Anda di halaman 1dari 74

A TALE OF TWO SCHOOLS:

An ethnographic study of English language teaching in Pakistan

Ahmar Mahboob

Introduction

This paper presents two case study reports on the teaching of the English

language in an urban center in Pakistan. Data from an ethnographic study of two schools

is presented to show the context in which the English language is taught and learnt in

Pakistan and the factors that affect it. The data includes the physical environment in

which the classroom/school is located, the socio-economic backgrounds of the

participants, and their philosophies towards teaching and learning of the language.

In a language attitude study in Pakistan (Mahboob, forthcoming), one informant

stating the importance of English said, “No English, No Future.” This statement

summarized the view of most people interviewed in that study. In recognition of such

views, the governments of at least three of the four provinces in Pakistan1 over the last

decade changed their official policy and initiated the teaching of English in primary

schools. This change in policy was justified by stating that it would provide the

opportunity to children from all classes of society to learn English and thereby have equal

chances to progress in life. This, however, has not been the case. One reason for the

ineffectiveness of the government’s program is that the policy only required the lowering

of the stage at which English was introduced to the children and did not make it the

medium of instruction, as it is in most private schools. However, in addition to this, an

1
English is still not taught in primary schools in Balochistan.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 1
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
additional factor cited is the difference in the conditions of private and government

schools. Bregman and Mohammad (1998) state,

Private education has flourished in recent years due to the pressures of demand
and the low quality of the public system [emphasis added]... the system’s
[public/government] learning outcomes are judged by most Pakistani educators to
be below reasonable standards... teachers are demotivated by political
manipulation and deteriorating conditions in [public/government] primary and
secondary schools. (pp. 68-69)

This statement compares government schools to private schools, which Bregman

and Mohammad consider ‘better’. However, this comparison is speculative and is not

based on an emperical study; rather it is an opinion that they and many other people

believe to be the case. Although such opinions are common in the literature on Pakistani

education, no comparative studies exist that look at the schools in detail. Consequently,

there is a lack of studies that look into the conditions in which English is taught in private

and public schools in Pakistan. The present study is an attempt to fill this gap.

Language acquisition is complex and it would be naive to state that only a

particular factor or a particular set of factors influence the outcome of the learning

process. However, certain factors have a greater influence than others. Literature on

acquisition of World Englishes, e.g. Sridhar & Sridhar (1992), points out that acquisition

of World Englishes is unique (different from second or foreign language acquisition and

from learning of pidgin or creole languages). One reason for this is the difference in the

contexts of learning of English. Use of contexts to explain language acquisition in

multilingual contexts has previously been discussed in Hornberger (1994), Gutherie

(1985), Heath (1983), and Philips (1972). This paper attempts to isolate factors that affect

language teaching and learning in Pakistan by comparing ethnographic studies of two

schools.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 2
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
In the following section, I briefly lay out some of the salient aspects of

ethnographic research and how they relate to the present study. The next section provides

a background to the educational system in Pakistan. After giving the background, I

briefly describe the data collection methodology and introduce the schools that

participated in the study. The following section looks at the two schools in more detail

and presents the findings of the study in relation to the major issues found in the corpus.

Then, the factors that differentiated the two schools are analyzed in the discussion. The

conclusion ties up the findings and provides directions for further research.

Analytical Framework

As the title of the paper suggests, this study adopts an ethnographical framework.

Two basic principles underlying ethnographic research are generally agreed the: an emic

viewpoint, and a holistic treatment of cultural facts. According to Lier (1989; p. 43), emic

characteristics “refer to the rules, concepts, beliefs and meanings of the people

themselves, functioning within their own group”. In the context of the present study it

implies a study of the ‘rules, concepts, beliefs and meanings’ of the teachers, parents,

students and others involved in the process. The holistic treatment of cultural facts may

be interpreted as the context, culture, and setting in which teaching takes place.

Hymes (1972) described two units of analysis within the ethnography of

communication: ‘speech event’, and ‘communicative situation’. ‘Speech event’ refers to

communicative activities, both oral and written, and the norms that govern them. In the

case of a classroom, this would include the interaction between teachers and students,

both oral and written, and the implicit and/or explicit rules that are observed by the

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 3
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
participants. ‘Communicative situation’ refers to contexts in which language is being

used. In the case of a classroom, this would refer to the context in which a particular

communicative event takes place. There may be several speech events in a particular

situation, and there might be several situations within a class. In this study, the two

constructs, ‘speech event’ and ‘communicative situation’, are used to analyze interactions

between (and among) students, teachers, and others in terms of their identities, beliefs,

purposes, and texts (syllabus, curriculum).

Background

The educational system in Pakistan consists of five years of primary school, three

years of middle school, two years of secondary school (also called ‘matric’, it is

considered equivalent to a British O-Level certification), and two years of higher

secondary school (also called ‘intermediate college’, it is considered equivalent to an

American high school diploma and a British A-Level certification). Higher education

consists of a two-year bachelor’s degree and a two-year master’s. There is some variation

here based on the field of study, e.g. a Bachelors of Arts at a college takes two years

while a Bachelors in Engineering takes four. A more detailed outline of the educational

system in Pakistan in given in Appendix A (copied from Bregman and Mohammad,

1998).

There are three main areas of studies after students enter secondary school (class

9): science, arts, and commerce. Science is considered the most prestigious followed by

commerce and arts. However, most schools only offer students an option between science

and arts. Commerce is available to science students (or arts students who studied

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 4
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
mathematics) in intermediate colleges and other institutions of higher education. Schools

do not give students the choice of studying science or arts, rather the administration

places the students in science or arts groups based on their performance on final

examinations. After students graduate from a secondary school with a matric, they seek

admission to various intermediate colleges. Admission to these colleges is based solely

on matric results. Thus, students’ grades in their matric examinations are crucial for

getting into a well-reputed intermediate college.

Students in government schools are evaluated through a central examination

system in classes 5 (primary), 8 (middle), and 10 (matric). Promotion exams for other

classes are in-house. The private schools also send their student to take the matric

examination. The other two exams are not considered as important and are in-house

exams. The matric examinations are controlled by provincial/federal boards of

education. Each province has its own board of education. In addition to the provincial

boards of education, the Federal Board of Education controls all Pakistani

schools/colleges abroad as well as the schools affiliated with the armed forces and those

based in Islamabad (the federal capital of Pakistan). The schools in FATA (Federally

Administered Tribal Areas) and FANA (Federally Administered Northern Areas) are also

linked to the federal board of education.

In addition to these provincial/federal boards of education, some private schools

are affiliated with foreign educational institutions. Thus, there are ‘Cambridge’ schools

that use the British curriculum and administer ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level examinations. These

schools are usually expensive. Since the ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level examinations are in English,

students graduating from these schools usually have high proficiency in English. As these

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 5
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
schools are elite and therefore are not part of the mainstream educational system, they

will not be focused on in this study.

There are four categories of schools in Pakistan. These are:

1. Government schools (mostly Urdu medium, although some are English

medium)

2. Private (for profit) (both English and Urdu medium)

3. Private (non-profit) (both English and Urdu medium) (usually affiliated to

larger organizations, e.g. churches, NGOs)

4. Madrasahs (religious schools)

Government schools

The government manages the first category of schools. At present English is

introduced at the primary level in class 1 in N.W.F.P., Punjab and Sindh. However, in

Balochistan English is not taught until class 6. All textbooks are assigned by the relevant

board of education. Provincial textbook boards produce only one approved textbook for

each subject. These textbooks are produced in accordance with the national curriculum

approved by the FCW (Federal Curriculum Wing). The current National Curriculum was

approved and signed in 1995. This document has been harshly criticized. Hoodbhoy (The

News, 2 December 2000) has called it a “compilation of gross absurdities...” Hoodbhoy

had elaborated the ‘gross absurdities’ in an earlier essay (The News, 8 Nov 2000):

The currently enforced curriculum contains absurdities sufficient to fill a little


book. For example, Class-V children must ‘learn to identify rumour mongers’, to
‘make a chart of the administrative setup of the province’, to ‘demonstrate by
action a fear of Allah’, and are asked to ‘collect pictures of soldiers and

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 6
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
policemen’. The head of the curriculum wing of the Education Department flatly
refuses to delete any of these items.

The textbooks based on such a curriculum have severe restrictions, as their goals

are not only educational but also political. In addition, some of the goals of the

curriculum, e.g. the ones about ‘identify rumour mongers’ and ‘demonstrate by action a

fear of Allah’ are not concrete.

In addition to the textbooks produced by the government, according to Mr.

Qureshi (director of the Sindh Textbook Board; personal communication, July 17th,

2000), the FCW has approved the use of English language textbooks produced by three

independent publishers (not applicable for other subjects). These textbooks are

comparatively more expensive (about 4 – 6 times) than books published by the textbook

boards; and, therefore, are often not used in government schools.

The tuition fees in government schools are very low, around Rs. 10 - 20 per

annum (approx. US 20 – 40 cents per month). Teachers in these schools are government

employees and the government fixes their pay scale. Individual schools do not have the

power of hiring or firing their staff. The staff is hired by the department of education.

Private schools

Private schools may be owned by an individual (category 2) or by an organization

(category 3) and comprise about “10 to 12 per cent of gross enrolments” (Bregman and

Mohammad, 1998; p. 81). In Private English medium schools, as the name suggests,

English is supposed to be the medium of instruction from class 1 onwards. The word

‘supposed’ implies that the schools in this category may vary in English usage. Some of

the private English medium schools use the label ‘English medium’ as an advertisement

strategy and actual classroom teaching is conducted in a language other than English.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 7
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
Private Urdu medium schools may introduce English at different levels depending on

individual school policy.

Private schools have independence in hiring their staff. The salaries of teachers

differ school to school. Even within a school, salaries of teachers may be different and

are negotiated at the time of hiring. In addition to the variation in teachers’ salaries, there

is no uniform fee structure. Fees may vary from Rs. 250 per annum (approx. 5 US

dollars) to Rs. 60,000 or more per annum (approx. 1000 US dollars). This range in fees is

striking and is one factor that influences the quality of education provided in different

private schools.

Private schools also choose textbooks independently of provincial/federal

textbook boards. According to the governmental policies, private schools should use

textbooks that are either produced by or approved by the board of education. However,

this rule is widely ignored. Administrators choose their own textbooks, and, thus,

textbooks used in various private schools may be different.

Madrasahs

‘Madrasah’ is an Arabic word which literally translates to ‘school’ in English.

Madrasahs in Pakistan are synonymous with religious schools and have more than

doubled in number since 1947. In 1947 there were a total of 245 madrasahs in Pakistan;

by 1987 this number had reached 534 (Nayyar, 1998). This number is still increasing.

Madrasahs are radically different from the other types of schools described above in their

philosophy to life and education. The lessons in Madrasahs generally include lectures on

Classical Arabic grammar (etymology, syntax, and rhetoric), Classical Arabic literature,

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 8
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
logic, Islamic law and its principles, Quranic commentary, Hadith (sayings of the prophet

Mohammad), mysticism, and scholasticism (religious philosophy).

Madrasahs may or may not teach English at all. Traditionally the curricula of

madrasahs do not include teaching English (Nayyar, 1998), however, recently some

madrasahs have started teaching English to make madrasah education more appealing

and to show that madrasahs are comparable to other schools. The government accepts

madrasahs as formal institutions of education and considers a graduate of a Thanviah-e-

Aammah (a level of instruction in Madrasahs) an equivalent to a matric. However,

secular educationists have questioned the kind of learning that students get in madrasahs

and its value and relevance in the modern world. Because of the differences in the

curriculum of Madrasahs and other educational institutions, madrasahs are not considered

part of mainstream education and will therefore not be discussed in this study.

Data and Method

Data for this study were collected by research assistants at the Aga Khan

University Institute for Education Development (AKU-IED). The data used here were

collected for Study A of the project titled “Building a Community of Practice: Action

Research and Educational Change in the Context of English Language Teaching and

learning in Pakistan”. At present no results from this study have been published. The

group leaders for Study A of this project were Dr. Iffat Farah (AKU-IED, Pakistan) and

Dr. Antoinette Gagne (OISE, Toronto)2. The data consist of transcripts of interviews with

2
The ownership of the data belongs to them and to AKU-IED. I appreciate their permission to access these
data. I was given the data as part of my summer job at AKU-IED as a Senior Research Associate. Although

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 9
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
teachers, parents, and students. The interview guides which were used to conduct

interviews are given in Appendix B. The data also include field observations of the

physical environment of the school and reports of several classroom observations. In

addition to this, responses to survey questionnaires administered to teacher-selected

students were also used. The exact number of interviews and other data sources for each

school studied is provided in the subsections below.

The two schools for this study, School 1 and School 2, were selected based on

their reputation (amongst the faculty at AKU-IED). The two schools would fall on the

two opposite ends of a continuum based on the use of English in the school. Figure 1

below shows such a continuum and the relative positions of the two schools to the ends.

The figure, based on AKU-IED’s faculty’s perceptions of the two schools, shows that

although neither of the schools are in the extremes, they fall towards opposite ends.

Figure 1: A continuum based on the use of English in schools in Pakistan.

School 1 School 2

No English English Only

School 1 is a government Urdu medium school while School 2 is a private (non-

profit) English medium school. School 2 is considered a better school than School 1 by

the faculty members at AKU-IED based on their previous observations of these schools.

Both schools studied here are boys’ secondary schools (classes 5 – 10) and are located in

the same city. This city is a large urban center. Schools from other cities and rural areas

I have borrowed the data, the analysis of the data is my own. However, I would like to thank Dr. Iffat Farah
(professor at AKU-IED) for her insightful comments on my preliminary data analysis.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 10
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
were not included in the sample because that would increase the number of variables

(such as rural/urban).

School 1

The data for this school were collected in late 1998. It consists of one interview

each with the Principal (P-1), two English Teachers (there were only two English

teachers in the school), three parents, and three students (parents and students were asked

to volunteer). The data also include 23 student responses to the survey questionnaire. In

addition to the interview data and survey results, observation notes of five English

language classes were analyzed to provide a window into actual classroom teaching.

Notes from two full-day class observations were also analyzed to investigate the use of

language in other subject classes. Observation notes of the locality in which the school

was situated were used to develop the local context of the school. A few official

notices/bulletins/forms were also analyzed to add to the profile of this school.

School History

School 1 used to be an English medium school, and although it still advertises as

an English medium school on the billboard outside, it is in fact an Urdu medium school.

In giving the history of the school, P-1 said that the school was considered a “good

school” before it was nationalized. However, after nationalization (in the mid 70’s),

students started moving out and the new students who came in did not come from the

same socio-economic background. As a result of this shift in the composition of students,

the practices in the school changed. According to P-1, once the school was nationalized,

teachers started teaching in Urdu instead of English. After a period the school lost all its

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 11
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
students. However, the school did not actually close down. It turned into one of what are

popularly known as ‘ghost schools’. A ghost school is a term used in Pakistan for

government schools that exist only on paper3. These schools have assigned teachers who

receive their regular salaries from the government, but do not have any students. Thus,

there is no ‘real school’ or ‘schooling’ in these ghost schools.

Once the school lost all its students, the building was turned into a marriage hall

(a building rented out for private parties, usually weddings). After losing its building, the

school office did not have a permanent location. It kept shifting based on the availability

of rooms in the buildings of two other government schools that are adjacent to this one.

However, since there were no students, this was not considered a problem. During this

period, according to P-1, the staff would come in, have tea, talk for about an hour or two

about personal matters, and then leave. The important thing was to come in and sign the

register so that they would keep receiving their salaries. The Principal said that after she

took over, she used her influence in the Department of Education to construct a new

building and admit students. Thus, for all practical purposes, School 1 was reborn in the

early 90’s with mostly old staff, but new students.

School 2

The data for this school were collected in late 1998 and early 1999. They consist

of one interview each with the Principal (P-2), four English Teachers (there were four

English teachers in the school), two subject teachers, and four parents (parents were

3
According to Hoodbhoy (Published in The News, 8 Nov 2000) “... while officially speaking [the-then
federal secretary of education, Dr Akhtar Hassan Khan] no ghost schools existed 5 years ago, this year
General Musharraf claimed that 20% of schools in Pakistan are ghostly!” 20% of the total number of
schools amount to over 16,000 schools.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 12
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
asked to volunteer). The data also include 23 student responses to the survey

questionnaire. In addition to the interview data and survey results, observation notes of

ten English language classes were analyzed to provide a window into actual classroom

teaching. Notes from two full-day observations were also analyzed to investigate the use

of language in other subject classes. Observation notes of the locality in which the school

was situated were used to develop the local context of the school. The School Prospectus

for the year 1998, official notice/bulletins, students’ notebooks, and textbooks, also

formed part of the corpus analyzed to develop the profile of this school.

School History

School 2 is a community-based English medium school. It was established in

1982 in a rented building with 50 students. At the time of data collection, the school had

grown into three campuses: Senior Girls Branch, Senior Boys Branch, and Junior Branch.

The total number of students was around 1700. According to the school Prospectus

(1998), a new branch of the school was under construction and once this new section

opened the number of students was expected to rise to “slightly over 2000 students.”

In the beginning, School 2 followed the Cambridge system of education, but later

the Board of Governors decided to shift to a ‘matric’ system of education. Under the

matric system, the school adopted government textbooks. However, these books did not

prove to be very popular. Later on, because of students’ and parents’ feedback, as well as

the administrations’ need to develop a “more challenging and more thinking” (P-2)

syllabus, the school replaced the government textbooks with other locally available (but

developed and published in Singapore) textbooks.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 13
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
Case Reports

This section is further divided into subsections to focus on aspects of each school

that were salient in the corpus. Each subsection describes and analyzes the findings based

on data available for each school. The purpose of this breakup of case studies into

subsections is to make it easier to compare and contrast various aspects of the two

schools.

School organization

School 1

School 1 is a government school. The Principal is the head of the school. During

her interview, P-1 was asked to describe the organization of the school. She said that an

Assistant Head Teacher assisted her in administrative affairs. The teachers were divided

into two groups: HSTs (High School Teachers) and JSTs (Junior School Teachers). The

HSTs taught higher classes (classes 6 – 10), while the JSTs taught junior classes (classes

1 – 5). These titles were assigned by the Board of Education. Within these groups,

seniority was given based on experience. This structure is visually illustrated in Figure 2

below.

Figure 2: Organizations structure at School 1.

Ministry of Education

Principal

Assistant Head

Teacher
Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 14
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
HSTs JSTs

In addition to this structure, P-1 stated that she was in the process of setting up

departments/pools based on the subject of specialization of the teachers. She said that she

first got this idea during her ADISM (Advanced Diploma in School Management)

training at AKU-IED. She said that during this program she visited schools and was

impressed by the ones that had formed subject teacher pools and therefore wanted to

adopt a similar system in her school. However, at the time of data collection no such

pools/departments had been formed at School 1.

School 2

School 2 is a private school. The Board of Governors, which comprises eight

members, is the highest administrative body of this school. The board “formulates a

policy for the educational programs and assists in handling and reviewing all financial

matters, while guiding the school in achievement of its envisaged objectives” (School

Prospectus, 1998). The policy decisions of the Board are translated and implemented into

practice by P-2. In his interview, P-2 said that his responsibilities include

Hiring and firing the staff and then I am even responsible for academics also like
whatever the curriculum is formulated, the staff development programs and then
even like if any major issues come from the students’ side so I also look into it.

Although P-2 was responsible for all three sections of the school, the day-to-day

administrative responsibilities of each branch were actually fulfilled by the Vice

Principal. Thus, there are three Vice Principals, one for each branch. A Senior Mistress

aids the Vice Principal in fulfilling her responsibilities.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 15
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
The various subject teachers are divided into Pools or Departments (there is no

real difference between the two so the two terms are used interchangeably). A

Department Head leads each department. In her interview, the Head of the English

Department stated that her responsibilities included:

I go through all the lesson planning of my teacher. I try to guide them also as a
VT [Visiting Teacher: a short term, intensive, in-service teacher training program
offered by AKU-IED] train[er]… we have in-service training sort of thing, also
that we … try to guide that teacher. We observe their classes, peer coaching as
well as whatever guidelines, whatever we learn together… we ask them to come
and observe our classes also.

As indicated in the statement above, the Head of a Department/Pool is, in addition

to her own teaching, is responsible for training new teachers. They also supervise other

teachers, look through their lesson plans, and observe classes.

Figure 3 below gives a visual representation of the school structure based on the

information collected through faculty interviews and the Prospectus (1998).

Figure 3: Organizations structure at School 2.

Board of
Governors
(8)

Principal

Vice Principal Vice Principal Vice Principal


(Boys' Branch) (Girls' Branch) (Junior Branch)

Senior Mistress Senior Mistress Senior Mistress

Head of
Department/
Pool

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 16
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
Teachers
Location and Community in general

School 1

School 1 is located in a residential neighborhood. It shares its compound with two

other government Urdu medium schools. The houses in this area are both large, where

well-to-do families live, and small (both ‘puccay’ and ‘katchay’ (slums)), where lower

middle and lower class families reside. Thus, the neighborhood is mixed in terms of

socio-economic class. The neighborhood is also mixed in terms of the ethnic/linguistic

groups living there.

There are a number of other private and public schools in this area as well.

Students attend different schools based on their social class. Thus, although the area is

mixed, each school caters for a different class of students. School 1, as well as the other

two government schools, attract students from the lower classes of the neighborhood.

Other small private schools in this locality, which have low fees, also attract students

from the lower middle class. Parents from the higher social classes in the neighborhood

send their children either to ‘better’ schools in the area, which have a higher fee structure,

or to the well-reputed schools in other parts of the city.

As has already been mentioned, School 1 is located in a mixed socio-economic

and ethnic locality. As such, the shops in the area cater to different economic sectors as

well as linguistic groups. Thus, on walking around the neighborhood, one would observe

that there are some shops with English signs, but most of them have signs in Urdu. A

number of shops have signs in both languages. One would also find advertisements in

both Urdu and English; however, most of the advertisements are in Urdu. In addition to

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 17
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
commercial advertisements, there is a lot of political graffiti. This graffiti is mostly in

Urdu.

The shopkeepers in this area do not speak English. The student survey

questionnaire data support this claim. All informants (24) stated that the shopkeepers in

their neighborhood did not speak in English with them. However, this does not mean that

the shopkeepers only spoke in Urdu. A casual walk in the vicinity would suggest that at

least Punjabi, Pushto, Sindhi and Siraiki are spoken in the neighborhood.

School 2

School 2 comprises of three campuses located within walking distance of each

other in an upper middle class neighborhood. The three campuses are: Senior Girls

Branch, Senior Boys Branch, and Junior Branch. The present case study is based

specifically on the Boys’ Branch of the school. The Boys’ Branch is housed in a separate

building and is the nexus of the campuses. The office of the Principal is on this campus.

Based on the fee structure (described in more details later), the community that

sends their children to this school could generally be classified as belonging to the middle

and upper middle classes. The school building itself is in the center of an upper middle

class neighborhood. There are at least two other well-reputed English medium schools in

the vicinity.

In walking around the school campus, one would observe that the shop signs were

both in Urdu and in English, with the majority being in English. Although there were a

number of signs in English, the shopkeepers did not necessarily speak English. Thus,

English language signs are symbols of a relatively affluent neighborhood regardless of

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 18
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
the fact that the shopkeepers do not speak this language. This last statement can be

supported by the student survey in which all the students responded “No” to the item:

“Who usually/always speaks English to you? Shopkeepers?” Field observation also

supported the survey data and most interactions at shops/bazaar around were observed to

be either in Urdu or in Gujarati.

Physical layout

School 1

School 1 is one of three schools within one boundary wall. All three schools share

the same entrance. The entrance does not have any chowkidar to keep an eye on who

comes in or goes out and students (and others) may be seen entering and leaving the

school compound at all times. The boundary wall is covered with advertisements and

political slogans in Urdu.

The other two schools in the compound are also government Urdu medium

schools. There is a large open area between the three schools. All three schools use this

area for their morning assemblies, break, and sports. There are a few trees and plants in

the open field. On one side of the school, right next to the boundary wall, there is an

apartment complex. The apartments have windows opening on to the school. The

residents of these apartments dump their garbage in the school compound. They also play

loud music (mostly in Pushto), which teachers and students find very distracting.

There is no cafeteria within the school(s) compound. During school hours, and

especially when the school closes in the afternoon, a number of street vendors set up their

stalls outside the school gate. These vendors sell all sorts of cheap edibles. There are

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 19
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
many flies around these stalls and, to say the least, the general conditions of the stalls and

the people operating them are unhygienic. The school does not have control over this as

the stalls are privately owned and operated outside the school premises.

The classes are generally large. However, there is usually a lot of broken furniture

in the back of the classroom. In some cases, this junk takes up a fourth of the room. The

desks, each seating two students, are set in three rows. There is sufficient space between

each row for the students and the teacher to pass. The blackboards are fixed on the front

wall and the teachers’ desks are right in the front of the board. There are no notice boards

etc. in the room. In some classrooms, there are a few posters and pictures, but this is not

true for all the rooms. There is only one fan in the middle of each room, which is not

sufficient for the size of the room or the number of students in the room. The school does

not have a library or a well-equipped laboratory for science subjects. There are no

computers in the school.

School 2

The Boys’ Branch of School 2 is located in a residential area next to a religious

establishment. The school is a purpose-built four-storied building. The ground floor of

the building has only a few rooms built. These include the offices for the Principal, the

Vice Principal, administration, staff, accounts, etc. The rest of the floor is essentially

empty floor space and can be used as a hall. It is in this hall that most students crowd in

during the school recess. In addition to this floor space, there is a little open area where

students play during their breaks. The school canteen is located on one side of this

compound. The school administration overlooks the running of the canteen. A

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 20
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
‘chowkidar’ (guard) at the entrance monitors the door at all times. Students are not

permitted to leave the school premises during school hours. The chowkidar also questions

all visitors at the gate and then directs them to the Principal’s office.

The classrooms are all located on the second, third, and fourth floors of the

building. They are clean, well ventilated and nicely furnished. All classes are furnished

with desks, seating two students each. Typically, there are four columns of desks. There

is space between each column for the teacher/others to pass through. There is a white

board in front of the room and a notice board in the back. There is a desk and a chair for

the teacher in front of the white board. The notice boards in the back are generally

divided into three sections: students’ corner, social skills corner, and notices/posters

corner.

In addition to the classrooms, there is a library, an infirmary, a computer lab, a

physics lab, and a chemistry lab. The library has a large collection of books, magazines,

newspapers, and audiovisual materials. The computer lab is equipped with 15 PCs, and

can accommodate 30 students at a time working in pairs.

Economics

School 1

The school fee structure and the salaries are government regulated. Based on

experience of the teachers and whether they are JSTs or HSTs, teachers’ salaries

(including all benefits) range from around Rs. 2000 to Rs. 4000 per month (approx. US $

40 – 120). The tuition fee in School 1 is very low and is between Rs. 120 - 240 per year

(approx. US $ 2 - 4).

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 21
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
School 2

Teachers’ salaries at this school range from 3000 to 8000 per month depending on

their experience and educational background. This is a decent salary and roughly

translates to between US $ 700 to US $ 1800 (the average per capita income in Pakistan

is about $650 per annum).

School fees for students vary by classes. For pre-primary classes, the fees is Rs.

650 per month (approx. US $ 11), for classes 1 to 3, Rs. 700 per month (approx. US $

12), for classes 4 – 7, Rs. 775 per month (approx. US $ 13), and for classes 8 – 10, it is

Rs. 850 per month (approx. US $ 15). In addition to the monthly fees, the school charges

Rs. 250 (approx. US $ 4) at the beginning of each academic year for miscellaneous

expenses, which include medical checkup, ID cards, etc. Thus, the total school fees per

annum could range from 8050 to 10200 (approx. US $ 160 – 200) depending on the class

a student is attending. Based on this fee structure, one would need to belong to at least the

middle-middle class in order to send their children to School 2, especially if one has more

than one child.

In order to provide education to children from all socio-economic classes, the

school has two different scholarship programs. The school does not directly handle

scholarship applications. There are two separate Trusts that handle applications and all

information is kept confidential. According to a school circular (# 448; March 1, 99), “the

identity of the child availing the facility of scholarship is not know in the School

Administration, Staff, Teachers nor to the Board of Governors.” The reason for this

discretion is to avoid any discrimination based on socio-economic classes of the students.

However, according to ST1-2, there are almost no students from lower classes.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 22
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
School community

Teachers

School 1

The teachers at this school had at least a B.Ed. The Principal (P-1) of School 1

had over 30 years of experience in Education. She has a M.Ed. from Karachi University

and was a graduate of the ADISM (Advanced Diploma in School Management) program

offered by AKU-IED. In addition to this, she has also completed her PTTC (Practical

Teacher Training Course) offered by SPELT (Society of Pakistani English Language

Teachers). P-1 worked as the Deputy District Education Officer at the Department of

Education for three years before becoming the Principal of School 1 and therefore had

considerable influence in the Department. According to the faculty at AKU-IED, P-1 is

not a typical principal of a government school and is above average in her qualifications

and influence.

The two English language teachers interviewed for this study, ET1-1 and ET2-2,

had at least 17 years of classroom teaching experience. However, they had not been

English language teachers for the entire period and had not been hired to teach English.

The English teachers at this school did not consider themselves as real English teacher.

This was probably because they did not choose to teach English; rather the administration

had asked them to teach it. One of the teachers, ET1-1, said this at least twice during her

interview. She said, “I am not an English teacher, I just teach it.” She used this phrase

each time she was asked specific questions about English language teaching or its use.

Instead of telling the interviewer what a good teacher does, or what a good class should

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 23
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
look like, she said “You should ask this question to an English teacher. I am not an

English teacher, I just teach it.”

The teachers interviewed for the study belonged to Urdu speaking families. They

were all female, were married, and had children. They reported that they only spoke Urdu

at home with their children and spouses. At school, the teachers said that they spoke in

Urdu to each other as well to the students. They said that they spoke English only in the

classes, and there too they mixed it with Urdu. The interviews were also conducted in

Urdu because the teachers did not feel comfortable being interviewed in English.

At the time of data collection, there were 28 teachers and about 225 students. This

gives a student-teacher ratio of about eight students to a teacher. This is a very low

student-teacher ratio. Although there was a surplus of teachers, the class size was still

rather large and averaged at about 32 students per class. As a result of over-staffing, the

workload of the teachers was very low. The Principal said that she was aware of the

“surplus of staff” and stated that while the ratio of students to teachers is low, most of the

teachers are trained Islamiyaat or Urdu teachers. There were no trained English teachers

in the school. Thus, because of a dearth of trained English teachers, she had asked other

subject teachers to teach English (both the English teachers interviewed were actually

trained as Urdu/Islamiyaat teachers) based on their language skills. The administration’s

role in deciding what subject a teacher would teach is true for other subjects as well. The

Principal elaborated on this by stating that at the time of data collection her school had

vacancies for science teachers. She said that being a government school she could not

directly hire new teachers since the Education Department is responsible for hiring new

teachers and delegating them to different schools. She said that although she had asked

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 24
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
the Education Department to send science teachers, none had been sent and she therefore

had no choice but to assign this subject to teachers who were not trained to teach science.

She said that the same was the case with English teachers.

School 2

Seven teachers, including the Principal, four English teachers, and two subject

teachers were interviewed at School 2.

The Principal of School 2, P-2, was the only male interviewed. P-2, who has a

M.Ed. from Notre Dame Institute of Education, is a professional teacher and had over 10

years teaching experience at the time of data collection.

The four English teachers interviewed at this school were ET1-2 (Head of the

English Department), ET2-2, ET3-2, and ET4-2; and the two subject teachers were, ST1-

2 and ST2-2. ST1-2 and ST2-2 both taught social studies. All of these teachers were

females and five of the six teachers were married and had children. All the teachers,

except ST2-2 who had only finished her Intermediate and ET4-2 who had a Cambridge

diploma, had at least a Bachelor’s Degree. Most of the English teachers had also taken

teacher-training courses at either AKU-IED or at SPELT. The interviews with teachers at

this school were conducted in English.

Teachers reported that they generally spoke Urdu at home. Although they

believed that English is important, they did not find the atmosphere at home conducive to

speaking in English. Some of the teachers said that they did use English at home at times,

but its role was restricted. ET1-2 said that she spoke in English with her family at times

when she did not want people around her to understand her. She said that this usually

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 25
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
happened when she went out shopping with her daughters or when they were discussing

certain topics (she did not specify the topics) at home (specially in front of domestic

staff). Thus, English was used for reasons of privacy. They assumed that domestic staff

and shopkeepers etc. did not know English and therefore it was safe to converse in

English to maintain privacy.

There were around 120 teachers in the three campuses at the time of data

collection. Based on the figures provided, the teacher-student ratio is 1-14, on an average.

The class sizes ranged from 23 to 34.

A number of teachers at School 2 belonged to the Gujarati speaking community.

However, they said that at home they spoke in Gujarati to their spouses or parents and in

Urdu to their children and/or siblings. A typical example was that of the Principal

himself. He stated that he spoke in Gujarati with his wife but in Urdu to his children. He

further added that he was not literate in Gujarati. His languages of literacy were Urdu and

English.

All the English teachers at School 2 said that they had not initially planned to

teach English and that the administration had asked them to teach it. The administration

was said to assign English teachers’ based on their language skills. The Head of the

English department, ET1-2, stated that she began her career teaching science and math to

primary classes, and Pakistan Studies and English to the senior sections. She said that the

administration at School 2 decided that she should teach English. ET2-2, who shared

ET1-2’s experience, said, “It is not I choose to be English teacher, I did my graduation in

English literature. When I came here, I joined the institution and my principal, she gave

me the subject.” ET3-2 thought that the reasons why School 2 might have asked her to

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 26
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
teach English were “because I got education throughout in English medium school... In

my graduation I had English as an elective subject. I had some experience of teaching

English.” ET4-2 said that she was probably asked to teach English, “because of my

fluency and they also say my accent is good… in the beginning I taught all subject but

later when they realized my potential, they gave me English.” The statements quoted

above support the claim that the administration chose teachers with a strong background

in English (e.g. English literature in case of ET2-2) or good language skills (e.g. ET4-2)

as English teachers.

The Principal stated that an individual’s proficiency in English is important in

hiring new teachers. He said that the school does not hire any teachers who are not

confident and fluent in English. Potential teachers are interviewed and then asked to give

a demo class. These classes are observed closely and a person may not be hired if they

show signs of weakness in their ability to teach in English. Once a teacher is hired, the

Vice-Principal, the coordinator of the subject pool, or another senior teacher is given the

responsibility of training the teacher and breaking her/him into the school’s philosophy.

Although proficiency in the English language was regarded as a key factor for

hiring English teachers, it was interesting to note that the teachers, including the

Principal, did not always speak grammatically correct English. They were fluent, but not

always accurate. An example of lack of subject-verb inversion in WH-question formation

in teachers’ language is given below.

1) What she was holding in her hand and what she told to the family?

2) Where she had gone?

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 27
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
These examples were taken from the speech of ET3-2. However, this was not

restricted to ET3-2, and a lack of subject-verb inversion in WH-questions was observed

in the speech of other participants as well. This particular example may be considered a

standard in Pakistani English (Rahman, 1990). The issue of standard Pakistani English

will be brought up again in the discussion section.

Students / Parents

School 1

The students at this school came from a lower class background. Most of the

parents were uneducated. In responding to the item about their parents’ education, two

children stated that their father had a graduate degree; one stated that his father had an

intermediate degree; and one stated that his father had a matric degree. In contrast to this,

a mother of one of the students had a master’s degree; mothers of two of the students had

graduate degrees; and mother of one of the students with a matric. However, sixteen

students reported that neither of their parents was educated. Four other students chose not

to respond to this question at all.

In the survey, the students reported that their mothers did not work. Only the

fathers went out to work. Thus, most of the students belonged to single income

households. The occupations of the fathers varied. Most of them had blue collared jobs,

e.g., auto mechanics, drivers, carpenters etc. However, there were also some students

whose fathers had low paid white collared jobs, e.g., journalist, salesman etc.

In addition to single parent incomes (from low paying jobs), the families of the

students at School 1 were large. The lowest number of siblings reported was three and the

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 28
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
highest was 10, with the mode (not average) being six. These large families with low

incomes force the families to look for ways of increasing their income. The most

common way to do this is to let the children work. Thus, most of the students, as stated

by the Principal and other teachers, worked after school. The students worked as

assistants to auto-mechanics, shopkeepers, etc. The money they made contributed

towards the total family income. Because of this workload, their schoolwork suffered and

at times they were unable to do their homework. Realizing this problem, one of the

teachers, ET2-1, stated that teachers tend not to give too much homework and do more

in-class work.

Most parents wanted their children to learn English well. In giving reasons for

learning English parents emphasized the role English plays in getting better jobs. The

importance of English in education was also mentioned. One parent said that she wanted

her children to learn English in order to pass the matric exam. Although, in general,

parents were in favor of English, one parent categorically stated that he had sent his

children to School 1 because it was an Urdu medium school and that he did not believe

English medium schooling is any good. He said that children going to English medium

schools not only do not learn English well, they also do not acquire good Urdu. Although

this parent was in favor of Urdu medium education, he did not discount the importance of

English and said that he tries to teach English at home. He also sent his children to a

tuition center where they study English.

Most of the students came from Pushto, Punjabi, Sindhi, and Siraiki speaking

background. A few students also belonged to Urdu speaking families, but they formed a

minority. The students reported that they spoke their mother tongues at home and Urdu at

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 29
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
school. However, the teachers reported that they had observed students speaking in their

mother tongue in school at times. This was specially said to be the case with Pushto

speaking children. ET2-1 said that students mostly formed friendships with students from

similar ethnic/linguistic backgrounds and therefore talked to each other in their mother

tongue. Urdu was used to communicate with students from different linguistic

backgrounds

Students felt that it was important to learn English. They realized its importance

as an international language and the language of higher education. However, they said

that they do not use English outside their English class. They reported that they do not

read any English books or newspapers at home. They also stated that their parents could

not speak in English either. Students’ only acknowledgement of use of any English

outside English classes was use of certain lexical items and phrases like “thank you” etc.

These items have been so integrated into the Urdu language that they have become a part

of the Urdu lexicon and therefore their use cannot be counted as creative use of English.

A few students went to tuition centers after school. Parents sent them there

because they felt that they were not educated enough themselves to help their children

and because they did not have sufficient free time to help them. Most students studied

English, mathematics, and science at the tuition centers.

School 2

The students at this school came from educated families. All the parents

interviewed had at least a matric education. Although the fathers were generally more

educated than the mothers were, none of the parents were uneducated. This claim is

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 30
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
supported by the questionnaire data. In the 23 questionnaires collected, none of the

parents (both fathers and mothers) had less than a matric education. Among the 18

students who reported the education level of their fathers, eight stated that their fathers

had a master’s degree, eight that they had a bachelor, and two that they had a matric. In

comparison, 21 students reported their mothers’ educational qualifications: one student’s

mother had a Ph.D., six had masters, five bachelors, four intermediate, and five matric. In

looking at these data, it becomes apparent that the range of educational qualifications for

the mothers was actually slightly higher. This was due to one mother having a Ph.D.

However, there were more mothers with minimal educational qualifications (matric) than

fathers. In addition to this difference, all the fathers were employed, while only five of

the mothers worked. The rest were housewives.

The parents (4) interviewed stated that they spoke Urdu, and to some extent could

communicate in English. However, the mothers said that they did not feel comfortable in

English.

In their interviews, the teachers said that most of their students came from a

middle class background and as such “do not get much time to speak in English. Most of

the students do not get time or chance to speak in English I must say at home” (ET1-2).

ET2-2 said that she had based her opinion about the extant of English language input that

her student received outside school on her observation that “… sometime, when I asked

them ‘what newspaper you have at home’ they always tell me it is Gujarati.” Thus, for

ET2-2 the language of the newspaper that the students read at home was indicative of the

language they use at home. .

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 31
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
Teachers’ perceptions of the students’ backgrounds are not necessarily identical to

the students’ responses in the questionnaire data. For example, of the 23 students

surveyed, only three said that they spoke Gujarati at home, and one said that he spoke

Sindhi. In contrast to these languages, all the students said that they spoke in Urdu, and

60.9% said that they speak some English at home. A number of students also reported

that they read The Dawn, an English language newspaper, at home. This is an interesting

contrast. It seems that while the teachers base their inferences on inaccurate information

about the language of the newspapers delivered at home and on the students’ ethnic

backgrounds, the students do not accept teachers labeling. This discrepancy between the

teachers and the students’ data also suggests that even if Gujarati newspapers are

delivered at home, it does not mean that a child is literate in this language. The scenario

developed here seems to be similar to the one that P-2 described when talking about his

home. As was mentioned earlier, P-2 said that he spoke in Gujarati to his wife, but in

Urdu to his children. In addition to this, he had said that he also tries to speak in English

with his elder child. Thus, the scenario at P-2’s home may be considered typical in homes

of a number of students who attended this school. The parents would speak in Gujarati

and may be literate in that language, but they speak to their children in Urdu or at times

in English. Thus the children may not know Gujarati, are not literate in it. This emphasis

on Urdu and English over the mother tongue, Gujarati, is worth noticing. It reflects the

prestige given to these two languages over other vernaculars. It also suggests that if this

trend continues then, over a period, these vernaculars might become endangered and even

extinct.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 32
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
General language policies

School 1

School 1 is an Urdu medium government school. As such, all subjects, except

English, are supposed to be taught in Urdu. English is taught as a compulsory subject for

one period of thirty-five minutes daily, six days a week.

The Principal of this school was very conscious of the differences between the

policies of government and private schools. She listed two policy issues that she

considered to be at the root of the differences between government and private schools.

According to the Principal, absence of good textbooks and absence of an effective

accountability system for the teachers are key factors that determine the actual classroom-

teaching scenario.

P-1 stated that being a government school, School 1 has to follow the English

language curriculum as well as the syllabus prescribed by the government. This, she said,

led to significant differences between government and private schools. She said that

although private schools are required to follow the government set curriculum, they make

their own syllabi and choose the textbooks that they want. According to the Principal, the

government textbooks used in her school are sub-quality and are no match for the books

used in the private sector. The Principal felt that textbooks are critical to the quality of

language teaching in a school. She believed that well-written textbooks form the

backbone of good teaching practices in a class.

The other issue raised by the Principal related to the status of the teachers. She

said that while teachers in private schools are constantly monitored and have to perform

well or run the risk of being fired, teachers in government schools could not be fired.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 33
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
They are government employees, and the rules are such that once hired, it is not easy to

remove them. The school does not have the power to hire or fire any teacher. According

to the Principal, an absence of a system of accountability results in lack of motivation and

adversely affects classroom-teaching practices.

According to the teachers and students interviewed, Urdu was the most commonly

used language in the school. All the staff meetings etc. are conducted in Urdu. She also

pointed out that most teacher-student interaction is in Urdu as well. She said that this was

probably because the students are not “capable” of speaking in English. The school

assembly is also held in Urdu. ET1-1, commenting on this issue, said that this extensive

use of Urdu for all purposes is to be expected because School 1 is a government Urdu

medium school.

The use of Urdu for assembly, notices, bulletins, official work, etc. has direct

implications on the English language teaching in this school. As was pointed out earlier,

teachers at School 1 acknowledged that the only significant source of English language

input for their students is in the school. By restricting English to a thirty-five minutes

classroom, if that, English language input is minimal. This affects both the rate and

quality of acquisition.

Students at School 1 are evaluated and promoted to the next classes by passing

annual examinations. The annual examination is the only gauge used to determine

whether a student should be promoted to the next class or not, and passing the English

language exam is crucial for their promotion. Although there are two mid-term

examinations, scores from these examinations have no weight in the final decision.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 34
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
The teachers write the examination questions. One of the teachers said that the

papers used to be sent by the Board of Education, but this policy was changed and

schools were permitted to set their own papers. This power of setting papers themselves

has influenced the teaching environment. One major influence of this on English

language teaching in the class has been that while previously teachers were obliged to

teach all the topics that could be examined by the Board, they do not have to do so any

more. Since the teachers set the papers themselves, the examinations test only topics that

they taught during the academic session.

School 2

School 2 is an English medium school. The Board of Directors set the language

policy of the school and indicated that the school would use English as the medium of

instruction for all subjects except Urdu, Islamiyaat and Sindhi. Thus, an English only

policy is enforced. P-2 said that this is especially true in the English language classes

where the English teachers are explicitly told not to use any Urdu at all. However, in

other subject classes, teachers are permitted to use Urdu in case student(s) are unable to

follow the lesson. Although an English only policy exists and is known to all, this policy

is “not exactly documented” (P-2).

Teachers were aware of this English-only policy. ET2-2 said that School 2 had

always been an English medium school and an English-only policy was always followed.

When asked how she came to know about this English-only policy, she said, “because in

our meetings, this is always reminded that you should speak in English. The teachers are

noted that they are not speaking in English, they are speaking in Urdu, subject teacher,

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 35
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
they are reminded again and again.” Another teacher, ET3-2, was also aware of an

English-only policy in the school. She said that she was aware of the policy because she

was “given the guidance and asked to observe some classes. From there I understood”.

Parents also showed awareness of the emphasis on English at School 2 and

considered it as one of the factors that gave it a good reputation. They said that they were

impressed by their children’ ability to speak English.

During the morning assembly, both Urdu and English were used. However, the

choice of language depended on the topic under discussion. ST2-2, during her interview,

shared the way she saw the division of languages in the school assembly. She said that if

the subject under discussion was “religion in the days of Moharram or Ramzan, then it

turns in Urdu; and if it is about some 14th August, 23rd March, some other national

holiday then it is done in English.” This statement demarcates the choice of languages in

different contexts. Urdu is used on religious occasions, while English is used at other

times. This corresponds with the school policy to use Urdu as a medium of instruction for

Islamiyaat (and Urdu and Sindhi), and English for all other subjects.

In regards to use of English in school in general, ET2-2 said that she talked to

other English teachers in English, however she used Urdu to communicate with other

teachers. She also stated that all official meetings and work was carried out in English.

ET1-2 said that she spoke in English to her students as well as other teachers. She said

that she used Urdu only with Urdu/Islamiyaat teachers or with other teachers and students

who did not seem to follow her in English. She also stated that English teachers tend to

speak in English to each other because that was the school policy. However, she stated

that she could not say the same for the subject teachers and that there was a certain

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 36
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
amount of Urdu spoken in the staff-room. ET3-2 qualified the domains of use of the

various languages and said that teachers mostly speak in English when discussing

“matters relevant to school, but when we are talking informally about some personal

matters, we converse in Urdu. With other subject teachers we use Urdu, but even they use

English for official matters.”

The subject teachers seemed to have a slightly different story about the use of

language outside the classroom. ST2-2, while talking about the language she uses to

communicate with other teachers at school said, “Mostly Urdu. Because here teacher do

not prefer to talk in English. Only Mrs. T, Mrs. N, they prefer. But, you know, there are

Islamiyaat teachers, there are Urdu teachers there are all from different walk of life and

the medium becomes Urdu.” She further added, “even if they are English teacher, they do

prefer speaking in Urdu.” On further probing, she said that she believed that the reason

for this is that they felt ‘easier’ talking in Urdu than in English.

Two students out of 23 that responded to this question said that they used English

on the playground. This was confirmed by playground observations, where students were

seen talking in Urdu amongst each other.

Beliefs about language teaching and learning

School 1

The interview data suggests that good teachers are considered good lesson

planners. Emphasis on lesson planning was evident in the interview with the Principal

and other teachers. During her interview, the Principal said that good teachers should

have clear objectives for their lesson and should develop activities to fulfill these

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 37
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
objectives. She also emphasize d the importance of using supplementary material for

teaching purposes. She said that since the government prescribed textbooks are not of

high quality, it is imperative that teachers take the initiative of developing additional

material. However, no such material were seen in the class observations.

Teachers believed that there were significant differences between learning a first

language and a second language. One basic difference, according to one teacher, was that

while a first language is acquired naturally from the environment, a second language has

to be learnt through explicit teaching. ET1-1 said that it was because of this reason that a

number of students could not speak Urdu or English well. She said that a number of her

students did not speak Urdu as their first language. According to this teacher, children

learn Urdu in their contexts; and they are not taught Urdu explicitly/properly. Because of

this, their Urdu is weak and their literary skills in Urdu are not highly developed. In case

of English, she said that there is almost no input in their contexts, thus their English

language proficiency is very low. In addition to the input, ET1-1 said that teaching

English entails learning a new script as well. She said that she has to begin with the

alphabets and then progress slowly. She said that even after teaching them for years,

students’ English does not improve much. Students need to be motivated and given

additional input. She said, “A half hour class is just not enough to teach students a new

language. Students need to be given more time if they are expected to learn the well.”

In reference to the sources of input, teachers were asked if they thought students

improved their English by watching English movies/cartoons or listening to the radio etc.

Teachers did not think that their students used the electronic medium as a source of

language input. In their interviews, the students confirmed what the teachers had said.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 38
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
They said that although they watched some English movies, especially cartoons, they did

not understand the language or learnt from it. They complained that the characters speak

too fast for them to follow. They said that they enjoyed watching cartoons and action

movies because of the visual action and not because of the language.

School 2

Teachers believed that the objectives of the English curriculum were to ensure

that “the students… should understand the language according to their level, they should

learn” (ET2-2). On probing what ET2-2 meant by knowing a language, she said, “to

know, so that the message or the person is able to convey his feelings, his expressions his

thoughts in a particular way or you may say that there should be no grammatical mistake.

There should be fluency that others can understand it properly.” Another teacher, ET3-2,

shared ET2-2’s understanding of the objectives of the English language curriculum and

said, “We want our students to be fluent in English. They should be able to write English,

they should understand English. For communication, they need to share their ideas with

others.” When asked how such a curriculum would translate into her responsibilities, she

replied, “I would like my students to write sentences properly or if they don’t understand

anything, I should make those points clear to them. The syllabus which is given to me I

have to cover that and make students understand it.” Thus, this teacher viewed

communication in terms of writing. Beyond that, she believed that the syllabus is

designed to help students learn English and that if she does her job in completing the

syllabus, students would learn.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 39
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
Teachers were asked to state what they meant when they said that a person

“knows” a language. In one of the interviews, ET3-2 said that a person who knows

English would be knowledgeable. This notion of a person’s knowledge, ability, and

intelligence being tied with his/her language skills seems to be underlying in several

other statements as well.

Other typical responses to the question of what knowledge of a language meant,

included that of ET4-2, “if the message is conveyed, because, you know, nobody is

perfect. If he is good at English he must have pronunciation and intonation, he must be

strong in conversation and writing also.” Thus, based on this, ET4-2 described a good

student as one who is “very confident, he speaks whether right or wrong and when ever

he doesn’t understand he asks for instruction and he cross-questions.” In this statement,

ET4-2 brings out the differences between fluency and accuracy. She seems to believe that

fluency is more important than accuracy.

The Principal and the Head of the English Department also raised this issue of

fluency vs. accuracy. Teachers believed that language fluency is more important than

accuracy. The emphasis on fluency vs. accuracy was very pronounced in ET1-2’s

interviews. In her interview she stated several times that she emphasized on fluency in

speech in her classes and not necessarily on accuracy in language because she believed

that once a person becomes fluent “accuracy will come immediately and automatically.”

It appears that the teachers are not familiar with recent theories in second language

acquisition (SLA) research that suggest language develops if appropriate input and

context are provided.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 40
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
In their interviews, parents also emphasized the importance of fluency and of oral

communications. Parents repeatedly stated that they wanted their children to be fluent.

One parent said that she liked School 2 because “they encourage the students to speak in

English, regardless of whether their grammar is “good” or “bad”. The important thing is

that “you try to speak out’”. This statement by a parent supports the schools philosophy

of focusing on fluency over accuracy. The parents want their children to be fluent in

English, and if the school focuses on this aspect of language development, then it is

considered “good”. Fluency in English was also marked as the most common goal for

learning English in the school in the students’ questionnaire.

ET1-2 also discussed the impact of environment on language learning. She raised

the issue of context in discussing the differences between learning a first and a second

language. According to her:

[An English class] is sort of an artificial environment for providing them. It’s not

the national language or their mother tongue and I think they feel more

comfortable in Urdu only and that is what they are learning automatically at

home. Learning English is different with mother tongue. The native language is

always learnt very easily… I think for making them learn English we have to

create an environment sort of thing over. We have to provide them with books, we

have to provide them vocabulary also some grammatical aspects. Whereas

learning native we do not have to ask them about ‘ki’ and ‘ka’ the difference

between that only in Urdu. They won’t find any difficulty in learning that. When

you start with English it is different. We have to teach them all the grammar items

also over here.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 41
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
ET1-2 felt that while students in her school received sufficient input in Urdu (and

other mother tongues) at home and in the community, English did not occur naturally in

their contexts and was therefore harder to learn. When asked whether she thought if the

students “got good exposure to the [English] language outside school”, she stated, “I do

not think much. Not at least regarding our school. I do not think because most of them

they all watching TV programs that are mostly in Urdu which can give them some.”

Thus, she believed that students do not acquire English naturally in the context of her

school, but had to learn it. Although not explicitly stated in these terms, ET1-2 seems to

be making this distinction between acquisition and learning. Acquisition is implicit and

natural with quality input being provided in natural settings, while learning needs an

“artificial environment” and explicit teaching.

Language in the classroom:

Use of language in the classroom

School 1

According to the Principal, all classes, including the English classes, are taught in

Urdu. One of the teachers interviewed, ET1-1, said that she does not speak in English

because her students cannot follow her in that language. According to the teacher,

students need to be spoken to in Urdu for them to understand. She said that she used

English very infrequently and at times when she used it, it was mostly to scold or

reprimand the students. She said that the most common phrases that she used were

“Don’t talk!” and “Sit down!”

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 42
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
Teachers’ statements that they used Urdu in their classes were supported by

observational data. Teachers were seen talking to their students in Urdu. English was

spoken only when the actual teaching was going on. The following discourse was

recorded in the beginning of a class.

Students: Good morning.

Teacher: Good morning. Sit down. Keep your books in your bag. [Writes the

topic of the lesson on the black board ‘Strange Creature’]… Did anybody see

penguin? Kia kisi nay penguin deikha hai. [Has anyone seen a penguin]

Students (only a few): No

Teacher: Have you seen picture? Kia aap nay tasweer deikhi hai? [Have you seen

a picture?]

Students: Yes.

Teacher: Accha bataaeeyay penguin kay baray mein aap kia jaantay hein?

[Alright, tell me what you know about penguins?] What is Penguin?

Student: Animal.

Teacher: Parinda hai ya janwar? [Is it a bird or an animal?] Bird ka kia matlab

hai? [What does the word ‘bird’ mean?]

Students: Parinda. [Bird]

Teacher: Where it is found?

Student: In cold areas.

Teacher: What do you mean ‘cold area’?

Student: Thanda ilaaqa. [Cold area.]

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 43
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
This extract shows that the teacher either talked in or translated most of her

utterances into Urdu. In fact, we find that the teacher herself switches to Urdu without

any apparent need for doing so. The students’ responses are all in English. The teacher

does not seem to be confident that her students understand the answers that they give and

even asks one of them to translate and explain what he meant by ‘cold areas’. In

analyzing this classroom discourse, it seems that the teachers may be biased in thinking

that their students are unable to use English in the class. Support for this interpretation

can be found in teachers’ interviews. ET2-1 said that students could not write or speak

grammatically correct sentences. At another point in the interview, the same teacher

labeled students at School 1 “dull”. When asked why she had called them “dull”, she said

that it was because they “come from an underprivileged class of the society and are

brought up without any exposure to the English language”. This comment shows that this

teacher links socio-economic class to students’ knowledge of English and their ability to

learn. It is thus possible that the use of Urdu in the English class is a result of teachers’

prejudices rather than the inability of students to speak (or learn) the language.

Although students replied to the teacher in English when asked questions etc., no

instances of long or involved discourse in either English (or Urdu) were observed.

Students also used Urdu when asking questions, e.g., “miss kia parhaen gi?” [Miss, what

will you read?], “miss, paper phar lein?” [Miss, may I tear a piece of paper?] etc.; and

when they talked to each other.

Most of the conversation regarding classroom management etc. was in Urdu with

some lexical borrowing. In one class the teacher wanted some of the students to change

their seats, she said, “Faisal aap Kashif kay pass aa jaein.” [Faisal sit next to Kashif.] In

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 44
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
another class she instructed the students to listen to her read, “Sab khamooshi say sunain

aur mera pronunciation deikhein.” [All of you should listen quietly and see how I

pronounce.] At times teachers used English to scold students, however, most of the

scolding was also done in Urdu. In one class the teacher started in English and then

shifted to Urdu, “Keep quiet. Baatein kweon kar rahay ho?” [Why are you talking?] In

another class the teacher scolded a student in Urdu, “Tum kweon bol rahay ho? Maroon

gi pakar kar. Buhat bolnay lagay ho.” [Why are you talking? I will beat you up. You have

started talking too much.]

In addition to English classes, a few subject classes were also observed. All these

classes were conducted in Urdu. Only in one class (science) did the teacher speak some

English. However, this was only after she had asked the observer what his purpose was in

the classroom and the observed explained to her the main questions regarding the current

study. The following field notes describe what happened in the class:

The teacher asked students to fill in the blanks of the chapter to be tested. The

teacher asked students to fill in the blanks of the chapter orally. She asked fill in

the blanks twice (using Urdu all the time). When these exhausted, she said, “Aap

ko jo yaad karnay ko deeya tha wo yaad kweon naheen kya? Chalein abhi yaad

karein.” [Why don’t you memorize what I asked you to learn? Come on, start

memorizing now.] Students opened their copies an books and started memorizing.

The teacher came to me and begin to talk. She asked me why I was there. I told

him my purpose of being there. After learning about our English study, she started

speaking to me in English…

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 45
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
During this conversation students memorized questions noisily because some of

them were actually talking. The teacher having finished talking to me addressed

the students, but this time she used English.

Teacher: Open your books and journals and learn the question…

Thus, this use of English by the teacher can be regarded as being influenced by

the presence of an outside observer studying the use of English in her class. Apart from

this science class, the only English observed in the subject classes were commands like

“Keep quiet!” “No talking!” etc.

School 2

The English teachers said that they mostly used English in the class. They did this

to provide what they had called an “artificial environment” which provides input and

facilitates the learning of English. However, they added that at times they do use some

Urdu in order to clarify a tricky structure to their students. For example, when asked

about use of Urdu in her class, ET3-2 said, “Not at all. Sometime when students

encounter a difficult they speak in Urdu and I just say yes or no.” Another teacher, ET4-

2, said that she never used Urdu in her class. In fact, she said that she had given her

students the impression that she did not know any Urdu. She said that one day when she

spoke in Urdu her students were surprised.

Teachers’ statements that they only used English in their class were supported by

classroom observations. In the classes observed, there was only one instance where the

teacher used one word of Urdu couched in an English sentence, “… but you are not

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 46
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
telling me konsa [which] page.” This could be a slip of the tongue and can be ignored for

the purpose of our study, since it happened only once.

English teachers’ claim that they only use English in their classes was also

supported by student questionnaires. All 23 informants stated that their English teacher

always speak English to them.

In contrast to teacher talk, students used Urdu when talking to each other and also

when asking questions. ET3-2 suggested that students preferred Urdu to their mother

tongues when speaking to each other because Urdu is the national language and all the

students speak it regardless of their mother tongues. Example (3) below is an instance of

two students talking to each other, while (4) is one of a student talking to his teacher in

Urdu.

3) One of the two students sitting next to each other finished writing his

assignment…

Student 1: Tum nay likh liya? [Have you written it?]

Student 2: Tum bhi jaldi jaldi karo [You should finish it quickly too.]

4) A student complained about another student to the teacher: Miss yeah do

kamm aik saath kar rahay hein [Miss, he is doing two things at the same time].

As compared to the English teachers, the subject teachers interviewed stated that

they did use Urdu at times in their class. They said they especially used Urdu when they

felt that their students were having problems following them. ST2-2 said,

There are certain students who just don’t grasp it [a concept] in English and if I

explain to them in Urdu then it becomes easier for them. My job is to teach them.

OK, it is the English Medium School; I should improve their English. But, it is

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 47
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
much necessary that student understands what I am teaching that why I use

English.

In this statement the teacher brings out two different agendas in her job responsibilities:

a) as a teacher in an English medium school, she should be contributing to the language

development of her students; b) as a social studies teacher, she should make sure that her

students follow the arguments and themes that she is elaborating. Her own solution to this

conflict is that she uses as much English as possible and then switches to Urdu when she

feels that the students are not with her.

Classroom observation of subject classes confirmed subject teachers’ statements

that they code-switch in their classes. The teachers were observed switching from English

to Urdu and then back to English. Only the Urdu and Islamiyaat classes were conducted

solely in Urdu. In all other classes, a mix of Urdu and English was observed. For

example, the following was observed in a social studies class:

Teacher: Aap ko pata hai kay agar aap kaam kar rahay hon to aap ko baatein

karnay ka moqa he naheen milta. Aap ko pata hay kitni saree fill in the blanks

karni hein aur ham kis turha kartay hein. [You know that if you are working then

you do not get a chance to talk. You know how many fill in the blanks we have to

do and how we do them.] Please start working quietly.

The teacher then started writing fill in the blanks on the white board in English.

An example of a sentence is: In Pakistan _______ % area is under forest.)

The switch between languages, as in the example above, seemed to be rather

arbitrary. Although managerial work was usually done in Urdu (as in the example above)

while the actual teaching was done in English, this was not always the case. At times,

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 48
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
teachers used Urdu to explain or elaborate a point. According to ST2-2 this was done to

help students grasp a concept that they were having problems with. An example of this

was seen in a math class when some students kept asking questions about the sum of the

angles of a triangle. After trying to explain in English several times, the teacher switched

to Urdu. This helped clarify the concept to the students and the class moved on.

Teaching practices in the classroom

School 1

The teaching practices at School 1 were in a state of flux at the time of data

collection. According to the Principal, a number of teachers trained at AKU-IED were

returning to the school and spreading new teaching techniques. One such change was the

emphasis that the teachers placed on classroom interaction. The Principal said that this

emphasis on interaction was a recent development at School 1 and was an impact of

teachers trained from AKU-IED. ET1-1 said that AKU-IED trained teachers, on

returning, influenced other teachers to adopt new teaching strategies. Because of the

efforts of these teachers, she elaborated, a number of other teachers (including herself)

were now encouraging group work and greater classroom participation.

Use of group work was cited as the most important impact of AKU-IED trained

teachers at this school. However, group work was not observed as a salient part of the

teaching methodology in the classes observed. There was only one observed instance of

students working in a group. The following field notes describes it:

The teacher divided the whole class into two groups and gave them instructions in

Urdu, “Adhi class Akber kay dialogue parhay aur adhi teacher kay.” [Half of the

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 49
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
class should read Akber’s dialogue and the other half the teacher’s.] The class

performed but she was not satisfied because they could not repeat it in chorus.

She resorted again to individual reading…

The teacher asked the students in each group to read aloud dialogues in a chorus.

Each group was asked to read aloud the following line.

Group 1: Excuse me sir.

Group 2: Yes Akber!

The teacher did not really give students a task to work on with each other in this

activity. Thus, this was not really group work. The notes also indicate that this one

attempt at ‘group work’ failed. One reason for this failure might be that the groups were

rather large. The teacher asked the students to read out a sentence in chorus with their

group.

The reference to AKU-IED above needs to be further analyzed in the light of

classroom observations. While on the one hand, teachers stated that they were trying to

adopt new strategies (e.g. group work), and were trying to encourage classroom

interaction, on the other, they had not let go of their habits of translating and using Urdu

in the class. In fact, during class observations, it was noticed that teachers predominantly

used a grammar translation approach to language teaching and emphasized word-

meaning. The most frequent question asked of students in order to involve them in the

class and “boost interaction” was to explain what a word meant and to use it in a

sentence. The following example is typical of such teaching practices:

Teacher: ‘Happy’ kay kiya meaning hein? [What does the word ‘happy’ mean?]

Student: Miss! khush. [Miss, happy.]

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 50
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
Teacher: Jumla banaein. [Make a sentence.]

Student: Sara is happy.

Teacher: ‘Hill’ kay kiya mani hein? [What does the word ‘hill’ mean?] (The

student she had asked could not reply and she scolded him) Aacha sari kahani

khatam ho gaee aur aap ko ‘hill’ ka he naheen pata. [Oh great! So the whole story

has finished, and you don’t even know the meaning of the word ‘hill’.]

Student (a different one): Miss, pahari. [Miss, mountain.]

Teacher: Sentence banaein. [Make a sentence]

Student: She is a hill.

Teacher: Good! kiya matlab hua is ka, ‘Woh pahari hai.’ [Good! What does this

mean, ‘She is a hill’.] Yeh to jumla naheen hua. [This is not a sentence.]

Student: Rock. (The student she had asked could not reply and she scolded him)

Tumhara zehen kahan tha us waqt? [Where was your brain at that time?]

In the activity described above the teacher involved the students by asking them

meanings of words. Students were supposed to explain the word in Urdu after which the

teacher asked them to use the word in a sentence. There were two instances when the

students could not provide the meaning. The teacher scolded the students who could not

reply and then moved on. She did not go back to or help them try figure it out. In another

case, a student made what the teacher thought was a nonsensical sentence. Instead of

helping the student correct the sentence or make another one, she ironically said ‘good’

and then told him that his sentence was not correct. Thus, no positive feedback was given

to the student and a teachable moment was lost.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 51
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
The examples of scolding given above were not an isolated incidence. All the

three teachers observed were observed punishing students. Students were verbally

scolded as well as physically beaten for misbehaving in the class, for not being attentive,

for not giving proper answers, for making mistakes, or for disobeying. In one class, a

student complained that another boy was disturbing him. The teacher went over to the

accused boy and gave him a beating. In another class, the teacher asked the whole class to

repeat a dialogue. She was not happy with the class performance and threatened, “if you

make a mistake again, I will beat you up” (translated from Urdu). In yet another class, the

teacher came to a student sitting in the last row. This student was doing his work (looking

up word meanings and writing them on his book) when the teacher slapped him and then

asked him where his copy was. She said, “Where is your copy? Why are you writing in

your book?” After hitting him and scolding him, the teacher asked him in Urdu “How

many subjects did you fail in class 9?”, the boy replied (in Urdu) “three” to which the

teacher said “good” and walked away. These examples show that punishments, both

verbal and physical, as well as sarcasm were part of the teaching style at School 1.

In one class, a teacher reprimanded a student who was talking. She said,

“Continuously you are talking. Stupid.” The use of the term ‘stupid’ is of special concern

here. Being called ‘stupid’ reflects the teacher’s belief that the student is incapable of

learning. According to Obeng (personal communication, December 22, 2000), such

reprimands can also have an instructive function. He illustrated that in Ghana reprimands

such as these ones are meant to get students attention and make them focus on their work.

In another class a student was scolded because he could not answer a question

that the teacher asked. She asked this student to keep standing and then put the same

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 52
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
question to other students. After four students had responded to her correctly, she asked

the first student again. This time he answered correctly, but instead of encouraging him,

she only said “It’s ok, but you had to hear it four times”. In this case, instead of helping a

student with his difficulties the teacher mocked him. The incidence cited above also

shows that teachers believe that all students should perform equally well and should pick

up every thing that is taught to them immediately. They do not seem to be aware of the

theories of language acquisition, which show that language learners follow their own

route of acquisition, and although teaching can accelerate the rate of acquisition (which is

different for each individual), it cannot change this route. Thus, if a child has not reached

a stage of acquisition at which s/he can learn a particular rule, s/he will not be able to do

so regardless of how hard the teacher tries.

Students were also punished for making mistakes. In one class, a student

pronounced ‘this is’ as ‘dish ish’. Instead of helping the student, the teacher said, “What

is this ‘dish ish’” to which a number of students laughed. Other examples of teachers

mocking students for making mistakes were also observed. In yet another class, the

teacher asked a student to read out a word (brother) she had written on the blackboard.

The student mispronounced the word. Again, instead of helping him, the teacher asked

the student to read it again. When the student made the same mistake again the teacher

mimicked him. This triggered laughter in the class. Mocking students’ mistakes raises

their inhibitions against using English and makes them less confident. Research has

shown that raising students’ inhibition can be damaging to their language development.

Once again, Obeng (personal communication, December 22, 2000) stated that in Ghana

such behavior is considered a part of routine teaching in school and in the society. It

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 53
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
makes the students/children realize their mistakes and shows them that there is a price to

pay if they do not work and improve.

These incidences suggest that punishing students is a common practice in the

school. Unfortunately, the interviews did not contain teachers’ opinions on this issue.

However, teachers punishing students suggests that they, regardless of their claim that

they use certain techniques that are being promoted by AKU-IED, feel it is necessary to

maintain control over the students by using their power and authority.

The teaching of English in the classes included activities such as reading, choral

repetition, translation and word meaning, and looking for answers from the textbook, etc.

In a typical class, teachers would generally read out a passage in English and then

translate it for their students. The following observational note illustrates this.

The teacher started by asking student to open their books and for this she used

English “Open your books on page 24”. Students seemed to comprehend this as

they promptly started opening their books. She herself started reading the chapter.

She asked the whole class to listen to her and see her pronunciation. “Sab

khamooshi say sunein aur mera pronunciation deikhein.” [All of you should listen

quietly and see how I pronounce.] She read the lesson once and then nominated

students for reading “Aap parhein”…. When four students had read, she translated

the lesson in Urdu. Then she asked them to read it aloud together in a chorus.

The notes show that the teacher read from the book and asked the students to

listen to her silently. They were not allowed to ask questions. The teacher asked them to

focus on pronunciation, which they considered a key to speaking good English. After

reading aloud herself, the teacher asked the students to read aloud, however, she did not

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 54
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
give them any feedback or encouragement as they repeated after her. Once the teacher

was satisfied with the repetition, she translated the reading. After this, she asked the

students to read in chorus. The use of choral repetition was observed in other classes as

well. Although the teachers did not discuss this technique in their interviews,

observational data showed that it was a common procedure. The purpose of this seemed

to be to engage the whole class. Since the classes were rather large (the class size of the

classes observed ranged from 28-38 students), it would have been hard to ask individuals

to read out individually. By asking the students to repeat/read in a chorus, teachers were

able to ensure maximum participation.

In addition to translating the whole text (as in the example above), teachers were

observed asking questions in English and then immediately translating into Urdu or vice

versa. Two examples from the same class are given below:

5) Iskay pur hein to ur kweon naheen sakta? [If it has wings, why doesn’t it fly?]

Why it cannot fly?

6) Have you seen picture? Kia aap nay tasweer deikhi hei? [Have you seen a

picture?]

These examples were typical of the other classes as well. During the interview when the

teachers were asked the reasons for using Urdu, they said that by using Urdu they ensured

that students followed what was being taught.

In addition to use of translation as a classroom teaching strategy, homework

assigned to the students consisted of translation work. One teacher dictated five sentences

in Urdu to her students and asked them to translate them into English. However, it should

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 55
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
be mentioned that translation was not the only form of homework. Students were also

asked to write short paragraphs etc. in English.

An analysis of the use of Urdu in the classes (as demonstrated by the examples

above) as well as the interviews suggests that Urdu is used in a conscious and structured

manner. Urdu was used to ensure that the students understood all that was being taught in

the class. The use of mother tongue (or a language students are already proficient in) for

this purpose is not unique, and is a recognized part of the grammar-translation approach

to language teaching.

School 2

In order to create a better learning environment, the teachers sated that they try to

be as motivating as possible in their teaching. ET1-2 stated that it is important to motivate

her students because “otherwise students do not come to the mood that they could

study…” She said that she tries to encourage them to speak in English throughout the

class by only speaking in English herself. Teachers also kept reminding the students to

speak in English. For example the following dialogue was observed in one class:

Teacher: Did you bring your application?

Student: Miss, yaad naheen raha.

Teacher: But you are telling me in Urdu.

Student: Kal lay aain gay.

Teacher: Can’t you say in English?

Student: I will bring tomorrow.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 56
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
The example shows that by repeatedly asking students to talk in English, they did

in fact switch to English. It was because of such insistence that students talked to their

teachers in English even though they talked to each other in Urdu.

The teachers also laid emphasis on the presentation of material in class. One

teacher said, “… how you present the material. Whatever the lesson is, how are you

going to present they have got an activities for that…” Teachers also said that they try to

provide time to her students to speak and interact.

Teachers in School 2 used a repertoire of activities in their classes. For example,

one teacher used different activities in each of her three classes observed. In one class,

she first solicited answers to questions she wrote on the blackboard and once she was

sure that the students knew what they had to do, she asked students to complete the rest

of the sentences themselves before discussing the answers. In another class, she put the

students into groups, gave them worksheets and asked them to read from their textbooks

and complete these worksheets. She instructed the students to look up difficult words in

their dictionaries. Once they had finished, there was a general class discussion. In a third

class, this teacher put the students in groups and asked them to read specific passages

from their textbooks. She asked them to look up difficult words in their dictionaries.

Once they had finished their work, she asked them questions about their readings.

Three of ET1-2’s classes were observed and it was noticed that she also used

different types of activities in different classes for different purposes. For example, in one

class she gave out grammar worksheets and asked the students to work individually,

while in another class she asked students to work in groups of four and asked them to

write three things that their mother had given them. This last exercise was in fact a pre-

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 57
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
reading exercise to prepare students for a poem that they were going to read in the later

section of the class. ET1-2 was involved her students in the class and gave them time to

speak out and respond to each other. However, at times she was rather slow in following

what the students were saying and tended to nod and agree with them without really

following what they were saying. For example in one class she asked a student to change

the following sentence into indirect speech:

Teacher: … He said, “I was lying”

S 8: He said that he was lying.

Teacher: Right. He said that he was lying.

S 5: No miss. He is confusing “I was lying”. When the tense is past continuous it

becomes past perfect continuous. It will be ‘he had been lying’.

Teacher: Yes, you are right. It should have been, ‘He said that he had been lying’.

This example shows us that the teacher was willing to accept her mistake. It also

shows that students focus on task and monitor what other students say. Thus, input for

students does not only come from the teacher, but also from other students in the class.

ET2-2 listed classroom assessment as a central issue in her class. She said, “when

I finish up with my explanation… I… ask them different questions about my lecture…

Then I ask the children what they have not understood. Then I explain it again…” Other

teachers said that they constantly monitored students’ awareness and understanding of the

topic under discussion by asking comprehension check questions. They said that they

know who the good students are and who the weak ones are, and that they try to keep the

weaker ones involved in classroom activities to ensure comprehension.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 58
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
In addition to the questions teachers ask during the class, teachers stated that they

evaluate the student by looking through students’ notebooks. Teachers also use monthly

and quarterly tests for evaluation purposes. In addition to these tests, there is a final

examination at the end of the academic year. 75% of the final grade is based on the final

examination. The other 25% of the grade is based on the monthly test scores.

An analysis of an examination papers shows that the paper comprised of two

sections: language and literature. The language section of the paper comprised of

questions about grammar etc., and the literature section comprised of questions about

texts from the textbooks. The grammar questions were written to evaluate students’

understanding of and actual use of various skills. Students would not be able to correctly

respond to questions if they could not actually use the language productively. Thus, mere

memorization of rules and definitions was not important. An example of this is a question

testing prepositions in Class VIII Annual Examination, 1999. The question included a

sketch of a house with three floors, each floor having three rooms. The rooms were given

names based on the name of the person who lived in that room. For example, one of the

floors housed Anne, Chris, and Paul. Based on this information, the student was asked to

fill in the following blank: “Chris lives _________ Anne and Paul.” Only a student’s

understanding of the concept of ‘between’ would help him to answer this question

correctly. Memorization of the definition of prepositions would not help him here.

However, in addition to such ‘applied’ questions, other traditional questions were also

found in the examination paper, e.g., transforming sentences of one type into another

(direct speech into indirect speech etc.). These question test the mechanics of a language

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 59
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
rather than it’s functional uses and are an influence of the grammar-translation method

which is widely used in other schools.

In contrast to the language section of the test, the literature section included

questions that did not necessarily check students’ understanding of the texts that they had

read in class. Responses to questions such as, “Write the summary of any one of the

following poems” do not necessarily test their ability to read and understand a poem

(since they can memorize summaries written by someone else). Answers to these

questions can be memorized. Thus, in analyzing the test papers, a mixture of traditional

questions that can be responded to by memorizing “acceptable answers” and questions

that tested the students’ language skills were found.

Teachers emphasize d the importance of error correction in their interviews. The

consensus among the teachers seemed to be that correction should be done indirectly.

ET4-2’s response below is representative of the kinds of statements that the teachers

made:

…It [error correction] should be done indirectly. I tell you one thing… the other

day I was taking class there and a student spoke a sentence with a mistake three

times ‘where do you a live?’, I said ‘where do you live’ and he said again ‘where

do you a live’, I repeated twice in the same fashion after which he corrected

himself.

Students, in their survey responses, confirmed this statement and said that

teachers were tolerant of errors. Only two students said that their teacher scolded them if

they made mistakes. Almost seventy percent of the respondents said that the teacher

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 60
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
corrected the mistake and 60.9% said that the teachers told them that they had made a

mistake and allowed them to correct it.

In contrast to teachers’ tolerance of mistakes, 68.2% of the students said that other

students laughed at their mistakes. An instance of this was also observed in one of the

classes. A student’s mispronunciation of the word alligator (ali – gator) triggered laughter

in the whole class and embarrassed the student who had spoken out. The teacher did not

interfere or help the student being mocked.

Although the teachers said that they check students’ notebooks and mark errors,

students’ notebooks seemed to tell a different story. In looking through students’

notebooks, it was observed that the teachers simply marked checks to show that they had

looked through the work. In most cases, no actual corrections were seen in the notebooks

analyzed. Occasionally the teachers underlined spelling mistakes etc., however, a number

of other mistakes/errors were left unmarked/uncorrected. In addition to a few corrections,

the teachers gave some general encouraging remarks, e.g. “Nice work!” “Keep up the

good work”, “Good” on the students’ notebooks. However, no specific feedback was

given regarding the contents.

Discussion

A comparison of the two schools illustrates a number of variables that affect the

quality of teaching and learning of English in Pakistan. These variables include: medium

of instruction, use of English in general school life, economics, teachers, teaching

methodology and materials, physical setting of school, use of English in life outside the

school, and parents and family. The rest of this section looks at how these factors

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 61
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
influence the context of English language teaching in Pakistan by comparing the findings

presented in the previous section.

Medium of Instruction

Medium of instruction at a school determines the amount of input that a student

gets in a particular language. In an Urdu medium school, as in the case of School 1,

English is taught for only thirty-five minutes a day. All other subjects are taught in Urdu.

In comparison, in an English medium school, students are exposed to English in all

classes except Islamiyaat, Urdu, and Sindhi. This amounts to about three and a half hours

of English a day. Thus, the time students spend studying (in) English in an English

medium school is around six times as much as that of students who study in an Urdu

medium school.

Although students get more English language input in an English medium school,

not all teaching is necessarily done in English. In School 2, although the official policy is

to use as much English as possible, teachers stated (and were observed) using some Urdu

at times. This code switching was usually done in instances where teacher felt the

students were having trouble understanding or grasping a difficult concept. Thus, code

switching and/or translation was used as a teaching strategy. Such constructive use of

first (or other previously learnt) language, or the extent of use of English may, however,

not be generalized to other English medium schools. The exact policies and usage of

language in a classroom needs to be observed before any statements are made about a

school.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 62
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
The use of the English language in general school life

The difference in the medium of instruction also influences the use of English in

contexts outside the class. In an English medium school, the school policy dictates that all

circulars, notices, etc. are printed in English. In addition, the daily assembly in the

morning is also conducted in English, and teachers are directed to speak in English with

their students outside the class. Thus, students are exposed to English outside the class as

well as inside the class.

In addition, the difference in the situations in which English is used outside the

class implies that students in an English medium school are exposed to a greater stylistic

variation than students who only learn English in their English classroom. Thus, students

learning English in School 2 would be more confident in using English in a variety of

situations and would be able to adjust their styles according to contexts.

Economics

Money plays an important role in the quality of education. The quality of

textbooks and other teaching materials greatly varies based on prices. The fees collected

support a school’s facilities and teachers’ salaries. Salaries affect the quality

(qualifications) of teachers attracted to a school and thus the quality of teaching.

Textbooks used in School 1, prescribed by the Sindh Board of Education,

although inexpensive, are considered sub-quality. This was stated by the Principals of

both the schools. In fact, it was because of the substandard quality of these textbooks that

School 2 changed its syllabus. Being a government school, School 1 does not have this

option and uses these textbooks.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 63
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
School 2 charges almost a sixty times more per year than School 1. School 1 is

subsidized by the government. Because of its low budget, it does not have sufficient

funds to provide computer and science labs that School 2 can provide to its students.

School 1 can also not afford to maintain a library. Thus, students in School 1 have a

disadvantage over students in School 2 in terms of access to resources that help develop

language (and other) skills outside a classroom.

Salaries in School 1 are government regulated and in general lower than School 2.

Qualified teachers with good English language skills can get higher paid jobs with better

chances of advancing in private schools. Thus, teachers with higher qualifications choose

to teach there. Teachers in School 2 have higher qualifications to teach English and have

attended in-service teacher training courses. English teachers in School 1 have not had

any special training to teach English.

Teaching methodology

Teaching methods adopted by teachers, their behavior towards the students, and

their classroom management affect the classroom environment as well as the actual

teaching. A tense class in which students do not feel comfortable is not conducive to

learning. The amount of English used in the classes is also an important factor in learning

outcomes.

Teachers in School 1 hardly used English. This was even true for the English

language classes where teachers were observed teaching in Urdu. Teachers in this school

employed the grammar-translation approach to language teaching. Thus, they frequently

translated and asked the student to translate. Grammar translation is a teacher-centered

approach to teaching. In their criticism of the Grammar-translation approach Oxford et al.

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 64
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
(1998) stated that this method is still common in many Asian countries where language is

viewed “as a cultural achievement to be studied as an object rather than as a

communication tool… Its emphasis on translation and its lack of concern for oral

language use, except in tightly teacher-controlled exercises, are well known” (p. 26). This

description of the Grammar-translation approach fits School 1 where the teacher is the

boss. The teachers in this school consider that they have knowledge that they need to

transfer to students who do not have it. The use of an outdated approach to language

teaching shows that teachers in this school do not take current findings in the field of

linguistics or second language acquisition into consideration in taking pedagogical

decisions.

In addition to using an outdated approach to teaching, punishment, both physical

and verbal, was observed in School 1. Students were punished for a number of reasons,

including making mistakes when responding to the teacher. This emphasis on correctness

is evidence for the claim that language is thought of as an object ‘rather than as a

communication tool’. The kinds of punishments given to students at School 1 have been

shown to have a negative effect on classroom atmosphere and to learning. Threat of

punishment creates an unfriendly environment where students are afraid of the teacher

and afraid of making mistakes. This reduces risk-taking and other strategies that are

essential for creating good language learning environments. Use of punishment in School

1 also shows that teachers there are not familiar with modern teaching techniques.

Classes in School 2 were also teacher-centered. However, teachers did not adopt a

grammar translation approach. They believed that in order to learn a second language,

students need to be exposed to English and to use it as much as possible. Thus, by

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 65
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
realizing the need for providing special provisions, they tried to create an environment in

which students could use English.

Teachers in this school were tolerant of errors. When teachers did choose to

correct students, it was done indirectly. Teachers believed that by directly correcting

students, students would become afraid of making mistakes and therefore avoid talking in

English. While this showed that teachers in School 2 were familiar with recent theories

in second language acquisition (Krashen, 1985), their motives behind choosing not to

correct did not seem informed by recent research. Teachers in School 2 believed that

students need to be fluent and should not worry about being accurate because “accuracy

will come… automatically”. This has shown not to be true (White, 1996). Fluency does

not entail accuracy, especially if sufficient sources of input are not available in the

environment. However, a focus on fluency does make the students use English

confidently. This confidence in speaking English is evaluated positively by students,

parents, and the community. It contributes to the ‘good’ reputation of the school.

Teachers

Teachers’ beliefs about teaching, their motivation to teach, their language skills,

their training as teachers and their familiarity with recent research in the field of

education influences the way they teach and the input their students receive.

All the English teachers interviewed for the study were females from middle class

households who did not really need a job for economical reasons. Most of them were

married and had children. There were no male English teachers. This is symbolic of the

dominance of females in the field of education in general in Pakistan. Although they

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 66
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
dominate the profession, it seems that these teachers take their job as a hobby to fill their

free time, rather than a profession. The teachers interviewed stated that they had taken up

this profession because teaching is considered ‘safe and good’ and a ‘natural choice’ for

females in Pakistan. This is because the hours are short and the job is not physically

demanding.

Teachers from School 1 interviewed for this study were not willing to be

interviewed in English. Teachers from School 2 were all interviewed in English. This

unwillingness of the teachers from School 1 shows that they did not feel comfortable

using English in a communicative event and questions their ability to teach English. A

lack of teachers’ proficiency in the language themselves implies that the limited input

that students do get in their classes will not be of quality either, thus reducing the chances

of being equal to students who learn from more proficient teachers.

English teachers in School 2 were better qualified to teach English than those in

School 1. Teachers in School 1 were trained to teach Islamiyaat and were forced by the

administration to teach English. One teacher in School 1, ET1-1, while talking about her

teaching kept emphasizing the point that she was not an English teacher. She seemed to

be using this as a face saving strategy. By not acknowledging herself as an English

teacher, she could avoid any responsibility or blame for her ignorance or lack of initiative

and understanding of English language teaching and learning. An absence of trained

English language teachers in School 1 was a result of School 1’s inability to hire (or fire)

it’s own staff. The Principal of School 1 showed an awareness of this problem, but said

that being a government school, she could not do much about it except for putting in a

request to the Department of Education to get trained English language teachers. She said

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 67
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
that she does not have the power to hire (or fire) its own staff. P-1 also pointed out that

because of her inability to fire teachers who did not do their job well, teachers were not

always very motivated.

School 2 hired its own teachers. Teachers in School 2 did not specifically apply to

teach English either. However, they showed high proficiency in the language and gave a

demonstration lesson before they were asked to teach English. Teaching English was

considered a privilege in this school and English teachers enjoyed a higher status than

other teachers. This was evident in one teacher’s use of the phrase ‘my potential’ for her

selection by the administration to teach English.

After being hired, the School 2 administration placed the new teacher in a

department/pool based on the subject they taught. Each department had internal training

programs that continuously offered support to their teachers. Thus, English teachers had

their own support network. Being a private school, the school monitored the teachers and

if they were found incompetent even after being supported by their respective pool, they

were fired. This accountability made the teachers more professional in their approach.

There were no such support networks in School 1. Thus, excluding their pre-

service training or previous teaching experience(s), teachers in this school did not get any

training facilities. This made a marked difference in their familiarity with recent

pedagogical theories and their teaching philosophies and styles.

Awareness of recent research was an important variable too. Teachers in School

1, because of a lack of understanding of educational research, used an outdated method of

teaching that has been severely criticized. They also administered physical and verbal

punishments to their students, which research has found to have a negative effect on

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 68
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
students’ motivation and learning. Teachers in School 2 were more familiar with recent

development in their fields. This might partly be a result of teachers’ sharing ideas and

experiences in their pools.

Teachers’ dialects in both schools were found to deviate from standard British

English. An example of this was given earlier in the case of the lack of subject-verb

inversion in WH-questions. Kachru (1992) and Rahman (1990) among others have listed

this lack of subject-verb inversion in WH-questions as a feature of South Asian and

Pakistani English. According to Kachru, such deviations are rule-governed and

systematic. This poses an important question regarding the model variety that the

students are expected to learn. At present, British English is considered the standard in

Pakistan which students are supposed to learn and use. However, as the example

discussed here shows, actual usage of English in the society does not reflect standard

British English grammar. Thus, it is not reasonable to expect students to learn and use

British English. However, at present there are no accepted standard descriptions of

Pakistani English, nor are there any textbooks that teach it. This issue needs to be

investigated further.

Physical setting of the school

The differences in the physical setting and environment of the school are a result

of the economic conditions in which the schools are located. Although these conditions

do not directly affect teaching or learning, they do reflect participants’ civic sense and

attitudes towards life. Teachers in School 1 believed that since students came from

uneducated, large, and not economically well-off families, they were "dull". They also

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 69
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
said that English is not important for these children since they do not need it in their

contexts. These attitudes influence teaching styles.

School 2 was located in an affluent neighborhood. The school building was

custom-built and well equipped. The classes were large, clean, bright and, well

ventilated. The canteen’s operations were overlooked by the school administration and

cleanliness was emphasized. Students in this school were also clean and well dressed. In

comparison, School 1 was located in a neighborhood where people threw trash on the

street. There was no canteen in the school and students bought food from street vendors.

Students’ uniforms were not always clean and the students appeared “sloppy” (ET1-1).

The classes were large, but not well lighted or ventilated. The furniture was old and

broken. School 1 shared its space with two other government schools, which were all

surrounded by one boundary wall. This wall was covered with political graffiti and

advertisements in Urdu.

The language of advertisements in a locality shows the relevance of the language.

Signs in English imply that people can read English. Advertisements in English are also a

sign of a relatively affluent neighborhood (Bhatia, 1998). This shows that people who are

better off are expected to know English, while the others are not. The locality around

School 1 had advertisements mostly in Urdu. The advertisements in English were mostly

those of brand name products with logos. These advertisements are recognizable by the

symbols and do not have to be read. All other advertisements were in Urdu, showing that

people in that area were not expected to read English. Advertisements in the

neighborhood where School 2 is located had advertisements in both languages, but most

of them were in English in contrast to School 1. People in this neighborhood are expected

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 70
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
to read English. Advertisements in English are a form of input for students. They are also

symbolic of how much English they might are exposed to outside their school. The

relationship between absence of advertisements in a locality and the amount of English

used in other aspects of that community’s life is is supported by teachers’ and students’

statements in School 1 that they do not use much English outside their classes.

In addition to these physical settings, the student-teacher ratio is considered to

play an important role. A low ratio is said to be better because it provides more one-to-

one time. However, in light of the case studies, this does not seem to hold. School 1 has a

lower student-teacher ratio than School 2, yet this does not result in higher interaction

between the students and teacher. In fact, there is more interaction between teachers and

students in School 2. This discrepancy is due to class size. Although the student-teacher

ration in School 1 is lower, the class size is larger than in School 2. Large classes do not

provide sufficient opportunities for one-to-one interaction.

The use of English in life outside the school

The case studies suggest that English is not dominant in the immediate

surroundings of students in either of the schools. However, students, parents, and teachers

in School 2 reported that they do use English at times outside the school. Some students

reported that they read the Dawn (an English language newspaper) and watch English

movies and listen to English songs. Students also stated that they speak in English with

their friends and families at times. This is done especially in the presence of people who

they believe do not know English to maintain privacy. Students in School 1 stated that

they do not use English in their environment at all. The extent of exposure to English

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 71
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
outside school and in different contexts influences students' motivation to learn and their

rate of learning.

Parents and family

The educational background of the parents influences the environment at home.

Educated parents take a more active role in the education of their children. In terms of

English, they may provide input to their children as well as provide other opportunities

for them to learn the language.

The economic background of the parents largely determines the school that they

would be able to afford to send their children to. The Principal of School 1 hinted in his

interview that the school did not have a good reputation because children in the school

came from lower socio-economic classes. Interestingly, she did not highlight the quality

of education or teaching provided in the school as a reason for her school’s reputation.

Students in School 1 generally come from the lower economic classes who cannot

afford the high fees of private schools; especially the better reputed ones like School 2.

They also cannot afford to buy books and other materials that may help their children

learn English outside the class.

Family size affects the amount of one-on-one time that the parents can share with

each child. In families with lower incomes, larger families also imply that there are fewer

resources available for each child. Students in School 1 usually came from lower income

group families. The most common number of siblings, based on the questionnaire data,

for these students was six. Because of the large family size and low family incomes, a

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 72
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
number of children had to work after school. This meant that they did not have sufficient

time to do their homework or engage in other learning activities.

Conclusion

The government school and the private school studied here show a marked

difference in their profiles. Although it would be tempting to suggest that economics,

both the school budget and parents economical background, is the key factor that

determines the kind of teaching and learning that takes place a school; actual classroom

teaching is more a result of teachers’ beliefs, understanding and knowledge of

pedagogical techniques and their attitudes towards students, and students attitude and

motivation towards learning. Thus, a single factor cannot be isolated as primarily

responsible for the difference between the two schools.

The differences between the schools studied here are thus based on a number of

different factors. These factors can be categorized as community level and school level

factors. The socio-economic status of the students and parents, educational background of

parents, use of English and other languages in the community and at home are some of

the community level factors that differentiated the two schools. School level factors

include the location of the school, physical condition of the school, medium of

instruction, use of language in the classroom and in the school, fee structure, class size,

background of teachers, teachers’ linguistic and pedagogical skills, pedagogical

orientation of the teachers, teacher training and support networks, textbooks used,

evaluation of students, and availability of resources in the school. Both the community

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 73
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.
and the school level factors interacted to form the specific environment in which the

English language was taught in the schools.

The findings of this study hold relevance to language and education policy

developers. The study shows that at present private and government schools differ in

numerous aspects. Because of the differences, private schools are considered better. If the

government wants to provide equal (or even near equal) opportunities to students from

lower socio-economical classes who do not or can not afford to send their children to

more expensive private schools, than it has to consider the factors listed here and make

policy adjustments to improve the condition of government schools.

After looking at the factors that affect English language teaching in these two

schools, it would be interesting to look at the differences in the acquisition of English in

the two schools. Keeping the conditions in which English is taught in the two schools,

students’ backgrounds, and the input they receive in school and outside, the differences in

actual language samples would show how these factors affect students’ acquisition of the

English language in Pakistan. A comparison of students’ samples from the two schools as

well as the teachers’ language would contribute towards an understanding of dialects of

Pakistani English and the variables that influence the development and acquisition of

these dialects. Such a study would also contribute to the second language acquisition

research and help bridge the paradigm gap (Sridhar and Sridhar, 1992).

Mahboob, A. (2000). A Tale of Two Schools: An ethnographic study of English language teaching in 74
Pakistan. Unpublished project report submitted to AKU-IED.