In the introduction to this Language Debate session at IATEFL 2015 in Manchester this week (follow link below to watch it online), Michael Carrier said, “One of the issues we haven´t quite solved is teachers´ language proficiency.” The sentence reminded me of the results of a recent test given to teachers of English in Peru by Euroidiomas on behalf of the MINEDU and in preparation for a training scheme carried out last and this year: about 70% of testees landed on the A1-A2 level, that is, they were diagnosed as fit to pass KET and PET (data presented at last week´s Foro Internacional Educación y Bilingüismo en el Perú). Is this an acceptable, or at the very least satisfactory, level to teach English? The answers will vary depending from what standpoint you look at the issue, and that is shown in the said debate. What surprised me was the data Michael Carrier brought about levels of teachers in other countries in the world. While working for Cambridge University giving consultancy to governments and ministries of education, he has come to learn that that there about 12 to 15 million teachers of English in the world. 90-95%, roughly, are non-native speakers of the English language: only 5-10% are native speakers! He also mentioned that when testing teachers´ levels, the majority were in the A2 level, much the same as what the Euroidiomas testing exercise found out. The conclusion here is that the problem of language command is not exclusive to our country; however, that should not make us happy, but, on the contrary, force us to work harder to find solutions.
The debate also tackled other topics, such as the concept of the teacher-learner; one that I have heard many times to justify the fact that some teachers who can´t thread two sentences (correctly) together are still in front of a group of learners. The teacher-learner may be looked at from two points of view: first, as a teacher who is learning his subject, English, while on the job (because s/he can´t speak it reasonably well yet –what is reasonable is also under debate); and second, the teacher-learner who is learning professionally, that is, s/he is developing skills to improve his/her teaching.
The debate is highly interesting and I invite you to watch it by visiting the link below.