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Research Article Review


Basic Summary:
This article discusses the culture of syllabus design in relation to the formal education. Here the
emphasis is particularly given on language syllabus design which carries some sub cultural issues as
well. Best known for his contribution to communicative language teaching, the writer H.G. Widdowson
is an authority in the field of applied linguistics and language teaching, specifically English language
learning and teaching. Currently he is Emeritus Professor of Education, University of London, and has
also been Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Essex and Professor of English
Linguistics at the University of Vienna. From such a vast experience in language teaching, the writer
has raised some issues which can no way be denied in the process of syllabus design of language
teaching. He attempts to remedy these problems by analyzing situations and outcomes of different
syllabuses of language learning designed with different attitudes and purposes.
Widdowson has mentioned several issues and factors, but did not explicitly state and label
hypotheses. Two of his main issues are influence of educational elements and involvement of
pedagogic elements those undeniably affect the design of a language syllabus in certain situations.
Two principle factors also need to be taken for granted according to the sub culture of linguistic
syllabus and he detected them as language syllabus for futuristic social role and language syllabus
for learner’s individual development.
Information Source:
Widdowson used information from various sources. Of them the notables are BERNSTEIN (1971),
NAIMAN. FROHLICH. STERN and TODESCO (1978), FIRTH. J.R. (1957). Besides, he also adopted
themes from ILLICH.Y (1970), WILKINS.D.A. (1976) etc.
Widdowson focuses on two dependent variables, position-oriented and person-oriented learning.
Position-oriented learning is measured by an exclusive attention towards future social role of the
learners. It comes up with a clear implication of educational elements those satisfy manpower needs.
On the contrary, person-oriented learning is measured using three scenarios – individual
development, learner needs and pedagogic elements.
Major Findings:
Widdowson pointed out several major findings. He did find support for the universal supremacy of
pedagogical factors in syllabus design, as language syllabuses are more likely to support educational
factors, even after controlling for the influence of other variables. There are links with the policy,
culture and particular educational settings of the society. Therefore, existing educational orthodoxy
plays a big role in the design and application of a curriculum or syllabus in language teaching and
learning than those of pedagogical factors. On the contrary, he also mentioned that a language
syllabus normally initiates a program to put people into a secondary culture
Critical Analysis:
From 'Illyrian Case Study'- part of Ron White's lecture (1986), the fundamentals of Syllabus Design

1. Who is going to refer to the syllabus?

2. Which areas of the students' competence most require improvement to bring them up to
the target level?
3. What are the required target levels and how will you indicate them in a syllabus?
4. How will you organize the syllabus? In other words, what factors will you decide upon as
the basis for specifying the syllabus e.g. Topic, Function etc.
5. How will you coordinate these factors so as to provide a coherent statement which can
guide the people who refer to the syllabus?
6. How will you sequence items in the syllabus?
7. How will you allow for revision and recycling?

If we take these fundamentals for granted for both position-oriented learning and person-oriented
learning syllabuses, then we won’t be able to ignore neither the educational elements with the future
role issue nor the pedagogic elements with the individual development issue. Because, extra-
pedagogical factors come to interact with learner’s experience to affect teacher and learner’s
perception of their needs. The strongest of these factors relate to socio-economic circumstances of
the learners. Since the provision of relief to these factors are not within the competence of the
teachers either within the classroom, as part of the curriculum or inclusive in the reaching approach,
method or strategy, a neglect of the effect and importance of these factors will adversely affect the
effectiveness or success of the language teaching design or strategy eventually produced from
learner’s needs assessment.
Therefore, I unreservedly support the proposal of Widdowson that as it is impossible to set up a
universal set of attitudes, dispositions, and behaviors for good language learner and design
syllabuses accordingly, therefore, the pedagogic factors in syllabus design should better focus on the
methodology part of it and reform and reshape as per the other dominating educational factors e.g.
political and socio-cultural aim of learning, educational attitudes as reflected in the attitudes and
dispositions of local learners in relation to their socio-economic circumstances etc.