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Global Perspective

Gazette news editor Matt Salusbuy’s selection of ELT news from around the world

UK:

Language school association English UK, supported by the Tourism Alliance, has persuaded the Local Government Association (LGA) to include language schools in the businesses sectors eligible for relief from local property taxes, known as business rates.

At the beginning of the current crisis, Rishi Sunak, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer (as the Finance Minister is known), introduced relief from these taxes for the hospitality industry, but despite lobbying had thus far failed to extend them to English language schools. British taxes on commercial property are the highest in the developed world and about twice as high as the international average, according to a report produced by a parliamentary committee earlier his year.

Huan Japes, membership director of English UK, said, “We are delighted that English language schools have been included by the LGA in the list of properties considered to fall within the scope of the relief, and we are very grateful to the Tourism Alliance for helping us to achieve this result.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak

US:

English Language Learners (ELLs) have hit the headlines in the American press as teachers struggle to help them learn at home following the nationwide closure of schools.

ELLs make up nearly ten percent of the 55 million children currently out of schools, according to PBS Newshour. US schools are legally required to ensure that these students “can participate meaningfully and equally in educational programs” and are also obliged to communicate with parents in a language they can understand.

A report in the New York Times, however, found that the ability to communicate with families varied widely from state to state, with some districts in California using software which enables teachers to send texts in multiple languages, while one county in Mississippi had only one Spanish translator for 42 schools, and translation of lesson plans was taking up to ten days.

For schools offering online lessons, ELLs also present a challenge: these students are less likely to have access to a computer or Wi-Fi. Some school districts have distributed laptops, while in others, children are following classes on their parents’ mobile phone.

The National Education Association, which represents teachers, is lobbying Congress for funding for better connectivity and more school translators to be included in the Covid-19 stimulus package, the New York Times reports.

Some US ELLs are taking lessons on parents’ phones

BANGLADESH:

English teachers from the Voice of America (VoA) Learning English service are providing teacher training in a year-long project based in a refugee camp in Teknaf, Bangladesh. The project aims to help the Rohingyas, a Muslim minority fleeing persecution in neighbouring Myanmar.

The English language instructors from the U.S.-based VoA global radio and satellite TV station, and news website, are training a total of 76 English teachers, who at the end of their course will become teacher-trainers, training another 5000 English teachers.

The trainees are already teaching English to primary school children at primary schools within Kutupalong Refugee Camp and its Camp Extension Number 4, both of which also receive input from the VoA Learning English trainers.

The project in Teknaf follows a shorter, month-long VoA training course for English language teachers, organised in March last year, for 100 English teachers in a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar.

VOA Learning English trainer Anna Matteao demonstrates a classroom exercise on phonetics at the Kutupalong refugee camp

UAE:

The lives of teachers at international schools in the United Arab Emirates have been disrupted by the announcement on 3 March that all schools would close on 8 March for four weeks to combat the spread of coronavirus.
During the final two weeks of the national shutdown, “deep cleans” of the schools will take place, while students will be taught via internet-based distance learning.

Most expatriate school teachers – a considerable proportion of the Gulf State’s teaching workforce – had already made plans to travel abroad to visit family. But moving the school holiday forward means that schools now return on a week that should have been part of the school holiday. Many teachers are reluctant to travel abroad during the sudden and unexpected weeks off work that the break has provided them, as they fear they will be unable to return due to flight cancellations.

The Royal Academy Ajman, UAE is one of the schools closing early for holidays

UK:

A command of English “at the required level” is a criteria for work visas required for all immigrants – including EU nationals – in the proposed post-Brexit “points-based immigration” system, effective from 2021.

Under the new system, introduced by British Home Secretary Priti Patel, the minister responsible for immigration, all applicants will require 70 points for a UK work visa.
Being a national of a designated “majority English speaking country” (as specified by the government) gets you 10 points, there’s another 10 points each for having a “degree taught in English” and “passing an English language test,” such as Ielts.

No guidance has been given for language levels. Under the current work visa rules, the required level on the CEFR is B1 for the “general” category and for “entrepreneurs. A “sportsperson” only requires C1, rising to B2 for a “minister of religion”.

Changes may also be introduced for student visas. The gov.uk website states that “students will be covered by the points-based system,” including EU national students. Applicants for UK student visas will need to “speak English” and “support themselves during their studies in the UK”.

The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP

 

CANADA:

A “confidential” plan by the government of Ontario Premier Doug Ford proposes slashing education funding, while at the same time increasing revenue by recruiting more international students to its schools – at fees of up to CAD $12,000 a year, the Toronto Star in revealed January.

The government of the Canadian province has been embroiled in a long-running industrial dispute with its teachers over issues including class sizes, chronic underfunding of schools and the imposition of compulsory e-learning as a substitute for some face-to-face lessons.

The proposed plan builds on Ontario’s 2015 Strategy for K-12 International Education, whose “goals” include increasing recruitment of international students into its schools (from 19,000 in 2015).

The government also aimed to develop “pathways” to encourage international graduates of its high schools to go on to further or higher education in Ontario, and to sell the province’s curriculum abroad. There are now 125 international schools around the world using Canadian curricula, according to The Conversation.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford

JAPAN:

English teaching assistants in Japan’s state school sector expect to be out of pocket following the closure of all state schools nationwide since the beginning of March to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

At the beginning of the shutdown, teachers were still expected to turn up at school, even though their students had been sent home. “Dispatch ALTs” – supply language teachers, mostly native speakers recruited via the JET exchange programme – were unsure how much they’d be paid. Some schools said they would not pay anything for the days they were sent home, others were told they were entitled to 60 per cent of their salary.

Dennis Tesolat, chair of the General Union, told the Japan Times that Dispatch ALTs should take these issues to the Labour Standards Bureau.

Teachers in Japan’s private eikaiwa English conversation schools are also feeling the pinch. Some schools are dropping classes, as many students cancel lessons to avoid coronavirus risk.

ZIMBABWE:

Around 350 Zimbabwean students were stranded in Wuhan – epicentre of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak and China’s largest university city. They were running out of food and their mental health was suffering, with the cash-strapped government of the southern African nation unable to help.

The Zimbabweans, some of whom were at the Wuchang University of Technology, were confined to their dormitories for almost two months. Most of them were normally reliant on part- time jobs to support themselves but were unable to work under the coronavirus lockdown.

However, the Chinese Deputy Ambassador to Zimbabwe advised at the time that it would be in the best interests of Zimbabwean students to remain in China rather than be evacuated back home. Measures were put into place to ensure they received masks and they were tested regularly. Food and supplies were dropped off at their doors. Wuhan has now discharged its last Covid-19 patient from hospital, and Hubei province has been declared low-risk.

Wuchang University of Technology
Images courtesy of Library, HAI DO/VOA, WIKIMEDIA, GOV.UK, ONTARIO.CA and WUCHANG UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY
Matt Salusbury
Matt Salusbury
MATT SALUSBURY, news editor and journalist, has worked for EL Gazette since 2007. He is also joint Chair of the London Freelance Branch of the National Union of Journalists and co-edits its newsletter, the Freelance. He taught English language for 15 years in the Netherlands, in Turkey, in a North London further education college and now as an English for Academic Purposes tutor, most recently at the London School of Economics. He is a native English speaker and is also fluent in Dutch.
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