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