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Lecturers’ experiences of the implementation of an English medium of instruction in a teachers’ college in Zimbabwe.

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The wave of internationalisation of higher education has rocked many nations in the world, such that most have adopted English as the language of communication. English is spreading rapidly as medium of instruction (EMI), forcing many higher education institutions to become international so as to attract students and staff from the international education market. Zimbabwe, like many other African countries, has also adopted EMI despite the fact that it is a second or third language for most learners. The need to compete in the global village has forced Zimbabwe to retain the language of its ex-colonial master. English thus has continued to be the medium of instruction in higher education. This study explored lecturers’ experiences in the implementation of an EMI in a teachers’ college in Zimbabwe, with the aim of answering the following questions: 1.What are the lecturers’ experiences on the implementation of English medium of instruction in a teachers’ college in Zimbabwe? 2. How are lecturers affected by their experiences of teaching through English medium of instruction in a teachers’ college in Zimbabwe? 3. Why do lecturers experience the implementation of English medium of instruction the way it happens in a teachers’ college in Zimbabwe? The study used the Translanguaging theory as its Theoretical framework. The research site was a teachers’ college, which is situated in Harare, Zimbabwe. The participants were 6 lecturers teaching at the teachers’ college in three subject areas namely: Mathematics, Physical Education and Theory of Education. The study adopted the Interpretevist paradigm and used a qualitative case study. Non-participant observations, semi-structured and focus group interviews were used as data generating methods. The thematic approach was used to analyse the data. Six major themes emerged from the findings. Firstly, lack of commitment by government to avail a clear EMI policy. Instead of availing a policy, government relies on the Education Act of 1987 which states that English is the medium of instruction from the fourth grade up to tertiary level, while indigenous African languages are taught as subjects. This makes it difficult for lecturers to implement EMI effectively because there are no clear guidelines on how lecturers should teach. Secondly, lack of commitment by the teachers’ college to avail an official document that stipulates the medium of instruction that enhances lecture delivery. Thirdly, failure by government to monitor the implementation of the Education Act of 1987 in relation to EMI. Fourthly, the government’s lack of support in funding the teachers’ college, which has resulted in failure by the college to extend infrastructure which includes a communication skills centre and a language laboratory to facilitate the learning and acquisition of English skills. Fifthly, the use of English and Shona code-switching in the lecture rooms as a way of bridging the difficulties faced by students in expressing themselves meaningfully in English (Shona, being the mother-tongue of many learners in the college and in Harare). Sixthly, poor English proficiency of students, resulting in both failure to participate in class and in grasping the content taught. Findings of this study indicate that the implementation of EMI in the teachers’ college is done in various ways depending on the lecturers’ views. In addition, students fail to participate fully in discussions and question and answer sessions due to limited English language proficiency. I therefore, concluded that lack of commitment by government and the teachers’ college to avail a clear language policy largely contributed to the diverse ways in which the EMI is implemented in the teachers’ college. The study also found that the language of instruction varies from lecturer to lecturer as some lecturers code-switched while others persistently used the English language but struggled to clearly articulate the content. Moreover, limited proficiency in English language by students led to challenges in understanding content, leading to poor results in assignments and examinations. The major recommendation of the study is that the Zimbabwean Government should produce a language policy that recommends that in addition to English, at least one official language of the linguistic region concerned, be used to complement the EMI to enhance improved teaching and learning by indigenous African lecturers and students without prejudice to other local languages spoken in Zimbabwe.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Edgewood