English is like Sports

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500 participants - English teachers from around the state and country gathering at the conference having the initiative to learn about new ways to make English practical yet interesting to learn

To get better at it, you have to practice every day

The 10th Johor State English Language Conference was held here at New York Hotel with the main topic, ‘Multiple Perspectives in the Teaching and Learning of English as a Second Language’. Officiated by the representative to the Minister of Education, Dr Kalminderjit Kaur, Deputy Director of English Language Teaching Centre at the Ministry of Education and HE Kamala Shirin Lakhdir, US Ambassador to Malaysia, the event saw 500 participants who are teachers from all around Johor, including Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

Also present at the opening ceremony were Sallina Hussain, Acting Director of Johor State Education Department, and Rashid Yusof, Group Editor of New Straits Times. The event was a collaboration with the Ministry of Education, organised by JELTA (Johor English Language Teaching Association) and UTM (Universiti Teknologi Malaysia).

In the five workshops that ran over a course of three days, the conference discussed the changes and challenges in teaching the new generation. Teachers gained knowledge from teacher-experts and exchanged ideas on the different new methodologies to make English interesting for both the teacher and student.

“English is a tool that opens all doors in the world,” said HE Kamala Lakhdir in her speech. She empathises with the students, who found English to be a “boring” and difficult subject, but she also claimed that English is like sports, where daily practice is needed to be better and good at it, and not merely a language learned only within a period of a classroom.

Vincent D’Silva and Dr Kalminderjit Kaur presenting the certificates to the teachers who won the awards

Kamala also talked about the varied contrast between education in the United States versus that of in Malaysia, whereby teachers in the United States do not follow a national curriculum and they do not have a national tests’ system. That way, a student’s intelligence is not measured by how well they did in the tests. Compared to Malaysia, she feels teachers are also stressed out teaching their students on how to pass the test instead of teaching them how to think. “The real KPI (for teachers) is what happens to the students in 15 years,” she said.

“Innovation requires courage to think up and accept something new as well as trying something new,” said organising chairman Vincent D’ Silva at his welcoming speech. “But then again, it also requires courage to say that new ideas do not work. With some changes, it may work and that itself is also an innovation. It is a circle that goes on and on. When such a circle is formed, it is a circle that seeks improvement.”

The Conference concluded on the third day on a high note with special guest renowned author and activist, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir and Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi who shared the importance of learning and teaching the English language.

The event organiser JELTA, is a voluntary, non-profit professional organisation formed in 2000 by a group of teachers promoting English Language teaching. Its founder, Vincent D’Silva, is a winner of the Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards (IMSHA) in 2016 for his outstanding contribution to Education Advancement.