Mostaganem  University
T
he Writing Centre

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ESSAYS

From Structural to 
 Competency Based Approach

The teaching of English in Algerian schools has gone through few approaches: the structural approach, which was based mainly on the learning of separate syntactical elements (syntax-based approach), did not prove efficient since learners were just memorizing individually grammatical rules and applying them in unrealistic ready-made situations. The result was that learners could use the language neither fluently nor creatively; therefore, they did not know how to communicate using appropriate social language, gestures, or expressions. In brief, they were at a loss to communicate in the culture of the targeted language.
 
            Later, another approach called the communicative approach was introduced giving birth to pair and group work that helped learners develop their communicative competence, i.e. appropriate, meaningful, spontaneous, grammatically acceptable and reasonably fluent linguistic interchange, both orally and in writing. Therefore, there was a kind of shift from form to function, from usage to use, from skill getting to skill using, in an authentic communicative competence. That kind of learning made use of real-life situations that necessitated communication. The teacher used to set up a situation that students were likely to encounter in real life, and let them react and respond accordingly either in pairs or groups depending on the task. That approach was welcomed by both teachers and learners who became active and more interested in their learning. But although learners managed to communicate efficiently using correct grammatical structures, their English still remained “a classroom English” that could not be driven outside of the classroom towards real life contexts,thus making the communicative approach a theoritical one. Furthermore, the communicative approach was also criticised on the fact that the students’ learning in that kind of classes depended mainly on the teacher (teacher-centred classes) who used to be the only holder of knowledge without him nothing would move.
 
            But with the recent implementation of the competency based approach, learning has taken another dimension: classes have become learner-centred, thus allowing learners to be more responsible of their learning which they construct gradually either individually or in collaboration with others and also freeing them from the imposed use of learning prompts that do not take into consideration their specificities as individuals. As their motivations develop, they acquire certain skills and competences that will help them know how to act individually or with others to find solutions to unusual everyday life problematic situations. With the support of the teacher and their interaction with peers, they can even auto assess their own learning, find solutions to their problems and acquire learning strategies that will help them achieve gradually their autonomy and exercise their know-how-to-do beyond the school limits.
                                                                                                                                                           By Khalid Baghoussi (Teacher of English)


True Education

           Education has always been a thorny subject and a heavy burden for all societies. Philosophers, intellectuals and educators have long been looking for a suitable way to build the so-desired “prototype”, which has to satisfy the demands of the society in an effective way, but their efforts have not been totally fruitful because of the continuous psychological change of the individual and the temporary and variable needs of societies. The narrow and selfish behaviour of ancient and modern societies towards education has led to an unavoidable failure in building what the ancient Greeks called the “kalos k’agathos”,i.e. the wise and good man.
The 20th century pessimism concerning education is perfectly apparent and its intellectuals are still trying to find answers to various disturbing questions such as who should be targeted first, individuals or societies? And who should normally be influenced by our schooling, individuals or societies? Of course the answers have never been easy to find, but if we get rid of our selfishness and subjectivity in dealing with the matter, we will certainly find answers one day.
We know today that true development is the one which starts with human (individual) development first rather than with infrastructure, economy, etc. So as long as we are primarily concerned about the materialistic side of our societies, considering the individual only as a tool to provide those commodities and neglecting his psychological, moral, social and linguistic profile, our standardized and ready-made schooling systems will never be able to build the so-desired bridge between education and society: the bridge that will enable us as individuals to be effective in our respective societies and most importantly in all communities.
 In fact, we (teachers) have been indoctrinating our kids with our “savoir and savoir-faire”, thus producing exact copies of ourselves who have not advanced but remained unchanged and dependent on us for years. We have never given the learner a true chance to become less dependent on us and more responsible for his own learning. Hopefully, the implementation of the Competency Based Approach in some worldwide educational systems, including Algeria, may give its fruit in few years. This approach is supposed not only to abolish the teacher’s supremacy and the learner’s dependence on the teacher, but also to develop the learner’s personal skills, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours necessary for functioning proficiently in society.
                                                                                                                                                            By Khalid Baghoussi (Teacher of English)


Are You a Teacher ?

             It is easy to say I am a teacher, but it is difficult to “be” a teacher. To understand the point I am getting at, we should shed light on the word “teacher” and ask the question: who or what is a teacher?
 
            It is commonly understood that a teacher is someone who provides learners with information in different subjects. In fact, this is not enough to make of her/him a teacher since what s/he gives to her/his learners goes beyond the subject taught. What s/he teaches transgresses this traditional understanding. So what does a teacher teach?
 
            A teacher illuminates her/his learners’ insides with beautiful and vital things which can’t be found in any book or learnt from anyone. S/he enlightens their minds and touches their souls: s/he tells them about courage, truth, and love. S/he wants them to be honest, hopeful, and helpful. S/he teaches them mercy, forgiveness, responsibility and self-confidence. Also s/he feeds them with a great energy to fight for their ideas and rights. Through this, s/he sculptures their depths. S/he is the path maker of the learners’ being: a soldier is taught to be loyal, a doctor must be merciful, a leader must be honest, a shoemaker must be patent, a journalist must tell the truth, a student must be self-confident, and a teacher must be a teacher. Thanks to this kind of teachers, teaching remains the profession that teaches the other professions.
 
            To conclude, teaching can be a noble profession if we exercise it in a noble way. The question that all teachers should ask themselves is “are we teachers?”
                                                                                                                                                                                                     By S.B.

      About the Status of English in Algeria:
  Between Official Policy and Linguistic Reality

            The following article comes as an antithesis to the already established definitions of Second and Foreign Languages in the mind of some Algerian students. Actually, it was after a coaching session that the essence of this article had been thought up. What caught my attention was the fact of not having been understood by the supervised student when, thinking to be more lucid, I addressed her in French.
 
            True, there are different levels when it comes to learners' French proficiency, but this 'misfire' in communication (to use the Gricean term) was not due to idleness or to a lack of personal initiatives, but rather to an official policy which on the 20th of January 1993 (decree 022.122.93) declared that English, which hitherto was taught in middle schools, should be optionally taught during fourth year primary schooling. Hence, vying with French as far as the notion of status is concerned.
 
            In fact, this political resolution aimed at replacing French by English as a concurrent language because decision-makers saw English as being more ''neutral'' than French, as they wanted to thwart the process of Arabisation.
 
            If we start by how linguists distinguish between a Second and a Foreign language, we will see that...
 
                                                                                           By Mrs. S. HAMERLAIN AMARA (Teacher of linguistics, Mostaganem University)
 
 

The Modern Teacher and Student of English

            In this age of globalization, teaching English is directed to a new branch of American English which dominates the world through the overwhelming influence of US media .English these days is not the same taught years ago. I mean, teaching English project as a concept in our departments as a foreign language actually ignores the real situation which is the fact that our students are not studying English as they should ; the bad usage of English that implies the difficulty of eliminating the bad habits, usually installed from many years in learning the language. This complicated situation intensified by the impossibility to determine which RP-Received Practice- ought to be taken as standard, British English , American English as the only variants  taught in Algerian departments of English. In a certain way, our students of English who want to be competent must be equipped –I think- to deal with these two least variants, leaving aside the other variants of English which might be incomprehensible to certain degrees to the unused ears. Hence, the modern teacher of English is confronted to a big dilemma, in the past, teaching English meant teaching the English of the king or queen and this came to teaching English literature written by English authors-Bit Civ- then the department incorporated American literature written by American authors and finally the incorporation of the African literature which includes beautiful pieces likewise but  what about the Important works of Vladimir Nabocov -Russian- ,Gzeslaw Miloz-Polish-, Isaac Bashevis-hebrew- and Joseph Brodsky-Russian- the latter being Nobel Prize.
 
            If English as an object of study is not what it was anymore, the objectives of learning English can not be the same anymore. We form students not to manufacture pseudo-English people but rather to give them the advantages of a literally culture in English.
 
            Unfortunately, our students, from the very beginning of their learning, seem to be motivated by the easy temptation of considering learning English as a instrument. But this mind-set reveals a problem because it suggests functionality deprived of life where there is no investment of cultural background, only recognition of the utility of the language. Of course, if the student expects that English, as a language could be learned in an expositive manner like for example the language of programming-COBOL- PASCAL- or LISP, he is greatly mistaken on the scale of the task.
 
            Since learning a language demands equally the appropriation of its culture, it is no surprise that a great number of our students say that after three years or more, they have no command of English. Teaching in our departments of English seems to rely on the Chomsky’s ethno-centric vision of language supposing that the essence of language is in its grammar and all the languages depend on grammar in the same way and all grammar is universal. Yet it might be possible to know a language in detail especially its grammar and still not understand its spirit or the mental organization of its culture.
 
            Thus learning a language needs time and effort to acquire it. No surprise that even we teachers fell frustrated of not being able to answer all the questions asked by our students especially when it comes to bizarre aspects of the language and if asked how much time does it take to learn English.. The sincere answer is normally, all your life…
                                                                                                                                                                     By H. Boukhatem (English Teacher)
 
 
The Mysterious Treasure

            There are things in this life which are invaluable and precious but don’t seem as such to ordinary people. Reading is one of these things that may seem trivial and boring to some individuals, but in fact it has magical effects on the brain and human life as a whole. Therefore, the importance of reading is so great that it is considered as a treasure; and thus we wonder what makes reading a treasure and what is the secret behind it?
 
            Reading is a food for the brain just as food is for the body. It animates one’s thinking by spreading through his brain’s cells a magical energy. Besides, it refreshes the mind and makes it work all the time. But those who do not frequently read suffer from or complain of heaviness in their thinking. Furthermore, it makes great men and women. History is full of examples of all kinds: Akaad became a great author although he left school at a very young age and because of that he has been called the self-made man. Charles Dickens is also an ingenious writer thanks to his self- reading. Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronte, who lived far from society and all the institutions of education, competently proved themselves as the best Victorian authors of their time, and many other scientists and leaders, whose names and works are recorded and will be remembered for a long time, had never missed a day without reading.
 
            It is not queer or funny if saying that you can be more intelligent and aware in facing the problems that befall you just if you belong to the world of reading. Indeed, books bear on their pages thousands and thousands of experiences either of their authors or of other mortals; besides, there is no written book in this life without a purpose or message to convey to mankind even if it is just for entertainment. Moreover, by reading you can pick up what fits you and evade what couldn’t harmonize and merge with your principles but never despise a book because its writer is your enemy or something like that because wisdom is never known with whom it is; furthermore, never say that an idea doesn’t interest you or fit your problem because life is full of upheavals and mysteries, and there may come a day when you become in an urgent need of it. Therefore, reading may greatly affect the psychological life of the reader.
 
            Reading has got some power in solving some psychological problems. However, it could fight the most threatening danger to the human being. When one is not busy and doesn’t find something interesting to do but only trivial and harming trifles which usually lead to awful ends, reading may rescue such victims by filling their time gaps and create very pleasant leisure moments. Furthermore, scientists and most intellectuals are usually known of their patience, tolerance, perseverance and many other noble qualities which you can reach by knocking at the door of that world, the world of reading; thus it may eventually merit being called treasure.
 
            To conclude, we can say that books are the loyal friends of human beings; Therefore, I would like to see all people putting a book beside their pillows and read every night before sleeping.
 
                                                                                                                                                                       By B.Cherifa, (fourth year student)
 

 To Believe in Change

            Everything in this life is in frequent and striking change; we have time on the top then comes the weather, creatures and everything around us whether it is abstract or concrete. So we, humans, have to learn that if everything could change it is also possible that our behaviour, thinking, and belief could be radically altered. However, it may be sometimes hard to change even a single bad word that we become accustomed to say and this is because we are not strong enough and need to be more willing, stubborn and enduring. And if we are able to have control over ourselves we may as well successfully affect others. Yet the question which may be raised here is the way we affect others and bring change, and how the teacher in particular can manipulate this skill and apply it to the students.
 
            It is unquestionably and inevitably hard to affect others because to change people is not an easy task and it is a skill that rarely people have, yet there are many ways to change others' stream of life that many people think them to be trivial and ineffective but in fact they are not. However, we can leave unforgotten impressions upon people by just uttering a good word or behaving in such a noble and an attracting way. This is exactly what our religion asks us to do. When we check our minds and remember that the Jewish man who was converted into Islam for the simple reason that our prophet (peace be upon him) visited him at home when he was ill, we realize exactly the power of good deeds and the magic of simple words.  We every day hear about people converting into Islam thanks to such behaviours and sometimes thanks to a smile. Moreover, each one was born with particular dispositions and abilities but needs somebody to give attention to; if we believe in others and know how to explore their faculties and talents and rescue them from vanishing away then we find that we have affected others and made a change. Similarly, when we turn off and find ourselves in the field of teaching we are also faced with the teacher, willing to affect his students and bring change.
            The teacher is said to be a messenger whose task is to bring change and enlighten others, and who must have some specific qualities and skills so as to be competent to fulfill this noble mission. However, the teacher should have a special and a close contact with his students in order to know more about them and find out the reasons whenever there is a strange and uncanny behaviour and not rush and take regrettable decisions. Moreover, s/he has always to encourage his students and never mocking on or contempting them when they make mistakes, and to give special attention to those who suffer from problems and treat them equally. Thereby the teacher becomes impressive on his students.
 
            Change is very important in one's life especially if it is always towards positiveness. Thus if we master how to affect each other, we will be always on the path of development and we will not have much problems.
 
                                                                                                                                                         By Belderrar Cherifa (fourth year student)

The Power of Destiny

Life is a book full of pages; the pages are full of mysteries, and every mystery encloses a part of life.
 
      Life is a test for us all: sometimes we succeed, and sometimes we fail. A day we cry and a day we laugh. Day by day, we may grow and forget. We may live and die while life is moving ahead. We can neither stop it nor have the power to choose, so we have to accept: this is destiny.
 
      We often ask ourselves where our life is driving us; we all the time get no answer. When deceived, we feel sorry but being so does not change a thing. Later, those deceptions are engraved in our memory and become a vital part of our experiences, and thanks to our experiences we either become strong or weak. If we are strong, we think we have succeeded, but if we fail, we say we are weak. But for both results, we are unable to change anything, so let's keep on going towards our destiny.
 
     This is my message to every human being.
                                                                                                                                   By M. Ghezlene Soumia (2nd year student, psychology)
 


Customs and Logic

             One of the many various important aspects of social and cultural life is customs. This variety is what draws and defines the geographical borders of different societies and nations, and the fact of being highly interested in customs is what explains their important status in all the communities. People and families usually inherit customs from their ancestors and fathers and sometimes adapt them according to what is always changing. It is important and wise to keep one's customs in practice and have them always revived and renewed. However, one may wonder if we should always acquiesce in what our forebears left for us and bequeathed us, and sometimes to what society imposes on us, or to make sense of the different customs and be reasonable enough to choose what to accept and what to refuse.
             Customs are part of our culture as well as they represent our identity. They are all what make us seem different from others. Societies are usually distinguished from each other by their own language, food, clothes, dance and feasts. The latter is the most noticeable when trying to differentiate one society from another. As we celebrate and arrange parties, we claim our identity and thus we boast of our belonging. Some feasts make us feel nationalism and patriotism and enhance our love for our country, as it is the case for the Algerian celebration of independence and the breakup of revolution. Displaying a particular kind of food and clothes and speaking a certain language are likewise other ways to express our feelings and respect for our heritage and legacy. It is true that one has to stick to his own customs, yet sometimes we have to stray off the course and question our rational minds and logic.
           Some bad customs lead several people, particularly the intellectuals, to resort to reason and sometimes religion to judge whether to submit to their society or not. Our country is full of what is called superstitions, most of which are considered as the aftermath of the French cultural colonization. Going to “Walli” and asking him “Baraka” and many other miracles is among the notorious customs and an indicator of the French cunning intentions. Apart from superstitions, new exasperating and exhausting customs are being born. Spending too much money on wedding parties and the expensive dowries required of men really get one very irritated and angry. It is a real plague and direct cause for the spread of spinsterhood which, in turn, provokes and induces many social catastrophes.
          Picking out what's good and which turns benefits on us in this life is sometimes very hard to achieve because we usually find ourselves in a maze from which we can be released by only thinking logically. Some customs have great pleasing and lovely impacts on our societies but others really harm us and our religion.
 
                                                                                                                                                             By Belderrar Cherifa, fourth year student
 
 
Corruption Everywhere
 
             All the nations of the world generally go through hard times which are to be recorded on the dark pages of their history. With the advance of technology and the development of science, life has become more comfortable and prosperous and simultaneously many social problems have been born. As all what the Western countries underwent in such periods of prosperity, the Arab nations are also nowadays witnessing the emergence of the most contemporary burning issues. Corruption is one of these most noticeable and large-spread problems. It is getting stronger everyday and its devastating outcomes are continuously intensifying till it becomes a natural thing for people to be corrupt. The greatest debate here is that corruption is not confined to a particular place or found in a special field so that we can find quick solutions, but it exists everywhere.
           Corruption has largely crept into every spot in our country. It is found in schools, universities, hospitals and in all kinds of administrations. Hospitals are supposed to serve anybody who is ill and in need of a cure and help but now things have changed and taken another course. One has to be rich or has to be well-known so that he can be hotly welcomed and can meet a large smile on the doctors' faces. It has also influenced and contaminated several educational administrations and has had an easy and effective access to the hearts of their holders, who have no professional consciousness and do not deserve to be in such positions. Some people spend every inch of their life in studying and toiling to succeed, then when they graduate, they are asked to bribe someone in order to have jobs! It is really disgusting, demoralizing and baffling to imagine oneself in such situation.
           What is more alarming about corruption is its intrusion in daily life and relationships between people. It has unfortunately nestled in the very bottom of many people's hearts and has possessed and stained many souls. Friendship, nowadays, finds no more a way among people and all what connect them is interests and getting benefits from one another. The only colors left to friendship are betrayal, treachery and hatred, and all the tight boundaries put between relatives are liquefied and penetrated by materialism. Most of the people have become materialists to the extent that even salutations have turned to be between only those who share interests. Another target of corruption is the sacred relationship between men and women and it is that of marriage. After forgetting about principles and ethics, men are seeking wives who have high status in society, who have got jobs and good appearances and no light is shed on their inward beings, conventions and convictions.
          When corruption dominates everything, one had better bid people farewell and lock himself up into his own world of true principles and good faiths so that one cannot be infected. Yet one has always to believe that our Creator never forsakes those who work hard and have good and pure hearts. 
                                                                                                                                                                                        By Cherifa B. (student)
 


Ethics in Business

    Some people say that businessmen should apply their own personal standards when doing business. That’s why they think ethics has nothing to do with business, and money worth to risk anything for it. Furthermore, they call the world of business ‘the jungle’ which means that there is no respect for standards and laws. They also take moral issues as a diversion, and believe that making profits and becoming wealthy is the main purpose of doing business. We can see clearly that it is all about money for those arrogant businessmen and slogans like ‘money talks’ or ‘business is business’ have always been used by those greedy, selfish people who look for just their own personal satisfaction.

    I totally disagree with their views and believe that business is a human activity and should, therefore, comply with moral standards; besides, ethics has everything to do with business. There are so many business activities that endanger the environment. I believe that such activities put human life in danger. Counterfeiting and embezzlement, for example, are some of the many other unethical practices that give a bad reputation to business and businessmen. I really feel sorry for those businessmen who are blindly guided by their by their self-greed.

    To conclude, we all have to make the necessary efforts to fight those practices by putting stringent laws to stop the companies which adopt unethical behaviours. We can change this in our country and everywhere else by educating and informing customers.
                                                                                                                                                                 By ASMA (3rd year High School pupil)