By Judy Yuen, Co-ordinator and Velma Roberts
The English Language Support Programme was one of the inaugural projects instigated by the MCS Foundation under the auspices of Maryknollers Community Service with an aim to sustain the Maryknoll sisters' tradition in service, beginning with services "at home" with our alma mater. Following a meeting attended by Foundation members and teaching staff from both MCS Primary and Secondary School in November 2007, a general outline of the Programme for MCS Primary students was drawn up.
Under the Programme, former Maryknollers would provide support to MCS Primary students on 2 levels : (a) firstly, assistance and supervision of homework for P1 and P2 students; (b) secondly, oral practice for P6 students. It is hoped that such sessions held in more informal surroundings would provide a supportive environment for the students to readily practise their English language skills. In response to the Foundation's appeal for volunteers, over 20 Maryknollers signed up on the Programme in 2008, either as a tutor for classes or as back-up tutors in case of need. Since the programme commenced over 4 years ago, 44 Maryknollers have devoted time and effort to this programme.
The Programme commenced in mid-January 2008 and, save for a break in 2010/2011, continues to date. Normally the programme runs from December through to the month of April, prior to commencement of summer timetable of the primary students. Currently there are four groups each with 3 to 4 P6 students. The groups meet about once a week outside of school holidays and examination periods. Tutors focus on reading skills and assistance on English grammer and vocabulary with the girls. A variety of activities, designed by Ivy Ng, co-ordinator of the programme, are carried out to strengthen the students' English language skills. Such activities comprised of poem/script reading, general/topical discussions, show and tell session, pictures description, story telling, comprehension exercises and so on.
During the 3-month duration of the Programme, good rapport is established between the students and tutors. Tutors have noted a heightened level of confidence and improved language skills on a number of students concerned, the general feedback of the students on the Programme has also been positive. The Programme has been a rewarding experience for the tutors as well, since much has been learnt in dealing with energetic young learners.
Over the past 2 years, tutors have also been invited to participate in mock oral examinations. It is hoped that this exercise will aid the girls in their upcoming oral examinations with increased practice and experience.
A special vote of thanks is extended to all involved in the set up and implementation of the Programme, including but not limited to:
MCS Primary School Mrs Josephine Lo, Principal;
Ms Ivy Ng, Senior Teacher Ms Terry Wong, Senior Teacher;
and all Maryknollers participating in the Programme since it's inception to the current phase.
*English Language Support Programme January 2008