History of English teaching in Yemen [Archives:2005/844/Education]

May 23 2005

By Mohammad Ghanim
Faculty of Education
Sana'a University

Yemen is one of the countries where English is taught as a foreign language. English was first introduced to the schools of North Yemen, through a textbook, by Imam Yahya in 1926 (Sulaiman,1994), whereas in South Yemen, namely Aden, it was introduced by the British in the early thirties of the 19th century. In 1962, in North Yemen, Egyptian school textbooks such as “English for Use”, were used in preparatory and secondary schools. The teaching practices were modeled, by and large, on Grammar Translation Method. 1 In the school year 1968/69, the “English for Use” course was replaced by “Living English for the Arab World”, a course that used to be taught in the neighboring Arab Gulf countries at that time.2

In the school year 1982/83, two different English courses were trialled at grades 7 and 8 in some preparatory schools in Sana'a and Taiz. An earlier version of the Crescent designed for the Yemeni schools by an Arab Gulf country was piloted at grade 8 classes in the two cities. The other one was “The English for Yemen”, prepared by the British Council team on the basis of some preliminary investigation about the local situation and the educational and social needs.(A report by. Mountford)

Eventually, English For Yemen was chosen to be the official textbook in the schools of the northern governorates .It was used till 1992 when there was a felt need for having one common textbook for all the schools in the country.

In the school year 1992-1993 an agreement was reached with Mr. Rod Web, the author of Crescent ,to incorporate certain amendments to the course . By printing the new textbooks in cooperation with Oxford University Press, Beirut Branch, the Yemen Ministry of Education changed the old textbooks and replaced them by the revised Crescent, which is now captioned English Course For Yemen.

In addition to schools, English is also taught in the Faculties of Education, Arts and Languages ,as well as in those of Medicine and Engineering. There is a perceived need of more Yemeni citizens with a good level of proficiency in English.Creating a great number of competent users of English, as teachers to teach in schools and as users of English in a whole range of professions, businesses, workplaces and enterprises is undeniably a high national priority.

In the fitness of things, the government encourages the private sector initiative to be involved in the enterprise of teaching English. As a result, numerous language institutes and English medium schools have mushroomed through the length and breadth of the country , offering courses from the kindergarten to the tertiary levels.

Yemeni students are also eager to study English for their own occupational purposes such as joining the Faculty of Medicine or Engineering. They also want English to get better jobs in the future, especially in the multinational companies or joint ventures or to study abroad.

The English Course For Yemen requires teachers to teach English communicatively in classrooms as it is mentioned in the Teacher's Guide; Book 2, (page 2 & 3). The introduction of this functional textbook, in which communicative teaching aims have been set and the communicative functions to be taught listed, is a key element to achieve all the above mentioned goals .As we know, communicative language teaching (CLT) aims at promoting the learners' communicative competence, helping them fulfill their communicational needs. As Nunan (1988) and Gallowy (1993) aptly observe, sufficient exposure to the target language brings about a positive effect on the EFL learners . This is expected to be a key element in Yemen as well, facilitating the learners' access to the outside world and augmenting the nation's drive towards modernization.