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Are English - taught programmes reshaping the path of education globally?

Written by ESC Admin on 14 Aug 2019 Posted in Blog

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Universities and schools across the globe are offering an increasing number of courses taught in English. Parents and politicians alike are pushing for this change as English is considered a worldwide language of opportunity in education and business. The decision to use English as medium of instruction has very important implications for the education of young people in non-Anglophone countries. A current research introduce into this issue to explore where and why English is being introduced as a teaching language and what happens in the classroom when it is.

First report has been written with support from the British Council, setting out the size and shape of English language teaching in 55 countries. Initial findings, being presented at the Going Global conference on international education, show that 83% of countries surveyed believed that they did not have enough qualified teachers to teach through English.

Going Anglophonic:

There is no definition yet of what teaching in English actually means and how it includes other forms of bilingual education. It is also not yet clear exactly what the consequences of introducing English as a teaching language are on teaching, learning, assessment and teachers’ professional development. There are many reasons why countries introduce English as a teaching language. They want their students to become bilingual, improve their knowledge of a target culture, and see English as opening up opportunities for students to work and study abroad. Countries may want to spread their own culture throughout the world or have political reasons for adopting English as a medium for instruction, such as nation-building and aligning a country with English-speaking neighbours.

The use of English is indisputably growing, especially in the private sector where it can give a school or university the edge over its competitors and is seen to offer students an international education with all the benefits that can bring.

The consequences:

If this is the case, does learning in English create more inequality? What happens to those children who miss out on an education in English, who are not part of these social elite? Are we creating a two-tier education system of English-speaking “haves” and “have-nots”?

Education is a fundamental human right. So we could ask if education in your home language is also a human right. Some countries, such as Hungary, are hesitating to adopt English as a medium of instruction, asking themselves whether all students are capable of learning through English and if all teachers are capable of teaching in English. Israel, hesitate to go towards English as a medium of instruction as they wish to protect their home language, culture and education system. Many students from Tanzania fail exams as they are taught in a home language and then expected to take the exams in English.

Questions abound as to the use and future of the home language if English is the language of education. If students are taught solely in English it would be hoped that they acquire an academic language and a language of their subject, for example medicine, in English. This will help them to communicate in international conferences and read papers on their subject in English. But will it help them talk to patients in their country? And will the home language itself lose out from not being used in education? Is it a question of “use it or lose it?”

The future of English:

On the other hand, what will happen to English itself?

Educators so far believe that English can improve communication, help the exchange of ideas and create relations between countries. They see English in the classroom as a way of facilitating world peace. Home students benefit from a language which opens doors and enables them to move globally in academia and business. Teachers are also internationally mobile and this creates opportunities for them to teach abroad. There seems to be a lack of clear guidelines on how to teach through English and a lack of support and teaching resources. What’s clear is that more research is needed in order to find out the long-lasting impact of English as a medium of instruction around the world.


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