ANDREA PEREZ writes
Cuba has declared that English language learning is to be a top priority for the island after years of neglect. Higher education minister Rodolfo Alarcon said in September that students won’t be able to complete their degrees unless they have shown they can speak the language well, although English will no longer be a curriculum subject at Cuban universities.
The priorities for Cuba and its society seem to have changed significantly since the thaw in relations with the US which started last year. In July the countries restored full diplomatic relations for the first time since 1961.
Alarcon also criticised the country’s inefficient English teaching and the problem this causes for children even in the earliest years in school.
English was downgraded during the rise of pro-Soviet communism in the 1960s and ’70s, and Russian remained the first foreign language school taught in schools and universities until the late 1980s. However, English was not completely dropped, and some municipalities taught the language in schools. According to a Cuban source consulted by the Gazette, English is supposed to be taught in all primary schools, but due to a shortage of teachers and materials this is not the case, and up to 40 per cent of vacancies are filled by retired English teachers.
In higher education, students could choose between Russian and English, but with the influence of the Soviet Union most used to opt for Russian. Teachers who taught Russian were granted two sabbatical years to study the language at university, our Cuban source said. But despite Cuba’s semi-isolation, there was plenty of contact with the English-speaking world, mainly in the field of medicine (see July 2012 Gazette).
Examiners at Australian Ielts testing centres run by Ielts partner IDP Education will have to buy insurance covering them for AU$1 million worth of professional indemnity, register as small businesses and take a cut in income, according to the IDP Ielts Information Pack document leaked to The Australian newspaper.
CLAUDIA CIVININI writes
The link between educational technology and better learning is not as direct as you might think, according to a report commissioned by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa).
In India’s west-coast state of Goa, a thirty-year-old debate over the medium of instruction has exploded after a hunger strike forced the local government to protect the rights of schools to teach in English, reports Chryselle D’Silva Dias from Goa.
Goa was a Portuguese colony until 1961, and is India’s foremost destination for foreign tourists. With tourism dominating its economy, fluency in English is greatly valued. In 1991 its government decreed English-medium schools in Grades I-IV (primary education) would no longer receive grants. In order to stay afloat, schools changed their medium of instruction (MOI) to local languages, Konkani or Marathi. These remained the MOI in the first four grades of Goa’s schools for the next twenty years. When they reached Standard V (the first year of secondary) thousands of children chose to revert to English-medium schools.
In 2011 parents’ association Forum of Rights of Children to Education (Force) launched a successful state-wide campaign demanding all government-aided schools receive grants irrespective of the language they teach in, and the right of parents to choose which language their child studied in.
As a result, state government grant-assisted schools could choose English or a regional language as their MOI, provided that they included Konkani or Marathi as a subject from Grade I. Overnight, 135 church-run schools reverted to English medium.
In July 2015 Force launched a fresh campaign to formalise the current MOI policy into law, fearing that the Goa government might change its policy on a whim or under pressure.
Force convener Savio Lopes went on hunger strike. Hundreds of parents from around Goa congregated to support him in daily largely peaceful demonstrations (pictured), with police keeping a watchful eye. On day five parents blocked roads across Goa in the morning rush hour. Thousands of commuters were stuck in traffic jams. No violence was reported.
Three days later, ministers and Goa assembly members met Savio Lopes to give a written assurance that the MOI policy would come before the next winter session of the state assembly. Force has called off its agitation until December.
Anti-English protesters took to the streets with a rally a few days later, condemning the Goa government for ‘giving in’. They have promised that they will continue to fight for regional languages remaining the MOI.