EL Teachers in danger of extinction?

Yesterday I found a real bit of food for thought on the SMIELT blog

quite shocking

I was so interested in organizing ideas about it that I got a summary to be posted on one of the microblogs that I run. I generally do that when I want to (think in a loud voice???) reflect on some published posts that I read.

Surprisingly enough I realised that there hadn’t been so many comments on such a claim -Only Sarolta wrote something and her comments triggered some serious reflections as well .

English Village in Second Life

I strongly believe in Argentina we are still a very long way from the worrying situation presented. It is true that English is taught as L2 from an early age but rarely have learners become so proficient in the past decades. With this I do not mean that students in general haven’t been able to boast on a good command of the target language but I guess (have never read statistics on this)the percentage of students with a high performance in L2 is extremely low if we compare it with the percetange of students who started learning English at an early age. I’ve been in EFL for about 20 years and all this time has shown me that students who start learning English at primary school are very likely to give it up at secondary school. They start neglecting it as a school subject simply because that’s the way they do with most subjects or simply because they are fed up with it. They are not interested in the learning of that L2, especially as they consider the standards required for English at Secondary School match the knowledge they already have of English. EFL syllabuses at common schools are completely different from studying plans and methodologies followed in specific language schools / institutes. A common saying in this country is “If you really want to learn English you ought to attend special lessons / go to an EFL language school / pay a private EFL tutor” as English at ordinary schools does not fulfill great expectations. “If you want to aim high at English, then study it privately”

From that perspective English Teachers will still be highly regarded by people interested in graduate / post graduate courses in their respective careers. Generally when University students graduate they take up EFL courses of different sorts as they feel the need to deal with that L2 to raise standards in their respective fields. And there is a common feeling of regret : If only I hadn’t neglected / given up my English courses when I was a teen! What sometimes happens is that since they have had this experience they do not want this to happen to their own kids in the future so the little ones are made to study and, in most cases, forced to continue learning despite their lack of interest -“It will be useful for you later”, the saying strikes in the young ears now.

That said I guess EL teachers will probably work less at University levels or in adult courses ….but in several decades’ time! When the young generations having been “forced” to learn the L2 are already grown ups. However, other young kids will have to be taught. And English will probably be more important as generations go by.

Obviously more training for EFL Teachers will be demanded. It is already. The moment you stop training the moment you are left behind. It’s a kind of race. As a teacher, you have to jump , at least, onto the last wagongs of fast trains to catch up with young generations needs. This is, from my view, one of the most difficult things. But it is a common problem in education. Classic though it may sound, the use of new online tools in education is a very good example of the constant training teachers require.
In relation to the inequality among people as far as education is concerned, I couldn’t agree more with Sarolta’s words

What I really worry about is the fact that by allowing English become just another essential skill we will be contributing to greater inequality among people and cause marginalization of millions of young people who would have better chances in life had they had the opportunity to study in their own mother tongue. Education in one’s mother tongue is every person’s right. It is meant to open doors for development and prosperity of individuals and societies. Education systems should not create obstacles for those who don’t speak foreign languages.
However I feel this inequality has been on and on for a very long time, at least in my part of the world . But this has to do do with politics and social contexts that invite further debates in our world complex realities.
More to do with real teachers in my part of the world? Gabriela’s post on her wordpress blog is a perfect description
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3 Comments

Filed under Teachers

3 responses to “EL Teachers in danger of extinction?

  1. For English to become firmly established in a country, students need to really have a need to use the language on a regular basis. It seems to me that using social media and updating our teaching methods is a great way to involve students more in the use of the language on a regular basis.

    Your discussion of inequality raises excellent questions. How do we balance the right to education in one’s native language with the need (real or perceived) to master English? I believe that all of us need a solid education in our native language as well as some degree of mastery of another language. This, however, is a dream that is not anywhere near reality in most parts of the world. In the US we certainly do not do a great job of educating all our students in English, and we do a dismal job of teaching other languages.

    Thanks for the great post. It really got me thinking!

  2. Gabriela Sellart

    Alicia, I work in an expensive Language Institute and in a private Secondary school with students who are bound to get university degrees, a small selected minority.
    However, I’m acquainted with the reality of other schools. What you say about secondary schools is absolutely true, “They (students) start neglecting it (English) as a school subject simply because that’s the way they do with most subjects or simply because they are fed up with it.” I think about teachers who work at Secondary Schools.They start neglecting their profession, too. A couple of periods here, a couple there; traveling big distances here in BA. Neither time nor motivation for professional development. And as you say, “The moment you stop training the moment you are left behind.” Sad.
    What gives me some hope is that the web 2.0 is a highly open and horizontal tool to share information and to exchange ideas. Perhaps it will make a difference.

  3. Pingback: Social Media in ELT reminds me of Don Quixote and his windmills « Social Media Citizenship and ELT

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