#82, Research Article: ‘Types of Syllabuses in Language Teaching – ESL/EFL Context’ by Shabnum Iftikhar
by Tarun Patel
The aim of this article is to present and introduce those influential types of syllabuses which are feasible in the domain of ESL/EFL and provides a rationale for the integration of these syllabuses as well.
Etymologically syllabus means a ‘label or ‘table of contents’. The American Heritage Dictionary defines syllabus as outline of a course of study. Syllabus represents the expression of educational ideas in practice. Syllabus can also be seen as a “summary of the contents to which the learners will be exposed”.
In the context of non-native countries, where English is taught as a second language, the selection of English syllabus requires a deep understanding, a comprehensive knowledge of various syllabus designs and a mature insight into the issue that which type of syllabus is indispensable to design, so that syllabus could fulfill learners’ requirements with all the paraphernalia of pedagogical objectives. Syllabus presents the complete program of study to teach academic contents in a specific time period. To gain the maximum benefits of syllabus in a limited time, it is imperative that syllabus must be designed taking into account the learners ‘needs and objectives, essential to require.
There are two major types of syllabuses, product-oriented syllabus and process-oriented syllabus. A good and valid syllabus is that covers more or less all aspects of both these types, therefore, proper and appropriate implementation of syllabus in language teaching is undeniable. Without proper implementation of syllabus, on the one hand, desired objectives will be hard to obtain and on the other hand students will suffer from the lack of appropriate syllabus which could fulfill their immediate pedagogical requirements and sharpen their abilities in different areas of language. In this perspective, the characteristics of each syllabus are discussed in a nutshell. All these syllabuses will prove beneficial if carefully implemented.
Product-Oriented Syllabus: product-oriented syllabus focuses on what the learners will know as a result at the end of instruction session. The grammatical, situational and notional-functional are the examples of product-oriented syllabus.
Grammatical: This type of syllabus is designed when the purpose is to teach the systematic development of grammatical structures. Learners are exposed to these structures step by step and it is expected that they will enhance their grammar collection by memorizing different grammar rules. The internalization of these rules is considered a prerequisite to grasp the technicalities of a language.
Situational: The primary purpose of this syllabus is to teach the language that occurs in real-life situations. Here, the emphasis is on the learner, who it is expected will actively participate in different situations where L2 is being spoken. Examples of situations include, seeing the doctor, making an appointment, meeting people at the party, buying clothes and so on. One advantage of the situational approach is that motivation will be heightened, since it is learn-centered rather than subject-centered.
Notional-Functional: A notional-functional syllabus is a practical way of organizing language-learning syllabus, rather than an approach or method to teach and instructions are organized in terms of notions and functions. In this design, a ‘notion’ is a particular context in which people communicate. A ‘function’ is a specific purpose in a given context. For example, the notion of shopping requires numerous language functions, such as asking about prices or features of a product and bargaining. An important point regarding notional-functional syllabus is that the needs of the students have to be analyzed and explored by different types of interaction and communication; a learner may be involved in, hence, needs analysis is central to design such syllabuses.
Process-Oriented Syllabus: Process-oriented syllabus focuses on the pedagogical processes leading to the language outcomes. The task-based, skill-based and content-based types of syllabus are included in it.
Task-Based Syllabus: This syllabus is designed when the purpose is to complete some complex and meaningful tasks. Even though, the primary purpose is to complete tasks, however, language competence is developed through the very process of performing of the task. The language learnt comes out of the linguistic demands of the activity. Learners perform various tasks together in a co-operative environment. Task-based syllabus promotes and encourages collaborative learning. Since language learning is considered subordinate to task performance, therefore, language teaching also occurs as the need arises during the performance of the particular task.
Skill-Based Syllabus: The purpose of this syllabus is to teach some specific skills that are considered necessary or useful in using a language. Skill-based syllabus focuses on skills and gradual development of skills gives learners the confidence. This syllabus must be designed and implemented keeping in mind the learners’ cognitive levels. Skill-based syllabus group linguistic competencies(pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and discourse) together into generalized types of behavior, such as listening to the spoken language for the main idea, writing-well formed paragraphs, specific purpose writing and so on.
Content-Based Syllabus: This syllabus is designed when the purpose is to teach some content or information in a language that students are also learning. The students are simultaneously the language students and the students of whatever content is being taught. In this type of syllabus, the language is enhanced through different contents and/or in the context of various types of information. Although the subject matter is of primary and vital importance, language learning occurs concurrently with content learning.
Each syllabus type is of great significance, keeping in mind the learners’ needs, contexts and situations, so a subtle and pragmatic approach is required in the implementation of language teaching syllabus. In short, a language teaching syllabus involves a combination of two practical questions regarding subject matter (what to teach) and linguistic matter (how to teach). These two crucial questions can be answered satisfactorily by applying a viable syllabus design.
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