DUBAI // A lack of funding in some schools and a reliance on older methods of teaching are making it difficult for Pakistani students to learn the English language properly, teachers, linguists and community members said this weekend. In an attempt to improve classroom methods and ultimately benefit the language skills of Pakistani students, Jannat Durrani, 27, a linguistics lecturer at the Szabist University in Dubai, yesterday conducted a six-hour workshop for almost 100 teachers of South Asian origin.
The workshop was organised by the Pakistan Association Dubai (PAD). Ms Durrani, who has worked in the UAE for a year and a half, and who was graduated from the University of Peshawar in Pakistan, said Pakistani students deserved better education. "Our teachers have a problem; the problem is not with the students," Ms Durrani said. "Our educational standards are a little low and the courses are flawed. There are no modern methodologies."
Having visited the country's "community" schools welfare academies with a curriculum taught in English that charge a few hundred dirhams a month in fees she said teachers needed better facilities. "There is a lack of training for teachers," she said. "Their salaries are not good enough. They don't have the right teaching books. They are not being provided with the right material." Nagma Sheikh, a teacher at the Al Sadiq Islam English school in Al Qusais, paid Dh100 to attend the workshop and said more affordable courses for teachers to learn new skills were needed.
"We want to learn the new ideas about teaching," she said. "It's very important to know what works in the classroom. My students are of all nationalities, including Pakistani, and they all need help with English." Ms Durrani said some schools lacked basic computer facilities and that the "community was still teaching English the way they did back in the 1960s." Poor educational facilities for Pakistanis in the UAE have been a long-standing complaint from the almost one-million-strong population.
In December, Javed Malik, Pakistan's ambassador at large, called on the federal minister for overseas Pakistanis, Farooq Sattar, for assistance in providing better academies. Nasara Sabir, a teacher at the Pakistan Islamia School of Al Ain, said school funding should come from the Pakistani government. "These workshops are very important," she said. "Students' English is suffering because they don't have a good learning atmosphere and they don't get enough practice."
At home, students often speak their native language, usually Pashto, Baluchi, Urdu or Punjabi, and some parents do not place enough emphasis on English. While it was not suggested that families forgo their mother tongue in favour of English, parents were urged to recognise its importance. "Parents don't have to speak English in the home, but they have to develop the sense that this is a part of their life," Ms Durrani said. "English has an importance attached to it globally. English is essential anywhere in the world."
Sarwat Navid, a 27-year-old teacher who moved to the Emirates three months ago from Lahore, said the UAE's teaching standards needed development. "English is an international language and if we neglect it, we neglect our progress as Pakistanis," she said. The workshop was the second course to be offered by the Pakistan association's education wing. "We have qualified teachers but they need to update their knowledge and techniques," said Samina Nasir, the association's education secretary who has taught for 25 years. Before arriving in the UAE two decades ago, she worked in Pakistan.
"In Pakistan, there are wide opportunities for training workshops," she said. "Here in the UAE we don't have opportunities like Pakistan. We have to keep our students bilingual so they can become productive members of society. "Most students in the community schools are from the same background, so in class they communicate in Urdu. All teachers should be communicating in English, but sometimes they slip back into Urdu. This must be stopped."