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English and Globalisation : a slave to the market?
by Marnie Holborow
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(This is a summary of a paper given to the IATEFL conference in Brighton 2003)

ELT needs to reposition itself in a broader political context. More particularly it needs to take full account of three recent geopolitical developments:

  • The adoption of the neoliberal agenda and how it has affected institutions of higher education
  • The military face of globalisation and the recent war on Iraq
  • Global opposition to both of these

All three have direct bearing on how English is perceived and what and how we teach.

Two aspects of these developments are highlighted here:

1) The quest for International Students in Universities and ELT involvement in this process

2) The effect on language - World English made from above but also from below.

1. The Scramble for the International Student

First, the marketisation of education, like the ideology of the market, itself is riven with contradictions:

"World" English everywhere Access to learning/speaking it restricted
International students sought by Universities Deported by Governments
International students courted as if in a free market Forced to pay higher fees than national students
Enrolled supposedly alongside other students Follow a distinctive track

These contradictions reveal the degree to which higher education institutions are desperate to recruit overseas, non-EU students for the higher fees that these students bring - sometimes two or three times what a national or EU student pays.

This is by no means only an Irish or a UK phenomenon. It is estimated that the numbers of enrolled overseas students are 1.47 million across the OECD countries and will increase by 100,000 a year.

Overseas students in universities are rapidly filling the financial gap left by decreasing government funds. International students and their search for English have now become a significant part of the creeping privatisation of higher education.

ELT lecturers and teachers cannot remain neutral to this process. A number of issues in this respect should be should be discussed across the profession:

  • Equality of fees between home and international students
  • Provision of full overseas student support services
  • Representation of international students on student bodies
  • Integration of overseas student programmes with existing programmes
  • Development of exchange programmes with non-EU universities

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