By Taj Nabi Khan
ISLAMABAD, Jan 05 (APP):English is no longer considered a foreign language as it has taken the place of the language of technology, the language of social media and the status of an official language not only in Pakistan but in many countries all over the globe.
English is now more widely spoken than it was 50 years ago due to mobility of people to new countries in search of new careers, new experiences and different lifestyles. This mobility, therefore, requires a language that enables people from different parts of the world to communicate with each other so that they can feel at home everywhere.
English language is undoubtedly a major key to employment opportunities, higher education and international diplomacy. Learning English certainly broadens the horizons and shapes the future careers of the workforce.
This being the main reason has increased the job opportunities for the English language experts of the country so much so that one could hardly find an English language graduate without a job in this time of unemployment and inflation.
Other than working inside the country, a large number of trained Pakistani English language teachers are serving in educational institutions of foreign countries, especially in Gulf countries to support their families with handsome salary packages.
Considering this valued position of English as a passport for employment, Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) has recently launched many programs for the enhancement of English proficiency skills of its teachers and students in Islamabad, Muzaffarabad and Gujranwala. All of these programs are funded by the Regional English Language Office (RELO) the part of the Public Affairs Section of the United States Embassy Islamabad.
RELO is playing an important role to support these social outreach programs through professional development opportunities for English language teachers and learners alike throughout the country. The office invites international ELT experts to train ELT community in Pakistan.
Worth mentioning of these programs are the ones specially designed for the underprivileged communities of the country. The Regional Centers of AIOU in Muzaffarabad (AJK) and Gujranwala are running such programs for 300 brilliant students of local communities. Based on various genres of English language (such as business English, English for employment purposes and English communications skills), the participating students are exposed to important global norms and volunteerism so that they can serve as responsible citizens of the country.
One of these projects (English Works) was recently launched by the President of AJK, Sardar Masood Khan at AIOU Regional Campus, Muzaffarabad. While speaking on the occasion, he termed these programs as important opportunities for the youth of Kashmir. He advised the Kashmiri youth to take full benefits of these programs. Professor Dr Zia Ul-Qayyum, Vice Chancellor AIOU highlighted the significance of these programs as the social welfare programs of the university and showed his plan to increase the number of such programs in AJK and other parts of the country.
Similarly, AIOU organized an international workshop for the members of the action group of Pakistan ELT Forum last month in Islamabad. The group discussed the opportunities and challenges for the ELT community of the country and carried out a SWOT analysis of the sector.
While speaking during the opening ceremony, Dr Jerrald Frank (RELO Pakistan) appreciated the efforts of AIOU and other stakeholders for the improvement of ELT practices in the country. He assured the Forum of his continuous support for the cause of ELT through such programs.
Dr JoAnne Crandall from University of Maryland, Baltimore County was the resource person of the workshop who shared her experiences and guided the participants on the best ELT practices. A number of local scholars (Dr Samina Qadir, Dr Wasima Shahzad, Dr Ayaz Afsar and Dr Shahid Siddiqui) also spoke on the occasion and trained the participants.
The Country Program Manager of RELO,Mr Abdul Majeed congratulated AIOU for successfully launching these projects and termed them as the best opportunities for the brilliant youth of the underprivileged class of the society.
He highlighted the role of RELO in creating such opportunities for quality education in the country and shared other resources and programs with the participants of the workshop. He said that RELO was playing a dynamic role in helping the young generation to achieve the goals of 21st century by collaborating with a number of universities in the country for professional development of ELT community.
Mr Abdul Majeed said that the English Access Microscholarship Program and English Works projects provide foundation of English language skills along with personal development to talented Pakistani students from disadvantaged sectors through after-school classes and intensive summer sessions.
He shared that these fully funded scholarships cover not only food and transport of the participating students (for six-month to two-year durations) but also provide them with quality books, media resources and expose them to the spirit of volunteerism and enhance their soft skills.
Dr Muhammad Kamal (Project Director) briefed the media-persons on the role of AIOU for arranging such events and shared the action plan of the forum for coming years to arrange seminars and training for teachers and create employment opportunities and prepare students for future challenges.
Dr Ajmal Gulzar congratulated the AIOU team and talked about the history of the Department of English at AIOU for the enhancement of the quality of English in the country. Professor Dr Samina Awan thanked the participants, media and RELO for joining and supporting AIOU for these programs.