At school level, the educational system of Pakistan is divided into three major categories on the basis of the medium of instruction: 1. The government vernacular-medium schools which use Urdu, and the regional languages as Sindhi, Balochi, Punjabi, Pashto, etc as their medium of instruction for teaching almost all the subjects. 2. English medium schools (private elitist; state-influenced public schools and cadet colleges; and non-elitist private English-medium schools) which teach all subjects in English except Islamiat and Urdu compulsory. 3. Religious seminaries (madreassas of the two major sects of Islam Sunni and Shia) which mostly uses vernaculars for teaching.1 However, at higher education level (colleges and universities), there is only one medium of instruction: that is English. Thus there are two streams of students entering from the schools into our higher education institutions: a. Students from Urdu- or vernacular-medium background b. Students from English-medium background2.
As far as English medium students are concerned, they do not feel much difficulty in coping with the environment as well as the advance study; whereas, the vernacular-medium students face a lot of problems in competing them: ➢ These students cannot comprehend the lectures and books which are mostly in English ➢ They have to face so many hurdles in explaining their points of view due to the lack of verbal competency. ➢ Their academic results suffer a lot as they usually secure low grades due to their inability to write proper English sentences. ➢ Their difficulties in English language result in their failure in the particular subject. And since English is a compulsory subject, failure in English means failure in the entire University examination.3 ➢ Due to poor academic results and failure, these students suffer from financial and economical problems as they cannot get reasonable jobs. ➢ Along with the academic and financial problems, these learners face a lot of psychological pressures and anxieties. It has been noted that such learners start assuming the people who are fluent in English as more intelligent and capable, and thus start undermining their own potential. The causes of these problems seem to lie deep-rooted as English is not at all a new language to these vernacular-medium learners. In almost all of the institutions, it is taught up to the graduation level as a compulsory subject. However, it has been noted that usually Grammar-Translation Method (GTM) is adopted to teach it. By utilizing the mother-tongue, national and the regional languages, the grammatical rules as well as from- and into-English translations are taught to the students hoping that the already acquired language will support the target language, and by comparing the two languages the students will be in a better position to understand the English structures. But many researchers and linguists blame this GTM approach as “the flawed pedagogy”4 along with the faulty material design responsible for these problems of the learners. They argue that GTM usually proves beneficial in the beginning as the students find it easy to learn by relating to some previous knowledge. But it should not be the only medium used because in this manner, the mother tongue of the learners seems to interfere a lot, and the learners always appear pre-occupied in comparing the two languages to form English sentences which usually results in blunders. One obvious reason for these difficulties seems to be the unavailability of the encouraging environment for the use of English in vernacular-medium instruction. In a country where the literacy rate is just 54%, it is very difficult for a learner to practice a foreign language in his daily communication. English-medium learners have the advantage over Vernacular-medium learners in this case. They can...
References: 1- A.P.R. Howatt. A History of English Language Teaching. (Oxford University Press, 1984)
2- Faiza Amin Mohammed Khalil
3- James Coady, Thomas N. Huckin. Second Language vocabulary acquisition: a rationale for pedagogy. (Cambridge University Press, New York, 1997)
5- N. S. Ahmed. 1964. Teaching of English as a Second Language. (The Carwan Book House, Lahore, Pakistan)
6- Riaz Hassan, 2004
7- Steven McDonough, 1986. Psychology in Foreign Language Teaching. (George Allen & Unwin, London)
8- Tariq Rahman
9- Tariq Rahman, Language, Ideology and Power: Language -Learning Among the Muslims of Pakistan and North India, (Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2002)
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