EFL and ESOL: worlds apart?

 A guest piece by winner of the TEFLtastic award for most interesting recent blog/ most recent interesting blog, 26 Letters

“First, a warning: for the sake of brevity, in this post I’m going to employ ridiculous, sweeping generalisations about adult EFL. References to English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL) are specific to the situation in the UK, ‘officially’ described as mainly offered free of charge for people wishing to settle long-term in the UK, as opposed to EFL classes which are mainly offered on a private basis for those in the country short-term.

Now: imagine the fragmented parts of the English language teaching world as if they were your grown-up children. If EFL (with its phalanx of international publishers, multimillion-turnover corporate chains, and well-known voices in academia) is the confidently successful, richer one, then ESOL is its slightly younger and scruffier brother. No-one ever talks about ESOL publishers. No-one ever takes a gap-year to teach ESOL. ESOL classes can take place in portakabins, long-abandoned inner-city community centres, backstreet converted warehouses. The ignorant would not associate it with ‘proper’ teaching, thinking it is more aligned with charity or social work. In contrast to its bigger brother, ESOL has to rely on state handouts- it is effectively on the dole.

ESOL is assaulted from the political right: it should be about ‘Citizenship’, assimilating immigrants to “British values” and helping them into low-paid work. ESOL is assaulted from the political left: it should be about diversity, multiculturalism, sensitivity. In all this, discussion about what should be the main project – learning English – can be lost amongst a network of self-interested quangos, funding bodies and policy documents.

One more big difference: an EFL teacher can reasonably expect their students to be able to read and write, even if it is only in their first language. At the lower-levels, ESOL tutors may have to tackle enthusiastic but pre-literate learners, who all speak a different first language from each other and the teacher. How one teaches someone the ability to read without being able to instruct them in their language is not something ESOL tutors have been adequately trained on, yet nevertheless must attempt.

The similarities with EFL (and where EFL could help to improve ESOL) grow when teaching the higher levels- pre-intermediates and above. For example, the same Headways, Rewards and Cutting Edges that are found in EFL schools all around the world are routinely used by many ESOL teachers. This is in some ways ironic, as Luke Meddings has pointed out: here they are, in an English-speaking country, surrounded by English-speaking people, television and newspapers, yet students are given work from a textbook aimed at a global audience residing in countries where English is not the first language. The various downsides to coursebooks have been discussed amply elsewhere, and a big problem using them in ESOL classes are the western cultural references: many ESOL students have never heard of the Beatles, Marylyn Monroe or William Shakespeare (though I suppose they could prompt a new ‘teaching moment’). At least EFL textbooks are not as patronising as some ESOL-specific worksheets. They use a reasonably-sized font and use semi-realistic adapted texts, and come with audio CDs, something which is lacking for ESOL students (apart from some poorly produced government ones).

The line between EFL/ESOL becomes further blurred when you consider the following: yes, a lot of ESOL students are refugees (some of them with professional backgrounds in their country of origin) from countries harshly described as ‘developing’ and without extensive educational systems. Yet what about the many EFL teachers in Cambodia, Brazil and Thailand or those with the VSO in Eritrea or Burma? Are they teaching ESOL or EFL? Yes, ESOL classes are multi- rather than mono-lingual, but what about the EFL schools on Oxford Street? Are they not teaching classes made up of people from all around the world? Surely, English is English, wherever in the world one may learn it.”

Not only an interesting piece, but exactly what I asked 26 Letters for. Any other requests for him or me? Any other similarities or differences? Any other volunteers to write a guest piece? Any other?

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26 Responses to EFL and ESOL: worlds apart?

  1. Sputnik says:

    That’s a very interesting piece 26 Steps. I must admit, I originally got into teaching English because I wanted to teach ESOL in the context in which you describe. Therein lies the difference for me – it’s far more important for a refugee to understand English and be able to make life-changing decisions in that language than for an EFL student to order coffee with cream instead of milk. I figured, rightly or wrongly, that I would have to be an exceptional teacher to be able to take on that responsibility to ensure that ESOL students got the very best language teaching possible in the circumstances. Yes, English is English to an extent, but the context in which it is learnt and deployed, and the reasons why, are highly germane.

  2. Interesting! I have the impression in the US that TESOL–teaching English to speakers of other languages–is kind of used as an umbrella term to include both TESL (English as a second language; generally, teaching English to people who’d be living in an English-dominant environment long-term) and TEFL (usually actually teaching abroad in non-English-dominant environment, but sometimes teaching in an English-dominant environment to students who plan to return to their homes overseas). The situations and terms seem to have some overlaps but some key differences.

  3. Leslie Burns says:

    Hi Alex

    Haven’t dropped by for a while. Shame on me, eh? 😉 Hope you’re well.

    I’m a little confused here…

    This article is certainly a really nice summary of some of the major points of both distinction AND similarity between EFL and ESL. Useful, I guess, if you’ve ever been unclear about the two.

    But many of us haven’t.

    I like the writer’s style and I find the article interesting enough, but I can’t actually see the point he’s attempting to put across here, I’m afraid.

    It may seem like I’m going out of my way to be rude, but I can assure you I am not. (Lord knows I’m Mayor of Tangentia!)

    What have I missed? Is it simply to clarify the difference between EFL & ESL? Or is it to suggest that there isn’t as big a difference as people say there is?

    ???

    Leslie

  4. Thanks 26 steps for an interesting post, I particularly liked the analysis of how ESOL could be assaulted from both the left and right of the political spectrum. There has been a very interesting report out recently on this very issue, which was discussed after a similiar (but less-thought-provoking to yours) post I did here.

    http://www.macmillanglobal.com/blog/author-blog/dispatch-from-the-uk-%E2%80%93-esol-efl-esl%E2%80%A6-what%E2%80%99s-the-difference

    And Alex, does this count as the first time I got a topic in before you did? Can I open a bottle to celebrate?

  5. Great piece. I’m commenting as a fairly new ESOL teacher in the UK, also having spent a couple of years in Spain teaching EFL mainly to Spanish speakers. I think you’re spot on with the comments you make above – the politicised nature of ESOL and how that’s tied to government policy re immigration and citizenship; the dubious quality of material specifically produced for ESOL providers (it needs a SERIOUS update); and the issue of literacy particularly. This is something I have struggled greatly with, for exactly the reason you describe above.

    But the funny thing is that I find it infinitely more rewarding than teaching the monolingual classes I taught in Spain. I’m amazed what people in ESOL do, with such conditions placed upon them, and like Sputnik am in awe of people who do this. I’m lucky in that I teach students you might class as ESOL learners as well as some you might call EFL, so I have a very wide variety of classes and learners. Compare this to when I was in Spain, when my learners (mostly) had the same educational and life experience and I feel it’s (for me anyway) a much richer experience as a teacher.

  6. 26 Letters says:

    Thanks for the positive (or otherwise) comments.

    Mike and Sputnik: absolutely. ESOL can be (and often is) more rewarding than EFL. The confines of a blog post (in terms of word count) meant that I didn’t have ‘time’ to write about the most positive aspects. I could tell loads of stories of great ESOL students I’ve had the pleasure to meet over the years. My point in the article was that I want to avoid patronising them, yet the curriculum that is imposed makes it difficult not to do this. Is it not borderline racist to have one curriculum for Europeans and a different one for refugees (which like I wrote about in the post may have professional and educated backgrounds) from Asia and Africa?

    Lindsay: thanks for the link. Interesting reading.

    Leslie: it’s the latter. I wanted to suggest that aside from the very lowest levels, ESOL students would benefit from more of an EFL-type curriculum.

  7. philb81 says:

    UK ESOL needs to cater for every kind of student (almost every kind found globally) because every kind of student comes to the UK (I’ve taught students from over 50 different countries).

    Whether someone is educated/literate or not is independent of which continent they are from and independent of whether they are refugees or not. The system/curriculum/teaching materials/training needs to reflect that – the ESOL/EFL binary is of limited use. Both sides have existed, exist and will exist

    The irony is that the lowest levels of literacy where I work are amongst the UK-born population.

  8. I’m not sure an EFL-style curriculum is being given to higher level ESOL students. I certainly know Level 1 and 2 (the top two levels of ESOL) groups at my college are taught from a variety of traditionally EFL coursebooks. Having said that, they still have to be taught to pass Cambridge ESOL exams. Slightly linked to what Phil says about students with the lowest levels of literacy he has taught being UK-born – how odd is it that at Level 1 and 2 ESOL students are given the same reading exam as native speakers??

    I think what is patronising about ESOL is the materials. Listen to Mr Mahmood talking about festivals, Sanjit’s going shopping, Irine wants to leave a note for her friend =(

  9. Argh, I meant ‘I’m not sure an EFL-style curriculum isn’t already being given to higher level…’ [can I have an edit please??]

  10. 26 Letters says:

    x2 Mike on the ESOL materials: dull, chaotically sequenced, lacking depth. The further problem is that both the ESOL exams and Curriculum are effectively based on those materials.

    Re: Level 1 and 2 Reading exams being the same as UK literacy ones. This is because, in their wisdom, the strategists who planned the Skills for Life agenda back in 2000 decided ESOL would be based upon the existing literacy curriculum. I think this may have something to the fact that ESOL was added on at the last moment. They only decided to release a national ESOL curriculum in 2000, and it was released less than a year later. Not much time to put together anything original.

  11. Leslie Burns says:

    @26letters… cheers for the clarification. I had a poke around your site, btw. Some terrific stuff there! I followed some links to some links to some links and I LIKED where I ended up! Will email you some time. Thanks.

    P.S. I did like your article, incidentally. I especially liked the rick older brother/slightly scruffier younger one part. 🙂

    @Alex… thanks for another good guest post! Keep ’em coming from some of the great writers you have in your sidebar.

  12. Diarmuid says:

    With my usual contrary head on…

    I’m going to dispute the idea that ESOL is a helpless dinghy buffeted by the windy forces of the political left and right. Your guest suggested that the “main project” should be “learning English.” I suspect that there is not much debate about this, but feel that it is a bit reductionist. It’s like going on a wine-tasting course and saying, “But the whole point is just to get pissed, isn’t it?”

    Is the main point of teaching English to immigrants to help them “learn English”? Well, the government might not seem to think so. Initially, I think they would have said that (one of) the main point(s) was to raise the literacy standards of the working population. There would presumably be mention of the need to help people integrate into their host culture(s) and to improve their ability to function within our industrialised society. Learning English may be instrumental within this project, but it is not the be-all and the end-all of ESOL.

    ESOL (as understood within the UK context) tends to deal with people who are far more vulnerable than their EFL counterparts; ESOL is also affected far greatly by direct political influence (in the form of funding, the diktats concerning What Is To Be Learnt and How Levels Are To Be Judged). The idea that English teaching takes place in a contextless vacuum where nobody has any other motivation other than To Learn The Language is a rather naive one (apologies for sounding overly harsh…and for putting words at the end of 26 Letters’ fingertips).

    And so ESOL is a very politically-charged area. There is no harm at all in teachers examining their own consciences in trying to find an answer to the question: “Am I here trying to make these students fit into my culture or am I trying to help them appropriate some of the values that they need to manipulate in order to fulfill their needs/desires?” It is not dissimilar to the questions put forward by Paulo Freire (praise be upon him). Freire was concerned with increasing the literacy rate among the more disadvantaged members of his society. However, he realised that as an educator his role was more than just “teaching them how to read”. The point was to empower people to see that reading would allow them to manipulate the world around them and to change it.

    Freirean ESOL teachers will argue that the main project is not to teach English, but to help immigrants approach the culture that hosts them as an equal. It is about helping immigrants to use the tools that other members of society have access to in order to meet their own particular needs; it is about helping them identify what their rights are within the culture that they have chosen to live in and to use tools to make sure that these rights can be asserted and respected. On a deeper -and more contentious- level, it is about highlighting that the rules and regulations that structure their new society are not immutable, but the product of powerful forces within society and about helping people learn how to appropriate the tools that are used to make these rules and regulations and to use them for their own benefit.

    Here endeth the lesson.

  13. 26 Letters says:

    Hi Diarmuid and thanks for the lengthy comments. Lots of interesting points and very well-put. I respectfully disagree with some of them however:

    I don’t think English teaching takes place in a contextless vacuum. Far from it. The fact that the government department responsible for adult education in the UK is named “the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills” should tell you a lot about exactly what that context is. The UK government’s approach to education is to treat it as merely training for employment, and often not very rewarding employment.

    The Skills for Life agenda was planned in 1998 when it was discovered that levels of literacy and numeracy amongst British adults was the lowest out of any western European nation. An indictment, perhaps, of the failure of UK state education thus far. ESOL was added a little later, which coincided with a massive increase in immigration to the UK. The UK is now a postindustrial society. Many immigrants coming to the UK hoping to find work once their applications had been approved found themselves on welfare benefits. The reasons for this are multi-faceted, but a big reason is that there are not many low-skilled manufacturing jobs left. Another reason is that many employers disregard completely immigrants without provable extensive educational and employment backgrounds. This is the reason that many ESOL students are, as you say, vulnerable: they are either on benefits, in very low-paid work or in illegal work. A minority, (I strongly emphasise again: a minority), are content to stay on welfare because even that gives them a higher standard of living than they experienced in their first country. Many others would love to work if only someone would give them a chance.

    They deserve the best educational opportunities available. Unfortunately the current ESOL curriculum does not provide this, but is (to borrow your wording) reductionist. The curriculum has a tendency to reduce English to either (at the lower levels) “survival” English or (at the higher levels) English useful for basic employment. My point in the article is that EFL students have a choice of learning English for the reasons they want to: why should ESOL students not have the same choice?

    We are in agreement that ESOL teaching comes with “diktats”, mostly based around active learning and objective-based lessons: more reductionism.

    I’m all for empowerment of ESOL students. Literacy is probably the best way to empowerment. As Edmund Stone said: “Once you know the 26 letters of the alphabet, one may learn anything.” Therefore that’s where the focus should be rather than trying to impose an explicit left-wing agenda on them that could distract from what I still believe should be the “main project”. An ESOL student who can read English to a good level will then have access to those tools of empowerment that you mention. They could then, like the rest of us, make up their own minds.

  14. 26 Letters says:

    Shite grammar alert: “………….levels of literacy was the lowest in western Europe” should be “*were* the lowest….”

    …………I’m just off to sign up to my local literacy class : )

  15. Mark Bain says:

    Don’t be to hard on yourself. The authors of a recent Scottish government-commissioned report into – of all things – literacy levels published the final draft of the report with the following, admittedly difficult to spot howler:
    “It was a privilege to be asked to Chair the Literacy Commission and, along with my colleagues, to produce a report and series of recommendations that we believe can help to address *the low levels of avoidable illiteracy* that still exist in Scotland today.”
    I blogged about it here:
    http://markcbain.com/2010/01/scottish-governments-literacy-commission-calls-for-immediate-action-to-reduce-national-literacy-levels/
    Despite writing an email to the authors, they haven’t bothered to edit the report, which is still available for download with the mistake.

  16. 26 Letters says:

    Thanks Mark….and it should be “don’t be TOO hard on yourself!” : )

    I guess we should be forgiven if it is on the internet. No time for proofreading or editing.

  17. Mark Bain says:

    : ) See, best not to throw stones if you live in a glass house. I always thought that saying referred to the fact that glass is easily broken, but maybe it has something to do with living in public, too… My feeling about the aforementioned literacy report… they were demanding “zero tolerance”, but couldn’t quite achieve that themselves. Can anyone? Apparently, greater eyes than mine had scoured the document.
    In the Blogosphere, I think it’s important that mistakes are made. If there wasn’t a wee bit of leeway given, fewer people would contribute to the debate, which I see as a form of “thinking aloud in public”.
    There: written in 5 minutes whilst drinking my first coffee of the day, don’t have time or inclination to re-read and proof-read, but hopefully clear enough to communicate my message.

  18. Great post and discussion!

    This analysis of the differences and similarities between EFL and ESOL seems to apply pretty well in my own comparisons of EFL (which I taught in Korea) and ESOL (which my Korean wife is enrolled in here in Australia) as well.

    I tracked down the actual objectives used for my wife’s ESOL program, and it was very much this “skills for life” sort of agenda.

    I love Diarmuid’s contribution on this subject as well, and wish my wife’s teachers could/would read and learn something from it…

    Cheers,

    ~ Jason

  19. 26 Letters says:

    Thanks a lot Jason for the comments, interesting but not surprising that Australian ESOL has similar objectives: I think the anglosphere just looked at the U.S. approach and universalised it. Out of interest, who generally provides the ESOL classes in Australia? Local colleges, community centres or private schools contracted by govt.? Or all three?

    Cheers,

    26 Letters.

  20. Yes, all three.

    The course my wife is taking is provided by AMEP (Australian Migrant English Program) – as a migrant she’s entitled to 510 hours free study in the program.

    It’s actually reasonably good, but (from what I see and hear) suffers from the same affliction most government sponsored and run programs do – coordinators and teachers priding themselves on doing a mediocre job. The “skills for life” criteria appears to be applied fairly haphazardly, and doesn’t impact on leveling (or leveling up) decisions so much as time spent in a level and the whims of the coordinators at the time.

    Still, the classes are rich in terms of diversity of cultures and backgrounds – my wife loves that, and the basic requirement that for everyone to socialize and get along, English is the only language they can all access and work with.

    Cheers,

    ~ Jason

  21. Laura says:

    Interesting enough for me to write a reply!

    I have just read your article ‘EFL and ESOL:Worlds Apart’ and feel I need to add my bit to the discussion, even though I am perhaps a bit late. I started teaching basic skills in 2002, which was shortly after the Skills for Life Strategy was introduced. This was instigated after the Moser Report was published which gave the proposals for teaching basic skills. At that time there were only 15 countries which were part of Europe and it was two years later that the other 10 countries joined.

    Prior to this point I worked in the community and taught literacy, numeracy and ESOL. At that time there were very few ESOL students (compared to the amount in rural areas now). However, for them at that time, learning English was not as important as meeting other ethnic minorities who were in the same position as themselves.

    I qualified as a basic skills tutor and specialised in ESOL and later gained the Cert TESOL. I have not taught EFL other than to students on the Cert TESOL course, however, I feel experienced enough to give my contribution to this discussion with regard to the differences as seen from my viewpoint.

    I have been fortunate enough to have taught the following groups – From age 14 to 64! Mixed college classes, community classes and also workbased bespoke classes. When I started teaching ESOL, I had never heard of EFL and lucky for me I was creative enough to make my own resources. I would agree that the official Core Curriculum ESOL coursebooks are boring, however, they do contain the topic material that is needed to pass the ESOL Entry Level exams. I am not a fan of them at all, nonetheless, I will dip into them to adapt or produce my own lessons. New teachers of ESOL cannot go wrong with using them and there have been some smashing interactive activities created from these materials which are posted on internet sites by ESOL teachers. My students are rarely given work from a global textbook or a global grammar book.

    I would not say that the EFL books (Headway, Reward etc) are the be and end all for teaching language. I use these too – for dipping in and out of and I would not say, they are NOT routinely used by ESOL teachers. My reasoning for this is that a qualified ESOL teacher has the ESOL Level 4 subject specialism plus other qualifications and does not need to have a Cert TESOL, Celta or a Delta to be qualified to teach ESOL. I would imagine that a lot of ESOL teachers do not have a Celta or Cert TESOL and therefore are probably unaware these resources exist. I also think that to follow a course book religiously cannot work for ESOL students as the students are streamed into different levels and there can be a huge difference in the ability of each student at the same level. (I once had thirteen different nationalities in one class).

    A lot of teachers who teach ESOL are basic skills trained. This is of great help with the diversity and challenge that the ESOL student can offer. It could be argued that this training makes them more equipped to teach the illiterate ESOL student. The same problems can exist for the ESOL student as well as the English student and the methodology that is used for teaching a totally illiterate student can be very useful! I have had the experience of teaching people who cannot read or write at all and my basic skills training has proven to be exceptionally useful.

    The students are not the same. I would say that the ESOL students are more diverse, there is usually a mixed age group in the adult classes and they usually come from different and varying educational backgrounds, as well as having different reasons for being in the UK. In my experience this has been the case in every class that I have had; whether in the community, in college or in the workplace.

    Additionally, the ESOL classes are not free, they are subsidised and have been since 2007. All my students pay, except for those under 19. The amount they pay does however depend upon their personal circumstances. The government provide a subsidy, but generally the cost of classes goes into three figures.

    I am very fortunate that I share a staffroom with three fabulous EFL teachers who teach the international students and we often swap ideas and resources. My students often transfer to their classes because their purpose for learning changes. They want to go to university, the ones who stay with me, want to live in the UK and make this their home.

    I don’t teach EFL, I teach ESOL. There is a crossover between the two, this is inevitable. The purpose is however different. I am not going to teach my students to pass an IELTS exam, I will teach them what they need to pass an ESOL exam. That is what I am here for.

  22. 26 Letters says:

    Hi Laura,

    Sorry for the late answer, but I’ve only just come across it. Thanks a lot for your lengthy reply to my article, which by necessity was brief and didn’t cover all the bases I wanted to.

    Firstly, you are a more experienced ESOL tutor than me, and it sounds like you have a high degree of dedication, so you can take what I’m about to write with a pinch of salt.

    Nevertheless I must make the following points.

    The last line raises an alarm:

    “I will teach them what they need to pass an ESOL exam. That is what I am here for.”

    I agree to an extent: I would say it is about 50% of what I’m there for. I have two objectives with my class at the beginning of the year: to help them improve their English, and to help them pass the exams. The two are, unfortunately, separate goals.

    You wrote that you agreed the Core Curriculum materials are boring, but contained the material necessary for students to pass the exam. It is the other way round: the exams are based on the curriculum, in order for exam boards to get official approval. If the government provided a completely different curriculum, then the exam boards would very quickly follow suit, so I’m afraid I don’t agree it is a valid argument in defence of those materials.

    I wholeheartedly agree that the big-name coursebooks like Headway are not the be all and end all of language teaching. Far from it. However they do contain some texts of interest, which can be copied, cut-out and adapted for ESOL students. Even though I have worked in similar places to you (colleges, community classes etc.), our experiences must differ: nearly every ESOL tutor I have ever met has used EFL textbooks at some point. Having said that, they are certainly not used daily, and in any case ESOL students are not required to buy a set textbook so that the teacher can simply say “Turn to Page 94” at the beginning of every lesson. Therefore I would agree with you with regards to the “religious” use of textbooks.

    You’re also right that the Literacy teaching background you have must be of great help to your pre-literate ESOL students. In fact, I think a lot more training needs to be offered to ESOL tutors to help them do this, hence why I wrote in the article:

    “an EFL teacher can reasonably expect their students to be able to read and write, even if it is only in their first language. At the lower-levels, ESOL tutors may have to tackle enthusiastic but pre-literate learners, who all speak a different first language from each other and the teacher. How one teaches someone the ability to read without being able to instruct them in their language is not something ESOL tutors have been adequately trained on, yet nevertheless must attempt.”

    “The students are not the same.” Well, OK, but my point in the article is that we shouldn’t LIMIT students in ESOL classes. The ‘hidden’ assumption in EFL is that learning English will be of economic benefit to the student who’ll then be able to go to university or get a more highly paid job. I am being very harsh here, but the ‘hidden’ assumption in ESOL is that being able to speak English to a “bog-standard” level is “good-enough” for poor migrants, so they at least are able to negotiate their way through the various government agencies they’ll come across in order to survive/rent a council house/get citizenship.

    I believe they are not truly empowered until they get beyond this level, so that they are comfortable with more integrating with people outside their community and are in a position to sort stuff out for themselves rather than relying on government agencies to do this for them. I am not blaming individual students for this, but rather the government curriculum and related policies.

    The past 5 years have seen many Polish and eastern European students in ESOL classes. They have almost universally been through high school and often university (and are often better educated than their teachers!). In what way, by your definitions, are these people “ESOL” as opposed to “EFL” students? They are literate, well-educated, and some of them are only in the UK for the short-term. This is an example of where the lines have become blurred.

    To me, a pre-literate Afghan female who never received education as a child should have the same equality of opportunity as a guy from Poland with a degree. Luckily, I have seen examples where ESOL students starting at Entry 1 with very little confidence are able, after a few years, to become fully independent, chatty, and academically-successful people (going on, as you have also seen, to do IELTS exams) . This should be the aim for ESOL students to reach. Sure, not everyone wants this nor should they, but neither should we “aim low”. A lot of these students have had to put up with a lot of crap in their countries of origin, let’s not make their experience in the UK one of being a passive welfare recipient or ultra low-paid worker in fields that the ‘natives’ won’t do. They deserve better.

    On the last point about charges: The vast majority of ESOL students still take their classes (often for several years) completely free of charge, with some colleges even offering travel expenses and free childcare. Since 2007, if a student earns over £15,000 they have to pay anywhere between £500-£1000 in fees. Sadly, in the inner-city communities I work in, very few (i.e. maybe one per class) have an income anywhere near £15,000. Most of them either receive some kind of benefit or are in very low-paid part-time work. However, I acknowledge this may be completely different in other parts of the country.

  23. Laura says:

    Hi Alex
    Thanks for your reply, however, there is no need for alarm, my objective is also to help them improve their English, however I have time limitations to do this, so I try to give them what they need and what they want, the same as you do. Helping students to achieve the standard for an exam enables the student to progress through the levels and have exposure to more complex language items.
    With regard to the CC materials, love them or hate them they are the official ESOL materials for use in class and contain a lot of language functionality that does give topical exam material and language for daily use.
    I also agree with you totally that we should not limit English and it would be very sad if there are any teachers out there who thought that teaching English to a ‘bog standard level’ was good enough. I try and teach along the lines of Krashen and offer a challenge, irrespective of their previous academic background.
    As I previously stated, I believe the ESOL students are more diverse because of the wide variety of academic backgrounds. Whether a student is ESOl or EFL is ultimately defined by their enrolment form, which is completed with the student after intensive interviews and tests, to meet the student needs and their long term goals.
    With regard to charges, every student is individual; however, most of my students are paying learners, with the minority who are exempt from charges. Thanks for your interesting reply, much appreciated.

  24. 26 Letters says:

    Hi Laura,

    BTW I am not Alex! I wrote this as a guest post for Mr. Case.

    I agree with most of the points you have made here. I do still have issues though with the curriculum and think it is high time for a re-think (it is nearly 10 years old, after all). Plus, the bureaucracy and paperwork needs to be got rid of, given that it neither helps the learner nor the student (it only satisfies the data-hungry demands of senior managers). There are factors out of our control in wider society too: the lack of jobs for people without good English and ongoing prejudice against work experience or qualifications gained in other countries.

  25. 26 Letters says:

    Should be: “neither helps the TEACHER nor the student”

  26. Jon says:

    I applaud the writer of this blog- “EFL and ESOL: worlds apart?”
    Your point is made quite succinctly and well. ESOL is a quasi-academic non-discipline in the UK. As a teacher of it I can testify to the infuriation one feels trying to peg out a coherent plan or scheme for this subject which is, in truth as you note, a political football. Torn at contentiously from either side by the political ‘elite’ [read populist spineless jingoists] to the left and to the right. Becuase its main currency is the ‘scary’ issue of immigration it is denied any space to cultivate its own format. With the very existence of its learner body being classified and reclassified due to the whims of political leanings and the vagaries of funding bodies – who can know just who we are talking about? [I.e. what ARE ‘settled communities’ anyway?]
    For this reason ESOL has NO clear agenda. Therefore it has NO textbooks. It does not know who it is speaking to and why….
    Its curriculum generally follows that of the literacy agenda but this is based upon the throwaway assumption that to learn and understand UK English is to be literate. This is to forget that most people in the UK have had the initial benefit of 10 years of state education as a base point – unlike ESOL learners. COME on the UK academic/political spectrum complex – sort it OUT! Make teaching English to new arrivals to this country non-political to the extent that we can provide a meaningful curriculum, we can publish [at least some..] meaningful textbooks to aid these learners in their quest; or at the very least acknowledge the almost Herculean nature of the pressure you heap upon ESOL tutor’s shoulders as you expect them essentially to conjure up all of their materials [textbooks anyone?] , planning and x amount of photocopying out of pure thin air. I challenge anyone to tell me of a more disparate, skitsophrenic enterprise which goes under the name of government educational provision.
    It leaves us chasing our tails and makes us look stupid – I for one am sick of being seen to be accountable for other peoples [our leaders] failings and inconsistencies.
    Feel a bit better now….btw which textbooks do you recommend?

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