The Future of Language Education in Bangladesh

Language Education; Photo: Spaneasy
Language Education; Photo: Spaneasy
Masum Billah
Written by Masum Billah

Things have truly surfaced that students are still unable to use English in their practical life even though they attain good grades in the public examinations in our country. So, the assessment system should be changed to learn whether students are acquiring language education such as English. The outcome of the significant preparation for this assessment is the increased memorization solely of the required English materials that will be tested.

Students have become proficient at remembering key test vocabulary, grammar, and idioms; however, this technique is not effective in gaining balanced English skills combining listening, speaking, and reading and writing competencies. Again, Professor Stephen Stoynoff has said that formal examination is artificial, one-off and snapshot. It does not always reflect the original of learners in all the situations through the whole assessment system fully relies on the summative assessment system globally.

Having realized that the current system has not been successful in producing students of English who can function in all areas of the language, the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation has decided to change its assessment system in English. A more contextually relevant test specially designed for Korean students should have greater benefits in the development of their English skills.

Furthermore, this new assessment will have the added benefits for student beginning to focus more on the speaking and writing aspects of English which have long been marginalized. South Korea is going to start National English Ability Test (NEAT). It is going to replace a three-level computer based assessment such as College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), the Test of English for International Communication (TO EIC), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) which dominate standardized English testing in Korea.

CSAT is an important part of South Korean educational system as it determines a student’s’ eligibility to enter university upon graduation from high school. It was created in 1993 and is based on the US designed Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT). This examination is extremely crucial to students, because it can determine many things regarding one’s status, job opportunities and quality of life. Poor marks often lead to parental disapproval, social stigma, and overall sense of failure and unfortunately, even suicidal. Therefore, scoring well on the CSAT is a top priority for all Koran students during their middle and high school years.

Entrance to prestigious universities is the foremost goal for the majority of high school levelers, student spend countless hours preparing for this important assessment while extra curricular activities, hobbies, and even relationships take a backseat. A student’s only priority is the CSAT and laboriously preparing for the dreaded test day. To compare the historical results of South Korea’s position in relation to worldwide English abilities, since the introduction of the CSAT there has been an overall decrease in speaking aptitude.

To accentuate this, according the country’s global standing in proficiency of the language has fallen. It ranked 13th in 2009 on an independent ranking called the English Proficiency Index but fell to 21st of the 54 countries assessed in 2011. Another ranking even rated Koreans as the worst communications in English among 12 Asian countries. South Korea is highly industrially and information technically developed country. They have renewed their emphasis on English which will further make their stand in the globe as an enviable one.

In Bangladesh, we have brought changes in many sectors but the practical life English has not been achieved by the learners though they learn it as a compulsory subject. They just learn how to pass or obtain good grades in English. We can follow the South Korean assessment system of English or at least should change the present one to make our students really proficient in practical English.

We know that languages are not learned from a textbook; research has proven that adults need real-world input for effective learning. Wearable computing is the ultimate manifestation of having real-world input. Can we imagine a world where you have contextual, personalized language learning lessons pushed to we whenever and wherever we want them? We can. And, having an even faster, more effective, and more engaging way to learn a language? We should and we must.

Language learning is not a desirable pastime for the masses. Most people learn a language because they need to, not because they want to. We need to learn English to vie with the global partners and competitors to make our position solid in the global market. Language learning in the classic form may not bring positive result today.

Now language courses in a school, college, or university setting are struggling to attract enough students in order to stay relevant. There might be exceptions for languages like Chinese and Arabic, but overall, languages have been the stepchild of public education and academia for a long time. Modern technology and convenience will eventually kill the classic form of language learning for the mass market.

The majority of people in the world who want to learn a language are learning English because it might get them a better job,” says von Ahn. “And learning a language usually requires money. You need to attend a good school that has a foreign languages department, or buy a program like Rosetta Stone that can cost hundreds of pounds.” Von Ahn himself grew up in Guatemala, but went to a school with English classes. “I was one of the wealthy few,” he says. He went to the United States to attend college and graduate school, and then went on to become a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon and eventually a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship. 

Because Voxy was founded on the concept that language learning should be contextual and that mobile technology allows users to be immersed in their learning experience.

Today practical language learning is taking place in various non-formal ways. Different organizations are taking many pragmatic steps but the educational institutions cannot cope with these ones. If they fail to adopt newer ways, means and technologies, the whole language teaching-learning can go to other sectors making the educational institutions lame. Life-oriented English must be taught to the students and to assess whether students are acquiring English must be authentic. 

About the author

Masum Billah

Masum Billah

Masum Billah works as an Education Expert in the BRAC Education Program, BRAC, and President of the English Teachers' Association of Bangladesh (ETAB), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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