Schools step up public speaking initiatives as O-Level, N(A)-Level English oral exam changes kick in
The Read Aloud part of the English oral examination will be replaced by the Planned Response component, with students graded on clear organisation and expression of ideas, as well as language fluency.
SINGAPORE: Secondary schools are organising more public speaking activities to prepare students for a revised English oral exam component that will test how well they communicate.
The change is set to kick in for students taking the GCE O-Level and N(A)-Level examinations this year.
The Read Aloud part of the exam will be replaced by the Planned Response component. Students will be given 10 minutes to watch a video clip and plan their response to an accompanying prompt, before delivering a spiel of up to two minutes.
Candidates will be assessed for clear organisation and expression of ideas, as well as language fluency. The Ministry of Education (MOE) said this is a more authentic assessment of students’ oracy skills.
Previously, the first part of the oral communication paper required students to read aloud a passage.
The second part of the exam – the Spoken Interaction portion during which a student discusses a topic related to the first segment with the examiner – remains the same.
PREPPING FOR CHANGE
To help students get ready for the change, schools have started programmes and activities to boost critical thinking, public speaking, and language abilities.
At the Assumption English School in Bukit Timah, teachers want students to start as early as in lower secondary, with an applied learning programme that guides them through different levels of oral communication skills.
Secondary 2 students take turns to share news headlines with the student body during morning assembly while Secondary 3 students are encouraged to advocate for causes such as climate change, gaming addiction and other social issues within school premises.
But beyond prep work for exams, Head of Department (HOD) for English Phay Ee Lyn, said the school hopes students can graduate with a project that could help them in the future.
At Secondary 4, students create self-introductory videos, which involves sourcing content, scripting, storyboarding, editing, and presenting.
“We want our students to have a product after they end secondary school … to have something that complements their hard copy testimonials, to help them in their application for tertiary education, as well as for future scholarships or even job interviews,” Ms Phay said.
BEYOND THE CLASSROOM
Schools are also organising projects outside of classroom learning to give students exposure to real-world experiences.
Assumption English worked with the North West Community Development Council on initiatives allowing students to speak to residents on topics like energy conservation and the environment.
Over at Juying Secondary School, students became tour guides for a day at Gardens by the Bay last year during an initiative to hone their communication skills.
"Students interact with real visitors, sharing with them issues about biodiversity, the flora, the fauna they see at the Gardens,” said Mr Dayan Tan, HOD of the school’s Applied Learning Programme (ALP) for Public Speaking.
“This allows students to really exercise critical thinking, their ability to answer questions on the spot, and to share and advocate for nature with a real audience.”
Teachers said projects like these not only educate students on these subject matters and improve their interaction skills, but also give them the experience of engaging with the community.
TEACHERS POSITIVE ON EXAM CHANGE
Educators said the revision in the oral examination is positive as the new component is more applicable to day-to-day interactions and in the workforce, compared to reading aloud from a passage.
“In the real world, students (don’t) narrate scripts. Rather, they are challenged to think on the spot, to organise their ideas and to present them in a way that's convincing,” said Mr Tan.
“Given this digital age and the new demands of the workforce these days, for the students to be able to speak coherently and in a planned manner, will help them to be a lot more marketable when they join the workforce in the future,” said Ms Phay.
The teachers said the initiatives that the schools have embarked on have helped students sharpen their thought process, and improve language and communication skills.
"We see a positive change in the ability of our students to (articulate) their thoughts and opinions in a coherent manner … they put more effort into crafting what they want to say,” said Ms Phay.
Mr Tan echoed her view.
“The transformation is evident in our students. Sec 1 students can come to us shy, introverted, reserved, hesitant not confident about what they want to say, and always second-guessing themselves," he said.
“With the programmes ... these students are now able to stand on the stage to convey their ideas, very succinctly, competently and confidently to an assembly of fellow students.”