Problems of English Teachers in Kuwait


Introduction and Literature Review – Linguistics

An Assessment of the Problems faced by English Teachers in Kuwait Intermediate Schools

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Table of Contents
1.0 Introduction 3
1.1 The intermediate stage 5
1:2 Research Aims and Objectives 5
1:3 Research Question 6
1:4 Justification for the Study 6
2.0 Chapter 2: Literature Review 7
3.0 References 13

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.0 Introduction
English is a universal language and is thus used by many people from different backgrounds and cultures. Dewi (2017) asserts that English is used in many other countries besides the English speaking countries in many contexts like technological terms, news and in research reports. For many countries, English has become a compulsory subject in the curriculum at the intermediate level, and in some cases, it is taught as early as kindergarten level. At the primary level, teachers introduce the learners to the basics of English language like the vocabulary of things around the learners (Brown and Hatch, 1995). The basics taught at this level are experimentation with language, interaction, and a few grammar rules. Since the intermediate level is different from other levels, teaching English to young learners comes with many problems encountered by the learners and the teachers. According to Carless (2004), the most common problems that come with teaching English at the intermediate level are lack of adequate resources and teaching materials, interference of the first language, overcrowding in classes and poor curriculum implementation.
In Kuwait, there was a need to introduce English to learners so that there can be communication and connection to other developed countries in the Western. According to Almubayei (2010), the rapid growth that the country has is associated with the oil deposits that were discovered but there was the need to replace the oil trade with other sustainable means to ensure that the country is productive without relying on the few resources that it has. Thus the money that the country got from the trade had to be reinvested into education and in improving the infrastructure of the country (Al-Rubaie, 2010). The result of the country’s dealings with other countries is the exposure it got with other countries, including Anglophone countries. With the exposure and the need to communicate with the Anglophone countries, Kuwait changed from the usual Islamic education systems to more formal education that merchants had encountered as they traded (Al-Rubaie, 2010). According to Kachru (1990), the need for English in Kuwait has come out of the need to compete with other countries economically and which requires that the participants be English speakers. The Iraqi invasion of 1990 made English a necessity as people had to use the language to survive in the international market (Karmani, 2006). The 9/11 attack led to Islam radicalization thus the Muslim countries united against it. Some people were opposed to learning the “western language” due to the radicalization while others felt that to understand the western influence it was prudent to learn English. Moreover, both the UK and the USA that uses the language as their backbone and mother tongue are the hubs of many nationalities, thus the need for Kuwait to synchronize with such countries through learning English. The global role of English is thus evidenced in new media, policy-making and language education. The first encounter of Kuwait with English was through the British East India Company that dealt with the oil trade and thus the beginning of English vocabulary used in the oil trade. English was thus the main foreign language that would tell the world what the country required.

Challenges that the Kuwait pedagogy tries to identify for elimination.

Though there are many positive effects of the use of the English language in Kuwait, the learning process has been affected by a number of challenges that the Kuwait pedagogy tries to identify for elimination. English teachers in Kuwait, especially at the intermediate level where there is the introduction of English have had more than a few challenges, in the introduction of a new language. One of the issues in the teaching of English is the quality of training education that the English language teachers get. Since the training does not address the cultural implications of English on the Kuwait teachers, it seems inadequate (Kachru, 1990). Other challenges that Kuwait faces in the teaching of English at the intermediate level is assessment challenges, lack of English teachers, new global changes, First Language interference, assessment challenges and poor pedagogical approach to English. This study will elucidate on these challenges with the aim of providing possible solutions to the problems, in order to deliver quality content to English learners at the intermediate level.

1.1 The intermediate stage

According to Nunan and Carter, (2001) the intermediate stage on which this paper is based requires that learners should be communicative in the use of the English language. Thus the approach in teaching the English language is mostly communicative and audio-lingual. Though it, maybe impossible to achieve near-native proficiency in the language it is expected that learners in this level should confidently speak in English. They are independent at this level thus the mastery of the language is expected by the curriculum. The textbooks that are mostly used, the Target English series, ensure that the curriculum is the one designed by the ministry of education (Nunan and Carter, 2001). Naturally, confidence in a language ensures that students can express their opinions in the language thus the competent methods used are oral tasks and dialogue. According to Van der Walt (2013), the intermediate level creates a sort of self-motivation in the English language but does not link to their subjects. The result is that learners are left confused about the local use in learning of English.
1:2 Research Aims and Objectives
The purpose of this study is to investigate the problems faced by English teachers in Kuwait intermediate schools. The following are the research objectives;
1. To critically assess the perceptions of the English teachers about the problems they are facing in the teaching of English to intermediate children?
2. To assess the challenges faced by English teachers in Kuwait intermediate schools.
3. To establish the relationship between globalization and learning of the English language in Kuwait.

1:3 Research Question
1. What are the perceptions of the English teachers about the problems they are facing in the teaching of English to intermediate children?
2. What are the challenges faced by English teachers in Kuwait intermediate schools?
3. What is the relationship between globalization and learning of the English language in Kuwait?
1:4 Justification for the Study
In Kuwait, there has been the introduction of languages in intermediate schools, especially English. The teaching of English in such schools is due to government efforts to keep up with globalization needs and the need to communicate with western countries that do well in the world. Since English speaking countries are among the world’s wealthiest and the most affluent, Kuwait identified a need to introduce English to its curriculum so that learners can communicate and interact with the western culture. Johnstone (2009) says that there are several reasons why Kuwait preferred English over other foreign languages at an early level. The first one is the assumption that it is advantageous to learning new languages early. On the other hand, economic liberalization has led to the widespread usage of English and many states believe that it is important to have an English speaking workforce in order to compete. Besides, parents want their children to learn English so that they can benefit from the new world orders hence continue to put pressure on the government to introduce English to younger children. A study into this topic will be significant in helping unearth and evaluate some of the challenges faced by teachers of English in Kuwait with the view of seeking possible solutions to enhance better learning and teaching of English in the country. The study will identify the problems and thus form a strong basis for decision making in future geared at improving English learning and teaching in Kuwait.

2.0 Chapter 2: Literature Review
According to Pennycook (2017), the current training that teachers of English are getting does not address the impact of the spread of English. The ELT curriculum especially does not equip the graduate teachers with enough learning opportunities that can sustain them in a globalization age. For instance, the methods used by the Kuwait trainers are long outdated and cannot be compared to the current methods that English speaking countries use. The use of lectures and teacher-oriented teaching methods cannot be relied on to properly equip the teacher in an environment that is rapidly changing. Today, training of language teachers is highly dependent on the abilities of the teacher and their talents (Pennycook (2017). The result of outdated methods in training of English teachers will thus, in turn, affect the quality of language that is passed on to the children at the primary level. For instance, socio-linguistics is largely used in globalization, therefore, there is need to sensitize learners on the current trends (Kachru & Nelson, 2001). The current training curriculum does not address the links that exist between the local, global and Anglophone contexts.
Karmani (2005) argues that the outdated and conservative training methods, lack of support from the government and the outdated learning environments are the biggest problem for the Kuwait teachers at the primary level. He adds that for there to be quality education in the teaching of the English language there is a need to train bilingual Arabic-English speaking educators who can be involved in policymaking as they are better placed to know the challenges that they have (Karmani, 2005).
According to Abi-Mershed (2009), the inequalities between the quality of education in western countries and the local consumers can threaten to take over Kuwait’s intellectual traditions. There thus needs to have an output form Arab scholars on the challenges that the teaching of English has. Due to the challenges, marrying the Arab and English cultures can only be achieved through competent language teachers. Clarke, Ramanathan and Morgan, 2007 comment that the delivery of content is not important to the curriculum as much as awareness of how the trainees think and evolve in their disciplines. It is thus important to engage the language trainees in critical thinking which allows a rich experience for the teachers and they thus become productive. As earlier noted by Almodaires (2009), Kuwait’s curriculum is linked to poor teacher training. According to Canagarajah (2006), language should be taught as social practice and thus be effect oriented. Through continuous practice, the trainee teacher is able to maintain professionalism in learning and thus in their teaching. Troudi (2005) insists that having a conscious action-oriented ideology when training the teachers is what leads to change.
The Kuwait case is different from other Arabic speaking countries more so because many people are of mixed nationalities, therefore many people speak as many as three languages or more. This means that such people can switch through several cultural contexts that lead to several realities. The case is the same for all Kuwaitis that with globalization, there is no escaping from western influence. Diversity is therefore important without having to lose one’s culture (Holliday, 2006). In order for there to be harmony between Arabic and English language, there is a need to view people as complex beings who are individually different therefore with different needs and not stereotypical beings. In light of this, the challenge of training teachers should consider cultural diversity if the method of training is to be considered contemporary and up to date (Holliday, 2006).
The other problem that ails the Kuwait teachers at the intermediate level is the few pieces of research there are on the challenges that are present in the country. Some of the research that is missing is the connection between globalization and the teacher training of English teachers. Another valid topic would be on whether the current workforce can rely on the teaching resources that the country currently has (Burney et al., 2013). The resources may not be enough to train teachers that would be expected to train young learners and allow Kuwait to integrate with other English speaking countries.
The intermediate level of education in Kuwait had four levels of study and was meant to develop the student’s developmental and psychological needs. The traditional levels thus changed to five in primary and four at intermediate level (Burney et al., 2013). At the time the students did not have the ability to use English academically thus the introduction of English in the first year of primary school. Then it was later expanded to other levels by 2009 (Burney et al., 2013). In comparison to publicly funded schools, privately funded schools, on the other hand, had a lot of resources that were spent on land and free textbooks for all learners. The learners in these institutions did not suffer the acute shortage of resources that public schools had. They, however, both had Arab teachers that taught English as a foreign language. There were also high academic standards, professional teachers and extensive learning of the English language that ensures job placement in Kuwait (Al Sharekh, 2017)).
Today the large numbers of students enrolled in private schools have risen due to the challenges encountered in the public schools, even though there are high school fees. Even further, some parents take their children to school abroad where it is less expensive and the institutions operate in English. The structure of the curriculum in these schools is independent of the government and thus include co-curriculum activities, co-educational policies, can use their preferred language and have their preferred curriculum (Al Sharekh, 2017). However, both public and private schools are required to have Islamic studies and Arabic language to the Kuwait residents who attend the school. Other commonalities are the hours of learning and common exams for Arabic students.
According to Nunan and David (1988), the problem of few teacher training institutions provides a major setback for the learning of the English language. For instance, the KU College of Education was the only institution that trained teachers in the English language. Thus it led to the shortage of teachers and lowering the quality of English learning as it led to the recruitment of teachers that had a basic education in English and not experts in teaching the English language. The situation only improved from 2003 when other training institutions cropped up.
The attitude of the trainee teachers is also wanting as most believe that to master the English language they must have had an encounter with it in countries that speak in English, or if their parents have lived in such countries (Mohammad, 2008). The Kuwait student, in general, lacks the confidence to speak in English since they have had to work hard at grasping the concept. It does not come naturally to them mostly due to lack of exposure to native speakers of the language. The fact that most English teachers are Kuwait nationals teaching English makes the student being taught to suffer the L1 interference and thus lack the confidence to speak it. The answer lies in having at least some native speakers during the training of the teachers in the teaching of the Kuwait student so that there is exposure of the language used in a natural setting and not just classroom environment (Mohammad, 2008). The result of the lack of exposure is that students have a warped view about accents and pronunciation of English words. Their teachers are not also well versed on the same as they lack exposure.
It is important for the government to only borrow aspects of native speakers but adopting the policies of the western countries may prove to be a problem (Holliday, 2009). For instance, the teacher training system that Kuwait has was borrowed from other western countries as they were deemed to be superior to Kuwait policymakers. The policies were not downsized to suit the local concepts of the Kuwait language needs thus the many shortcomings that the system has. First, the system was too simple to suit the complexities of the Kuwait culture of bilingualism (Bashshur, 2010). It also evaluated students according to other standards of the western countries yet Kuwait citizens were unique due to their multiculturalism. The fact that some texts are also borrowed from the Anglophone countries yet the methods used to teach do not encourage active roles in learning like in the western countries. Due to that, the student in Kuwait is expected to learn purely from the teacher and not from curiosity to find out things and experience, play with a language (Bashshur, 2010).

Kuwait has given globalization a chance by agreeing to participate in various international la competitions. There has also been the establishment of foreign companies in Kuwait showing the need that Kuwait has towards embracing the English language (Al-Rubaie, 2010). The fact that the Kuwait youth has in recent times been using some English words shows the hybridization of the youth, thus it is proof of multiple cultures present in Kuwait. With this in mind, there is a promise of necessary research in English language learning that is yet to be exploited by the scholars and which can offer necessary solutions for the challenges in English language learning.

3.0 References

Abi-Mershed, O. ed., 2009. Trajectories of education in the Arab world: Legacies and challenges. Routledge.
Almubayei, D.S., 2010. Articulations of identity within Kuwaiti high school cliques: Language choices in boyat and emo Filipino youth groups. The University of Texas at Arlington.
Al-Rubaie, R., 2010. Future Teachers, Future Perspective-The Story of English in Kuwait.
Al Sharekh, A., 2017. Kuwait: Education and Development. Education in the Arab World, p.137.
Bashshur, M., 2010. Observations from the edge of the deluge: Are we going too far, too fast in our educational transformation in the Arab Gulf. Trajectories of education in the Arab world: Legacies and challenges, pp.247-272.
Burney, N.A., Johnes, J., Al-Enezi, M. and Al-Musallam, M., 2013. The efficiency of public schools: the case of Kuwait. Education Economics, 21(4), pp.360-379.
Canagarajah, A.S., 2006. Negotiating the local in English as a lingua franca. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 26, pp.197-218.
Carless, D., 2004. Issues in teachers’ reinterpretation of a task‐based innovation in primary schools. Tesol Quarterly, 38(4), pp.639-662.
Clarke, M., Ramanathan, V. and Morgan, B., 2007. Language policy and language teacher education in the United Arab Emirates. TESOL quarterly, 41(3), pp.583-591.
Dewi, R.K.S., 2017. Teacher-Centered or Student-Centered? Tackling the Confusion English for Specific Purposes Teachers are Facing. ELT Tech: Journal of English Language Teaching and Technology, 1(1), pp.50-60.
Hatch, E. and Brown, C., 1995. Vocabulary, semantics, and language education. Cambridge University Press, 40 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011-4211 (hardback: ISBN-0-521-47409-4; paperback: ISBN-0-521-47942-8)..
Holliday, A., 2006. Native-speakerism. ELT journal, 60(4), pp.385-387.
Kachru, B.B., 1990. World Englishes and applied linguistics. World Englishes, 9(1), pp.3-20.
Kachru, B.B. and Nelson, C.L., 2001. World Englishes in Burns. 2001) Analysing English in a Global Context: a reader London: Routledge.
Karmani, S., 2005. Petro-linguistics: The emerging nexus between oil, English, and Islam. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 4(2), pp.87-102.
Mohammad, E.A., 2008. The place of writing in first grade Kuwaiti English Education: A sociological case study (Doctoral dissertation, Queensland University of Technology).
Nunan, D. and Carter, R. eds., 2001. The Cambridge guide to teaching English to speakers of other languages. Ernst Klett Sprachen.
Nunan, D. and David, N., 1988. The learner-centred curriculum: A study in second language teaching. Cambridge University Press.
Pennycook, A., 2017. The cultural politics of English as an international language. Routledge.
Van der Walt, C., 2013. Multilingual higher education: Beyond English medium orientations. Multilingual Matters.

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