TLO 8: The Future Online in China, Africa, and India

This TLO blog comes to you from (currently) warm and sunny South China, where we recently wrapped up the third TESOL Symposium in China, and the first in Guangzhou, at the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. The symposium was sold out, with more than 400 attendees from all over China, as well as from Vietnam, Russia, and the Philippines. TESOL’s Executive Director, Dr. Rosa Aronson, and TESOL President, Dr. Deena Boraie, also spoke at the symposium, which was a great opportunity for me to learn more about TLO in China, especially as the theme for the event was “Envisioning and Creating the Future for English Language Teaching.” As I noted in my plenary talk, history is littered with failed predications, so envisioning the future can be a very tricky business—but creating the future can be even more precarious!

In my workshop, we touched on the development of teaching and learning online in countries like China and Africa, which have relatively low rates of what is referred to as “Internet penetration.” For example, in an article in PC World earlier this year, Michael Kan reported on the most recent figures from the governmental China Internet Network Information Center. According to the Center, in the first half of this year alone, the number of Internet users in China rose by another 26 million, bringing the total to 591 million, making an Internet penetration rate of 44% of the population.

However, Kan did note that in China’s rural areas, Internet penetration is only 28%, but that’s nearly double for the Africa region, which was still at around 15% last year, according to Internet World Stats. And according to the McKinsey consulting group, India’s Internet penetration rate, by March of this year, was lower still, with about 120 million people online in India, making a penetration rate of just 10%. But the McKinsey report also noted that within just a couple of years, by 2015, that could nearly triple, to around 330 million.

The global average Internet penetration rate last year (June 2012) was around 34%, with the USA at nearly 80%. So, we can see who are the “Digital Haves” and the “Digital Have-Nots,” which is having a direct and dramatic effect on the future of TLO globally, as the latter become the former. But one of the most “fortune-telling facts” that came up in my discussions during the symposium here in Guangzhou was the fact that every other person in the world is now in China, India, and Africa. Planet Earth’s population hit the 7,000,000,000 (seven billion) mark in October 2011, with a total of around 3.5 billion in those three regions—and that does not include the millions more who have left their Chinese, Indian, and African homelands (as me and my family have done) to make their way in the new world.

Those population numbers mean that what happens in those three regions could have a profound effect on our future, and raise many enormous questions and considerations, including the potentially explosive growth of TLO in the “other half” of the world, which I discussed in my previous TLO posting on November 6. In keeping with the theme of the symposium, “Envisioning and Creating the Future for English Language Teaching,” I envisioned a future in which TLO would enable teachers and learners in rural and resource-limited environments in China, India, Africa and elsewhere to engage in teaching and learning in ways that were impossible before.

I also claimed that it’s entirely possible that within our lifetimes the historical trend of North America and Europe setting the developmental agenda for the rest of the world could be reversed. For some, this was an exciting possibility; for others an ominous prediction. What do you envision for the future of TLO?

About Andy Curtis

Andy Curtis
From 2015–2016, Andy Curtis served as the 50th president of TESOL International Association. He has coauthored and coedited around 200 publications and worked with more than 50,000 language educators in more than 100 countries. His current research is focused on the New Peace Linguistics. He is an online professor in the Graduate School of Education at Anaheim University, and he is based in Ontario, Canada, from where he works as an independent language education consultant for organizations worldwide.
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3 Responses to TLO 8: The Future Online in China, Africa, and India

  1. Stephen says:

    This is a wonderful article, though am reading it late. I am from Nigeria, and I can categorically state that Africa is far behind in online education system. I just hope our people can be sensitised on the advantages of online learning systems.

    As a teacher who understands the value of online teaching systems, am starting a programme with my students, in order to align their consciousness with online learning. This, I have made opened to volunteering teachers on TESOL. You can check through:

    And I hope it will go a long way in helping my students learn better.

  2. Andy Curtis Andy Curtis says:

    Hi Susan

    Thanks for your response, and for asking about mobile-learning in China. From your comment, it sounds like you’re working in China, and as I come to the end of a month working in South China, in Guangzhou, I share your concerns about online academic honesty online, not just here in China, but anywhere where cellphones are so ubiquitous. For me, that’s a good example of a phrase that keeps coming up in my presentations on this area, that “technology in the language classroom is a double-edged sword”!

    Thanks again for your posting, Andy

  3. Susan Kelly says:

    Would m-learning work better in China? My hunch is it would. Also, the east coast of China has so many students it could be viable there. My main concern is academic honesty online. That’s a major hurdle.

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