USING EFFECTIVE READING SKILLS AS AN INSTRUMENT TO UPGRADE THE ENGLISH VOCABULARY OF UNIVERSITY STUDENTS: A PAKISTANI CASE STUDY
Muhammad Ali Jinnah University (PAKISTAN)
This case study examines the use of effective reading skills as an instrument to upgrade the English vocabulary of university students in the English Language classroom in a Pakistani University. The four basic reading skills, which were taken as points of study were; skimming, scanning, intensive and extensive reading (Beare 2008). The target group for this study was a cohort of fifty semester I students, enrolled in the Bachelors of Engineering and Bachelors of Computer studies program in the Spring semester in 2011. The semester extended over a period of four months, comprising of thirty-two classes, two ninety minutes sessions a week. They were studying a basic English language course called English I, designed for English as Second Language (ESL) university students. The objective of the research was to upgrade the English language vocabulary of this group of students. They came from mixed backgrounds. Some of them came from government schools where English was introduced as a second language in Grade 6 or even later. Some were lucky enough to have studied in private schools and had studied English concurrently with Urdu since kindergarten. So it was a great challenge to improve the vocabulary of both the groups simultaneously in the same course and the same time frame. Past research showed that learning problems in English can be dealt with if the English teacher studies the nature of the problems faced by the target learners and evolves compatible strategies. (Khan 2010) Mr. Fang Wang’s research compared the English training programs between UK and Japan to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of these two types of programs in order to help the educators in this area to improve the effective teaching of the English language course. (Wang 2010) Asit Bhattacharyya’s research gave an Asian perspective. It aimed to highlight the initial problems (related to English language, communication skills, learning approaches and cultural background) faced by international students and how they overcame these difficulties in an Australian university (Bhattacharyya 2010). However a study focused purely on vocabulary improvement of a diverse group of university students in a bilingual setting has not been studied so far. The Methodology used to collect data was a pre-course assessment survey filled at the commencement of the semester by the students and a comprehensive exam conducted at the end of the semester. The results of the two were compared to assess the effectiveness of the reading skills used to improve the English vocabulary of the students. The outcome of the research showed that there was a marked improvement in the vocabulary of the majority of the group at the end of the semester as compared to their performance at the commencement of the semester. This research can be beneficial to the researcher and to ESL university students coming from diverse settings in a bilingual environment. This study can be applied to all higher education institutions in Pakistan where students have similar school backgrounds and language issues. It is hoped that the analysis of the data collected from this study will improve and become a part of language programs designed by the Higher Education Commission in Pakistan.