A blog for the Second Language Literacies course from the MA in Learning and Teaching Processes in Second Languages (ML2) at UPB-Medellín
Leydy Viviana Castaño González
English Language II.
Professor Raúl Alberto Mora, Ph.D.
Semester II – 2016
Concurrently National government by National Ministry of Education “Ministerio de Educación Nacional (MEN)”has implementing policies towards foster English as a Foreign Language in Colombia as a line to contribute to improve life style, to offer equal learning and working opportunities and of course to get high levels in education.For operate these policies, Ministry of Educationprovidestaking as a start point the General Law on Education of 1994, some documents and publications that guide the department programs, school curriculum and teachers’ practices in the English foreign language classrooms.The Government has the idea that English is an open door for opportunities: “Having a good level of English facilitates access to working and educationalopportunities that help improve the quality of life. Being competent in anotherlanguage is essential in the globalized world. Being bilingual increases the opportunities to be more competent and competitive” (MEN, 2006).
In this sense I want to read in the light of critical literacy one of the initial documents that open the perspective of teaching and learning English in Colombia: “guia 22.Estandares Básicos de competencias en lengua extranjera: ingles/ guide 22; Basic Standards of Competence in a Foreign language: English” (MEN, 2006) which suggests a view of what children should be taught in Colombian schools.
Is important to inquire in some questions within the document: what it means the title of the document: guide 22; Basic Standards of Competence in a Foreign language: English” (MEN, 2006)?What is the intention of the standards? What messenger does pretend give us the policies makers with this document? What are the possible economic, political or social interests from this guide 22? What it means communicative competence?
To get started we can reflect about the title of the document “Basic standardsfor competences in foreign languages:English. Teaching in foreign languages: The challenge!The idea of the title is first give teachers, students and may be parents that itdocument support teachingand learning other languages as is an objective within general education law , but what is the surprise that the only target language in Colombia is English, it means that English might be teach, learned at public schools principally.What is English the target tongue? The answer can be attributed to several factors for exampleis possible that one fact is l the Power maintained; the relation between government and education is evident in this point, because in this globalization time, when international relationships are emerging more and more, Colombia needs become economically and social competitive in this international field, so English is a core fact to grasp the great objective and of course schools are a big instrument for government to promote the assimilation of these necessity it is because students are the future social, political and economic agents in many fields, as all this is evident express by MEN “The National Bilingualism Program is oriented toward “having citizens able to communicate in English in such a way that they move the country into universal communication processes, into the global economy, and into a cultural openness with internationally comparable standards.
Now is important to analyses the discourse inside the document and appreciate that some paragraphs justify attention. First is what is considered the teacher and students role:Notice that by saying a “the challenge” The teachers are deeply engageto develop these standards, but How the standards encouraged teachers to focus on socio-political issues in their language classrooms? Even though the standards give teachers the opportunity to adapting the material as a tool for English practices, the sequence organized by levels according to education system is impose may be or not according to the several context in our country, the standards are based in the common European framework of reference for teaching, learning and assignment, which wasdesigned to achieve political, cultural, academic, and economical objectives. It is necessary to consider that it was elaborated to suit specificneeds and characteristics that were identified in the European context (Ayala & Alvarez 2004) so it requests hard work of revision according to Colombian context which is multicultural as well and taking account the geographical location, the system education and the socioeconomic status of population; if one purpose of the CEF was engage the European culture and social heritage so the adaptation to Colombian context is to promote by learning and teaching English the own Cultural and linguistic diversity. In this sense, teachers need to rethink pedagogical practice and be awareness of the responsibility toward a just and more inclusive education, so try to connect the standards creatively to the real situations and find the way to give life to these in specific context and specific curriculums. In the same linewe could discuss the role of the students in the standards, are students seen as a passive or active actors? The discourse in the items for each group of grades shows the role of students as active participator in the process of learning English in the sense they precise the competence that students will be able to develop and the prompts they give in order to motivate them. However, is no completely clear this role therefore teachers have to help students to encourage their own learning and be awareness of the importance of literacy in the target Language, it is that they have the capacity to use a critical consciousness of the process of learning a second language and what it means in their real context.
Second is essential look at the organized sequence presentsin the document it sequence is presented as a list of items which says that students can do in groups of grades, and determine which of communicativecompetences they could develop: linguistic, pragmatic or sociolinguistic. If we see for example the group of performance from first to third grade in elementary school, we found forty-three items owned to these three competences, but emerge the question: does standards emphasizes in academic or a social perspective? If we see the items grade by grade it looksapparently as merely acquisition of skills but not as a social practice, as Fajardo (2015)quotesFreire “reading and writing skills are facilitated by and exploration of the causes and effects of learners’ lived realities, are potential tools for social transformation” so other responsibility for teachers in English classrooms is to transform this basic standards in practices inside the English classwhom provides students the opportunity to think, analyses and discuss social issues such as sexism, patriarchy, racism, feminist, masculinity, elitism and others issues whom can affect them in many circumstance and some time they can not namely converting in a oppression for lone time, so students need to be awareness and oppressive forms and consequently be able to act and to help to transform this realities.
Now look at the following quote “El Gobierno Nacional tiene el compromiso fundamental de crear las condiciones para que los colombianos desarrollen competencias comunicativas en otra lengua. Tener un buen nivel de inglés facilita el acceso a oportunidades laborales y educativas que ayudan a mejorar la calidad de vida. Pag3.
From the citation, we can infer that the government provides schools with important tools in order to give some conditions they mention, but if we bring some research in this field, we find that it is no completely true because Colombian schools are frequently face lack of resources and conditions necessary for the effective curriculum development.Usma (2009) refer to “in the field of foreign language teaching and learning, while the National Education Law of 1994 has reinforced the need to learn other languages, and included foreign language teaching as another mandatory area starting in elementary school, the lack of teachers and resources (Cadavid, McNulty & Quinchía, 2004), as well as the adverse working conditions in public schools have impeded a successful implementation of the plan (Ayala & Álvarez, 2005; Usma & Frodden, 2003; Usma, 2007; Valencia, 2006).” Referring to Colombia Bilingual program 2014-2018 in which standards are adscript. In the same line Guerrero C. H (2010) adds that in theColombia Bilingual program, the Ministry of Education (MEN) and the British Council (BC) have not taken into account the improbability that this project cannot be implemented in many parts of the country because in rural areas in Colombia are impoverished, some schools do not have electricity or water and the access is very difficult for geographical or the situation of violence, In this condition, a national program in bilingual education(English-Spanish) will increase the gap between the powerful and the powerless, therich and the poor.
In conclusion,there are boundaries between the ideal of authors of standards and the real life and real context of students, teachers and parents who face social issues every day, so it affirms that it is important that policies language makers take account the cultural diversity, linguistic and socioeconomic contexts we have in Colombia, if teachers, students and parents would participated in these policies may be these can be more articulated with real needs and real context`s development; rater the standards are an interesting tool for teachers and so the author wants to transmit the messenger that English is important for insertion in globalization time and for the country`s development with socio- economic purpose, the teachers should be creative and take advantage from these, so interpret it in the better way according to the context are involve and take elements to renovate the English teaching practices in order to help to transform it in social practice.
Ayala J. & J.A. Álvarez 2005. A perspective of the implications of the Common
European Framework implementation in the Colombian socio-cultural context.
Colombian Journal of Applied Linguistics 7, 7–26.
Colombia. Ministerio de Educación Nacional [MEN]. (2006). Estándares básicos de competencias en lenguas extranjeras: inglés. Formar en lenguas extranjeras: ¡el reto! Lo que necesitamos saber y saber hacer. Bogotá, imprenta Nacional, 2006.
Fajardo, Margarita Felipe, (2015) A review of critical literacy beliefs and
practices of English language learners and teachers, University of Sydney Papers in TESOL, 10, 29-56.©2015 ISSN: 1834-4712, Australia.
Guerrero, Carmen Helena, (2008),Elite vs. Folk Bilingualism: The Mismatch between Theories and Educational and Social Conditions, HOW 17, December 2010, ISSN 0120-5927. Bogotá, Colombia.
Usma, J. (2009). Globalization, Language, and Education Reform in Colombia: A Critical Outlook, Íkala vol.14 no.22 Medellín May/Aug. 2009.