LANGUAGE PROBLEMS FACED BY SCIENCE TEACHERS IN TEACHING THEIR SUBJECTS IN DISTRICT NAROWAL GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS
A number of researches have been done to discuss the complexity of the language of science subjects especially in English. We will try to understand that what are the problems that the teachers have to face or cope with during the teaching of science subjects in the classes. The language that is in the subjects is quite different from the language that the teachers speak. There are many terms that some time are not familiar with but that’s the language of science. So teachers face problems while teaching the subjects like bio, chemistry. The language of the chalk board, handouts, and tests get s changed as the teachers speak in the class when they have to teach to the students whose native language is Punjabi or urdu.
Few scholars have explored some of these issues when the students and teachers are not having English as native language and they have adopted it as a second language (Barnes, 1969; Bell ; Freyberg, 1985; Gardner, 1974, 1977; White, 1988).
It has also been noted that those speakers whose native language is English even they face problems while dealing with the science subjects due to the terminologies used in the curriculum used by the writers for the science items.
So the teaching of science subjects for the teachers whose native language is not English they face more complex and greater problems while teaching.
To give an example of the problems faced by the science teachers while teaching in English, it was found that teachers find it difficult to use the words like pungent, justify, and attributed, dense, concept, residue, converse and constituent.
There were very few who could answer the answer correctly.
Let’s see few examples of the questions that can be asked in the science subjects.
Which one of the following requires a non-aqueous solvent to dissolve it?
a) Salt b) sodium nitrate c) sugar d) sulphur
But when the question was changed to “Which one of the following requires a liquid other than water to dissolve it?” Thus, just by replacing the term “non-aqueous” in the question, the teachers will find it easy to answer it.
There are a number of examples in which teachers find it very difficult to explain to the students about the correct concept of the passage or lesson because its in English language and they have better control over their native language that can be Urdu or Punjabi.
This will also create problems for the teachers as they will find it very difficult to understand when their teacher will not be able to explain the terms or the concepts with clear vision.
Some time teachers take the language of the terms or the rules of science for granted, they fail to notice that they are very difficult and it also become very difficult for the students to understand the terms and rules due difficult language used.
ROLE OF ENGLISH IN TEACHING SCIENCE SUBJECTS
Teaching becomes very easy if the teachers have good command of English language. Some theorists have been insisting for a long time to use English language in the classes even for spoken purposes. It very important to teach the science subjects in English as most of the subjects of science like biology, chemistry ,computer, physics etc are in English.
English is an authentic language for communication and English has become an international language. So the teachers and the students must use it as much as possible for teaching and learning.
Teachers feel anxiety when they teach the since subjects in English language as it is not their mother tongue. Teachers have to confront the uncertainty in the ability of using language and having fewer grips over it. So they fear to teach in the science subjects because they are in English.
So such feelings will become as negative factor in teaching of science subjects in English language. Few teaching techniques have been developed to teach the science subjects in the class so that the fear to teach science subjects is overcome.
Teachers are very important persons who are teaching in the classes the science subjects which are in English language. So the teachers are expected that they will be motivated and they will also motivate the students to actively participate in the class and activities. They will also be motivated to us the English language or students evaluation, teaching preparation, their professional development, and while producing instructional material of the science subjects in English language.
So we will try to indicate the problems that are faced by the science teachers while teaching in English language
ENGLISH THE LANGUAGE OF TEACHING AND LEARNING
In Pakistan and other countries where English is 2nd or 3rd language the teachers have to teach the science subjects in English as it is the language of science and an international language. So the course or curriculum designers have to design the curriculum in English language whether it is their native language or not.
The teachers who have English as their mother tongue will find it very easy to teach science subjects as they are in English language.
It is generally assumed that the teachers will find it easy to teach if they proficiency in the English and in the same way the students will find it easy to learn when the teachers will teach the science subjects smoothly.
THE WORD STRUCTURE IN THE CLASSROOMS
In the science class rooms, there are two types of words that are used; the technical and non technical. Technical words are those which are specific to the science subjects or discipline like photosynthesis, respiration, and genes in biology:
Momentum, capacitance and voltage in physics, atoms, elements, and cations in chemistry.
When words are used as science terms in daily life they get new meanings and they become science words.
The words which are non technical, they are made up of non technical components and they give identity to the particular language that is used in the class rooms or it the language of science text. Some time these non technical words give identity to the certain words which are used in a specific process or method of teaching and learning in the specific subjects of science
For example reaction in chemistry, diversity in biology, and disintegrate in physics.
We also find some of the non technical words like “if” and “therefore ” which act as a link between the sentences or even they are also used between the concepts and proposition.
Some words like “define “and explain are used at the place of say, where as non-technical words like calculate and predict are used in the place of think .So we can observe from this discussion that some time it becomes difficult for the teachers to deal with the English language and its words while teaching science subjects in English language as English becomes very technical when teaching having the mother tongue other than the English language
AIM OF RESEARCH
The aim of my research is to find out:
The problems faced by the science teachers while teaching science subjects in English language.
The feeling of the science teachers about English language as a medium of instruction in the schools of narowal district.
This research article is to get the answer of the following questions:
1. What are the problems faced by the teachers while teaching science subjects in English language?
2. How do they perceive English language while teaching in science subjects in the class room?
BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
English has become a natural language that has got the status of lingua franca among the people of different native languages in the world (Cruz- Ferreira & Abraham, 2006). English is widely used in all the education levels for the sake of teaching and learning for the survival of the nation to remain alive in the world of competition.
As for as Pakistan is concerned, teaching science subjects by the tecaers ahs become a serious matter of concern for the teachers being getting feared to teach it in English as they do not have good command over it and anxiety level increasing every day. Resultantly the science teachers have not been able to matvh up the education and their expectations. (Azina Ismail, 2011).
English is taught as a compulsory subject and 1st language in all the public school of Pakistan. So the students get maximum exposure to the maximum use of English language at secondary school levels. But the science teachers in Pakistan especially in schools of my area district narowal find it difficult to teach the science subjects in English as they have not mastered in English language.
A lot of emphasis has been put on the research and development of science education as it is the growing need of for the achievement of scientific competencies by using different testing methods and also good use of English language for the teaching purpose.
Many countries, regions and schools in the world compare their results having this hope to compete in the world. On the other hand there is also an understanding of the fact that teachers are struggling with the science subjects while teaching to the students in the whole world (Boaler, 2009).
Recent studies conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have moreover revealed how many countries have had a statistically significant decline in students performance in science subjects (OECD, 2013).This declining of the performance of the students is mainly due to the problems that the teachers face in teaching science subject as they arein English language .
More importantly the results showed how a large proportion of the participating students barely reached the knowledge level of Basic English language understanding (ibid.). In addition to these difficulties, it has become a known fact that the subjects of science not only receives very low interest among students, and also amongst the teachers as well but for many, science subjects are a source for discomforting feelings such as frustration, confusion and anxiety (Ignacio, Blanco-Nieto & Barona, 2006).
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Much of the issues facing the science and mathematical education in Pakistan seem to be connected to attitude. This in turn can be related to how most teachers have a strong emotional relationship with the subject of science (SOU 2004:97).
In most cases, both teachers and students find the subject of science as meaningless, boring and least interesting compared to other subjects because of being it in English language.
The profound impact of negative feelings and experiences towards science is further believed to inhibit a person’s confidence in his or her abilities towards teaching. The role of student teachers is hereby highly relevant, not only because studies show high rates of anxiety among prospective teachers, but because it is believed that teachers with unresolved feelings and negative experiences towards science subjects have a high risk in influencing the attitudes of their students (SOU 2004:97). This means that a new generation of negative feelings and perceptions towards the subject of science subjects in English language is created. Considering the relatively limited research area about affective variables in learning and teaching science subjects, most of the conducted studies have focused on measuring anxiety through mainly quantitative methods. With that being said, there is still not enough qualitative research about the emotional aspects of science education, and even less about the impact of previous experiences and negative feelings. Therefore, this study will offer a group of teachers the opportunity to share their experiences and stories from the science subjects teaching at their schools.
The teachers will also share their expectancies about their future profession and problems faced in teaching science subjects.
Therefore, this particular study that includes the narratives of 20 teachers will not only provide a deeper understanding about the important role of emotions in science education, but hopefully also support those readers that might identify themselves with some of the stories. Finally, if an understanding about how to avoid these negative emotions does arise from this study, then an insight about strategies to inform teacher preparation may arise.
In terms of sampling, a purposive sampling was used to select the participant in this study. Initially, this research was planned to involve 20 teachers at secondary schools level in narowal city. I asked their willingness to be involved in this research.
A total of 20 educators currently teaching Mathematics and Science in the institution participated in the study (table.1). These educators teach mathematics, biology and chemistry. The majority of the teachers had at least five years teaching experience.
Teachers multifariousness in education background,vulnerability to the real world and teaching abilities are often the constituents that have been referred as to why teachers fail to teach science subjects in English language.Ommaggio(2001) as cited in Morreale (2011) declared that teachers often face problems in promoting English language proficiency among learners.This was further supported by Biber(2006) who explains that freshmen who have entered the school will confront many hurdles and changes which include learning to use English language accuratelyIn line with these thoughts,Researcher(Pappamihiel,2002) further explained that teachers often concentrate on students lack of proficiency that they overlook the learner’s lack of involvement in the classroom and lack of limited cognitive skills in English.Besides that,Stroud and Wee(2006) add that teaching English becomes difficult because science teachers are not much confident to speak English because they don’t have such command as they have in science subjects.Horwitz,Horwitz and Cope (1986) further spotlight that even a good science teacher who is highly motivated claims to get a mental block when it comes to teach English language.Teachers are seen worried when they have teach their science subjects in English.Several studies (Tanveer,2007;Von Worde , 2003 ; McIntyre ; Gardner , 1989; Horwitz , ; Cope , 1986) have argued that anxiety does hindrance in teaching science subjects in English.Grewal (1976) studied difficulties of science teachers in teaching their subjects in English.He observed the reasons for low performance in English as little time available for giving practice,and paying poor attention to English.Because science teachers pay much attention to their subjects.Rastogi (1983) found out that important causes of backwardness in English were the poor command over basic English skills.According to IAE (1986) , teachers need to be communicate in English,give sound explanations in English and justify their solutions.Effective teachers encourage their students to communicate their ideas orally,in writing and by using a variety of representations.Allen (1988) found out that accurate knowledge of English language is the key to make English apprehensible.According to Brodie (1989), language is a basic condition for understanding and requirement for thoughts.
This research is a descriptive study or analyses that focus on the issues or problems faced by the science teachers while teaching in English language of my area narowal. The questionnaire would also solicit selected personal background information of the subjects and statements related to teacher views and teaching practices in regard to teaching mathematics and science in English. The choice of answers was given on a Likert scale ranging from ‘always’ to ‘never’. Next, semi-structured interviews were also conducted on a smaller sample of respondents for cross-validation purposes. I selected 20 teachers from different secondary schools for doing my research.
The research aim was to find out the problems that the science teachers of secondary schools face during the process of teaching in English language.
This study followed a mixed-methods research design that used questionnaire. The questioners were given to the participants, i explained the purpose of the study and emphasized that the participants to take active part in the research.. Participants were general class teachers who teach science and mathematics through the medium of English and will be referred to as English Medium Teachers (EMTs). There were few male and few female teachers participating in the research
The research question was developed to enable us to identify the challenges that science teachers are facing in teaching science using an active student-centered approach and it was directly linked to the survey questions. What are the main challenges faced by teachers when teaching science subjects.
In collecting the data,a semi_ structured interviews are done to get depth insight about the topic.The interview was done individually and lasted approximately 15_20 minutes with the language they feel comfort.All of them officially elected to use English and as a result, many errors appeared.
The researcher,in analysing the interview data,used within _case and cross_case displays and analysis.To avoid the mistakes in final report,the researcher verified interview data through member checking.For this purpose,the interview records were returned to all the answerers
Qualitative and quantitative data analyses were used in this research.
A descriptive statistic technique was used to analyze the participant in the research. The data which was selected from the interviews was mentioned in the tables by grouping them. The responses of the teachers were analyzed.
QUALIFICATION OF THE TEACHERS
qualification Male teachers Female
B.A, B.Ed. 1 2
M.A, M.Ed. 4 5
M.A, M.Phil.2 6
Total 7 13
Total 20 teacher were selected which were teaching biology, chemistry, computer etc in different schools of my area at secondary level. They all were qualified teachers who were government employees.
AGE GROUP OF TEACHERS
Sr.noAge group teachers
1 Below 30 years 12
2 31 to 40 years 4
3 41 to 50 years 4
4 51 to 60 years 0
Most of the teachers were young and enthusiastic. I found them very professional and dedicated towards their job. They were very interested in my research as it would deal with the problems that they face while teaching.
PROBLEMS FACED BY TEACHERS IN THE CLASS
causes No of teachers out of 20 %
Lack of motivation from teachers 12 60
Language problems 6 30
Class too large 8 40
Lack of interest by the teachers 14 70
Lack of interest by the students 16 80
Difficult language of the science subjects 18 90
OTHER FACTORS AFFECTING PERFORMANCE ACCORDING TO THE TEACHERS
causes No of teachers out of 20 %
Difficulties in the techniques employed 14 70
Poor syllabus coverage 9 45
Poor school administration 9 45
Poor or fail background of the students 11 55
Low wages 16 80
Lack of teaching experiences 9 45
Unequipped libraries 15 75
Indiscipline students 14 70
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Table .1 and table .2 presents the total number of teachers with their qualification and age.
We can see that all the participants in my research were qualified even then they were facing certain problems in teaching of science subjects that I have highlighted after having detail discussion with the teachers about their subjects .
After the research it was found that the teachers find it difficult to deal with the words and the terms which are used in the science subjects especially related to the rules which are used in the science language. They were also having problems dealing with the new terms. This was because all were using Urdu or Punjabi as their native language and English as the language of subjects of science or second language.
There were few 80% teachers who found it difficult to express their lessons in th class. However there were almost 55% teachers who had no issue of getting used to the English language to teach the science subjects to the students in the class.
The teachers explained to the fact that the government keep taking the steps to train the teachers for teaching inside the classes but very less importance is given for training of the science teachers to get command over English language as it the language of science and technology now. There 80% teachers who had this sort of views and they wanted that the government must take steps to train the teachers to teach the science subjects in English language efficiently.
One of the respondent mentioned that I was given proper training how teach in the class but we were not given language training for coping up the issues that they face in science subjects. She told that initially in 1st year of teaching they had a lot of problem while teaching science subjects.
Another teacher mentioned that although she had 5 years of teaching experience yet she faced problems with words in English language and sometime she felt ashamed of as the students corrected the spellings of that she used on the board.
During my research I found that the main problem that the teachers felt was explaining the concepts of science topics was difficult as they are in English language. The students couldn’t well understand the concepts when she explained to them.
The teacher explained more that as she was an Urdu speaker so sometime she had to switch code to explain the concepts to the students then the students could understand what the teacher wanted to explain to them.
There were almost 85% teachers who said that they had problems in explaining the concepts of the science subjects due to English language. They faced breakdown of the lesson and their momentum during the teaching process when he students are not able to get the concepts clear in the class.
The purpose of introducing English as the medium of instruction in the teaching and learning science is mainly to enable students to keep up with the developments in science and technology by making it possible for them to access this information which is mainly available in the English language. Teachers of science and generally understand this need and are trying to facilitate this move. However, some of these teachers feel that they themselves lack the necessary language skills to teach in English. Therefore, there is obviously a need for sustained content specific language input for the personal language development of these teachers. As these teachers play an important role in modeling good language practices in their classrooms, it then becomes crucial for them to master the language elements of their content subject.
So it is important for the teachers to develop the English language to understand the content of the topics that they had to teach in the class. They must focus on the language instructions for the development of the language. (Janzen, Mar 2008).
During the research I found out that 81% of the teachers used the native language that is Punjabi to explain the topic or concepts to the students in the class which was very alarming. So the students could have understood the concept but they could not understand the content because it was not explained in English.
The teachers told me they had to use the Punjabi language because the students can speak Punjabi only, few Urdu, but most of the students cannot speak or understand English if it is spoken in class.
This was the main cause of using Punjabi or Urdu in the class instead of English language.
The teachers are also not provided with the required language support or material for the lessons to the science teachers. All the planning has to be done by the teachers themselves for the teaching.
Cummins (1986) suggests that there are two levels of language proficiency: the basic interpersonal communicative skills (BICS) and academic language proficiency (CALP). CALP involves language that is context-reduced and highly demanding cognitively. Cummins points out that in order to perform effectively in mathematics and science, teachers would need to develop CALP. Furthermore, one of the reasons for teaching and learning science in English was to provide opportunities for students to engage in the use of the language.
But for this the teachers has to rely on the use of L1 as a support in the classes of science subjects.
The limited use of L1 like Punjabi or Urdu by the teachers while teaching science subjects will be beneficial for the students instead of totally explaining or translating into native language of the students and teachers. Bowering (2003)
On the other hand I think the teachers should focus on some other methodologies of teaching to communicate meaningfully for the right input to the students in class.
Most important is that the teachers must see the science subjects as the active process of developing ideas instead as a static body of the existing knowledge that is to be passed to the students.
CHALLENGES FACED BY THE TEACHERS IN THE CLASS
Table 3 shows the problems that are faced by the teachers inside the class rooms while teaching. On the other hand, the respondents gave responses that they found a remarkable change in the class room English language and the language used in the text books of science. Due to this almost 60% teacher showed less motivation in the classes.
There 30% of the teachers who faced language problems in the class due to the use of native language by the students. So they teachers could not engage the students in class room discussions. Teachers felt a problem while responding to the students in English language as the students couldn’t properly understand the language if the teachers speak in English only.
Few teachers expressed if they had to ask the students to write down the points or notes about the lecture, they have to dictate it to the students. Even they have to dictate the spellings as well which is a time taking and discomforting for the teachers.
Some of the participants revealed that they had no knowledge about the linguistic features of the English language that’s why they cannot understand the content of topics of he science subjects fully.
As one respondent explained: “I know I have to help them with the language, but I do not know how to do this, we were not taught how in university”. Therefore, these teachers are unable to help their students to cope with academic language.
Few participants complained about the texts books which are provide by the schools. They felt that the books of science are not brief and are of inadequate examples and descriptions, so they are not that much helpful for the teachers in teaching process.
The course or the textbooks must be suitable for the teachers and the learners due to this 80% of the teachers felt that the students don’t take interest in the books and the lessons.
Few teachers mentioned that the teachers are not provided with proper multimedia or it facilities. The CDs are provided about the books or lessons nut they are totalu in English that’s why teachers feel it difficult to understand it.
A respondent pointed out: “The CDs are good but my students don’t understand so I have to stop and translate for them”. More problems mentioned by the teachers are related to the prescribed textbook and the multimedia courseware supplied by the government.
There were 40% of the teachers who motioned that classes are too large that is also a reason that the teachers face while teaching in the class.
AVAILABILITY OF LANGUAGE SUPPORT
In table .4 other factors affecting performance according to the teachers have been mentioned.
We find that there were 70% of the teachers who feel that the techniques applied by them while teaching are not of great standards.
45% teachers feel that the syllabus is not covered in time that’s why they are not able teach properly in the classes.
Few participates had ideas that the school management is also one of the factor that the science teachers don’t get efficient in the English language because the school do not provide training and guidance of English language to the science teachers.
Respondents also indicated that they were unable to use self-learning materials such as the multimedia courseware and grammar books provided by the Ministry due to lack of time. In terms of language support from the English panel, 80.7% of the respondents indicated that their English counterparts provided assistance. Interviews with the respondents disclosed that this assistance was mainly with vocabulary and grammar. It was found that 76.2% of the respondents indicated that they often discussed language problems related to the teaching of mathematics or science with their English counterparts. In fact, according to the respondents, their English counterparts have been helping them to the extent of even organizing program for the teachers. In terms of collaborative teaching between the mathematics and science teachers with their English counterparts, 36.4% of the respondents claimed that they do collaborate with their colleagues. However, the interview with respondents revealed that ‘collaboration’ in this sense meant using their English counterparts as a source of reference when they have difficulties with grammar or vocabulary of the science subjects.
One of the respondents said: “Yes, the English teachers help us. We always refer to them for meanings of words that we are not sure of or when we don’t know how to say something in English”.
It was found that 87.5% of the respondents felt that the multimedia courseware supplied by the government to teach science is well planned and effective in terms of content.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS
The results of this research indicate that the science teachers have recognized the fact that there should be change in the medium of instructions and they are reacting positively to this thing. On the other hand this study also reveals that it’s not only the teachers who are feeling problems in teaching science subjects in English but the language development of the students is also very low so they both are facing this problem.
On the other hand, the prevailing language support mechanisms do not completely meet their needs. Therefore, it is important that measures are taken to support these teachers in the teaching of science subjects in English.
As a result, the teaching of science and mathematics in English should not be left to chance. The failure of these teachers to master English will be detrimental as they would not only affect the students’ language ability but also the dissemination of the content of science subjects to the students. As such in order to successfully implement the teaching of science subjects in English, policy makers and teachers, educators must deliberate and focus on the needs of the teachers concerned.
If that is failed, then perhaps it is probably time to look into the possibility of reverting to the teaching of science subjects in the mother language of the teachers and the students.
Teachers may need to go through language transition programs where improving the language competence of the teachers will be the focus. However, these transition programs should not be conducted by English language specialists but instead handle by Science subjects content specialists.
In these programs, the teachers will not only be exposed to English language only but also will be observing the language in action.
My study focused only on the teachers. A study focusing on the reactions, receptions and performance of the students on the change in the teaching science subjects should be explored.
Then we can be able to know and see what are the problems faced by the students while learning the science subjects which are in English language but the students mother tongue is some other language.
Such studies will make it easier for the policy developers to remove the barriers of teaching and learning of science subject in English language.
There is a dearth of research on the relationship between language (in general) and the learning of mathematics, as well as on the role language plays in assessing mathematical concepts and skills. The dearth becomes almost a void when one restricts one’s attention to students from a minority language group. Clearly, language plays an important part in the learning of mathematics, and a second-language learner’s underachievement in mathematics is likely to be due in part to language factors. Future research efforts, therefore, should be directed toward a range of studies that would explore the relationships among selected aspects of mathematics performance and various linguistic skills. Measures of first- and second-language proficiency, socioeconomic status, age and sex should be included as factors in the research designs.
With the respect of the effects of language on the assessment of mathematics achievement, studies need to be conducted on the relationship between students’ performance on a test item and its reading difficulty level. As with all research conducted with students having a limited proficiency in English, the definition and assessment of their language proficiency must be carefully conceived and carried out.
Additional research questions might include:
How does the verbalization of a mathematical concept affect the way it is learned?
How does instruction in language skills that are related to content affect concept formation inmathematics?
To what extent and how do mathematical skills translate from one language to another?
How is reading achievement in the student’s first language related to performance in mathematical problem solving for bilingual students and for students with a limited proficiency in English?
What reading and general language difficulties are presented by selected aspects of school mathematics?
These are just a sample of the many challenging questions open to study. Answers to them should help us provide a much-needed equality of educational opportunity in mathematics to students from language minorities.
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