The American Concept of Efl and Its Invisible Visions in the Middle East Region
In this paper I will discuss the phenomenon of using native English teachers in the Middle East region, precisely in United Arab Emirates in the context of EFL in the public primary schools. In this discussion I will examine the reasons beyond such a phenomenon. I will also examine the attitude of native and non-native speaker teachers who teach English language along with students’ parents’ attitudes. Moreover, I will link “communicative imperialism” (Phillipson, 2006) and the role of the media with the context of EFL in the Middle East region. Due to the natural of my paper, a “self reflective” (Pennycook, 2001: p.1) and previous experiences of other countries are expected to be present.
ELT in United Arab Emirates has witnessed an extraordinary revolution in the last 6 years. My interest of this issue emerged simultaneity with the appearance of a new type of schools which are gradually replacing the ordinary public schools in UAE. This type is called (Al-Ghad schools) which literally means “tomorrow schools” in Arabic. It clearly indicates the main purpose of these schools is to produce more sophisticated, moderated and competitive students. The vision of ministry of Education and Youth in UAE as what they declared is “to have a new generation who is more capable of English language and its vocabulary and grammar skills”, in other words “we need a generation who speaks English as it is his or her first language”, thus to achieve this goal teachers who “have a better command of fluent, idiomatically correct language forms, are more knowledgeable about the cultural connotations of the language” (Braine, 1999: p.xiv) are needed. In order to make this vision alive, a huge number of native English teachers had been brought from areas such as “North America, Britain, new Zealand and Australia which claim ownership over English”( Canagarajah, 1999: p.79). Furthermore, to support this vision, some authorized sources in the government argue that this new methodology of teaching is the best in teaching English which enables the students to acquire the language very easy and smoothly. Schiitz (2007) cites Krashen’s (1987) view that acquisition any language requires meaningful interaction in the target language (natural communication) thus, language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules because learners grow up learning the language as it is something very natural in their life without an effort, especially at the beginning levels of their life. Moreover, Boyle (1997) illustrates that native speaker teachers have a range of advantages over the non-native speaker teachers because (a) English learned from birth and developed through his/her life as primary language which been used in his/her life (b) the intricacies of the grammar of the language are learned instinctively and can be employed with speed and certainty (c) native speaker of English engages with other native speakers of English as something natural in his/her social context, so he/she uses the language all the time as the dominant language, thus it is better to use native speaker teachers of English to teach their first language. Additionally, McNeill (1994) in his study about the characteristics of native and non-native speaker teachers of English argues that native speaker teachers have the advantage when it comes to learners’ vocabulary needs. It is sensible to point here; the government is replacing non-native speaker teachers with native speaker teachers of English gradually in order to provide their students with the opportunity to hold conversations with teachers in English, and only in English.
On the other hand, Al-segair (2007) who works as a teacher in a prestigious university in the Middle East illustrates that in his investigation about native speaker teachers in the Middle East, “I found some of them used to work as dog-trainers back in Chicago” (paragraph, 2). He also pointed out that some teachers were “a bunch of former company employees and some had worked in western embassies” (paragraph, 2) who did not work as teachers before. Al-segair thus explains that not because you are a native speaker of a language qualifies you to teach it! Teaching a language requires “skills, competence, training and knowledge” (paragraph, 3). Going further in this issue, Al-Osaimi (2007) illustrates that some schools do not bother to recruit qualified English teachers, however, parents usually more impressed by where did teachers come from and the fact that their accent sounds more ‘American or British’ considered to be enough to convince them that they are the most suitable teachers to teach their children, regardless what they have of qualifications or experiences. Such criteria forced me to wonder why such thinking is dominant in the region.
America and its Politics play a major part in all of this. The American tenet that “the current educational systems in place in the Muslim world were partly responsible for motivating the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the pentagon. In June 2002” (Karmani, 2005:p.262), thus in order to change their attitude towards the western and the American culture, a new concept should be replaced with what is described as a “combination of intolerance, ignorance, anti-Semitic, anti-American, and anti-Western views” (Karmani, 2005: p.262) by using native speaker teachers as means to apply this project. By importing native speaker teachers of English from what Kachru calls “inner circle countries” (Kachru & Nelson, 1996: p. 78) with westerns’ beliefs and values, a new Americanized generation would be the total outcome. In simple words, educational or mind colonialism and “linguistics imperialism” (Phillipson, 2006: p.346) are the main goals in such invasion of native speaker teachers at the Middle East region.
Searching for its alleged security:
Handley (2004) mentions that in the late 1700s, America was surrounded by great European superpowers, thus America was “economically and militarily disadvantaged” (Hadley, 2004). Therefore, to build a strong and superpower nation, America must expand its borders by negotiation or war. The American citizens had been convinced that the world and America’s national security always in danger, so in order to protect the world and America, any country that threats us should be attacked. Furthermore, “lack of expansion implies the possibility of defeat” thus, “American insecurity was an important factor in the invasions of Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Philippines” (Hadley, 2004) in the past. Other form of such American fears is the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) which was a proposal by the American president Roland Reagan in March 23, 1983. The main goal of this proposal as what Wikipedia illustrates is “to use ground and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles”. This proposal carried the popular name “Star Wars” in 1977 after movie by George Lucas. According to Handley, the Star Wars program is an expansion of America’s continued need searching for its national safety “by now expanding its borders into outer space” (Handley, 2004 cited Mauk and Oakland, 154), moreover, the recent invasions on Iraq and Afghanistan interpreted by a large number of American citizens is they had been convinced that America’s national security was threatened. Thus, in order to assure that no one threats America’s security in the future, a new ways of domination and controlling should take place in areas such as Eastern Asia, Africa and the Middle East not only military, but also as media and academic occupation.
The role of Media in the Middle East:
No one can deny the strong role played by Media in any place in the world. America tries to impose its policies and its ideologies in the Middle East whether by using force or not. In order to dominate the region, the American beliefs should be promoted in the area. Phillipson (2006) argues that the development of communications networks has a basic relationship to the emergence of the new world order. He illustrates that “communication organizes the movement by multiplying and structuring interconnections through networks” (p. 352). Thus, in order to dominate a particular country and its culture, you must control its media and what is being showed to the people inside their homes. A controversially television network channels like MBC group (Middle East Broadcasting Center) and Alhurra (means the ‘free one’ in Arabic) had emerged in the Middle East and dedicate the lion’s share in Middle Easterners’ minds and homes. Such channels can be seen by some people as mediums to spread the American’s plans and principles in the region using another means beside tanks and rockets. Alhurra is a commercial-free Arabic language satellite television network for the Middle East operated and funded by the United States of America. This channel is financed by the American people using their taxes through the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the U.S. Congress. Many Arab political critics argue that this channel lunched to change the views of Arabs and Muslims around the world towards the west and America by showing football games, explaining the acetic dimensions of baseball and airing documentaries about the ‘fence’ in Palestine, along with doses of fashion. Alhurra in its official web site claims that:
“We are devoted primarily to news and information. In addition to reporting on regional and international events, the channel broadcasts discussion programs, current affairs magazines and features on a variety of subjects including health and personal fitness, entertainment, sports, fashion, and science and technology” (Alhurra official web site).
Give me a break! In order to facilitate TESOLers’ jobs who came from inner circle countries, an anesthetization of Middle Easterners’ hearts and minds must be done so people can accept these teachers with a positive attitude and a wide smile on their faces. People in the Middle East must be convinced that they are not proficient enough to teach English, thus teachers their first language is English must take over and teach English for your child’s own benefit. According to Phillipson (2006) media is not only organize production on a new scale and force a new structure sufficient to global space, but also make its justification inherent power, as it “produces, organizes, as it organizes, it speaks and expresses it self as authority” (p. 352). Why I would pay my good money to fund an Arabic channel such as Alhurra when I cannot earn money from it. Alhurra in its web site mentions that “Alhurra is operated by non-profit corporation, The Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc. (MBN)” (Alhurra official web site). The Arabic satellite dish contains more than 300 free entertainment channels which can be accessed by Arabs from any place in the Middle East with more than 6 news channels such as Al-jazeera, CNN and BBC. Therefore, the purpose of such channels is that the American government can trade its citizen’s money with its future security by dominating and directing Arab youths’ minds and beliefs toward its own interest, by providing ‘a purely American Arabic speaker’ channel. The other case is MBC group channels which “started in London as the first satellite, free-to-air multi-channel media group of its kind in the Arab world” (MBC official web site). Al-Arabiya (means the ‘Arabian channel’ in Arabic) which is one channel from the MBC 6 free channels specialized with news and press. The reason behind the emergence of such channel has been declared by the people work there is to have a democratic channel which fights Aljazeera’s thoughts (an Arabic news channel) and its anti-democratic trends. Since Al-jazeera has been described by many Westerner politicians as anti-American bias, thus we need a channel against any anti-American thoughts in the Middle East region. According to Ryan (2005) Donald Rumsfeld has accused the station of persuading people that the US is an occupying force in Iraq, which he describes as a lie! On the contrary, the expansion into Iraq was to “brought freedom, economic growth, education and democracy to people who have suffered under years of oppression and mismanagement” (Hadley, 2004 quoted Assistance for Iraq). As a result, America is trying to Americanize the Arabic society the same way as she Americanized the Japanese society after the World War ll. Therefore, the road will be paved for native English teachers when they come to teach the ‘Western values’.
The world of TESOL and the native speaker teacher of English:
To impose the American ideologies in the Middle East, America promoted very well the teaching job for the native speaker teachers of English by promising them with “ good salaries and an exotic overseas adventure” (Hadley, 2004). According to Hadley many scholars such as Troike and Crystal have linked the expansion of TESOL to the expansion of former British and present American empire. Furthermore, native English teachers serve as “part of the educational aid packages exported to countries throughout South America, South East Asia, Africa and the Middle East” (Hadley, 2004) who work as colonial administrators. Handley in his paper cited Edge’s view that EFL teachers have become an academic army that satisfies intellectual conflict and occupies the linguistic dominions of an Anglophonic empire:
“…it is now possible to see us, EFL teachers, as a second wave of imperial troopers. Before the armoured divisions have withdrawn from the city limits, while the solders are still patrolling the streets, English teachers will be facilitating the policies that the tanks were sent to impose. And whether, and to whomsoever, I teach EFL, I am part of that overarching system” (Hadley, 2004 quoted from Edge, 10)
Karmani (2005) argues that an extraordinary pressure has been put on Muslim governments to reform their educational curricula. A very interesting article by Glasser (2003) who works for the Washington Post illustrates that many Arabic Gulf countries reshape their schools and put English over Islam, so in order to make way for more hours of English, classes in Islamic studies and Arabic are being reduced. A new stuff of native English speaker teachers has been brought into the schools of United Arab Emirates to teach the students from early ages. What is interesting is that the native speaker teachers are brought from inner countries as experts who do not need any preparing or training. They are who design the textbooks, monitoring the non-native speaker teachers and deciding who should stay and who should not stay in the school. However, American policies had succeeded in this country. Almost every non-native speaker teacher convinced that the native speaker teachers are better than non-native speaker teachers in English and this system is the best to teach the students this language even if they do not have the required qualifications, because English is their first language. This persuasion created negative outcomes with less positive results. In such schools a world full of racial discrimination in job opportunity, payment and respect has emerged. Non-native speaker teacher is no longer trusted by parents and his or her students. The native speaker teacher’s salary must be double than the non-native speaker teacher as one condition to import these teachers. Moreover, they must be provided with luxury accommodations, free transportations and first class annual flight tickets to their mother land. Of course, these conditions had been set by the American government to ensure that their citizens are treated well. Such conditions are imposed against governments’ wish in the Middle East region. What is ironic is that even if you have an American passport or you are a citizen from inner countries and you were not white or you were originally from Arabic country, you may not have these facilities! In some cases your contract might be cancelled even after you have signed the contract if your original identity has been discovered.
In order to achieve the maximum domination on the Middle East and to make sure that no anti-American bases are exist in the region. Moreover, to insure that what happened in September 11, 2001 is not going to happen again, an American political equation must be applied, first, using the tank to impose the power. Second, programming youth’s minds and their views on what America ‘believes in’ is right. Third, teach the child what is against America is against you in the classrooms. It is not a coincidence that the emergence of (Al-Ghad) schools was after only one year from the dramatic events of September 11, 2001. It is not a coincidence that the reform of the educational curricula implemented after September 11, 2001. It is not also a coincidence that, channels like Alhurra and Al-Arabiya had been lunched after what happened in September 11 in 2001 which they are now based in Dubai, in United Arab Emirates. However, no one can disagree that Middle East countries need skilled and experienced workers and teachers from developed countries such as America, and Britain, but a direct supervising to those employees must be done by Middle Eastern countries that brought those experts and pay their salaries from their money for a preset goal. According to Fields (2005) who is a native speaker teacher of English works in Abu-Dhabi, UAE, teachers should be hired based on their qualifications to work in an atmosphere of fairness and respect, free from fear of discriminatory treatment or arbitrary dismissal because of their ethnicity, whether they were native or non-native speaker teachers of English.
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