Private English Institutes on Trial [Archives:2000/07/Reportage]

February 14 2000

Tawfeek Al-Sharabi,
Yemen Times

It is a well-known fact that English has become a global tongue. It is actually dominating the world and capturing the international interest. Hence, it should be given the attention needed so students will be given access to multi-faceted advantages to expand their horizons and serve their communities as well. Private English Institutes can play a dynamic role in this regard. Practically speaking, they are a double edged service that may cut both ways. For they may also lead to negative as well as disastrous outcomes. How come ?!
It is so when these institutes are not meant to serve education but to sell it. It astounds me a lot to see the ever increasing number of English Institutes in different cities of our country, especially Taiz and Sana’a.
Private English Institutes can as mentioned above play a substantive and an essential part in promoting students interests and abilities to improve. For learning a language will certainly open new doors, create new job opportunities, expand one’s knowledge to acquire instrumental benefits. This will also have a positive role in enhancing our fragile economy for we will be able to make use of the national qualified mentalities who will considerably minimize foreign employment. Therefore, the number of students studying English is increasing steadily in course of time. This is distinctly seen as the Departments of English are hustling and bustling with students, a situation that is very much different from that some years ago.
Two or three years ago, the number of English institutes was very limited in number. To make it clear, around four or five institutes were established in Taiz. However, what strikes the eye now and amazes everyone is the so many institutes widespread all over the city. They are flooding our cities. This has led to the rise of so many question marks such as:
Can we take these institutes as a healthy sign of building a modern bilingual generation?
Do such institutes really serve the educational process?
Do students really benefit from these institutes?
There are many questions that may pop up to one’s mind if considering the prevalence of such a phenomenon.
Considering the short span of time during which these institutes have spread up, it becomes pretty hard to answer these questions positively.
To come close to the heart of the matter, Yemen Times conducted this field survey and contacted all the sides that are involved in this issue: students, institutes’ directors, teachers and Taiz Bureau Office.
Mohammed Mansoor, a student who has studied in different language centers said “I have taken different courses in so many institutes and I am not at all content with what I have acquired and learned. I came to encounter so many problems such as incompetent teachers some of whom are still students, different series of books taught in different institutes, greediness of some institutes owners, ………. etc.”Sami Al-Odaini, another student said “We can not generalize the idea that all the institutes are good nor can we say that they are bad. No one can deny the fact that some of these centers play a pivotal role in teaching English and improving students’ language skills. Some of such centers are mainly concerned with obtaining money. They are not seriously committed to serve education and qualify students to be second-language speakers. This is proved when we see many language centers open and close soon owing to the lack of administration control. Some managers tend to sign contracts with foreigners to teach some courses during their presence in Yemen. Once I happened to discover that our teacher is a plumber in profession and is not at all professional in teaching English.”To come so close to the heart of the matter we contacted some of these institutes directors. Mr. Aklan Saif Mudhesh, director of Al-Kindi Institute said “Private English Institutes have increased a lot in number mainly because of the Education Office which does not pay any attention to the persons who are supposed to run these institutes. Therefore, opening such institutes seems to go randomly. The Education Office must handle this properly and look after these institutes because such institutes play a significant role in educating the people. I believe that those well educated and qualified should be the ones who should have the right to establish these institutes.
As an inspector of English along with some inspectors, we have tried to raise this issue many times. We try to convince the people in charge to try organize the process so that we do not draw a bad picture of these language institutes. But it was all to no avail.
It is not a matter of making money that these institutes have spread for you can make money and at the same time do a good job.
Regarding teachers, I confidently say that we have some brilliant Yemeni teachers. However, in some cases I come to know some students still studying in university but they are so brilliant and could speak and communicate well with others, so why not giving them the chance to teach beginners.
Some institutes play a good and essential role in teaching English. Many students get the basics of English in these institutes before they join college. When they go to the university they prove themselves well.
For the time being we are planning to prepare a curriculum that meets the needs of our students. Finally, I would like to thank Yemen Times for this kind gesture and I hope that this will produce an echo in the ears of the people of the Education Office and that they will move to do something appreciative to save the good and sacred mission performed by some institutes.”
Mr. Mahyoob Haza’a, director of Taiz Universal Institute said “The main reason in my point of view for the ever-increasing number of these institutes is that they are not costly to open, for only a flat, some chairs and some books and some teachers are sufficient to start an institute. However, this is not what we do approve. Owners of Institutes should think seriously about this for the real goal is to teach faithfully and if this is not met then these institutes are a complete failure.
Not all the existing institutes produce something that make sense, consequently many institutes open and soon close. Some institutes claim to have multi-functions: teaching English, French, typing, computer, etc however, I believe that such institutes can’t achieve their goals for they can not do two things at a time.
Students major problem is that they do not have the opportunity to practice the language. They at best have the chance to practice the language while they are in classrooms, this is if their teacher is interested in making them participate and interact with him. As soon as they finish their course, they do not use English as their society is not an English-speaking one. Moreover some teachers have become used to some outdated ways and techniques and it is proved that such techniques do not help but rather impinge the education process. Language is the skill of communication and new techniques, methods and theories have emerged to prove that the old techniques and theories are not that proper and useful to make students learn languages. However, teachers are lacking exposure to these techniques and theories which obviously affect students much.
The institutes are subjected to the Educational Office only from a technical point of view. They do not interfere in choosing the text books, prices of the courses, facilities, teachers, etc. What they are interested in is the administrative point and in my opinion the technical side is more important than the administrative one.
Finally, I would like the press to focus on this issue so that we protect the state and the position of English language in Yemen.”
Khalid Abdu Mohammed Kassem, a teacher of English, said that these institutes may help in the education process, however, it depends upon the policy of the managers. Some people as far as I know do care about money but they also care about education and about the learning process. Not only to make money but also to help students learn the language.
In any learning process there must be some problems, most often many institutes lack many visual aids that help the teacher teach his lesson successfully. Pictures are few and if ever available they are not used by teachers sometimes. The use of video tape and flash-cards. Video tapes are not available all the time and are mostly kept in one of the rooms that is often busy. So we can’t use that room for a long time.
Regarding the books taught it is really a crucial issue begs our attention, because different institutes use different series of text books. Most often they do not put students at the right level. This makes it difficult for the teacher to plan his lesson successfully.
I believe that much of the responsibility lies upon the teacher for he can do a lot either to help students or daunt and disappoint them.
Teachers are really exploited to a great extent by most of the managers. For example, I feel that what I am given for an hour is not enough, to be frank. I think directors will complaint that they have reasons for that though we can not hide the truth.
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Private English Institutes on Trial
However, on the other hand I find that I am not badly treated in the institute I am teaching in it for the manager is very much appreciative and understanding. Sometimes he gives the distinguished ones bonuses and some extra money. What I think more important is the relationship between the manager and the staff which should be of high quality. The manager should respect the staff and vise versa. Money is not always important. The final word I would like to say I wish I were not a teacher. The second thing is about Yemen Times the greatest English newspaper in Yemen and the people working in it are always very special.”So as to give the devil its due, Yemen Times contacted Mr. Kasem Hassan Al-Salahi, the Head of the Department of Private Institutes and Centers in the Administration of the Private and Public Education in the Education Office in Taiz who said “Private English Institutes play an important role in supporting schools and the education process in an age characterized by the dominance of English over so many languages all over the world. There are around 36 institutes and centers in Taiz 25 of which teach languages and computer. Some of these institutes teach French and Arabic for those who do not speak it.
There is a field supervision conducted to observe these institutes as well as centers and to observe the curricula taught in them. We also observe the teachers teaching in these institutes who are used to be good. However, this observation is not enough for the Law of Private and Public Education was passed and its executive standing which organizes how these articles are dealt with was not passed yet. Second, there is no continuous coordination between the private education and inspection in the Education Office for organizing the field observation of text books and teachers.
Regarding the books taught in these institutes they are mostly private curricula that have nothing to do with the public education. It is true that these institutes’ main objective is to hoard money and this is the main reason behind their being open, however, this does not mean that they do not play some important part in the educational process for many students benefited a lot from them. Most of those studying in these in institutes can speak the language at 65% rate.
Regarding granting these institutes the license, the Private, Public, Inspection and Planning Office forms a committee to get to the headquarters of the institute to see whether it is convenient or not and to check the curricula that will be taught. Then the Committee makes a report to the Higher Education pertaining to the fitness of the institute. If it is convenient the Public Education issues a note enclosed by the report to the vice minister of Education Section to give an establishing note to the owner of the institute that will be used to give a ministerial decision to allow him start working.
It is to be mentioned that not all the institutes and languages centers are legal for those which are legal do not exceed eleven institutes and the rest have been referred to the chairman of the Education Office, Mohammed Saeed Ali Saleh who has referred their case to the concerned people to settle them out.
Yemen Times has also contacted Professor in Sana’a University, Mohammed Ali Al-Arousi who said “Generally speaking, the spread of these institutes is far from ordinary. They are every where you go, however, what they do is almost nothing for they produce a weak class of people who are not able to speak the language and this is very distinct when these graduates apply for any vacancies which require the applicants to speak the language fluently. What we find is that these applicants who study in these institutes have a very weak command over the language.
On the other hand, these institutes may have a negative effect on the students. For they may study some courses and when they find that there is no benefit due one reason or the other, for example due the incompetent teachers, they may give up learning.
To make a long story short, these institutes are commercial ones. Another fact that proves this is the institutes titles which contain “American Language Institute” as part of their names and at the same time, they have nothing to do with the only American language institute that exists in the whole Republic YALI.”
In short, the Ministry of Education as well as its Offices in all the governorates should move and exercise control on these institutes so as to preserve the state of English language and assure the students’ learning. Will the Ministry of Education move and act as it is the only responsible institution for all this? I wonder!