An English-speaking university
15.06.2016
Returning to a favourite theme of mine, Teaching English as a Foreign Language, we recently had a meeting to discuss how to improve English Language Teaching at TSU. This was quite an emotional meeting owing to the varying opinions on how to improve our teachers' language/professional skills. Improvement is of course a laudable aim, but the subtext to this meeting came across as though many in the university were (rightly or wrongly) dissatisfied with our teachers' ability either in English per se or in teaching it as a subject. The overall impression created, however, was a lack of clarity as to what precisely is expected of us in addition to what we already do or what abilities we perhaps lack as practitioners.

We might accept that there might be some difficulties in a university where many of the English language teachers have either never been to an English-speaking or have spent maybe no more than a couples of weeks immersed in the language, though this can hardly be construed as being the fault of those teachers. Part of what was suggested at the meeting involved our teachers being tested in the language (with Cambridge, IELTS and TOEFL examinations variously being mentioned). At the start of the meeting the target audience was announced as amounting to 100 teachers of English across the university, only to be whittled down to a meagre 10 who might actually undergo testing. There was even an insinuation that it might be better to apply for exam entry early and get tested at TSU's expense lest the university later insist that everyone undergo testing and, yes, pay for it themselves...

Evidently a more systematic approach is needed. Obviously for reforms to be embraced they need to involve much more consultation with those on the lower rungs of the ladder. Perhaps a better start would be not testing, but training. Sadly the emphasis was given to an envisaged "end result" rather than the process, despite the mention of more palatable endeavours such as mentoring, mutual class observation, etc. Are our teachers being cowed into anticipating forceful reforms or is it an overexaggeration of their imagination? Only time will tell. In the meantime I continue to offer my twice-weekly seminars for those very few colleagues who exhibit a desire to attend...