The Rationale for an educational redesign

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As Central Asia has become increasingly connected to the world in the last two decades, more and more people are seeking to acquire a solid grasp of English, the lingua-franca of the world. In the context of globalization, a good command of English is not considered as a special talent anymore, but just a basic skill. As a result, English has been incorporated in school curriculum in most non-English speaking countries of the world and Central Asia is no exception.

The English in Villages (EiV) Programme has been launched in 2006 by the School of Professional and Continuing Education, University of Central Asia (SPCE, UCA) in the poorest regions of three Central Asian republics: Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. The main purpose of the programme is to improve the chances of young people of one of the poorest, remotest and mountainous regions of Central Asia for livelihood and advancement life by providing private supplementary tutoring in partnership with public schools of the region. The main aim of the programme management is to assist students of the region in improving their command of English. This will help them in furthering their education, apply for higher educational institutions and participate in exchange programmes in future.

The programme is offered at three levels according to pupils' command of English language: elementary, pre-intermediate and intermediate levels for pupils of 7th, 8th and 9th grades of public secondary schools. It is a short and intensive programme that runs for six months, while the school academic year lasts for 9 months and is implemented as an extra co-curricular activity after school. In the beginning of its launch, the programme was warmly welcomed by its all stakeholders: teachers, pupils, parents, school administration and regional education agencies. But after two years of its operation, it has lost its initial 'popularity' and was found by many pupils and their parents, local communities, and even by the programme management, to be not as efficient as it was initially planned.

The main default of the EiV programme management is a lack of 'proper' curriculum. As a bad example of objectives model, it has only prescriptive, textbook dependant syllabus and a few times revised programme proposal that contains information mainly about geographical and financial scopes of programme and little said about the organization of the learning process. Generally, thus far, many educationalists in most post-soviet countries face up with confusions that exist between curriculum and syllabus. Mostly, they just simply equate them, which means that curriculum is considered in a very narrow meaning that is identified as step by step prescribed process of 'knowledge transmission'. As Kelly (2009, p.9) states:

'… this kind of definition of curriculum is limiting in more than one way and that is likely to hamper rather than to assist the planning of curriculum development. Curriculum must offer more than a statement about the knowledge-content or merely the subjects which schooling is to teach or transmit or deliver. It must go far beyond this to an explanation'.

Nevertheless, having reviewed the existing programme proposal and course syllabus thoroughly, I have found the following issues:

Lack of curriculum guidelines for teachers (my italics) except for Teacher's Book which comes together with a Students' Book

The aims are not well structured, and neither learning outcomes nor teaching strategies are specified

Potential challenges are not identified: academic dishonesty, social inequality, and misbalance and social tensions between the members of mainstream education and local communities that may be caused by programme implementation

Traditional textbook approach or textbook dependency - content of the so called curriculum, teaching/learning strategies and assessment forms are prescribed by the textbook that sometimes do not address the needs of learners

Strictly fixed summative - end of level assessment. There is no formative assessment that will assist the pupils to learn and keep them motivated in becoming responsible for their learning outcomes. Summative assessment is made of tests provided in the textbook used during the course. I strongly believe that available commercially produced tests are not assessment of communicative objectives and do not support the learning process as they are not adjusted to the needs and abilities of particular group of learners.

Hence, first, students become unmotivated and the level of their attainment is lower than expected and stated in the rationale of the EiV programme. Many students drop out from the course. Second, the teachers find themselves in contradictory situation within the content of the textbook, when all class interactions are strictly determined by the textbook. They are 'forced' to follow it unit by unit, exercise by exercise, that leaves both for teachers and learners a little space for intervention. Third, programme implementation causes misbalance in the public schools and local communities. People in these areas live in quite small communities where everybody knows each other closely. Implementation of the EiV programme in the form of private supplementary tutoring, owing to social inequities, may cause conflicts in these small communities which is unwise to do. Therefore, the curriculum policy makers need to develop a curriculum with the accounts of the fact that private supplementary tutoring is quite complex phenomenon with many social, cultural and economic implications and challenges (Bray, 2003)

As Scotts (during his lecture, 2009) notes curriculum is always a selection and that we need to make a choice depending on the situation. Yes I do agree with it- we need to make a choice that will be explicitly grounded on the aims and needs of all stakeholders of the learning process since each situation is unique and we need to use that model of curriculum that suits a particular situation best. Whilst deciding which model to follow in re-designing the curriculum for this particular programme, factors as geographical location of schools, needs and abilities of both learners and teachers, availability of resources, environment, school climate, school building, intensity of the programme, etc. cannot be bypassed since they influence on the process and the effectiveness of curriculum delivery (Nicholls and Nicholls, 1972; Tyler, 1971).

Hence, in the given context, I suggest to use of Tyler's (1971) model of Rationale Planning within the framework of Scientific Curriculum Making when curriculum is considered as a 'linear' processes based on the following basic structure:

Aims and Objectives-what purposes are to be attained?

Teaching/learning strategies -What strategies can be used that will help to achieve these purposes

Organization of these strategies-How best can they be organized?

Evaluation-How can we evaluate whether the initials purposes have been met? (Tyler,1949)

The model has been strongly criticized by many curriculum theorists (Kelly, 2009; Lawton, 1978; Stenhouse, 1970; Stenhouse, 1975) for:

'very mechanical forms of teaching which focuses on how the knowledge is given rather than on how the students learn since education in Tyler's model is considered as means towards ends;

an assumption that if something cannot be measured or is unexpected then it should not be a part of learning processes;

'mistaking the nature of knowledge' while implementing inflexible approaches in classroom when the learners are less free in demonstrating their pure learning outcomes;

undermining teachers' autonomy (Scott, 2008; Stenhouse, 1975; Walsh, 1997)

While some of these criticisms are undoubtedly applicable to some forms of objectives model, I believe that this characterization of the field as a whole over-generalized and most importantly, they are unfair towards the objectives model of curriculum in teaching foreign languages. As Nicholls and Nicholls (1972) argue, teachers can direct these unexpected opportunities towards objectives which are considered as important. Regarded in this way, unexpected opportunities lead to progress rather than to mere diversion. On the other hand, a teacher with no predetermined objectives might be accused of using such opportunities for entertainment purposes or as temporary diversion. Both Stenhouse (1975) and Kelly (1989) as cited in Walsh (1997) acknowledge this fact. In addition, in reviewing the behavioral objectives curriculum, even Stenhouse (1975, p.53) as one of the avid opponents of objectives model himself summarizes that those objectives come from the studies of:

'…. a consideration of the learners themselves, contemporary life outside the school, the nature of subjects, the psychology of learning and a philosophy, or a set of values. Then the question arises how best to formulate one's purposes as a practical guide to action, and Tyler considers the problem of 'stating objectives in a form to be helpful in selecting learning experiences and in guiding teaching'.

As it was mentioned earlier, the English in Villages programme should be determined with the accounts of various facts and circumstances that are partially mentioned by Stenhouse (1975) above.

For now, it merely needs to be noted that the objectives model has played an enormous role in shaping national curriculums of many countries including the US and UK. Furthermore, it has been welcomed by most policy makers and even teachers for easy functionality and systematized structure that indeed helps them in planning their teaching process (Marsh, 2004; Scott, 2008). And it is fairly possible to use objectives model and avoid the points mentioned by Scott (2008) by carefully selecting both learning and teaching principles based on general objectives that would help to make:

Learners become motivated and responsible for their learning and share those responsibilities with teachers;

Teachers not knowledge owners and technicians but active participants, facilitators and knowledable monitors that will respond to learners' needs and abilities accordingly and assist them in the learning process (Scott, 2001).

Within the objectives model of curriculum, the learner based teaching principles can be fully implemented, that is, not necessarily to adopt teacher based approaches. van Ek (1977) reviewing objectives model notes that:

'…. behavioral specification of an objective by no means implies the need for a behavioristic teaching method. The way in which the objective has been defined does not impose any particular methodology-behavioristic or other-wise-on the teacher'(Ek, 1977).

Furthermore, Tyler (1971) as cited in Walsh (1997) suggests to set broad objectives rather than 'numerous specific' objectives that would be too complicated to follow in practice and restrict the guiding approaches. Certainly, it is very complicated to set specific behavioral objectives as the learning process is complex itself. And it is impossible to step into learners' mind to evaluate the complete, pre-specified outcomes of the learning process. However, in this context, it is preferable to set some broad objectives explicitly with a purpose of keeping informed, first, teachers and programme management and second, students, their parents and other concerned parties (Walsh, 1997). Also, special mention may be made of the fact that pupils' and their parents' perception of supplementary tutoring in this context. They come and ask themselves what they will learn and know upon completion of each level of the programme, how the learning process will be organized, what methods will be used and so on. They decide to join this programme with a purpose and hope (my emphasis) of compensation of the mainstream education. And they are ready to invest money in private tutoring even though most of those parents are unemployed and they hardly support their families by means of little farming and working in the local markets (in informal dialogue with Bohdan Krawchenko, UCA director). For another hand, teachers' competencies are to be taken into consideration as well [1] . Having considered their teaching background, it is advantageous for them to work with objectives model rather than with process model of curriculum planning as the latter puts a big pressure on the teachers' competencies and skills which they have been lacking for many years (Kelly, 2009; Stenhouse, 1975). As a whole, the objectives model will alleviate them both in managing and guiding the learning process. Sadly enough, but the teachers' background does not allow them to take more responsibilities for the whole curriculum, when they could encourage students to adopt 'criticizing practice' position and demonstrate 'originality' in the learning process as it is suggested in the process curriculum (Stenhouse, 1975; Walsh, 1997).

Making myself clearer, I briefly would like to answer the question set by Stenhouse (1975) that states 'Can the demands of a curriculum specification be met without using the concepts of objectives?' I firmly believe it is very much possible. Moreover, it is more advantageous and desirable to do so particularly in the given context of fast progressing globalization in the society and economy when children will need to possess critical standpoints and will be engaged in that kind of learning process that would help them to go further and acquire new skills independently (Bruner, 2006). However with due consideration of above mentioned reasons, in the context of the EiV programme it is preferably to use the concepts of objectives. I believe any curriculum planning needs to be incorporated into a design that will be in congruence with the political, socio-economic, cultural, and historical contexts in which a particular programme will be implemented (Nunan, 1989). If it is not, then a delivery of this particular curriculum will be bound to failure, not matter whether it is objectives, process or research model of curriculum planning (my emphasis).

Thus, I would suggest setting both aims and objectives, when aims state more broad purposes whereas objectives identify the desired outcomes of the learning process that is knowledge, skills and values which learners need or wish to acquire upon completion of each level of the programme (Hedge and Whitney, 1996; Lawton, 1973; Walsh, 1997). As accompaniment to these, the EiV programme management and teachers need to arrange both learning and teaching strategies to work towards these objectives. Then they need to look for ways of evaluating and improving the learning experiences provided by the EiV programme so that learners successfully arrive at expected outcomes. (Hedge and Whitney, 1996; Nicholls and Nicholls, 1972; Tyler, 1971).

The structure of the curriculum needs to be communicated with the students and their parents. It would make them to become active participants of the learning process and share the responsibilities together with the programme management and other concerned parties (Scott, 2001). Experientially, I strongly believe that it is more productive to work in a team and share the responsibilities for learning between the stakeholders of the learning process, not just like, programme management staffs are experts, teachers are technicians and students are passive learners. I believe that putting blocks or labeling between these parties is not wise. Particularly, it is not wise and even immoral in the context of fast changing values and skills required. Students are to be aware and encouraged as a language learner, in other words, they need to be motivated to learn the language and they need to be aware of both learning goals and options. Finding out what is motivating and encouraging them and how it can be used or focused on what is to be learned in the classroom is an important part of well-designed curriculum with a focus on effective and communicating teaching. A key to this process is giving students as much input to and control over their own learning as it is possible while ensuring that the learning goals of the class are met (Hedge and Whitney, 1996; Weimer, 2002).

Before I start developing further suggestions for the new EiV curriculum, I would like to rephrase the question set by Prof. Husbands (during his lecture 2009) that states "What didn't you learn that you wish you had?" into "How would you like to be taught when you were a pupil? How would it change your life then?" and address it to myself.

I would answer then "I wish I had more freedom and choice. I wish I was allowed to express my opinion on how I would like to learn or even to be taught. I wish I was treated equally as an individual rather than being treated as one the many empty vessels'.

Hence, based on my personal experience, I would suggest setting the following broad instrumental aims for the new re-designed curriculum (Murphy and Moon, 1999):

To assist the village school pupils to become knowledgeable, skilled and confident community members and citizens- who will advantageously contribute to the transitioning economies and communities of the region

'To widen horizons and raise aspirations of the pupils about the world of work and higher education' (borrowed from UK National Curriculum, KS3 and KS 4) -who will be able to respond to the trends and needs of the region

To develop a level of competency and confidence in using English that allows the pupils to fully participate in both social and school-based contexts where the English has a dominant role

To develop English language skills to communicate across linguistic and cultural boundaries

As Nation and Newton (2009, p.1) state 'every well balanced EFL course programme needs to be based on the following strands:

Learning through meaning - focused input; that is, learning through listening and reading where the learners' attention is on the ideas and messages conveyed by the language

Learning through meaning -focused output, that is, learning through speaking and writing where the learners' attention is on conveying ideas and messages to another person

Learning through deliberate attention to language items and language features; that is, learning through direct vocabulary study, through grammar exercises and explanation, through attention to discourse features, and through the deliberate learning and practice of language learning and language use strategies

Developing fluent use of known language items and features over the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing; that is, becoming fluent with what is already known.

Each of these four strands is to be given an equal time allocation within a curriculum planning. Accordingly the redesigned curriculum of the EiV programme should provide opportunities for both teachers and the pupils to be equally focused and involved in each of these strands (Nation and Newton, 2009) .

Furthermore, I suggest adopting the following general pedagogical principles that are arranged around the 'four strands' as identified by Nation and Newton (2009):

Provide and arrange large amounts of comprehensible and interactive input through both listening and reading. This can be organized by various reading exercises, listening activities and the language heard and communication activities when the learners are given a chance to talk and listen to each others' input.

Organize various interaction activities such as group work, pair work, information gap tasks, etc. that will help them to work collaboratively on writing and speaking skills. In setting group works or other similar interactive activities, the students are to be introduced to working in groups and pairs, that is,

Help the students to develop learning strategies that will assist them in language learning further. This can be made possible though activities on guessing the meaning of words and speech patterns from context, dictionary use, vocabulary cards, etc.

Plan for the repeated coverage of the language items that will develop the skills that are specified and required in the objectives of the curriculum

Help learners to learn language patterns and items that are, sounds, spelling, vocabulary, multi-word units, and grammar. At the same time, the teachers need to make sure that the students have enough time to complete the assigned tasks

Use the ongoing formative assessment techniques with the purpose of engaging the students to be active in and monitor their own learning

Conduct mid-term and end of term summative assessment for the purpose of certification and transition into the next level. The final mark for the purpose of certification is to be based on the combined results of both mid-term and final term with the purpose of making the grading process more reliable (Gardner, James and Stobart, 2006).

Speaking and Listening

Many learners of English language regard speaking and listening as the most important skills they need to acquire during the learning process. They assess their level of proficiency in English (or are assessed by others) in terms of their proficiency in spoken and listening skills (Florez, 1999; Revell, 1979). I suggest to put more focus

Finally, having gone through my suggestions in re-designing the curriculum for EiV programme, I assume I tried my best to suggest a well negotiated objectives model of curriculum for this particular context with due account for all its factors (Hedge, Andon and Dewey, 2009).