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PETALING JAYA: Using literature to teach English in schools is not new, Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (Melta) president Dr Ganakumaran Subramaniam said.
He noted that the literature component was already part of the English curriculum, while Literature in English is offered as an elective subject in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination.
“To a large extent, the approach of using literature to help students improve their proficiency has not been very effective because we don’t have enough teachers who are well-trained to teach literature,” said Dr Ganakumaran, in response to using English literature to teach English.
“Also, learning literature is not the same as learning a language. The study of literature involves the nuances of the language and other aspects, such as the plot and characters in the story,” he added.
The right approach to teaching English, Dr Ganakumaran said, is by helping students to identify their purposes for learning English.
“Different students have different purposes for learning English. For young pupils, it may be too far ahead for them to comprehend that English is important in higher education.
“Instead, they will be more interested if they are told that they can have fun in games by being proficient in English,” said Dr Ganakumaran.
Instead of reading abridged literature, Kirkby International College president Bismillah Kader suggested that it would be better to introduce students to literature in English written by Asian writers.
“There is a large number of well-written literature by Asian writers which provides a cultural context that is more familiar to students,” said Bismillah.
An avid reader, Shelbie Diana Jotem, 17, does not think that reading abridged classics will necessarily improve English.
Vivien Tang, 17, suggested that English literature be implemented from primary school.