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FEATURE: English Education, Inefficient in Iran

By Hamid Reza Emadi

Tehran, May 18, IRNA -- Fresh graduate in English translation, Zohreh Khatibi works as a secretary in an advertising company. She is not completely satisfied with the job, but considering the tough economic situation in Iran and her low English knowledge, she knows having a job, whatever it is, will really be vital.

Zohreh says the first and most important problem that she and her former classmates had to deal with shortly after graduation was the panic of how to find a job related to their fields. She referred to a general lack of knowledge among the English language students and graduates and that they are tight-handed when entering the market due to their inability in translation.

"People think those who have studied English translation in the university will obviously know the language perfectly. But the reality is that most of English translation graduates are not able to translate even simple texts. This, I can say for certain, is a shortcoming of the educational system."

Since President Mohammad Khatami took office in May 1997, Iran has visibly been opening up to the world in general and the West in particular. The atmosphere has become much easier to put up with during past three years.

Tourists from all over the world are flocking to Iran, foreign firms are keen on investing in the country, many international conferences on different cultural, social and economic issues are being held here and moreover, Iran is the pioneer of the idea of dialogue among civilizations.

In spite of all these, the significant role of the English language as the lingua franca of today's world in establishing foreign relations is simply neglected in Iran.

"We have no facilities, absolutely nothing," Behnam Saremi, a senior English language translation student said. "I have been studying for over three years without working at the language lab. It seems we are constantly lagging behind the rapid changes taking place in the English language."

Behnam believes one of the major obstacles in the way of promotion of the course is the problem of using unqualified teaching staff in universities.

"Some of the university professors seem to know nothing about the course they are teaching. A graduate in international relations teaches advanced translation in university or a graduate in translation teaches linguistics. They are playing games with our future."

Meanwhile, professors themselves are not satisfied with the status quo of the English translation course.

"The system of the English language teaching in Iran is totally defective. It has not been revised for almost 25 years. It is not even following a certain educational system. So with such problems how can we expect knowledgeable graduates," university professor Ramin Amoukhteh asked. He added that the future of the English language teaching in Iran is very gloomy.

"Since the officials and so-called experts at the Ministry of Science Research and Technology are still in hibernation, I'm not at all optimistic about the future of the English teaching course at Iran's universities."

Amoukhteh called on the related officials to set up a supervisory committee to oversee teachers' performances.

"Besides changing the syllabus and teaching materials, we also need a kind of supervision. With a strong supervising committee to oversee professors' performance, we can prevent possible irresponsibilities."

Amoukhteh also criticized the way students are accepted to universities.

"Some of the students, who pass the university entrance exams by chance, do not even know the basics of the language. Some of them know absolutely nothing. How can we teach these students. It is like waking the dead."

The professor also urged the government to set up a special committee for improving the horrible situation of the English language education in Iran.

Saffron Sky : A Life Between Iran and America

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