Creative approaches to teaching English, introducing new learning technologies, designing innovative material, encouraging research in English language teaching and supporting continuous professional development are all needed to improve the standard of English in Pakistan. This was underscored by speakers on the first day of an international seminar on English language teaching organised by Aga Khan University, Centre of English Language (CEL) at the university.
Introducing the seminar, Dr Graeme Cane, Head, CEL, said that the two-day event will give language teachers more awareness of recent developments in teaching/learning methodology. It is also an opportunity for delegates to meet with leading theorists and writers, and to exchange ideas with fellow professionals from all sectors of English Language Teaching (ELT).
Speaking at the inauguration of the seminar, the Chief Guest, David Martin, Director, British Council shared that English language teaching is a ‘live’ issue for educators, politicians and the general public in Pakistan. He highlighted the research conducted by Dr Hywel Coleman from Leeds University, UK on language policy and shared that several discussions on the recommendations of his study have been held in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. The outcomes of these discussions are to be debated by a panel of experts, followed by the provincial education ministers. He added that in late February a number of workshops will be conducted in Islamabad with over 15 English language groups. The recommendations of this entire exercise will then be shared with the federal government.
The keynote speaker, Professor Noor Amna Malik, Director General and Head of the Learning Innovation Division (LID) at the Higher Education Commission (HEC), Islamabad, pointed out that HEC has quality teacher education as one of the key pillars of its strategic vision. Teachers are critical to Pakistan’s development as a moderate and democratic nation, and seek to improve the country’s economy by channeling its young people to become productive citizens. In March 2003, HEC organized a National Committee on English, with national and international ELT experts, to address concerns regarding the declining standards of English in higher education. The following year, the Committee’s English Language Teaching Reforms (ELTR) project was set-up to build capacity in English language teaching and research in the higher education sector.
Professor Malik pointed out that ELTR provided formal training in English language teaching to 1,504 faculty in colleges and universities across the country. In its second phase, another 1,400 ELT teachers will be trained through its programmes. ELTR will also offer 150 one to two-year fellowships to faculty in the humanities and the social sciences departments to strengthen their English language proficiency as well. In another effort, resource persons from internationally recognized universities and academic bodies will visit Pakistan and work with local faculty, offering short one-month training in specialized ELT/linguistics areas.
Other speakers at the first day of the seminar included Dr Muhammad Memon, Director, AKU’s Institute for Educational Development; Dr Andrew Littlejohn, Sultan Qaboos University, Oman; Dr Fauzia Shamim, Karachi University; and Ms Shaista Bano Zaidi, Seminar Coordinator.
In the afternoon, there were parallel sessions on the changing role of English teaching in the world today, advances in teacher education and professional development, new trends in business English teaching, teaching English to young learners, the role of literature in language teaching, and establishing a linguistically and culturally appropriate standard for testing English language proficiency.
Fabeha Pervez, Media Executive, Department of Public Affairs, Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, Karachi, on +92 21 3486 2925 or firstname.lastname@example.org