English in Schools

Saif ur Rehman currently teaches English at the FG Public School Boys in Kharian Cantt, in Pakistan. He is also currently preparing to become the headmaster of a school. In his article, he explains how a bi-lingual education system might not prove to be so beneficial after all.

Ubiquitous English in our education system, as is in vogue in our country, has created hurdles in the way of education. All schools, from nursery to high, are bound to teach students the curriculum, using English as the language of education. It is an undeniable fact, that English has become the international language and the language of science and technology, yet our manner of changing the language medium, especially at the very outset of the education process, has not produced positive results. It has been observed that when children at the age of four or five start school, are not experts, even in their national language. Instead they speak and understand their mother tongue well. They also understand and can communicate in the national language, but not in English.

We have changed the teaching language, but the proper planning on how to improve or teach all the four skills of the English language is still missing. This has created several problems.

Young children, especially in the government institutions (provincial and federal), have not satisfactorily developed writing, speaking and reading skills. Even their performance in mathematics, due to the English language, is uncertain. Only five percent children who are from educated families can continue with the system, but their performance is also unsatisfactory. This is because a specific syllabus has to be completed in a fixed time, at every cost.

Students cannot communicate in the English language as is expected. The whole system of education supports cramming, because of a language problem. It has been observed even in Grade 10, students are unable to write or speak more than a few sentences in English.

The language used Geography, History and Social Studies in textbooks is very difficult. Students find it quite an uphill task to cover the syllabus and solve the assignments or papers.

Students are unable to express themselves, even in their national language. The Active Teaching Learning Process remains absent because language problems create communication barriers between the teacher and the learner.

I therefore recommend the following:

Up to primary five, all textbooks should be printed and taught in our national language. English should also be taught, but separately, in a pleasant and proper environment for reading, writing, understanding and vocabulary.

From Grade 6, teaching should be shifted from our national language to English. Functional English should also start to be taught at this level.

History and Geography should be taught from Grade 6. The language used should be simple and abridged.

Literary Period (Bazm e Adab) should be made a part of the regular timetable for all classes.

Special books, like abridged versions of famous novels by English writers, must be part of the curriculum as a reading section.

Essay and paragraph writing should commence from Grade 6. Up to primary five only short sentences/structures should be taught and assessed.  

Practical grammar books like “English Grammar in Use” by Raymond Murphy and “Practical English Grammar” by Ave Martinet should be taught to Grade 9 and 10.

English language teachers, proficient in the usage of language, should be employed. They must be given the responsibility of teaching all the four language skills, listening, speaking, reading and writing to the classes from Grade 1 to Grade 10.

The English language curriculum should be divided into 80 percent functional language and 20 percent literature at secondary level.

In place of the textbook consisting of a variety of lessons, there should only be one novel, drama or a single book of short stories to study literature at secondary level.

It is clear from the analysis of the present method of teaching English, that it is not producing language learners at all. We need to improve the language first and to provide such a platform on which students can learn the language. After these reforms, I hope, language will never create hurdles in our education in English, rather it will make the teaching learning process enjoyable. It will also increase language skills which is major tool of communication.

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