Adapted from an article by Frances Amrani, written for Oriel Square and published on 21st October 2021.
#1: In taking care not to offend, publishers can fail to address learners’ real needs
All too often, students’ learning is hindered by the overzealous application of sensitivity guidelines. For example, Muslim students may be prevented from learning how to ask simple questions like ‘Does this food contain pork?’ because they never encounter the word pork in their teaching materials.
Publishers must work to accommodate variations in expectations, cultural norms and education systems to shape educational materials for local contexts.
#2: A pursuit of ‘perfect’ English
In striving for excellence, often with generous budgets, countries approach a wide range of experts from all around the world. This leads to British, American and other varieties of English being delivered at the same time. The result is often disjointed.
Joining up course materials, exam specifications and classroom delivery would allow for a more cohesive programme of content, whatever the variety of English.
#3: Implementing best practice
Despite the increasing emphasis on learner-focused learning and teacher training, traditional explanations of grammar are still used.
In North Africa, where the approach of modelling language in context rather than explaining it has been adopted, levels of fluency are much higher and are rapidly improving. In Dubai and elsewhere, using English as the language of instruction in primary schools has also seen positive results.
#4: Avoiding teaching to the test
In a recent teacher training workshop I delivered, a Tunisian teacher summed up the focus on exam success: “English language learning is all about certification and passing an exam so learners can use it for work.” Even in the private sector, it is often easier to sell a course for young learners that ‘looks serious’.
It isn’t easy to implement policy changes without first convincing Ministries of Education and other educational stakeholders. Until exams change, traditional practice will still prove popular.
#5: Retaining authenticity
Many students are already well aware of how English can open up windows to the world. In future, English will be increasingly used as the medium of instruction and learners will start at a younger age.
We will also see moves towards more privately and commercially published materials. To ensure that these materials are authentic and tailored to specific local contexts, their development should be ‘home-grown’ and should involve the increasingly skilled ranks of local ELT educationalists.
Frances Amrani has 35 years of experience working with schools in the MENA region. Based in Cambridge in the UK, Amrani Education offers educational consultancy and tailored teacher training. Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
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