Problem Statement:In 2012 Ministry of National Education in Turkey has revised the education system so that the new 4+4+4 system requires a three-tier model of education with primary, secondary, and high school components. As with many changes in the curriculum, foreign language (FL) teaching has also been changed and the starting age for learning a FL has been lowered to 6.6 years of age (second grade). As one of the parties of the education process, teachers’ views about this curriculum change and their understanding of teaching English to young learners (TEYL) have great importance.
Purpose of Study:The current research aims to investigate English teachers’ ideas towards the starting age for FL learning, how it should be conducted with young learners, and finally what their current practices are when teaching children.
Methods: The data for the study is gathered from 203 primary school English teachers from seven different regions of Turkey via a questionnaire consisting of three parts concerning the aforementioned issues. The first part has closed and open-ended questions and aims at finding teachers views about the starting age/grade for language learning. Second part investigates teachers’ beliefs about TEYL and third part investigates teachers’ classroom implementations while teaching YLs. The reliability is taken for each part of the questionnaire. As a result, all sections of the questionnaire are found reliable with alpha values .758, .796, and .806 consecutively. Frequency analysis, Wilcoxon signed rank test, and ANOVA were used to make the analysis.
Findings and Results: The results indicate that teachers prefer language education to start at the first stage of primary school and even earlier during pre-school. Pertaining to teacher’s beliefs about TEYL, most of the teachers revealed that FL teaching in primary school should be mainly based on listening and speaking rather than grammar; within a context through visual/kinesthetic activities, songs, and games rather than worksheets. However, the Wilcoxon signed rank test results revealed that there are significant differences between the participants’ beliefs and their implementation.
Conclusions and Recommendations: Consequently, teachers are in favor of the recent changes in the curriculum; however, some teachers might need some in-service training regarding the use of appropriate techniques with YLs. These in-service training courses should involve practical tips to implement theoretically sound language teaching to children. Contribution and understanding of teachers, parents, and other educational institutions/organizations should be supported for a successful implementation of a language policy.
Keywords: Young learners, foreign language teaching, primary school, education system, English Language Teaching, 4+4+4