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The Future of ESL Is . . .

October 20, 2005

I am still thinking about the importance of looking ahead and planning for students' future needs.

Hi there readers,

The competition for English language students is subject to all kinds of political, technological and economic changes that schools can't control but need to try to predict. One area that seems to continue to hold promise for the future, however, is English as the key language for science and technology. Even though regional languages are used, and may be increaingly used, in these fields in the future, the very internationalism of science and technology suggests that the need for an accepted lingua franca will remain, and it will be difficult to push English off its pedestal there.

For schools, therefore, the demand for pre-university English langauge courses is likely to remain strong. However, in offering courses in English for academic purposes, it will be important, in my view, to go beyond the obvious academic reading, listening and writing skills. Students will need learner training and study skills because they may well find the learning culture in the countries they travel to very different from their own.

In many cultures, learning is still regarded as a passive activity in which teachers impart knowledge that students absorb. In vivid contrast is the culture in western education, that emphasizes learner involvement and autonomy. It can be exceptionally disorientating for a student when switching from one learning culture to the other. Schools, therefore could provide a sterling service to their students by preparing them for this change. The courses of the future, I believe, will need to be based not simply on language acquisition but on cultural adaptation so that the language learnt can be effectively used in the target environment.

By the way, an excellent book on The Future of English is available for download from this URL:
www.britishcouncil.org/english/pdf/future.pdf.

See you on the blog soon,

Patricia

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