UK: English classes overwhelmed

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Oct 4 10:06:04 UTC 2006

Language courses 'overwhelmed'

English language teaching is being overwhelmed as it struggles to meet
increasing demand from adult migrants and refugees, an inquiry has found.
The inquiry by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education
(Niace) found there was a shortage of teachers, providing often inadequate
teaching. Niace said despite huge investment, the money was not reaching
the most needy. It now wants employers and learners themselves to
contribute more, with help for the poorest from government.

The report comes after Chancellor Gordon Brown said immigrants entering
the UK should "play by the rules" and that means learning English in order
to get work. 'Condemned to poverty' Niace director Alan Tuckett said there
was a "disturbing and disagreeable underbelly" in British policy that
"blames foreigners for their foreignness and fails to recognise the
enrichment of our lives that cultural diversity brings". He said this
negative strain also fails to recognise the economic contribution settled
refugees and migrants make.

"Giving English language skills to migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers
alike makes economic and social sense." He added: "Lack of fluency in the
language condemns many people to poverty."

Free provision

The report says that demand for English for Speakers of Other Languages
(ESOL) courses has risen, in part from migrant workers from new members of
the European Union, but also from refugees and settled communities. In
2004/5 the Learning and Skills Council spent 279m on teaching 538,700
adults in England, but Niace said it recognises such high levels of
funding are not sustainable. Currently, adult students are offered free
English classes up to level two of the ESOL course - equivalent to A-C at
GCSE level. In future, Niace wants to restrict free provision to level one
only, to allow funding to reach a wider number of people.

It also wants employers and agencies recruiting workers from abroad to
contribute to the cost. The inquiry makes 39 recommendations in total,

-improve teacher qualifications and teacher supply
-cross-government review of ESOL
-minister appointed to implement conclusions of review
-national advisory forum on ESOL
-local ESOL forums to deliver provision in their areas
-inspections of ESOL by Ofsted and the Adult Learning Inspectorate

Deputy director of Niace, Peter Lavender, said: "Among Bangladeshi women,
only 8% speak fluent English. They don't seem to get access - whether they
don't have the time, or the money or lack confidence. This is a challenge
that as a nation we cannot afford to shirk Derek Grover Inquiry committee
chair "Effective ESOL is critical to enabling half a million adults to
gain independence and control over their lives. "It makes economic sense
to help people communicate effectively and it's a precondition for social

Derek Grover, chair of the inquiry committee, said successful ESOL was of
fundamental importance to the country. "This is a challenge that as a
nation we cannot afford to shirk." The findings will be presented at a
conference, due to be attended by Bill Rammell, Minister for Lifelong

Story from BBC NEWS:


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