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Politicizing ESOL

September 03, 2007

Hello again,

ESOL in the UK is in a pretty pickle. It has become a political issue that is being handled in the most incompetent manner. First came ...

the great schism between ESOL and EFL. With so many migrants to the UK, English language qualifications were targeted as one of the hurdles to British citizenship. With unaccustomed haste, sluggish exam boards came up with new suites of exams appropriate to those wishing to live and work in the UK. These it seems reflect a different kind of English from that on offer to the traditional foreign student wishing to add English language skills to their overall educational qualifications.

Next came the great fees fiasco. While EFL students continued to pay fees for their courses, ESOL students were offered free courses much to the chagrin of the private sector. Naturally, the demand for such courses escalated. However, in a bungling u-turn, the government announced last October that most adult students would have to pay a third of fees for courses offered from this September. Only asylum seekers under the age of 19 or those still waiting for a decision on their asylum claim after six months will be entitled to free lessons. Other students will need to prove that they are entitled to a strictly limited range of unemployment or social assistance payments to be eligible for fully subsidised courses. Those who are not could have to pay up to £900 for a 15-hour-a-week Esol course over a full academic year.

The knock-on effects of all this mean that teachers’ jobs are at risk, examination entries will be down and some of the most vulnerable migrants will be unable to study for the most basic educational qualification. Some ESOL teachers now propose a new "public Esol lessons" outside colleges when teaching starts again to highlight the plight of rejected students and those who can't afford fees.

We shall see.

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