February 28, 2014 by Willy Cardoso
To deny that there is a conflict in contemporary ELT, particularly but not exclusively in the ‘importing’ of new techniques associated with communicative language teaching into the state sector educational systems of developing countries, is to deny a reality with which many are familiar.
(Ray Brown, 2000: 227)
This is a relevant concern and one that would benefit from more discussions, especially those voiced by teachers at the receiving end of this so-called ‘import’.
A simple premise to understand the issue is that with any methodology (or approach if you prefer) there also comes some cultural educational values, which are implicitly or explicitly present in the learning theories, language acquisition principles, classroom management techniques and materials that permeate the imported methodology, or any methodology in fact – that is, it’s not merely a classroom technique or a coursebook that is being imported but also some less visible elements which come along as part of the package.
Besides the-grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side factor and the questionable mentality that what is foreign is automatically better (believe it or not, this exists), or what is native-speaker(made) is better – although of course sometimes it really is better – we could look at the obviously sensible idea that things are imported when they cannot be produced locally, whether in quantity or quality, and this is caused mainly because there is a lack of resources: human and/or technological. And when there is a surplus (and these days even when there isn’t), the other party can export. Nothing new here, just some very basic principles of economics – but judging from where the world is today, we can draw some conclusions and be skeptical of it false naturalness…
Anyway, when is it a good thing and when is it not, to import methodologies?
Another point that can be raised he extent to which foreign experts are hired to on the one hand ‘solve a problem’, and on the other to upskill the local workforce to be able to solve their own problems. Think about the old saying teach a man to fish, etc.
Moreover, and as the quote above suggests, how come did this so-called Communicative Language Teaching become accepted ‘best practice’?
Can it be possible that one set of principles work very well across different cultures? Is it fair, realistic, principled to expect teachers in the state sector of developing countries to adopt approaches that were created mainly in and for private language centres in English-speaking countries?
What are the implications of being trained in a ‘foreign’ approach?
Have your say in the comments section below, it’s free.
Brown, R. (2000). Cultural continuity and ELT teacher training. ELT Journal 54 (3): 227-234