| Syafiq Affendy |
VARIOUS studies including those conducted by the National Early Literacy Panel (NELP) on children’s early language development suggest that early oral language contributes immensely to later reading comprehension. NELP has also reported that improving young children’s oral language should be a central goal during the pre-school and kindergarten years.
This was highlighted by the Deputy Permanent Secretary (Administrative and Finance) at the Ministry of Health, Hjh Siti Mariam Hj Mohd Jaafar, during her speech at the officiating ceremony of the 5th Brunei English Language Teachers’ Association (BELTA) International Conference, themed ‘Oral Language for Literacy: Teaching Talk’ yesterday at the Badi’ah Hotel.
The 5th BELTA International Conference, which will continue until November 15, is aimed at serving as a platform for teachers and educators to network, exchange ideas and share teaching experiences and skills.
Hjh Siti Mariam said teachers’ interactions encourage the best language learning such as having conversations that stay on a single topic, providing their students or children opportunities to talk, encouraging analytical thinking, and giving information about the meanings of words.
She elaborated on the other side of language development in children that may hinder their progress, namely abuse, cognitive problems and physical conditions. The Ministry of Health has tried its best to prevent such factors as it is in line with the ministry’s mission to improve the health and well-being of the people of Brunei, especially young children, infants and expecting mothers.
“One of our strategic goals is the promotion of primary health care policies to support and maintain healthy lifestyles and protection from illness and ensure disability-free life for people in the most effective and equitable way possible,” she added.
The conference will see 14 paper presentations and workshops highlighting the issues of literacy. The participants comprising over 100 teachers from BELTA and affiliate MELTA (Malaysia English Language Teachers’ Association) yesterday had the opportunity to hear the keynote speaker, Professor Pamela Snow of Monash University, Australia, presenting her speech based on her research entitled ‘Oral Language Supports Early Literacy: A Pilot Cluster Randomised Trial in Disadvantaged Schools’. She outlined some of the key drivers of early oral language competence – parental position on the social gradient, early language experience, exposure to written text and shared book-time at home, and neurodevelopmental disorders that can compromise early language development.
She also highlighted the need for evidence-based early literacy instruction, encompassing the use of teaching approaches that are strongly informed by research linking early language skills to emergent literacy.
Ever since the inaugural conference in 2006, BELTA International Conference has attracted much interest and participation, gradually becoming one of the most anticipated international conferences on English language among the school teachers and educators in the country.
BELTA is sponsored and supported by several embassies and agencies, namely the United States Department of State, CfBT Education Services, the Australian Department of Education, the Australian Trade Commission and is also fully supported by the Department of Schools, Ministry of Education.
The conference is held with the objectives to give focus on and examine the development of oral language competency as a major platform to develop literacy skills, to highlight the importance of oral language competency as the combined skills of listening and speaking that make up ‘talk’, which is crucial to an individual’s development of future reading and writing and academic success, to provide and offer support to English language teachers and educators in getting themselves equipped with adequate and deep professional knowledge about the many aspects of oral language to be incorporated into their teaching instructions effectively, and to inspire and encourage the participants and presenters to conduct research, evaluate pedagogy, improve curriculum and design better teaching materials for the common objective of promoting literacy.
The conference will be carried out in four parallel sessions.