The Use of English As A Medium of Instruction in Colleges of Education

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Published on International Journal of Art, Language & Linguistics
Publication Date: August, 2019

Wumbei, Charles & Adukpo, John
Department of Languages Dambai College of Education
Ghana

Journal Full Text PDF: The Use of English As A Medium of Instruction in Colleges of Education.

Abstract
This study sought to explore the challenges of English as a medium of instruction in colleges of education in Ghana. A mixed method design was used for the study. Questionnaires, in-class observation and interview schedules were employed to collect data, using purposive and simple random sampling. Findings reveal that the challenges of using English as medium of instruction in colleges of education include promotes excessive consumption of time during lessons whilst students contribute less in the class due to low level proficiency in English language. It was also discovered that it makes students not to comprehend lectures delivered in English and decipher meaning from text books written in English. It was further revealed that when students study in English language they tend to engage less with their learning materials and learn by memorization. It is recommended that language alternation pedagogy should be introduced to teachers to enable them use it more efficiently and effectively. This, in addition to various support measures in place, could increase English learning levels in Colleges of Education in Ghana.

Keywords: Challenges of English, medium of instruction, observation and interview, English learning.

1. Introduction
English as a medium of education system is the one that uses English as the primary medium of instruction where English is not the mother tongue of the students. English as a medium instruction (EMI) refers to the teaching of academic subjects through the medium of English in non-Anglophone countries. In Higher Education (HE) it is a phenomenon which is growing rapidly (Dafouz & Guerrini, 2009; Doiz, Lasagabaster & Sierra, 2013 cited in Macaro, Akincioglu & Dearden 2016).
The phenomenon of English as a Lingua Franca has been demonstrating for over twenty years. The kinds of English used in lingua franca communication often differ from those used among native English speakers and that are taught to ‘foreign’ learners in English as Foreign Language (EFL) classrooms. The domain of higher education (HE) is a notable example of the spread and use of ELF. In their drive to internationalize, many universities have switched to teaching in English-medium so as to recruit more students and staff from outside their national borders. The internationalization of universities is thus going hand-in-hand with ‘Englishisation’, with university campuses paradoxically becoming increasingly lingua-culturally diverse on the one hand, and increasingly focused on English on the other. However, not only is English being used in myriad ways on campus, but other languages are also present, regardless of whether the setting is an Anglophone or non-Anglophone country. English as a medium instruction is thus a complex phenomenon, but its (multi)lingua franca nature is as yet poorly understood and largely ignored outside English Language as Foreign-oriented research into English as a medium instruction (Jenkins 2018).
The issue of the language of education at schools and universities has thus become obviously a very timely and topical one giving the increasing shift towards the use of English not only as the main medium of education, but even the exclusive official language of instruction and administration in Ghanaian schools and universities. In the globalization era, English is becoming the official international language. This originates from the importance of English in the stages of integration, internationalization, and globalization. English is the language of computer science, economics, science, and technology. the increasing demand for English language in higher education and research over the last decades is often assumed to be parallel and unavoidable process resulting in improved international academic communication worldwide.
Ghana is one of the countries in Africa where English is used as a medium of instruction from primary four onwards. The President’s Committee on Review of Education Reforms in 2002 recommended the use of either the local or English language as the medium of instruction in early grade. The rest of the child’ education should be done in the English language with the exception of Ghanaian language which is taught as a subject (Anamuah Mensah cited in Seidu, 2011). This is so because English language is positioned as the only shared language or lingua franca and a unifying agent for the Ghanaian society than any single Ghanaian language, Seidu (2012). English therefore became a preferred medium of instruction amongst teachers and students of higher learning.
The use of English as a medium of instruction increases the amount of exposure and the opportunities they have to communicate in it. This include written as well as spoken language, and informational in addition to narrative and conversational discourse. The success of our educational institutions depends on the output of our students. Students need to improve upon their performance, measured in both their oral and in written works. English as a medium of interaction poses challenges to students in colleges of education that both the native English speaker and the educated African speaker of English can tolerate. This undoubtedly questions the effectiveness of our English language teaching and learning.

1.1 Statement of the problem
As already pointed out, the use of English as a medium of instruction ideally is to increase the performance of students in class as well as the amount of exposure and the opportunities students have to communicate in it. Thus students need to improve upon their performance by every standard. This include written as well as spoken language, and informational in addition to narrative and conversational discourse. Undoubtedly, English as a medium of interaction poses challenges to students in colleges of education that both the native English speaker and the educated African speaker of English can tolerate (Othman & Saat, 2009).
This questions the effectiveness of our English language teaching and learning. The consequences of this have terrible effects specifically on the students and on our educational system in general if concrete measures are not instituted to nib this in the bud. In this direction, there is therefore the need to assess the impact of English medium instruction in colleges of education in order to solve the problem.
Also, whereas studies explored English as a medium instruction at various institutions in Ghana, much is not done about English as a medium of instruction in colleges of education. The focus of the current study therefore, replicated some of these studies conducted in different settings to explore the challenges of English as a medium instruction, using Dambai and Jasikan Colleges of Education in Ghana.

1.2 Research Objectives
The study sought to investigate the challenges of English as a medium of instruction in the classroom and what can be done to solve or minimize those challenges to enhance teaching and learning in colleges of education in Ghana.

1.3 Significance of the study
This study helped to explore the challenges of English as a medium of instruction and what can be done to minimize or solve those challenge to enhance teaching and learning in colleges of education in Ghana. English teachers in colleges of education, it seems have been operating in the dark over the years as a result of the lack of adequate empirical data about the use of English as a medium of instruction in colleges of education in Ghana. The study thus, provided the empirical data of English as a medium of instruction in colleges of education in order to develop effective strategies in the teaching of English in the classroom. Therefore, a better understanding of the English medium instruction in colleges of education will help teachers have understanding of students’ difficulties in learning English. Thus, it will have a positive change in the teaching of English language as a second language. Finally, findings will add to existing knowledge in the use of English as a medium of instruction.

2. Methodology
2.1 Research design
This study used a mixed methods triangulation design to investigate the research questions. Creswell, Plano Clark, Gutmann, and Hanson, 2003; Creswell and Plano, 2011) state that a mixed methods study “involves the collection or analysis of both quantitative and/or qualitative data in a single study in which the data are collected concurrently or sequentially, are given a priority, and involve the integration of the data at one or more stages in the process of research.

2.2 Sample and sampling procedure
Two sampling techniques were employed in this study: purposive sampling and simple random sampling. Purposive sampling was employed for tutors while simple random sampling was used for the selection of student respondents.

2.3 Purposive sampling for tutors
The choice of this sampling technique for tutors was selected because English language tutors had an understanding of their students regarding the use of English as a medium of instruction. It is they who have informed judgment about English language ability of their students. Also, the number of tutors of English language was not great. So, I felt all the eight could be of substance to my study.

2.4 Simple random sampling for students
In this case, each individual student was chosen entirely by chance and each member of the student population had an equal chance, or probability, of being selected. To ensure gender parity, the respondents were segregated into males and females. The choice of equal male/female ratio selection was underpinned by the initiatives to address gender sensitivity issues in Colleges of Education being advocated by Transforming Teacher Education and Learning (T-TEL) under the auspices of the Government of Ghana.
Out of each category in both of the Colleges, pieces of paper were cut according to the number of students. Fifty (50) pieces of paper for each gender were marked “Yes” with the rest marked “No”. All those with “Yes”, formed the sample for the study.
The population of the study included all English language tutors and second year students of Dambai and Jasikan Colleges of Education respectively. The two colleges were chosen as the research sites because of proximity and convenient access. It is also because they are the only two Colleges of Education in the newly created Oti Region.
The target pool for participants for the focus group interview was twenty groups of 10 students in addition to individual interviews for tutors of English. The focus groups for students were made up of 10 groups from each College.
2.5 Methods of data collection
The study employed both quantitative and qualitative ways of data collection. The use of multiple instruments was to ensure that the researcher get all the available information from the respondents. The questionnaire was adapted from Rogier (2012) and Agyemang-Prempeh (2018).
In the first phase, structured questionnaire was employed to gather the views of the student participants on the challenges of using English language as medium of instruction in colleges of education. Using random sampling technique, the study sampled 100 students from each of the colleges to respond to the questionnaire, making a total of 200 respondents. Out of the 200 students, 100 were females whilst males were 100 respectively. Eight tutors were also used from Instruments that were employed to gather data from the respondents for the study included structured questionnaire, interview and in-class observation.

2.6 Questionnaire
A questionnaire was used in order to generate adequate amount of quantitative data, because it was impossible for the researcher to have all the time at his disposal. Colleges of education have an academic calendar that guides them and the researcher had to carry out the study within a specific time-frame. Moreover, a structured questionnaire was used in this study because researchers have argued that they are quicker to code and analyse within a short time frame than word-based data (Cohen, Manon, & Morrison, 2007). Sarantakos (1998) describes a questionnaire as being helpful because, it standardizes data collection and ensures high confidentiality of respondents, thus eliciting truthful information from them.
The respondents were expected to respond to various questions in respect of what their opinions were regarding each of the five sections. The questionnaire sought the opinion of what challenges students in colleges of education face as a result of English medium instruction. Out of the 200 copies of questionnaire given to students, 195 were received, which the researcher worked with.

2.7 Interview
The semi-structured interview guide had questions that hinged on the research questions raised for the study. The focus group interview was employed for the students while individual one-on-one interview was employed for the English language tutors. The interviews were conducted using a recorder which was transcribed to ensure authenticity of the results.

2.8 Observation
The researchers took turns to observe a two-hour class each at Dambai College and Jasikan Colleges respectively, based on the following criteria:

Table 1: In-class lesson observation

2.9 Data collection
The questionnaire, the interview and observation were self-administered to the participants within a spate of one month. This strategy provided the opportunity to clarify issues that the respondents raised about the instrument.

2.10 Data analysis
Data collected through the questionnaire, in class observation and the interview schedules were analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively.

2.11 Ethical considerations
Cohen et al (2007) point out that ethical considerations are more than just procedural as they permeate the entire research process and are an important consideration in framing the research design because “one has to consider how the research purposes, contents, methods, reporting and outcomes abide by ethical principles and practices” (p. 51). Therefore, while thinking about my research problem we considered its cost/benefit ratio. There was very little risk involved for the participants. The participants were asked to find time to respond to the questionnaire and participate in an interview. Participation was voluntary.
For the in-class observation, we sought the consent of the tutors involved before it was carried out. Throughout the research process, provisions were put in place to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of all participants.

2.12 Validity
Validity of this study was ensured through triangulation. Triangulation involves the use of two or more methods of data collection in a study of aspect of human behavior (Cohen et al, 2007, p. 11). Using these multiple instruments to gather data enhanced validity.

3. Analysis & Discussion
3.1 Challenges of using English as a Medium of Instruction
This section presented the challenges of using English language as a medium of instruction. The results of both tutors and students were juxtaposed and analyzed under table 5a and table 5b whilst the discussion was done under table 6a and table 6b respectively.

Table 2a: Tutors’ responses to the challenges of using English language as a medium of instruction

In table 2a, generally, tutors agreed that the use of English language as a medium of instruction has numerous challenges. Amongst the challenges, 47.5% of the respondents disagreed that the use of English language as medium of instruction reduces ability to understand concepts whilst 11.3% remained neutral as against 41.5% who agreed.
Regarding the low-level of knowledge students have about subjects studied, 38% agreed, but 44.1 % disagreed with 17.9% uncertain that the use of English language as medium of instruction promotes that challenge.
In response to whether English as a medium of instruction triggers excessive consumption of time, the questionnaire reveals that 43.1% disagreed that excessive time is consumed during lessons when English language is used. But 39.5% agreed with 17.4% uncertain. Regarding the low-level of knowledge students have about subjects studied, 50% agreed, but the other 50% disagreed that the use of English language as medium of instruction promotes that challenge.
Regarding, the least amount of participation in the classes due to low level proficiency in English language, 34% disagreed whilst 51.8% agreed with 13.8% remained uncertain.
With the issue of students’ failure to understand lectures delivered in English language and text books written in English, it was disagreed by 36.9% whilst18.5% remained neutral but 44.6% agreed.
The results also discovered that when students study in a language that they do not understand they tend to engage less with their learning material and learn by memorization. This assertion was agreed by 59% of the respondents whilst 27.2% disagreed with 13% uncertain.

Table 2b: Students’ response to the challenges of using English as a medium of instruction

In table 2b, generally, the students agreed that the use of English language as medium of instruction has numerous challenges. Amongst the challenges, 47.2% of the respondents disagreed that the use of English language as medium of instruction reduces ability to understand concepts whilst 11.30% remained neutral as against 41.5% who agreed. One of the respondents who agreed that it reduces the ability to understand concepts indicated that,
Regarding the low-level of knowledge students have about the subject studied, 44.1% agreed, but 37.1% disagreed with 17.9% uncertain that the use of English language as medium of instruction promotes that challenge.
In response to whether English as a medium of instruction triggers excessive consumption of time, 43.1% disagreed that excessive time is consumed during lessons when English language is used but 39.5% agreed with 17.4% uncertain.
According to the results, 34.4% disagreed students have low-level of proficiency in English language so, that results in the least amount of participation in classes. However, this assertion was agreed by 51.8% of the respondents whilst 13.8% was uncertain.
Findings also revealed that 36.9% of the respondents disagreed that if English language is used as medium of instruction it brings about the failure of students to understand lectures delivered in English language and textbooks written in English. On the other hand, 44.6% agreed with 18.5% uncertain.
It was not surprising that 59.0% of the respondents agreed that students that study in a language they do not understand tend to engage less with their learning material and learn by memorization. But, 27.2% of the respondents disagreed with 13.8% remaining certain.
To ascertain whether the listed variables in table 5a and table 5b respectively, were indeed significant, descriptive statistics was used. This was tested at a 5% significance level for both tutors and students. Table 6a and table 6b below show that the identifiable variables constitute challenges of English language as a medium of instruction.

Table 3a: Tutors’ response to the Challenges of English Language as Medium of Instruction

Table 3b: Students’ Response to the Challenges of using English as a medium of instruction

In table 3a, generally, the tutors who responded to the questionnaire agreed that the use of English language as medium of instruction has numerous challenges. Amongst the challenges, a mean of 2.7500 in table 6a was tested for tutors as against 2.84 for students on the use of English language as a medium of instruction reduces ability to understand concepts. The mean for tutors indicate that a large number of tutors agreed it was a challenge. However, a mean of 1.5000 tutors constituting three tutors disagreed that it is a challenge. One person was uncertain as to whether it is a challenge or not to students. That of the students suggests a large number of students strongly disagreed that it was a challenge followed by those who agreed that it is challenge. A few strongly agreed that is a challenge. Few students disagreed or were uncertain that the use of English language as a medium of instruction reduces ability to understand concepts.
One of the respondents who agreed it is a challenge indicated that, “Sometimes, naturally, there are some terminologies that are a bit strange to students. In that regard students find it difficult to understand”. To support this, another respondent indicated that, “Well, sometimes there are some concepts and vocabularies you have to use Ghanaian language. Most of the students don’t know their meaning”.
In the view of the researchers, it is obvious that the use of English as medium of instruction in colleges of education places a limitation on students if they want to really understand concepts, especially concepts that are very technical. Thus it reduces the ability to understand concepts. There are some technical concepts that need to be explained using examples and illustrations for students to understand. Others need a mixture of both the local languages and English if indeed tutors want their students to understand challenging concepts.
This is consistent with Othman and Saat (2009); Karvonen (2017) who argue that one of the key challenges teachers face with teaching in English include explaining concepts.
Regarding the low-level of knowledge students have about subjects they study, a mean of 3.1250 was tested for tutors as against 2.88 for students. The mean for tutors suggests that a few number of tutors strongly disagreed that students have low level of subjects they study as against few who disagreed that the use of English language as medium of instruction promotes that challenge. Equal number of the respondents either strongly agreed or disagreed with the view. On the other hand, that of the students suggests that majority of the students disagreed that students have low level of subjects they study followed by those who agreed. The rest strongly agreed, uncertain strongly disagreed
A respondent who agreed indicated that, “The only difficulty students normally encounter is when it is time to answer questions; they can’t express themselves explicitly in English.”. A student respondent who strongly agreed indicated that, “When we don’t understand concepts, it affects our understanding. Teaching/learning should take place using both English and Ghanaians languages. Ghanaians languages should be used for clearer understanding”.
It is obvious that one of the challenges students have as a result of the use of English as a medium of instruction in colleges of education is shallow knowledge students have about the subject they study. Students in this direction need to have in-depth knowledge of the subjects they study in colleges of education. In order to bridge this gap teachers need to adopt practical strategies during teaching and learning. This is consistent with Agyemang-Prempeh (2018) whose findings reveal that English language as a medium of instruction promotes low-level of knowledge students have about the subject studied.
In response to whether English as a medium of instruction triggers excessive consumption of time, a mean of 2.1250 was tested for tutors as against 2.95 for student respondents. This means that a large number of tutors disagreed that excessive time was consumed during lessons when English language is used. A few tutors disagreed with this assertion while few respondents either agreed or remained uncertain. This suggests that tutors disagreed with the assertion that when English is used as a medium of instruction triggers excessive consumption of time. On the other hand, the mean for students indicate that a large number of the respondents also disagreed that excessive time is consumed during lessons when English language is used is a challenge followed by those who agreed. The rest were uncertain, strongly agreed disagreed or strongly agreed with this assertion. One of the respondents who agreed indicated that, “Sometimes, naturally, there are some terminologies that are a bit strange to students. In that regard students find it difficult to understand”. However, in the view of the researchers, the view that excessive time was spent explaining unfamiliar terms and concepts for students to understand. This is because teachers adopt different strategies to explain concepts that could be understood within a spate of time to enhance students’ understanding. In this case much time is needed to achieve that. This is consistent with Arhin (2014) and Agyemang-Prempeh (2018) who argued that English language as a medium of instruction is a recipe to excessive consumption of time.
According to the results, a mean of 3.0000 was tested for tutors as against 2.88 for students that students have low-level of proficiency in English language, which results in the least amount of participation in classes. This means that equal number of tutors disagreed and agreed with this assertion whilst the rest strongly disagreed or agreed. On the other hand, the mean of for student respondents also implies that a large number of the students agreed with the assertion followed by those who strongly agreed. The remaining respondents disagreed, remained uncertain or disagreed.
A respondent who agreed mentioned that,
“Actually, what I have identified is that sometimes even their ability to communicate in English very well, is a problem. I remember one day, I was teaching and asked a question. A lady wanted to give an answer but the words were not coming, and I asked, is it the English? And she said, “Sir, English is the problem”.

The results of both tutors and students suggest that both tutors and students have different perceptions. While tutors disagreed with the view that low-level of proficiency in English language on the part of students result in the least amount of participation in classes, students feel otherwise.
In this respect, the researchers do not agree entirely with the views of tutors that this is not a challenge. It is obvious that most students neither contribute nor ask questions as a result of their inability to communicate freely in English, though. Though, students have brilliant ideas to contribute in class, most of them remain quiet because they are not proficient in the English language.
This is consistent with Othman and Saat (2009); Namuchwa (2017) who argue that low English proficiency by students remains one of the top five challenges that teachers face with teaching in English. This is also consistent with Mchazime (2001) who argues that school children are not linguistically prepared for instruction through the medium of English. Their participation in academic work is hampered by their limited mastery of the language. He suggests that the use of local languages benefit both groups while the use of English seemed to retard their performance.
With the issue of students’ failure to understand lectures delivered in English language and text books written in English, a mean of 2.8750 was tested for tutors as against a mean of 3.09 for students. It was discovered that a very good number of tutors disagreed that failure to understand lectures delivered in English language and text books written in English, is a challenge. Another good number remained uncertain. But a few number agreed that failure to understand lectures delivered in English language and text books written in English pose a challenge. On the part of students, the mean suggests that majority of the students agreed that failure to understand lectures delivered in English language and text books written in English, is a challenge followed by those who strongly agreed with the assertion. The rest disagreed, remained uncertain or strongly disagreed with the assertion. One of the respondents who agreed noted that, “If the lesson is more related to concepts student don’t understand. They will best understand when Ghanaian language is used”.
However, in the researchers’ opinion, failure to understand lectures delivered in English is not a challenge, but failure to understand textbooks written in English remains a challenge. This is because students make meaning when teachers teach in class. However, they find it difficult to decipher meaning from texts they read as a result of difficult vocabulary. In that that regard, I do not entirely agree with Othman and Saat (2009) who however, attribute the challenge to lack of materials by arguing that lack of appropriate instructional materials for class is one of the top five challenges that teachers face with teaching in English. In the view or the researcher, students in this regard, understand lectures delivered in English but rather face challenges when they read texts written in English.
The results discovered that when students study a language that they do not understand they tend to engage less with their learning material and learn by memorisation. A mean of 3.5000 was tested for tutors as against 3.49 for students. The mean for tutors suggests a large number of tutors agreed that when students study in a language they do not understand they tend to engage less with their learning material and learn by memorisation. The rest remained uncertain or disagreed with the assertion. On the other hand, the mean for students suggests that a good number of the students strongly agreed followed by those who strongly agreed. A few agreed, remained uncertain or disagreed with the assertion. Both tutors and students therefore agreed that when students study in a language they do not understand they tend to engage less with their learning material and learn by memorisation. The rest remained uncertain or disagreed with the assertion.
In my opinion, it is not obvious that students engage with less with their learning material and therefore learn through memorisation. However, they engage more with their learning material, though they also resort to memorizing portions of text they read because of their inability to understand English. So, the idea that when students study a language that they do not understand they tend to engage less with their learning material and learn by memorization is insignificant. In general, it is observed that for all items relating to the challenges of using English language as medium of instruction in the colleges of education, tutors harbor mixed reaction to the view that when students study a language that they do not understand they tend to engage less with their learning material and learn by memorization, is challenge.
This is consistent with Othman and Saat (2009) who assert that the top five challenges that teachers face with teaching in English include explaining concepts in English, lack of teaching skills in integrating content with language teaching, low English proficiency by students, lack of appropriate instructional materials for class and lack of competence in English.

4. Findings
It was discovered that the use of English as a medium of instruction reduces students’ ability to understand concepts and low-level of knowledge about the subjects students study are part of the challenges. In addition, it was discovered that using English language as medium of instruction promotes excessive consumption of time during lessons whilst students contribute less in the class due to low level proficiency in English language. It was also discovered that the view that when English is used as medium of instruction it makes students not to comprehend lectures delivered in English, is not a challenge to students but how to decipher meaning from text books written in English remains a challenge. It was further found that when students study in English language they tend to engage less with their learning materials and learn by memorization.

5. Conclusion
The use of English as a medium of instruction indeed poses a lot of challenges to students in colleges of education. However, tutors and students have different perceptions about the intensity of these challenges. That notwithstanding, these challenges could be overcome by adopting practical pedagogical Strategies such as speaking slowly and using clear, simple language to facilitate students’ comprehension, using reference materials , using both L1 and English (code-switching) as well as translating during classroom talk, using cooperative group activities, using hands on activities, using visual aids, practical demonstration and multi-media software, referring to useful websites for assistance, and preparing a script to help deliver lessons in English.

6. Recommendations
It is recommended that ways of improving the use of English as a medium of instruction should include having clearer language goals, changing attitudes toward responsibility of language learning, increasing support for both students and teachers, and improving the marketing and tracking of support services that are offered.
Challenges arising out of the use of English as a medium of education in colleges of education could be overcome by adopting practical pedagogical Strategies such as speaking slowly and using clear, simple language to facilitate students’ comprehension, using reference materials , using both L1 and English (code-switching) as well as translating during classroom talk, using cooperative group activities, using hands on activities, using visual aids, practical demonstration and multi-media software, referring to useful websites for assistance, and preparing a script to help deliver lessons in English.
Colleges of education need to have an underlying system of language support. Without an emphasis on support for language development and clear expectations about the responsibility for improving students’ language skills, it will not enhance students’ academic performance.
English as a medium of instruction institutions need to coach teachers on structuring and presenting content in ways that will help with language development. Diagnostic information related to students’ language ability should be collected at an institutional level and made available to teachers. Workshops should be offered on what to expect in terms of language ability of the student, along with presentations related to services available to help support student language learning. More interaction and collaboration is also needed between those teachers trained in teaching English and content teachers to ensure that language development continues across the curriculum.
If there is no a focus on language skills across the curriculum by teachers, students may not even be aware that these are problems. There must be more emphasis on the language skills so that students are forced to notice their errors, correct them, and thus make them part of their implicit knowledge system.

7. Suggestions for further research
Firstly, this study was limited to only two colleges of education. Further research should be conducted to cover more colleges of education in Ghana.
In addition, further research should be conducted to find out how English medium of instruction affect students’ performance in other subject areas in colleges of education.