Somali students will soon have the opportunity to enhance their English language skills in a world-class English Foundation Program for PSU (Puntland State University) developed by Ednastics.
The Foundation Pathways program will be staffed with qualified teachers supported with textbooks and other resources from Cambridge University including state-of-the-art technology with AI-powered assessment and responsive mobile apps.
“There is a gap that many learners graduate with limited capacity to express themselves in English. This challenge does not only hinder their opportunities for further studies but it limits their performance at workplaces especially those who interact with non-Somalis.”PSU Needs Assessment, September 2021
To integrate in an increasingly interconnected and technologically-minded world, advanced English language proficiency is at the top of the list of essential skills needed by PSU graduates.
Following the recommendations of the needs assessment taskforce, the initiative to establish a foundation pathways program was born.
Ednastics is developing a 6-level communicative English program curriculum for PSU that includes textbooks, curriculum support system, and training for teachers. Courses cover all the core skills in English including: reading, listening, speaking, writing, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and study skills
Effective this academic year 2021/2022, incoming PSU students will be enrolled in foundation program that follows best practices for language development based on Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).
Better English for Better Jobs
It was not an easy decision for PSU leadership to introduce mandatory English training in a country where most universities do not require English proficiency standards as part of their admission criteria.
PSU senior leadership team believes in the importance of graduating students with strong English language skills in order to enhance employability.
“Today’s organisations are looking for people who can communicate effectively with customers and clients,”PSU Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Ahmed Shire Ahmed
The deputy Chancellor’s statement finds support in research. In a 2019 study that explores English language and graduate employability, job-relevant skills including English skills were highlighted as essential for employers. In another study, researchers state that if a person wants to compete in the professional world, the ability to express themselves effectively in English is a necessity. Better job opportunities mean better lives.
“In the context of Somali youth, high unemployment rate means risking their lives in an attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search of better opportunities in Europe”Dr. Awil Hashi
Pathway to International Universities
Leading and reputable English-medium universities recognize that student academic success is inextricably linked to their proficiency in English.
World’s leading universities like UCLA and Oxford do not admit ESL students to their degree programs unless they have an IELTS overall band of at least 7.0 or TOEFL score of 85-100 while University of British Columbia, University of Minnesota and American University in Dubai require 6.5 or a TOEFL score of 80.
The same goes for other well-respected institutions. American university of Sharjah requires a minimum score of 176 on the Linguaskill General or 6.5 on IELTS academic, while Monash University Malaysia requires 176 on Linguaskill along most private universities in Malaysia.
Somali students who do not meet these language requirements are registered in a foundation program when they go to universities abroad. With programs like this being implemented across the country, the plan is to remove that barrier altogether.
“One of the main objectives of the English Foundation Program for PSU is to prepare students for further studies anywhere in the world.”PSU Chancellor Mahamud Hamid Mohamed
Recent research by the British Council and the University of Oxford takes the issue further. The study in which 55 countries participated found that teachers, parents and students in the world see learning effectively through English as a passport to a global world.
Quality English for Quality Education
Researchers have argued that language of instruction must be taught or else the overall quality of education is compromised. Universities in the country are starting to realize that their credibility is on the line.
“The reputation of any university depends on the depth of knowledge of its graduates and the manner in which they can express themselves to people they interact with in the workplace or at higher learning institutions.”PSU Deputy Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Many universities in Puntland have adopted English as the medium of instruction in all faculties.
“Academic success largely depends on student ability to effectively communicate, write, and understand academic texts in English.”Dr. Awil Hashi of Ednastics
“Building a curriculum is not just a set of books. A balanced, well-rounded curriculum considers the entire learning experience”Ian Rogers of Ednastics
Books provide the curriculum framework but that needs supporting systems and guiding principles for a sustainable, well-balanced learning experience.
Learning Experience Beyond Textbooks
Ednastics as language educators, curriculum developers, teacher trainers and program coordinators know the importance of considering different learning styles in curriculum design. While catering to the different learning styles of students, the guiding methodology for teaching and learning stems from a student-centered approach that engages participants in the learning process with a focus on inquiry-based, communicative activities that foster language use in real life contexts
Language learning is further facilitated when the learner receives enough language input. Therefore, the curriculum places a great emphasis on extensive listening and reading opportunities provided to students, especially at lower levels through reading circles program.
Likewise, students in the English Foundation Program for Puntland State University are given various opportunities to practice with authentic materials in real-life contexts. They are encouraged to use the language through project-based learning activities, writing, discussing, and giving presentations among other hands-on activities.
The program also incorporates 21st learning skills into the curriculum allowing students to learn more than just English – creative thinking, critical thinking, communication strategies, collaboration, social responsibilities and learning to learn.
Foundation Pathways at PSU offers a brand new program that is built around the Cambridge University Press series, “Evolve Special Edition” and “Empower”.
Evolve and Empower are integrated skills courses with speaking and writing at their heart. Dedicated “Time to speak” and “Time to write” lessons, a student-centered approach with a particular focus on “peer learning,” and mobile-friendly homework activities have all been designed to motivate and get students speaking and writing with confidence.
Time to Write
To improve both fluency and accuracy in their writing, students are given a “time to write” corner that gives them the opportunity to respond to a topic using their smartphones. This is intended to encourage them to write like they often do using their phones. Using AI technology, the system highlights common errors that students make.
Success in a postsecondary context requires a unique set of skills to succeed. More than just English language, students in the English Foundation Program for PSU will learn essential academic skills such as how to give presentations, engage in debate and facilitate discussion.
Assessment & Certification
Assessment can be a tricky and tiresome business. Written examinations entered manually by the teacher are prone to errors, and do not completely reflect how language is used in authentic situations, nor how other professional examinations are conducted.
The Foundation Pathways Program for Puntland State University will be an important center for verification of language level and awarding of internationally recognized language certificates.
PSU Foundation Pathways program comes with a testing and assessment system that allows teachers to test their students at the end of each unit, midway to the course and end of course assessment along with built in online quizzes and practice activities.
In addition to the internal assessment framework that comes with the curriculum, Foundation Pathways will use Cambridge Linguaskill as an internationally recognized external benchmark to measure progress at certain levels throughout the program and as a graduation or exit testing for quality assurance purposes.
Linguaskill testing is integral to the program for PSU:
Verifying the English language levels of students will be an important step for accurate admission, progression and verifiable graduation standards.
The curriculum of the English Foundation Program for PSU comes with online practice that is accessible anywhere, anytime from various devices including smartphones.
In the Classroom
Effective classroom teaching is supported by smartphone apps and embedded QR codes that provide further communicative activities that instructors can use to engage their students to speak and interact with their peers.
Students are offered exciting and relevant activities that allow them to use their smartphones for learning in an engaging environment.
Beyond the Classroom
Students use their smartphones, computers and tablets that allow them to take the learning beyond the classroom walls. Students are given a variety of mobile-phone friendly activities including videos and games that encourage independent learning and their homework on the go or at home. Manageable, and easy to do activities allow students to multitask and fit learning into their daily schedule.
Somali universities have adopted English as the medium of instruction but that policy comes with a responsibility to ensure that students are equipped with the right communication skills before they commence their studies”Dr. Hashi of Ednastics
If students are not taught in their first language, the language of instruction must be learned for students to fully understand what they are studying
“Ideally, students would graduate secondary school with a high degree of proficiency in the English language; however, this goal takes many years to accomplish and is a condition enjoyed by only a handful of nations around the world”Ian Rogers, a curriculum and training specialist at Ednastics
Therefore, the solution for universities in the region is to establish English language foundation programs that provide accelerated, immersive instruction in English to motivated students, preparing them to study in the major of their choice after 8 months to one year of full-time instruction or up to 2.5 years of part-time instruction. Mr. Rogers advises.
The post-civil war proliferation of higher education institutions in Somalia will soon usher in a new era of competition and academic excellence, and therefore raising the standards of quality education through effective use of English is a timely and strategic move for universities that aspire to lead by example. The English Foundation Program for PSU will set the new paradigm for excellence in English language education in Somalia.
The Implementing Partner
Based in Nairobi with a Logistics facility in Dubai, Ednastics is an education consultancy firm, content distributor and partner with international content and assessment providers. It worked with the University of Wollongong, Australia’s premier university in Dubai, Simad University, City University in Mogadishu and established Northstar College in Hargeisa in addition to supporting other education providers in the region. Ednastics has the local insight and international experience required to deliver learning solutions that are centered on learner success, including the English Foundation Program for Puntland State University.