, availability, coverage, and defining power.

Young learners learn a foreign language differently from adults do. Their characteristics affect the way of how the teaching and learning should be done in the classroom. Mindari and Saukah (2012) believe that introducing a new language to young children while they are acquiring their first one will not cause problems to these learners as long as it is done properly. This also applies to very young children like preschoolers. Hence as long as teaching English to young learners is done properly by paying attention to their characteristics and how they should learn it, teaching English will bring benefits for them in the future. Children in preschool (age 4-5 years old) have been able to learn a foreign language. In line with this, Moon (2000) states that children learning English as a foreign language also make errors which can be seen as a sign of active learning. These children, then, are not like parrots but more on an individual that learn how a language works.

Young learners bring what they have already known to the classroom. Moon (2000) points out that children bring with them a great deal of language and life experiences as well as other natural abilities. Therefore, in teaching, teachers need to take these aspects into consideration. In addition, children are active and curious in their nature (Moon, 2000). They have a great desire to interact and learn new things from their environment. Consequently, it is important for the teachers to let these learners learn through physical activity and meaningful experiences.

Providing social interaction and experiences is essential in children’s language learning. Vygotsky (1978) as cited in Linse (2005) states that children’s language learning is advanced through social interaction and experiences based on the context or situation. Besides, in teaching English to young learners, teachers should concern the children as an individual learner. Linse (2005) believes that a child’s social/emotional, physical, cognitive and moral developments are different among others. Teachers should pay attention to these different aspects and provide them with enjoyable learning with secured atmospheres (see Moon, 2000). Linse (2005) points out that mainly children’s language is related to their cognitive ability. Other aspects supporting this ability is important to consider, for instance Cameron (2005) believes that children need the feel of success in their language learning, thus their emotional ability also plays an important role in language learning. These developments affect children’s success in learning.

Few studies have been conducted on the focus of English curriculum in preschools. Studies have been conducted in a foreign language teaching in nursery schools. It was found that the children were benefitted mostly in terms of listening comprehension and pronunciation (Harley and Swain, 1994; Lightbown and Spada, 1994; Harley et al. 1995 as cited in Cameron, 2005). Another study was conducted by Rahmat (2010). He investigated the implementation of foreign language curriculum, including English, in kindergartens in Jakarta. Employing a descriptive method, he collected the data to foreign language teachers in kindergartens in Jakarta, using questionnaire, in depth interview, and documentation. Rahmat (2010) emphasized his study on the learning process, in which he found that in general the teaching and learning processes run relatively well, particularly on the learning atmosphere, concepts, materials, instructions and strategies, supporting activities, teaching methods, test and evaluation. In terms of the materials taught, it was found that listening skills (34,14%) and speaking skills (34,14%) were dominantly taught compared to reading skills (17,07%) and writing skills (14,63%). While in the terms of language components, vocabularies (26,82%) and pronunciation (26,82%) were mostly taught. In terms of teaching methods, the teachers investigated used methods that can develop the children’s cognitive, affective, and psychomotor aspects. It was also found that contextual teaching and learning (CTL) was applied in the classroom. The dominant methods used were singing (30,76%) and playing (19,23%). While in terms of evaluation, it was found that multiple choice test (26,82%) and matching test (24,39%) were mostly used. Very few studies have been conducted about English lessons in preschool curriculum, though many experts found that English learning in preschools bring benefits for young learners. Four basic components of English curriculum are essential in creating successful curriculum and they are interrelated each other. Each of these components should consider children’s characteristics and how children learn language. This part has discussed preschool curriculum, English curriculum in preschools, teaching English to young learners, previous related research and synthesis.

One of the requirements to achieve the benefits of English for children is by creating a sound curriculum. The quest for a sound English curriculum in early childhood education is a long journey. Preschools in Indonesia have used various kinds of curriculum such as national curriculum, international curriculum such as Singapore curriculum, mixed-national-international curriculum, creative curriculum, etc. When a preschool curriculum fails to take essential things into account such as learners’ needs, principles of teaching English to young learners and children’s characteristics, the curriculum might fail to bring the students into successful learning results. Therefore the curriculum and how it works need careful investigation. In relation to this, Pence et al. (2008) suggest that the field of early childhood education has become increasingly invested at identifying sound curricular approaches which might be employed to promote the language achievements of young children within the preschool classroom. To create a sound curriculum, it is essential to consider learners’ needs, principles of teaching English to young learners (TEYL) and children’s characteristics.

For preschoolers, Indonesian government has launched regulation of Ministry of National Education No. 58 year 2009 about standard of young learner education referring to regulation No. 20 in 2003 about National Education System Article 1 Number 14 that states “Pendidikan Anak Usia Dini (PAUD) adalah suatu upaya pembinaan yang ditujukan kepada anak sejak lahir sampai dengan usia enam tahun yang dilakukan melalui pemberian rangsangan pendidikan untuk membantu pertumbuhan dan perkembangan jasmani dan rohani agar anak memiliki kesiapan dalam memasuki pendidikan lebih lanjut”. Besides learners’ needs, principles in TEYL and children characteristics, the components of the curriculum and how they relate each other and influence the learning are also crucial factors in a sound curriculum. One of the essential components in curriculum that highly influences other curriculum components is goals. Learning goals are very essential in bringing what kinds of outcome the language learning give to the learners. Richards 2002: 112) states that goals are formulated from a “judgment call” in which the curriculum planners choose among many available alternatives based on the assumptions about the role of teaching and curriculum. The specification of goals is the reflection of presumed learners’ needs by the curriculum developers (see Brown, 1995). These goals become the teachers’ guidance in determining the teachers’ selection of materials, methods, and assessmen.

One of the trends of the study of curriculum tends to be emphasized on the curriculum comparison (Galam, 1997; Gibson, 2005; Ruddock and Sainsbury, 2008; Halpin, 2010; James, 2012). Despite its importance as has been explored previously, very few studies focusing on preschool curriculum, particularly on English in the preschool curriculum has been done so far. Rahmat (2010), however, examined the implementation of foreign language curricula, including English curriculum, in preschools in Jakarta and found that contextual teaching and learning was dominant in the classroom teaching and learning context. The teachers in his study tried to develop the students’ cognitive, affective, and psychomotor that emphasized the development of language comprehension and how it was used in daily basis. Taking the issues explained above as the point of the departure, the present study tries to explore the goals of integrating English in the curriculum in a preschool in Bandung as well as the teacher’s attempts to achieve these goals. In this study the teacher’s attempts are discussed more specifically in terms offour basic components of curriculum by Cayadong (2011) referring to Tyler’s four questions (Posner, 1992): learning objectives, materials, methods, and assessments (See Literature Review).Therefore the present study investigates: (1) What are the goals of integrating English as an intra-school curriculum in a preschool in Bandung?,(2) How does the teacher achieve these goals?

Name : Yuli Rachmawati, Sophia Fithri Al-Munawwarah, Wildan Nurul Aini, Susilawati

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