Charting the river: a case study of English language teaching in Bangladesh
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This study charts and navigates the complex waterways of English language teaching in Bangladesh. Taking river as a metaphor it aims to provide a comprehensive picture of the main currents of English language teaching.
The research design is an emergent one. In a broader sense it is a case study that explores English language teaching within a specific country’s context and there are multiple embedded cases within the large case. The participants are students, teachers, teacher trainers, parents, principals and other professionals. Data came from the stories my participants told me about their experiences, my observations, classroom artefacts, document analysis and reports from large scale projects.
Previous research in English language teaching in Bangladesh has focused on specific practices mainly exploring problems associated with English language teaching. In contrast to previous research, this study while acknowledging the value of more specifically targeted investigations, provides a composite picture of English language teaching in Bangladesh.
The initial study in the thesis utilised a survey to investigate teachers’ beliefs about effective teaching quality, reports of their practice, and the barriers encountered. Analysis of the survey indicated a number of areas where there were contradictions between respondents’ claimed understanding and their reported practices. These indicated areas for further investigation. The analysis revealed five influential factors that shapes English language teaching in Bangladesh.
The first factor was the operation of the examination system and the ways it dominates education. I report teachers’, students’ and parents’ attitudes to examinations. These affirmed the power of the examination system in directing teaching practices and also revealed the extent to which the examination system was upheld by expectations of families and wider communities.
The next is the importance of communicative uses of English for business, education, social status and entry into other countries. I report participants’ stories of why English is important to them and discuss the difficulties encountered in developing a communicative approach to English teaching.
The third factor is the various ways in which English teachers are trained and the institutions and projects that provide the training. A number of gaps and problems are identified. Inadequate provision of pre- service and in-service training opportunities for teachers is one of the main barriers to develope teachers professionally.
This study also reports the disparity that exists in terms of access, available resources and opportunities in urban, rural and slum areas. Of all, slum inhabitants are the most deprived. Rural areas lag behind in terms of infrastructural facilities, available resources and quality teachers. This divide is also one of wealth and so the limited educational opportunities of students in urban slums are also examined.
The fifth issue is the impact of international influences on English language teaching in Bangladesh. Legacies of colonialism and pressures of neo-colonialism are explored. Also examined is the impact of English as a global lingua franca and the role and the influence of international providers of loans and aid.
This study identified that English language teaching in Bangladesh takes place in a context that is complex and multifaceted. The overarching implication of the findings is that policy shifts and plans for implementation need to consider these complexities.
This research acknowledges the value of western knowledge as an additional critical lens but advocates a Bangladesh epistemological approach that builds on the grounded realities of the forces that shape life and schooling in Bangladesh rather than the replication of foreign models.