“The Traveller--Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.” – Robert Frost! Catatan Perjalanan.: English as a Life Skill

Catatan Perjalanan.

Mar 25, 2008

English as a Life Skill

This is a paper I should have presented on TEFLIN forum in 2004. Only because I was moved before the time of presentation, it was left unpublished. It might be useful for your ref..... Sorry, the illustrations are not optimumly functional.



Busori Sunaryo



- PT Badak NGL as a multinational company considers English language an important skill for its employees to support the operation of the company. The Department responsible to manage the program is HRD Department/ Training Section.

- The level of proficiency is divided into 7 classes. Special class is available upon request and need of the users.

- The students are adult learners with unique characteristics demanding different teaching strategies.

- The company considers both formal class and non-formal learning activities the processes of learning. These non-formal learning activities are supported by the available information technologies.

- Syllabus and learning materials are designed either by a consultant or the instructor based on the need of the workers.

- The Instructor enjoys different treatments in terms of career, employment status, facilities, etc.

- Some reasonable facts strengthen the hypothesis saying that teaching English for industrial environment is a neglected potential.


PT Badak Natural Gas Liquefaction (NGL) Company is an operating company founded by the Gas Producers to manage and operate the LNG/ LPG Plants. The plant site is in Bontang, East Kalimantan while it also runs its Jakarta and Balikpapan offices.

It is a joint-venture company of Pertamina, Vico, TotalFinaElf and Jilco. Another producing partner, Unocal Indonesia, also supplies its associated gas production to the Badak LNG Plant. Badak NGL employs around 1600 permanent workers and hundreds of contractors.

As a multinational company, Badak NGL considers English language an important skill among other skills that should be mastered by the workers to support the operation of the company. Considering its importance, the company, therefore, designed English programs for all workers to support and help them master the language which in turns will support the operation of the company in order that it will be more efficient, reliable, safe and committed to the customers.

Training Section, HRD Department is the section responsible for the implementation of the Company English program besides managing other training programs for the employees. It designs, conducts and evaluates the program in such a way that it complies with the need of the workers (compare it to our competency-based curriculum). Below is the organization chart of training section:

The objectives of this presentation are both to share the knowledge, experience and strategy and to call for feedback from experts in TEFL world for further improvement of the program.


The level of proficiency is divided into 7 classes:

Basic Communication
Intermediate Communication I
Intermediate Communication II
Advanced Communication I
Advanced Communication II
Effective Report Writing
Total Immersion English Course

PT Badak employees are classified into two status; staff and non staff. Based on the job competency required, the non-staff are recommended to take the Basic Communication course until the Advanced Communication I as the last mandatory level, while the staff employees as required by their job are obliged to undergo all the programs.

This three-week course starts from 7 am to 3.45 or 4.45 pm (on Friday) every working day from Monday to Friday. What intensive classes they are! From industrial point of view, the term applied is efficient because it doesn’t disturb our working hour. From the theoretical view, however, it needs further study whether it is effective or not.

The Total Immersion English Course as the last mandatory course for the staff is conducted outside the job site such as in Surabaya, Pelabuhan Ratu, Bali, Batu Malang, Bromo. It focuses seriously on the Presentation and Meeting Techniques in English.

To start a class, a new employee takes the placement test in order to place him/her into the most appropriate class based on his/her actual proficiency level. And for those who are going to join a certain class, the entry test is applied to put them into a homogenous class consisting of the students of almost the same proficiency level. Besides, this entry test functions both as the pre-test and a rank builder. The test takers scoring the highest will be prioritized to take the class earlier.

Special classes such as Speed Reading Course, TOEFL Class, etc are conducted as per request or based on the needs of the employees. Diagnostic TOEIC and TOEFL are conducted routinely for the students of Intermediate Communication II or as per request from Departments or Sections.

The English program is a mandatory training for all workers. All participants are selected employees by the positions/ job-grades and rank of the training needs. They are invited by training section based on the list of rank available for the class and come to training by his section head/ manager’s approval. Therefore, they are to attend the courses full-time without any interruptions except emergency cases.

The participants’ ages range variously from 23 to 52 years old. This range places them into a category of adult learners. Known from the theories, adult learner students are more complicated students compared to those scholastic ones. As the adult learners, they differ with the scholastic students on some natures as summarized below:


Problem-centered; seek educational solutions to where they are compared to where they want to be in life.

Self-directed; typically not dependent on others for direction.

Results-oriented; have specific results in mind for education - will drop out if education does not lead to those results because their participation is usually voluntary

Often skeptical about new information; prefer to try it out before accepting it.

Seek education that relates or applies directly to their perceived needs, that is timely and appropriate for their current lives.

Accept responsibility for their own learning if learning is perceived as timely and appropriate.

Future-oriented; youth education is often a mandatory or an expected activity in a youth's life and designed for the youth's future

Subject-oriented; seek to successfully complete each course, regardless of how course relates to their own goals.

Often depend on adults for direction.

Likely to accept new information without trying it out or seriously questioning it

Seek education that prepares them for an often unclear future; accept postponed application of what is being learned.

Depend on others to design their learning; reluctant to accept responsibility for their own learning.

In summary, adult learners usually approach learning differently than younger learners:

- they are more self-guided in their learning
- they bring more, and expect to bring more, to a learning situation because of their wider experience - and can take more away
- they require learning "to make sense" - they will not perform a learning activity just because the instructor said to do it

Even though this program is a mandatory, self-motivation contributed to the main problem of the success of learning. For those employees who don’t really think they need English, they attend the class mostly due to the mandatory nature of this program resulting in not really maximal result as projected before (QIP, 2002). It further implies the importance of “stick and carrot” philosophy as well as the need to develop instructors in order to be able to handle this challenge well.

The students come from various educational backgrounds, different technical skills, Departments and positions. They are seated in the class based on the level and the score of the entry test they took before. It possibly creates a homogeneous class in term of their proficiency level but heterogeneous in terms of background knowledge, status of employees (staff and non staff) and positions (boss and subordinates). We can guess what potential problems may arise from this “heterogeneous class”. The first thing that we should anticipate right after we come into the class is to be ready with possible disputes which might be caused by psychological aspects related to the boss-subordinate relations or others.

These15-working day classes, except that of the 10-day Total Immersion English course, start from 7.00 to 15 minutes before the working hour ends (more less 8 hours a day or 120 hours per level).

One teacher is responsible for one class. The class normally accommodates 14 participants. This very tight and intensive schedule requires the instructors to be “fit” both his physical condition and creativity. It gets more and more serious as we face adult learners with the unique natures demanding the teacher to approach the class quite differently from teaching youth.

The following are some strategies the teacher may find in teaching Adult learners in order to be more effective.

Adult Learner Characteristics and Teaching Strategies

Adults have years of experience and a wealth of knowledge
Use your adult students as resources for yourself and for other students; use open-ended questions to draw out students' knowledge and experiences; provide many opportunities for dialogue among students

Adults have established values, beliefs, and opinions
Take time to clarify student expectations of the course; permit debate and the challenge of ideas; be careful to protect minority opinions within the class

Adults expect to be treated as adults
Treat questions and comments with respect; acknowledge contributions students make to the class; do not expect students to necessarily agree with your plan for the course

Adults need to feel self-directed
Engage students in designing the learning process; expect students to want more than one medium for learning and to want control over the learning pace and start/stop times

Adults often have a problem centered approach to learning
Show immediately how new knowledge or skills can be applied to current problems or situations; use participatory techniques such as case studies and problem-solving groups

Adults tend to be less interested in survey types of courses and more interested in straightforward how-to
Focus on theories and concepts within the context of their applications to relevant problems; orient the course content toward direct applications rather than toward theory

Adults have increased variation in learning styles (individual differences among people increase with age)
Use a variety of teaching materials and methods to take into account differences in style, time, types, and pace of learning

The following are some differences between school teaching method and industrial environmental teaching method as suggested in the “Implementation Guide for English Language Teacher”


Students are expected to be able to read and understand literatures in their preparation of higher education.



Results are measured through the ability of understanding literatures or score.

The teacher functions as a sole instructor who is not responsible for any other duties such as administrative work, filing, certification.


Participants are expected to be able to communicate in English as a medium of transferring ideas to others.


Focusing on the students’ need (Student centered).

Results are measured through the ability of participants in daily communication in their work place and social lives.


The instructor gets involved in any additional aspects of conducting a program such as scheduling, participant designation, handout/class materials.
The complicated natures of the adult learner, one full day class, a teacher for one class may easily transform themselves into a perfect combination to create quick boredom in the class. If I may ask you a question, what strategies you think you would use for this situation? At least, the teacher must be skillful and experienced enough to anticipate difficulties. The course participants who come from various departments and with different educational background and status/positions may form unpredictable situations.

Formal class and non-formal learning activities are both important learning processes. We consider the non-formal learning activities taking forms of consultation, discussion, direct guidance etc. as important as the formal class. (See the sample) The outside class activities even reflect the real need of the employees of the English language. To support these activities, the use of Local Area Network (GroupWise) which connects every single computer in our company eases our way to contact one another for interaction, including on line consultation of writing memo, letters, pronunciation etc. It is also supported by an easy access to email and intranet/internet making it possible to learn English from various sources. The TV cable broadcasting some English channels is also supportive both to the class activities and self-study at home. Moreover, the free internal telephone line supports these activities even further. Some students are so creative enough that they look for their own media to learn, for example, they create a special mailing list (lngenglishclass@yahoogroups.com).

Giant LNG Ship, plants and other facilities are sometimes used to support the learning process. It is in line with a characteristic of the adult that they need the subject they learn to be as real as possible.

To avoid boredom and maximize other functions of instruction (strengthen the material learnt, building positive attitudes, icebreaker, etc) game, outbound and other activities are recommended. These activities, based on the observation, are very helpful to attract their spirit and motivation especially during the afternoon sessions as well as to transfer some positive messages to learners.

To be certified for passing a certain level, the students have to meet the passing score. It is the minimum percentage of both capability and attendance obtained by the participants during the course. English capability is the student’s capability of using English skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing.

At the end of the class, the performance of each student is evaluated in details. Please find the sample of the individual evaluation form attached at separated file.

Learning material is not a sacred thing. It is modified or changed when it needs changing. For its formal classes, PT Badak has used the textbook provided by the language consultants designing it based on the main syllabus provided by PT Badak. It includes the test materials accompanying the textbook and the media used (CD, Cassette). At some occasions we also try to use the textbooks available in the markets. Report writing skill is specially discussed in the Effective Writing class and Meeting and Presentation Techniques are in the Total Immersion English class.

Besides the main textbooks used for the formal class, some special modules are often needed to support specific purposes such as self-study modules of Tenses, Face to Face Interview, Curriculum Vitae, Covering Letter, English for Operators of LNG Tangguh Papua, Overviews on TOEFL, TOEIC, IELTS, etc. They are all designed by the instructor based on the languages needed to support the need and based on the current issues in the company.

As stated before that Adult learners are more interested in seeking education that relates or applies directly to their perceived needs, that is timely and appropriate for their current lives learning, day to day needs on the English related matters such as how to make letter, technical report, choice of vocabulary, grammatical correctness of a paper, etc are considered to be important process of learning in this environment. Therefore, the instructor must be ready with a tailor made material or already published material to anticipate these needs. Otherwise, the instructor will lose a very important moment in learning. He must be familiar with the commonest needs of the employees for the English language. (ESP = English for Specific Purposes, is relevant to this case)

In this industrial environment with adults as learners, English exercises in our textbook are as important as even the simplest basic sentence pattern if it is asked by the “client”. The textbook and even the instructor are quite meaningless when both of them don’t answer their urgent questions. It is because English mastery is needed to support their lives not merely to score the highest.

English teacher for employees is posted in the position of English Instructor. The post requires a university graduate majoring in English teaching and ideally certified for teaching adults (CELTA, DELTA) or/and with at least a 3-year teaching adult experience. When it is too difficult to find the suitable candidates meeting these ideal requirements, company recruits graduates of teacher colleges to be developed as instructors. Teacher colleges prepare their students to be schoolteachers. They then will have to develop their skill/competencies in order to be effective instructors in the industrial environment.

There are three Instructors; one permanent employee and two contractors, who teach our in-house English programs. While the local contractor teacher is responsible for the basic class and the native speaker teacher is only responsible for the Advance and Report Writing classes, the permanent Instructor is responsible for wider tasks. He/she is expected to be a program organizer, a language subsection manager and an assistant to any functions in the company related to English language as a medium of communication, such as translating, testing (Diagnostic TOEFL, TOEIC, Placement test, Entry test), mastering ceremony, or other administrative roles instead of only teaching the Intermediate Class. Another prominent role attributed to the English instructor is as a language consultant. He is one of the most needed reference/ source of English if the employees need to consult with.

The future career of the English Instructor in the PT Badak NGL might raise questions among the professionals in TEFL world especially those teachers who work in the academic world. Those who love to develop his/her career to be a teacher for the whole life might be disappointed with the fact that the Instructor must be ready to quit his job anytime the company needs him for another position. Instructor position in PT Badak is classified as a staff position of Professional Ladder with limited grades available. After serving some years teaching and reaching the highest grade available for the position, he should move to the different positions/ other administrative positions in the structural position to advance his/her career, meaning he/she quits his teaching profession. “When one door closes, another door opens”. This is a beginning of a new life of the teacher because he will start doing another business. He or she might be posted as a secretary, a supervisor, etc. While for those “real teachers” it may be a sad moment, the other types of teachers consider this opportunity a challenge.

Now that we have written almost all issues up, let me sum up the reasons why I assume that teaching English for the industrial environment is quite neglected.

We start from the genesis. The students of Teacher Institute are not really ready to teach this environment when they just finish their study. They are not really specially trained to teach adult learners or industrial environment. I am so sorry to say that during my S1 study, I hardly ever heard any discussions on Adult Learner Theory. The students are not given enough skills to teach English for specific purposes. We are taught Drama, Prose (I don’t mean to undermine those subjects) instead of English for Mining, Industry, Secretary, Engineer, Business, etc. We are taught poetry instead of techniques on how to deal with difficult students, or make an internationally standard presentation. We should add more subjects or SKS of some English subjects related closely to life skill such as Translation, Meeting and Presentation Techniques and other hot topics required in real life. (Need Survey)

The professionals of TEFL have so far been very busy discussing the topics related to the scholastic English. (Try to collect papers from various seminars, conferences, etc to prove it) To prove this negligence even more, let’s see the English textbooks available in the market. They are mostly designed for young students; English for Children, English for SMP, SMA but it is quite difficult to find out those books specially designed for adult learners or specific purposes.
The second conclusion of this paper is to point out some reasons why I think teaching English for industrial environment is a potential.

Industrial environment is a potential place for the English teachers both to develop their professionalism and to make a living. The career provided by this sector is not less promising, if I can’t say that this is more promising than the career provided by teaching the young learners or even other sectors. Moreover, adult learner theories that seem to be left untouched in Indonesia are potential areas to be studied further by TEFL practitioners. It is also a potential that the teacher Institutes should not miss. They should also consider creating or developing more “friendly-user” teachers for industrial environment.


Knowles, Malcolm. The Adult Leaner: A Neglected Species. 2nd ed. Texas: Gulf Publishing Company, 1978.

Tim QIP SDM. Meningkatkan Jumlah Kelulusan Peserta Kursus Bahasa Inggris di PT Badak NGL. Bontang: Training Section, HRD Department, PT Badak NGL, 2002.

Rothwell, William J. Beyond Training and Development. New York: AMACOM, 1996.

Sunaryo, Busori. Belajar Sepanjang Hayat dalam Perspektif Korporat. Bontang: Buletin LNG Badak ed. X/ Juni – Juli 2003.

Sunaryo, Busori. Adult Learner. Bontang: Buletin LNG Badak ed. VI/ October – November 2002.
---------. Some Characteristics Of Learners, With Teaching Implications. New York: Online Learning, Rochester Institute of Technology, 2000.
---------. P.D.P Implementation Guide for English Language Teacher. Bontang; PT Badak NGL.


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