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Teaching English in International Schools

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by chiefoyibo, Apr 28, 2011.

  1. Having taught in a number of schools now, I have seen a range of different approaches to teaching English. In my past three schools:
    • KS3: National Curriculum focus 100% KS4:English 1st Language and Literature IGCSE, A level English Lit
    • KS3: Cambridge Lower Secondary Programme with Checkpoint Y9, KS4: English as 2nd and 1st Language. A level lang/lit
    • KS3: Adapted NC alongside EAL materials, KS4: PET and IGCSE English 1st/2nd Language, KS5: FCE and AS Language, A level Literature
    Does anyone have any opinions about the best way to deliver English to a largely EAL cohort? Does anyone out there use the Cambridge ESOL suite (KET, PET, FCE, CAE) in mainstream school?
    I have also heard about IELTS being offered in international schools, but don't have any experience at all with that examination.

  2. There are a number of factors you have to take into account, aren't there, in choosing the best path for a largely EAL cohort, when teaching English? Often, at KS4 and KS5, there is little choice, if parents have sent their children to the school in order to achieve certain qualifications; in my experience, the best initial 'approach' is to consult with the parents, so that expectations are realistic, and so that the students leave school with certificates that are worthwhile in terms of what they want to do next. For example, there is little point in 'making' students do GCSE English (first language) if their preferred university outside the UK ranks GCSE ESL as equal. Much research is necessary in order to help students make an informed choice. Similarly, it is pointless to take students through an FCE course or CAE course, if it is of little use for their next step into higher education - even though these courses are very, very useful in themselves, and, some would argue, provide a better measure of literacy than a GCSE qualification . Students also need to know that American universities may require the TOEFL or similar, whereas British universities may require IELTS.

    I have found that methodology in the classroom is the key. With expert teaching, even the most unlikely of EAL students can achieve high grades in GCSE and A Level 'mainstream' subjects. Unfortunately, very few English teachers with QTS have the necessary training to enable effective language learning; initial teacher training courses attract largely literature graduates, and these teachers are trained in the teaching of literature and media. They enable learning ABOUT language, but are often alarmingly ineffective in enabling the learning OF language. Research shows increasingly that methodology used to teach English language to EAL students ALSO benefits standards of literacy amongst English first language students - a wonderful spin-off!

    If I were now responsible for the recruitment of English teachers in an international school, I would look primarily for candidates trained and qualified in teaching English LANGUAGE, as well as having several years' experience in a secondary school teaching the NC and GCSE/A Levels or similar. This usually means looking for qualifications such as the full DELTA qualification - formerly known as the RSA Diploma - or the Trinity equivalent, (NOT - and I repeat NOT someone who has 'done a TEFL' - the educational equivalent of a brownie first aid badge, compared to a doctor!). Of course, the ideal situation would be to have all English teachers trained to teach language + literature + media.

    Some schools adjust the timetable for weak EAL students, so that while following a mainstream English course for exam purposes, they are withdrawn for extra language help, and possible extra external exams. Usually, in a good school, there would be a separate EAL department to take care of this. Workshops, if run properly by EAL trainers, can be a huge help to teachers across the curriculum, providing ideas on how to enable language learning through specialist subjects.

    My advice would be to be as flexible as possible and to recruit the best English language teachers you can find. As far as language learning is concerned, it is the methodology rather than the curriculum label which is the key.
  3. Aagghh ... why have all my paragraph breaks disappeared?
  4. Thank you for this input, microwave.
    I am really trying to get this right, and there are indeed so many different factors to take into account when developing the English curriculum in an international school.
    In my current school, there isn't a separate EAL department, so everything, from absolute beginners up to A level Literature is under the umbrella of my department.
    I couldn't agree more about TEFL. Having worked with a couple of individuals who thought that teaching English in a language school qualified them to teach in an international school, I wouldn't touch any of them with someone else's bargepole if I have a say in recruitment.
    I think we may need to offer IELTS to some of our older students, but am I correct in thinking that UCAS candidates from 'British' curriculum international schools would be accepted with IGCSE English, given that all of their A levels would be either CIE or Edexcel?
  5. Re your question, chiefoyibe, my advice would be to contact some UK good universities directly, to check what they are looking for. Generally speaking, admissions departments look for the whole picture, rather than individual subjects at (I)GCSE, but to be on the safe side I have always advised students to take first language options if they are headed to the UK. IGCSE and GCSE are both equally regarded, and as you probably know, they both offer first language options. In some good international schools, the opportunity is given for non-British students to sit both the first language and second language exams - as well as literature. Ironically, I found for a few years that EAL students actually achieved higher grades with the first language option than the second language one, because examiners are less likely to take SPG into account in their marking!

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