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Speaking Arabic
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grayskies



Joined: 03 Dec 2013
Posts: 67

PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 5:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am very happy to see that some PYP/Foundation programs are of an academic nature, rather than tourist English acquisition centers.

There are 2 points that I would like to discuss with Mashkif:

Firstly, I don't understand why people with doctorates fill the positions as academic English instructors. It is an unnecessary expense accrued by the university.

If the program is set up properly, level 1 students will begin learning APA style mechanisms of paragraphs which lead to rhetorical essays. Each level progresses towards 5 essays (includes the portfolio) by level 3.

These PYP/Foundation programs have been teaching academic English for a decade. All instructors should teach it. These programs should be taught by anyone with a Celta, Delta or a degree in the field, and not limited to Ph.D holders only.

Secondly, some may argue that students should have 'x' amount of fluency in English, before (the above) skills are taught.

How does that happen? Students receive 4 hours a day of English instruction in one year. Usually, they will only speak English within the 4 hours at school.
In my experience, very few students read English books, or do homework on a consistent basis. Also, in my experience, if you push them, they will rebel and make complaints. So, how does fluency (determined by depts) come with a year?

The whole point is to provide language skills necessary for success in the academic environment.

It is my opinion, we, as instructors, focus on our limitations and adjust our program with these confines. We need to refine through demonstration the integrated skills that will enable students to engage effectively and responsibly with academic texts.
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Rostom



Joined: 16 Apr 2014
Posts: 102
Location: UK/Veteran of the Magic Kingdom

PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 10:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

grayskies wrote:
Firstly, I don't understand why people with doctorates fill the positions as academic English instructors. It is an unnecessary expense accrued by the university.

I think this a 'political' question, which needs a 'political' answer!
I guess in the Magic Kingdom most of the universities prefer candidates with Masters and PhDs for their foundation programs. In addition, there are a lot of candidates with PhDs in English who are either unemployed or under-employed and are competing with other candidates with less qualifications.
I do not think universities in the Magic Kingdom think about expenses when hiring candidates with or without PhDs.
You can consider my above answer as a 'political' one! Laughing
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 17604
Location: USA

PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In my experience in the Gulf, all of the Foundations programs were teaching Academic English. That said, the level of so many of the students is so low at admission (nearly zero to low beginner) that a combination of traditional EFL basic courses were needed for them. There were few, if any, PhDs teaching in these programs... and those that had them were usually NOT native speakers. The lowest students ended up doing up to 2 years in the program.

Until they fix the K-12 systems and start Academic English at Secondary Level, they will have to have these mixed Foundations programs.

VS
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grayskies



Joined: 03 Dec 2013
Posts: 67

PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 2:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the IEP/PYP/Foundation programs where I was employed, only 2 used benchmarks to assess language skills. If their placements scores were too low, we would not accept them into our program.

It does not seem feasible to set up multiple programs within a IEP department. Implementing levels 1 through 3 within a year is sufficient.

At the end of the day, a good program director is the key to success. A competent director creates a productive and pleasant working environment.
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mashkif



Joined: 17 Aug 2010
Posts: 178

PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

grayskies wrote:
I am very happy to see that some PYP/Foundation programs are of an academic nature, rather than tourist English acquisition centers.

There are 2 points that I would like to discuss with Mashkif:

Firstly, I don't understand why people with doctorates fill the positions as academic English instructors. It is an unnecessary expense accrued by the university.


That is something you'll have to take up with the various ministries in the region. For some reason, they maintain that a person is not competent to teach at a college level (beyond foundation and teaching assistanceships) unless they hold a Ph.D. One could have earned a dozen master's degrees or have decades' worth of industry experience; all that counts for jack.

That inevitably produces a number of absurdities.

For one, in certainly disciplines - such as art and design - doctorates are rarely, if ever, awarded and may even be unheard of. The terminal qualification in art and deign, for instance, is an M.F.A. Yet, the ministries in Bahrain and Kuwait (that I know for a fact; quite possibly other Gulf states, too) insist that higher education institutions employ at least a set quota of Ph.D. holders, including in fields in which they may be nonexistent.

Academic English is another such area. Because in many establishments such courses are part of the majors programs, those who teach them are required to have doctorates. Now I ask you this: Whom would you sooner trust to effectively teach academic English: A master's degree holder who will have written perhaps not a doctoral dissertation, but a fair number of research papers and most probably a master's thesis, or someone who spent the past 3-5 years jacking off on some theoretical drivel about gender-neutral language or such and who has not seen the inside of a classroom that entire time or even longer?





Quote:
If the program is set up properly, level 1 students will begin learning APA style mechanisms of paragraphs which lead to rhetorical essays. Each level progresses towards 5 essays (includes the portfolio) by level 3.

These PYP/Foundation programs have been teaching academic English for a decade. All instructors should teach it. These programs should be taught by anyone with a Celta, Delta or a degree in the field, and not limited to Ph.D holders only.


Ah, here we have another issue, to wit: Would most instructors who hold a C.E.L.T.A. or similar be actually able to teach academic English? Such certifications focus on teaching methodologies, etc. Not for nothing, but, having witnessed my fair share of T.E.F.L. teachers' level of writing, I highly doubt they'd be able to knock up a semi-passable research paper themselves, let alone teach these kids how to do it.





Quote:
Secondly, some may argue that students should have 'x' amount of fluency in English, before (the above) skills are taught.

How does that happen? Students receive 4 hours a day of English instruction in one year. Usually, they will only speak English within the 4 hours at school.
In my experience, very few students read English books, or do homework on a consistent basis. Also, in my experience, if you push them, they will rebel and make complaints. So, how does fluency (determined by depts) come with a year?


Yes, that is the perennial quandary we find ourselves in around this region. The students here lack the intrinsic motivation to pursue and engage with the language (or, really, any kind of academic field or even personal interest). I generalize, of course: I have had fantastic students, some of whom were avid chess players, pianists, violin players who eve put on a concerto, a ballerina or two, and so on. Then there are students who go to private and international schools and who spend their summers in New York, San Francisco, Singapore, and London. At the university at which I now work it is not unusual to walk down a hallway and hear the students (Kuwaitis) converse with one another in English.

As you correctly note though, on the whole the idea is for a student to go from zero to hero in a year on nary a few hours of classroom English a day. That, of course, is unrealistic and simply preposterous. How do you solve it? Well, as others have opined, impose an entrance floor whereby those below a certain level of English can't enter even the foundation program; they should get their language up to scratch elsewhere and then come back.

Fat chance! Most universities would rather such cases pay money to them to improve their English than to, say, Berlitz or the British Council. And so lower levels are continually added and students eventually - and undeservedly - passed from them.

An alternative - which many serious institutions espouse - is to just keep a student in foundation for as long as needed, until he/she either gives up or deservedly earns a pass, without anybody getting on anybody's case about the proportion of fails and so on. Again, at my current university we routinely have 20-40% fail rates (research courses), but - by Jupiter - the students DO know how to write a academic paper and conduct serious research once they are out of the program.
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grayskies



Joined: 03 Dec 2013
Posts: 67

PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2014 4:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Mashkif,

I would like to work with you. I know, I would learn a lot from your experience.

Unfortunately, the majority of the universities where I have worked used language school English in their program. They use Headway, Cutting Edge, etc., then expect the students to fully function in academia.

What I don't understand, is instructors should have the ability to teach Academic English even with their C.E.L.T.A's ( Smile ), English is English. You can put lipstick on it, but it's still a pig.

Thanks Mashkif!
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 17604
Location: USA

PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2014 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

grayskies wrote:
Unfortunately, the majority of the universities where I have worked used language school English in their program. They use Headway, Cutting Edge, etc., then expect the students to fully function in academia.

The problem is that the student level is NOT ready for anything more. You can't run before you can walk. When 90% of the students arrive unable to write one grammatical one clause sentence, obviously they are not yet ready for 5 paragraph academic essays... or grasping the concept of research, paraphrasing, and citing.

I taught writing at all levels, and while we all have to pretend that these students are ready for university... they are not... and the vast majority would require 2 full years of intensive English... at which time they 'may' be ready for real university level academic writing. None of the Gulf countries are willing to invest the costs to actually prepare these students for university level English.

Meanwhile the teachers do what they can with what they have to work with... IMHO, it is our job to first get down to the student level and then help those who sincerely want to improve to get up to the best level that they can in the couple semesters. Sadly the administrations think this is possible... and if we want to keep our jobs, we have to play along.

VS
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grayskies



Joined: 03 Dec 2013
Posts: 67

PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2014 1:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The problem is that the student level is NOT ready for anything more. You can't run before you can walk. When 90% of the students arrive unable to write one grammatical one clause sentence, obviously they are not yet ready for 5 paragraph academic essays... or grasping the concept of research, paraphrasing, and citing.


Actually, we have proven that argument wrong. What you have said, is the belief of some of the instructors, without implementing anything other, but simple sentence structure.

Students will grapple with anything that is new to them. This is said, for all students worldwide. The problem we face in the Gulf. is that these same students will complain when a lesson is deemed too difficult. As a result, the entire program, including English Composition 101 gets water-downed.
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Rostom



Joined: 16 Apr 2014
Posts: 102
Location: UK/Veteran of the Magic Kingdom

PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2014 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

grayskies wrote:
The problem we face in the Gulf. is that these same students will complain when a lesson is deemed too difficult. As a result, the entire program, including English Composition 101 gets water-downed.

I think the problem in the Magic Kingdom is that the majority of students are too weak to study in English when they start their first year in the university. that's why they think a lesson is deemed too difficult. But to water-down the entire program is a bad strategy.

Here is my analysis why most of the Saudi students are very weak not only in English, also in other engineering topics:

1. Most of the students are not hard working
2. Most of the students are not motivated.
3. Students study English only to pass the examination
4. students attendance is poor
5. Some teachers/tutors/lecturers are not strict with students with regards to exam marking
6. The university administration do not follow strict admission policy with regards to level of English language proficiency
7. Some teachers still using the 'spoon-feeding' teaching methods in their lessons and are not presenting themselves as role model, but as 'Pipito' model!
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grayskies



Joined: 03 Dec 2013
Posts: 67

PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2014 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You are absolutely correct!

What do you propose Rostom?
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Rostom



Joined: 16 Apr 2014
Posts: 102
Location: UK/Veteran of the Magic Kingdom

PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2014 3:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

grayskies wrote:
You are absolutely correct!

What do you propose Rostom?

Well, I think the source of the problem is in the Saudi schools and the teachers (Saudis) who teach English.

Here is an article about learning English in Saudi schools:
Those who can’t do, shouldn’t teach: learning English in Saudi schools
"The failure to teach English properly also causes problems for our own universities. English is taught throughout secondary schools in Saudi Arabia, and some students receive high scores in the subject in their school leaving exams. But when these same students enter our universities, they are found to have an inadequate level of ability in the language. As a result, the Kingdom's universities, at great expense, are forced to operate large English language institutes and foundation programs to try to upgrade the language skills of students who studied English for four years in our secondary schools."
http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2014/04/14/Those-who-can-t-do-shouldn-t-teach-English-in-Saudi-schools.html

The author proposes the following:
1. Select teachers who have graduated with a degree in English and and train them.
2. Bring native speakers to teach English as was done in the 1960s and 1970s
3. Language teachers should be trained in the use of all the latest skills and methodologies.

I would add that the problem is not easy to solve, it will take long long time to implement the above suggestions, because the problem is complicated by the Saudi tribal culture where the decision is based on the 'pyramid' principle!
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 13859
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2014 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Rostom,

All good suggestions, but, in my experience, even those won't make a dent unless the administration takes learning seriously and stops letting "wasta" run the show.

And you know what - I'd say that's not going to happen.

You do the best job you can. In my position, I would answer any administration "wasta request" by saying, "I can't change the grade, but you're the director, and you can do whatever you think needs to be done." But I suspect that many are in situations where telling the administration that would be "unwise."

When in Rome . . . . . It's their ballpark; they get to make the rules.

Regards,
John

Regards,
John
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grayskies



Joined: 03 Dec 2013
Posts: 67

PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2014 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with you. It is not an easy problem to solve.

So, I come back to one of my original statements:
Quote:
The whole point is to provide language skills necessary for success in the academic environment.


I would like the foundation to concentrate on pre-english composition. Due to their English programs in their secondary levels, or I should say, the lack of them, we need to catch them up.

Sooner or later, they will play the catch up game anyway. I propose we give the necessary skills they will require in their undergrad years, for a liberal arts education.
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Rostom



Joined: 16 Apr 2014
Posts: 102
Location: UK/Veteran of the Magic Kingdom

PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2014 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

grayskies wrote:
Sooner or later, they will play the catch up game anyway. I propose we give the necessary skills they will require in their undergrad years, for a liberal arts education.

Well, in the Magic Kingdom, the concept of liberal arts education is completely different from the USA one for example.
Do you think you can apply the Socratic concept/method - as used in the USA liberal arts education - to the Magic Kingdom's 'liberal' arts education?
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 17604
Location: USA

PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2014 2:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

grayskies wrote:
Quote:
The problem is that the student level is NOT ready for anything more. You can't run before you can walk. When 90% of the students arrive unable to write one grammatical one clause sentence, obviously they are not yet ready for 5 paragraph academic essays... or grasping the concept of research, paraphrasing, and citing.


Actually, we have proven that argument wrong. What you have said, is the belief of some of the instructors, without implementing anything other, but simple sentence structure.

Students will grapple with anything that is new to them. This is said, for all students worldwide. The problem we face in the Gulf. is that these same students will complain when a lesson is deemed too difficult. As a result, the entire program, including English Composition 101 gets water-downed.

Well yes... what could I know... I only taught all levels of writing from entry level beginners to Comp 101 for 15 years to Arabic speakers at universities in the Gulf. And exactly "who" is the "we" that "have proven that argument wrong." Besides it is not an "argument," it is reality.

But I am starting to wonder if you have ever done a class. Your comments about slapping these kids with Advanced Level materials whether they are even close to ready or not sounds like student abuse to me. As unrealistic as the management demands (fantasy?) that we bring fossilized beginners to advanced Academic Essayists in two semesters... most of them would need 4 to 6 semesters to even get close.

The vast majority of my first semester students had no concept of capital letters, that spelling matters, or even the vaguest concept of English punctuation. As I said... they couldn't write one grammatical one-clause sentence. So you are of the impression that all those students over the 15 years were faking it? Rolling Eyes

VS
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