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I'm an English teacher in one of secondary school in a remote area in West Sumatra, Indonesia. I've been teaching here for more than twenty years. But so far, I've got difficulty to face the students who are unmotivated in learning English, in which- here English is not only as foreign language, but also as compulsory subject in every school in this country. So far,  I just succeed to teach high motivated students of English, to unmotivated students, I completely failed . Could you please show me any solution?

Thanks in advance.

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Hi, English Teacher!

I am neither a English teacher nor a native speaker, and I don't know myself whether I can suggest something to you or not, and also whether what I have in my mind is applicable to you or not either, but I am wondering if you are teaching your students within your government curriculum academically or with the academic English book as one of compulsory subjects, because I used to be taught like that when I was in Korea.

I believe all the students are not the same standards or levels, and you distinguished two groups as the high-motivated & unmotivated groups. As you gave me an opportunity to think of it, hence, let me describe my thoughts focusing on the unmotivated students; first of all concerning the unmotivated pupils, perhaps you should find out the reasons first why they've lost their interests of learning & improving English even if this a compulsory subject; why they were not motivated when others were highly motivated! Probably it might be because of the different teaching systems, such academical English teaching (with English literature) or teaching in spoken English.

Why I am telling this is that I've seen many foreign students (especially Korean) who used to be so bad at their English subject when they were in their country, but when they came to UK and attended at the language institutions or directly at their same aged schools, minimum 3 to 6 months later, I really don't know how & what impelled them to change their attitudes and to absorb the most difficult second language (for them) in speaking English boldly, and then two or three years later, they speak in English almost as the native speakers. They said that those who come as foreign students and have no knowledge of English (it depends on ages) are sent to have extra or special English lessons before or after School curriculum (in group or private). 

These English lessons are not academic at all, but purely they are basic English lessons from the scratch including grammars (as it depends on ages too). One thing I know is that they use the easy children's books with pictures, so they are good for visual understanding as well as for the easy way of explanation.

I am afraid this is what I have got so far, but I will certainly come back if I remember something more ....

Hi...Sir I'm Yesica, I'm a student of 5 senior high school in Central Jakarta. you have to know My first was the children who are not at all motivated, but I can tell about my story.

since my primary school to secondary school I don't like English. I think to I study Englis can make me crazy hahhahah. I think English is very hard, why? because I'm always bad grades, and I'm famous in my school because I'm a stupid student in English lesson. But now, I can change all about me, now I to be the best student in English lesson in my school and I become finalists for the exchange studentto Japan. why I can

first, I'm very like "BULE" you know. and he say for me "If you want to have a boyfriend from British you must can speak English." I know when after I listen what he say, I is trying to speak ENGLISH.

And My father's friend always tell me English is very importand. if you can speak English and have a perfect English skill you can easy to get a nice jod, and you can to be a rich person, and you han go to the other country. Wow! now I was motivated to explore the English language

Thanks so much for sharing. Your description really open my mind. Looking forward for other idea.
It means that you're a high-motivated learner of English, cause you have any goals; to make easy to get job,to be a rich person, to have an English man.That's a good motivation. Well thanks so much for your response,bye . . .

Dear Mr Jasman.

I think that we face the same problem, this is not yours but me and others. As non native speaker of English, a half of Indonesian students are able to applied English actively and a half of them passively. I have a trick from a friend how to build a motivation to the students; It is about approach in language system. Did you know that most of Indonesian are able to communicate more than a language? Yes, most of them are. Indonesian people at least are able to communicate 2 languages, mother tongue and Indonesian. So, it is easy to learn once more language. Okey, that's all.




Not all students are highly motivated.........and that's a fact which cannot be accounted for as your fault.  Some school's administrations blame the teachers for having failing students.  But even those schools with high standard education and with high caliber teachers cannot guarantee that their students pass all because of a quality education.  


Nevertheless, as teachers, we try to do our best to cater to the needs of each student because we know, that each of them is a unique person with a unique talent.  For this I would like to recommend the theory of multiple intelligence which can be of big help for you to embrace the total personality of your students........

Here is the link that tells about this theory:

Thanks a lot for brilliant suggestion. May God bless you for ever and ever

Dear Jasman,


I am not a teacher but I can share my own experience with you as an English student. Not being motivated has different reasons. Very popular ones that come to my mind are first the teacher itself and second, study materials. 

Some teachers are so serious and scary. Although one likes to learn, these frightening qualities prevent students from learning effectively. I am so sure that teachers look so serious and scary in order to encourage students to study. However, It is not a very effective way to do so. Some also punish the student if he/she can't answer the questions properly or they lower the scores. None of them works!

I think being gentle and having sense of humor work better.

Another problem is study materials. Some English books are very boring or the way they are taught is not interesting at all. For example, in my high school, we just studied grammar and reading. Moreover, they taught us English in a very non-practical way. We were not able to use English to communicate with people. However, when I immigrate to Canada, I went to English school. We had so much fun studying English. We played many games or sang many songs. We read interesting famous stories. And, whenever we had problem, we could ask as many questions as we wanted. These all helped us to learn English with fun!

Finally, "Having Fun" is one important factor for learning generally and especially in English.


Good luck,


Try to plant in them love of the subject & water the seed of this love by colorful teaching methods.

Hi Jasman,

I agree that you may have students of different levels in your classes and it is difficult.  If you teach to the lowest level, then the others are bored to death and gain nothing.  I have some ideas that you may want to try.

1.  Appoint one or more assistant teachers.  These are your students with the best knowledge of English and the proper attitude to help others.  This is not a job for them but must instead be seen as an honor.  They can help you work one on one or one on two with the students that are worse off.

2.  As far as attitudes: Change what you are teaching about.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Stray away from the text long enough to get the kids excited in something they like.  What do they like?  Ask them (in English).  Do you like sports?  What sport do you like best?  Who is your favorite player.  when they hear the other students mentioning football players and teams they will perk right up.  The ground rules are that all the sports info must be shared in English.


3.  The government provided lesson plan may have you teaching about how to tell time.  This may be boring to many, but you can ask about times for things like when we eat.  You can ask about how long a football match will last and when it will start.  


I only teach boys,  but I ask them individually about things they like and we may end up with a discussion on pizza or hamburgers.  What is best for a pizza topping?  Is beef good? How about cheese?  Do you like olives? Who likes onion on their pizza?  Assign each row a pizza to " prepare in class".  The cook can have each part come forward.  One student is the crust.  Another is the sauce. Others can be their favorite toppings.  Then they can all discuss the merits of their pizza as opposed to those of the other groups in the class.  If you are too remote for pizzas, then you can use the same idea for other foods like stews or soups.


I found that if I can get them talking about something they like, they become motivated.  

4.  Games involving words and grammar are also a good way to get kids engaged.  Twenty questions, Hot Seat, What's the Word, Simon Says, and almost anything else can be made into a competition between two or more groups in the classroom.  I can send you some games, or better yet, look to your right on this page and click on the hot links to ESL games at   :)


Thank you very much Mr. Bob. After reading your comment on my discussion, I do feel that I'm not alone to face my problem. I'll try to apply every good suggestion from others, especially from those who are expert in their field. Well, Mr. Bob, . . . If you don't mind I would like you send some interesting games to me? Thanks in advance.

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