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Teaching a Language for No Purpose: The Case of Teaching Arabic in International Settings
Dr. Mohamed Elfatih A. Braima
University of Khartoum, Sudan email@example.com
This paper investigates the situation of teaching Arabic in International formal settings. It takes as a case study the experience of the International Islamic School (IIS) in Malaysia. This is a first hand account which reviews the experience of IIS in teaching Arabic both as a first and foreign language. The paper focuses on issues such as the limited recourses, objectives for teaching the language, students' motivation, teachers qualifications and experience, teaching materials and textbooks, parents expectations, students levels and grouping. The main point of the study is that there is no clear and strong purpose for teaching Arabic in non Arab countries, this fact causes low learners motivation, and poor learning outcome. Most of the available textbooks have been designed for adults, and teaching methodologies are inadequate compared to those used for teaching ESL. The study shows a diminishing role and presence for Arabic as a First Language, and an external religious motivation for learning ASL from the part of the parents and not the learners.
Introduction: This paper sheds light on the situation of teaching of Arabic language in countries where the language does not enjoy any functional communicative role. The study takes experience of the International Islamic School (IIS) in Malaysia as a case study. There, teachers of Arabic have been facing many difficulties and have received a lot of criticism from all directions, yet no proper investigation or research has been conducted to look into the issue. This timely paper covers the following important issues: teachers, textbooks and reading schemes, teaching methodology, objectives for language teaching, student motivation and the language teaching policy. It is hoped that the information provided will enlighten the decision makers and parents of the school, so that they can better understand the challenges faced by teachers of Arabic and help them to establish a more effective Arabic language policy at IIS. Background: International Islamic School (IIS) is an English medium school with both primary and secondary departments. The Office of the Rector, at the International Islamic University Malaysia, established the IIS project in 1998. The rector at that time was Dr Abdul Hamid Abu Sulaiman, a Saudi national, who are supportive of the mission of the school. A number of American-educated Muslim scholars such as Dr. Farida Shamma, were involved in conceptualizing the school and formulating its curriculum. In line with their recommendations, the school followed an American curriculum for the first two years of
2 its inception; with the exception of Arabic, Islamic Studies, Quran and Social Studies to some degree. In the academic year 1999/2000, the School began a gradual departure from the American syllabus towards a British Curriculum - students started to prepare for the Cambridge IGCSE examination (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) which is quite similar to the old 'O'-Level exam. They then continued to study Cambridge 'A-levels', which, with the right grades, would provide them university entrance in any recognized university in the world. The establishment of IIS was supported and welcomed by the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) for three reasons: 1. The University would no longer have to pay exorbitant fees to other International Schools in Kuala Lumpur for the children of its expatriate staff. Instead, it could support an affiliated organization where the money could indirectly filter back to the university‟s coffers. 2. The IIUM could have more say about the syllabus of IIS through the university's Faculty of Education. 3. IIUM could feel confident that students at IIS would be receiving an education inline with its own Islamic values and practices. In other words, Islamic values could be inculcated at an even earlier level. IIS started with the full support of the University and its Education Faculty with two fulltime staff being seconded from the IIUM‟s education faculty to run the school. These were; Dr. Mohiani Razikin, a Malaysian national, hired as Principal of the school, and Dr. Feryal Alkhaldi, an American national, employed as Director of Academics. A Board of Governors, with the Kulliyyah of Education having some representation, managed the administration of the school. Since the University was not permitted to involve itself in education below the level of Matriculation, it established a company to manage the school called 'Gombak Educational and Cultural Development' (GECD) with Mr. Yasin Baboo as General Manager. In 2002, GECD sought to diversify its business profile by entering into a number of ventures such as; trading, property management, tourism and agriculture. It therefore changed its identity from GECD to IIUM Holdings. Education then became managed under the subsidiary 'IIUM Education' - the first General Manager of which was Mr Shamsul Kahar Haroon. By 2007, IIUM Education had expanded its business operations to include the following organizations: 1. 2. 3. 4. The International Islamic School (IIS) International Islamic College (IIC) established since 2000 Sekolah Taman Ilmu dan Budi (Malaysian National School) IIUM Montessori (previously known as IIS Kindergarten)
The student population of IIS consists mainly of children with some connection outside Malaysia For example, children of expatriate lecturers at IIUM, children of expatriate staff working in companies in Malaysia or Malaysian children whose parents worked or studied overseas for some years. Another category comprises of non-Malaysian students
3 who come to Malaysia specifically to study at IIS and who stay in the IIS hostel. In 2005 there were 300 pupils studying at IIS coming from over 35 countries such as - Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, China, USA, UK, Holland, Sudan, Algeria, Iraq, Gambia, Guinea, Yemen, Bosnia, New Zealand, Japan and Brunei. The Language Scenario at IIS The medium of instruction at IIS is English; however, Arabic and Malay are both compulsory subjects from Grade 1 to Grade 9. Urdu is an elective subject for grade 10 and 11, and in the year 2004-2005, the school planned to offer other elective languages such as French, Thai and Mandarin starting from Grade 7. Teaching Arabic at IIS Arabic is a compulsory subject from Grade 1 to 9 for all students and is offered as a first language for native speakers of Arabic and a second language for those who are not native speakers. Arabic features every day as a 40-minute period in the primary school timetable, and four 50-minute periods per week in the secondary school. The following table shows the weight age of Arabic in the school timetable: Number of periods Total time per week Percentage Primary (Grade 1-6) 5 200 minutes 13.2% Secondary (Grade 7-9) 4 200 minutes 14.7% IGCSE (Grade 10-11) 4 200 minutes 14.7 A-Level Students study Arabic for around 6,600 minutes per academic year (110 hours). This means that students who go through the school from Grade 1 to Grade 9 will have studied a total of 990 full contact hours of Arabic! However, this huge amount of time yields very little benefit in terms of actual written and oral competency, particularly for Arabic as a Second Language. The current practice for grade 1 is that both native and non-native speakers study together in the same class. The justification for doing this is that, since neither groups know how to read or write, the teacher can focus on the basics of reading and writing the alphabet, letter recognition, spelling and connection between sounds and letters for both groups. From Grade 2 and above, the students are divided into two groups. Native speakers go to one class and non-native speakers are divided into smaller classes, according to their level. Since the number of students in a class ranges from 15 to 25, the school has adopted a „block‟ timetable system, where different grades are taught Arabic at the same time i.e. students from one grade study with students from another grade who are of different ages but a similar language level. In the academic year 2004/2005 the Arabic classes were combined as follows: Grade combination Grade 1 Grades 2 & 3 Grade 4 & 5 Grade 6 & 7 Grade 8, 9 & ESL Number of groups 1 3 4 3 5 Number of students 20 42 50 35 57
4 Grade 10 Grade 11 2 1 7 2
The table above combines information on Arabic as a first language and second language. However, it would be useful to discuss them separately.
Teaching Arabic as a First Language: During the first two years of the school the student intake comprised of a large number of native Arabic speakers. Consequently, the Arabic language had a high profile in the following ways: 1. The majority of extra-curricular activities, such as performances on stage, were conducted in Arabic to suit the audience of mainly Arabic speakers. 2. Islamic studies classes were taught in English and Arabic. 3. Arabic was the main medium of communication among students outside class. Due to rapid changes in the student population, the position of Arabic became more and more precarious. Among the causes of these changes were‟ many Arabic speaking students leaving the country or moving to other Arabic or International schools in Kuala Lumpur. As a result, the problems of the Arabic department increased and these problems can be summarized as follows: 1. Reduction in the Number of Students: Small numbers of students in class creates problems for both the administration and for teachers. From a financial point of view, it is a great waste of resources to run classes containing only one or two students. Teachers also complain that it is difficult to teach a class with only a few students in, because students cannot interact or participate in activities. Moreover, in a class of two students where one student constitutes 50% of the class, if that student is absent, teachers tend to wait until the absent student returns, holding up the other student in the class. In response to this problem, the school administration resorted to combining classes by merging other classes with less than three students. But combining classes has one major disadvantage - students who are pushed up to the next year skip a whole academic year, while students who are pushed down repeat a whole year. In many cases, students who jump a year struggle to catch up with their new classmates, and students who are pushed down feel bored because they are covering the same material for the second time. This is not only a waste of students‟ time, but can also affect students‟ motivation to study. The following table shows the number of Arabic speaking students in each grade in the academic year 2003/2004: Number of Arab students 7 3 4 7
Grade 2 Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5
5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade 8 Grade 9 Grade 10 Grade 11 4 1 2 5 2 1
2. The Learning Environment: By the end of 2004, Arabic speaking students constituted only 13% of the total student population, making them a minority in the school. Since the students of IIS come from such diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, English became the dominant language of communication, both inside and outside the class. English also took over for the daily running and administration of the school. This „wave‟ of English led Arabic-speaking students to gradually abandon their mother tongue and start communicating in English to the point where even siblings of Arabic speaking parents could be seen talking to each other in English! The home environment plays a vital role in increasing or countering the influence of English language. If parents communicate in Arabic at home with each other, yet respond to conversations initiated by their children in English, or if they ignore their children playing and discussing in English at home, then they inadvertently weaken the position of Arabic. Parents play a vital role in the linguistic behavior of their children because children take cues from their parents about what is allowed and not allowed and whether they should be monolingual or bilingual. Arabic speaking parents can enrich their children‟s Arabic vocabulary and language structures, making them feel proud and privileged to have Arabic as their mother tongue, and to have the chance to study it in a school so far removed from the Arabic speaking world. Sadly, Arabic is loosing on another battlefront in terms of mass media and television. Parents are often busy at work or in their studies leaving children to spend a considerable amount of time watching children‟s television programs. The trouble is, Arabic programs are rarely aired in Malaysia and when they are, they are seldom directed towards children. Some families may have satellite dishes with 24 hour access to the Egyptian based ART Variety channels or the Doha-based Al-Jazirah news channel, but again, these channels are not aimed at young viewers, so there are only a few children‟s programs. In this way children become addicted to the more attractive and stimulating cartoon channels and Disney films. 3. Limited library resources and the lack of a reading scheme. The school library lacks any form of structured reading scheme or reading materials to support children‟s reading and fluency in Arabic at the lower levels. Teachers believe that were such resources made available, students would greatly increase their vocabulary and could be exposed to new forms of Arabic in a more varied and motivating way. The library houses only a very limited number of Arabic storybooks for children. Dr. Abdul Hamid Abu Sulaiman, the previous rector of IIUM, donated the majority of the
6 Arabic books on the library‟s shelves in 1998, but most of these books came from his personal library, which was intended for university students. In 2002, the school spent money to obtain Arabic storybooks from Qatar and these storybooks are available in the library. However, teachers need to learn how to make use of them effectively, if they are to be of benefit to students. Teachers should also encourage students to borrow books from the library by suggesting suitable titles for their language level. In addition, the school should allocate a portion of its yearly budget for the purchase Arabic library books. 4. Teaching staff: The Arabic department has been fortunate in terms of teaching staff with both First Language Arabic teachers being native speakers from Iraq, Sudan, Jordan, Eritrea and Algeria. Some of these teachers have been in the school since 1998, with one of them specializing in Arabic, holding a masters degree in Education and having taught Arabic for ten years. All Arabic teachers are considered to be very dedicated members of staff. 5. Textbooks: From the year 1998 to 2002, the school used Arabic textbooks published by the Jordanian Ministry of Education. However, the school was never able to secure an original supply of these textbooks. After much deliberation, the Arabic Department succeeded in obtaining an offer of free Arabic textbooks from the Ministry of Education in Qatar. This series is still in use, despite complaints from parents about the level of vocabulary being too high for students. This supply of textbooks from Qatar has solved the immediate textbook problem, giving the department a chance to focus on other issues like the improving of teaching methodology - an area where concern is mounting. To summarize, although the teaching of Arabic as a First Language faces no immediate problems in terms of textbooks or teachers, the decreasing number of Arabic speaking students and the lack of support provided by the school environment makes Arabic as a First language struggle for survival. Second: Teaching Arabic as a Second Language (ASL): Arabic as a Second Language is an area where both the school and the teachers face many challenges. Before discussing these challenges, some explanation of the status of the subject needs to be given. First Language (FL) Arabic teaching, as the name suggests, refers to teaching Arabic to native speakers of Arabic, for whom Arabic is their mother tongue. Second Language (SL) teaching on the other hand, relates teaching Arabic to students who use Arabic extensively in their every day life, but for whom Arabic is not their mother tongue. A clarification of the differences between these two types of teaching would be helpful in understanding the problems faced by the Arabic teachers at IIS. Below follows a list of issues facing Arabic teachers along with a detailed discussion of each: 1. Objectives for teaching Arabic. 2. Students‟ motivation to study Arabic 3. Teachers‟ experience and qualifications
7 4. Textbooks 5. Methodology of teaching 6. Parents‟ expectations 7. The environment 8. Grouping of students according to their level of proficiency 9. The admission policy of the school 10. Language skills 1. Objectives for teaching Arabic as a Second Language at IIS: Since the beginning of the school, it has never been clear why Arabic is offered as a compulsory subject for Grades 1 to 9. It was loosely assumed that Arabic should have a high status because it is the language of the Quran, the revealed book for Muslims. Knowledge of the Arabic orthography, sounds and morphology is important for reciting the Quranic text. However, experience proved that millions of Muslims around the world recite the Quran perfectly without understanding Arabic. Nevertheless, besides the recitation of Quran, there are a host of other assumed reasons why Arabic should be taught at IIS: To read Quran properly from the original text To understand the meaning of the Quran and feel the glory of its message, rather than relying on translations. To enable students to gain access to the vast collection of Islamic literature available in Arabic. To unify the Muslim community (Ummah) through the use of one language To continue higher education in Islamic studies or law, in Arabic speaking countries. To take the IGCSE Arabic exam. To appreciate Arabic literature and culture, especially Arabic poetry - both pre and post-Islamic. To communicate and integrate with the Arab community.
IIS needs to identify a clear set of objectives for teaching Arabic and then work towards achieving them, if it is to be successful. Teaching Arabic for its own sake will not guide teachers in the necessary teaching skills, nor will it assist in the adoption of an appropriate syllabus. The result will be deep frustration on the part of teachers, disappointment for parents and indolence for students. It is therefore high time that the school answered the crucial question of why students learn Arabic at IIS. Answering this question will aid syllabus design, selection of suitable teaching materials and the development of relevant teaching methodologies. 2. Motivation for learning Arabic: Student motivation is a decisive factor when studying a language and this is affected by the purpose for which the language is learnt. One of the problems at IIS is that Arabic is a compulsory subject which makes students feel compelled to study it, thus lowering their motivation This is manifested in the following ways: a) Students skip ASL classes more than any other subject.
8 b) Students look for excuses to arrive late at ASL classes. c) Teachers complain that students do not hand in homework. d) Students complain that ASL classes are boring. The above behaviors show a lack of purpose or „orientation‟ to study Arabic. Al-Busairi (1991) defines orientation as, “The student‟s reasons for studying the language.” According to him, students‟ motivation for learning can either be integrative or instrumental. Integrative motivation focuses on the desire for interaction with members of the target language community. Instrumentally motivated students have a more pragmatic approach such as the desire to achieve academic or professional qualifications. Analyzing students‟ orientation to study language helps identify their language needs and assists in the selection of teaching materials and teaching methods. The objectives listed above can be grouped according to the two types of motivation Objectives numbered (e) and (f) are examples of instrumental motivation, while objectives (g) and (h) show integrative motivation. The other objectives labeled (a) to (d) correspond to another type of motivation - religious motivation. Religious motivation can be defined as the desire to study a language in order to fulfill certain religious obligations. It is not essential to learn Arabic to be a Muslim, but it certainly helps. Students at IIS seem to have a rather short-term form of „instrumental‟ motivation, which seldom extends beyond scoring a high mark in class or passing end of year examinations. During a period of two years, only one student has taken Arabic for the purpose of continuing his education in an Arab country and no student has expressed the view that Arabic is going to play an important role in his or her future occupation. There is no indication that students are integratively motivated to learn Arabic. This is because they speak to their Arab peers and friends in English, as well as their siblings. It seems unlikely therefore that they would want to integrate into Arab culture or society in the future. The third type of motivation - religious motivation contains a paradox. Motivation usually relates to the learners, however, in the case of religious motivation, we find that parents are more motivated than students. In other words, parents are the ones who want their children to learn Arabic for religious benefits, whereas students do not seem to see the relevance of it. As such, the motivation is not internalized but works indirectly through the parents. If this kind of motivation can be made more immediate, then students will begin to understand why their parents want them to study it and then learning will become more meaningful for them. 3. Teachers’ qualifications and experience: Since the start of the school, around fourteen teachers taught ASL, six of whom are still teaching at the school. Number of teachers 3 4 5 Qualifications Current Status M.A in teaching Arabic as a 2 still teaching ASL at Second Language IIS B.A or M.A in Teaching Arabic as 2 still teaching ASL at a Second Language IIS B.A or MA. in Islamic Studies or 2 still teaching ASL at
9 other related fields M.A in Business or Economics IIS Both no longer teaching ASL at IIS
The table above shows the qualifications of those who have taught ASL at IIS. For the first group, all 3 teachers (21%) have an Arabic specialization. The 4 teachers in the second group (29%) were specialized in teaching Arabic as a second language, with all four being native speakers of Arabic. The biggest group of 5 teachers (36%) were graduates of Islamic studies or other related fields; all of whom were native speakers of Arabic. The two teachers in the smallest group (14%) were graduates of Economics and Business Studies. Both were non-native speakers of Arabic. In the last group, neither of the teachers are currently teaching Arabic at IIS any longer. From the statistics it is clear that there is a need for more teachers of Arabic as a second language to be recruited. Being a native speaker of Arabic does not automatically qualify a person to teach Arabic. Teachers with Islamic studies backgrounds may be enthusiastic about teaching Arabic, but may lack the necessary methodology to teach the language effectively. It is worth noting that having Arab teachers specialized in ESL to teach Arabic is useful, provided that some retraining is given to ensure that ESL teachers transfer their ESL knowledge to Arabic teaching. Such teachers can contribute a lot to ASL teaching in terms of modern methodology and techniques. Most of the teachers involved in teaching ASL have been teacher elsewhere, before they joined IIS, so lack of experience is not a factor in the deterioration of ASL in the school. 4. Textbooks: The biggest dilemma facing the Arabic Department at IIS has been obtaining suitable textbooks. When the school started in 1998, no single textbook was specified for ASL teachers. It was left to individual teachers to select a suitable textbook for their class, based on their own experience and the ability of the students. The selected materials were then sent for photocopying, as the original textbooks were out of print in the local market. The following textbooks were the most popular titles used by teachers during the first two years of school: a) Al-Arabiah Llnash’een (Saudi Arabia) b) Al-Qalam (by Prof. Muhammad Akram Saadudin, IIUM) c) Iqra Series (USA-based Iqra Foundation) This haphazard approach to obtaining textbooks created a lot of inefficiency, especially when students move from one group to another or when class teachers change. From 2001, the school administration and Arabic department attempted to streamline the selection of textbooks. Since local suppliers have no contacts with Arabic publishers, it was eventually decided to use a locally published ASL textbook, as other schools in Malaysia have used them successfully. Regrettably, even before the implementation of the new textbook, teachers began raising concerns about spelling mistakes, errors in syntax, inappropriate lexis and the unconventional Arabic script of the textbook. It is possible that this last shortcoming could be due to the influence of local Javi script.
10 Despite these inadequacies, the teachers agreed to use the textbook with two provisos firstly, teachers would identify and correct all serious mistakes so that students would not internalize wrong forms of Arabic. Secondly, the school would establish contact with the publishers to reprint the books, after the necessary corrections had been made. However, after a trial of one semester, it became clear that the textbook was not suitable and so by the end of the year the textbook was abandoned. Under pressure to find another textbook, the Arabic department returned to Al-Arabiah Llnash’een. But the problem with this book is that it was designed to teach Arabic to adult learners, so that most of the topics and strategies are not suitable for children aged 6 to 12. Due to this, the primary department has had problems with the textbook, but in 2002, the secondary school settled for the textbook. Solving the primary textbooks problem dominated discussions in the Arabic Department for some time. After some resistance from the staff, it was agreed that second language teachers would use the Qatari textbook, designed for native speakers, only with a difference - the grade 3 second language learners would use the grade 1 textbook. Sadly, after one year of experimentation, it became clear that this approach was unrealistic because the texts were far too difficult for second language learners. Using text which are too difficult for learners contradicts Krashen‟s (1981,1982) notion of „Comprehensible Input‟. As a result, teachers complained that the concepts and vocabulary presented in the book were too advanced for the students. This experience was coupled with another experiment of allowing non-native speakers to join first language classes. Only those with a high language aptitude and strong parental support were admitted. Teachers reported some positive results with students performing well in written exercises - in some cases even better than the native speakers. Their listening comprehension also improved, with students managing to understand what the teacher said to them in class, but they tended to resort to English when responding, showing less progress in oral communication. Some students expressed a desire to return to second language classes where they could score “A” more easily. This is because in first language they had to struggle to obtain a passing grade of “C”. One way to encourage students to continue in first language Arabic could be to design a special Arabic exam which would be higher than the normal second language exam, but easier than the first language one. In addition, students‟ progress could be more systematically recorded with a full report being forwarded to parents. Despite all the limitation, primary and secondary students have both been using AlArabiyah Llnash’een for the years 2003 to 2004. 5. Parents’ Expectations: Most parents who bring their children to IIS do so because of the Islamic environment provided by the school, and the religious subjects such as Islamic Studies, Arabic and Quran. These are not available in any other International schools in Kuala Lumpur and so these subjects distinguish the IIS from its competitors - some of which are well established schools with impressive reputations. Muslim parents come to IIS with high expectations, expecting these three extra subjects to be taught to international standards
11 using up-to-date facilities, and wait with anticipation for their children to speak and write Arabic. Unfortunately, many parents have expressed disappointment in the teaching of ASL at IIS. They cite cases of students who have studied Arabic for 3 to 5 years, but fail to read or speak Arabic properly, and are still in a remedial group for reading Quran. As a result, the school has been under continuous pressure to improve the quality of ASL teaching. Yet, teachers complain that it is the diverse levels of ability in the same class that is holding students back - one teacher has been using three textbooks to teach different levels of ability in his class, still only having 40 minutes a day to deliver his lesson. The root of the problem would seem to be the school‟s „open admission policy‟, where students can join the school at any time during the academic year. Bringing new students into class at different time, affects the language level of the class. The implications of this problem will be elaborated in the following section. 6. Grouping of students according to their level of proficiency Mixed ability classes have been the main bane of teachers, causing them much frustration. The traditional way of solving this problem is by grouping students according to their language level, not according to their ages or grades. This strategy was used for first language at IIS and has been illustrated above; but it was used for a different reason. In the case of first language, grades were combined because of the small number of students in each class, but it was done ensuring that the students were of approximately the same language level. The timetable was blocked to allow several grades to have Arabic at the same time, with sometimes five teachers being required to teach Arabic as a first language at one time. In the case of ASL, the average number of students per group was 15, but teachers complained that there was more than one level of ability in each group. An open admission policy, once again was blamed for this. Every time teachers worked to narrow the gap between students, they would receive a new intake of students, putting them back where they started. Another factor further exacerbating the problem of levels of ability in the same class was the school‟s placement test. New students always sit for a placement test before they are admitted to class. The ASL placement test has been used to identify students‟ level of ability, but there are problems with the content of the tests and the way in which they are written. The Arabic department would do better to follow the English Second language department‟s procedure, where students‟ abilities are classified into six levels - beginners, elementary, pre-intermediate, intermediate, upper- intermediate and advanced. Arabic teachers could then be assigned to prepare placement tests for each of these levels. Then when a new student arrives in school, members of the Arabic department could conduct a brief interview to determine which placement test the student should sit for. In this way, the chances of a new student entering the wrong level would be far less. 7. Language Skills in the ASL Program: Determining which language skills should be focused upon in program depends upon the needs of the learners and the program‟s purpose or objectives. The school should start by answering the fundamental question raised earlier; why is ASL is taught at IIS? It is unreasonable to expect teachers to teach all four skills of reading, writing, speaking
12 and listening with the same emphasis. It has already been shown how Arabic is at a disadvantage when it comes to oral communication, both inside and outside the classroom, and this applies to listening skills too. At present, teachers tend to focus more on grammar, spelling, translation and vocabulary, so that Arabic is rarely taught for communication. Hence, students study Arabic as an abstract language that bears no relevance to their everyday lives. Teaching oral language is a complex issue - what type of spoken Arabic should students be taught? If teachers teach classical Arabic, they are not preparing students for real life, because classical Arabic is not used for everyday communication anymore. ASL learners would be at a loss if they heard two Iraqi or Sudanese friends conversing in colloquial Arabic in the lunch area. The school therefore needs to think very carefully about the purpose of the skills being taught. It is unrealistic to ask all Arab students in the school to speak classical Arabic, and even if they did, it would not reflect the real situation outside school, in local Malaysian Arab community or in the Arabic speaking community at large. This would therefore present second language learners with many difficulties. What is needed is the teaching of Arabic for Specific Purpose (ASP), where reading skills become the main focus of the Arabic program. Reading should be for understanding, as it is with English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and English for Academic Purposes EAP. In this way, students could fulfill their religious objectives, mentioned earlier. Then with some additional emphasis on writing skills, students could also sit for the IGCSE Arabic exam, should they choose to, and listening and speaking could be taught as a support for reading comprehension. Conclusion: The discussion above have shown the type of difficulties faced by those involved in planning for and teaching of Arabic in settings where the language is not used outside the classroom. The IIS case is just an example, but we expect that teaching Arabic as a foreign language faces the same problems in similar settings in the West and the non Arab Muslim countries. The papers intended to share the experience of one pioneering school in South East Asia, and it is hoped that the discussions would enlighten the practice of teachers and educationists elsewhere.
Al-Busairi, M. (1991): Needs, Attitudes and Motivation in Foreign Language: A Case Study of Kuwaiti Students Studying ESP. Unpublished Ph. D. Thesis, University of Lancaster, UK. Braima, M. E. A (2004): The Role of English under Arabicization: A Case Study. Unpublished Ph. D. thesis, University of Malaya, Malaysia ------------------ (2005): Opportunities and Challenges of International Islamic Education, Afkar Jadida, issue No. 11, Khartoum (in Arabic). Available online at: http://www.fikria.org/mogala/11/6_1.htm
13 Krashen, S. D. (1981): Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. Oxford: Pergamon Press. ------------------ (1982): Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Dr. Mohamed Elfatih Ahmed Braima is an Assistant Prof. at the University of Khartoum (Sudan) and Head, Department of English. He was awarded M. A. in English from University of Khartoum, M. HSc. in ESL from IIUM, a Ph. D. in English from University of Malaya. He is a former Vice Principal (Academic) at IIS. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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