An article in the Economist recently discussed the impact of international studies (such as PISA) of children’s attainment in education. The article begins with the quote: “Research comparing educational achievement between countries is growing. Drawing conclusions from it is harder.” One salient statistic the article does highlight is that national culture appears to have a bigger impact than the structure of the actual education system. In other words, nations need to make education a priority on all sorts of levels, until it is firmly built into the culture.
For me, this has clear implications for language teaching and learners. We are all too familiar with countries where the “culture” seems to encourage language learning and of course this is in turn built into the system. What is harder is to get the process working effectively the other way around which is the problem faced here in Spain but I would also say in countries such as England and Ireland when it comes to foreign language learning!
The good news for us teachers and other workers is that, from another recent Economist article, “Robots are getting more powerful. That need not be bad news for workers.” As a simple example the argument explains that while computers are displacing employees in an airport from boring tasks like printing boarding cards, this actually frees us humans to deal better with unexected and unplanned issues which need human ability to improvise, such as cancelled flights or Iberia strikes. Is that good news for us language teachers? Have IWBs already shown that while the technology frees us from the more mundane issues of developing fancy presentations, we can spend more time on real teaching? Does that also depend on the culture we are working in? Have a look at this video and think about how teachers are evaluated in the field you work in … does the tower lean towards you or are the bells tolling for you?