“Culture is “that complex whole which includes knowledge,
belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities
and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”
Edward B. Taylor.
Learning a second language, such as English, in recent decades is a necessity in the globalized world. English has become one of the most spoken languages in the world. This is why, there is the need to train professionals to assist in the education of students with basic tools to understand the language and communicate with English speakers. But, teaching another language is not an easy task. Many teachers only teach grammar and formal aspects of language, overlooking the cultural component. The teaching of culture as a component in language education has been the subject of many discussions. It has been concluded that teaching a language, in this case, English, does not only imply learning formal structures but also involves learning the culture. Nowadays, in Colombia this factor is important because of the students needs becoming in a challenge. This essay aims to do a review for the type of English education in public schools and the importance of interculturality.
In Colombia, the teaching of English has taken a great importance, not only for the country’s development, but also for personal development. However, despite the fact that in our country there is the NBP and curriculum standards of English teaching involve different components for learning, high school students have a low level. According to an investigation conducted by the Bank of the Republic, 93 percent of high school students have a low level in English (Sanchez, 2012). However, according to the law 115 teaching (1994) English from grade 6 is a must. I.e., thousands of students study six years English (some more than 6 years) and they are unable to communicate or at a basic level. It is here, where it is necessary to question the usefulness of such programs and the formulation of these laws. The NBP is based on international standards. Therefore, it is evident that the Colombian context is unknown and it is looking to make a general model of education for the entire country. In other words, multiculturalism in the country is not taken into account in that program. Additionally, an assessment by English proficiency Index (EF EPI index), considers that Colombian people, in general, have a low level in English. However, these results were expected because of the method used by teachers in public schools.
While it is true that teachers must follow the rules, it is also true that the challenge as teachers is to teach itself. However, Colombian teachers in public school have archaic method to teach English. According to Claudia Amador, an expert on bilingualism, in Colombian public schools, teachers still teach in a traditional way (Linares, 2011). In many schools, the teaching of English is focused on grammar rules and formal aspects. Students learn to translate but not how to communicate effectively. In those schools students do not use the English in an appropriate way. Language users have not only learned to interpret signs and act upon them. (Kramsh,1998). In other words, teaching a language involves not only recognizing the code, but using it to communicate. Kramsh mentions that the language expresses cultural realities, language embodies cultural reality and language symbolizes cultural reality (Kramsh, 1998). Learning a language, different from ours, implies not only learning the grammar rules but also learning the culture and the pragmatic dimension of it. This learning can be strengthened teaching focused on interculturality but as those teachers teach focused on formal aspects, students do not learn in a good way.
On the other hand, English in public schools is just one more subject. According to an investigation by a Masters student at the National University, only 9 percent of public schools have a specialized room for the teaching of English. This indicates that many public schools do not have tools to stimulate different skills. Also, most public schools have only three hours of English per week. In this way, it is clear that it is necessary more time to dedicate to the learning a second language. Some students hate to learn this language and they say that it is difficult but they do not stop and see if it is easy or not. There are a little portion of students that are interested in learning a second language and it is precisely the intention to teach in an intercultural way. This learning process implies several techniques and resources as a vehicle to have good results at the moment of teaching. Teachers have to show them that learn English is not a difficult task, it is a practical task.
In conclusion, to teach a second language in public schools in Colombia is a challenge in terms of effectiveness, because the students use to received a traditional education; schools do not have enough tools and resources to develop a the students skills; some students are not interested in the learning of English; there are cases where teachers do not know how to understand students needs. Nowadays, government is implementing a variety of proposals in order to show how to proceed with these schools. The government coincides with the necessity and the benefits of this way to teach. Not only, students become open minded but also, they have diverse opportunities in order to increase their lives stiles.
Sanchez Jabba, A. (2012) El bilingüismo en los bachilleres colombianos. Colombia.www.banrep.gov.co/documentos/publicaciones/regional/documentos/DTSER-159.pdf
Ley 115 de 1994. Ley general de educación. http://www.alcaldiabogota. gov.co / sisjur / normas/Norma1.jsp?i=292
Linares, Andrea. (2011) Criticas a la enseñanza del ingles en Colombia. Taken from www.eltiempo.com/vida-de-hoy/educación/ARTICULO–WEB-NEW _ NOTA _INTERIOR-9103576.html
Kramsch, C. (1998) Language and culture. United Kingdom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.