In parts of the world. In those countries

In recent years there has been a dramatic change in the scope of English language teaching worldwide and consequently, growing demands on those charged with providing an adequate response to the impact of the world-wide spread of English. Increasingly an English-proficient work force in many key sectors of the economy as well as the ability to access the educational, technical, and knowledge resources that English provides, are seen as essential features of contemporary societies. But the demand for competent English users, as well as adequately prepared English teachers, often exceeds the supply.It is this gap between demand and supply that provides the motivation for endless cycles of curriculum review and innovation in many parts of the world. In those countries that do well in terms of the English language learning stakes, this often involves merely fine tuning national language teaching policies and practices, which is what the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework seems to be about. In other parts of the world, however, more drastic measures are often needed, including increasing the time allocated to English in public education, commencing the teaching of English at primary school, teaching some school subjects through English, importing native-speakers to work alongside national teachers in high schools, or increasing the weighting given to English in university entrance exams. And there is also a demand by national educational authorities in many places for new language teaching policies, for greater central control over teaching and teacher education, and for standards and other forms of accountability.Then there are pressures from within the language teaching field, as the profession continually reinvents itself through the impact of new ideas, new educational philosophies, and new research paradigms, and teachers are expected to keep up with the changes.A changing knowledge base There have traditionally been two strands within TESOL – one focuses on classroom teaching skills and pedagogic issues, and the other focuses on what has been perceived as the academic underpinnings of classroom skills, namely knowledge about language and language learning. The relationship between the two has often been problematic. These two strands provide what has come to be the established core curriculum of TESOL training programs, particularly at the graduate level, where course work on topics such as language analysis, discourse analysis, phonology, curriculum development, and methodology is standard. The language-based courses provided the academic content, and the methodology courses show teachers how to apply such knowledge in their teaching. An unquestioned assumption was that such knowledge informs teachers’ classroom practices. Recent research however shows that teachers in fact are often unable to apply such knowledge in their classrooms and that teachers draw on other sources of knowledge in the classroom. Despite knowing the theory and principles associated with Communicative Language Teaching for example, in their own teaching teachers are often seen to make use of more traditional activities in their classrooms. Responding to this charge, innovative teacher education programs now seek to expand the knowledge base of language teaching to include the processes of teaching and teacher-learning itself, and the beliefs, theories and teacher knowledge which informs teaching. Rather than the MA course being a survey of issues in applied linguistics drawing from the traditional disciplinary sources, course work in areas such as reflective teaching, narrative inquiry, classroom research, and action research are now included as parts of the core curriculum in such programs.Changes in the status of English Teaching English was a politically neutral activity and that it would bring untold blessings to those who succeeded in learning it. English was regarded as the property of the English-speaking world, particularly Britain and the US. Native-speakers of the language, particularly those with blond hair and blue eyes, had special insights and superior knowledge about teaching it. And it was above all the vehicle for the expression of a rich and advanced culture or cultures, whose literary artifacts had universal value.This picture has changed somewhat today. Now that English is the language of globalization, international communication, commerce and trade, the media and popular culture, different motivations for learning it come into play. English is no longer viewed as the property of the English-speaking world but is an international commodity sometimes referred to as World English or English as an International Language. The cultural values of Britain and the US are often seen as irrelevant to language teaching, except in situations where the learner has a pragmatic need for such information. The language teacher need no longer be an expert on British and American culture and a literature specialist as well. English is still promoted as a tool that will assist with educational and economic advancement but is viewed in many parts of the world as one that can be acquired without any of the cultural trappings that once went with it.Changed goals for learning English One of the implications we draw from the new status of English as an international language is a rethinking of what our goals should be in English teaching. If English is taught as a practical tool, to function as one part of the learner’s overall communicative repertoire, traditional formulations of desired outcomes – targeting an advanced level of language learning that mimics the competency of the native speaker – may be unnecessary and is largely unattainable in most circumstances anyway. Rather, most learners in EFL contexts need to be equipped with a type of language proficiency that enables them to deal with both professional and real-life situations, that gives them a command of thinking and problem-solving skills in English that can be achieved with an upper-intermediate level of language proficiency. A different kind of proficiency in English is needed, one which will help employees to advance in international companies and improve their technical knowledge and skills. It also provides a foundation for what have been called “process skills” – those problem-solving and critical-thinking skills that are needed to cope with the rapidly changing environment of the workplace, one where English plays an increasingly important role. Although considerable skill in language use is required, native-speaker proficiency is neither an attainable, nor in most cases, a necessary goal, a fact that the developers of the Common European Framework, seemed to have missed.


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