An Exploration of English as a Foreign Language teachers’ attitudes towards curriculum design and development at the English Language Teaching Department in the Syrian Higher Institute of Languages
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This study presents the findings of an in-depth exploration of English as Foreign Language (EFL) teachers’ attitudes towards and experience of curriculum change and development at the English Language Teaching (ELT) department in the Higher Institute of Languages in Damascus, Syria. Syria considers English to be a second language and thus the EFL curriculum has not been afforded as much attention as the core subjects, such as Arabic. In the last two decades, Syria has witnessed some major changes within the area of education. Educational change in the Syrian context is seen as an important means of keeping the citizens updated with other events taking place worldwide. In 2009, the Syrian Ministry of Education adopted a change in the EFL curriculum intended to improve the general level of English to facilitate the country’s modernisation and the implementation of information communication technology (ICT). However, the results appear to have been negligible and therefore, and as part of the strategic guidelines of reforms in higher education, the Ministry of Higher Education continues to attach considerable importance to restructuring research in higher education institutions and to establishing a ‘programme for creating appropriate evaluation mechanisms and methods concerning curricula and institutions for EFL’ (2004). In evaluating this strategy by the Syrian government, this study, carried out at the Syrian Higher Institute of Languages at Damascus University, has been guided by three objectives. The first is to investigate how EFL teachers’ use the current ELT materials. The second involves identifying the main challenges faced by EFL teachers in using the ELT materials available at the Institute. The third objective explores how EFL teachers view their involvement in designing a potential curriculum and whether this involvement can indeed contribute to the quality of the new curriculum. By using an interpretive research design and exploratory methodology, the study used semi-structured interviews and open-ended questionnaires as primary data collection methods to elicit the views of EFL teachers at the Institute. Significant findings are highlighted in each of the three areas. With regards to methodology, it was found that many EFL teachers mainly tend to favour and employ communicative language teaching approaches to their teaching. Concerning the challenges faced in the ELT classroom; the study found that various problems such as: lack of motivation; rigid administrative rules; incorrectly-placed students; time limitations; difficulties in achieving goals and objectives; and professional development challenges, all cumulate in predominantly negative perceptions of the current Syrian EFL teaching materials. Finally, EFL teachers have different attitudes towards the design and implementation of the new EFL curriculum. They can tend to see it as a mandatory and onerous task, and often feel that they lack the high-level of awareness and understanding required to design an appropriate curriculum. Mixed reactions towards changing the existing curriculum, needs assessment, and process evaluation are also apparent. These results suggest that any attempts to change the Syrian EFL curriculum would face a number of challenges. The thesis recommends the inclusion of teachers and students in the process as one possible solution to combat problems relating to the EFL curriculum within the Higher Institute of Languages and that of other institutions in Syria.
PhD in Education