CLT Theory and Classroom Practices in Secondary Education in Bangladesh: An Investigation into the Present Scenario

This study examined how Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is applied to English Language Classrooms in secondary education in Bangladesh. In conducting this study, the researchers used a mixed-method approach. The study used quantitative data
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  - International Refereed Social Sciences Journal ■   E-ISSN:   2229-4686 ■   ISSN:  2231-4172   ■ ■ Vol.–X, Issue  –  4, October 2019 [28]   DOI : 10.18843/rwjasc/v10i4/04  DOI URL :   CLT Theory and Classroom Practices in Secondary Education in Bangladesh: An Investigation into the Present Scenario   Tahmina Sultana Sima,   Adjunct Faculty, Dept. of English Language and Literature, International Islamic University Chittagong, Kumira, Chittagong, Bangladesh.    Muhammad Azizul Hoque,   Associate Professor, Dept. of English Language and Literature, International Islamic University Chittagong Kumira, Chittagong, Bangladesh.   ABSTRACT   This study examined how Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is applied to English  Language Classrooms in secondary education in Bangladesh. In conducting this study, the researchers used a mixed  - method approach. The study used quantitative data collected from a questionnaire conducted with ninety - one students of secondary level and qualitative data  from interview conducted with eight English teachers. The findings of the study reveal that  English language classroom practices in secondary education hardly go with the principles of CLT. In some cases, the practices are far different from the techniques suggested by the CLT approach. The analysis reveals that although some teachers are willing to bridge this  gap between CLT theory and classroom practices, they fail to do so because of time constraint, pressure from authorities to complete the syllabus, students’ and their parents’ eagerness to secure a good Grade Point Average (GPA) in the examination and their unawareness of the necessity of achieving communicative competence (CC). Based on these  findings, some recommendations are provided at the end of the study for the improvement of  pedagogical practices in secondary education.   Keywords:  Communicative competence (CC), Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), Grammar Translation Method (GTM), Secondary Education.   INTRODUCTION:   Introduction of CLT to English pedagogy in Bangladesh has stimulated a lot of debate and concerns  because most of the students still fail to achieve CC even after its application for two decades. The Ministry of Education (MoE) introduced CLT to teaching and learning English at the secondary level with a purpose of enabling students to use English “for effective communication in real life situations” ( National Curriculum, 2012, p. 74). Yet, students of secondary level are struggling to achieve CC (Ali, 2010). Ali and Walker (2014) shed light on different problems that encumber the implementation of CLT in Bangladesh. These are: “(a) lack of consistency in ELT practice in various institutions; (b) lack of collaboration among different stakeholders, i.e. teachers, learners, curriculum planners, syllabus designers, materials developers and methodologists, etc.; (c) the insignificant impact of teacher training; and (d) the insignificant outcome of the innovative language teaching projects” (Ali & Walker, 2014, p. 35). Roy (2016)  points out that one of the reasons behind students’ failure in achieving CC is the gap  between the objectives of CLT and what is assessed in the examination. A recent study by Ali, Hamid and Hardy (2018) revealed a mismatch between what is expected in the curriculum and what is tested. The secondary examinations do not assess test - takers’ listening and speaking skills. Therefore, many teachers seem to ignore these skills in their classroom practices. Only two skills - reading and writing are assessed in the examinations “and the assessed items had little relevance for communication in real life” (Ali et al.,  - International Refereed Social Sciences Journal ■   E-ISSN:   2229-4686 ■   ISSN:  2231-4172   ■ ■ Vol.–X, Issue  –  4, October 2019 [29]   2018, p. 10). The official textbooks for implementing CLT have also been subjected to criticism as these materials pay little attention to listening and speaking skills (Ali, 2014) While these previous studies, have indicated several problems that may encumber implementation of CLT, they have not explored to what extent CLT approach is implemented in the classroom. This led the researchers to examine whether or not CLT is implemented in secondary education. Previously, English was taught based on Grammar Translation Method (GTM) in which the emphasis was given mostly on teaching and learning of grammar. Later, this grammar  -  based method of teaching and learning English was replaced by CLT in 1996 with the purpose of developing students’ CC ( National Curriculum, 2012). However, Kabir (2015) argued that the change was partial, as the examination system was not innovated according to the change in methodology. However, it is argued that until or unless CLT theory is reflected in classroom practices, students will not be able to achieve CC (Ali, 2017). As  Nunan (1988)  perfectly said that the theory of CLT should not only remain as a document, rather it should be practised “in classroom activities, patterns of classroom interaction, and in tests of communicative performance” (pp. 5 - 6). Therefore, this research aims to explore to what extent CLT is implemented in secondary education in Bangladesh. LITERATURE REVIEW:   Many researchers (Rahman, 2015; Ahmed, 2016; Rahman & Karim, 2015; Roy, 2016) examined the  present condition of CLT at different levels in Bangladesh. Almost all of them found that Bangladesh is still facing different kinds of difficulties and obstacles in properly applying CLT. Before going to discuss the present condition of CLT in Bangladesh, it would be useful to have an idea about CLT.   2.1 Communicative Language Teaching (CLT):   CLT is an approach that emphasizes communication as the basis of teaching and learning a language. Before CLT, some other methods came into the field such as Grammar Translation Method (GTM), Direct Method (DM), and Audio Lingual Method (ALM) etc. with a purpose of teaching English effectively. However, all these methods appeared insufficient to develop learners’ communication skills so that they could communicate outside the classroom. Finally, there was a shift from grammar  - centred method to CLT in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which is an approach that “aims to make communicative competence the goal of language teaching” (Richards & Rodgers, 2001, p. 155). 2.2 Principles and Techniques of CLT:   Widdowson (1978) & Littlewood (1981) remarked that one of the main principles of CLT is that it focuses more on ‘use’ and ‘fluency’ rather than ‘usage’ and ‘accuracy’. CLT also encourages the practice of skills in an integrated way (Widdowson, 1978; Littlewood, 1981). Larsen - Freeman (2000) mentioned some  prominent principles and techniques of CLT. These principles of CLT include using target language and authentic materials in the classroom, teaching a variety of language form through language games, tolerating students’ error, and ensuring learner  - centred classroom and teachers’ role as a facilitator and some key techniques of CLT are role play, scrambled sentences, language games, picture strip story, group work, pair work etc. The following sub - section focuses on CC, which is the ultimate purpose of the CLT approach.   2.3 Communicative Competence (CC):   CLT gives its utmost emphasis on developing CC that (Richards and Rodgers, 2001) define as the ability to use language efficiently and appropriately for meaningful communication in a speech community (as cited in Rahman, Singh & Pandian, 2018). Dell Hymes (1971) was the first to coin this term and his view of CC refers to the competency of using linguistic knowledge “in a variety of social situations” (Hymes, 1979, p. 3). CC holds the view that acquiring grammatical knowledge is not enough for the efficient use of a language, rather having knowledge of using appropriate language based on different social contexts is the foremost necessity (Savignon, 2018). This is “the ability not only to apply the grammatical rules of a language in order to form grammatically correct sentences but also to know when and where to use these sentences and to whom” (Richards, Platt & Weber, 1985, p. 48). According to (Canale and Swain 1980), CC includes grammatical competence, sociolinguistic competence, discourse competence, and strategic competence. Grammatical competence refers to the ability of using grammatical structures correctly, sociolinguistic competence refers to the ability of using language based on social context, discourse competence refers to the ability of combining grammatical rules and meaning for different  purposes and it makes the learners aware of the discourse pattern of the target language, and strategic  - International Refereed Social Sciences Journal ■   E-ISSN:   2229-4686 ■   ISSN:  2231-4172   ■ ■ Vol.–X, Issue  –  4, October 2019 [30]   competence refers to the ability of understanding verbal and non - verbal communication strategies (as cited in Karim, 2004). Therefore, only mastering linguistic structures is not enough for being communicatively competent (Larsen - Freeman, 2000). The reason of devising CLT approach was to achieve CC that focuses on knowing how to use a language according to the setting and participants, and continue communication “despite the restriction in one’s language knowledge” (Fazil, Nor & Halim, 2018). In a word, CLT not only emphasizes learning and teaching of linguistic forms but also aims at improving students’ knowledge of “when to speak, when not, what to talk about with whom, when, where, in what manner” (Hymes, 1972, p. 277). 2.4 CLT in Bangladesh: Its Introduction and Present Condition:   CLT was introduced in Bangladesh to develop students’ CC in English. This approach came into practice  by the end of the 1990s and it was introduced at the secondary level in 1996 through a project called English Language Teaching Improvement Project (ELTIP) (Ahmed, 2016). Since then, the implementation of CLT was going through many challenges (Ahmed, 2016; Rahman, 2015; Rahman & Karim, 2015; Roy, 2016; Ullah, 2015). In these studies, the researchers depicted several causes behind the challenges that CLT faces in the context of Bangladesh. They included lack of teaching materials and teacher training, students’ unwillingness to do communicative tasks in the classroom, the large size of the classroom, contradictory to the socio - culture of Bangladesh, shortage of teaching equipment, time constraint etc. Ullah’s (2015) study on CLT at the Higher Secondary level revealed that the classroom practices, teachers’ role in the classroom, the selected materials, even the testing system at the Higher Secondary level do not follow CLT principles and techniques. Ali (2014) also pointed out that there is a mismatch between the goal of English language teaching (ELT) curriculum and the way the textbook was designed. However, the training that the teachers receive is not adequate as this training gives less emphasis on how teachers could teach language skills effectively in the classroom, and different projects that are innovated in Bangladesh to improve ELT had a very insignificant role in the improvement of ELT (Ali & Walker, 2014). The finding of another study led by (Haider & Chowdhury 2012) revealed that though textbooks are well - revised based on CLT theory, the secondary level classroom practices do not reflect the effective use of these textbooks because of untrained teachers, defective assessment system, and materials shortage. In this research, the researchers’ aim is to build on these studies by investigating whether any necessary step has  been taken to change the classroom scenario to implement CLT successfully.   METHODOLOGY:   3.1 Research Design:   As mentioned earlier, the aim of this study is to assess whether the classroom practices of secondary level reflect the principles and techniques of CLT. In doing so, the researchers used a mixed - method approach that “involves the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods in a single study” (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2009, p. 557). This approach was conducted in order to increase “the scope of the investigation” (Dornyei, 2007, p. 164). The researchers collected quantitative data from a questionnaire conducted with students of secondary level, and qualitative data from an interview conducted with English teachers teaching at the secondary level. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected in order to strengthen the findings of the real scenario of the secondary level classroom in Bangladesh. This study was guided by the following research questions: RQ1:  Are the principles and techniques of CLT applied to the secondary level classroom?   RQ2:  To what extent do the classroom practices of the secondary level correspond to CLT? 3.2 Respondents, Participants and Sampling:   The respondents and participants of this study were selected through the help of purposive sampling in which the researchers believe that “the sample selected would be representative of the population” (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2009, p. 99). Among ninety - one selected students, fifty - three students were female and thirty - eight students were male, and their average age is sixteen. Among the selected eight English teachers, four were female and four were male, and they all have teaching experience of five to ten years.   3.3 Data Collection Tools:   In this study, the researchers used two survey instruments - questionnaire and interview. The questionnaire designed for the students of secondary level includes twelve close - ended questions. An unstructured interview was conducted to collect qualitative data from selected English teachers.    - International Refereed Social Sciences Journal ■   E-ISSN:   2229-4686 ■   ISSN:  2231-4172   ■ ■ Vol.–X, Issue  –  4, October 2019 [31]   3.4 Data Collection Procedure:   Quantitative data were collected from ninety - one students of secondary level with their consent by maintaining the ethics. The researchers visited nine different government and non - government schools of Chittagong and sought permission from the principals of these schools before collecting data. Among these schools, only the principals of seven schools permitted to collect data from their schools. Quantitative data were collected by providing the students of these schools with the questionnaire. In order to ensure that all the participants understand what they are asked, the researchers were present there. Then, eight English teachers of seven government and non - government urban schools who have  been teaching in these schools for several years were interviewed. Point to be noted a letter of consent has been sent to the participants before collecting data.   3.5 Data Analysis Procedure:   The quantitative data have been analysed following the descriptive analysis of survey using simple statistical tools like frequency counts, averages, percentages, tables, and graphs. Then again, the qualitative data have been analysed following the thematic analysis of interview data. The interviewed teachers have been coded as T1…T8 based on (Richards’ 2003) model. FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION:   4.1 Analysis of Students’ Questionnaire:   4.1.1 Reflection of CLT Objectives in the Secondary Level Classrooms:   As one of the main objectives of CLT is to develop students’ CC, the researchers designed some questions to examine how much the participating students of the secondary level have achieved CC. At first, students were asked to choose one option that describes their condition when they have to use English outside the classroom. They were given four options to choose one what describes them the best. These four options have been measured by a four  -  point Likert scale (1= I can speak English without making any mistake, 2= I try to speak English with fewer mistakes, 3= I try to speak English but do many mistakes, 4= I cannot speak English at all). The percentage of students’ responses has been shown in figure 1 of Appendix - 1. Figure 1 illustrates that most of the students (64%) have not been able to attain CC, and they still make mistakes while trying to speak English outside the classroom. Moreover, it is noteworthy that a large number of students (33%) claimed that they cannot speak English at all.   Then, the researchers tried to assess how much the students of secondary level are confident to speak English in a real - life situation and found that about 87% students are not confident enough to use English in a real - life situation while rest of the students (13%) are somewhat confident. However, no student was found to be ‘very confident’ or ‘confident’ to use English in a real - life situation which is a clear indication that the classroom activities done at the secondary level are not practised based on CLT  principles and techniques. (See figure 2 of Appendix 1)   4.1.2 The Mismatch in Implementation of the CLT Principles and Techniques in Teaching Students of Secondary Level:   At first, the researchers tried to examine how accurately CLT theory is being followed in classroom  practices. In doing so, they chose two classroom activities, ‘fill in the gaps’ and ‘dialogue writing’, from the prescribed CLT -  based English syllabus, and assessed whether students of secondary level practise these two activities in the classroom based on CLT principles and techniques. At first, students were asked how they practise grammatical items in their classroom, and most of the students’ response (38%) indicates that their teachers make them understand the grammatical rules, while some (62%) of the students memorize grammatical rules and grammatical items like fill in the gaps with clues or without clues. Unfortunately, not a single student was found to practise grammatical items by writing a short story using a specific grammatical rule. Then, students were also asked how they practise ‘dialogue writing’ activity in the classroom, and a large number of students’ response (84%) shows that they just memorize some selected dialogues from their guide -  books which is not relevant to the  principles of CLT. Some other students (16%) responded that they practise this activity by trying to write dialogues by themselves and knowing the strategies regarding how to write a dialogue. However, none of them practised this activity by applying the role -  play technique in the classroom. All these data are shown in table I of Appendix 2.   These findings suggest that though these two activities (i.e., fill in the gaps’ and ‘dialogue writing’) could  - International Refereed Social Sciences Journal ■   E-ISSN:   2229-4686 ■   ISSN:  2231-4172   ■ ■ Vol.–X, Issue  –  4, October 2019 [32]    play an outstanding role in attaining, to some extent, the objective of CLT, the classroom practices do not appear to be the proper way to fulfill the requirement of CLT.   Therefore, it is obvious that there is a gap between the classroom practices at the secondary level and the CLT theory, but the question is how big that gap is. In order to know how much the classroom practices are deviant from the CLT theory the researchers framed a questionnaire with some questions for the students.   At first, students were asked whether they have enough practice on speaking and listening in the classroom. Figure 3 of Appendix - 1 shows students’ response regarding their practice on listening and speaking skill.   It is found that 86% of the students do not practise listening and speaking skill at all, while only 14% of them claimed that they have practice on these two skills rarely. So, students of the secondary level do not have enough practice on these two skills. Therefore, it is clear that the classroom practices of secondary level do not correspond to CLT as in order to achieve the goal of CLT students must “work on all four skills from the beginning” (Larsen - Freeman, 2000, p. 131). Then, in order to know the true picture of the secondary level classroom, the researchers designed some more questions based on CLT principles and techniques. Students’ responses to these questions have been shown in table II (See Appendix - 2).   Their responses depict that the classroom scenario at the secondary level is far different from the CLT theory. The findings revealed that in most of the secondary level classrooms, there is no use of authentic materials and CLT techniques like role -  play, language game, picture strip story etc. Moreover, most of the students do not work in groups or pairs, watch English movies or listen to English news, and use English in their classrooms. All these data indicate that the teachers and students of the secondary level do not adhere to CLT theory, although the present English curriculum promotes CLT (Ali, 2014). Then, the researchers tried to assess whether teachers are playing their expected role in the classroom to implement CLT in the classroom. Students were asked regarding their teachers’ role in the classroom, and their responses have been presented in table III (See Appendix - 2).   Table II shows that teachers play different kinds of roles in the secondary level classroom. Although most teachers (44%) play an authoritative role which is not suggested in CLT, it is a matter of hope that some of them (56%) try to act differently. Moreover, data in this study revealed that whenever the students make errors, most of the teachers (89%) correct them directly or let them correct themselves, which does not match with the CLT principle. 4.2. Analysis of Interview:   4.2.1. Present Scenario of Secondary Level Classroom: Students’ Memorization Tendency   Almost all teachers agreed at a point that though CLT was introduced to the teaching and learning English with a specific purpose, its principles and techniques are not being applied in the classroom. They pointed out that students’ memorization tendency is acting as a barrier against the proper implementation of CLT in the secondary level classroom. Hence, statement of T1 is noticeable in extract 4.1.   Extract 4.1   T1:  The classroom practices do not help students much improve their communicative competence as most of the students have a tendency to memorize everything. (May 3, 2019)   Moreover, students are not eager to practise those activities that will not appear in their examination, as T1 opines. However, other selected teachers also expressed their concern regarding students’ memorization tendency that is ultimately acting as a hindrance in achieving the goal of CLT. Following Previous Teaching Method:   Most of the English language teachers still follow the previous teaching method in teaching language. T3 admitted the phenomenon, as Extract 4.2 indicates.   Extract 4.2   T3: The Education ministry of Bangladesh wanted to come out of traditional way of teaching and learning English in order to ensure that students have practice on four skills -  listening, speaking, reading, and writing. But the present classroom practices do not give emphasis on practising these four skills. (May 3, 2019)  
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