English Language Teaching in Spain: Do Textbooks Comply with the Official Methodological Regulations? A Sample Analysis
Criado, Raquel, Sánchez, Aquilino, International Journal of English Studies
The goal of this paper is to verify up to what point ELT textbooks used in Spanish educational settings comply with the official regulations prescribed, which fully advocate the Communicative Language Teaching Method (CLT). For that purpose, seven representative coursebooks of different educational levels and modalities in Spain - secondary, upper secondary, teenager and adult textbooks - were selected to be analysed. A full unit randomly selected from each coursebook was examined through the parameters of the communicative potential of the activities - measured on a scale from 0 to 10 - and the communicative nature of the methodological strategies implemented - measured on a dichotomous scale (yes/no). Global results per educational levels point to the prevailing communicative nature of all the materials, which was shown to be above 50%. The remaining non-communicative block was covered by activities focused on the formal features of language (grammar and vocabulary). This resulting degree of dissociation between official regulations and what is really found in teaching materials may be positive, since the learning of languages is complex and results from the intervention of multiple factors and learning styles, as is evidenced by the professional experience of teachers from different backgrounds and beliefs.
KEYWORDS: Communicative Language Teaching Method, ELT Coursebooks, Foreign Language Syllabus, Spanish regulations on ELT
The question we will try to analyse and answer in this article relates to the adequacy between English Language Teaching (ELT) textbooks used in schools and the teaching method they are supposed to adjust to, following the official regulations in Spain. This question is particularly relevant nowadays: governments and educational institutions tend to regulate the syllabi of the various compulsory disciplines in the educational curriculum and those syllabi are the backbone of manuals or textbooks. Hence, it is of paramount importance to look at textbooks and check whether the product they offer is truly that one they should offer, that is, whether the materials they contain adjust or not -and to what extent- to the principles and techniques that support the method defined by the official regulations. The analytical survey carried out in this paper refers to the situation of Spain in this respect at the beginning of the 21st century, and is based, on the one hand, on the latest official regulations issued by the Spanish government, and, on the other, on the analysis of a representative sample of textbooks widely used in the teaching of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in secondary and adult education.
The teaching of languages in Spain has not been particularly outstanding throughout the history (Monterrey, 2003; Sánchez, 1992; Sofía Gamero, 1961). It is only in the 20th century when key institutions were created with the exclusive purpose of teaching foreign languages (Escuela Central de Idiomas in Madrid, 1911), or for promoting research and philological studies, as well as for training teachers (Departments of Modern Philology at the universities of Madrid -1954-, Salamanca -1952, 1954-, Barcelona -1955). Teaching and learning English did not receive any emphasis well until the seventies, when Spain opened up to Europe and initiated a significant economic development. The 'Law on General Education' in 1970 (Ley General de Educación) was a decisive step forward in the methodological updating of foreign language teaching. The Audiolingual Method and/or the Audiovisual Method (two methodological varieties of the same structurally based approach) were clearly defined as the method the schools should comply with, as is shown in the guidelines for implementing the teaching of languages in Primary Education. Manuals and teachers should
- intensificar la práctica de estructuras morfológicas y sintácticas,
- demorar la práctica de lectura y escritura hasta un mínimo de seis clases después de empezar el aprendizaje oral. …