The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Sunday, April 17, 2011

IATEFL day two

It's been another busy day in Brighton. Perhaps today's most interesting session came right at the end of the day though. Paul Knight from Nottingham University was talking about the future of EAP - not from a linguistic or pedagogical perspective, but as a profession/career and business. He made loads of really interesting observations and predictions, but two key points stuck in my mind.

He highlighted a trend already underway for EAP to take place outside of the traditional anglophone countries. He talked about the emergence of more and more English medium universities in different parts of the world; picking out especially Shanghai in China and Abu Dhabi, where the Sorbonne is opening a new campus, with instruction through English, not French. Will future students be more inclined to gravitate towards these international or regional centres rather than coming to study in the UK or US? And the effect of this trend on EAP professionals? He suggested that those working in EAP in the UK could find that their skills become more in demand to train EAP teachers to work around the world rather than spending their time in front of students. It made me wonder whether EAP teacher training is a route I should be considering?

Taking an even longer-term perspective, he also talked about how global population trends might affect the future of English teaching. The buzz at the moment all seems to be about the huge potential of the Chinese market, but the Chinese population is ageing, with relatively few younger people. The Indian population, on the other hand, is still heavily weighted towards youth and as it continues to develop is going to provide a huge number of young people wanting and needing to learn English.

He predicted, however, that as the education systems in these key markets develop and students increasingly study English from an earlier age, they're going to come out at 18 with a level of English far above that of the current cohort of EAP students. So will EAP in the future need to focus less on basic language skills and even more on teaching academic skills (critical thinking, academic argument, etc)?

All really interesting thoughts and predictions with potentially significant effects for me as both a teacher and a writer.

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