Ever wondered how Aussie kids seem able to stand up in speak in front of their classmates or peers without showing too many nerves? The answer may lie in Australia’s education system, which puts a focus on verbal as well as written communication skills.
Public speaking starts early in Australian schools, with even kindergarten kids expected to gain competency in speaking, listening and other communication skills.
“Being able to communicate is fundamental to children’s everyday lives, including their ability to express their ideas and feelings, to question, to learn, to connect and interact with others,” the Queensland Curriculum & Assessment Authority (QCAA) states.
The QCAA points to the benefits of a child being able to use oral language effectively, including an enhanced sense of self, improved relationships with others, an ability to learn in the classroom and academic success.
Techniques used by teachers to foster oral language skills include reading and telling stories to children; poetry; questioning; learning discussions; and using technologies such as apps.
This is based on research showing the language quantity (eg. number of words) and quality (eg. sentence complexity) that young children hear are the foundation of later language and literacy skills.
Communication skills are further developed in primary and high school, including the study of foreign languages such as Japanese, French or German. Certain schools in Queensland such as Wellers Hill State School in Brisbane even offer a full language immersion program in Japanese.
Students also are exposed to public speaking through debating and other competitions. As noted by Brisbane State High School, “Debating fosters self-confidence and requires participants to listen to others and to comprehend the validity of others’ points of view.”
While these are competitive events, the Brisbane school notes the importance of “students learn to work together as a team, speak before an audience, articulate their case, listen to, comprehend, analyse and refute the opposing case and at the end, shake hands with the opposition.”
Australian schools also use oral and visual presentations as part of the assessment process, including the use of technology such as PowerPoint, podcast or vodcast presentations. Students are required to present their ideas verbally to their teacher and classmates and are evaluated on their performance.
Asking questions of the teacher is encouraged and debating with other students is not uncommon in an Australian classroom. While students are expected to raise their hands and seek permission to speak, these discussions can become quite animated compared to a traditional Japanese classroom.
The Australian classroom’s focus on communication differs from the traditional Japanese classroom, where students may feel inhibited from speaking.
Leicester University’s Jim King argues the “wall of science” in Japanese classrooms is due to a range of factors, including psychology, culture and teaching methods.
In a study of English language classes in Japan, King found many students had a “neurotic dread” that their English was insufficient and felt they would “lose face” among friends if they tried to speak it.
“Many Japanese learners are socialised into being aware of people around them and are taught to consider other people. This causes people to monitor themselves,” King said.
Many teachers also gave students little opportunity to practice English among themselves.
However, others argue that Japanese junior and senior high school students are reluctant to appear too proficient at English due to peer pressure.
“The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” is a familiar saying in Japan, with students feeling under pressure not to stand out by speaking too much or too well.
Developing better skills
How can your child break away from the competition and get better presentation skills?
Having strong speaking skills is an important asset for future career success, such as succeeding at a job interview or presenting to potential clients.
“Things are changing in our educational paradigm where it’s not just about going to school and getting a job,” says Sarah L. Cook, co-author of The Parents’ Guide to Raising CEO Kids.
“Kids need to have some entrepreneurial skills to even land a job. They need to be able to engage with people confidently. Public speaking allows them to show that confidence.”
Parents can help foster their kids’ speaking skills through various techniques, such as encouraging “show and tell” at home, practising using technology such as mobile phone cameras or participating in activities such as drama or debating.
However, there is nothing like exposing your child to a different environment, such as an English-speaking country like Australia, to give them a head start in their English listening and speaking skills.
At Hello Kids, show and tell is a common practice at our learning centres, together with encouraging kids to speak in front of others.
Talk to Hello Kids about how we can assist you and your child on their English journey, with the skills learned while young likely to become extremely valuable later in their career! (HelloKids Admin)