Category: ELT

The link between language proficiency requirements and diversity

“Lower score requirements may be acceptable if sufficient English language support is offered”

Diversity is a core value of higher education institutions, and consequently an important consideration for admissions decisions colleges and universities make every year.

While international applicants can help achieve diversity goals, institutions need to decide whether such applicants can cope with the language demands of instruction delivered in English.

This decision is not straightforward because, although English-language proficiency is a key element for academic success, other factors including subject-related knowledge and non-cognitive attributes play a role in future academic performance.

Because of the complex nature of academic language proficiency, requirements for English-language proficiency test scores are essential to the admission process for international students.

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Young Learner operators ready to go with summer programmes when safe to do so

“More than ever now, we can all appreciate just how small the world truly is and the importance of coming together”

A letter on behalf of Young Learner operators to our friends around the world:

At this time of international crisis, we have all seen the huge impact COVID-19 has had on our lives and our industry. More than ever now, we can all appreciate just how small the world truly is and the importance of coming together to protect our global community in times of great need.
As the global situation changes, our plans may too. For now, we all continue to watch the unfolding measures that governments around the world are taking to stem the tide of the virus and get us back to normal soon.

As a sector of Young Learner English Language course providers a number of us have come together to work out how best to serve you, our valued clients.  It’s hard for us to navigate the unknown, but as we continue to better understand how to slow the spread of COVID-19 we want to do all we can to keep our partners, students, employees and our local communities safe. The wellbeing of our people and our students is always our number one priority.
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Standing #ApartTogether in times of crisis

“Keeping our communities safe, and focused on moving forward with hope and creativity, is our path through and out of our collective current reality”

It is vitally important to refocus on the importance of community and leadership, writes Tina Bax, Founder of CultureWorks in Canada.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer has tweeted her hope that we might stand #ApartTogether in this.  There’s arguably never been a more important time to be together.  To expand the concept of community that we continually build in our classrooms, to the rest of the world.

In the spirit of humility and service then, here are three communities to consider when we’re trying to take such great care in the coming weeks and months, not just of ourselves but of our world.

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The role of language instruction in learning performance

“Schools that fail to emphasise teaching foreign languages do their students a grave disservice”

Around the world, various countries espouse different attitudes toward language and learning, notes Alyssa Abel of education blog, Syllabusy. She points out that European nations, for example, begin teaching foreign languages in primary school or before while conversely, many American schools do not offer these classes as electives until high school, and several have even eliminated foreign languages as a graduation requirement.

Schools that fail to emphasise teaching foreign languages do their students a grave disservice. Researchers have found a strong relationship between language and learning and its positive impact on academic performance. How can educators motivate their students to expand their linguistic ability beyond their native tongue?

How Does Language Affect Learning?

Research indicates that foreign language instruction bolsters academic performance in many ways — including an upward trajectory in test scores.

In one study, researchers selected random third-grade students to receive Spanish lessons three times per week for one semester. The teacher instructed class entirely in the foreign tongue. The students who received this instruction scored significantly higher in math and language on the Metropolitan Achievement Test (MAT) than those who did not. Given the emphasis on these measures when it comes to funding, the practice offers a valuable means to improve overall scholarship.

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Do you speak English? It’s complicated.

“Identifying the gaps in language proficiency for each individual is only the beginning”

Kate Bell is co-author of the EF English Proficiency Index. In this blog, Bell examines how subtleties in employee proficiency affect the types and depth of language training that employers must provide.

From the outside, foreign language proficiency looks simple—either you speak a language or you don’t—but anyone who grew up receiving calls from grandparents abroad or who has worked for a few years in a foreign country knows that most people’s linguistic terrain is more of a swamp than a soccer field.

This is because our language skills develop over the course of decades as a result of inclination, exposure, education, and practice.

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Time for a rethink on English language competency levels for international students?

“[There is a] real concern that we seem to be making it too hard for international students to thrive”


As the year draws to a close, it is a good time to review the news that made the most impact.
Funnily enough, it’s not a Brexit story that has stuck in my mind, but the drip, drip of news stories about accusations of cheating, directed against international students in general and Chinese students in particular.

In January, for example, there was the notorious email from the University of Liverpool international advice and guidance team about exam conduct, which translated the word “cheating” into Chinese but no other foreign language, on the grounds that Chinese students were “usually unfamiliar with the word” in English. A student petition condemned the email as “racially discriminative”.

However, underlying these headline stories is a real concern that we seem to be making it too hard for international students to thrive when they come to the UK to study…

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Five Reasons Why Swedes are the World’s Best Non-Native English Speakers

“Swedes are eager to reach people outside of their country, and they benefit economically and linguistically from this”

As Sweden aims to internationalise its higher education sector and attract more foreign talent, one of its advantages is the country’s high English proficiency.

For the fourth time in the past eight years, Sweden ranks number one on the 2018 EF English Proficiency Index . The EF EPI is the largest global study of English skills based on test data from 1.3 million adults who took the EF Standard English Test  in 2017.

Since EF is a Swedish company, we asked 100 of our Swedish colleagues why they think Sweden has been so successful with English language education. Here’s what they told us:
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Which are the easiest and hardest languages to master?

“The average learner would take four times as long to learn Mandarin as they would to learn Spanish”

For most people, mastering another language is no easy feat. However, it is broadly accepted that some languages are easier to learn than others.

It’s a topic that is discussed often and in depth within the translation services industry, as well as by everyone from military personnel to expats. As such, let’s take a look at contenders for the easiest language to master… and the hardest!
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How technology is helping to educate Syrian refugees

“Articulating your level of education is tricky if you move country, let alone if you haven’t brought proof of learning”

Fiona Reay, head of Client Services at FutureLearn, recently travelled to Lebanon to see the impact of technology at schools educating Syrian refugees as part of the Partnership for Digital Learning and Increased Access project, which has five years’ funding through the Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform initiative. Here, Reay discusses what she learned during the visit and some of the challenges that are yet to be overcome.

I saw first-hand the innovative delivery of education in Lebanese communities from the American University of Beirut and listened to Syrian students and teachers about the impact of the PADILEIA project at the GHATA schools in the Bekka Valley.

Picture2I was very impressed at the rapid pace that new schools have been rolled out in the Bekka region to accommodate 1.5 million Syrian refugees who’ve arrived in Lebanon; not only the infrastructure which has been put in place but the care which has gone into the meal planning and the welcoming environment from the teaching and support staff.

These schools are happy places with enthusiastic teachers and grateful children and teenagers, a space of ‘normality’ compared to day-to-day life in camps or other temporary accommodation, and a chance for young people to be with their friends and have routine back in their lives.
But there are several challenges to gaining an education when being displaced. While I experienced a positive and inclusive environment, there are still hurdles to overcome.

  • Articulating your level of education is tricky if you move country, let alone if you haven’t brought proof of learning. The Syrian, Jordanian and Lebanese certification levels don’t all align, and I heard examples of students travelling back into Syria to sit the exams needed to move onto the next level of study.
  • Stipends are often required to pay for travel costs and study expenses for Syrian and other disadvantaged youth. At the World Food Program school teachers reward participation with digital card ‘points’ that can be used in neighbourhood shops (much like vouchers), and this also helps stimulate the local Lebanese economy.
  • Funding and scholarship application forms can be daunting for most and understanding the nuances of “pitching yourself” requires guidance from people who have done it before. Learning how to answer what extracurricular activities you do, and the value you can add to your community (when you’ve had to relocate due to civil war) can feel even more of a stretch. The PADILEIA students have found it really valuable to learn from mentors who can support them through this process and help them fill in the forms.

Picture1I also witnessed a strong appetite for digital skills and discussion. PADILEIA’s aim is to increase critical-thinking skills so young people can prepare for higher education and consider wider career options like science, law, journalism, or IT.

The first year of the project has a focus on mixing practical digital skills with learning English, as part of a Foundation Certificate to build readiness for further education. These transferable skills build the confidence of young people.

“I was overwhelmed by the confidence and brightness of young women keen to practice with native English speakers and to show off their Adobe Photoshop exam progress”

Students also learn Microsoft and Google Drive programs, as well as AutoCAD software for potential engineering and architecture pathways in the future.

There also exists a supported and blended approach to online learning. A lot of mentoring is required around goal setting, and coaching on time management is constantly needed –  these are teenagers with homework after all!

Passionate teacher Mahmoud Shabaan, Students Service Coordinator at the GHATA School, provides mentorship support seven days a week, uses WhatsApp and Facebook groups to connect students after hours.

The school also invites Syrian scholarship awardees at the American University of Beirut to deliver “do your homework pep talks” to keep students motivated, and they plan to use graduates of the PADILEIA program to help train and support the next cohort of students.

Houssam, who has just completed his Foundation Certificate from the American University of Beirut (AUB), delivered an inspirational speech to the PADILEIA visitors, explaining the benefits he was seeing from studying with mentors and the goals he has for the future, including scholarships for higher education.

The teachers in Bekka also explained that using online resources to date has been a challenge, due to the students’ level of English but also connection issues and that they’re aiming to use more online tools in the classroom as their experience with using technology for learning increases.

It will be interesting to see how young people and their educators will embrace online and social learning.

Picture3To help with this, new online free basic English courses designed for the Middle East have been developed. Two new courses teaching Basic English from King’s College London, at elementary and pre-intermediate levels, have been specially created for Middle Eastern learners.

The short courses tell the stories of local characters Samir, Maya and Amena who learn practical phrases and hear from British voices. They include Arabic transcripts and are prepared for students learning in an environment with power cuts and slower wifi, meaning a stronger focus on audio (rather than video) and low bandwidth optimised files.

Online facilitators from King’s College London have been specially trained to help support Middle Eastern learners. The King’s College London courses are available on FutureLearn.com with free continued access for all, funded by the PADILEIA program.

Another ELT school shuts down in Ireland… but a positive outcome

“One student had paid almost €6,000 for both herself and her son for a six-month course, which she thought she had lost”

As reported in The PIE News, LanLearn, an English language school located in Ireland recently closed its doors affecting approximately 150 International students. The closure followed an inspection in January by the Department of Justice and Equality where a number of irregularities were discovered.

A school closure is inevitably very distressing for students who may be unaware of their rights in such circumstances. One Brazilian student affected by the closure had paid almost €6,000 for both herself and her son for a six-month course which she thought she had lost.
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