An evaluation of the writing component of the higher secondary English syllabus in Bangladesh
This evaluation study sets out to investigate the effectiveness of the writing component of the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) English syllabus in Bangladesh. The aims of the research were (i) to discover the needs and problems of students with regard to writing; and the purposes for which they need to communicate in writing in English; (ii) to identify their strengths and weaknesses in different aspects of writing; (iii) to gather perceptions of teachers and students on the writing process and to compare these with actual classroom practice with a view to characterising the approach to the teaching of writing in the Bangladeshi HSC context; (iv) to collect views on the syllabus and textbook and to determine if there was a match between student needs and the syllabus; and (v) to suggest recommendations for improving writing skills in the classroom. This thesis is divided into nine chapters. Chapter 1 sets the context of the study by presenting its objectives, significance and research questions. A brief account of the history of the Revised English Syllabus is also presented. Chapters 2 and 3 contain reviews of the literature relevant to the field of writing and evaluation. Chapter 2 examines writing as 'composing' and 'text' and the different approaches to writing pedagogy. Findings from a couple of studies on the implementation of the process approach in different contexts are also presented. Chapter 3 explores the different approaches to evaluation and provides the framework for this evaluation study. The design features and the procedures employed in the study are given in chapter 4. To achieve methodological triangulation a series of instruments was used as well as data collected from a range of stakeholders. For the purposes of this study a marking scheme was designed to analyse the writing samples of students. Chapters 5 to 7 present and analyse the data. More specifically chapter 5 deals with the analysis of findings about the writing process, i.e. the collation of perceptions and the actual practice of writing in class. Chapter 6 examines the purposes, needs and problems of learners with regard to writing and also concentrates on the evaluation of the HSC writing syllabus. The analysis of students' Writing Tasks and the Examination Compositions are dealt with in chapter 7. Chapter 8 focuses on the discussion of the findings, followed by recommendations. In addition, a discussion on the socio-cultural appropriateness of borrowing western methodologies for local contexts is also highlighted. Finally, a summary of the main results from the empirical evaluation study and their implications are presented in chapter 9. The limitations of the study are also acknowledged in this last chapter. The findings of the study revealed a disparity between students needs and what the HSC writing syllabus contains, and its actual implementation in the classroom. The teachers adopted an approach to writing which was overridingly form-focused and hence, product oriented. They performed roles which were traditional e.g. the teacher as purveyor of knowledge and evaluator. Teachers lack training in areas specific to the development of writing skills and are unaware of recent developments in writing approaches. There was no evidence in this study of promoting or encouraging the strategies of skilled writers in the classes observed. This study has contributed to the documentation of curriculum evaluation studies in the context of Bangladesh, as well as frameworks for the assessment of writing skills for use in this context. An awareness has been raised about the hindering and helpful factors in bringing about change and general caution is suggested in the making of foreign methodologies appropriate to the local Bangladeshi situation. Based on the findings of this study, recommendations are also made in relation to curriculum development and pedagogy.