Elizabeth Erling discusses new book “English and Development”

Earlier this month we published English and Development: Policy, Pedagogy and Globalization, edited by Elizabeth Erling and Philip Seargeant. We asked Elizabeth to tell us a little about the ideas behind this book.

My interest in the role of the English language in development stems from my involvement in the English language education programme, English in Action (EIA), funded by UKAid, running in Bangladesh from 2008-2017 (www.eiabd.com).

"English and Development" edited by Elizabeth Erling and Philip Seargeant
“English and Development” edited by Elizabeth Erling and Philip Seargeant

The Programme’s goal is to contribute to the economic growth of Bangladesh by providing communicative English language as a tool for better access to the world economy. In working with teachers and students on this project, I began to wonder what uses they would have for English and whether or not English language competence would really help with their development, although it was clear that they certainly believed it would. I therefore started to look into the existing research on the relationship between English language learning and economic development, and whether or not correlations had been proven to exist. And Philip, with his expertise in the field of World Englishes, was naturally very curious about how such ideologies of English as a language of development were being formed and promoted (for more on his work on the Idea of English in Japan, see here)

As we began to talk to the people who had done work in this field, we found that there was still a lot of interest in the relationship between English and development as well as many new ideas about how to explore the relationship. It therefore seemed like a perfect opportunity to bring these people’s work together into an edited volume.

As such, our book draws together a series of original examinations and case studies by a range of scholars working in the burgeoning field of English and development, in contexts ranging from Sub-Saharan Africa and South America to South and Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe. The various chapters – written by well-known applied linguists with a broad range of experience working in development contexts – look to investigate the connections between English-language ability and personal as well as national development, as these are both discursively promoted (particularly through language policy) and as they are practically realized in developing societies. Several of the chapters also address the question of what effects the increased teaching and use of English is having on broader educational issues, as well as the impact it has on local language ecologies and cultural identities.

Related titles by Widin, Appleby and Rassool
Related titles by Widin, Appleby and Rassool

In preparing this volume, we knew that Multilingual Matters was the right publisher for us because of its history of publishing groundbreaking books in the field of language teaching and development (e.g. Jacqueline Widin’s book, Roslyn Appleby’s work, and that by Naz Rassool – Naz is also a contributor to this volume).

Just before the book was published, we were able to bring together several of the contributors at a joint Open University-British Council symposium on the Role of English Language Teaching in Development, the proceeds from which can be found here.

It has been a long journey to bring this book together, but one which I have very much enjoyed and learned from. I hope that the chapters in this volume will bring new perspectives to the discussion about the relationship between English and development and have a great impact on people working in this exciting field.

Update on Ethiopia project

Martin using the books with the children
Martin using the books with the children

Back in January we posted about one of our authors, Martin Pütz’s literacy project in Ethiopia. (You can see the original post here.) Since then Martin has returned from his latest trip to Ethiopia and has reported back to us on his progress.

The children with their new books
The children with their new books

He visited 4 different schools and brought newly purchased textbooks both in English and Amharic as well as exercise books, notebooks, writing materials and anatomical models for biology classes.

Schoolchildren in their classroom
Schoolchildren in their classroom

Martin reports that the “children, their teachers and parents were overwhelmed with joy. For me personally it was a marvellous experience to see the children’s happy faces and also to know that we did something good to promote basic education and literacy in Ethiopia which is so badly needed in this country.”

We look forward to hearing more about how the project develops in the future.

English Language Education in Iran

Following last month’s publication of English in Post-Revolutionary Iran, Jennifer Manoukian, a student of the book’s author, Maryam Borjian, tells us more about the book’s background and content.

Jennifer Manoukian, author of today's blog post
Jennifer Manoukian, author of today’s blog post

Whether at the movies or in the news, Iran has been receiving ample attention in the media in recent months. But in the coverage of Ben Affleck’s thriller Argo and the on-going debates over the Iranian nuclear program, the Iranian people themselves have been pushed into the shadows. In her forthcoming book, English in Post-Revolutionary Iran, Maryam Borjian draws the Iranian people out of the wings and onto center stage through a meticulous study of the politics of English language education in Iran since 1979.

With the 1979 Iranian Revolution came the reversal of the vast majority of policies implemented under the reign of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a strong ally of the United States and Great Britain. When the Pahlavi dynasty came to a decisive end and the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) replaced it, the state perception of English veered into a different direction. English was now considered suspicious—the main means through which the United States and Great Britain could exercise cultural hegemony.

Tiles from Golestan Palace Complex, 19th century, Tehran, Iran © Maryam Borjian
Tiles from Golestan Palace Complex, 19th century, Tehran, Iran. Photo courtesy of Maryam Borjian ©.

But, despite expectations that English language education would be curtailed after 1979, Borjian shows that the IRI did not reject English education, but in fact emphasized it through a process of indigenization. By producing its own teaching materials and eliminating all foreign cultural elements, the IRI created a homegrown, indigenized model of English education, free from the influence of the English-speaking countries and based entirely on the Islamic tenets of the Republic.

Yet despite the IRI’s more than three decades worth of attempts, Borjian illustrates that the existing system of English education in Iran has not been entirely indigenized. Contrary to the common perception, the educational influence of supranational forces like the World Bank, the United Nations, its various developmental agencies, and the British Council was never eliminated in post-revolutionary Iran. As a result, Iranian society has been marked by two diverging forms of English: (1) an indigenized model used by state-run education programs, and (2) an internationalized or Anglo-Americanized model used by private-run education programs in Iran. In her book, Borjian proposes a new framework to examine the process, causes and agents of these two diverging trends of indigenization and internationalization within English education.

English in Post-Revolutionary Iran
English in Post-Revolutionary Iran

English in Post-Revolutionary Iran is based in large part on data that Borjian collected during her year of fieldwork in Tehran in 2007-2008. She also makes substantial use of archival documents, and official reports, laws, and regulations in her study. To deliver a broad treatment of the role of English and English education in Iran, Borjian takes a multidisciplinary approach by blending scholarship on sociolinguistics, critical applied linguistics, comparative education, and educational policy.

In addition to its contribution to the field of linguistics and education, Borjian’s study also adds to the contemporary discussion of global Englishes. As scholar Ofelia García writes in her foreword, “what makes [Borjian’s] book so unique is precisely that it enlightens us about a context that we know so little about, and uses it to examine the many assumptions that we have had in the global English debate.”

Despite the efforts of the Islamic Republic of Iran, indigenized and Anglo-Americanized English coexist in modern Iran. The government’s large-scale attempts to eliminate any external influence that would lead to dialogue between Iranians and native English speakers have been thwarted by the digital revolution, which has reduced the IRI’s absolute control of information and created new opportunities for Iranians to look abroad to learn English. Maryam Borjian’s English in Post-Revolutionary Iran sheds light on the contentious relationship that the Iranian government has had with English over the past three decades and traces what that relationship has meant for ordinary Iranians.

About Jennifer Manoukian

Jennifer Manoukian is a graduate student in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University.

English in Post-Revolutionary Iran: From Indigenization to Internationalization

Following this week’s publication of English in Post-Revolutionary Iran, we asked the book’s author, Maryam Borjian, to explain a bit about its background.

Maryam Borjian, author of "English in Post-Revolutionary Iran"
Maryam Borjian, author of “English in Post-Revolutionary Iran”

Post-revolutionary Iran was envisioned with a homegrown, indigenized model of English education – an indigenized English free from the influence of the English-speaking nations. The indigenization movement began some 30 years ago at the onset of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

The founding of the Islamic Republic in Iran marked the beginning of a new era in the country’s political landscape. Iran, which had been under the geopolitical influence of the West since the early 19th century, turned away from its Western allies, the United States, in particular, to follow an anti-Western, anti-imperialist ideology. The dream was to achieve ‘self-reliance’ and ‘self-sufficiency’, not only from the capitalist West but also from the communist East. In the words of the grand revolutionary motto of the time, it was to be an Islamic Republic ‘self-sufficient’ (kod-kafā) from the West and the East (na sharqi, na gharbi).

Grand Bazaar of Kerman, 17th century, Kerman, Iran  © Maryam Borjian
Grand Bazaar of Kerman, 17th century, Kerman, Iran. Photo courtesy of Maryam Borjian ©.

Within such a climate, the attitude towards foreign languages was profoundly negative and they were treated as ‘suspicious subject matters’ and ‘the enemies of the people’. Among foreign languages, English was considered the most unfortunate as it was closely associated with the United States, ‘Great Satan,’ and its closest ally, the United Kingdom. The intensity of hostility towards the West and to European languages could perhaps be best explained by the closure of the Iran–America Society and the British Council, the most active centers of English language teaching (ELT) in pre-revolutionary Iran. To eliminate all variables associated with cultural and linguistic imperialism, all foreign language schools were closed and foreign teachers and professors were expelled from the country. A state-run publishing house, aka SAMT, was established to produce indigenized, homegrown textbooks, in which some aspects of English were selectively accepted (phonology, morphology and syntax), whereas the cultural elements of the language were all removed.

As such, a new form of English was born, a form that some may regard as a ‘flat, lifeless and context-free language’, which has been taught to generations of school children via the state’s approved homegrown English textbooks ever since.

The indigenization movement, together with anti-Western and anti-imperialist sentiments, has continued to dominate the political and educational discourse of post-revolutionary Iran for the better part of the past three decades. Yet, despite the state’s 30-year-long constant efforts, the existing system of English education in Iran is not entirely indigenized. Rather, it is marked by two diverging forms of English: (1) the indigenized model that is used by the state-run education programs, and (2) the internationalized or Anglo-Americanized model, which is used by private-run education programs throughout the nation. The latter model is the one currently in vogue and most demanded by Iranians.

English in Post-Revolutionary Iran
English in Post-Revolutionary Iran

English in Post-Revolutionary Iran explores the politics of English language teaching and learning in post-revolutionary Iran from 1979 to the present. The book examines the nation’s English education at the two levels of policy and practice to explore the process (how and what), causes (why) and agents (who) of the two diverging trends of ‘indigenization’ and ‘internationalization’ within the country’s English education. The book explores the ways in which English education has been perceived by various stakeholders both at the national level (politicians and policymakers, and at the subnational level (professional associations, university-based and privately based language programs, English professors, teachers and students) and the catalysts that have sparked off receptiveness or hostility towards foreign lessons, ideas and norms on the part of each set of stakeholders. Although it is presumed that supranational forces have been absent from the realm of English education in post-revolutionary Iran, the book equally takes into account the implicit and explicit contributions of various international and transnational organizations (the World Bank, the UN developmental agencies and the British Council) to the internationalization of the field of English education in the country.

To read more about the book, please visit its page on our website here.

Education and Literacy in Ethiopia

Martin with the schoolchildren
Martin with the schoolchildren

We were recently approached by one of our authors, Martin Pütz, who was asking for support for his education project which is helping to build, renovate and provide resources for four primary schools in Ethiopia (250kms south-east of the capital Addis Ababa).

One of the classrooms before the renovations
One of the classrooms before the renovations

The basic goals of primary school curriculum are to prepare children for life and higher education through reading, writing, maths and other topics and lessons. Therefore, universal basic education is regarded a high priority for developing countries and is also a focus of the “Education for All Movement” as set out by UNESCO. The project aims to place education high on the agenda, particularly for the most marginalized children from socio-economically disadvantaged nations such as Ethiopia.

Learning English
Learning English

The present area of focus, Basic Education and Literacy, will be addressed in a number of ways. By providing textbooks, journals, magazines, and in the era of globalization even computers, students will be more motivated which will eventually lead to an improvement of cognitive skills and intellectual abilities.

School children in Ethiopia
School children in Ethiopia

The availability of chairs, desks and blackboards will be conducive to a better learning environment and human dignity. In this vein, the renovation of walls, ceilings, floors and windows will be equally important to guarantee a healthy environment free of negative influences such as humidity and the lack of sufficient electricity in the classrooms. One other basic need of human beings is the necessity of being able to use toilets before, during and after lessons, something which is usually taken for granted in Western societies. Renovations will certainly help achieve the goal of providing Basic Education and Literacy and will thus lead to enhanced quality of education, a lower drop-out rate and better chances to succeed in social and professional life.

Children in the classroom
Children in the classroom
Children learning in their own native language
Children learning in their own native language

The project site comprises four primary schools (Alem Gena School, Memihir Ager School, Demeko School, Dingay Tira School) near Addis Ababa. Originally, the schools were dusty, their walls were not well plastered and the children were exposed to wind and, in the rainy seasons, to showers of rain. There were no proper doors or windows, no toilets suitable for girls, no adequate potable water or hygienic sanitation facilities.

However, Martin has raised money for the project and the repair work began in January 2012 and is expected to be finished by July 2013. Martin will visit and inspect the four schools in February 2013.

The project has been funded by the Rotary Foundation, the Rotary Districts 1860 (Germany) and 1920 (Ethiopia) as well as the Rotary Clubs Bad-Bergzabern and Mittelhardt-Deidesheim. We were pleased to be able to contribute to the fund by donating money for resources and teaching both in the local language and in English.

If you would like any more information about the project or would like to contribute please contact Martin at Puetz@uni-landau.de.

An Interview with Elizabeth Coelho

Having just published her latest book Language and Learning in Multilingual Classrooms we caught up with author Elizabeth Coelho and asked her a few questions about her work.

How did you first become interested in immigrant and multicultural education?
I became interested in language teaching first. As a young teacher I spent a year teaching English in Bulgaria, which made me realize that simply being a teacher who spoke English was not enough; I needed to know how to teach language in a way that was engaging and effective. During that year I also experienced culture shock and other difficulties associated with being in a place where I did not speak the language or understand the cultural norms. This was the early seventies and I arrived in Bulgaria, naïvely, with a suitcase full of miniskirts… And there were many other occasions when  I misinterpreted the culture. In Bulgaria, for example, shaking the head means “Yes.'” Endless confusion when asking for help or ordering in restaurants. This experience helped me later to understand the adjustment process of the  immigrant children I worked with on my return to the UK and then, later, in Canada.

In the UK I worked in a special program for Creole speaking children from the Caribbean. We were a team of teachers placed in different schools and every Friday we met for professional development. I learned an incredible amount from my students and my peers about teaching, language, culture, and racism. A year or two later I was teaching English as a Second Language to immigrant students from all over the world in a Toronto secondary school, and taking professional courses to become better at it.

Which other researchers in your field do you most admire?
Jim Cummins is always an inspiration. Learning about the value of students’  own languages was pivotal for me. Viv Edwards at the University of Reading also helped me along the same road.

What makes your book unique compared to others published in this field?
I think I occupy a middle space between academic researchers and the teacher in the field. I am first and foremost a teacher, having spent 17 years in the classroom, mainly as an ESL teacher, and then many years in various positions working with or training teachers. I read the work of the researchers (Cummins, Krashen, and others) and talk with teachers who are doing wonderful work in the classroom, and am able to connect theory and practice. This book provides an overview of relevant theory and research and then provides many suggestions for classroom practice based on the theories.

Elizabeth Coelho

Why is it important for children from linguistic minorities to receive special attention in classrooms?
Because we are teaching them in the wrong language and must compensate for that. According to UNESCO, “It is an obvious yet not generally recognised truism that learning in a language which is not one’s own provides a double set of challenges, not only is there the challenge of learning a new language but also that of learning new knowledge contained in that language… Studies have shown that, in many cases, instruction in the mother tongue is beneficial to language competencies in the first language, achievement in other subject areas, and second language learning.” (UNESCO, 2003: p.15)

Unfortunately, providing mother-tongue or dual language instruction may not be feasible in many schools or districts, for political, practical, or philosophical reasons. Therefore we must do all we can to compensate for the fact that we are teaching in the wrong language for many of the students.We do this by providing scaffolded, differentiated instruction and assessment for students at various stages of development in the language of instruction— in all subject areas and at all grade levels. My book provides many practical, curriculum-based examples of how to do that.

What encouragement would you offer to teachers who are struggling with multilingual students in their classrooms?
The task of educating students whose linguistic and cultural backgrounds are different from your own, or from those of the school, may seem overwhelming, especially since most teachers have not received significant preparation for teaching in contexts of linguistic and cultural diversity. But, to put things into perspective, the challenges facing immigrant children and youth, and their parents, are even greater than those facing teachers. We owe it to such children to overcome the challenges that face us as educators, in order to help them meet theirs. In this way educators can help newcomer and minority students to realise their aspirations for a brighter future, and at the same time help to ensure a healthy future for the entire community. This may sound like a daunting responsibility – but most teachers didn’t choose teaching because it seemed like an easy job. Most teachers have the compassion, the imagination, and the passion for teaching that is needed in a profession where the one thing we can be sure of is constant change.

You are involved in a great cross-cultural adventure. You face many challenges, but you will also find your journey illuminating and rewarding as you learn more every day about the backgrounds and experiences of your students. Undoubtedly your view of the world will change, and your awareness of your own cultural background will be enhanced, as you learn from your students about their worlds and as you teach them about yours.

And finally, what is next for you?
At the moment I am working with colleagues at the University of Girona to adapt the book for teachers in Spain, where immigration is a relatively recent phenomenon. Through this process I continue to improve my Spanish and am gaining a new awareness of the challenge of expressing knowledge and sharing perspectives in a language I am still learning.  I am filled anew with admiration for students in elementary and secondary schools who are doing this six hours a day, five days a week, forty weeks a year.

Because I am now living in Spain most of the time I have become increasingly interested in CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning). CLIL is an increasingly popular approach to foreign language teaching in Spain and many other countries in Europe, and many teachers are providing instruction through the medium of English in subjects such as Social Studies, Arts, or Science. The learning objectives include language-learning objectives as well as the usual content objectives. I believe many of the approaches and strategies described in my book, that have been used effectively with immigrant and minority students who are learning the language of instruction, are equally useful in the CLIL context. So I am looking for opportunities to share some of this knowledge and experience with CLIL teachers and advisers.

Reference: UNESCO. (2003) Education in a Multilingual World. Paris: UNESCO. Position paper on language and education in multilingual societies. Available at: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0012/001297/129728e.pdf 

Supporting the International Book Bank

We recently made a donation of our books to a charity called International Book Bank. IBB is a non-profit organisation based in Baltimore, USA whose mission is to provide developing countries with books and other educational resources with the aim of increasing literacy. The IBB believes that by donating these books they can really change the lives of those who receive them. You might think that a simple book can’t really change someone’s life but for people who don’t have access to a library or who can’t read and write these resources can really make a difference. The IBB sends all kinds of books to the people who need them most: children’s books, literature, and textbooks at the primary, secondary, or tertiary levels, in English, Spanish, or French.

Publishers are encouraged to donate their excess stock to the charity who will ship the books to places where they are needed. The IBB only works with recipients who have been certified as non-profit organisations. It ships books to recipients all over the world including Africa, Asia, East Europe, the Caribbean, Central and Latin America. Their most recent shipments have been to South Africa, the Philippines, Rwanda, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Burkino Faso, Uganda and Guyana.

If you would like to support the International Book Bank or would like further information about the organisation please visit their website at: www.internationalbookbank.org. You can also follow them on Twitter @IntlBookBank.