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Is e-learning effective? | Hyderabad HSC exams

Teaching English has become insulated from reality: AKU seminar told
Karachi, April 21: While various academic models have been proposed for the teaching of English, a leading academic in the field has argued that what is needed is a 'social' response to the problem, implying that teachers of English need to be flexible about opening themselves up to their student's needs.

Delivering the keynote address on Sunday, the second day of the 'Teaching English in multilingual contexts: current challenges, future directions' conference, Dr Andrew Littlejohn cited the example of students at Sorbonne University in Paris, who had rebelled against being taught what they termed "autistic economics".

Use of the term "autistic" here was "not meant as a slur, rather it implied that the teaching of the discipline was divorced from reality", and dealt only with theoretical models.

The two-day conference was organised by the Aga Khan Institute of Educational Development's Centre of English Language, and was held at the Aga Khan University.

Dr Littlejohn, an author, teacher trainer and currently a professor at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman, argued that English Language Teaching (ELT) has also become somewhat insulated from the real world.

He established his case by first making the point that there is no longer a "standard version" of English, as there are a variety of changing regional forms and usage. Citing the example of increasing informal communication from people as diverse as his bank manager and a fellow English academic to the text messages he receives from his son, which appeared almost indecipherable, he asked those present: "Who owns English?"

He went on to say "only 25 per cent of English speakers are native speakers, and 75 per cent of users of the language use it as an additional language."

"Native speaker norms are now inappropriate for deciding whether something is correct," he said.

Dr Littlejohn also spoke about the move to use English as a Lingua Franca (ELF), with other scholars saying that ELF should be considered a variety of English. Dr Littlejohn, however, was against the teaching of English with reduced core pronunciations and a greater tolerance for grammatical errors.

The second session of the conference was conducted by Dr Anjum Saleemi, a professor at the University of Management and Technology in Lahore, and dealt with the development of language and thought, and the differences between the two.

"My basic hypothesis is that learning a language has a lot to do with learning to think in that language, even if language and thought are two different things, as proven by numerous scientific studies."

"Often," Dr Saleemi said, "people think the difference is not that large, or that culture and language may influence thought."

He said that the interaction of the two, however, was "a two-way street", and that while language may influence thought, there were often times that one had thoughts that one was not able to articulate and express in language efficiently or effectively.

Dr Saleemi spoke at length about the philosophical underpinnings of his work, arguing that on the individual level, language was about "being able to verbalise a thought without having to articulate it".

Sunday's second plenary session consisted of an illuminating talk by Mr Mohammad Zafar, of the Centre of English Language at the AKU-IED, on the teaching of English for specific purposes (ESL).

"Right now we have the teaching of English for no obvious reason," he said, much to the amusement of those present.

He pointed out that under the current system, there is a high proportion of students learning by rote, or even cheating, and that the examination system was faulty. He also asserted that the education budget was just "2.2 per cent of the budget", and when finally calculated as Rs/student, the amount was also miniscule.

Learning grammar
He also raised the question of why students were taught English grammar in every single class, from class I all the way to the Masters level.

"Do all these years of grammar actually help the students?" he asked, saying that mechanically their English skills may be good, but they could not use the language constructively.

"People can easily paraphrase Wordsworth and Keats, but they can't write business reports or patient summaries," he asserted.

This is why, he said, we should focus on the teaching of English for specific purposes once students have passed their secondary education, as at that point English is primarily a means to a specific end for them, the end being a job of some kind.

Sunday's proceedings also included a number of featured and other sessions held in parallel. Several of the sessions were interactive and were based on helping English language teachers to engage their students.

A planned book launch for Emerging issues in TEFL: Challenges for Asia, edited by Sabiha Mansoor, Aliya Sikander, Nasreen Hussain and Nasreen M. Ahsan, was cancelled by organisers due to scheduling issues.

The two-day conference was closed by a panel discussion on the subject of 'How can we encourage more language learning outside the classroom? Is e-learning the way forward for countries like Pakistan?' -Asad Hashim

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Teaching the digital native
Karachi: A range of issues concerning the teaching of English in multilingual contexts were debated by Pakistani and foreign scholars on the first day of a two-day international seminar held here on Saturday. The experts focused on the policy issues of teaching English in Pakistan as well as the role technology is playing in contributing to the teaching of languages globally.The fifth international seminar – titled 'Teaching English in multilingual contexts: current challenges, future directions' – has been organised by the Aga Khan University-Institute for Educational Development's Centre of English Language.

In her keynote address, Professor Noor Amna Malik, director general and head of the Learning Innovation Division of the Higher Education Commission described the problems faced by English teachers in the nation's colleges. "English language teachers in public colleges desperately need our help as they face professional handicaps".

She said the first phase of the Rs35 million English Language Teaching Reforms Project (launched in 2004) would be completed by July of this year. She said the project had highlighted several challenges, such as lack of initiative from universities, too much dependence on the HEC as well as the "great divide" that existed between the English language and literature teaching communities.

Prof Malik concluded by saying that if the gap is not bridged, students, teachers and the overall education system of Pakistan would suffer.

Dr Hayo Reinders of the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, spoke about the importance of informal learning outside the classroom. He said informal learning was important because traditional language teaching was not always effective, many people did not have any access to education at all while informal learning was the most common form of learning. He said that 80 per cent of adult learners learn outside the classroom.

"Technology is allowing us to access learning opportunities quite easily. There is a need to teach students the technology."

Educational consultant Gavin Dudeney spoke about the importance of digital literacy. He said students have changed immensely and the younger generation are known as 'digital natives', while the elders are considered 'digital immigrants'. He observed that certain teachers' hesitance in bringing computers into the classroom was selfish and based on fear.

"The divide between teachers and students will get bigger. They're not listening to us and we're not listening to them. Spending time online is essential to becoming a citizen of the digital age. The technology will come sooner than we expect."

Eric Baber, innovation director for Cambridge University Press, delivered a virtual presentation, addressing the audience from Cambridge. He based his presentation on the book Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, and discussed the role 'wikis' – websites open to hosting and editing content by anyone – are playing in promoting education.

He said home schooling is becoming increasingly popular in the United Kingdom, stating that over the last five years, the number of home schooled students had risen by 60 per cent. "Parents have cited several reasons for this, including bullying at school and dissatisfaction with the school system." He said the internet and Wikis were playing a major part in facilitating parents and students who opted for home schooling.

To a question about the reliability of sites such as Wikipedia, he said "It is not reliable but a useful tool and a good staring point." He cautioned that proper research regarding the information posted on such websites was essential.

Dr Fauzia Shamim of the University of Karachi also delivered a presentation.

A panel discussion on the challenges of teaching English in multilingual countries such as Pakistan followed, in which along with Mr Dudeney, Prof Malik and Dr Shamim, Dr Andrew Littlejohn of the Sultan Qaboos University, Oman, Dr Anjum Saleemi of the University of Management and Technology, Lahore, and Mr Mohammad Zafar of the AKU-IED, CEL participated. Dr Graeme Cane, head of the CEL, moderated the discussion.

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144 imposed for Hyderabad HSC exams
Hyderabad: The Hyderabad district nazim has imposed Section 144 within a radius of 200 yards of examination centres in the district during the examination of Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSC) 2009 scheduled to commence from April 29.

The nazim has authorised the SHOs concerned to register cases against violators. Dawn

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BBSYDP education depart field  project
Karachi: im one of the trainee of BBSYDP education depart. at Govt. College of Education F.B.Area our center has started field  project work under the supervision of our facilitator and we are interested for cooperation at several levels like for funds and mangment of authorities as we have started this without receving any stipend because of which several capable students are facing difficulties to carry-on their training we also interseted for media coverage to these project that these student should be buck-up for their struggle. our head is Sir ANWAR AHMED. By Amber Iqbal,

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