It’s no secret that English is a difficult language to learn. However, as the most widely spoken language in the world, it’s incredibly useful to know.
In order to help St Jude’s students become the best English speakers they can be, the school has introduced an ESL (English as a Second Language) Program, where students learn using state-of-the-art computer software, in addition to their regular English lessons.
Since the school’s establishment, English has been the language of instruction at St Jude’s. Students read, write, and speak English daily, and achieve outstanding exam results. So, what more can the ESL Program offer St Jude’s students?
“There’s no worry about whether our students can read or understand English,” says Mr. Valence, Head of ESL at St Jude’s Secondary School. “Our ESL Program is aimed at improving their speaking skills. We have tailored it to focus on listening and speaking skills.”
Ms. Mary, another ESL Teacher, elaborates, “Regular English classes are more focused on examinations and the mechanics of language, but ESL classes are more focused on conversational English, like, how students can interact with other people using the English language.”
And how does the software help the students learn?
“The ESL software is self-guided. The students use the computers and move through the modules and lessons. It’s interactive and the students can read, write, listen, speak and get instant feedback,” explains Mr. Valence.
In order to implement the program, St Jude’s ESL staff have worked with the IT team to create four dedicated ESL Labs – two at St Jude’s Secondary School, one at St Jude’s Girls’ Secondary School, and one at St Jude’s Primary School. Here, students from Standard 1 to Form 6 attend twice-weekly lessons under the guidance of the school’s five specialist ESL teachers. Students can also visit the labs during free periods and on Sundays.
One student who is already benefitting from the new ESL classes is Shani, in Form 1. Twice a week he visits one of the two dedicated ESL Labs at Smith Campus. Under the guidance of Mr. Valence, he collects a headset, logs into his profile, and begins learning.
“I started secondary school this year after attending primary school at St Jude’s, so I have been speaking English for many years,” says Shani. “I feel good about ESL because it is helping me improve my English speaking. I think it is very useful.”
With strong English skills, when students like Shani graduate from St Jude’s, they’ll be better equipped for tertiary studies and eventually, employment.
The program is particularly useful for students who join St Jude’s in Form 1 or Form 5. “ESL helps these students a lot because the medium of instruction for all their subjects is English. ESL helps them catch up quickly and learn new vocabulary to help them learn in all their other classes,” says Ms. Mary.
One way the software helps students improve their speaking is through voice recognition technology. When students speak into their headset microphone, the software rates their pronunciation. As students improve, they move to the next module where they learn more challenging skills.
“They really like that challenge. And they get competitive with each other too! They really enjoy it,” smiles Mr. Valence.
But ESL isn’t just fun and games, it’s already bringing tangible benefits to St Jude’s students as they move through the modules and build their skills.
“I see that they want to try hard and break barriers. They want to be the best they can be in conversational English,” says Ms. Mary of her hardworking students.
“It’s always great to see someone change over the course of time. When I receive students who can’t pronounce words very well developing into competent students who are confident in the language, who can speak well and communicate freely and accurately… it brings me joy to see that change,” says Mr. Valence.
As a school, St Jude’s aims to provide students with an international standard of education, which includes English as a key element, in order to help them break the poverty cycle. Now, with the advent of our ESL Program, students will receive a further opportunity to become world-class English speakers.
Help equip St Jude’s students for the future with a donation to support high-speed internet and software fees for our new ESL Program.