Dr. Ismael Louber

Department: Graduate School of Education
Discipline: Education
Research Centre/Unit: TESOL

Project Summary

There has been growing interest among researchers in the area of Christianity and the teaching of English as a foreign language (TEFL)  and particularly evangelical Christians (Edge 2003; Pennycook 2003; Pennycook 2005; Varghese 2007). However, to this date, as far I am aware, no studies were conducted on Western Muslim EFL teachers although they undeniably represent a large number of TEFL practitioners.

There is a growing number of Western Muslim teachers in the profession, especially in the Arabian/Persian Gulf region. In the Gulf region, particularly in Saudi Arabia, Western Muslim EFL teachers are attracted by lucrative job opportunities but also by religious prospects such as the possibility of performing religious duties such as the Pilgrimage to Makkah.

For certain critical educators, ELT participates in the global spread of the English language, including in Muslim countries and in the Arab World, and cannot be described as a neutral activity. They have often associated ELT and the global spread of English with hegemony, Western imperialism or westernisation (Pennycook 2003; Pennycook 2005; Mclaren 2011; Phillipson 1992; Zughoul 2003; Kazmi 1997).

On the other hand, knowledge of the English language has now become an essential tool to access knowledge, and it is a much needed tool in today's life. A sound knowledge of the English language is particularly vital in academic and business circles.

In Addition, there has been an ever growing demand for EFL teachers in Saudi Arabia due to the implementation of new language policies in universities and by the subsequent use of English as a medium of instruction (EMI). Although there is much debate around this issue, many believe that this phenomenon is problematic to the local language and values (Troudi 2009; AbuZayd 2007; BrockUtne 2001). In some Gulf countries for example, the use of Arabic is being gradually reduced, especially in tertiary education.

Therefore, my current research focuses on Western Muslim EFL teachers that may have become agents of the process of spreading English in a Muslim country. The problem does not lie in any intrinsic feature of the English language but rather on the values, beliefs or ideologies associated with it.

The questions I am raising are the following:

  • What values do Western Muslim EFL teachers in the KSA associate with English language teaching ?
  • How do they perceive the global spread of English and the role played by TEFL in this process with particular reference to the KSA?
  • How do they perceive the relationship between TEFL and Islam?

In addition, the study seeks to shed light on various curriculum-related issues such as cultural content in syllabus design and intercultural communication.



Abu Zayd, B. (2007). Al madaaris al 'alamyah al ajnabyah- the foreign international schools. Cairo: Dar Ibn Hazm.

Brock-Utne, B., & Holmarsdottir, H. B. (2001). The choice of English as medium of instruction and its effects on the African languages in Namibia. International Review of Education/Internationale Zeitschrift Für Erziehungswissenschaft/Revue Internationale L'éducation, 47(3), 293-322.

Edge, J. (2003). Imperial troopers and servants of the lord: A vision of TESOL for the 21st century. TESOL Quarterly, 37(4), 701-709.

Kazmi, Y. (1997). The hidden political agenda of teaching English as an international language. Muslim Education Quarterly, 15, 45-59.

Pennycook, A. (2005). The modern mission: The language effects of Christianity. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 4(2), 137-155.

Pennycook, A., & Coutand-Marin, S. (2003). Teaching English as a missionary language. Discourse, 24(3), 337-353.

Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford [England]; New York: Oxford University Press.

Troudi, S. (2009). The effects of English as medium of instruction on Arabic as a language of science and academia. The EFL Classroom: Critical Pedagogy in the Middle East, 199-216.

Varghese, M. M., & Johnston, B. (2007). Evangelical Christians and English language teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 41(1), 5-31.

Zughoul, M. R. (2003). Globalization and EFL/ESL pedagogy in the Arab world. Journal of Language and Learning, 1(2), 1-29.


Supervisory Team

Dr. Karen Walshe and Dr. Rob Freathy


Professor Adrian Holliday and Professor Salah Troudi