Teach them to write too


nglish language is a core subject in Malawi’s schools.English is the language of instruction, unlike mother tongues.

The 2008 census shows that 26 percent of the population aged above 14 ably speaks English. But English is a mere means of communication, not a measure of intelligence.

As the quality of education dwindles in public schools, there is a rush to private institutions where children speak as early as kindergarten at the expense of native languages.

Most parents mainly define quality education by how fluent their ward expresses themselves in the colonial language.

The result is astounding: Most students’ pronunciation, junctures and intonation sound intriguing.

The trend excludes less-privileged learners, especially from rural areas and households that cannot afford tuition for private education, where English speaking is prioritised to woe and mould the next generation of the elites.

As policymakers and ruling elites send their children to schools where English proficiency is everything, the pinnacle of intelligence, learners in public schools are being left behind.

One of the most prevailing challenges among this new breed of English speakers from modern schools is constructing deformed sentences and butchering grammar in their academic writings.

Not only is this sad, but also embarrassing to the country’s education standards.

Like speaking, writing is a critical skill that helps students express themselves well.

Verbal and written communication are inseparable twins.

Sadly, parents and some sectors of the education system widen the communication gap by portraying writing as irrelevant.

If writing skills were advocated with the same zeal as English speaking, students would better understand how to convey their thoughts, feelings and ideas.

Parents and guardians have the responsibility to encourage their children to read regularly.

This exposes them to new information, vocabulary, ideas and grammatical rules to improve their writing skills. 

Also, encourage children to write summaries of what they learn in school. Create plenty of writing opportunities. The more they practice, the faster they get better at it.

Writing is one of the primary ways to measure a student’s knowledge.

Beyond school corridors, the world of work and business demands specific writing skills. Candidates who demonstrate strong writing skills are always desirable. They stand a stronger chance of being employed. 

This is why the nation needs to bridge the gap between writing and speaking skills.

Speaking and writing are different communication skills, but they are intertwined.

Although students may excel in one area while struggling in the other, writing needs not be neglected in favour of English speaking as a yardstick for brightness.

This misconception breeds students who cannot follow basic rules of writing, respect grammar and express their thoughts as they do verbally.

The four basic language skills are speaking, writing, listening and reading.

All these are crucial for a child’s development and better grades. No single skill should outweigh the other.

To achieve the Malawi 2063 vision for an inclusive, wealthy and self-reliant industrialised middle-income country, the country needs a learned population that shares their ideas and innovations in speech and writing.

The responsibility to create this generation lies first and foremost in the hands of parents. Teach and encourage your children to write and enjoy it.

The government should also implement policies to curb the influx of parroting students with flowery English-speaking skills and low proficiency in expressing themselves in writing.

Writing opens students’ minds to organise their ideas and develop innovations for the good of the nation.n

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