No doubt, changing the currently used textbooks in the teaching of English in Morocco is a crucial necessity. However, before writing and publishing new textbook, there are other critical areas that have to be dealt with first; otherwise, the change would be no more that a waste of money for some and huge budgets for others.
There are so many problems with the current EFL textbooks. I am not going to deal with issues that concern the activities,texts or any other materials in these textbooks; yet, my concern is with with some macro areas. The disparities that exist between the three textbooks that are used in teaching the baccalaureate level (and other levels as well) are due to the lack of a standardized structure that makes the broad goals (macro-competencies) that are targeted in all the textbooks coherent with each other.
For any possible reform to be successful in achieving the goals of teaching foreign languages in Morocco, it must start from building up a ‘robust’ EFL syllbus. It has never been enough to give textbook writers a list of topics and language items, and ask them to build a textbook that complies with the list(s).
For this reason, I do believe that starting from building a national EFL syllabus (some might prefer to use the term curriculum) is of paramount importance for many reasons. First, this syllabus should make clear the profile of the Moroccan EFL learner/speaker that we want to have by the the time he/she finishes the secondary school. It’s not enough to specify that profile in broad terms that might be cross-curricular or inter-disciplinary. The EFL learner should be specified in terms of what he/she can do with the English language in very clear, manageable and measurable items.Certain statements such as ‘by the time he/she finishes the baccalaureate level, the Moroccan learner should be able to sustain a conversation to achieve his/her communicative needs” or “the Moroccan learner should be able to write a simple e-mail to inform the (recepient can vary) of his/her own persoanl life,culture, needs and opinions….). These are sample ways in which the profile of the learner can be specified in terms of his/her own performance, not in braod terms such as ‘to communicate with the other’. These performances should specify what the learner should be able to do in all the four language skills in addition to what he/she can do with the use of ICT to further pursue learning language and using it for inter-cultural communication.
By clearly determining the profile of the language learner we want, we provide the textbook writes with a road map to follow while designing the activities they will include in the textbook. These activities have to target developing specific language skills that contribute to the development of the general profile of the learner (language competencies). Many of the “activities” in some of the textbooks that are currently used have no clear objective,maybe more than throwing the learner into an ocean of language where he/she has to seek his/he chance of getting through it safely.
Of equal importance in any future change of the textbooks is the specification of the approach to be used for teaching EFL in Morocco. I think that it’s high time clear terms were used. Textbook writers are not sure whether the approach is “approach par compétence” or “standads-based appraoch”. This explains why one doesn’t find the specification of the targeted skills in clear ways at the beginning of every unit in the textbook. Sometimes the terms standard, skill and competency are used interchangeably. The focus should be on what is to be achieved, not on importing “concepts” that distract people’s (textbook writers’, supervisors’ and teachers’) attention from focusing on achieving clear competencies.
In my opinion, textbook writers and teachers should be aware of the approach that they have to follow while designing texbook activities/tasks or being involved in actual classroom practices. In language teaching, I suppose it is enough to make people aware of the main principles that are involved in language teaching. These principles have have to adhere to the ‘communicative function‘ of language teaching. Therefore, there is no reason to tell people in some references that we are adopting “the competency-based” approach, in others “the standards-based approach” and still in others “the communicative approach”…. Specifying the targeted competencies necessitates and drives with it a language teaching approach/method. In saying “the Moroccan learner should be able to use language to exchange information…’, it’s clear that any technique used to teach the activities that target such objectives must be ‘communicative‘. Teaching for communication doesn’t rule out comparing/contrasting cultures/languages; it neither neglects speaking about other cultures and getting insight into the aspects of life of other people; hence, I do believe that, without having to mention it, the 5 Cs of communication that are the cornerstone of the standards-based approach are embedded in any communicative classroom.
One last thing that has to be specified for textbook writers, and mainly for language teachers, is the type and function of assessment in language teaching. It’s high time teachers were clear about whether language assessment is for learning or of learning. A national syllabus has to make it clear when to test the learners summatively because we need grades for reasons of evaluation ,and when to assess the learners -not because we want to collect grades- but because we want to understand and maybe redirect and correct the way we teach/the way learners learn. In other words,it just doesn’t make sense to to advocate ‘formative assessment’ and grade learners at the same time.
Changing the current textbooks, using new names, new colors is of great interest; however, it wouldn’t end the ‘communicative’ crisis our secondary school learners are facing when it comes to using foreign languages. Any coming textbook reform should be prceded by a clear text which specifies the terminal competencies of our learners, the approach that should be used to achieve those competencies as well as the role(s) of assessment in language teaching.
There have been many reforms in our (Moroccan) educational system from 1956 up to now.The last reform should normally have given fruitful results by the end of 2010.The last ten years has seen a “give away” not to say a waste of huge amounts of money for what is called the “emergency plan”. It was normally supposed to reform our educational system within the 2000- 2010 period. However, with the exception of building new schools in some rural areas and recruting more untrained grduates, there is no real reform as it was expected by the whole nation.
Any educational reform should appear at the achievment level of the learners, and since Moroccan teachers, on the whole, still complain about the deteriorating level of most learners, then we can simply say that the reform was diverted to another direction, not to where it should go normally. Add to this that the results of the learners,in standardized national/regional tests show that our learners are far away from achieving the minimum level of the targeted competences- if any competence is targeted!.
To be fair, I am not blaming the learners as many other people would do.But, we have to look at the primary areas that should be targeted by any educational reform in this country if we really want to see improvement at the level of the learners’ attainment. I don’t undermine the huge positive impact of buidling schools for Moroccans in rural unpriviledged areas, though again those newly established schools need to be demolished, lest some of them fall over the heads of our kids…It is obvious that our ministry officials like to talk about numbers, about the quantity of things and I have never heard anyone of them talking about quality. Have you? I might be wrong. Review the ministerial reports, and tell me please if I am wrong. I suppose that the following axes have to get prominence, and their evaluation should be on the improvement of our learners’ achievement of certain pre-specified, achieveable and clear-cut competences that have to be clearly stated by the coming official documents.
1- Moroccan teachers should get efficient and effective training which should be easily reflected in and evaluated by classroom practices. It’s funny to hear of a training and to associate it with chicken! It’s also funny to hear people saying that they have to conduct a training session because they can’t spend a training budget on something else. This reminds me a very rigid mechanical system in which if you divert or use something in another place or for another reason, the whole system stops! Training has to be purposeful. It has to target clear objectives that are achieveable as well. How many trainings have you gone through under the old-fashioned term “pedagogie d’integration” or “evaluation” or “GENIE”… How much of that have used in your classes? How much of it is felt by the learners? How much technology is now “Generalized” in our schools?
My view is that trainings have to start from basics. It’s so funny to train a teacher on how to use digital resources while he/she still lacks the essentials of teaching the basic skills. Iam not against such trainings;yet, I think that our should know how to read, write and communicate first. I am not generalizing; but, this has brought to my mind the idea of differenciating training, It’s ok if the ministry conducts trainings on how to use Web.2 tools for profesional teachers WHO DON’T face difficulties in dealing with basic skills, not only in English but also in other areas! Do we have the internet in schools? How many multimedia classrooms do you have in your schools? How often can you access it if you have one? I think my point is clear!
2- The second area that should be targeted is the recruitment of new teachers; I mean trained teachers. I can’t imagine an educational system who is normally supposed to produce / educate (choose the term you agree with) the elite, maybe the leaders of the country, and at the same time it is used as an engine that absorbs unemployed people. Education is not an area that can accept fatal errors. The errors appear immediately in the same year they are made. If you recruit an unemployed graduate to teach physics be sure that he/she will be teaching something else,at best the physics of the 70s!How would you expect the results of the learners by the end of the year. I am not against employing people. That’s one of their basic rights. Nevertheless, that shouldn’t be in schools. Please think of somewhere else. A place where they need no training and where the effect of lack of training would cost no more than tearing out a paper and rewriting it.
3- Part of the reform’s money should target making the school materials available for the learners. You know there is poverty! You know Moroccan parents ,especially in rural areas, usually have more than two or three children at schools. Think of how a father of three or four -I have seen cases of more- would afford to buy textbooks for their kids.I can’t imagine textbooks of 50dhs (English textbooks), in maths and other science subjects, the price is doubled. Forget about the quality of the textbook now; I am not speaking about that! I suppose that you all feel the plight of Moroccan families at the beginning of the school year. As a teacher, I have seen a textbook that is used for more than four or five years by different learners. Think of how it will look; forget about the exercises and the “tasks” inside! Think about the effect of that on the learner’s achievement. They have bought large screen TVs ,and maybe they will send electronic textbooks in the future.
4- The last area I am going to speak about is the training of inspectors. I am using this term, though I have a reservation about it, simply because there are some areas in the educational system which need inspection, instead of educational supervision. There should be enough supervisors, not for “inspecting” teachers, but for helping them with their professional development. I have seen many trainings that were conducted by some people on topics they themselves have not understood,maybe they never heard about. It’s a waste of the learners’ time to bring teachers to a training that they cannot evaluate. Evaluation requires change of what is evaluated if it proves to be a failure. To evaluate a training, it must be conducted by people who can assume responsibility for its success or failure. That cannot be done by a teacher because simply that’s not his/her primary job.
These are crucial areas to hit for immediate reform,and building more schools should happen ,not at a later stage, but at the same time. After all, what’s the use of building a school if after five or six years the learner still can’t write or read his/her name? You all correct national/regional exams and you know how our learners answer. They are not to blame; you are not either.
I have tried to keep this post very short. I hope it’s to the point.
Like everything else in the area of education,supervision is undergoing many changes.I still remember many stories of teachers trembling of fear for days and maybe weeks upon knowing that the ‘inspector’ is visiting them.I have seen cases of teachers who have never prepared a lesson plan,fortunately not a lot, and they ask other colleagues to lend them their lesson plan on the day of the ‘inspector”s visit.This reminds me of old women borrowing their friends’ dress for a wedding party! I still remember story,I was told, of a teacher leaving the inspector in the classroom because he did not prepare his lesson.
This might show a lot about the image which teachers held or still hold about what was once called the inspector ,in fact the same title is still used officially today,though the role is no longer the same.
It used to be the case that the inspector had the role of going into classrooms and inspecting teachers,maybe trying to pinpoint their mistakes,and sometimes even forcing mistakes out even though none was there.I still doubt if those inspectors came into the teacher with a constructive intention!I am not going to generalize;yet,we all heard of stories where inspectors thought that their mission was to ask a series of ‘where is…?’ questions,hoping that they would fall on something the teacher missed preparing or bringing to class.Such inspectors didn’t know that their main job is to help teachers improve their teaching practices for the sake of better improving the quality of students’ achievement.
I have seen that the profession both of teaching and supervision is undergoing many changes,I hope that the impact that will affect the destination (learners) will be positive.Today,the title ‘inspector’ should be revisited for the sake of appropriately describing what the function of this person really is.Many people have already started using the term ‘supervisor’.I think this term carries less of the ‘go for the hunt’ connotations that are associated with the term ‘inspector’.I am now aware that today’s new generation of supervisors are themselves unwilling to use the term ‘inspector’ anymore.
Today’s supervisors should be equiped with the skills and willingness to defend the students’ interests and to do that they should be no more than supportive to teachers,in every aspects of the teaching profession.Spervisors should have enough knowledge and skills to deal with the new methodological situations.These situations,today,shouldn’t be only related to the teaching of the basic language skills such as reading and writing;yet,they are more of a new nature because our students are dealing with the new technologies,webtools,gadgets and applications.Supervisors should train themselves,now that official training in that area is lacking or inefficient,on how to help teachers,hence students,on how to exploit these new learning tools for the sake of communicating better with the world.That’s one mission,which is stated but not well-targeted in our educational documents and policies.
Today,supervisors should help teachers to rely more on themselves for their professional development.This can happen by creating learning communities (virtual or real).The supervisor’s mission ,then,is to create the conditions in which teachers gather,exchange ideas and grow together.We all know of cases where some of our best teachers have very innovative and effecient practices and they keep them for themselves,not because they are unwilling to share them;yet,the necessary conditions for sharing are not provided.
Today,I suppose that any ‘where is …(this or that)?’ question from a supervisor should be justified with pedagogic reasons.Teachers should see the relevance and importance of any document or suggestion ….only then can they be ready to change their views and habits.It’s obviously useless and also painful to ask someone to prepare something without telling them the reason why and sometimes even how.It would ,of course, seem as a sort of punishment to tell a teacher that he/she should adopt a certain method or technique without being able to see the rationale and the effect that is going to have on students.That’s what’s happening to our students today,abd that’s why their achievement is far below the expectations.Our students are not told about the meaning and relevance of what they are doing at school,and so it’s somehow justified if they see ‘meaninglesness’ in everything around them.So,for the process to have a positive impact on learning,teachers should see the ‘meaning’ of what they are doing or told to do,and they have in turn to share that ‘meaningfulness’ with their learners.
I hope this blog is not too long for you to read.Please feel free to put forward your ideas and comments.
There has been a lot of things written about what makes a good teacher;I have personally read a lot of articles on the characteristics of a “good teacher”;and I think that,by implication,that’s also how a “bad teacher” should look like.So if you are interested in making yourself a very bad teacher,it’s not as difficult as becoming a “good teacher” is.
First of all, a bad teacher is certainly living a volcanic class atmosphere.This is the result of ,and results in,bad relations with the kids he/she’s teaching.If you happen to have a bad image because of the way you treat your students,be sure that you are not “teaching” in the first place,and no “learning” is taking place because the filter and the students’ anxiety are high.Research has proved that students usually react to a teacher’s personality more than they do towards his/her knowledge of the subject he/she’s teaching.So,mind that grammar,vocabulary and all the staff that you might have in your head and you have learned at university is of no interest to your students if they react to your character in a negative way.If students keep thinking of the way you behave,they have no other memory space to think of their learning.
Mind that teachers usually create “bad images” for themselves in their students’ minds not because they are “bad people” but simply because with the first glance students react to you as an intruder to an already settled and formed group with its norms,rules,leaders…and so if you re-react(or you over-react),you get into conflicts and you fall into an endless circle of “bad teacher” images.
So,if you want to be a “bad teacher” by the end of the school year,leave a bad image in your students’ memory.
The same counts for your relations with the school staff.Bad teachers are usually in conflicts with the other teachers as well as with the school administration.Don’t mind,yet.There will always be some sort of “opinion” about you from this person or that,exactly the same as what happens in your real life.But,if that opinion becomes common sense for the whole group,then there is something you have to correct.Overlook negative opinions from individuals;they might be the result of your having great relations with your students and other people.So if you happen to go along with your students,don’t be amazed to suffer from some jealousy on the part of those who have bad relations with the students.
Don’t be ashamed or punish yourself if you are in confrontation with the headteacher or the school administration in case you are right.But, do not try to escalate the conflict because you are right and they are wrong!Administration staff usually unit against the teacher (especially if he/she’s alone) no matter how right his/her opinion is.Feel that your view is the right one,don’t give it up;and ,yet, you still have to be diplomatic and find a way out.That’s the administration,and that’s what they are taught to do and that’s why they are there in the first place;to keep the administration’s face “clean”.So,keep yours cleaner!And remember that any sort of relations you have with the school staff,has a direct influence on your personality and on the way you behave in your classes;ultimately it affects on your students’ learning.So keep a good rapport with everyone in your school.
I was walking around in my classroom today and I was attracted to a recently written graffiti which on the wall .That graffiti is a multiple choice question in which the writer asked his/her mates the following question:
“What is this place? choose the correct answer: – Prison -Hospital.”
This writing has pushed me to think about what is that that makes our students see school as either a prison or a hospital.I asked some of my classes about why school is a prison for them and they answered in different ways.Some of them think that schools don’t offer what students really need in their life.Some of them have expressed their opinion in written form saying that they study English,maths,geography and all the other core subjects;while,there is no space for other extra-curricular activities.Some students have said that the absence of subjects that appeal to students’ interests really demotivates them and makes school a boring place.The word “boring” was repeated in the answers of many of them.
Other students have said that school is “prison” for them because of the behaviours that come from some of their mates.
So many other writings on the walls of our school reflect the degree of hate that students -not all students of course- have towards school.Among the other writings that you see on the walls of our school are “rubbish”,”Shit!” and the like!
What is important in all that is not the words as such;but, how we can make students love school.The “reflections” that students write on the walls of classrooms while the teacher is busy with an activity or writing on the board show that students have other interests that are not catered for by the lesson that is taking place at the time of their writing.
Schools have to move from top-down systems where everything is decided from the top to a system where students have more freedom of choice.Schools should move into the era where students and teachers have more power on the materials they use,the activities they deal with and how they teach.
You might say that teachers are free to do all that!It’s not the case in our situation.The syllabus comes in the form of ministry circulars,the text-book is agreed upon and authorised by the ministry.The exams and the tests (number,methods,duration….) is all decided by the teacher.The amount of time that is located to a huge text-book -the syllabus- doesn’t match the huge content that has to be covered,which makes it impossible for a teacher to think of other things except when and how to finish a program in which students will be tested on the national and regional levels.All these constraints are a so heavy load on the teacher’s /the student’s back.
It’s high time for our educational authorities and school headmasters to see extra-curricular activities as a “paradise” for the school and the student.A huge amount of materials (grammar,reading,functions…) dealt with in a text-book doesn’t necessarily mean that those students have learned a lot.It means neither that the teacher has worked a lot or even better.Little is so enough and great when students see it as great.Too much materials leaves no room for the teacher’s and the student’s creativity and that’s exactly the job of old-times ‘ prisons.So,no wonder if students see school as prison.
Look,we shouldn’t forget that in many parts of the globe,including my country,our children have got more freedom outside school these days than they have in schools.It’s so sarcastic and funny that we keep teaching about human rights,values and freedom of choice ;while, school is the place where that is to be expected less,at least in the present time.
High school students are around 18-20 years old.They are mature and old enough to make decisions and have their own choices.Teachers are there to cater for the students’ needs,and they should be given that ethical right with no reservation.Teachers are the only ones who know what,when and how to teach.They also know that there times where teaching grammar or any other language skill wouldn’t work.So,give them the freedom to skip grammar and do something else that will certainly be of great benifit for the student.I am not advocating an anti-syllabus or anti-textbook view.A road map is always necessary for the goals to be achieved.My view is the road map should be the teacher’s business.The road map can be altered or simply ignored when that is necessary.With the present status-quo of education,teachers and students are obliged to follow a map that might lead to no where.
School should match the kind of life that students are living outside, either at home or outside home; if it is really to be called “school”.
I am not a school headmaster;but,I think that those looking at headmasters and administrators from the outside are more qualified to talk about the deadly aspects of a school leader.I have been teaching for my tenth year now,and I think that I have gathered enough data about what I think really describes the worst school leader.Here I am disclosing some of those features that you might have also seen or heard about somewhere.
It’s really a good thing for a school leader to listen to his/her colleagues,and have consultants and advisors within and outside his/her school.It’s a necessity today for any leader to cooperate and work within a group system.Yet,one of the worst mistakes that undermine the image of the leader in the eyes of his/her colleagues and co-workers is when the decisions taken by the leader are not his/her own,and they harm more than they cure the school and the students’ interests.It’s unfortunate that so many decisions are taken by others and put into practice by the school leader without even weighing the effects.
It’s also a deadly mistake for a leader when he/she’s no longer inspiring the school.Leaders should take initiatives,give ideas,guidance and advice for teachers and students as well.Some head teachers are only there and the educational adminstration,unfortunately, knows that he/she’s only filling the gap of the “head leader”.What’s the use of a “useless” leader? What roles is he/she really doing in school if not helping to make learning possible and to make growth and success the story of his/her school?It’s so sad that many school leaders do nothing more than watch who is present and who is absent today and the same tomorrow! A thing that shouldn’t be his/her job in the first place because that’s far under the position of a “leader”.
The other terrible feature of a school leader is when he/she is killing both the students and the teachers,and depriving them of their motivation and enthusiasm for a better school life.So many school leaders really destroy “their” school by the decisions they take,consciously or unconsciously.So many things are meant to be positive,and they end being no more than a failure.To err is human;however,it’s too hard when a mistake affects a whole generation; a whole nation.And that’s why making mistakes is really tough on the society in the domain of education.Enough about this!
So “childish” for a leader is when he/she gets into minor “conflicts” with the teachers or the students.Many school leaders pay too much attention to watching minute details about everything that’s happening in school that they forget about the big projects that the school is in need of.Who will deal with big issues when the headmaster is the one who deals with “absurdities”? It’s the leader’s job to have more open eyes on the outside of his/her school than on what’s happening inside.It’s the outside where he/she should find partnership realtions that will make the school a better learning place for everyone.
So sarcastic and laughter triggering when a school leader is afraid of spending the budget of the school.It’s for spending not for keeping for the coming year.There are many of the school heads who want to get an “EXCELLENT” observation from their superiors for having kept the money as it was sent to the school’s account.What’s worse is when the leader thinks that asking partners and sponsors for finantial help is “too much”! Some of them think that they are going to pay their own money!
Education is an adventure.We want our students to take risks.It’s NOT POSSIBLE as long as the teachers and leaders don’t take risks.I hope it’s not too long!
So many ideas have been written for years,and maybe for centuries on how to improve and develop education.Many educational theorists and psychologists have spoken about how schools can meet students’ needs and requirements.Many others have spoken about materials,curriculum and methods.
The motivational theory continues to influence the eduactional sphere,and it keeps on being quoted whenever we want to speak about the relation between students and school.
I am greatly impressed by Maslow’s hirarchy of needs, and I think that it is absolutely the theory that sums up the whole issue of how to motivate students,and,therefore,how to make school better cater for the needs of those who attend it.
In my country,as in many other countries of the world,millions of dollars are spent every year on educational reforms.But,education continues to be the most problematic sector for world governments.And despite the millions of dollars that are spent on making it better,students still continue to lose interest in attending classes,and the rates of school drop outs continues to raise year after year.
I am not sure if the educational policy makers are aware of Maslow ‘s hirarchy of needs and other educational theories!Probably,as it seems in our daily reality,they are not.
It is plain clear that the people who plan and implement educational theories jump into the higher levels of Maslow’s hirarchy.They have issued many documents and educational circulars about the standards that every student has to meet at the different levels of his/her school life.They have also spent a lot of money on changing the curriculum and printing new text-books….All this is adressing Maslow’s “esteem” and ” self-actualisation” levels of the human needs.
Many research articles have “warned” the educational authorities that to truely reform our schools and to motivate our learners,there are so many things that must happen first in the students’ lives outside school.
So, to change the syllabus,and to print coloured text-books in Spain or somewhere else doesn’t really target the heart of the issue.What we need is to meet the students’ and the teachers’ first basic needs.First things have to be dealt with first.Numerous educational articles have found that the students that come from disadvantaged families perfrom badly in school.
Our authorities must first of all ensure that those who attend school are not hungry.We have to be sure that the student is not suffering from flu and,still, he/she can’t afford to buy the medecines.We must also undrestand that moral and psychological security comes before learning in the hirarchy of human needs.That’s why it’s of paramount importance to make our students feel secure inside and also outside school.I cannot imagine a student whose father is struggling with bread to attend school in full psychological readiness.No one can expect a parent who has ,maybe, ten other kids and struggling to ensure survival for them, no one can expect him/her to keep track of what his/her child is doing at school.This explains why the majority of parents never come to school to inquire about their children’s educational difficulties or successs.And this is exactly the same reason why parents don’t come to school even if their child has a problem with a teacher or with the administration.Parents are too busy with the basic urges of their kids and their life.They have little space in their mind to fill with school matters.
An other factor that diminishes students’ achievement and which makes them at-risk children is the illiteracy of their parents.So many parents are illiterate ,and they are,consequently,totally unaware of the importance of education.Because of the high rates of unemployment in our country,and now in many developed countries too, parents believe that education has no role in their kids’ life since they graduate ,and still remain jobless for the rest of their lives.Our educational authorities,hence,have to make it clear to parents that school is not all about jobs.Parents,illiterate ones I mean,should know the real value of sending their kids to school.But again this can only happen when their first basic needs are met.And to meet their basic needs,their poverty has to stop,and for poverty to stop,they should have jobs.It’s all an endless circle that is highly tied to poverty and survival.
Poverty does not only affect the school achievement of the poor child,but it also affects even the learning conditions of the other -middle class- students who are in the same class.Poor students are more likely to engage in misbehaviour affecting, therefore,both the teacher and the other class mates.This makes the job of the teacher inside the classroom even more complicated.He/she has to deal with various misbehaviour problems while doing his/her primary job of teaching.This also adds another burden to the teacher as he/she has to plan different lessons/activities for the advantaged and the less advantaged student in class;otherwise, the less advantaged one will keep on being poor in every thing.
To conclude,if our educational policy makers really want to improve education, they must think of ways to end the child’s poverty first.Only,then,comes reform into the other levels.Only then we can blame teachers and the curriculum for the bad results of kids and of the high rates of school drop-outs.
In my part one of the things that really kill an EFL teacher,I talked about certain issues that are related to technology integration and the ICT illiteracy among some head-teachers.I then concluded that to prepare our schools and students for the future,we have to allow more money to stream into professional development both for teachers and school principals as well;otherwise,we will be bypassed by the new generation of internet children who are already better than their head-teachers in this domain.
In this part,I will be dealing with the so many other things that hinder the teaching of English as a foreign language in our schools,and maybe in so many other parts of the world.In the coming paragraphs I will be dealing with things that strip the language teacher and learners of their freedom to take control of their classroom processes.
Most of the modern teaching theories and approaches such as the competency-based language teaching,the standards approach and the dogme ELT stress teaching towards a competency or excellency level.These theories adhere mostly to the view that teaching should be driven by learning and not the opposite.In other words,the proponents of these approaches see that our teaching has to focus on what the student has attained in his/her learning process.Teaching can only move into another skill or competency level if the previous goal(s) of the previous level is/are attained.
Many of the official documents and directives that are adopted in our school system urges using the competency-based approach to achieve the standrads that are outlined by the educational authorities.There is no problem with setting certain standrads that might lead our schools to common and clear goals.
The biggest puzzle lies in the contradiction between setting standards and goals that every student “must” achieve before the end of a certain level,and fixing the number of curriculum units that have to be covered,maybe before that student attains those goals.It’s a big irony to adhere to a competency-based approach that aims to “produce” competent learners,and,at the same time, forcing those learners and their powerless teachers to finish an overloaded syllabus.
As there is always a hidden syllabus behind the texts and the lines every student faces,there are also hidden policies and ideologies that do what they don’t say.The teaching of EFL in our country is producing no more than short-term parrots — short-term they are because what they can regurgitate lasts no more than a few days.This is the automatic result of forcing the teacher and the student to deal with certain isolated and mechanical linguistic items by the end of a specified period of time.We are by consequence of these time guidelines coerced to turn our classroom into an Olympics stadium where every learner is struggling with his/her prefered sport to reach a gold medal;and yet,in our stadium almost none of them gets to that end because the distance they have to run is much longer than the time set for it.
Other factors that make us teaching in a vacuum ,and which are related to the aforementioned ones are the focus on exams and testing.We have instilled in our kids an “exam and grade”only culture.They no longer consider their existence in school as a preparation for the present and the future as well.The exams-focused syllabus has made them exam-oriented machines.This has made them and their parents as well unaware of the other valuable things that are among the school’s mission including the instillation of values, critical thinking,independent and life-long learning and every thing else that builds a strong and resourceful citizen.Testing at the end of every unit,at the end of every linguistic chunk,at the end of every term and at the end of every year has created generations who learn-if there is any learning- only for the test.
Our students now no longer recognize that language is part of their life.They fail to see that communication and dialog is at the heart of human existence solely because they are tested on discrete parts of language.I suppose that language teaching has to be taken as part of the student’s life in all its processes :from teaching to testing to practicing.To achieve this, teaching language has to be done in a “conversational” manner where learners choose what they will talk about and study.This learner-initiated conversation should be the corner stone of any teaching/lesson as it shows clearly the level the students have attained in their own learning.Today,we teach following what others have supposed our kids know,which is a kind of false prophesy.I suppose that the availability of technology should make us,teachers and learners,free from commercial text-books that pre-suppose what our learners know and what they should know in a fallaciuos way.The dogme ELT is so far the only approach that touches such a point.Freeing teachers of heavy materials deosn’t make their responsibility easier.Yet,it’s only then that we assume complete burden of the student we make!
Social networking sites and web2.0 tools should be available for every student and evey teacher within the walls of the language classroom,not somewhere else in school.Only in this way can the teacher at the spot decide about where his/her students are and where he/she should take them.I suppose that the primary purpose of teaching is exactly this;it’s to know where our kids are and how they are there and where we should lead them later.In schools,however,that’s not the case.It’s clearly obvious now that teaching is driving testing and not vice versa.We are even supposed to do a certain number of tests/quizes before the end of a certain time,and this makes it clear that the primary purpose of assessment in various schools is no more than to assign a grade to a student.
All this has produced no more than dead teachers and dying students.All this has produced no more than train-like teachers and students;they know only one direction.It’s going through the exam.Our EFL has to stop producing machines.We have to take the humans as they are made first.We have to make them creative and able to think.Our students should be critical thinkers enabled with the highest order skills that are necessary for a globally competing citizen.
Unfortunately,our schools so far have produced no more than people who accept every thing they are given.Focus on exams,constraining us to a certain time and a number of units that have to be covered during the year leaves no place for creativity in schools.There has to be times where everyone,students and teachers, think and ask questions.There must be circumstances in which I wouldn’t be obliged to stop my student from discussing a personal problem in class while this is why language is created in the first place.Our students must feel that the language class is different from other classes.If the mission of EFL teaching is to teach “the passive”,”conditionals”…and the rules,that’s no longer language.It’s some other subject.Speaking;voicing our inner selves,conversing,and talking with each other is the prime mission of any language,and EFL teaching has to make that clear within the schools. Our students have different talents,skills and dreams.They have the right to be provided with the “time” and materials that allow them to be themselves.We don’t have to teach English 24 hours a day seven days a week to produce fluent learners.Less than that will be needed if that learner is taken as a human being not as a machine.And for a learner to be taken as a human ,language should be seen as a means for conversing ,and not as a set of grammatical rules that must be mastered and tested.