Volume 11, Issue 4 (2020)                   LRR 2020, 11(4): 669-703 | Back to browse issues page

XML Persian Abstract Print

Download citation:
BibTeX | RIS | EndNote | Medlars | ProCite | Reference Manager | RefWorks
Send citation to:

Davari H, Iranmehr A, Alavi Moghaddam S B, Nourzadeh S. A Critical Evaluation of the New English Language Program in the National System from the Perspective of ELT Curriculum Specialists: The Language-in-education Policy and Planning Framework. LRR. 2020; 11 (4) :669-703
URL: http://lrr.modares.ac.ir/article-14-28762-en.html
1- Assistant Professor, English Department, Damghan University, Damghan, Iran , h.davari@du.ac.ir
2- Assistant Professor, English Department, Shahroud University of Technology, Shahroud, Iran.
3- Associate Professor, Organization for Educational Research and Planning, Tehran, Iran
4- Assistant Professor of English Language Teaching, Department of English, Damghan University, Damghan, Iran
Abstract:   (821 Views)
After the approval of the Document on the Fundamental Transformation of Education and the implementation of the National Curriculum, we have witnessed the implementation of a new curriculum on English in the education system. The program, with a change in the teaching approach, as well as the preparation and compilation of newly developed textbooks, has had a major difference with the previous traditional and inefficient program. Due to the fact that practically all first and second levels of high school textbooks have been developed and taught, the necessity of critical analysis and evaluation of the program, with due attention to its strengths and weaknesses from different perspectives is inevitable. To achieve this, the present paper, using the language-in-education policy and planning framework and through a qualitative analysis has attempted to assess and analyze the new English language program, through delving into attitudes of five experts in the field of English language planning. The findings indicate that the new program, along with its strengths, suffers from deficiencies in teacher education, curriculum period, and especially student evaluation; such ignorance leaves of the new program with serious challenges. In the end, based on the findings of the research, suggestions are made to reduce potential and actual weaknesses of the program as well as strategies are introduced to improve it.
1. Introduction
The post-revolutionary system of English language education in Iran has undergone various changes; the last one dates back to 2013. Following the approval of two significant higher-level educational documents known as the Document on the Fundamental Transformation of Education and the Document of the National Curriculum, the English language education in the Iranian formal system has experienced its most fundamental, and of course, controversial reform (Alavi-Moghaddam & Kheirabadi, 2013). In fact, the program, with a change in its approach, as well as reform in the preparation and compilation of new textbooks, has experienced a major difference with the previous traditional and inefficient program (Davari et al., 2018).
Conceiving the importance of this reform and the necessity of its evaluation at this stage, which has been mostly neglected in the available research on the topic, the researchers attempted to critically evaluate the program. In a more precise word, using the language-in-education policy and planning framework, they attempted to assess and analyze the new English language program.
2. Literature Review
The story of English education in Iran has been described and documented in a grwing number of works including Farhady et al. (2010), Borjian (2013), Atai and Mazlum (2013), Davari and Aghagolzadeh (2015), Aghagolzadeh and Davari (2017) and Iranmehr and Davari (2018).
Despite the difference in their points of view, the point in common in these works is the belief that English education in Iran suffers from serious shortcomings for which the necessity of a thorogh evaluation is perceived. Despite this fact, reviewing such works reveals that the English curriculum in Iranian education system, especially the new curriculum, intending to reform the education of this language in schools, has not been studied and analyzed from a policy and planning framework of evaluation. In doing so, this study is an attempt to critically evaluate the new program of English education through integrating an efficient policy and planning-based framework.
To serve this purpose, Kaplan and Baldauf's (1997) language-in-education planning (LEP) framework was adopted as the point of movement. Their framework presents a rather comprehensive platform for evaluating educational programs through five dimensions (curriculum policy, personnel policy, methods and materials policy, community policy, and evaluation policy). The study would try to keep a critical eye on the evaluation of the new Iranian program of English language education with respect to these five dimensions so that the shortcomings and limitations of the policies and practices could be highlighted.
3. Methodology
The sampling method used in this study was that of criterion-based selection. In this form of sampling, the researcher creates a list of attributes essential to the study and then seeks out participants to match these criteria. The criteria in this research were: a) Having PhD in applied linguistics; b) Having expertise in ELT curriculum development and evaluation; c) Being familiar with the English language education in schools. Then, eight specialists with such criteria were contacted, out of which five accepted to take part as participants in the research. Among the different types of the interviews, the semi-structured one was selected (Dörnyei, 2007) and the findings were thematically analyzed.
4. Results
Regarding the first policy, namely the curriculum policy, findings revealed that the new program suffers from two serious shortcomings. First, the reduction of seven years of English education in the previous program to six years in the new program is in contrast with the essence of the communicative approach. Second, the crowded classes, leading to less exposure of students to English, cannot meet the curriculum objectives. Such findings are in line with Aghagolzadeh and Davari (2017).
Concerning the second policy, i.e. the personnel policy, findings showed that setting new criteria in teacher selection and holding teacher education courses seem necessary. In specialists' views, due to differences in teachers' abilities and skills as well as tangible lack of professional knowledge among them, the implementation of the new program is faced with challenges. In their attitudes, the teachers' awareness of such changes in the curriculum is of upmost importance, though its absence is quite evident. Such findings are in line with Alavi-Moghaddam et al. (2018).
With regard to the third policy, namely methods and materials policy, the specialists' attitudes were positive. In their views, this reform in approach, teaching method and especially textbook development has been essential. However, they clearly asserted that due to the significant position of textbooks in Iran, as the main source of input in education system, their constant revision and update are necessary. In doing so, considering the views of materials developers as well as paying attention to teachers' feedback were emphasized.
Concerning the fourth policy, namely community policy, findings revealed that they had two concerns. At first, the reconstruction of the society’s view toward English language is necessary. Secondly, supplying the financial needs of implementing a nationwide program like this must be considered. In their views, the accompaniment of students along with their families with the new program can guarantee its success.
Regarding the last policy, i.e. evaluation policy, the participants had a negative attitude. In their views, the current university entrance exam imposes heavy burden on the new program. In a more precise word, in their views the successful assessment of learners' knowledge and skills cannot be achieved by the current exams.   
5. Conclusion
In all, the findings indicate that the new program, along with its strengths, suffers from deficiencies in teacher education, curriculum period, and especially student evaluation; such ignorance leaves the new program with serious challenges.
The findings also promise some principal implications. First, they will redound to the benefit of language planners integrating the latest innovations in the field of curriculum development as well as considering the specialists' attitudes with regard to the program. Since the ever developing world of educational arena calls for a curriculum which meets the objectives, the findings of the present research can provide the language planners and material developers with an approach in which a thorough evaluation of the new program can be achieved.
Another possible line of research is investigating the teachers' attitudes and perceptions about the recent reform in the Iranian ELT program and the above-mentioned policies. Through such research, undoubtedly a more comprehensive evaluation of the program is provided.
Full-Text [PDF 411 kb]   (388 Downloads)    
Article Type: مقالات علمی پژوهشی | Subject: assessment
Published: 2020/10/1

Add your comments about this article : Your username or Email:

Send email to the article author

Rights and permissions
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.