Academic journal article Comparative and International Education

Teaching English for Economic Competiveness: Emerging Issues and Challenges in English Education in China/Enseignement De L'anglais, Une Question De Compétitivité éConomique: Problèmes éMergents et Défis Pour L'enseignement De L'anglais En Chine

Academic journal article Comparative and International Education

Teaching English for Economic Competiveness: Emerging Issues and Challenges in English Education in China/Enseignement De L'anglais, Une Question De Compétitivité éConomique: Problèmes éMergents et Défis Pour L'enseignement De L'anglais En Chine

Article excerpt

Abstract

Under China's market economy, English language learning has been adopted as a strategy to promote the nation's economic competitiveness in a global economy. This development reflects a discourse of linguistic instrumentalism. Based upon individual interviews of 24 English teachers in Zhejiang Province, China, the study reveals that teachers question the assumptions of linguistic instrumentalism, the gatekeeper role of English, the impact of the increasing dominance of English on Chinese language, and their students' internalization of the belief in the superiority of Anglo culture. In addition, the study suggests that as a result of globalization, the delivery of English education in China has experienced unprecedented marketization and privatization. Despite increases in their salaries, teachers still live in poor conditions. Under the fee-paying principle, parents expect teachers to provide the best service to their children, and as such the relations between teachers and students have become like those between businesses and clients. It seems evident that teaching has been devalued and commodified in the age of the market economy.

Résumé

Depuis que la China est entrée dans l'économie de marché, l'anglais est devenue stratégique afin de promouvoir la compétitivité économique de la nation au niveau international. Ce développement est le reflet d'un discours d'instrumentalisme linguistique. Les entrevues de 24 professeurs d'anglais de la province de Zhejiang révèlent pourtant que les professeurs questionnent cette notion d'instrumentalisme linguistique, le rôle de gardien de la langue anglaise, l'impact de la dominance de l'anglais sur le chinois ainsi que la croyance en la supériorité de la culture anglophone de la part de leurs étudiants. De plus, cette étude montre que suite à la globalisation, l'apprentissage de l'anglais a été privatisé et commercialisé. Bien que les salaires des professeurs d'anglais aient augmenté, ils vivent toujours dans des conditions précaires. Les parents payent des frais de scolarité et s'attendent donc à recevoir les meilleurs services possibles pour leurs enfants. Les relations entre professeurs et apprenants deviennent de ce fait de plus en plus commerciales. Il est clair qu'en Chine, depuis l'instauration de l'économie de marché, l'enseignement a été dévalué et mercantilisé.

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Introduction: English Education in Today's Market Economy Society

With the open-door policy in 1978, China initiated a transformation from planned economy to market economy, a transition in which English has become an essential requirement. In 1998, the Ministry of Education official in charge of foreign language education, Cen Jianjun, stated that the goal for English education in China was not an educational issue per se, but one of particular relevance to China's economy:

If a nation's foreign language proficiency is raised, it will be able to obtain information of science and technology from abroad and translate it into the native language. Ultimately this will be turned into production force. (Cen, 1998, cited in Cai, 2006, p. 3)

Put simply, the Chinese government sees English language learning as paramount to the nation's economic competiveness in the global market. Such an assumption constitutes the discourse of linguistic instrumentalism, which emphasizes utilitarianism of learning English for sustaining economic development as a society and for social mobility as individuals (Kubota, 2011; Wee, 2008). This discourse pervades language education policies, the increasing emphasis of English Language Teaching (ELT), and English curricular reforms in China. In large cities such as Shanghai, the economic capital of 'foreign language' is highlighted: "To develop world-class foreign language teaching programs in Shanghai is a prerequisite for turning the municipality into a worldclass international metropolis" (Shanghai Curricular and Teaching Material Reform Commission, 1999, p. …

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