Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Pulling my hair out!!!!!!

The more I create my own material the less satisfied I become with the teaching resources available commercially. In the vast majority of schools you're obliged to use the books which I would never dream of using in my private lessons. They are so exam obsessed that there are little more than rehashes of past papers with a few language production activities to thinly veil the fact. So, for example you have three page of grammar activities followed by the pathetically inadequate speaking exercise which can be got through in a couple of minutes.

Even the books I do use have changed very little over the last decade. As much as I appreciate the Headway series (all except the advanced book, which is dire) they are way out of date methodologically and seem to have successfully ignored the electronic revolution that has been underway for the last 20 or so years. It's almost as if their world froze in 1986 and no one told them otherwise.

The situation becomes even more tragic when you reach advanced levels where simply revising grammar, syntax and vocabulary is unlikely to produce the kind of linguistic skills needed to pass exams or help those who want to be able to communicate in English at anything other than the most basic manner. It is hardly surprising then, that the Greek pass rate for C2 level exams such as CPE is 29%. Also as I read in Hyphenpedia;

"To the above equation you add the sad 77% (hyphen 2005 annual market research) of Greek professional FL certificate holders who cannot speak English, thus shaping a disappointing international profile for the average Greek professional. Then it is easier to swallow that maybe this whole Greek ELT system, that has successfully served Greek insecurity and the need for formal (but not necessarily substantial) accreditation, is coming to an end."

It is not enough that current methodologies are incredibly bad in helping students get the certificates they so dearly desire, They are also terrible at producing able second language speakers even amongst those who do manage to acquire some kind of qualification.

Yet every time I mention these facts and figures and try to introduce new ideas and approaches I'm told that they won't work, they'll negatively affect exam results or that that's not what students want from their lessons. After a while there comes a time when you just shut up, keep your opinions to yourself and tow the line.

Strangely though, the vast majority of the parents of students I do private lessons with are extremely happy with the fact their kids have become confident users of English and actually are happy to do lessons. But hell, what do I know? I'm just a teacher.


Claudia said...

Dear Dude,

I had noticed the low Greek passing grades from the Cambridge site and also the work of Costas Gabrielatos mentioning the problem as well. Now your post really completes the picture to me.

Down here in Buenos Aires the situation is a little more hopeful. Few teachers embrace ICT introduction in their lessons, but at least, neither teachers nor managers are desperately against it! Management is always a key defining point between adoption or rejection. That's a start.

On the students’ perspective, FCE has become a standard way of referring to a level. There is no exams craze these days; perhaps due to our 2001 economic crisis, which made the exams rather expensive for us. People value communication more than certificates. I believe no one gets a job by just exhibiting an international certificate. They will certainly be asked to speak in English at an interview. Simple.

Technology is changing faster than most minds can cope. And most teachers still love to stand in front of a classroom and know ALL. Few step into the room to learn SOMETHING. That's what postgraduate courses were made for! (I do not know whether I should laugh or cry at this!). It is not just having or reading a blog; it is a whole new frame of mind that teachers have to change to get the point. But I do believe things are getting better.

You are a pioneer in what you do, Dude. That has a price in incomprehension. I would like to tell you not to let the environment change your happy blogging mood, which makes me like reading you. Perhaps, instead of going with the crowd, try just not dealing with them. Deal with your things and always post about your ideas and your results. Some teachers might be feeling something must be changed and will not know where to start. Your blog will be there for them.

All best,


teacher dude said...

Thank you for your wonderful comments, Claudia. It's really means a lot to me that you have taken the time and effort to reply to my post.