No doubt, the English language is playing an instrumental role in broadening the horizons for employment opportunities and shaping future careers of the workforce in the country and abroad.
Pakistan, being a rich country in human resources and youth population, can train its dynamic yet unemployed youth in skilled-based education to increase the possibilities of jobs for them in local and international markets.
The fresh graduates with advanced-level proficiency in English language skills can pursue their dreams of higher education in foreign universities. Thus after getting higher education from international institutions, they can bring a plethora of expertise back to their homeland.
The job opportunities have been increased for English language graduates to the level that hardly one can find them without a job in this time of unemployment and inflation. Other than working inside the country, a large number of trained Pakistani English language teachers are serving in educational institutions of gulf countries (whose number could be multiplied) to support their families with handsome salary packages.
English is no longer considered a foreign language as it has taken the place of the language of technology, the language of social media, the language of international diplomacy and the status of an official language not only in Pakistan but in many countries across the globe.
English is now more widely spoken than it was 50 years ago due to mobility of people searching for new careers, experiences, and lifestyles. Therefore, this mobility requires a language that enables people from different parts of the world to communicate with each other.
Considering this valued position of English as a passport for employment, Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) has recently launched a number of projects to improve the English skills of teachers and students. These programs are funded by the Regional English Language Office (RELO) the part of the Public Affairs Section of the United States Embassy Islamabad. The RELO is supporting these social outreach programs through professional development opportunities for English language teachers and learners.
The office invites international ELT experts to train the ELT community in Pakistan. Some of the worth mentionings of these programs are the ones specially designed for the underprivileged communities of the country. The Regional Centers of AIOU in Muzaffarabad (AJK) and Gujranwala are running such programs for brilliant students of the local communities.
Based on various genres of English language (such as business English, English for employment purposes and English communication skills) the participating students are exposed to important global norms and volunteerism so that they can serve as responsible citizens of the country.
Likewise, the projects of English Works were recently launched at AIOU Regional Campus, Muzaffarabad. Similarly, AIOU organized an international workshop for the members of the action group of Pakistan ELT Forum last month in Islamabad. The group discussed the opportunities and challenges for the ELT community of the country and carried out a SWOT analysis of the sector.
While speaking during the opening ceremony, Dr. Jerrald Frank (RELO Pakistan) appreciated the efforts of AIOU and other stakeholders for the improvement of ELT practices in the country. He assured the Forum of his continuous support for the cause of ELT through such programs in the country. Dr. JoAnne Crandall from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County was the resource person of the workshop who shared her experiences and guided the participants on the best ELT practices.
The Country Program Manager of RELO, Mr. Abdul Majeed termed the projects as the best opportunities for brilliant youth of the underprivileged class of the society. He highlighted the role of RELO in creating such opportunities for quality education in the country and shared other resources and programs with the participants of the workshop. He said that RELO was playing a dynamic role in helping the young generation to achieve the goals of the 21st century by collaborating with a number of universities in the country for the professional development of the ELT community.
Mr. Abdul Majeed further said that the English Access Micro-scholarship Program and the projects of English Works provide the foundation of English language skills along with personal development to talented Pakistani students through after-school classes and intensive summer sessions. He shared that these fully funded scholarships cover not only food and transport of the participating students (for six-month to two-year durations) but also provide them with quality books, media resources and expose them to the spirit of volunteerism and enhance their soft skills.