What are the problems that primary students face when learning English online?

Receiving primary school education is an important phase of life for children aged 7 to 12 as it is their first phase of formal education and also their first major examination, the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination).

Physical learning in the classroom plays an important role in helping students learn the various subjects, such as English. However, with the use of eLearning tools by MOE over the years, it has come to our realisation that online learning also plays an integral part in a student’s learning experience.

There are a plethora of benefits to online learning such as being able to learn anytime and anywhere, customisation of learning and cultivating independence. However, primary school students might not be able to enjoy these benefits due to certain problems. It is important that we identify these problems so that we can come up with solutions to tackle them.

Unfamiliar with online learning

Especially for the lower primary students, they may not be familiar with the use of technology and online learning. Online learning platforms are equipped with many useful features and learning tools. For example, there are practice questions, notes storage folders and video live-stream tools that ensure a purposeful learning process. However, students may not know how to use these tools. Students therefore need to be taught how to use such tools and at the same time, the online learning platform has to be user friendly.

Lack of motivation

Online learning can take place in the comfort of one’s own home. This can reduce the travelling time of students, giving them more time to both study and rest. On the other hand, students are not watched over by their teachers and not used to the rigour of studying. This may result in a lack of discipline and motivation. The lack of motivation to engage in online learning is extremely detrimental as to do well for PSLE, it is important that students have constant exposure and practice to have a strong foundation in English. There is a need to cultivate and pique the students’ curiosity in English which will instil independence and encourage them to take charge of their own learning.

Need for customisation

In a physical classroom setting, teachers can tweak their teaching to suit the learning needs of their students. This ensures that students can follow the lesson and learn at a comfortable pace. However, online lessons are usually standardised and is a one-size fits all arrangement, which do not cater to the learning needs of students. The online learning platform needs to be customised by having various learning methods to cater to different learning styles. To capture the attention and interest of students, lessons and practices also need to be made interesting such as having learning videos that are concise and filled with graphics.

Primary English focuses on effective writing, reading and communication, allowing students to be fluent in both the nuances of vocabulary and grammar. Online learning needs to fulfil all these requirements and at the same time engage students in completing the online learning exercises. There is a need to guide students progressively so that they will be able to master the English Language to the level required by the PSLE. Also, to encourage students to explore the subject inquisitively, the online English lessons need to be made engaging. When all of these are fulfilled, it should be able to effectively tackle the problems students face and thus provide a smooth online learning experience.

Overall, with the disruption of the learning routine of numerous students due to the COVID-2019 pandemic, online learning has become the next pivotal step to overcome such unforeseen challenges. Since the virtual world is accessible to all, eLearning will ensure that the journey of knowledge accumulation and skills acquisition carries on. It is important that such problems faced by primary students are resolved, allowing them to reap the full benefits of online learning and attain a good proficiency in the English Language.

By Simon Ng