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English now the lingua franca of education

13 December 20141 comment

shutterstock_25480417-resizedEnglish is become the universal language of teaching and instruction across the globe, according to new research.

According to the interim findings of a report by the British Council and University of Oxford’s department of education, English is increasingly becoming the lingua franca for education institutions across the world – from primary schools to universities.

The report describes the use of English in teaching as a “galloping phenomenon” across the world.

It says university administrators are increasingly regarding English as a Medium of Instruction – or EMI, as a facilitator to attracting financially lucrative international students and as a way to improve their institution’s position in global university rankings.

Lecturers, meanwhile, are more idealistic, saying it could improve the exchange of ideas and promote better relations between countries.

Although institutions believe they can improve both financially and academically as a result of EMI, the report also finds that examinations and assessment are a “problematic area”.

“Lectures were sometimes in English while exams were in [the mother tongue] due to university policy, student pressure or the law,” the report says.

It also asks: “Do teachers have a sufficiently high level of English to write and mark exams? What is being assessed: the English or the subject content?”

The report also cites concerns about the impact of teaching in English on the home language and culture, and fears that it could foster inequality between those students who could speak English, who are often from wealthier backgrounds, and those who could not.

“We see the move to using English as the lingua franca of higher education globally as the most significant current trend in internationalising higher education,” said a spokesperson for the British Council.

Oxford University’s director of the department of education at Oxford Ernesto Macaro said: “More and more institutions across the world are using English to teach academic subjects, spurred on by a desire to internationalise their offer and their academic profile.”

Economics lecturer Ian Pringle who has taught in Korea and China says another reason English is becoming the global language of education is that most of the best text books are published in the English speaking world.

“Particularly in technical subjects, all of the best text and manuals are written in English,” he said.

“Students in non-English speaking countries also see it as an advantage to be able to communicate in English. It is almost a prerequisite if you want an international career,” he said.

Helen Matovu-Reed
AMES Staff Writer