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Does the issue of an elite education also haunt language learning?

Diary submitted by Pariise D., Valencia, 2020

It is common knowledge that wealth can significantly impact a person’s educational progress. When we apply this to subjects that may be considered extra-curricular, for example sports and languages, the gap may widen even more between students who are from wealthier backgrounds and students in poverty. For the sake of this essay, and to ensure clarity, elite education is considered as anything extra outside of the school classroom which betters students academically. In this case, we are discussing how students learning English at Kings Language Academy, may surpass their peers considerably.

“First, as one might expect, wealthier parents have the resources to provide more and better learning opportunities for their children” (Lai, 2015). Extra lessons are not compulsory, and thereby can be considered as a form of elite education. English is a lingua franca and perhaps parents recognise the power of English, particularly in the future working world for their future. Elite education haunts language learning in that it places students at a great advantage over their peers.

From my own personal account, I can confirm that the opportunity to learn English in an environment with native teachers is an abundantly resourceful skill. When we compare this with students whose limited English comes in the form of a non-native Spanish teacher who unintentionally teaches her/his students an incorrect grammar structure that may not be obvious to a non native. In fact, I had one instance where a student asked me to help him with a reading set by his Spanish teacher for his English lessons at school. Not only was the book written in a very unreadable and old-fashioned English, but the book used idioms and plays on words to recount sexual stories! While I acknowledge this is an extreme example, it still reinforces the significance of an elite education and how this can massively benefit students enrolled in extra curriculum language classes.

This information can be further supported with research of EFL students in China. Students described in-class learning as “boring” and much of the lesson revolved around students “doing worksheets and the teacher explaining the texts in the textbook”. On the other hand, out-of-class learning was seen as “engaging” due to students being provided with the opportunity to learn in a different environment (OECD, 2010). What we learn is that the idea of elite education is not limited to a particular country, but rather a global pattern.

Cited:

LAI, C., ZHU, W., & GONG, G. (2015). Understanding the Quality of Out-of-Class English Learning. TESOL Quarterly, 49(2), 278-308. Retrieved April 25, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/43893754

OECD. (2010). PISA 2009 Results: Overcoming Social Background: Equity in Learning Opportunities and Outcomes (Volume II). OECD. https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264091504-en

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