March 1, 2012 by Willy Cardoso
I have ‘literally’ just submitted my fifth and last MA essay and am now having a beer.
But wait! I’m not a Master yet. These five little pieces were just a warmer I suppose, I now have to: [drum rolls] …research.
And write a dissertation four times longer than each essay.
If I put all of what I’ve already written for this MA in Education, it will sum up about 25,000 words (nearly as much as what I have spent on it if I consider not only the #@*& tuition fees for overseas students, but also the amount of time I spent reading and writing the essays, considering that I could’ve spent this time working at a café, drinking free coffee — but hey, I’m not gonna calculate the ROI of this MA).
Anyway, let me share bits of what I’ve just submitted (here adapted to a more bloggish style).
Title: The global ELT coursebook as curriculum
“[Educational] institutions and the manner in which they are organized and controlled are integrally related to the ways in which specific people get access to economic and cultural resources and power.”
(Apple 2004: vii)
Although studies of syllabus design have long passed the ‘structural/grammatical’ tradition and evolved to more communicative approaches (namely: functional, skills-based and task-based), most coursebooks remain in a lockstep stage of grammar-orientation in their syllabus rationale which has far-reaching implications for students.
I analyzed a well-known coursebook and:
The book acknowledges the use of English as an International Language in another of their statements of what students need:
“Students will need to use English if they travel to an English-speaking country or if they are using English as a lingua franca”.
However, their overt concern in making students able to produce ‘intelligible’ pronunciation is limited to students modeling British English standard accent, notion of which is actually covert (even if standard is a vague term in this area).
The underlying idea, which actually goes against a real understanding of lingua franca, is that the ultimate level of language proficiency (esp. in pronunciation) is the native-speaker model.
This is quite an unfounded ‘superstition’ dare I say, since a native English speaker from New Orleans will present a rather different pronunciation from one from Edinburgh; or Sidney, Johannesburg, etc.
… This is an example of linguicism, which is defined as ‘ideologies, structures, and practices which are used to legitimate, effectuate, and reproduce an unequal division of power and resources (both material and immaterial) between groups which are defined on the basis of language’ (Phillipson, 1992: 47).
As my example showed, the heteronormative framing of identity in the global coursebook is one of the many factors in which the personal world of the students can be foregrounded by materials
Coursebook-driven curricula center on consensus, in contrast to conflict. A consensus-only ideology has very little resemblance to the complexity of our social life
For a great number of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) schools, syllabus is mistakenly understood as curriculum and vice-versa.
This general de-regulation and the functioning of EFL schools as independent enterprises make them less accountable to values, beliefs, ideologies, and other abstract conceptions of curriculum which end up being overly implicit and hence unexamined. In turn, the focus remains on how and what to teach language learners, bringing educational efforts only to the level of the syllabus.
And so on and so forth.
There are, actually, more interest bits; like the part in which I discuss gay invisibility in coursebooks. But let’s leave it to another day… a day I feel less curricular.