To teach, to learn

The question whether to include a modern foreign language (or two) in the primary school curriculum is not an issue in Finland. All Finnish children start to learn a foreign language at the age of nine and go on learning at least two of them whether they choose to go into further education or to an upper secondary school at 16. Rather, what one talks about are the qualifications of language teachers at the primary level, the varying abilities of the pupils taught together at secondary level, and the rise of English as a medium of tuition in general.

Another major issue is the teaching of students to communicate in a foreign language. This may seem self-evident, but sometimes clearly isn't on closer inspection. And this was one of the reasons why twenty Finnish teachers of English visited London in November, to learn about communicative language teaching and the use of drama in education.

"Use your tools and symbols, make the language work for you and your students. Set them a task and see the need for language rise from the task", was the message from Tag McEntagart of the National Association for the Teaching of Drama. And that's exactly what Tag did with her Finnish students, making them depict situations and interpret the responses. "Whatever the situation, there's always a resonance, and it can be personal, social, cultural, or historical. Drama is an excellent way to tap into this resource, to draw from the students something that they themselves have created."

The Finnish teachers of English had two more drama workshops, one in Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and another at International House. They also saw some of the preaching put into practice in four schools in the Greater London area. Our thanks go to Coombe Secondary Girls' School in New Malden; Park High School in Stanmore; Southbank International School; and Sacred Heart High School in Hammersmith and Fulham.

And the story doesn't end there. The Finnish Association of English Teachers are hoping to arrange a workshop in Finland on the use of drama in language teaching and invite Ms McEntagart over as their teacher.

Back to index of issues

The uuslogo.jpg (2750 bytes) in London