MEXTESOL/Central America Caribbean TESOL Convention–Thinking “Glocally”

Brock Brady In March 2009 I was invited to attend the MEXTESOL/Central American Caribbean TESOL Convention in Cancun last week (November 4–7, 2010).  It was worth the wait. 

The convention hall was very well designed and we never felt overcrowded, despite an attendance of more than 2,000.  Sessions were of uniform high quality and plenary speakers included  Diane Larsen-Freeman,  John Murphy,  David Nunan, Herbert Puchta, Jose Luis Ramirez, Steve Taylore-Knowles and….well, me.

The Central American Caribbean Convention is held biannually and is hosted as part of one of the regional association’s convention.  This year MEXTESOL was the host. There were 11 countries represented and being able to talk with all these affiliate/association leaders and learn of their successes and their challenges was definitely the highlight of the convention.

Something that surprised me was finding that challenges in other parts of the world were challenges in the Central American Caribbean region as well. The world is growing smaller and I think that the ESL/EFL distinction is starting to fade.

BBrady_at_MexTESOL From teachers in Mexico and Belize I heard about the challenges of educating youth from from marginalized, impoverished communities—about the challenges of teaching them academic language and the higher order critical thinking skills that school success and the 21st century workplace requires. The same kinds of problems we have been addressing in the United States, particularly in K–12 for years.

From teachers in a number of countries, I heard of the trials of implementing curricula and assessment schemes imposed by governmental decision makers with limited teacher input, just like with U.S. teachers and the No Child Left Behind Act. 

Another problem, which I remember first appeared in the former Soviet states and East Asia a decade ago, was Ministry of Education decrees to introduce English instruction into lower and lower grades and the havoc that this could cause because teachers of other subjects were “repurposed” as English teachers because of the acute need for English teachers, despite not having adequate English skills themselves.  This is happening now in many Latin American Countries.

Another problem, widespread in Europe and starting to appear in Asia, was the increased use of English as a medium of instruction; that is, learning content in English because English is perceived as the language of the global economy.  I’m all for content-based instruction, but I have to ask, if your Ministry of Education deems it necessary for students to master critical thinking skills, couldn’t they do it in Spanish, French, Chinese, Arabic or any number of locally dominant languages and then simply learn the English to express such skills in English?

I think that these challenges are increasing because of an increasing desire by both individuals and states to be more engaged in the global economy.  And while deciding to participate in the global economy should be a decision that one makes with open eyes, I can understand that having control of English can be a useful tool for such engagement.

However, politicians know little about linguistics, language acquisition, or even good quality language instruction.  Often, their introduction of English involves cutting corners in ways that will not lead to good learning and their expectations of how much proficiency one can have in a foreign language, even after adding a few additional years of English instruction (at usually 2–3 hours of instruction per week) is very unrealistic.

We need to collect data on how these key challenges are playing out in every country.  With this kind of case-by-case data we can develop powerful position statements and research briefs that both associations and individual teachers can use as support to educate decision makers about the best practices of language learning.

The good news is that the demand for English instruction is not decreasing.  We’ll likely all have jobs in the future.  However, to support our students and to support our values (multilingualism, avoiding “submersion” approaches to English instruction) we need to work together and share data.

Perhaps we look to a new relationship between TESOL and its affiliates. Rather than a hierarchical relationship, maybe we look at a “hub and spoke” relationship where the relationship is equal but TESOL (the hub) analyzes and disseminates the information provided by the spokes (the affiliates).

A wonderful conference.  Thanks to MexTESOL for inviting me.

Brock Brady
President, TESOL 



About Brock Brady

Brock Brady
Brock Brady is the programming and training education specialist for the U.S. Peace Corps, a volunteer development agency. He was President of TESOL International Association from March 2010 to March 2011. Before coming to Peace Corps, Brady served as Coordinator then Co Director of the American University TESOL Program in Washington, DC for 12 years. Brady also directed English Language Programs for the State Department in Burkina Faso and Benin, lectured at Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) for two years in Korea, served as a Fulbright Scholar in France, and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo, W. Africa. Brady’s research interests include English language planning and policy, program and course design, and pronunciation. He has also taught English or engaged in educational consulting in more than 20 countries
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5 Responses to MEXTESOL/Central America Caribbean TESOL Convention–Thinking “Glocally”

  1. There will be an ESL Caribbean Conference in Kingston, Jamaica in summer 2012. Please contact me for further details.

  2. Hi Mr. Brady,
    We are planning an ESL Caribbean Conference in Kingston , Jamaica for summer 2012. Please contact me for further information on the conference. Thanks

  3. Marlowie D. Sandoval says:

    Sir Brock,
    To answer your question on the global purposes of English, here is my answer Sir.
    “We are divided culturally and separated by boundaries, but we can be one with tongues that speak the same language.”
    It is in promoting easy access and communication to people outside our countries that we have to learn English. In a country of more than one hundred languages like Philippines, the need to establish a national language was given emphasis by our second president, Manuel L. Quezon. With his advocacy, a committee on national language was formed to conduct an intensive study of what language should come up as our national language. After thorough studying of data, the board came up with a decision that “Tagalog” should be our national language. To avoid some negative reactions as to why Tagalog was favored over other Philippine languages, “Filipino” was used instead of Tagalog, which is now an amalgam of all the borrowed languages that are now included in modern Tagalog.
    In a country of 7, 107 islands with almost 170 languages, the need for a national language is seen greatly as way to foster good relationship and communication with other ethnic groups in our country.
    English combines people to understand one another. The liberty to express oneself is highly manifested with people who can communicate with the language of the world.

  4. Brock Brady Brock Brady says:

    You pose an interesting discussion question: what are global purposes for English, and do we want to value all global purposes of English equally?
    If for example a purpose was “native English speakers are to lazy and chauvinistic to want to bother with learning other languages, maybe that wouldn’t be a very good global purpose.
    What would be some good global purposes?
    Thanks for your comment,

  5. Marlowie Sandoval says:

    the issue on multilingualism was also tackled here in the Clark, Philippines 1st International TESOL conference (Nov. 25-27, 2010)headed by Sir Paul Robertson, Sir Rod Ellis, and other delegates from other countries. may we work together in promoting the teaching of English for global purposes.

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