Teaching English in Afghanistan
Summary: An article on the role of English language education in Afghanistan.
The world into which Afghan children grow up has become more complex, more uncertain, more risky but also potentially more rewarding. Diversity and innovation should be the defining features of the society in which Afghans live. Linguistic exposure and socialization are vital for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Direct experiences of language related challenges and tasks and examples of the language users who function in a work environment are rich and powerful resources. These can be used as tools to encourage and develop language learning skills, forcing learners to apply their growing knowledge and understanding of the English language in real life context which will help them connect to life beyond the school, thus bring meaningful changes into their lives of Afghans.
Afghanistan is trying to reconstruct its institutions including education and various organizations are there to support them in their process of reconstruction. Looking back at the history of Afghanistan one can easily understand the culture and society of its people. Afghans are straightforward and emotional people. They love their religion and traditions more than anything. They need an English language curriculum based on the philosophy of social reconstruction and global interaction. They need to be exposed to the modern world through media and the Internet.
The language curriculum should support social reforms and help produce a better society for Afghans based on reason, equality and equity. Imported literature will be of no use for the people of Afghanistan nor will learning of English grammar or stories from other cultures serve them.
They need a curriculum which provides them with opportunities whereby they can reflect, analyze and transform their own experiences of the decades long fighting in the country. The language curriculum should therefore be futuristic. The content of the curriculum, and the approaches to acquire the contents should be contextualized and based on the cultural and social values of the Afghans.
The content of the English language curriculum should be firstly, according to the societal needs of the Afghan learners; secondly, according to the social issues; third, it should be according to the current ideals and finally, it should represent the future aspirations of the Afghans.
Acceptance and conflict resolution are the needs of the Afghan society for they are faced with a number of social issues like, violence against women and children and drug addiction. The use of authentic materials like images and press clippings from newspapers and real stories of the impact of violence should be incorporated into the curriculum. The contents must include ethics of the Afghan society.
Afghan folk stories, proverbs, events from Afghan history, community life, stories of the refugees, widows and orphans can be useful and interesting tools for the students of English language. Pictures of the shattered schools, hospitals and roads should be part of the teaching material. Interviews with refugees and displaced families, those disabled in the land mines explosions and discriminated on the basis of gender can inspire Afghan students into working for the reconstruction of their homeland.
In addition, the role and responsibilities of the jirga, Hujra a community center, environmental issues, world peace and utilization of limited resources and so forth can be part of the English language course contents.
When teaching the English language, focus should be made on communication conversation, reading and writing. Listening to stories of refugees in different camps, women discriminated by men, children tortured by elders and those disabled in land mine explosions can useful conversational activities. Teachers can question students about the discussions or images of the stories. In reading activities students can use the aforementioned examples as ways to discuss ideas in groups.
They can use images and stories to write about them with the help of the teacher. Using authentic sources from the native familiarity helps to engage students in authentic cultural experiences. Sources can include film, news broadcasts, television shows, Web sites as well as photographs, magazines, newspapers, travel brochures and other printed material. Teachers can adapt their use of authentic materials to suit the age and language proficiency level of the students
Teachers can use different strategies in teaching the English language. Expository teaching can be used to inform students. This is an interactive form of teaching in which the teacher delivers lectures, or gives a demonstration and sometimes sets a reading task. A lecture can be given to as many students as space allows for. Students can observe, and listen to the best information. Authenticity of the material and its relation to the learner s lives can address the issues of students passiveness to some extent.
Interactive teaching is an effective way of teaching and learning a second language. Students are actively involved in asking and responding to questions from each other. They can argue and rationalize their ideas and concepts. It is worth mentioning here that teacher should be more sensitive to the cultural values of the Afghans who have suffered the brutality of ethnic wars.
Teachers can use small group teaching strategies to encourage students to work independently and learn skills of planning, organizing work, developing arguments, sharing knowledge, dividing tasks and adopting compromise positions. Students can then learn to discuss experiences in small groups.
Teachers can use inquiry method of teaching English language to the Afghans. The inquiry strategy promotes logical, rational thinking and a systematic approach to decision making. As this method mostly involves answering to certain question or solving a doubt, teachers can focus their questions on the social and cultural issues of the students. Students can collect data about their own local problems.
Students can collect data about folk stories and its impacts on the minds of the people. They can study the lives of poets and other literary figures of their country. In addition simulations, physical models games and role-playing are also very useful and interesting strategies for teaching languages.
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