5.4 Changing Policy-Makers’ Beliefs About English

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In some predominantly Anglophone contexts around the world, the sole dominance of US or UK versions of ‘Standard English’ are being questioned, even at the level of education departments. For example, the principles and practice guidelines for literacy and English teachers in Scotland state that:

    “Children and young people encounter, enjoy and learn from the diversity of language used in their homes, their communities, by the media and by their peers.” (p. 1)

    “[…] it is expected that practitioners will build upon the diversity of language represented within the communities of Scotland, valuing the languages which children and young people bring to school.” (p. 4)

These principles are consistent with plurilithic approaches to English and recognise the value of the translanguaging practices we discussed in Unit 2.

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Figure 5.6: Education Scotland

[Source: Fry1989]

Discussion point 5.1

Read the following assessment of current possibilities for changing English in German schools (Kohn, 2011, p. 76):

    "In German secondary schools [...] the situation appears to be creatively inconsistent [...] On the one hand, however, non-native teachers and (new) correction rules that favour communicative skills over form add a certain touch of 'freedom'. At the same time, the educational authorities are beginning to take notice of pupils' needs regarding the use of English in lingua franca and intercultural contact situations. While the signals are still weak, they mark a shift away from the exclusive native speaker focus of the traditional foreign language teaching dogma and open a door for the development and implementation of more realistic pedagogical approaches. In addition, with the promotion of early foreign language learning and content and language integrated learning (CLIL), new contexts and conditions for classroom interaction are being introduced which strengthen and authenticate the overall communicative orientation and arguably lead to a cautious relaxation of Standard English norms."

(In case you are unfamiliar with the concepts mentioned by Kohn, you can find more information here about early foreign language learning and content and language integrated learning (CLIL).)

Are you aware of the way the national educational authorities in your own context view the learning and teaching of English, and which kind(s) of English are ‘proclaimed [as the] target norm’? Is there any sign that plurilithic orientations to English are leading to a ‘cautious relaxation of Standard English norms’ in your context?

If there are national, regional, or local policies that public education institutions must follow:

    ● Who makes the decisions about what goes on the English curriculum and in English exams?
    ● How do they make their decisions. Do they commission reports from academics, professional organisations or other experts? Do they ask other stakeholders for their opinions?
    ● Is there any other way you can have an impact on future changes?

Share your local intelligence here

One way to get involved in influencing policy decisions about teaching English in your area is by joining a professional organisation for English teachers. Contact details for many organisations are listed at the following sites:


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Figure 5.7: The major professional associations for English teachers