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Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Role of Iraqi Culture in English Teaching Materials

The Role of Iraqi Culture in English Teaching Materials

According to Doukas, (1996: 187-188), Iraq is a country with 28, 506, 000 population. It is found in the Middle East and is rich with Islamic and Arabic traditions. These traditions are the strongest factor that exerts a very solid influence on the conduct of everyday life of its citizens, as well as being quite reflected by country’s social structures. These traditions are established as shared set of ideologies among its people. Iraq can be described as a closed culture society where tradition and the impact of culture and religion are strong even in education.

The obstacles that may prevent meeting of teaching and learning objectives include:
(1) the teachers’ attitude and
(2) the learners’ attitude. Iraqi culture is predominantly a non-western way of life that forms the key foundation in the locals’ education.

This cultural influence is strongest for Iraqis who have stayed mainly in Iraq most of their lives. Iraqis have very strong beliefs in their own system of beliefs, tradition and culture and they readily reject anything which they recognize as foreign, especially if they are confined in Iraq. This strong affinity with what they own locally is readily apparent in their well-preserved ways of life. As an Iraqi myself, I say that Iraqis tend to respect cultural differences but when it comes to cultural conflict, they reject anything considered as foreign. To utilize the communicative language teaching (CLT) approach to teach English in Iraq using western resources can then be a very challenging position.

Iraqi educational culture is essentially teacher-centered. It is readily observed anywhere in Iraq that the mentor posses the concentration of power and authority. The mentor takes the role of knowledge communicator. It is expected that teachers are the ones to give ideas and information. In other words, student- teacher interactions are less frequent and restricted. These interactions always based on respect and so, it is rarely that students would challenge the point of view of their teachers. Indeed, while this may be viewed as characterizing a limited, narrow-minded people, whose inert intellects lay fallow in incurious resignation.

(Porter, 1994, p.155; cited in Penycook, 1998; as cited in Le Ha, 2004, p.51), it is more of attitude of respect for teachers dictated by the local culture. On the surface, it may seem that Iraqi students would simply take in whatever is fed to them but there is more to it than simply accepting and eventually echoing the information received. In my view, it is never possible to echo what is just received because in the end, students will always process information and take the meaning from the whole, and not in fragments.
Additionally, interactions among students are also less frequent and discouraged. In Iraqi culture, interactions like this are considered more as noise or unnecessary disturbance and are thus, prohibited. Lastly, educational resources used are essentially based on the local culture. This comes rather obvious considering how mono-cultural the society is, and where exposure to non-Iraqi local practices is very limited.

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