Turkish students fail to go beyond ‘hello’ in English courses

Turkish students fail to go beyond ‘hello’ in English courses

Hacer Boyacıoğlu ANKARA / Hürriyet
Turkish students fail to go beyond ‘hello’ in English courses

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A majority of Turkish students are unable to improve their English language skills due to poor language training methods at state schools, according to a joint report from the British Council and the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV).

The English skills of more than 90 percent of students in Turkey remain at the most basic level and cannot improve even after 1,000 hours of training, according to the report titled “National Requirement Analyses for English Training at State Schools,” which has also been conveyed to Education Minister Nabi Avcı.

Schools’ English teaching methods do not pay proper attention to students, who therefore physically attend classes without properly learning, the report added.

The British Council and TEPAV conducted the work at 48 schools, with the participation of 1,394 parents and 19,380 students in cities such as Ankara, Antalya, Balıkesir, Diyarbakır, Erzurum, Gaziantep, Istanbul, İzmir, Kayseri, Malatya, Samsun, and Trabzon with the permission of the Education Ministry.

The report said 15 percent of all classrooms had smart boards and tablet computers, but also concluded that Turkey was struggling to compete with its rivals in English compatibility, being ranked 41 out of 60 countries in the English Proficiency Index (EPI).  In 2012, Turkish students’ average Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score was 75 out of 120, similar to Sudan and Ethiopia which do not use Latin alphabet.

Language ability

The report found that over 95 percent of Turkish students in state schools cannot respond to spoken questions in English, despite having at least 920 hours of classes over the course of seven years to 10th grade.

It also stated that around 74 percent of students perceive English as necessary at school, while 94 percent of parents think English should be taught. Meanwhile, the English language ability of 84 percent of parents is at or lower than introduction level.

Sixty percent of students rank their own English knowledge as “intermediate,” but most of them assume their English is more advanced than it really is, according to the report.

In addition, students’ motivation for English classes decreases over time because they find classes boring. Some 80 percent of 5th grade students say they like English classes, while this decreases to 37 percent of 12th grade students.  The report also stated that syllabus and textbooks do not take account of the different requirements and levels of students, contributing to the loss of attention experienced by students after a few years.