In response, the US embassy in Iraq, through its US–Iraq Higher Education Partnership Programme, recently set up two English language centres: one of these is in Basra at the Southern Technical University, and the other is at Koya University in Koysinjaq, in the Iraqi Kurdistan autonomous region. Faculty members from both universities have attended training courses in the US in preparation for the opening of the centres. Southern Technical University is also looking into online courses.
US: All public school teachers in the Midwestern US state of Colorado will soon be required to do ninety hours’ worth of professional development so they can more ‘effectively communicate’ with English language learners (ELLs). Chalkbeat education news website reports that ELL enrolments in the state doubled last year from around 60,000 to over 120,000. The State Board of Education acted following the launch of a US Department of Education inquiry in 2009, which questioned whether Colorado’s provision of ‘adequately trained and qualified’ teachers to teach the state’s ELLs was sufficient to comply with federal legislation.
Singapore: Kazakhstan and Singapore could collaborate on English language teaching and learning models in the future, according to the president of Singapore’s Teachers’ Unions Mike Thiruman. Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev announced at the end of January the plan for the third stage of Kazakhstan’s modernisation, designed to ensure the country’s global competitiveness. The focus will also be on education, with English pinpointed as ‘the language of future growth in almost all economic and technological sectors’. Thiruman pointed out that, with English now being a global language with many variants, the two countries could collaborate to find ELT models that are better suited to Kazakhstan’s needs than the ‘traditional routes of just learning English from native English-speaking countries’.
Spain: Nearly half of students in bilingual primary schools in Leon, Spain need to take private English language classes to help them follow English medium courses, research by the region’s education authorities has found. Only 70 per cent reach A1 English by the end of primary, the study shows. The report also reveals that 75.7 per cent of teachers have just a B2 English language level, while only 20.7 per cent have a C1 and just 2.1 per cent have a C2. Parents and teachers have highlighted this discrepancy, accusing the regional government of doing this evaluation too late – the programme has been running for 10 years – and claiming that the programme segregates children. Leon’s teachers council has asked the government to change the current model, calling for smaller class sizes and student exchange programmes, news website ileon reports. Comment: here.
Israel: Israel is to double the number of native-English speaker teaching assistants it recruits. Education minister Natfali Bennett has announced there will be 300 places – up from 150 – on the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows Programme. In partnership with the ministry, this recruits and trains recently qualified – mostly American – teachers for placements initially as teaching assistants. A selling point for the programme is that ‘fellows’ soon teach their own classes. Bennett told the Jerusalem Post that the ministry Israel will deploy this new intake in schools ‘identified by the ministry as among the lowest performing’ to address ‘gaps between the socioeconomic periphery and the centre of the country’.
Kenya: The East African nation of Kenya – expected to be the country with the world’s biggest college-age population in the coming decade – has taken drastic action to improve the quality of education at its 23 public universities. This follows a damning audit by the Kenyan Commission for University Education. World University News Service reports that government officials have responded by ‘suspending’ many degree courses over quality concerns, especially executive MBAs. University entry qualifications are being tightened, which would exclude the many ‘weaker’ school-leavers currently arriving via foundation programmes, or with foreign qualifications. English and Swahili are Kenya’s official languages, with English as ‘the language of education.’
Global: UK-based international education giant Study Group announced in February that they will soon start paying ‘all commission in one upfront payment’ to its over 3,000 agents. Agents are eligible as long as students have paid ‘their pre-arrival fees before they start their course.’ (Their students don’t need to have paid all fees for the whole course.) In an example on Study Group’s website, ‘for your students starting a course’ in February, March or April, fees will be paid to agents in May. Study Group’s chief finance officer Emma Lancaster said ‘education agents play an increasingly important role in introducing international students to institutions’ in the UK, Australia and the US.
Japan: A part-time expat English language teacher at Kwansei Gakuin University is to have his wages cut for three months and his contract curtailed. This disciplinary action follows an incident involving one of his students from Fukushima – site of a catastrophic radiation release from its nuclear reactor in 2011. The teacher said they could see the student ‘glow in the dark’ due to her supposed radiation exposure, adding that it was supposed to be a joke. Meanwhile a man who previously taught English in a branch of Nova language school (the chain collapsed in 2007) pleaded guilty to fraud as part of a plea bargain. He had convinced two of his students to invest money into a fake deposit in the US, collecting more than $230,000 from them. Sentencing at the federal court in Honolulu, Hawaii will be on 7 June.
Malta: The University of Malta is piloting a new English language module called English Communicative Aptitude (ECA) to support first-year students. The implementation of the programme caused some controversy. The University Students’ Council (KSU) lobbied the university to ensure that the new study unit would not be a burden on students. The Nationalist Party commented that the introduction of the ECA was done too ‘hastily’. The university stated that consultations will go ahead with the KSU and academic staff, and that the programme would not affect final grades nor pose a barrier to university access. Many students that would be exempt from the programme also chose to still follow it to strengthen their skills base, the university reported.