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October 08, 2003

UK ELT Industry Under Pressure

The UK welcomes some 120,000 immigrants every year, and the government faces the challenge of helping them adjust to life in their adopted home. An independent committee of experts has proposed that they be required to take courses in English language and civic knowledge. The Home Secretary, David Blunkett supports a compulsory citizenship programme of ten 2-hour classes followed by a test. The advisory committee favours assessment only on students' progress in developing language skills, with the minimum language requirement being that they move from having no English to Esol Level 1, based on the "English for speakers of other languages" curriculum. Their report also recommends providing the courses free and immediately on arrival, rather than the current system of a 3-year waiting period.

Esol has expanded greatly in recent years and hundreds of teachers have switched from private language schools or returned from abroad to join the public sector, which is seen as more lucrative and career-oriented. But there are worries that the rapid expansion of the program may be hindered by insufficient government funding and a lack of good teachers.

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