São Paulo, March 15, 2023
• Study presented by Pearson and The Interamerican Dialogue, launched at the Embassy of the United Kingdom, in Brasília, diagnoses the main barriers to language teaching in Brazil and helps outline improvements both in the public and private spheres.
• Crowded classes and impractical classes are among the main obstacles reported by Language and Literature students with an emphasis on the English language.
• None of the institutions surveyed require proficiency certification as a graduation requirement. Only 25% of course subjects are focused on practices in English.
A study launched last Tuesday (14 March), at the United Kingdom Embassy, in Brasília, shows that Brazilian Language and Literature students in the English language qualification do not feel prepared to teach when they leave the classroom and become teachers. To complete the course it is not necessary to demonstrate proficiency in the language. In addition, undergraduate course subjects generally have a predominantly theoretical bias: only 25% of subjects focus on practical or technical classes. These are some of the conclusions of the survey “Learning English in Brazil”, carried out by Pearson, the largest education company in the world, in partnership with the non-profit organization The Interamerican Dialogue.
72% of students were interviewed on 18 university campuses that offer the Literature course with an emphasis on English in Mato Grosso and Minas Gerais. The choice of these states was motivated by their differentiated policies for the teaching of English, in line with the curricular reform proposed by the new National Common Curricular Base (BNCC) and by the New Secondary School. The objective of the study is to provide a macro view of the inclusion of the language in teaching in these states and diagnose possible gaps, in order to contribute to the improvement of the teaching-learning process, both in the public and private spheres. You can review the full material here.
“In Brazil, making quality English teaching within educational systems is still a challenge, as the discipline is not included in national assessments, with the exception of the optional English section in Enem (National High School Exam). The research brings an overview of English teaching in the country, examining the main national policies, and has as main objective to propose significant improvements. The language has gained greater importance in recent years in the country, mainly with the inclusion of the subject as mandatory in high school – from the 6th year onwards – in all public and private schools”, says Gustavo Jorge, Director of English and Government Relations at Pearson in Brazil.
Although they are aware of the opportunity for growth that students can acquire from studying abroad, through exchange programs, universities are limited in this sense and rare are those that offer this type of partnership, pointed out the survey. For Gustavo, although it comes at a cost, this type of experience has a transformative potential for any professional, especially for a student committed to studying English at an international university.
For the British Government in Brazil, the teaching of English is one of the priority areas. Not coincidentally, the UK Embassy hosts the launch event and supports Pearson and The Inter-American Dialogue in carrying out the research.
“Learning a new language is essential for the personal development of each one of us. In the specific case of English, it is a skill that can open many doors and transform lives. It is essential to develop talent in Brazil. This research, led by Pearson, helps us understand some of the struggles facing teachers in training. These are data that can contribute to the formulation of public policies and partnerships to improve the teaching-learning process. With more qualified teachers, mastery of the English language will be an accessible tool for more people”, says Melanie Hopkins, Deputy Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Brazil.
Too many conclusions
Most of the interviewees are female, with at least one graduation or specialization degree and teach at Elementary and Middle levels, with a heavy workload. It is common for them to work in more than one school, reconciling English with the teaching of other subjects.
Portuguese is the language used to communicate with students and most consider themselves only partially qualified to teach. Teachers consider themselves less prepared to speak and listen and feel more confident in their writing skills.
Finally, it is also concluded that none of the 13 participating institutions requires certification of English proficiency as a requirement for graduation. For all institutions, the requirements for completing the course are that students pass the subjects and meet the required workload.
Differences between Minas Gerais and Mato Grosso
While Minas Gerais has developed some specific training courses for English teachers focused on improving their pedagogical knowledge through the “Caminhos para Educadores” program and intends to create a training path for high school students focused on the language, Mato Grosso has implemented the English in all grades of elementary school in state schools (state and municipal) and launched the “More English” program, with resources to help teachers and students. Pearson is the company that provides consultancy and provides training and teaching materials for the Department of Education in Mato Grosso.
In these two states, the foundations were laid to highlight the teaching of the English language as a crucial subject for the integral development of students. However, hard work and resources are still needed to achieve excellence.
From the identified challenges, new perspectives open up in the future for the teaching of the English language, according to the document. Future teachers should have more chances to develop their proficiency and prove their skills at the end of the course.
In addition, there is a gap to be addressed in terms of better development of pedagogical skills, such as listening and speaking, and not just writing and reading (which are the most frequently addressed issues). From an institutional point of view, it is important to strengthen ties with the State and Municipal Departments of Education, with schools and with bodies that present proposals for improvements.
The education secretariats and the MEC also have their homework and can, among other things, define references of proficiency in English for students, with metrics that evaluate the progress and quality of teaching; expand the offer of continuing education courses specifically for English teachers, in addition to improving the infrastructure of schools and universities by providing tools, resources and spaces for teachers to have more learning technologies available in the classroom.
And, finally, the research reinforces the need to support and implement the English in the BNCC initiative, a new model proposed for Brazilian High School, developed to support technical teams and teachers in the implementation of the English curriculum aligned with the BNCC.
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