The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.

English Medium of Instruction in Afghanistan

afghan words
OMAHA,NE.--Parween Arghandaywal pronounces words during English class at UNO for the visiting Afghan teachers. (Staff Photo by Bill Batson)

By: Mohammad Elias Samimi

Education makes the base to development of societies. But to have a good educational system it is important to have an effective and respondent curriculum. Currently language plays a crucial rule in educational curriculum and for developing countries it is necessary to consider the importance of language in their educational systems, if they are to develop. The rapid growth of English has motivated and influenced almost all countries around the world to change their medium of instruction to English(Macaro, 2015). Based on Dearden (2014) definition, English Medium Instruction (EMI) is, “The use of the English language to teach academic subjects in countries or jurisdictions where the first language (L1) of the majority of the population is not English” (p. 4). Afghanistan is a developing country going towards development and has seen many changes and conflicts, which has affected it`s educational system. So it needs reforms in order to provide better educational chances for Afghan citizens. In 2012 Hamid Karzai the former president of Afghanistan issued a decree to change the medium of instruction to English in the country(Waziri, n.d). Now there is debates going on about whether the implementation of English Medium Instruction (EMI) is possible in the country or not. Though very less researches has been performed in the country about the effectiveness of EMI, but based on existing researches we can state that changing the medium of instruction to English is not feasible in the country. Lack of qualified instructors as well as low level of English of both students and instructors are the major reasons that fails the implementation of EMI in the country.
First, lack of qualified and skilled teachers at universities is a problem with the implementation of EMI in the country. The number of faculties who have done their masters or PhD degrees in English speaking countries are very less. Even most of those faculties who have studied in English Speaking countries do not have the ability to teach students, trough the medium of English. As , Al-Sultan (2009) writes (as cited in Waziri, n.d.), “ We cannot assume that faculty members studied in the US or other English-speaking countries are capable of teaching in English, they may, on the other hand, cause a negative effect on their students” (p. 1). Meanwhile, a research conducted by British Council in developing countries found that the benefit of English in Pakistan which was included in countries that research performed on is restricted to minority due to ineffective education policy. As Mustafa, a journalist says “English cannot solve our ills. There are not enough teachers who know English and can teach in English. Children cannot comprehend what they are taught ((The Guardian, 2011).”Moreover, the educational infrastructure in the country cannot support implementation of EMI. To implement EMI in the country Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) needs to design and implement language training programs for instructors to improve their language skills. Also, to improve the curriculum in schools in order to improve student`s level of English (Waziri, n.d.). Without such programs implementation of EMI in the country is impossible because both students and teachers have linguistic problem. Furthermore, insecurity is a reason contributing to lack of qualified instructors. Many faculties have left the country because of insecurity. For example, many qualified and experienced faculties in Engineering College at Kabul University left the country because of insecurity. The mentioned group of faculties where those whom government invested huge amounts of many on them to study in US or Japan to serve back for the country, but because of bad security they left the country (Waziri, n.d.). If this continues the implementation of EMI will become something virtual. It is the responsibility of Afghan government and especially MoHE to retain the faculty members. Another example, is department of English at Kabul university 17 skilled faculties have left teaching since 2010 because of bad security (Waziri, n.d.). Therefore, lack of qualified instructors is a major reason that fails the implementation of EMI at higher education of the country.
The second major reason for ineffectiveness of EMI in the country is the low level of student‘s English that holds universities back from implementation of EMI. As Waziri (n.d.) states, majority of students come from 34 provinces of the country with different academic abilities. Students cannot learn foreign languages from the curriculum exists in the country. In the curriculum of the country Arabic is one of the subjects students study and in some school French, Turkish, and German is also taught. The reason students cannot learn national or foreign languages is lack of qualified teachers and failed curriculum. For students the only way to learn a language is to join courses and language centers. While, this facility does not exist for all students in the country except for those in big cities like Kabul, Mazar, Herat, or Jalalabad (Waziri, n.d.). Moreover, students are taught through traditional methods of teaching at schools and universities. There are no feedbacks on assignments and home workers, and the focus of teaching is not on academic skills such as reading and writing, and lectures are not sufficient and effective due to usage of outdated materials and textbooks. Modern methods of teaching such as summarizing, analyzing, and discussing on issues are not used. Currently, if the medium of instruction is changed to English it will at least take one year off for faculties as well as students to learn English and prepare for it and start with poor academic qualities (Waziri, n.d.). Same research was conducted in Kurdistan region of Iraq, the main problem noted was low level of English among students. As one comment says, “Every time I say something in English, I see question marks on their faces. Therefore, I feel that it is much better to switch to Kurdish language for better understanding and saving times of the class” (Borg, 2016)(as cited in Waziri, n.d.)
Although many people believe that English is the language of academia. As a research conducted by British Council reported that most of the people see English a way to the world of academic and business. (British Council, 2014). Some people think that learning academic subjects through EMI will facilitate the learning process to students. The argument is that almost majority of important researches are published in English and it is easier to learn them through English instead of translating them to home language (Macaro, 2015). But,in analysis of Airey (2001) on university professors of Swedish, the respondents believed that the lectures were less in-depth using English and they could not convey the concepts to students (as cited in Macaro & Dearden, 2016). Similarly, university instructors in the Ukraine reported that both they and their students had to switch to L1 while they needed to understand a content. Instructors felt that it was because of low level of student‘s English (as cited in Macaro & Dearden, 2016). Thus, teaching through EMI is not effective and successful unless there are qualified teachers who are able to teach well through medium of English. This paper has examined the effectiveness of EMI in Afghanistan‘s public universities, and has found that implementation if the program is not possible currently. With the consideration of both teachers and students level and proficiency of English implementing such a program will not be successful. Therefore, transitioning to English as a medium of instruction in the Afghanistan‘s universities is a defective and unsuccessful movement till we have qualified teachers in the public universities of the country, and the level of student‘s English is high enough to be able to adopt to the program.


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The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.