By Taj Nabi Khan
ISLAMABAD, Dec 22 (APP):No doubt, English Language has taken firm roots in Pakistani society; just imagine parents too eager to get their kids educated in English-medium institutions while English-language press and Pakistani Literature in English has also got its distinct identity at international arena.
But on the top of that, English has gained ascendancy as an international language which has also widest its use as a language for higher studies not just in science and technology but also in other subjects.
In order to enhance teaching expertise of teachers, ‘Pakistan English Language Teaching (ELT) Forum’ is recently launched by Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) Islamabad in collaboration with Regional English Language Office (RELO) of the US embassy to initiate professional dialogue amongst the ELT community of the country.
The platform is for the ‘English Language Working Teachers’ both in private and public sectors to upgrade their teaching skills to address the modern-day challenges of rapidly changing paradigms of language teaching at classroom level.
In this regard, the Forum has conducted a week-long consultative workshop for the action group of the forum, invited from the ELT community of Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs), to make deliberations on ELT practices in the country.
The workshop was attended by 24 participants from eight regions including Sindh, Balochistan, KP, Central Punjab, South Punjab, GB, AJK and Islamabad.
The action group has mainly comprised of the heads of the proposed regional chapters along with their teams (three experts from each region).
National and international level ELT experts conducted sessions on topics related to ELT in Pakistan and abroad while highlighting history of ELT in Pakistan, modern trends in ELT, Pakistan ELT community: strength and weaknesses, ELT and Professional Development, ELT in 21st century and Pakistani perspectives, ELT association, its mission, vision and values.
The workshop has also highlighted role and responsibilities of chapter heads in professional development associations, emerging technologies, Continuous Professional Development (CPD) Culture, Autonomous Learning, Effective Conference Planning, Effective Governance and challenges and opportunities for ELT experts.
Speaking on occasion about the history of English Departments in Pakistan, Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, Prof. Dr Wasima Shehzad said there was a serious mismatch/disconnect between the demand and supply of ‘English Language Experts’. Students were used to be either trained in English Literature or English Linguistics while the demand of the market was competency in English Language for official correspondence and English for Specific Purposes (ESPs) so that they could carry out their professional responsibilities more diligently.
Dr. Wasima said over the years, the trend of teaching literature has slowly changed into teaching of English Language and Grammar Translation Method (GTM) into Communicative Method (CM) of teaching.
She, however, said, “Unfortunately, we have not been able to develop our own expertise to deal with the market demand; it is therefore, the English Language Graduates are often criticized for being weak in language skills and competency.”
She said, “We are teaching almost everything in English Departments including the philosophy of life but what actually we are not teaching is language teaching, thus teaching of English Language is being ignored in English Departments.”
Talking to APP, Dr M. Kamal Khan, the project director Pakistan ELT Forum and an Assistant Professor at AIOU, said purpose of the forum is to enable practicing teachers at all three layers (i.e., school, college and university) to upgrade their knowledge, skills, and understanding of ELT in the country and abroad.
He termed Pak ELT Forum as a history in the making for bridging the gap between research and teaching of English in the country.
Head of the Department, English Language and Applied Linguistics, AIOU, Prof. Dr Ajmal Gulzar said the Forum could play a vital role in bridging the gap between professionals, master trainers and newly inducted language teachers.
He said ELT community was in dire need of training on assessment, feedback, rectification technique of learners and digitization in language teaching classrooms.
The Forum was also attended by Prof. Dr Samina Amin Qadir (Ex-VC Fatima Jinnah Women University), Prof. Dr Shahid Siddiqui (Ex-VC AIOU) and Prof. Dr Ayaz Afsar (Dean FLL, IIUI) who shared their experiences of ELT in the country and appreciated the efforts of AIOU for professional development of the ELT community.
Prof. Dr Samina Awan, Dean FSS&H, AIOU welcomed the foreign and local ELT experts and lauded the role of the English Department for capacity building of the teachers. Prof. Dr Zia Ul-Qayyum, VC, AIOU congratulated the team of the Forum for holding successful international event at the varsity.