A Master of Arts Thesis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Submitted to the College of Arts and Sciences by Maryam Salari Entitled, "Integrating Oral Communicative Skills into the English Curriculum in Dubai Schools," January 2007. Available are both Soft and Hard Copies of the Thesis.
Formal English language instruction in many parts of the world has shown limited success in developing efficient speaking skills even after years of studying. In Dubai schools, where English is the medium of instruction, many students have serious problems in making themselves understood in English. This causes lots of difficulties later on when these students are required to use English language in doing their assignments as well as communicating with other students and professors in academic settings. Another area of concern for these students is finding suitable jobs, as efficient spoken English is vastly demanded by employers even in those jobs which do not require much professionalism. For a variety of reasons, English language teachers focus only on reading, grammar, and vocabulary, and speaking skill is still not a curriculum requirement in many private schools in Dubai. Therefore, oftentimes teachers choose not to spend time teaching a skill which is neither a curriculum requirement, nor assessed, particularly since teachers have a heavy teaching load, extra curricular activities to arrange, and many other responsibilities. In order to find out more about the actual reasons behind such a situation, 30 English language teachers and 105 students in six different schools in Dubai were asked to answer a questionnaire and participate in interviews. Later, with the help of insights from the related literature in this field, for a period of eight weeks, a specially focused program was introduced in a private school in Dubai, which introduced teaching speaking skills into the pre-determined objectives of the curriculum. This program used the existing school's syllabus accompanied by some extra materials and activities. Prior to the beginning of this program, a diagnostic speaking test was carried out to determine the participating students' primary speaking abilities. Another speaking test was administered at the end of the program. These two tests provided the tools for measuring the improvements of the students quantitatively. Students were also under an on-going assessment through keeping a writing journal by the teacher-researcher. Moreover, the students through both formal and informal interviews were constantly asked to express their attitudes and opinions about the activities, as well as their self-perceived improvements. At the end of the program another questionnaire was given to the students which asked them to evaluate the whole program they had been presented with. Results of the first part of this study indicated that the teachers' beliefs about and the students' expectations form the formal English instruction were not consistent. Teachers preferred to begin including speaking skills once the curriculum demanded it. Students, on the other hand seemed to be interested in being given chances to develop their speaking skills. Also, the results from the focused instruction program showed that students can improve their speaking skills in spite of all the time constraints and without much change in their designed syllabus.