“Many countries such as Japan, Russia, France, Chinese and Korea are now focusing on English language. They want to move along with the rest of the world. So, without it we are completely nothing. We will be cut off from the rest of the world. If we want to go ahead, then we must pay attention to English writing and speaking in order to compete with the rest of the world,” says Prof. Dr. Shahbaz Arif, who doubles as Dean Faculty of Linguistics and Literature and Social Sciences.
He adds that English and Literature is the backbone of UOL because all departments need English language services. In this Q & A interview that Dr. Shahbaz fielded with The Spectacle, he elucidates on what is happening in his faculty. Excerpts:
Q1. What distinguishes your department from others?
A2. The English department is the backbone of the whole university. The reason is, we produce students with English language skills. Teachers from this department are visiting other departments to teach allied courses. Also, whether you’re learning chemistry, mathematics or whatever, without English there is no future. So, the difference is that it caters for the needs of the whole university.
Q2. What are the latest developments in your department?
A2. Since I joined this department, I have tried to put everything in order. Several developments are visible. We are providing training to the teachers, staff and students in various aspects of English language and literature. Our faculty members have adequate office space, teaching material, and student numbers are increasing year by year.
By the time I joined this department, there were manpower challenges that we have now overcome. I being the Professor and HoD recruited several professors to strengthen the department as per requirements of HEC. I also promoted five lecturers to Assistant Professors in order to run the department smoothly. With seven Ph.Ds on board we are now set to launch Ph.Ds in English Literature and in Linguistics before the end of 2018.
Q3. Can you share the programmes offered?
A3. We are offering BS English, Language and Literature at undergraduate level. MA English Literature, M.A Language and MPhil in Literature and Linguistics are offered as graduate programmes.
Q4. What is the current status of English language usage in Pakistan?
A4. Pathetic. As far as the usage at public level is, in government schools, colleges and the universities, the level is very low compared to the private sector. One of the reasons being that we don’t provide platforms to the students for training. As soon as the students get their degrees, they usually start teaching without getting pedagogical skills. Some of the English teachers in the country also need to be taught.
Q5. How is your department contributing to the growth of English language usage and teaching in Pakistan?
A5. We are paying more attention on both spoken and written aspects of English language. We are aware that computers correct some language aspects but cannot provide techniques of writing. We put much attention on techniques of essay writing, article scripting and progress report inscription. In the same way, we are giving emphasis on spoken aspect because it is vital. We have noticed that, several students have high CGPAs but still fail to express themselves in English on which they face rejection. We are putting emphasis on practical sessions of speech making and communication skills.
Q6. Is there any admission target for the upcoming intake 2018/2019?
A6. In every intake the number of students increases. But, we are now focused on quality. So, we are not running after numbers. We have (therefore), designed a pre-entry test for all students and interview sessions for the MPhil students.
Q7. What strategies are in place to attract more students to the department?
A7. Our students are the ambassadors of the university. Wherever they go, they represent UOL effectively thereby marketing us. In other words, students attract and recommend their friends to join us. Other than that, we use advertisements and orientation sessions in which we inform students how we can contribute in determining their future.
Q8. Are there some researches going on in the department?
A8. Yes, students at all levels are producing research articles and reports. For the teachers, it is made compulsory that if they want promotion or salary increments, they have to produce research articles which must be published in HEC recognized journals or at international level. We are trying to make this department special for research purpose.
Q9. How equipped is your department in terms of manpower?
A9. We are 45 (English) instructors for the whole university and we are trying to get more Ph.Ds. Right now we have seven Ph.Ds in Literature as well as Linguistics. All other teachers (more than 35) are MPhil holders or enrolled on their Ph.Ds. So, yes we have got ample manpower to serve the University.
Q10. What activities are you currently involved in as a department?
A10. Regular seminars for students and teachers. We hold teacher training seminars every Friday. We also involve students in performing arts and drama. The two are very effective in strengthening the language.
Q11. What job opportunities are awaiting your graduating students?
A11. Our students are accommodated in different sectors like civil service, education institutions at all levels, banks, and media.
Q12. What message do you have to the UOL community as regards to English language?
A12. I must say that; never consider English as a foreign language. It is a global language. All contemporary advances in science and technology call for English language.
Many countries are now focusing on this language alongside native languages—Japan, Russia, France, China or Korea. They all seek to move along with the rest of the world by emphasizing English language despite the popularity of their domestic languages. So, without English, we will be cut off from rest of the world, we are isolated.
Q13.Any other information you wish to share?
A13. Whatever we are doing, we are trying to satisfy the needs of the students. We are designing the syllabi according to learners’ needs. We are continuously updating our taught curriculum by always adding or deleting something. We are paying attention to the needs of the market as well. Our students must be absorbed in the market as soon as they graduate.