By: Hassan Farousi
MALAYA – Today the importance of the English language or English as an International Language (EIL) is obvious to all. English is nowadays spoken in over tens of countries by hundreds of millions of speakers worldwide. Governments and international organizations have tried to spread the use of this language by emphasizing its importance, necessity, and application in the 21st century. However there are some countries that show little interest in this continuum.
One of these countries or governments is the Islamic Republic of Iran where English is considered a foreign language and ranked below Arabic (as Arabic is the second language). Notably Iranian school students begin to take English as a subject since grade 6. In grade 6, Iranian students who are well-known for hard-work and talent (as shown in international scientific competitions) start learning English alphabets and one-syllable words such as ‘dog’, ‘cat’, ‘pen’, simple greeting, etc. Some other developing countries ( Qatar, UAE, Oman, and Bahrain for instance) kick off the English language as a mainstream subject at school since Kindergarten at the age of 4. Now a question arises: Why is EIL (English) oblivious and less/unimportant in Iran’s education system?
As the Islamic Republic of Iran has been isolated month after month, new educational books, teaching aids, technology, teaching methodologies, professional teacher trainers, and facilities are also restricted or let’s say embargoed. So education like other Iranian industries suffers.
Besides, there aren’t a few who prefer developed states, better facilities and welfare than staying in their own sanctioned home-country where they may get less/unappreciated for the educational services they offer. Therefore, a phenomenon, namely ‘brain drain’ would contribute to the fall of such a hackneyed education system.
As seen and heard in International summits and meetings, Iranian high-ranked authorities including the supreme leader Ali Khamanei and president Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad for example are really too poor to speak English as an international language to express themselves and save time and money spent on interpretation. In line with this surprise, one of the Iran’s parliamentary members once said ‘why do our students need to learn English? This point of view seems a reflection of politicized orientation of the Islamic Republic of Iran toward English. The PM’s say may be the reason why teachers and experts in Iran’s education system are kept impoverished and almost all of them have to secure moonlight jobs after school time to make the ends meet. As a result these academicians would rarely find time to author books, write articles, and attend national (if any) and international seminars and conferences. Back to the above rhetorical question, why do Iranians need the English language? Maybe for writing such an article!
English Lecturer (March 2009)
Ph.D. Candidate , Faculty of Languages and Linguistics
University of Malaya