Integrated English

The integrated approach to the teaching of English

The teaching of English in secondary schools dates as far back as 1925.  The Cambridge English Language Teaching Syllabus was the basis for the teaching until 1992 when an attempt was made to review the syllabus.  This review saw the coming in of the use of the integrated approach to the teaching of English.

Background to the concept of integration

The National English Panel (Secondary) has grappled with the task of re-examining the curriculum in English.  In performing this task, the Panel was guided by two major considerations.  English as a subject has to conform to the constraints of stringent timetabling, to give some room to a number of new subjects in the school curriculum.  It is also vital to devise means of counteracting the deficiencies which have been so apparent in the teaching of the subject.

The solution proposed for both problems was integration of English Language and Literature which have hitherto been treated as separate subjects as ‘O’ Level.  The Panel saw the two subjects as essentially compatible.  They argued that in order to give the language skills their most meaningful, practical and relevant application, and at the same time give the learner the necessary tools for full exploration and creation of Literature, both aspects of  English should be seen as integral parts of a single subject, Literature is treated “as an integral extension of language usage and …. Language is reinforced, sensitized and enriched meaningfully by good literature”1

Originally integration was seen as a marriage between Language and Literature.  As the concept was explored and refined further, it was found necessary to apply integration at a more fundamental level than the exterior subject grouping.  For integration to be fully effective, the subject had to be entirely re-defined and re-organised in terms of its basic skills:  listening, speaking, reading and writing.  Consequently, in 1976 the Panel formally adopted as the basic concept for the English syllabus, organic integration of these four basic skills, all of which are considered essential components of the one overall skill of communication. 

Oral and aural skills which have often been neglected are given due emphasis in this course. The reading skill is broadened to embrace practical functional and literacy reading.

Competence in English can only be achieved when learners are exposed to all the four basic skills and the best means of exposure is to let the learners interact in the classroom, just as they interact in real life experience.

 

Implications of Integration for the Organisataion of Instructional Materials

The main methods of organizing language instructional materials, their strengths and shortcomings, have widely discussed by scholars in English.

The great majority of language textbooks currently available in Uganda are organised a long grammatical or structural lines.  This approach is based on the description of the grammar of the native speaker of the language.  The material is organised according to a graded grammatical sequence and instructional materials when, in fact, grammar should be subordinate to the other communication factors.

The situational approach involves the identification of situations in which the learner needs to use the target language.  The problem with the purely situational approach is that it covers only a limited aspect of language and cannot offer a comprehensive coverage of the skills required for effective communication at secondary school level.

The Functional/National approach is an improvement on situational organization and entails the identification of specific functions for which the learner needs to use the language and particular ideas (notions) that he/she needs to express.  This approach has considerable potential but is sometimes lacking in adequate analysis of the functions.

The Topical or Thematic approach is based on topics or themes that are of interest to the learners, e.g. cinema, football, music, food.  This too is deficient in the aspects of communication and skills it can cover.

The Integrated method attempts to adopt a flexible approach which utilizes techniques employed by any of the approaches outlined above, whatever they prove effective for teaching communication.

“…..no teaching that aims at communicative competence can fail to take account of these four types and strike some balance between them”3.  The real distinguished feature of the integrated approach is the organic integration or the close interaction of the basic skills.  The feature is closely akin to VJ. Cook’s concept of ‘communicative teaching’4.

“Sequencing each part of final communicative competence and teaching it separately goes counter to most ideas of language learning”5

In using the integrated approach, communication is explored through discussion, recitation, other speech and listening practice.  It is also done through reading, both as intensive study and extensive exploration of literary materials, and through writing, both functional and creative.  The skills interact closely with each other and the varieties within each skill are explored.  Running right through the interaction of the basic skills is practice in structure control.  The rallying point for the interaction is a realistic and credible communication situation.

One significant difference between the integrated approach and Cook’s communication reading and integration is that the integrated approach lays slightly more emphasis on control of structure than does communicative teaching.  The latter does not do full justice to structure which is considerable to be the backbone of all communication in language.

While we agree that it does “seem better to ask what grammatical patterns are used in what communicative roles rather than vice-versa”, it is possible and desirable to identify some basic structural items with which the learner has to be equipped to enable him/her master any communication.  In purely situational contexts, control tends to be subjected to too haphazard a system in which only isolated structure items that happen to be present in the selected situation are taught.  However, without making structure the prime objective of any given lesson, a grammatical; core can underline the course progression.  It is crucial, through, that emphasis be placed, not on the raw grammar, but on the function grammar performs and that all structural items featured in each instruction unit are fully contextualized. L.G. Alexander advocates this approach and call it the functional/structural method”6.

“function in communication situations by participating in them …. by expressing himself rather than… other people’s remarks”.7  We perceive language as being in a constant state of change and having various different contexts.  Consequently, language is often treated as a medium of expression.  In addition to this function, the integrated approach aims at fostering creative ability more deliberately.  Finally, it attempts to expand the learner’s knowledge by exploring informative content to develop his/her positive attitudes and values.

 

Purpose of the Subject

Since English language is Uganda’s official language, the teaching of English in school remains of paramount importance on the school curriculum Learners need English for communication and as a basis for further education.

Aims of Teaching English

Language and Literature involve the skills of:

  1. Listening
  2. Speaking
  3. Reading and
  4. Writing

The aims of Integrated English Course therefore are:

  1. To assist the learners develop their ability to understand with reasonable ease rapid standard speech in situations such as classroom discussions radio/TV programmes, recorded plays, full-length films and everyday speech.
  2. To enable the learners express themselves intelligently, appropriately and effectively in speech.
  3. To cultivate in the learners the desire to read by themselves and for their own satisfaction.
  4. To encourage the learners to develop the ability to read a wide variety of written materials for enjoyment, information and knowledge.
  5. To assist them articulate their response to the art of Language as in prose and poetry, as a means of inspiring creativity and to assist them articulate their response intelligently.
  6. To guide the learners in developing their ability to write correctly, creatively and effectively.