Towards an understanding of Pakistani undergraduates’ current attitudes towards learning and speaking English

Soomro, Niaz H. (2016) Towards an understanding of Pakistani undergraduates’ current attitudes towards learning and speaking English. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The English language has an important place in Pakistan and in its education system, not least because of the global status of English and its role in employment. Realising the need to enhance language learning outcomes, especially at the tertiary level, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan has put in place some important measures to improve the quality of English language teaching practice through its English Language Teaching Reforms (ELTR) project. However, there is a complex linguistic, educational and ethnic diversity in Pakistan and that diversity, alongside the historical and current role of English in the country, makes any language teaching reform particularly challenging. I argue, in this thesis, that reform to date has largely ignored the issues of learner readiness to learn and learner perceptions of the use of English. I argue that studying learner attitudes is important if we are to understand how learners perceive the practice of learning and the use of English in their lives.

This study focuses on the attitudes of undergraduate learners of English as a foreign language at two universities in the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan in Pakistan. These provinces have experienced long struggles and movements related to linguistic and ethnic rights and both educate students from all of the districts of their respective provinces. Drawing on debates around linguistic imperialism, economic necessity, and linguistic and educational diversity, I focus on learners’ perceptions about learning and speaking English, asking what their attitudes are towards learning and speaking English with particular reference to socio-psychological factors at a given time and context, including perceived threats to their culture, religion, and mother tongue. I ask how they make choices about learning and speaking English in different domains of language use and question their motivation to learn and speak English. Additionally, I explore issues of anxiety with reference to their use of English.

Following a predominantly qualitative mixed methods research approach, the study employs two research tools: an adapted Likert Scale questionnaire completed by 300 students and semi-structured interviews with 20 participants from the two universities. The data were analysed through descriptive statistics and qualitative content analysis, with each set of data synthesised for interpretation. The findings suggest that, compared with the past, the majority of participants hold positive attitudes towards learning and speaking English regardless of their ethnic or linguistic backgrounds. Most of these undergraduate students do not perceive the use of English as a threat to their culture, mother tongue or religious values but, instead, they have a pragmatic and, at the same time, aspirational attitude to the learning and use of English. I present these results and conclude this thesis with reference to ways in which this small-scale study contributes to a better understanding of learner attitudes and perceptions. Acknowledging the limitations of this study, I suggest ways in which the study, enhanced and extended by further research, might have implications for practice, theory and policy in English language teaching and learning in Pakistan.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Language attitudes, psychology of foreign language learning and use, higher education.
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education > Social Justice Place and Lifelong Education
Supervisor's Name: Hedge, Professor Nicki
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Mr Niaz Soomro
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7730
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2016 11:41
Last Modified: 23 Nov 2016 08:37

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