« The ESL Culture Issue Again | Main | Leading a Horse to Water »

Ring out the Old, Ring in the New

December 29, 2005

Here we are at the end of 2005. As usual, the year seems to have flown by; it doesn’t seem as if already we are six years into the new millennium!


I have to say that my crystal ball for the future of English language schools is a bit cloudy. Okay, it’s clear that China continues to be a growth area and clearly technology offers all kinds of versatile learning opportunities for students. From Japan, we learn that Sharp has launched an English teaching robot! And the Internet means that students can link up with teachers cutting out the medium of the school altogether. No doubt such remote means of learning and teaching will continue to develop but, ultimately, it is the personal contact that means most in the learning process.

Actually instead of looking forward, I want to look back at the history of the English language schools. I was privileged to meet Frank Bell in the UK. As a prisoner of war, Frank’s love of languages and his belief in education shaped desire to improve international understanding. Frank organized language classes for his fellow prisoners and after the war continued his work for peace through mutual understanding by establishing the Bell School in Cambridge to teach English. He went on to set up the Bell Educational Trust as a non-profit organization whose money from fees is reinvested in developing and improving the services and facilities for students, and the worldwide services that are offered. Today, Bell has four intensive training centers in the UK and more than 20 partners throughout Europe and in Asia.

The more commercially oriented language schools that followed in its wake and that have now spread so extensively through the world perhaps cannot be said to reflect Frank Bell’s idealism. But even so, the mere fact that English language helps the international community to have meaningful contact must be a factor for good in our complex and often tragic world. Leaving aside all issues of cross-cultural misunderstanding, the use of English internationally at least helps further E.M. Forster’s dictum: “only connect”. If we can only talk to each other, surely there is hope for mutual understanding and mutual respect.

My wishes for all schools are for a happy, harmonious and, of course, prosperous New Year.


Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


  1. imran_mureed Says:

    Comment on current English Language profession

    English language is considered to be an international language which is spoken in all
    over the World.
    I have been teaching English language for 7 years and I found myself extremely nimble, interested.
    The more I teach, the more I make my language posh.
    I was certain that when English language classes were assigned to me, I found myself interested and challenging in this stunning vocation.
    I have become particularly enthusiastic in this profession and now I have developed my career in that direction.

    Imran Mureed

  1. gareth Says:

    I think the industry needs to take a look at itself, we are faced by challenges that we have brought upon ourselves.
    Why do students turn to the internet or robots to teach them English. Maybe because they are reliable. I think English Lanugage Teaching has become too much about profit and not enough about education. Too many schools employ under qualified teachers and offer them no support to help their development as teachers. Too many teachers think teaching is just about being able to speak English at the students. Too many teachers enter the classroom armed with "Murphy" type activities, which although they can be useful,, do little to develop students' communicative skills. Students can do these kind of activities via the internet at their leisure and at times that suit them. Language Schools need to get bums back on seats. To do this they need to invest in their teachers, remember that initial training courses are the beginning not the end of teacher development. Better more professional teachers will lead to better more profesional lessons. In turn this should encourage people to re-engage with language schools and the face to face learning process.

  1. Ken May Says:

    I predict that new markets will explode in China, Vietnam, Lao, and Cambodia. The visa offices of these countries will start making it easier to obtain work permits. They will have become more trusting, but not quite ready to open up to western influence.

    At first, a fresh breed of "cowboy" teacher will blow into the country. Most of them will be unqualified without university degrees or teaching certificates. Maybe they will be backpackers in need of quick cash. Some of them will like the job and stay longer. A large percentage of them will quit working with the first paycheck. Many will squander this money on alcohol and bar girls, then try to find a new job once funds are gone.

    In response there will be nationalistic crackdowns. Some teachers will be kicked out of the country or fined. There will be many complaints about problem foreigners.

    New private schools will sprout like mushrooms. Owners will open doors even without a background in education. Many of them will hire English teachers illegally and cheat them on contracts.

    These emerging countries will gradually accept that they need English skills if they are to develop international trade, then they will start advertising teaching opportunities once again. Supply and demand will kick in, so schools will continue to hire anyone possible. If that teacher has three eyes and and twelve fingers they will still get hired - as long as they look the part. Filipinos and Germans will claim to be native speakers and also find jobs.

    ... but, in the subtle background, there will be a growing number of well qualified teachers who have the sincere desire to contibute. They will reside at a school and help develop its English programs for several years. As this community of EFL professionals takes root the country will prosper. Improved economic conditions will enable more youths to afford tuition. More students will enroll at schools with better reputations.

    Perhaps my predictions will all be wrong,the English teachers will go to Eastern Europe instead.

    Happy New Year to all!
    May 2006 bring you peace, love, and nice syntax.

Post a Comment



Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)