Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

International TESOL Training and EFL Contexts: The Cultural Disillusionment Factor

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

International TESOL Training and EFL Contexts: The Cultural Disillusionment Factor

Article excerpt

This article reports on a study examining the implementation of communicative language teaching (CLT) in Bangladesh in general and at the University of Dhaka in particular. When CLT was first introduced across Europe, the English as a foreign language (EFL) context in which it would inevitably be applied was not considered. Here university EFL teachers discuss the problems and contradictions associated with adopting this western-forged methodology. One paradox faced by the teachers was that of an essentially learner-centred curriculum in a tradition where the centrality of the teacher is the culturally and socially sanctioned basis of teaching. Although in developing countries we cannot afford simply to retreat to traditional teaching methods, the study suggests the need for an educational agenda set within a new post-colonial framework which acknowledges the importance of the adaptation of CLT and recognises the significance of its applicability in Bangladesh.

Keywords

communicative competence (language)

developing countries

English (second language)

English Teaching

Globalisation

Second Language Teaching

These fragments I have shored against my ruins. T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Introduction

Teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) is by definition cross-cultural and international and hence presupposes an international body of learners. In spite of this, there is an assumption in international TESOL training that the western academic setting is the default backdrop against which teachers teach. In most cases, the teaching environment of the international student--teacher is very different from the western setting. Due to this difference, internationally trained teachers encounter incompatibilities on their return home. The student--teacher abroad, who is either deliberately or subconsciously moving away from a teacher-centred style more suited to his own country, is seen as disappointing the expectation of students back home for whom the centrality of the teacher is the culturally and socially sanctioned basis of his teaching (Edge, 1996). This study seeks to examine the ways in which communicative language teaching (CLT) is understood by university English as a foreign language (EFL) teachers in Bangladesh in general and at the University of Dhaka in particular. In order to understand the role of culture in language teaching, it is first important to examine the contextual givens of the situation under study.

This article begins with an introduction to the teaching of English in Bangladesh and the Foundation Course in English at the University of Dhaka and continues with a discussion of issues relating to the match and mismatch of language teaching methodology to the culture of language learners, specifically CLT methodology to learners in Asian countries. It then reports on a study conducted in the Department of English of the University of Dhaka, where these issues were raised in a series of interviews with six members of the teaching staff. Themes which emerged from the teachers' responses are identified. In the final section, recommendations are made which seek to achieve culturally appropriate outcomes in the teaching of English in Bangladesh.

EFL in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, English is taught as a compulsory subject for 12 years under a uniform national curriculum, both in state-run and private schools and colleges. It is a required subject rather than a tool for survival in business and education at the primary and secondary levels. It is therefore an EFL context and, like most other countries in Asia (see Li, 1998, Liu, 1998), English teaching in Bangladesh tends to mean teaching grammar, reading and translation.

In Bangladesh, students expect teachers to be authority figures and the teaching methods to conform to the traditional 'lock-step' teacher-centred approaches where teachers give orders to students, who then comply. …

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