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In order to determine the type of study to carry out, I have adopted the classification of Dankhe cited in Hernández, Fernandez Baptista, 1997, who divides investigation into four categories: exploratory, descriptive, correlational, and explanatory. Determining the type of study defines the strategy a researcher is going to use in an investigation that may include any element from these kinds of study. Based on the objects and subjects to examine; this dissertation is developed under Exploratory and Descriptive investigations.
The Exploratory Study is normally carried out when the objective is to examine a problem of investigation not deeply studied or not studied at all, besides, it may be attainable to increase the acquaintance with the phenomena to investigate; collect information for a possible further and more complete research about a specific real life context; research about human behaviour, crucial issue for a investigation regardless of a area; identify promising concepts or variables, establish priorities to follow subsequent researches, and/or suggest statements. (Dankhe cited in Hernández, Fernández & Baptista, 1997).
On the other hand, the Descriptive Study, seeks to specify the important properties of individuals, groups, communities or other phenomenon that is under analysis (Dankhe cited in Hernández, Fernández & Baptista, 1997). These properties measure and evaluate aspects, dimensions and/or components of the phenomenon or phenomena to investigate. From a scientific point of view, Describing is to measure (Dankhe cited in Hernández, Fernández & Baptista, 1997) which means that a descriptive study selects a number of issues and measures each independently, in this way the investigated theme can be portrayed.
Exploratory and Descriptive studies accurately fit with the aim of this dissertation. It is Exploratory because it examines the current problem in English language field of not having a unique and appropriate syllabus for vocational schools in Chile and also because there is little research evidence regarding this problematic, turning this dissertation into an attempt to explore it more in the near future.
In addition, this dissertation is Descriptive due to it considers a phenomenon which is affecting English teaching and learning in Chilean Vocational-Technical Secondary Schools, observing needs and interests of individuals who belong to those schools mentioned.
The new Chilean Minister of Education announced last year the implementation of a new educational reform which comes to replace some aspects of the current renovation. Despite the government efforts to improve the school system through these modifications, the focus of the Ministry mainly remains on mainstream primary and secondary education, leaving Vocational-Technical Secondary Education (VTSE) aside. The aim of this dissertation is initially, to describe the current National Syllabus for English Language in secondary education, and afterwards to evaluate the suitability of this existing syllabus for Vocational Technical Secondary Schools. Secondly, this investigation includes essential considerations for a syllabus design, after analysing the current National Syllabus and curriculum framework in Chile. This research also describes the current English Language syllabus in Chile, in order to adapt it for Vocational Education and its different disciplines, considering accomplishing national standards in ELT when teaching and planning within a contextualized framework. This investigation is especially appealing when the Chilean ministry of education had started a new system of testing the level of English in students (included in the recent reform) the results of which will have direct effects on the teachers' evaluations of teaching performance.
Key words: Syllabus, Curriculum, Curriculum Framework, Vocational Education, Vocational Technical Secondary School
I. CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
In Chile, there is a national English syllabus for every school year, from the first year of primary to the last year of secondary school, apart from a syllabus for adult education. However, there is a widespread debate about the requirements for a curriculum adapted to the Vocational-Technical Secondary School, or exclusively for this one. Moreover, due to globalization and the demand for skilled workers all over the globe, with a desirable command of English Language, the necessity to have a English Language Syllabus exclusively for Vocational Schools arises.
One of the main initiatives of the Chilean Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) has been the English Opens Doors Program, which seeks to ensure that all Chilean students reach instrumental mastery of English Language, so they can make use of it for functional purposes; therefore students may be able to enhance their academic and employment opportunities (MINEDUC, 2005). English Opens Doors aims to apply technical expertise and improve the teaching of English as a Foreign Language (EFL), making it more accessible to all Chileans (Rohter, 2004). English Opens Doors was launched in 2003 and was supported by former President Michelle Bachelet and Minister of Education Mónica Jiménez. Since its founding, internal regalations changed at schools, establishing the teaching of English Language from fifth grade in Primary to fourth grade in Secondary school.
The National English Language Syllabus designed by the Ministry of Education, emphasizes the development of receptive skills: reading comprehension and listening comprehension. However, English Opens Doors program clearly states that written and oral production should not be overlooked, so not to limit the possibility of being proficient English-language user in all four skills (MINEDUC, 2002), and therefore be closer to the proposal of learning a foreign language through a communicative approach.
In practice, more traditional methods are used in the classrooms, such as the Audio-lingual and Grammar Translation Methods that have been exemplified by the kinds of activities which involve students translating decontextualised words and sentences which are not set into a practical use (SONAPLES 2011)
According to the presidential speech in 2004:"To accomplish the goal to transform Chile in a bilingual country (â€¦), we need to know where we are and how we are progressing"(www.prensapresidencia.cl) for that reason the same year, a diagnostic test carried out by the Ministry of Education in arrangement with the University of Cambridge in UK, concluded that only a small fraction of Chilean students (barely one in teen) could demonstrate a basic grasp on English Language (Chilean Business Journal, n.d.). Those results had shown the need of shifting the current way of teaching English in order to improve students' understanding of the foreign language with communicative purposes: "The time in the classroom is essential, because we are in a Spanish speaking country, so the whole class should be conducted in English, since it is the only opportunity to practice it" (EducarChile, 2005). In addition, Celce-Murcia (2001) points out that, taking into account students' lack of opportunity to use the second language outside the classroom, it is very important that the development of the language is capitalised in class.
MINEDUC then proposed a different approach to generate a change in English Language teaching in Chile and, consequently, a shift in the way students learn it by implementing this methodology of "teaching English in English", based on the development of Communicative Skills. The main aim of this approach is the developing of communicative competence in learners and that the teacher builds up procedures for teaching the four language skills that distinguish the mutual reliance of language and communication. (Richards & Rodgers, 2001).
When it comes to Vocational- Technical schools the above exigency remains but within a different scenario. In Chile, there is no curriculum framework to teach English in VTSE and teachers are required to adapt the mainstream schools program to each of the fields taught in Vocational institutions in order to achieve the standards set by the Ministry of Education.
Considering the Chilean educational reality and the assumed requirement for an English Language Syllabus for Vocational Technical High Schools, this research investigates the suitability of the current English Language Syllabus in Vocational secondary schools, besides the pre-design of a English Syllabus Proposal for Vocational Schools, that fulfils the requirements of the Chilean government.
For the above, the dissertation will be divided into four chapters. Chapter One will be devoted to the literature review, discussing issues in CLT and communicative syllabus design, the description of the context and needs' analysis. In Chapter Two, the research method of this investigation will be introduced, analysing the two main research processes used for this purpose. In Chapter Three, the current National English Language Syllabus will be analysed, in order to state the connection between this Syllabus and the Vocational Education Curriculum. Finally, in chapter four, the general considerations for the design of a syllabus will be examined acutely, to state conclusions about its role in the current Vocational Education system and how it could be adapted for Vocational Education context.
II. CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
This chapter will clarify some key concepts present in this dissertation such as Syllabus and Curriculum. Secondly, issues involved in designing a syllabus will be discussed as well as the importance needs analysis in the development of a school framework.
2.2 Syllabus versus Curriculum
Providing a unique definition of Curriculum is difficult because there are as many definitions as there are writers in the education field. It may go anywhere along the range from a list of subjects for a course to the perception of the ultimate goal of education as a whole. What is required when referring to the term is "the grasp of the basic notions education involves as well as the structural organization every author states within this definition for the term curriculum" (Moreno, 2000: 11)
On the other hand, it is said that "Curriculum is a very general concept which involves consideration of the whole complex of philosophical, social and administrative factors which contribute to the planning of an educational program." (Ellen cited in Nunan, 2000: 6) In practical terms, Curriculum refers to all the planned activities and experiences offered to students in the school context, not just what a set of courses entail but the relevance of these within the society. Following this view, White (1993:19) proposes that the concept of Curriculum "encompasses philosophy and value systems; the main components of the curriculum: purposes, content, methodology and evaluation; and the process whereby curricula are developed, implemented and evaluated"
In education, Curriculum may be defined, as a program which states:
The educational purpose of the program (the ends)
The contents, teaching procedures, and learning experience which will be necessary to achieve this purpose (the means)
Some means for assessing whether or not the educational ends have been achieved.
(Richards, Platt and Platt, 1993)
In its narrowest sense, Curriculum is synonymous with the term "Syllabus", as in the specification of the content and the ordering of what is to be taught. In the wider sense it refers to all the aspects of the planning, implementation and evaluation of an educational program, the why, how and how well together with the what of the teaching learning process (Finney, 2002:70).
Regardless of the similarity, a syllabus is a more specific document. It is not only a statement containing what should be taught during each academic term, in addition it often comprises suggestions about the teaching methods to be applied and the time to be taken in delivering each lesson: "is a more detailed and operational statement of teaching and learning elements which translates the philosophy of the curriculum into a series of planned steps leading towards more narrowly defined objectives at each level" (Dubin & Olshtain, 1997: 28).
Syllabuses are more limited to a small area and are based on accounts and records of what actually happens at the classroom level. Given these definitions it is suggested to define a Curriculum and a Syllabus as separate entities. To sum up it is possible to see Syllabus Design as part of Course Design, which in turn, forms part of the design of the Curriculum as a whole.
2.2 Issues in Syllabus Design
In past times, syllabuses were centrered mainly in language structure however, this focus has changed to topics and tasks based on notions and functions (Rabbini 2002). For some, this change has affected the definition of Syllabus as a concept In effect, it has been claimed by Nunan (1988) that nowadays "the traditional distinction between syllabus design and methodology has become blurred"
Having defined the terms Curriculum and Syllabus, the next step is to discuss what to take into account when designing a language syllabus for Technical Vocational Secondary School.
On the one hand we may say that "syllabus is a more detailed and operational statement of teaching and learning elements which translates the philosophy of the curriculum into a series of planned steps leading towards more narrowly defined objectives at each level" Dubin & Olshtain, (1997: 28). However, for Goodlad and Su (1992) syllabus is also a powerful tool that may have deep impact in students' behaviour if planned activities and learning experiences are contextualised.
Amkeet (1990) explains that a syllabus designer must consider a range of relevant variables concerning the social forces, the prejudices, the habits and the reasons of the student population, the relation of student characteristics to what are considered universal concepts in language learning processes, contemporary insights into the nature of the language, and how it should be taught to non-native speakers and for what realistic purposes, which must guide any curricular decisions. Those considerations together with the contents to be taught might be the basis for the design of a Syllabus that matches with what students from Vocational-Technical school require and need, and the syllabus that suits the most for these institutions is the English for Specific Purposes syllabus (ESP).
4.1. Steps in ESP Syllabus Design
Six steps have been suggested by Graves (1996) to design a syllabus in ESP for Vocational-Technical institutions:
1.- Needs assessment and analysis.
The identification of what is required in education is fundamental in designing a ESP syllabus as well as the analysis of what have been collected, as it makes the designer aware of what learners want, wish and need and also of what they expect from education itself. Besides, analysing the language needs of specific groups of learner may allow the identification of those notions and functions which will be most valuable to teach. Needs analysis facilitates the setting of goals within a syllabus, they needs are clearly stated, learning outcomes will be smoothly expressed.
Assessing needs it is possible to identify those learners who have no specific purpose for learning the language. They may be learning it just for fun, to talk to people, or just to pass an exam. However, this situation may be a good start for determining realistic learning outcomes. Hutchinson and Walters (1987) suggest a situation analysis framework containing a set of questions "in essence a matter of asking questions about the target situation and the attitudes towards that situation of various participants in the learning process" ( Hutchinson and Walters, 1987: 59). If one were profiling the needs for Vocational education students, the following questions might help to reveal the needs. At this point, it is important to mention that most of these questions are closely related to the Munbian model, as it may be observed below (Songhori, 2008)
2.- Goals and objectives establishment.
After analysing the needs it is possible to establish a goal, in education refers to stating what is expected to be achieved by students in a course (Graves, 1996). These expected outcomes may be stated in terms of knowledge students will be able to demonstrate o the language skills students will develop. Syllabuses should contain clear and realistic goals to motivate students to fullfill them, besides a syllabus may also embody Objectives, which are the steps to be followed in order to achieve a goal (Xenodohidis, 2006). Harmer (1991) claims that objectives might comprise activities which promote the development of a language skill, only if they are pertinent and benefits the achievement of the goal of a course, which may be inferred after analysing the needs and expectations of the learners. Having an ESP syllabus to teach Englihs in a Vocatinal technical secondary school, matches and covers those needs, as Chilean students belonging to VTSE are seeking for employment in their near future, however it will all depend of the way goals are stated and shaped within the syllabus.
Once goals and objectives are declared and put into practice, it may appear problems in the achievement. At this point, it would be appropriate to suggest that those unexpected difficulties could help to refine and update the goals for new generation of students with brand new needs.
3.- Content conceptualisation Contents are the components of the syllabus that need to be taugh such as topics and subject-matters; however the selection, analysis and conceptualisation of these contents is imperative in a syllabus design, because not all the contents will help to reach the goals that have been specified (Stryker and Lou Leaver, 1997) Reilly (1988) suggests that the best manner to start choosing proper contents is to be realistic. Teachers are the ones who better know their students' strengths and weaknesses, and to succeed in the application of a new syllabus is to take into account those feature because they tell, in a way, what learners are exactly able to do and how. Besides, the author considers that prioritising the contents according to the goals, may help to select the suitable ones. This action would be strongly recommended considering that priorities may vary according to the setting and context of the learning experience. In the case of VTSE in Chile, students are required to know how to operate a machine, read a catalogue or answer the phone, consequently, contents in this case may be either related to language function or the developing of language skills. Judging the resources availability is another point to consider when selecting contents to be taught. Whether schools or students have the accessibility to core materials or tools to works class contents, may play an important role in motivating learners and in achieving the goals. To contextualize the syllabus to the teachers and students reality will foster learners' connection with their own context.
and translate decisions into actual teaching units.In this stage, we need to identify language function and language expression related tothe jobs. Language functions are things the speakers do with their language in communication(Savignon, 1983). Greeting, giving command, and giving information can be given as examples.Language expressions are utterances that are expressed in an appropriate context for particularfunction (Van Ek, 1977). Greeting a guest in the m
orning can use â€žgood morningâ€Ÿ as the
expression. Savignon (1983) states that understanding and mastering language functions and
For example, Candlin (1984) states that content is drawn upon from "some content~-bank" which is based on some stated objectives which are in turn derived from the needs assessment of learners. This view is also shared by Breen (1984) who declares that when starting with a general view or definition of the target language and/or its use, more specific objectives or needs are selected as appropriate subject matter.
From the objectives, elements of the subject matter are focused upon, for example, particular structures, sets of functions, or a range of communicative events.
A useful general analysis to specify content has been put forward by Brumfit (1984). According to him there are three types of such analyses. The first is that of the linguist, that is, formal analyses of phonology, syntax, morphology, or certain types of semantic categories. The second type is interactional analyses of various kinds, such as situational and functional categories which lead to the analyses of discourse rhetoric. The third type of analysis is an analysis of what is talked or written about.
Each of these analyses presumes a different view of the nature in which language is learned. For example, the first presumes inductive or deductive learning; the second presumes that discourse is learnt to interact and to communicate; while the third one presumes that interesting and motivating content is necessary.
Meanwhile, Richards (2001) proposes contents for both writing and oral courses, which is actually connected to the Chilean curriculum framework.
However, information gathered during needs analysis contributes to the planning of course content, as do additional ideas from the following sources_
Available literature on the topic.
Published materials on the topic.
Review of similar courses offered elsewhere.
Review of tests or exams in the area.
Analysis of students' problems.
III. CHAPTER THREE: DESCRIPTION OF THE CONTEXT
2.1. Vocational Education in Chile.
The Vocational Technical Secondary Education (VTSE) as it is known today in Chile was structured in the Educational Reform conducted by President Eduardo Frei Montalva in 1965 and basically had no significant changes until 1998, when a series of changes in their curriculum structure formally began. By the early 90's over a third of the enrolment in secondary education belonged to the VTSE and diagnostics indicated as its major weaknesses: technological backwardness (their teachers and technical equipment), separation from the productive sector, excessive specialization and lack of correspondence with the labour market (Cariola, 1995).
In this general scenario the Ministry of Education proposed to carry out a reform for Vocational Technical education which had as guiding principles:
"To increase general training in the first two years, concentrating the technical preparation in the last two years of secondary education.
To redefine the meaning of specialization, using an approach that dramatically reduced the number of specialties offered.
To establish national graduate profiles for each area of expertise.
To propose plans and programs of study (syllabus), with a modular curriculum structure, with a focus on occupational competences."
(Miranda, 2003: 375).
Professional teams responsible for implementing these transformations started from the basis that the technical and professional training needed to respond adequately to the stage of labour and production that was emerging, characterized by technological change, increased computerisation and internationalisation of the economy, with implications in the employment dynamics and the nature and organisation of productive work.
The objective was to design a broad and flexible technical training, more in line with the emerging post-Fordist work structures in the country, which was opposed to the prevailing model that was based on providing highly specialized training seeking early entry to work (Cabreba, 2010).
The design phase began in 1994; a first turning point came in 1998 with the publication of the Fundamental Objectives and Minimum Compulsory Contents of Secondary Education (OFT and CMO) and continued in 2001 with the implementation of a differentiated vocational training in third year of VTSE, generation that in 2004 became the first group of students trained under the new curriculum framework.
On September 8, 2006 the President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet J. announced one of her priority initiatives for Education: Strengthening Technical and Vocational Education. During the President's official Speech on May 21, 2007 and 2008, she endorsed the Government's commitment to support vocational technical training. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education has set that the challenge is to put into practice effective actions to improve the quality, equality and adequacy of the Vocational Technical Secondary Education, focusing on permanent formation, with its centre of attention on effective vocational technical training (www.thesantiagotimes.cl).
VTSE mode is provided by more than 900 educational institutions throughout the country, and from these, 45.9% are public educational centres while 46.6% are subsidised by the government. Seventy educational centres are known as Executive Management Corporations (7.5% of total), owned and funded through management agreements signed by private law entities linked to business and industry. From educational institutions that deliver VTSE training, over 60% are Vocational schools only, the remaining 40 % offer a mixed instruction between regular non-VTSE and vocational education (MINEDUC, 2005).
By checking the composition of current enrolment in relation to the productive areas, a strong concentration in Administration field can be observed (about 40% of total enrolment), followed by Electricity and Mechanics, with over 27% of the enrolment between the two sectors. It also exists a remarkable incidence of the service sector in the current training structure, if one adds the areas of Administration, Social programs, Hotel & Tourism and Cookery (where the percentage climbs to 57% of the total) setting a very different picture to that recorded in past decades, where there was a high incidence of careers related to the industrial sector (MINEDUC, 2005).
Regarding the impact and outcome of this VTSE training in recent years (particularly since the implementation of the latest reform of the sector), there are few precedents that allow a relatively systematic analysis. As noted in the Report of Technical and Vocational Training in Chile, there is no collective statistical information to assess the efficiency of the system; neither are there precise records of teachers who were part of vocational technical education nor the completion rate of VTSE. For this report, students in VTSE have comparatively less access to general education compared to students in mainstream schools. Indeed, while a student of the mainstream secondary school features 27 hours per week of general education, one from VTSE has only 12 (MINEDUC, 2005).
A similar diagnosis rose from the Presidential Advisory Council on the Quality of Education (2006). According to what is indicated in this report:
"General training taught at levels I and II (first and second years) in VTSE schools is not equivalent to that available in regular education schools, restraining the effective implementation of curricular purposes of these courses;
Similarly, it appears that many VTSE schools require that students entering the level I choose their technical discipline in advance, contrary to the requirement that this must be done at the end of the second year. This situation is explained by the need that VTSE schools have to ensure a minimum demand of branch of disciplines, forcing students to be distributed among them;
Finally, the report also warns that most teachers working in the fields of VTSE have no pedagogical training, indicating that about 20% of the teachers are students graduated from these institutions."
(Presidential Advisory Council on the Quality of Education, 2006:241-249)
Beyond the above, it is significant the absence of longitudinal studies that analyse in more detail the education / labour career of VTSE graduates. This would provide more consistent an empirical data to support analytical judgments about VTSE and particularly, those related to its relevance as a valid model of social integration.
2.2.2. Curriculum Framework in Chile.
The subject of English - technically known in Chile as Foreign Language: English - is part of the regular plan in every Chilean school. The concept regular refers to the sciences, considered by the Ministry of Education, as basic and compulsory. English shares this category beside Mathematics, Spanish and History, with an emphasis on the two first, in terms of class hours.
The main purpose of the English Curriculum Framework is to give the students the necessary abilities to use the language as a tool to gain access to information, so as to solve situations from different social contexts, orally and written. These are what the Ministry calls Fundamental Vertical Objectives (OFV), because they are the core objectives the curriculum framework points to achieve. On the other hand, there are Cross-curricular Objectives (OFT), which seek to progressively promote the development of higher order cognitive skills, such as the developing of the ability to appreciate other lifestyles, traditions and ways of thinking, etc. (LGE, 2009)
Learning English as a foreign language is therefore focused mainly on students' personal growth, as well as instrumental purposes for academic, labour and communicative intentions.
In Chilean Curriculum Framework, there is another essential concept related to contents to be taught in each school year. The Minimum Compulsory Contents (CMO), are the essential topics teachers must cover in every educational level.
The development of language skills is the main focus of the fundamental objectives and minimum compulsory contents in the field of English learning. Additionally, vocabulary development plays an important role and constitutes one of the fundamental objectives. This aim sets as a goal for 4th graders of secondary school (17 years old) to comprehend three thousand vocabulary words including the ones commonly used in oral and written texts, plus the thematic vocabulary. At this point, a clear feature of this Curriculum framework may be identified: its centre of attention on lexical items:
"The expectation is that primary school students develop a management in common lexicon, which in secondary education can be expanded into more specific areas of individual interest. It is worth noting that it is not expected that the students memorise lists of frequently used words, but have the opportunity to hear, read and interact with them in various contexts" MINEDUC (2009)
It is not clearly stated the real aim of the English Curriculum, as on one hand there is an intention of concentrate it on the communicative aspects of language, but there is also a valuation of the lexical content in terms of quantity. In an attempt to avoid this contradiction, an adjustment in the curriculum was proposed so as to improve the official policies.
2.2.3. Curriculum Adjustment.
The changes experienced by the country as a result of its integration into the globalized world, require Chilean students to graduate with the necessary skills to facilitate their active participation in this new international order. One of these skills is the ability to communicate in English, which has been given the role of international communication language (Jenkins, 2000).
In this context, and as explained previously, to provide students with the skills to use English language as a tool that allows them to access information and also solve simple communicative situations of various kinds, required a modification within the curriculum . By 2000, new English syllabuses were implemented in secondary school, including Vocational- Technical institutions. The new documents emphasised as main goal the ability to orally(ranking the other three skills lower) communicate in real life situations, regardless of the amount of words acknowledged. ( LGE, 2000)
18.104.22.168. Curriculum Approach.
This curriculum reform and for foreign language sector, offered the opportunity to change the teaching-learning approach prevailing in those years. In practice, this transformation meant changing the emphasis in teaching morphosyntactic contents through the development of communication skills; promoting methodological upgrading and making English language a relevant subject to connect with the social environment of the learners. (MINEDUC, 2002).
Until then, teaching a foreign language was guided by lists of contents for each level where grammar played a central role and methodology favoured teaching grammatical structures often isolated from real communicative situation. This centrality of the grammar was based on the assumption that if students knew the language system, i.e., grammar and vocabulary lists, they would be able to speak the language. The evidence from the literature suggests that this assumption had slight validity (Widdowson, 1979; Ur, 1996). As teachers, our own experience tells us that for decades, the graduates had some basic knowledge of English grammar, but did not understand what they listened to, they were not able to comprehend a written text in English, and they did not produce written texts and much less spoke English.
In this situation, the reformed curriculum adopts a communicative orientation that goes beyond the formal aspects of study and focuses its attention on the message and the use of language. Fundamental Objectives (OF) and Minimum Compulsory Contents (CMO) had changed, from explicitly promoting the teaching of contents to the developing the of the language skills, specially speaking. These definitions were made considering geographical reality and communication needs of graduates in the global context of contemporary times, as well as other variables that are considered more practical, such as the preparation of teachers, the number of hours in the classroom and the number of students in the classroom (MINEDUC, 2002).
This decision gives English teaching guidance that represents principles of the communicative approach and curricular adjustment maintains and expands: language patterns are not just grammatical, but also functions of language and use of language (Harmer, 2007). This means that the new curriculum is looking to get students to communicate with actual messages, not just with a controlled language grammar (Harmer, 2007).
The current curriculum regulation includes setting new trends in the teaching and learning of English to the extent that they are relevant to our situation and needs. A method or solution does not fit - in fact, cannot be adjusted - to all situations when teaching a foreign language. They must be decided on a policy and a curriculum that fits every social-educational context, paying attention to the area or the skills students need most for their ultimate purposes of learning a foreign language (Duff, 2004).
22.214.171.124. The Start of English Teaching in Chile.
One of the innovations of the reform was to lower the initiation of English from seventh to fifth year of primary school. It is important to highlight that the starting age for foreign language teaching has been in constant discussion within the teaching of a second language in Chile. The relevant literature review shows that this decision is appropriate due to the belief that the younger students learn, the better the results are (Asher & Garcia, 1969; Snow & Hoefnagel-Hohle, 1977; Johnson & Newport, 1989).. As a consequence, there is a significant probability that students develop English language skills easily if they are immersed, from their early childhood, in an English classroom.
Even if the pronunciation was primarily it seems significant within English language learning, it is important to mention that an effective teaching at an early age requires an abundant and continuous exposure to the language, which allows children to acquire the language subconsciously following the same path as the first language (Krashen cited in Nunan 1999). This teaching also requires qualified teachers with appropriate methodologies and appropriate treatment of language and pronunciation, as students at that age can play a perfect accent. This means that age alone does not necessarily have a greater weight than other variables such as language development, extension and continuity of exposure to the foreign language, teacher's suitability and ability.
To support the statements above, it is important to mention the study of Muñoz (1999) conducted in an academic context similar to Chile (Spain). Some of the conclusions of this research establish that younger students have faster learning results than older ones, obtaining - at the same time - similar achievements - in some superior aspects - to younger students and more time learning. On the other hand, it is relevant to consider a research - extended for ten years - by Sparks (2006), in which the development of the mother tongue is closely related to the development of the foreign language. The better a learner's native language is spoken, the better chance of learning a foreign language the learner has.
In conclusion, age is not the only factor influencing the greater effectiveness of learning a foreign language. Moreover, factors such as the development of the mother tongue, the methodological and linguistics abilities of the teacher, the opportunities for exposure to the foreign language and continuity (hours per week) must be carefully considered when deciding on whether to English language instruction starts early. Moreover, students who start early instruction have higher cognitive abilities that allow them to accelerate meaningful learning.
126.96.36.199. Recent Revision and Updating of the Curriculum.
After its launch, more than a decade ago, the Ministry has conducted and updated the curriculum framework in order to better define the national curriculum and facilitate communication and implementation.. In the case of foreign language sector, this setting has particular characteristics, OF and CMO defined in decrees 240/96 and 220/98 for the teaching of any foreign language are preserved, and new OF-CMO are processed, as a result of the importance that English language has taken in the country. Nevertheless, the new English OF-CMO maintained its focus on developing communication and language skills in response to the current needs of graduates. Consequently, the details and the main aspects considered in this setting curriculum are the following:
a. Explanation of the development of the four language skills: The curriculum reform is now organized considering the development of the four language skills. However, it emphasizes the development of receptive skills, since the sector aims to "provide students with a tool that allows them access to information, knowledge and technologies, as well as appreciate other lifestyles, traditions and ways of thinking" (MINEDUC, 2005:9). This achieves access primarily emphasizing the development of reading and listening comprehension. It is further understood that comprehension goes a step below language acquisition (Nunan, 1999) but may provide a platform on which linguistic language development continues.
English language became a tool that allows learners to access better opportunities educational and work and the country, to participate and compete in the global conglomerate. According to monitoring studies to the curriculum implementation conducted by the Ministry of Education, teachers are aware of this need and point out the importance of giving greater value and relevance to the development of oral expression. For these reasons, setting higher expectations introduced curricular learning and language skills by proposing fundamental objectives and minimum content required for each. (LGE, 2009)
b. Alignment of learning objectives of the area with international standards: an important aspect of this adjustment has been considered in the definition of English national curriculum alignment to international points of reference that allow standardization of the proficiency levels to be established. The purposes of this alignment are related to improving transparency of courses, curricula and certification, thus promoting international cooperation in the area of modern languages â€‹â€‹(CEF, 2000).
The international reference alignment which was chosen to adjust the OF-CMO is the Common European Framework for Language Learning, CEF. The nature extent and magnitude of its descriptions make it a flexible reference for teaching and learning a language as a foreign language. Such flexibility allowed contextualizing and adapting the learning outcomes and skills described in the CEF to reality and purposes of Chilean students. In addition, the CEF has wide recognition as part of international alignment, as supporting its use in countries such as Colombia, China, United States, and Taiwan, as well as the countries belonging to the European community.
Specifically, OF-CMO of 8th grade in Primary are aligned with the level A2 (upper basic) and OF-CMO of 4th grade in Secondary are aligned with the level B1 (lower intermediate). This has implied a reduction of the learning expectations of the curriculum proposals for reform to the receptive skills, because with the emphasis they received, exceeded the standard development. Therefore, the expectations of productive skills performance should increase.
c. Improving Learning Progression from 5th Primary to 4th Secondary: the OF and the CMO were reviewed in order to show more clearly the progression of learning from 5th grade to 4th grade in EFL. This involved, firstly, considering evidence ( collected in the context of the creation of progress maps for learning and revision of international standards) about how learning English progresses and, on the other hand, longitudinal analysis of the curriculum reform to correct discontinuities, standardize terminology and shape a common organization for OF and CMO. It is relevant to mention that the curriculum reform was developed in the context of English Language as an eight-year compulsory subject. This implies that the curriculum frameworks of primary and secondary education were made â€‹â€‹with different criteria, which was reviewed in this setting. (Educarchile, 2009)
Specifically, for the progression and articulation between levels, the proposed adjustment lists:
Fundamental Objectives and minimum compulsory contents that were designed taking into consideration graduate growth skills along the eight-year compulsory education of English as a foreign language.
Equal number of key objectives from 5th grade primary to 4th grade secondary with a two-year growth:
From these objectives, four correspond to each of the language skills, unlike the curriculum reform proposing an integrated objective for both oral and written expression skills.
An objective is incorporated, from 5th to 8th grade, pointing specifically to the development of vocabulary that students must achieve every year. In the curriculum reform this goal was present only in secondary education. The proposal sets a twelve-monthly growth of this fundamental objective.
A sixth objective is incorporated, from 5th to 8th, which aims to connect the English curriculum with Fundamental Transverse Objectives (OFT). In the curriculum reform this goal was present only in secondary school. Just like the fundamental objectives related to language skills, this aim sets a growth every two years.
The CMO from 5th grade in primary to 4th grade secondary were reorganized into five sections that grow annually: the thematic content of the level and each of the four skills under which the characteristics of the texts that students are able to understand and produce are specified, including communicative functions, strategies and techniques associated with the development of each skill.
The terminology used was simplified and unified, with the same style of writing for all levels.
d. Updating in accordance to the progress that has produced research in the last ten years about how people learn a foreign language, specifically related to the vocabulary: the advent of computers in language analysis by collecting authentic oral and written texts, Corpus Linguistics, has provided valuable information regarding the nature of the structure and use of language. Lexicon keeps its role within the new adjustment as it is closely related to how well or bad speakers use the new language, besides to handle a wide variety of vocabulary may lead to a smooth communication. (Lewis, 2002; Schmitt, 2000; Willis, 2003). According to this contribution, the adjusted curriculum assigns a prominent role when teaching vocabulary.
Another notable contribution of Corpus Linguistics studies is the recognition of the 2,000 most frequently used words, a knowledge which would allow comprehending approximately 80% of a text written in English about a general topic.
The lexical goal in the previous curriculum reform was present only in secondary education, but in the recent adjustment is present from 5th grade in primary. This objective explicitly states the number of words that students should be able to understand when they read and hear. From these words, the teacher should select those that students use actively considering their reality and communication needs. The criteria used to decide which words are included in the lexicon for each level is related to the frequency of use and the thematic relevance.
In the Minimum Compulsory Contents (CMO) established by the Chilean Ministry of Education, the presence of vocabulary is expressed in the identification of specific topics in primary and more complex topical areas in secondary education; together with the development of specific strategies and techniques, in order to acquire, expand and consolidate vocabulary learning.
e. Role of the mother tongue in English learning: the curriculum reform recognizes the role that native language (L1) plays in the learning process by providing the possibility to demonstrate (in early stages of the learning process)the comprehension of English language through mother tongue. This, in a context where there is an emphasis on developing receptive skills. .
Nevertheless, the use of the mother tongue is still recognized as a tool in the process of learning a foreign language, the role of the mother tongue should be to enhance the quality and quantity of interaction in the classroom (Prodomou cited in Deller, 2002). Therefore, it is a methodological resource that will be incorporated in the syllabus after this adjustment.
With this background, the curriculum framework of â€‹â€‹English as a foreign language has been revised, and it has been shown the attempts that Chilean government in strengthening English subject in primary and secondary mainstream schools only, leaving Vocational-Technical Schools aside. The adjustment of the mainstream English curriculum aims to successfully respond to the current needs of the students, however, it still does not provide VTSE students with the necessary tools to successfully open out in the adult world and make a contribution to the country through the use of their maximum potential.
Consultation with teachers familiar with the topic.
Consultation with specialists in the area.
Developing initial ideas for course contents often is parallel to syllabus planning, because "the content of a course will often depend on the type of syllabus framework that will be used as the basis for the course. (Richards, 2001:149)
4.- Material development.
5.- Organisation. Syllabus Organization
Having once decided on what to teach, the next state is to decide on an appropriate strategy of presentation.
The objective of organizing a syllabus should be to promote learning, and not just to provide a description of the language. Therefore, the content matter should be organized in such a way so as to facilitate teaching and learning. The unit of organization should also suit the particular purpose of learning.
The syllabus may be structured on the basis of a gradual move from the more general to the more particular, a statement of a general rule to a statement of particular rules or exceptions which incorporates the deductive process. The material can also be organized so that the direction is from the particular to the general which is the inductive process.
The syllabus can also be organized such that the material starts with the learner's home life, moves on to the classroom situation and then moves out of the school into the post office, railway station, grocery shop and so on.
Corder (1973) states that the ideal syllabus would be one in which the sequencing of items taught logically derives from and presupposes the learning of some previous items. He also puts forward the notion of a natural syllabus or a built-in syllabus. He explains that the relevance of performance analysis to the designing of a syllabus is based on the notion that there is some natural sequence of elaboration of the approximate system of the second language learner and that when/if this can be well established it would provide a psychological logic to the ordering of material in a syllabus."
However, it is quite impractical to allow natural ordering to be the basis of syllabus organization because it is very rare for teaching and language acquisition to go hand in hand.
According to Richards (2001) when distributing contents in a syllabus design, there are some implications to take into account. One of them is the scope - concerned with the breadth and depth of coverage of items in the course - and the other one is the sequence of the course.
For example, in a listening or speaking lesson, one area of potential content might be "describing experiences. But the question is How much will be included in relation to this topic? Should two, four or six class periods be dedicated to it? "The sequencing of contents also needs to be determined (...) involves deciding which content is needed early in the course and which provides a basis" (Richards, 2001:150).
Therefore, Richards proposes this sequencing may be based on the following criteria:
Simple to complex: referred to difficulty level, simpler items are taught first. It is more common when teaching grammar, but any type of content can be graded depending on its difficulty.
Chronology: according to the order in which situations occur in real life contexts.
Need: according to when learners are most likely to need the content outside the classroom.
Prerequisite learning: it may reflect what is necessary at one point as a basis for the next step in the learning process.
Whole to part or part to whole: sometimes, at the beginning, material may focus on the overall structure of a topic before considering the individual components that make it up. On the other hand, the course may focus on practicing the parts before the whole (e.g. read a short story before considering what the elements of a short story are).
4.2. Syllabus Implementation
No matter how well developed a syllabus is, it would not be able to achieve what it is meant to if serious consideration is not given to its successful implementation.
Various sources have cited a number of factors which need to be given consideration in the successful implementation of a language syllabus. These factors would also affect the choice of an appropriate syllabus for use.
Maley (1984) gives the following factors:
Cultural: the most powerful factors in the implementation of any language programme. It depends on whether a society is outward-looking and welcomes innovation, or inward-looking, seeking inspiration from deeply-rooted traditional values. The attitudes of a given society towards the learning process, towards books, towards teachers are also of key importance.
Educational: they refer mainly to educational philosophy. Other factors are whether the system is authoritarian or participatory, whether it views learning as acquiring knowledge or acquiring skills, whether learning is considered a product-oriented business or as a life-long process, and whether the system encourages dependence or learner initiative. It is also important that top-level administrators are well-informed about the syllabuses. It is also important to take account of the role of exams in a given educational system.
Organizational: they will affect the implementation of a programme especially if the national educational system is highly centralised or highly decentralised. This will be reflected in the way decisions are arrived at and communicated to others, that is, whether they are by open consensus or by closed decree. It is equally important that there is a clearly defined structure of communication between the administration and those executing a programme. There should be sufficient channels of communication between syllabus designers and classroom teachers. There should also be a clear structure of communication between technical and secretarial staff on the one hand and the teaching staff on the other
Learner: these factors involve the age and background of the learners as being highly significant. It is also significant how learners are selected for the programme because certain syllabuses may not suit the study habits of certain learners.
Teacher: they refer to the training and experience of teachers which provide important criteria for successful implementation. The availability of teacher training is a key factor. It is important that the teacher is proficient in the target language. Teachers' language proficiency and training may well favour the choice of one syllabus vs. another. Teachers will have to understand why the syllabus is as it is so that they see the necessity of having to change their teaching procedure if necessary. Teachers, administrators and educators must be familiar with the objectives of the syllabus. It is also important that teachers are aware from the start about the number of hours they are expected to work as this will have important consequences for time-tabling and teacher morale.
Material: there should be an adequate budgetary provision for all aspects of the programme. The hardware ordered for the programme should be appropriate and not just ordered for prestige reasons. Spares for the hardware should be readily available and they should be serviceable in the vicinity. Software should also be appropriate and available to those who need it. There should also be adequate provision for secretarial assistance.
Other sources have also given class size as a variable or factor to be considered. For example, the sorts of drills associated with structural syllabuses would be difficult to conduct where there are classes of 50 or more.
The economic condition is another important factor, mainly because new materials and retraining of teachers is expensive, it is vital that this factor be kept in mind for all aspects of the implementation process because the whole process actually depends on it.
The successful implementation of a syllabus also depends largely on the extent to which materials, methodology and exams are compatible with it.
These very same factors would also have to be taken into consideration when selecting an appropriate syllabus type to achieve the purpose desired.
4.3. Types of Syllabuses.
Based on what has been dealt with earlier, various types of syllabuses can be designed to serve different needs. For the purpose of this research, the categories established by Richards (2001) will be adopted - WHY - they may be fine but it is essential to discuss why you chose these and not other frameworks.
Situational syllabus: the fundamental unit of organization here is a non-linguistic category, namely the situation. The designer of a situational syllabus attempts to predict those situations in which the learner will find himself, and uses these situations, for example, a restaurant, an airplane, or a post office, as a basis for selecting and presenting language content. The underlying assumption here is that language is related to the situational contexts in which it occurs.
Topical syllabus: organised around different topics and how to talk about them in English.
Functional syllabus: this type of syllabus arranges the learning material according to selected functions regardless of the grammar constructions that may be necessary to fulfil those functions.
The notional/functional types of syllabuses stress on communicative properties of language where the central concern is the teaching of meaning and the communicative use of patterns, it emphasizes what speakers communicate through language and derives its content from an analysis of learners' needs to express certain meanings.
Task-based syllabus: organised around different tasks and activities that the learner would carry out in English.
Other approaches to syllabus design are also possible:
Structural syllabus: this is known as the traditional syllabus which is organized along grammatical lines giving primacy to language form. It specifies structural patterns as the basic units of learning and organizes these according to such criteria as structural complexity, difficulty, regularity, utility and frequency. It makes ample use of highly controlled, tightly structured and sequenced pattern practice drills.
Process syllabus: this syllabus type was advocated by Breen (1984) whereby a framework would be provided within which either a predesigned content syllabus would be publicly analysed and evaluated by the classroom group, or an emerging content syllabus would be designed in an on-going way. It provides a framework for decisions and alternative procedures, activities and tasks for the classroom group. It openly addresses teaching and learning and particularly the possible interrelationships between subject matter, learning and the potential contributions of a classroom. The actual syllabus is designed as the teaching and learning proceeds.
Procedural syllabus: this was proposed by Prabhu (1984) with the central hypothesis being "that structure can best be learned when attention is focused on meaning." This syllabus proposes to replace the linguistic syllabus with a syllabus of tasks which are graded conceptually and grouped by similarity. The tasks and activities are planned in advance but not the linguistic content. The emphasis here is on meaning rather than form. The learner is preoccupied with understanding, working out, relating, or conveying messages, and copes in the process, as well as he can with the language involved. There is no syllabus in terms of vocabulary or structure and no presentation of language items.
Multi-dimensional syllabus: there is no reason why only one of the list item types needs to be selected as a unit of organization. It would be possible to develop a syllabus leading to lessons of varying orientation - some covering important functions, others dealing with settings and topics, and yet others with notions and structures. This will allow a syllabus design which is less rigid and more sensitive to the various student language needs. There is flexibility to change the focal point of the teaching material as the course unfolds.
4.4. Planning learning Outcomes: An Integrated Curriculum.
This proposal involves making - in educational establishments - integrated curriculum projects without altering the basic philosophy that has been presented. There is an obligation to consider not stop searching reflections and arguments about the reasons that make us bow down for some modality. Along with this there is a tendency to analyze the coherence with the plans that are developed and their development into concrete action.
Among the issues that may persuade in favour of this type of curriculum organization are those that affect the social utility of the whole curriculum. It is necessary that this would satisfy the needs that students have. Understand the society in which they live and consequently, that this leads to the development of various skills, both technical and social, and they help them in their location within the community as autonomous, critical people, democracy and solidarity.
Accomplishing these goals requires, among other things, that these students can explore the issues, important topics and problems that are beyond the conventional limits of subjects and areas of traditional knowledge. Do not forget that many of the issues that now focus the attention of broad sectors of society, such as the problem of corruption, unemployment or drugs, are not easily covered in the program structure separated by disciplines.
Something circumstantial to integrated curriculum, taking into account the statements made by Torres (1996), is that one must respect prior knowledge, needs, interests, rates of learning, etc.., of every student. To prevent this from being an empty phrase, it is necessary to increase the power of participation and decision of this group, especially as we are having more experience in areas of curriculum deliberation such as, for example, the selection of content, skills, habits, valuesâ€‹â€‹, etc., that can be encouraged and developed. Similarly, it is also required to participate in the discussion of the forms and rhythms of work in the classroom, the choice of teaching resources, forms of assessment, recovery activities, extracurricular activities, etc.
A proposal that can help in initial practical discussions for planning a curriculum of these features is the one developed in 1980 by the British Schools Council (Table I).
Notes for reflection about the planning of an integrated curriculum. Initial questions.
1. The first question and probably the most important is:
WHY? Why do you want to integrate?
What leads us to consider the integration?
What results are expected in school?
What results are seen for other staff? And for yourself?
2. Questions about people:
Who makes the integration?
What is the status of those involved?
What are your departmental affiliations?
Is their commitment to integrate a departmental commitment?
What are the attitudes of those involved and potentially involved?
How many teachers?
How many students?
Is it students? Or are the teachers?
(Are you sure?)
Just the youngest? Are the less able? Why?
Experienced? With no experience?
What are the status on an individual and the status of the departments that come from?
Is it an extra-departmental commitment?
Their roles? Shall remain within the department? What are the implications if they do so or not?
Enthusiasm?? Tolerance?? Apathy?? Opposition??