LEARNING AT THE CUTTING EDGE: BILINGUAL EDUCATION, COMMUNICATIVE LANGUAGE TEACHING, AND CHARACTER BUILDING


By

Firman Parlindungan

 

Graduate Program of English Education

Islamic University of Malang

firmanparlindungan@hotmail.com

  

ABSTRACT 

The newest trend of education format in Indonesia is the emergence of bilingual program. This program is attempting to create students international competitiveness by fostering their communicative competence in using English as the medium of instruction. Since the goal of this program aims to enable students to use target language communicatively, Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) which carry out theoretical perspective of Communicative Approach is appropriate to be applied. On another front, there is an effort to shape student’s character building which enables them to master social competence with the expected behavior and moral capacity. Students can be trained some certain good characters within the implementation of language teaching. By considering the principles of Communicative Language Teaching, the extent of bilingual education, and the goal of character education, teacher can encourage students to learn at the cutting edge.

Key words: Bilingual education, character building, and communicative language teaching

 

INTRODUCTION

Recently, there so many Bilingual Schools/bilingual programs offered as an effort to create students who have international competitiveness. The language use as a medium of instruction in the classroom is English – Indonesia. This condition forces students to enhance their academic literacy. Academic literacy here is the elements of listening, speaking, reading, writing, the use of technology, critical thinking, and habits of mind that foster academic success including the success in implanting better character trait. There so many factors that affect student’s success itself. Teacher’s perception about teaching determines the effectiveness of what they teach (Malik, 2012).

Producing bilingual education and maintaining students’ bilingual skills are not easy when they are living in an environment that only use their native language (Snow, 1998). In Indonesia where students often use their mother tongue as their first language and Indonesian as second language, implementing bilingual program that put English as foreign language as the medium of instruction might trace some difficulties. Since children, even adult can face language lost when they are not using it regularly, bilingualism may start to be forgotten program.

Those expectation might lie on the teaching of language particularly English. Studying a new language acquires not only pedagogical competence or intelligence about it, but also social and cultural knowledge. That knowledge should be available in the language being learned. What must learners know and able to do in order to communicate effectively lie on that three knowledge. This term can be defined as a concept of communicative competence (Saville-Troike, 2006:100). Furthermore, Saville-Troike (2006) explained that Communicative competence is what speaker needs to know to communicate appropriately within a particular language community. This competence include not only the ability of vocabulary, phonology, grammar, and other aspects of linguistics structure but also social and cultural knowledge that speaker have.

Brown (2002, 121) pointed out that communication required that students perform certain function within a social context such as inviting, promising, declining invitation etc. In short, it is important to understand when and how to say what to whom. This notion is so called communicative approach (Widdowson, in Brown, 2002:121). The aim of communicative language teaching is to enable students to communicate in the target language.

On the other hand, concerning with social and cultural knowledge which students should master, there is an issue related to character education in Indonesia. According to Malik (2012:10) character education is “the composite of those psychological characteristics that impact the child’s capacity and tendency to be effective moral agent, to be socially and personally responsible, ethical, and self-managed”. Character education is developed through various media, including schools. A good character education must involve the aspects of moral knowing, moral feeling, to achieve a moral action (Ministry of National Education, 2011). When teaching language, teachers are also expected to teach students about social context that shape character building of the students.

In this paper, we will look at the discussion on how communicative language teaching would contribute to foster speaking skill and character building of bilingual school student. Relating these variables to one another, this paper aims to explore and investigate the ways in which development may in turn provide success in teaching and learning language.

 

DISCUSSION

Principles of Communicative Language Teaching

Since the goal of learning language is to be able to speak communicatively in a target language, communicative language teaching plays an important role to achieve it. Brown (2012:121) pointed out that Communicative Language Teaching (so called CLT) generally aims to implement the theoretical view of Communicative Approach. This notion means that to one can apply CLT by creating communicative competence as the goal of language teaching and ny addressing the interdependence of language and communication. In order to look closer at CLT implementation, there are some principles that we need to discuss.

  1. The language that used in the classroom should be authentic or it is used in a real context
  2. Attempting to attract partner’s attention as a part of communicative competence
  3. Language is as the medium of classroom communication not just the subject to be studied
  4. A variety of linguistic forms are presented together. The emphasis is on the process of communication
  5. Involving students in small group  interaction in order to maximize the amount of communicative practice
  6. Students are given an opportunity to express idea and opinion
  7. In case of error, students are tolerated to have a mistake as the development of communication and it should be corrected at a later point
  8. Teachers should promote communication in classroom. They act as a facilitator in setting up communicative activities and as an advisor during the activities
  9. The grammar and vocabulary that the students learn follow from function, situational context, and the roles of interlocutors
  10. Students are given opportunity to decide how to improve their comprehension competence about target language.

 

From those principles, it can be pointed out that the obvious characteristic of CLT engages greatly with communicative activities such as games, role play, and problem solving task. Therefore, mostly students are done CLT activity in small groups. While students act as communicators, teachers act as an advisor who answering students’ question and monitoring their performance. Teacher, in this case, might note any errors that the students make during the process of learning but the correction is made after the activity complete.  One reason why correction is done latter after the process of communication is to avoid students fear in producing language. Nation & Newton (2009:143) stated that correcting students directly in the same time of activity may have effect of reducing the amount of “making” creative language.

To sum up, Communicative Language Teaching placed the goal of communication much purposeful. Students interact a great deal with one another. This can motivate learners to study foreign language since they feel they are learning to do something useful with the language.

 

Successful Speaking Activity for Bilingual School Students

Bilingual school in Indonesia presents English as medium of instruction in classroom. Student-teacher interaction focuses to teach content subject by using English. A big question may appear whether students understand the language as they understand the content subject or not. Among academic literacy as mentioned earlier in introduction, the most important element of it in the process of bilingualism in school is speaking. Brown (in Nation and Newton, 2009:122) highlighted that “speaking as a part of work or academic study may involve presenting reports or presenting a viewpoint on a particular topic”.

Based on Nation and Newton (2009) idea, speaking in classroom can be classified as informal and formal speaking. Informal speaking typically involves tasks where conveying information is not important as maintaining friendly relationship. While formal speaking requires learner to focus on language items that are not as well represented in other uses of the language.

In this discussion, the writer addressed speaking both formal and informal from the extent of Communicative Language Teaching in bilingual school context. Here are some activities which enable student to achieve communicative goals. According to Harmer (2007), there are a number of widely-used categories of speaking activity:

  1. Acting from script: the teachers can ask students to act out scenes from plays and/or their course books, sometimes filming the results. Students can also play from scripts and treat it as real acting. And the teacher can help them to go through the scripts as if the teacher were theatre directors, drawing attention to appropriate stress, intonation and speed. Or also students can act out dialogues by coming out to the front of the class and the teacher will give the students time to rehearse their dialogues before they are asked to perform them. Teachers give time to work on their dialogues, they will gain much more from the whole experience
  2. Communication games: this communication games are to get students talking as quickly as fluently as possible. There are two particular games like information gap games which depend on an information gap, one students has to talk to a partner in order to solve a puzzle, draw a picture, put things right in order or even find similarities or differences between pictures. The other game is television and radio games which are adopted from TV or radio show that often provide good fluency activity.
  3. Discussion: discussion range from highly formal, whole group staged events to informal small group interactions. Teachers may ask the students to respond or giving opinion about the text they have read or even making debate or even making discussions in the middle of the lesson or even provide activities which force students to reach decision or a consensus.
  4. Prepared talks: students make a presentation on a topic of their own choice. Such talks are not designed for informal spontaneous conversations, because they are prepared, then students need a chance to prepare their talks  and then let them to present each other in pairs or small group first. The teacher and the class can decide together on criteria for what makes a good presentation and the listener in each pair can give feedback on what the speaker has said.
  5. Questionnaires: questionnaires are useful because, by being pre-planned, they ensure that both questionnaires and respondent have something to say to each other. Depending upon how tightly designed they are, they may well encourage the natural use of certain repetitive language patterns- and thus can be situated in the middle of our communication continuum.
  6. Simulation and role play: students simulate a real life encounter as if they were doing so in real world. They can act out the simulation as themselves or take the role of a completely different character and express thoughts and feelings they do not necessarily share.

 

One of the goals of CLT is to develop fluency in language use. Richard (2006:14) stated that “Fluency is developed by creating classroom activities in which students must negotiate meaning, use communication strategies, correct misunderstandings, and work to avoid communication breakdowns”. Fluency practice can be contrasted with accuracy practice, which focuses on creating correct examples of language use. Differences between activities that focus on fluency and those that focus on accuracy can be summarized as follows:

Activities focusing on fluency

  1. Reflect natural use of language
  2. Focus on achieving communication
  3. Require meaningful use of language
  4. Require the use of communication strategies
  5. Produce language that may not be predictable
  6. Seek to link language use to context

Activities focusing on accuracy

  1. Reflect classroom use of language
  2. Focus on the formation of correct examples of language
  3. Practice language out of context
  4. Practice small samples of language
  5. Do not require meaningful communication
  6. Control choice of language

 

Teachers were recommended to use a balance of fluency activities and accuracy and to use accuracy activities to support fluency activities. Accuracy work could either come before or after fluency work. For example, based on students’ performance on a fluency task, the teacher could assign accuracy work to deal with grammatical or pronunciation problems the teacher observed while students were carrying out the task (Richard, 2006:16).

 

Character Building through Communicative Language Teaching

The former of Indonesian country, Soekarno, once sounded the importance of character building for the people of Indonesia as well as Mohamad Said from Taman Siswa, St. Takdir, and Soedjatmoko. What they meant by character building is a character education for students. How to educate students in school, so they are not only smart but also well behaved (Buchori, 2007).

Character education is not totally a new tradition in Indonesian education because the former on this country have tried to apply the spirit of character education as a foundation for national identity and integrity in accordance with the context and situation (Koesoema, 2007:46). Talking about character, it is related to moral which substituted with particular individual’s durable qualities. The concept of character can imply a variety of attributes including the existence or lack of virtues such as integrity, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, or good behaviors or habits.

In teaching and learning process, language has a prominent role, especially English, because it is as a means of communication. How the teaching of language can promote and shape character building?. The answer is by applying Communicative Language Teaching. Jacobs and Farrell (2003) suggest that Learning is not an individual, private activity, but a social one that depends upon interaction with others. By this interaction, students gain interpersonal skill as well as learn to respect others.

In addition, learners learn in different ways and have different strengths. Teaching needs to take these differences into account rather than try to force students into a single mold. In language teaching, this has led to an emphasis on developing students’ use and awareness of learning strategies.

In another front, Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) revealed that language should serve as a means of developing higher-order thinking skills, also known as critical and creative thinking. In language teaching, this means that students do not learn language for its own sake but in order to develop and apply their thinking skills in situations that go beyond the language classroom.

Back to character education, effective character education is not adding program or set of program to a school. Rather, it is a transformation of the culture and life of the school (Berkowitz and Bier, 2006). Good character consists of knowing the good, desiring the good and doing the good (Lickona, 1991:51). Implementing CLT in classroom is not only to enhance the ability of mastering content subject but also to fostering and maintaining character which is transformed from culture and school. Students should understand the knowledge of forms, meanings, and functions. They must use this knowledge and take into consideration the social situation in order to convey their intended meaning (Brown, 2002:131).

 

CONCLUSSION

For conclusion, it can be said that bilingual program in Indonesia can be developed by implementing Communicative Language Teaching and taking character building into account. There many aspects that need to pay attention to such as the principles of Communicative Language Teaching, the notion of character building, and the successful activity in bilingual classroom.

When learners are able to hand pedagogical competence or intelligence about language, and also social and cultural knowledge about it, they tend to be success as bilinguals. Students use the target language communicatively in their daily life, master the form and meaning in certain function, and avoiding language lost because they use it regularly. This competence can meet the demand of globalization era when smart students covered by good character is required.

 

REFERENCES

Berkowitz, M. and Bier, M. 2006. What Works in Character Education: A Research –driven Guide for Educators. Washington, D.C

Brown, H Douglas. 2002. Strategies for Success. New York: Pearson Education Company.

Buchori, Moectar. 2007. Character Building dan Pendidikan Kita. (Online), http://paramadina.wordpress.com/2007/03/04/character-building-dan-pendidikan-kita/. Accessed on 27 June 2012.

Harmer, Jeremy. 2007. The Practice of English Language Teaching Fourth Edition. England: Pearson Education Ltd.

Kemendiknas. Desain Induk Pendidikan Karakter, (Online), http://pendikar.dikti.go.id/gdp/wp-content/uploads/Desain-induk pendidikan-karakter-kemdiknas.pdf, Accessed on 30 May 2011.

Koesoema, Doni. 2007. Pendidikan Karakter: Strategi Mendidik Anak di Zaman Global. Jakarta: Grasindo.

Lickona, T. 1991. Educating for Character. N.Y. Bantam.

Malik, Ranbir Singh. 2012. Deep Learning and Academic Literacy – How they would contribute to character building?. In Samsudi (Eds), Enhancing Academic Literacy to Foster Conservation Values in Character Education, (p.1-17). Semarang: Postgraduate Program Semarang State University.

Nation, I.S.P., Newton, Jonathan. 2009. Teaching ESL/EFL Listening and Speaking. New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis

Richard, Jack C. 2006. Communicative Language Teaching Today. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Snow, Catherine E. 1998. Bilingualism and Second Language Acquisition. Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Saville-Troike, Muriel. 2006. Introducing Second Language Acquisition. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

 

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