Influence of Language Proficiency on Literature Interest
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Published: Mon, 12 Feb 2018
It has been 9 years since the literature in English component was first introduced by the Ministry of Education and to be included in English subject syllabus for Secondary school. In parallel to the Ministry vision in producing excellent students who can compete globally in the future, Literature in English for both Lower Secondary and Upper Secondary Schools aim to inclusively facilitate secondary students to improve and strengthen their proficiency in the English Language. Through the literature in English component also, it allows the students to learn many things from many perspectives by studying other cultures and world views. However, the most important thing is that literature in English gives the students more opportunities to be more appreciative towards the esthetics of the English language and towards literature masterpieces as well. Besides, the learning of literature will help to impart values beneficial to students’ personal growth, development and character.
However, throughout the 9 years of implementation of the Literature component in secondary school, numerous studies have been done and have revealed some facts regarding students’ interest towards the literature in English component in the secondary schools. Most of Malaysian students give negative responses to the learning of literature in English in classroom especially at the early periods when it was first introduced. In fact, most of the researches have done some researches on how to enhance the learning of literature in English among the students due to the fact that Malaysian students’ have lack of interest in learning literature in English.
There are varieties of factors that contribute to students’ interest in Literature. However this research will look deeply into the three main causes that affecting students’ interest in learning literature in English and on how strong the causes really affects the students. The three factors are the student’s exposure towards English language and the level of proficiency in English, the content of the literature component itself, and the activities done in the classroom during the literature lesson. In fact, these three main factors are always being discussed as the major reasons that influence students’ interest in learning literature in English.
The language spoken at home might influence the students’ interest towards the learning of literature in English differently. Students are coming from different family background that has different experience of communicating in English at home. If the parents are good in mastering English language and always communicate with the children in the language, it might encourage the students to read the literature in English texts because they are already quite familiar with the language. However, if the students have lack of exposure towards English language, it might demotivate them to read the literature in English texts since they are hardly understand the texts. Thus, the interest towards the learning of literature in English might be affected.
Another main challenge for the students to learn literature in English is caused by the selection of texts itself. Students might have lack of interest in Literature because of the text (short story, poem and novel) are boring and inappropriate for them. If the students are unfamiliar with the plot and the settings of the story, they will have difficulty to understand it and lead to the lack of interest to learn it. Besides that, another major problem for the students in learning literature in English is when the students encounter language difficulties that does not match their language ability. Some texts might contain words or language that beyond the students language ability “Even teachers cannot agree on the type of texts that should be taught although they generally agree that the texts should promote intellectual development, independent thinking, are interesting to adolescents and meet certain cultural and aesthetic standards” (Agee, 1998). Thus, the selection of the texts should be analysed and studied again whether they are appealing to the students’ interest or not. Table 1.1 shows the items or the texts that learned by lower secondary school students in Malaysia.
Teachers’ creativity in teaching Literature is also one of the most important features to capture students’ interest. Since literature is still considered new to Malaysian education system, the main problem for both teachers and students is to have various interesting activities to be applied in the classroom to teach literature. Most of the activities in literature classroom focus on the comprehension to the text by reading the text and answering the comprehension questions provided by the teachers and from the work books. In the discussion forum as stated in the Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (MELTA) web, www.melta.org.com, teachers are advised to provide the students with various creative activities in classroom to teach literature and to generate students’ interest in learning literature. Thus, teachers’ role is to search for new ideas, practicality and do experiments in literature through the reading from activities book or through the internet. Creative activities are used to enhance students’ understanding of literary texts and to attract their attention and interest in reading and learning literature. Creative approaches like role play and dramatization or even games are created to improve the dull traditional method of teaching literature, which only focus on close reading and explanation of literary texts. Students’ interests need to be captured before they can fully appreciate the beauty of the literature. (MELTA forum).
1.1 Statement of Problem
The literature in English component has been implemented as part of KBSM English syllabus for about 9 years since it was first introduced in year 2001. However, through my experience and observations show that the students have a lack of interest towards the learning of literature and they fail to appreciate or understand of what literature is. Thus, it is vital to understand the factors that influence the students’ interest to learn literature in English in order for all to solve the problem.
Since English is considered as the second language in Malaysia. Thus, the students’ level of proficiency in the language is varying to each other. Some students are given much exposure to the target language at home and some are even never utter any English word at home. However, interest is a subjective issue to be measured because it does not mean that if the students are good in English language that they are interested to learn literature in English more than the students who are not very proficient in English language. The reason is the students who have low proficiency in English might have the passion in literature in English in order to improve their English proficiency or just because they have the passionate in reading. Thus, it is still unclear whether the students’ level of proficiency in English and the exposure towards the language affect the students’ interest in learning literature in English.
However, at the same time one of the underlying issues in the implementation of the literature in English component is that most of the students feel that the literature texts offered in the English language Syllabus are inappropriate, unchallenging and even boring. In fact, the topic of literature text has been discussed and debated since it was first introduced until the present time. The main issue is to revise the use of the current texts and it has been supported by the students, parents and teachers. Some of the people think that the texts are beyond the students’ level of proficiency to understand it and the themes discussed are also very dull.
On the other hand, some argue that the texts cover a wide range of works dealing with different themes and appropriate for the students to learn. As stated in MELTA forum website, one of the members in the forum who is only known as “tpriya_1717” wrote that the important aspect that should be given greater emphasis would be the effectiveness of teachers in utilizing the texts in the teaching and learning process in classrooms. From her opinion, it gives a picture that the teachers should be more creative to involve students with lots of interesting and enjoyable activities to boost the students’ interest while learning literature in the classroom. Unfortunately, since our education system tends to be more to exam-oriented, most of the teachers teach literature with the purpose to pass the students in the examination and neglecting the main reason of learning literature which is to understand and appreciate literature.
Thus this research aims to find the answer whether all the factors mentioned above influence the students’ interest in learning literature in English positively or negatively. Furthermore, the research also will investigate which factor is having greatest influence to the students’ interest to learn literature in English.
1.2 Objectives of Research
The purposes of this research are to:
1) Investigate the influence of students’ level of proficiency in English language towards their interest in the learning of literature in English.
2) Examine whether the contents of the literature component in Malaysian curriculum for lower secondary students are appropriate and suitable for the students and whether the contents are able to generate the students’ interest to learn literature in English.
3) Study students’ preferences of activities applied in the classroom by the teachers during the literature lesson.
1.3 Research Questions
The research questions for the research to find out are as below.
1) How does the students’ level of proficiency in English language influence students’ interest to read the literature in English texts?
2) What are the students’ perceptions towards the current literature in English component texts?
3) Which types of activities in the classroom are more interesting to the students in the learning of literature in English?
1.4 Definitions of Terms
1) Factor: One that actively contributes to an accomplishment, result, or process.
Context of study: The factors are the causes or the reasons that contribute to the influence in students’ interest in learning Literature in English. It can be considered as the agents that are responsible towards the development of students’ interest in learning Literature in English. In this study, the factors are divided into three main divisions which are the students’ family background, the selection of texts in literature in English component, and the activities during the literature in English lessons.
2) Interest: A state of curiosity or concern about or attention to something
Context of study: Interest is the emotional reactions and behavioural tendencies towards the learning of literature in English. In this study, the students’ interest is categorized into two categories which the students who react positively towards literature in English and students who react negatively towards the literature in English. However, interest is the behaviour that can be changed or developed by certain strong influences, either it turns out to be positive or negative.
3) Learning: Knowledge or skill gained through schooling or study.
Context of study: Learning is a process of study to gain the knowledge. The learning of literature in English mostly happens at school especially during the literature lesson for English subjects. As literature in English component is a part of English syllabus in Malaysian education curriculum, the students need to learn it. Thus, in this study, the learning of literature in English is referring to the formal learning of the subject in Malaysian secondary school.
4) Literature in English: written material specifically in English language such as poetry, novels, essays, etc., especially works of imagination characterized by excellence of style and expression and by themes of general or enduring interest.
Context of study: Literature in English component is a part of the English syllabus in Malaysian secondary schools. It is divided into three genres which are short stories, poems, and novels.
1.5 Scope of Research
The scope of the research involved the participation of 40 students in Form 3 with different level of proficiency from SM La Salle Tanjung Aru Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Form 3 students would have finished covering all the literature contents for lower secondary school. The data was collected and analyzed based on the questionnaires which were distributed to the respondents concerned.
1.6 Limitation of Research
There were a number of limitations when the research was being conducted. The limitations of this study are:
A. Time constraints :
1) Students might not have sufficient time to fill the survey form thus resulting in unanswered items and/or inaccurate answers.
B. Small size of sample:
1) The sample selection was based on one school. It is only valid for the students from the school and the subjects may not represent all lower secondary school students in Malaysia.
1.7 Significance of Research
Over the years since the implementation and the development of literature in English component as part of Malaysian curriculum, many issues has been discussed regarding on the problems faced by the students that affect their interest in learning literature in English. This study will find the most reasonable and rational answers on the factors affecting students’ interest to learn literature in English.
This study also will prove whether students’ level of proficiency in English really has a very strong influence to the students’ interest in learning literature. Besides, this study will help the curriculum designers to always improve the contents of literature component for lower secondary school in the future. This study also can be used as a reference for teachers to investigate students’ preferences for activities in classroom during literature lesson and apply them in the class to capture the students’ attention during the lesson.
This Study will also provide and enable other or future researchers who would like to conduct the same research with sufficient and useful information based on the topic. The methodology in this research such as the questionnaire can ease the future research by adapting them or perhaps amend them to suit their study.
This chapter presents review of the general situation and the development of literature in English in Malaysia’s education system. However, the main discussions are focused on the three main factors that have the greatest influence towards the students’ interest in learning literature in English. The three main factors are the family background of the students, the selection of text or the contents for Literature components, and the preferred activities by the students during the literature lesson. This review will also provide some insights into the relationship between English language proficiency that might influence students’ interest in learning Literature in English. Apart from that, reviews on other possible factors will also be discussed as the argument of this chapter. These reviews are to give a better understanding on how these factors can really influence and affects the students’ interest in learning literature in English.
2.1 The Scenario of the teaching of LIE components in Malaysia
Historically, the development of the teaching of literature in English in Malaysia can be considered as inconsistent. The teaching and learning of literature in English in the Malaysian English Second Language (ESL) context has evolved from being a core part of the English language curriculum to a point of near extinction only to re-emerge in the 21st century in a far stronger form (Subramaniam, 2003). In addition, he stated that the downturn in the teaching and learning of literature as a subject is crucially marked by the change in the medium of instruction in schools from English to Malay.
According to Carter and Long (1991: cited in Fauziah Ahmad 2007), the importance of literature was only fully realized sometime in the mid 1980s where extensive debates and discussions took place. Since then, the situation for learning and teaching has changed radically and literature is presently being reconsidered within the language teaching profession. Fauziah (2007) believes that the changes of attitude toward the importance of literature have also affected the Malaysian national curriculum. As she stated in the introduction of her research, “Literature in English was first introduced to Form Four students in 1992. Subsequently, this has led to the re-introduction of literature into language classrooms in the year 2000, and is now an integrated element of the English language component.”
The wind of change in the teaching and learning of literature in Malaysia is also supported by Talif (2005), in his book entitled “Teaching Literature in ESL:The Malaysian Context”, a book which discusses briefly on the development of literature in English in Malaysian schools. The study shows that Literature in English was first introduced by the Malaysian Education Ministry by implementing the Class Reader Programme (CRP) in 1990 at the Form 1 level in all secondary schools. Basically, the CRP programme was designed to motivate students to read the class readers at home as well as to prepare the students for the Literature in English Programme (LEP) at the upper secondary students. The LEP was offered as an elective subject for study at the upper secondary school level (Form 4-5) which was implemented in 1992.
To date, the Malaysian Ministry of Education (KPM) implemented the literature in English component as a part of English syllabus in March, 2000. It started with only for Form 1 and Form 4 students in year 2000, followed by Form 2 and Form 5 in year 2001, and to all Form 3 in every school in year 2002. The component has been examined in SPM exam in year 2001 and in PMR exam in year 2002, (Ministry of Education Malaysia).
To summarize the history and the development of literature in English in Malaysian curriculum, the following review may conclude all.
“In Malaysia, three different reading programmes have been introduced over the last three decades. The English Language Reading Programme (ELRP) was implemented in 1983, the Class Reader Programme (CRP) in 1993 (Malachi Edwin, 1993) and the incorporation of the literature in English component into the English Language syllabus in 1999 (Subramaniam, 2003). To date, the literature in English component in the English Language paper is considered to be the most successful reading programme because the texts that are being taught and read in the classroom are a tested component in the public examinations (Vethamani, 2004a; 2004b).” (Too W.K, 2009, page 41)
From the reviews above, it can be concluded that the journey towards the inclusion of literature in language courses has been going through many stages of change. Thus, the implementation can be considered as unstable and the improvements by the ministry are needed from time to time.
2.2 The Students’ Attitude towards the teaching and learning of Literature in English
The lack of interest in learning literature in English among Malaysian students is one of the prevailing issues focused on by various authorities and researcher. It is such an alarming issue because the students’ attitude towards literature is closely related in determining the success and failure in learning literature. There are three main factors that are always being associated with the lack of interest in learning literature in English among the Malaysian students. The figure 1 shows the main focus of the researcher in the study of factors affecting the Malaysian lower secondary students’ interest in the learning of literature in English.
Figure 1 Factors affecting students’ interest in learning literature in English
In order to support the statement above, the researcher decide to make Davis’s model of research (1992: cited in Siti Norliana, 2008) as a reference to compare and support statement of the problem on the factors that affecting students’ attitude towards studying literature. For the purpose of this study, the researcher opts to consider attitude (Davis’s model of reaseacrh, 1992) as interest towards studying literature. The positive attitude may bring the meaning of highly interested and negative attitude would be the lower interest. According to Davis (1992), the Figure 2 shows the potential factors that have significant relationship with students’ attitudes towards literature in a foreign language.
2.3 Students’ Level of Proficiency in English Language
Learning literature in English is quite a challenge for Malaysian students because the English is considered as the second or the third language in our nation. In order for the students to learn literature in English, the first thing that they have to master is the language itself because that is the only way to associate with literature in English better. Thus, the level of proficiency in English would affect the students’ interest in learning literature in English. If the student is good in English, the possibility to have higher interest towards literature in English is very high. Meanwhile, lower proficiency levels in English may lead to frustration and less motivation among students to learn literature in English.
2.3.1 Language Spoken at Home
Students usually are coming from different family background. Thus students may have different experience or exposure towards the learning of literature. There are students who are very good in term of proficiency in English language because they practice the language at home with their parents in daily communication. However, there are also students who never use or speak in any other language including English as a spoken language at home but only speak in their mother tongue language at home. This situation can be seen by comparing between the students from urban area and students who live in rural area. According to Jamali and Hasliza (2002), Malaysian students especially those who live in rural areas do not see the need to use of English in their life, and it caused them to have lower motivation to learn English. The exposure towards English language and literature in English that they received are very little compared to urban students. In fact, “there are a growing number of children whose first language is English and who may be termed native speakers since their parents have chosen to use only English in the home instead of their ethnic languages.”- Murugesan (2003). Thus, the students’ level of proficiency in English language may vary to each other. The more the students have been exposed to the English language, the more interest they gain to learn and read the literature in English.
2.4 Selection of texts in Literature in English component
There are always bad and negative feedbacks that have been received from the students and the teachers regarding on the literature text in Malaysian school. Sidhu (2003), as cited in Too (2006), found that most students showed little interest in reading prescribed texts. The result of Sidhu’s research revealed that 60% of the students viewed the texts in Literature in English as boring and failed to arouse their interest to read.
Various comments and feedbacks also can be retrieved from the discussion forum in MELTA website mostly participated by the teachers and the students. Some of them think that the texts for English literature components are boring and need to be reviewed.
Retrieved Online November 18, 2009 from: http://www.melta.org.my/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=1098&forum=5&vie wmode=flat&start=20
2.4.1 Students’ Difficulties in understanding the texts
There are three different genres that the students have to learn and read for the literature in English component. They are short story, poem and novel. Students have different perception and interest towards each genre.
According to Siti Norliana (2008) research, the students showed higher interest in reading the short stories item compared to poems and novels. The students prefer short stories because they are not lengthy and less time consuming to read if compared to Novels. Most of the students described novels as lengthy and very confusing in term of plot and characters. It should not be a surprise that the students prefer short stories more than novel because as cited in Wei-Keong Too (2006, Page 43), both Reed (1992) and Chances (1999) analyses conclude that the books that young adult choose are character driven and the plot is fast.
In Dr. Sharifah’s (2002) study, the analysis result showed that the students’ positive responses towards short stories and novels are higher than the poems. According to the result, students are less interested in reading poems because of the use of literary language with underlying meaning. Thus, it is very hard for the students to understand the texts.
When the students find the poems very difficult in terms of language, they will automatically refuse to read it and show lower interest towards any text in the same genre. For instance, the poem like “Life’s Brief Candle” is very hard for the students to understand since they are not familiar with the literary language used in the poem and could not get the underlying meaning of the poem. In Huzaina’s (2006) research result, students found ‘Life’s Brief Candle’ the most difficult because they could not associate the candle much with their life.
If the students could associate the texts with their own experience and surroundings, they will understand the meaning of the texts easier and become more interested to read more from other authors.
2.5 Activities in the classroom
Teachers’ creativity in teaching Literature is also one of the most important features to capture students’ interest. Teachers play the important role to instill interest in learning literature in English among the students. As for that, teachers need extra initiatives and creativities to instill students’ interest towards the subject by providing the students with the interesting activities. Creative activities are used to enhance students’ understanding of literary texts and to attract their attention and interest in reading and learning literature.
2.5.1 Teacher-centered VS student-centered activities
The activities during the literature in English lesson are important to make the students take part in the lesson. However, many teachers lack creative ideas to provide the students with interesting activities when teaching literature in the classroom. Unfortunately, many teachers apply activities which are more teacher-centered in orientation during literature lesson. Teacher-ecentered activities are activities that are more controlled by the teachers all the time, such as spoon-feeding the students with all the information and thorough explanations and translations. Thus, the students’ role is only taking notes from the teachers and memorise them for the sake of passing the exam. As mentioned by Sharifah Nadia (2007) in her research, since our education system is exam-oriented, most of the teachers teach literature with the purpose to pass the students in the examination and neglecting the main reason of learning literature which is to understand and appreciate literature. As a result, the activities are stereotype because the teachers only focus on how to make the students pass in the exam.
An experienced and excellent teacher would use student-centered activities that involve students’ participation during the literature lesson. In this kind of activities, the students get involved and participate in the lesson instead of listening only to the teacher’s explanation. The students will be able to experience and understand the meaning of literature during the learning process. There are many enjoyable activities that the teachers can apply in the classroom especially during literature in English lesson such as dramas, role plays, group discussion, games, and multimedia presentations. These activities allow the students to express themselves through literature and capture their interest to learn literature in English.
Since the student-centered activities are more enjoyable and link to the students’ interest, the students are more interested to learn more about literature in English in the classroom. In Siti Norliana’s (2008) study, the students show more positive response towards activities that allow them to participate in the lesson actively. Table 2.1 shows the result of students’ acceptance towards activities used in literature in English lesson by the teacher in the classroom.
From the result, it shows that the students prefer the activities that can encourage them to participate in the lesson and allow them to think more critically rather than listening to teacher’s talk. In addition to the research, based on the interviews by Siti Norliana (2008), found that half of the students described that the activities employed by the teachers are dull and inadequate. This situation is supported by Dr. Sharifah (2002), she concluded that the teachers’ knowledge, expertise, and creativity is not yet developed. Thus, it results that teachers can not make variation in the activities during literature in English lesson and fails to capture students’ interest.
As a result, it is important to know the students’ preferences of activities during the literature in English lesson in order to match suitable activities with their interest so that they can learn it meaningfully.
This research aims to investigate the factors affecting students’ interest in learning literature in English among lower secondary students. The design used in this research is quantitative research design to find the answer on how the students’ background and the level of proficiency in English, the selection of texts in literature component in English, and the activities applied in the classroom during literature lesson can affecting the students’ interest towards the learning of literature. The research subjects, research instruments and method of data analysis are discussed below.
3.1 Description of Design
3.1.1 Quantitative Research Design
This study uses the quantitative research design. In according to the research design, this research is to find causes of things that have already occurred by analyzing the students’ responses to the questions.
In this research, the students’ background of language spoken at home and the exam result for PMR trial are being compared based on the saying students who are given much exposed to the target language show the positive attitude to literary study. The students’ preferences towards the selected texts for the literature in English component are investigated based on their choices and opinions for the texts. Lists of activities are provided in the questionnaire in order to identify which activities are preferred by the students to have during the literature in English lesson. Bes
3.2 Research Subjects
3.2.1 Background of the School
The school identified for this research was SM La Salle
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