he younger, the better: Idealized versus situated cognitions of educators about age and instruction of English as a second/foreign language in Pakistan

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Abstract

Most stakeholders including educators in Pakistan commonly theorize that English should be taught from day one in schools because the younger children are, the greater the possibility for mastery of the language. In the backdrop of prevailing beliefs and the resultant phenomenal proliferation of English-medium schools, this paper surveys educators' cognitions about this rather theoretical, yet perennially conflicting debate within language-in-education context. Drawing on multiple tools, this study surveyed 11 low-fee English-medium schools in part of Pakistan. Results suggest that teachers and school administrators take maximalist position emphasizing exclusive use of English from day one whereas they view use of the L1/native languages as waste of time. They propose that 'the younger the child, the absorbent the mind'. However, most existing research suggests that age is not the sole predictor of second/foreign language development, but multiple factors such as quality and quantity of input, intensity of exposure, and socioaffective orientations serve more critical role than only age or maturation. Data shows that early-English policy is problematic because students usually receive only decontextualized and bookish input while they receive nearly no naturalistic exposure to English. The study concludes that educators demonstrate narrow theoretical understanding of rather complex and multifactorial issue.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-68
JournalLanguage Sciences
Volume64
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • CognitionStraight-for-English policyAge and instruction of EnglishThe youngerThe betterNaturalistic exposurePakistan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics

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