Mrs Chan, a mother of three, has noticed gradual improvements in her children’s attitude towards learning English over the last two months. Her children attend a primary school in Hong Kong which participates in the World Voice programme. The programme offers training to teachers to use singing as a pedagogical tool.
Mrs Chan said her younger daughter often sings English songs when she is back home from school. ‘She sings all the time, be it bathing or playing. She can sing the full songs from the beginning till the end.’ Her daughter had previously failed her English dictations twice; in the most recent dictation, however, she earned 92 marks and was able to recite both full sentences and vocabulary.
‘These improvements made her happy and boosted her confidence towards learning. She asked if I was happy when she got these high scores and whether I noticed her progress,’ Mrs Chan said.
Developed by the British Council, the World Voice programme in Hong Kong not only aligns with the Hong Kong government’s policy of supporting children with special education needs, but also helps broaden the definition of inclusive education in society. Through training workshops, teachers are equipped with the skills to help students with diverse learning needs, such as learning difficulties and behavioural problems, to feel socially included in the classroom. The British Council invited World Voice Artistic Director Richard Frostick from the UK to conduct training workshops and visit schools to observe lessons. Teachers are equipped with online teaching resource kits to improve efficiency in teaching and promote inclusive learning in everyday lessons.
Miss Mina Hui, who has been teaching English for 20 years, said children in Hong Kong face many difficulties in learning English. ‘The majority of children in Hong Kong do not use English in their daily lives. They find it extremely difficult to learn the language and they are afraid of it. They cannot learn when they lose the confidence.’ Two years ago, she volunteered to take part in the World Voice training programme. Now, she is a ‘Master Trainer’ of the programme and helps her peers to use singing in the classroom.
‘I once taught my Primary 6 class a song about jobs and they learned the relevant vocabulary from the lyrics. While taking a test, a student asked if she could answer the questions by using the words that she learned from the song. I said of course! Then she worked on the test while singing the song.’ Hui said she believed that singing helps students enjoy learning and try to write in English.
So far, 17 local primary schools have participated in the World Voice programme, benefitting more than 1400 students and over 70 principals and teachers.
There are benefits for parents too. ‘I realise that learning English is enjoyable and not dull at all!’ Chan added.