What the Textbooks for Elementary Students Should be?

Since 1990, some of provincial governments have decreed English as one of the elective subjects in Elementary Schools. Since the time on, particularly the provincial department of national education has made many efforts to develop and improve the quality of teaching including the designing of curriculum and teaching guidelines. The efforts are addressed to facilitate English teachers to conduct the well-planed teaching processes. In addition, there have been many English textbooks composed and published by several publishing companies. It is clearly  apparent that the writers as well as the companies cooperate and compete among others to persuade the users to make use the textbooks offered. In the course of the time, and because of the natural selections, some of them are widely used and some others are dying in the competitions; and only used in a very limited areas. the writer, however, does not care of the ways of competitions. But the importance is the textbooks must be revisited academically.

The English textbooks for elementary students must be academically revisited because nothing is perfect including the textbooks. To revisit, whether the books are composed well or not is better to consider the experts’ ideas concerning the qualifications of a good textbook. Some of the qualifications are as follows:

1. The textbooks must be illustrative

Illustrations in textbooks are useful not only to interest students to study but also to invite them to use the books as teaching aids. They are essential in learning processes because they may assist students to comprehend the materials extended. The first interaction between students and textbooks before comprehending the text is when they look up the illustrations of pictures attached in the books. The pictures lead their attention to before something else. After looking up piece by piece, they intend to comprehend their content. For the reason, the illustrations are helpful.

2. The textbooks must be communicative

English textbooks for elementary students must be communicative. Speech is the primary; and as far as possible teachers should introduce the other skills later because the introduction of the two language systems – the spoken and the the written forms at the same time, will make students confused; because fundamentally they are different. When teachers force students to do, there will be confusion to differentiate between both of which. Moreover, students who succeed to get good scores in the study are those who memorize the written forms not their pronunciations. For the reason, the introduction of the former should be postponed. This is in line with the theory of language acquisition as well as the communicative function of language. Besides, this is based on the observation conducted by the writer in several teaching learning processes.

3. Attaching the teachers’ guide

Not all teachers are ready and skillful to make teaching preparations and presentations. This is not because they are not able to do so but because of several reasons as reluctance, time restrictions, and being established with the teaching models processed. Because of the reasons above, the writer views that each textbook should attach the teachers’ guise on how to present materials in the books. However, this is the fact that elementary textbook writers have not included the guide yet.

4. Should meet the curriculum demand

The elementary-class English curriculum is addressed to equip the elementary students to be skillful in the simple oral communication. According to the writer, five dimensions should be adapted to meet the curriculum demand. Among them are for instance the theory of language acquisition, the materials, the choice of approach and method, the presentation and the evaluation.

Based on the language acquisition, students should listen first before they speak; and should speak before they read; and then should read before they write. The presentation of materials is ambiguos because students should master the spoken and the written forms at one time. In addition, the written materials are much more for vocabulary enrichment and not for oral skills, while the written is the most sophisticated skills. If this is introduced earlier, it may make teaching English in Elementary school ineffective.

The second is the materials by which they must be simple. The way of presenting English materials in Elementary Institutions is to not only take the given materials in Junior Secondary School and adjust them in Elementary class. This is the fact that some textbooks are not written based on the real observations or researches. Most of them are written behind the table by those who never teach and observe the teaching of English in Elementary Schools. The materials are so theoretical rather than practical. In addition, they are also difficult because some of them should be consumed by junior secondary students.

The next is the choice of approach and method. Teaching English in elementary school is not only to transfer the approach and method used in junior or to senior high schools. There must be standardization on how to use approach and method for the teaching. To meet the demand there must be a lot English teacher training programs that should be applied in the class. When the trainings are conducted, they must be ideal. However, the result of the trainings are not practiced in the class so the standardization only happens in the training and is not practiced in the class because of the evaluation system. As far as the written evaluation is still used, the target of the oral mastery will as the pie in the sky.

The fourth is the presentation. Because the teaching of English in elementary school is for oral mastery, the presentation must be for communicative function. In addition, as the former explanation, the materials should be presented orally and the written presentation should be delayed. However, teachers are often confused since if they present orally they will problems in the test because the evaluation is conducted paper by paper.

The last is evaluation. Sp far, the evaluation of English is written. Of course, this is unsuitable with the curriculum of English in Elementary School is for oral mastery, thus the evaluation must be oral. Unfortunately, that test is conducted paper by paper not oral test. For that reason, it is undeniable if the elementary graduates are not able to communicate even though by using simple expressions because there is still an ambiguity between the process and the target. The writer believes that the introduction of English in elementary institutions will not be helpful for secondary institutions if the systems used are still ambiguous. (F)

by: Mr. Ruwandi, MA