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The Role of English Language Education in Developmental Contexts

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The Role of English Language Education in Developmental Contexts

The teaching of English in postcolonial, Third World countries is an issue that has received much debate in the TESOL profession. Opponents of the current global spread of English argue that this language dominance is a form of neo-colonialism and that its expansion should be halted, especially in postcolonial countries where English was previously a language of oppression. Phillipson (1992) goes so far as to term the spread of English “linguistic imperialism” in his work of that title and establishes the notion of “linguistic human rights,” calling for the preservation of native languages in the face of global monolingualism. For many others, though, the growing popularity of English does not have such ominous connotations. Rejecting the implied connection between the spread of English and Western cultural dominance, these applied linguists view English as an international language belonging to all, a valuable asset for global business and cross-cultural communication. Many also hail English as a language of development for the Third World, claiming that the access it provides to greater markets and wider communication stimulates economic and societal development. Language policy makers have adopted this view both in wealthy nations (e.g., U.S., U.K.), where large amounts ‘foreign aid’ moneys are spent on promoting English in the Third World, and in underdeveloped countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where English is now often the sole official language of instruction at all levels of education.

What both perspectives in the debate over the dominance of English fail to address, though, is how English language education actually operates in dev...

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...fficials and policy makers down to the poorest participants in education.

Works Cited

Bamgbose, A. (1984). Mother tongue medium and scholastic attainment in Nigeria.Prospects, 16(1), 87-93.

Bruthiaux, P. (2002). Hold your courses: Language education, language choice, and economic development. TESOL Quarterly, 36, 275-96.

Bunyi, G. (1999). Rethinking the place of African indigenous languages in African education. International Journal of Educational Development, 19, 337-350.

Cleghorn, A. & Rollnick, M. (2002). The role of English in individual and societal development: A view from African classrooms. TESOL Quarterly, 36, 347-72.

Cooke, J. & Williams, E. (2002). Pathways and labyrinths: Language and education in development. TESOL Quarterly, 36, 297-322.

Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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