Spelling Challenge

The Malaysian education curriculum has changed over the years. When I was a kid, I remember having weekly spelling tests. For each mistake made, we had to correct it five times. This was always followed by Dictation, where we had to listen, and as we did that, we had to rewrite a paragraph that we had read as per our teacher’s instructions. These skills disappeared a while as teachers were overwhelmed with more duties, and as new education ministers took over.

The good old days of giving spelling  tests were rejuvenated when our local newspaper, The New Straits Times, mooted the idea of having a spelling challenge called “Spell It Right” (SIR) in 2008. Here’s an excerpt from a video taken during one of the competitions. The footage is rather shaky:

As I watched this clip, I wondered if verbally spelling a word out would enrich a person’s vocabulary and make them better English users.  Could the SIR motivate students to be good learners of English and correctly use the words that they’ve spelt? Do they know how the word “privilege” is used without being told? How effective is SIR in assessing students’ level of language proficiency, or is the SIR just “having fun with language” to fulfill the national agenda without any follow up to gauge its effectiveness in language learning?  I honestly don’t know.

Now, let’s look at how others run their spelling challenges which are also held annually. I shall not over-compare the SIR with the Spelling Bee as the competitors in the clips are all native speakers, but look at how the competitions are conducted, and how interactive and entertaining the events are. Enjoy both video clips.

What’s your comment on this issue? 🙂


Posted on September 6, 2009, in Jottings. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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