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Malaysia attempts to halt slide ...

Claudia Civinini describes how initiatives designed to reverse falling levels of English have faced delays and been met with some resistance

‘Most older generations of Malaysians, particularly those who received their primary and secondary education during the early years of the post-colonial era, from late 1950s to 1970s, when the medium of instruction was still English, have proficiency levels that are almost native-speaker level,’ according to a former English teacher (who wishes to remain anonymous), now coordinating EL programmes at provincial level in Malaysia. But she added, ‘The level of English language proficiency among today’s generation of Malaysians is declining in comparison.’

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... while Vietnam aims high

Mall Salusbury reports on an ambitious plan to boost language learning

Vietnam’s National Foreign Languages 2020 project has set the nation an ambitious task – to have ‘the majority of youths able to use a foreign language proficiently by 2020’. In practice the vast majority of foreign language classes in the Socialist Republic’s schools are and will continue to be English.

Dr Vu Thi Tu Anh, director of the General Education Department at the ministry of education, gave an update on the Languages 2020 policy at a conference in Seoul attended by the Gazette in October. Like many South East Asian nations’ current initiatives aimed at drastically improving their English proficiency, Languages 2020 has the Asean economic community – the single market established in 2015 within a trading bloc of Asean trading nations – in mind.

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Why it’s great up north

Melanie Butler explains why the north of England is no longer a region where overseas students need to be persuaded to opt for

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BRIDGING THE GAP Newcastle is one of a number of northern cities that are becoming more popular with foreign students (Courtesy International House Newcastle)

The ‘Northern Powerhouse’ has already arrived on the UK’s English language scene. Britain’s finance minister, or Chancellor of the Exchequer as we so quaintly call him, has plans for a powerhouse, a new industrial and scientific hub, to be created in the north of England, linking the cities which were the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution: Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle. All five cities have seen an increase in their provision of British-Council-accredited language centres over the last ten years.

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Thailand looks for locals

Matt Salusbury describes a Thai government initiative to reduce the country’s reliance on overseas English language teachers.

A total of 500 Thai English teachers, all of whom will ‘have to be very good in English’, are to be selected by the ministry of education to undergo six weeks of intensive training in new methodology and teaching techniques and how to teach both written and spoken English. The aim of this upskilling initiative is to reduce Thai state schools’ reliance on ‘expensive’ foreign English teachers, with ‘almost all schools … hiring foreign teachers for evening classes’, in the words of deputy education minister Teerakiat Charoensethasilpa at the launch of the project in November.

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The Malta alternative

Alexandra Valletta on how the island nation became an ELT hot spot

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UNIQUE EXPERIENCE If learning English conjures up images of fusty class rooms, then Malta will make you think again (Courtesy Malta Tourism Authority)

Ever-improving direct flight connections to the Maltese Islands, getting students from a wider range of countries and the constant development of a number of key niche markets are behind the years of growth and success that Malta’s tourism industry is enjoying. The English language learning sector has become a core segment within the industry, generating approximately 80,000 students annually.

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