Teaching English at Sekolah Agama Rakyat (People’s Religious Schools) in Northern Peninsula Malaysia: Methodology Development and Preliminary Observations

Nurulhayati Ilias, Airil Haimi Mohd Adnan

Abstract


This research article is based on a pilot study that we carried out to gain preliminary insights into how English is taught at ‘Sekolah Agama Rakyat’ (‘SAR’ or literally translated as ‘People’s Islamic Religious Schools’) in a state in northern Peninsula Malaysia. In the process of carrying out the study, we tested data collection instruments that we developed to understand the complexities of English language teaching in this interesting educational milieu. Questionnaires were distributed to 30 English language teachers from three schools to collect data on their educational background and their teaching experience. Classroom observations were also carried out in one of the schools to examine whether the classroom adheres to the general principles of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) as required by the Malaysian Ministry of Education. Finally, interview sessions were conducted to examine how the schools’ management personnel contribute to teachers’ performance as a whole. It was found that almost all the teacher participants that we came into contact with were not certified as English as a Second Language practitioners and some never received any forms of formal teacher training. The classroom observations that we carried out generally show an unconducive climate to support English language learning. In addition, the interview sessions revealed that SAR teachers rarely attend professional development courses. We hope that these preliminary observations from our pilot study will lead to more research efforts in order to understand the realities (and complexities) of teaching English within the Malaysian SAR educational context.


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