First things first is a good way to begin this story. Therefore, I begin with a short extract. After that, some background information on the function of English in Turkey will be given. Finally, a reflection of mine will end this post.
“The Ministry of Education will bring in 40,000 native English-speaking teachers to work with teachers in English language classes across Turkey starting from the next academic year (2012) as part of a project aiming to improve the education of foreign languages in the country. The project was launched due to the criticism that foreign languages are not taught well in the country. It will run for five years at an estimated cost of TL 1.5 billion. The project aims to be the foundation of the nation’s foreign language teaching policy.
Education Minister Nimet Çubukçu said Turkish students cannot speak English properly despite their foreign language classes, a reality that has led the ministry to initiate this project. She said the native English-speaking teachers will be of great help for students to practice English. http://bit.ly/q8rQEf
Next, how important is English for Turkey? More importantly, is English really worth 1.5 Billion Turkish dollars? Apparently, Education Minister Nimet Çubukçu is convinced that it is. Nonetheless, what function does English fill in Turkey?
Dogancay-Aktuna (1998, p.37) draws attention to two main functions of English in Turkey:
“In Turkey English carries the instrumental function of being the most studied foreign language and the most popular medium of education after Turkish. On an interpersonal level, it is used as a link language for international business and for
tourism while also providing a code that symbolizes modernization and elitism to the educated middle classes and those in the upper strata of the socioeconomic ladder.”
My reflection is a brief one. Judging by the example Turkey gives us, the myth of the native English speaker is alive and well. Above, we are told the Turkish teachers have failed to teach students to speak properly. 40,000 native English speakers, for five years, are the solution to the problem. Forgive me for being cynical, a naysayer, and openly critical of the proposed solution. It won’t work because it seeks to provide a simple answer (native speaker teachers) to a complicated problem (students can’t speak English).
What steps would be more likely to provide the desired result? I contend that a three-point plan would be sufficient:
1. Upgrade the teaching skills of the current teachers through Continuous Professional Development.
2. Set clear goals and monitor outcomes.
3. For teachers who can’t meet the expected outcomes, seek employment elsewhere.