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Enough is Enough in ELT

220px-Ian Mackenzie High School Classroom

I have recently been involved in a closed group discussion thread on LinkedIn titled,

'"Please join "Against discrimination in EFL jobs group"

Please join "Against discrimination in EFL jobs group" on linked in and enrich the group with your precious opinion.'

It has been very interesting and informative. This is my attempt to sum up and comment on the outcome of 222 posts by numerous people.

"May I explain what I personally think has happened in this discussion? I will try to do it as objectively and dispassionately as possible so as to try not to cause any offense or mention any names or posts. I think this thread could, if you take it as a whole, be a metaphor for the problems facing ELT, education and, even, the world (I know, that's a big claim!).

Freedom of information and the free flow of information is causing trouble for the gatekeepers of the status quo, in all areas, including ELT. People previously without access to information, connections and platforms now have them and things are changing rapidly.

I believe about 20% of the world's English teachers are native speakers (there are lots of links and research we have all seen them). That leaves 80% that aren't.

Since ELT became a profession or industry the 20% have had it all their own way (the kudos and the cash). And, I think all of us here would have to agree, hold and continue to exercise, considerable power and prestige in the eyes of many.

The 20/80 hegemony is based upon the preservation of the native speaker as expert, as evident in the recent decision of Turkey's government to import native speaker English teachers, the Korean govt and others. Plus the premium that students will pay to have a class with a native speaker teacher.

There have been decades of conditioning, lobbying and marketing in collaboration with governments run by people who are signed up members of the club (many having been educated at prestigious UK and US universities).

However, with more and more people learning English in order to be able to speak to other English learners, with neither being native speakers of the language, we are seeing the development of what some have called world English or Globish (Google it).

The underlying purpose of this new variety of English is purely ease of communication. People want to be able to understand each other, socialise and do business.

However, the new English has not been embraced by the status quo. A system that has spent decades creating and developing increasing numbers of specialisations and qualifications that they control and act as gatekeeper for.

Outright opposition to the spread of this new type of awareness is impossible because that would provoke revolt and the walls would come tumbling down. So, when issues of unfairness and subjugation get aired (which is increasingly the case, such as in threads like this) there are two obvious responses for those in power to make.

1. Ignore it completely.

2. Try to empathise and then fall back on the conditioning effect of years of dominance and assumed superiority and complexity.

These are very sensitive subjects because a lot rests on the outcome. One of the gatekeepers of global ELT, Macmillan, published an English course called Global recently to great acclaim for its modern view of world English language teaching and use (http://www.macmillanglobal.com/).

This week Macmillan was fined $17m by the High Court after a Serious Fraud Office investigation,

"The company admitted that a representative of Macmillan Education made "improper and unauthorised payments" to local officials in its unsuccessful bid to win a multimillion-pound contract to print English language teaching and school curriculum materials. The tender was part of a $45.9m project to develop the school curriculum, train thousands of teachers, build 100 schools and refurbish a further 50." (http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2011/jul/25/macmillan-education-deal-south-sudan)

In a reply to a Freedom of Information request that I lodged that the 'big four' (their term) UK ELT publishers, Macmillan included, were given free advertising and free sample give away rights on the BBC and British Council's flagship 'Teaching English' website for over a year after launch, to the exclusion of all other publishers (http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/).

If you still have any doubts about the where the 80% stand in the eyes of the 20% you should read the recent British Council commissioned report into how to exploit the growing affluence and corresponding demand for English language teaching in Africa, as reported by the Guardian:


The Arab Spring, News International and soon....ELT, a $50bn global industry?

Maybe. It's all about control and when something sparks the majority to say 'enough is enough'."