ELT Greece is struggling to reposition itself
The public sector in Greece was the country’s main employer for over 4 decades. In the early 1990s the government introduced a series of measures in order to reduce the increasing influx of under qualified employees in a rapidly overstaffed near saturated public sector.
One of the measures introduced was language acquisition. Another measure was founding the national independent qualifications assessment board called ASEP. The combination of the former and the latter was to later take a toll on on one of Greece’s biggest private service providing industries that counts over 8,500 private schools.
For the last four decades, in order for somebody to be considered employable all they needed to present was certification to prove English acquisition of some level from B2 to C2 level according to the Common European Framework Reference (CEFR) to score qualification points for the ASEP. (30 points for B2 level certificates and 60points for C2 level certificates.
Real, practical , communicative knowledge of the language was no longer a requirement. All you needed was the face value of a piece of paper saying you did.
Certificate acquisition thus became a trend. Knowledge was no longer the issue.
Therefore, the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) industry and community in Greece -which is a private education industry that exists and functions in the void created by the absence of quality English teaching in Greek public schools- went from Teaching and Learning to Testing.
The demand simply created supply and the ELT field was only bound to suffer the mirror effect of its society and government that thrived on the face value of certifications and diplomas.
ELT publishers and EFL schools modified their curriculum and marketing in order to facilitate these needs.
Teaching to facilitate testing…..
Teaching to testing only made providing certification easier for private tutors who gradually started gaining ground over language schools. Language certification became the new EFL school marketing tool and acquiring basic communicative English skills was no longer the intended nor the desired end product.
In addition, fast pacing books and curricular were designed and introduced and language acquisition gave place to a rat race and a rival of whom could deliver the product faster. Private tutors or EFL schools?
But knowledge is a commodity…When did it become a non standardised product?
Needless to say that more and more private tutors flooded the market taking a huge piece of the pie from school owners as they offered the short cut of personalised teaching and promised a much quicker pace towards certificate acquisition. Let’s face it, when it comes to “teaching to testing”, private tutoring wins hands down.
The previous generation of parents who were the “Most certified generation ever” were brought up and hard-wired to believe, and to a great extent still do, that all we need are certificates and diplomas and who in turn drove their children in the direction of private tutoring.
Who can blame them after all? Is it not the EFL schools that still offer exactly the same product and service as private tutors?
And here we are today…
Many find themselves unemployable and are going back to school to brush up or relearn the English they had not.
The repercussions are visible today mainly because many of those holding a certificate recognised by ASEP simply find themselves not being able to write or most imortantly speak English. Many find themselves unemployable and find themselves going back to school to brush up or relearn the English they had not.
They are either the ones who attended private lessons or schools that had adopted fast track test oriented curiccular. Teaching to testing was delivering the same results as rote learning. The much shorter exposure to the language meant that the skills required were simply not there when needed most. To get a job, to utilize the internet , to communicate.
The economic crisis in Greece, however, has created drastic changes in both the market and market needs. The need for functional — communicative English, information literacy ,and ESP (English for Specific Purposes) such as Business English are now greater than ever before.
Yet the knowledge deficit created by the malpractices of EFL schools and private tutoring have left many English Language Certificate holders incapable of speaking or writing English adequately enough to become employable by the private sector or to relocate abroad.
The knowledge deficit has also created great difficulties in bridging the gap for those in the ESP field or for those preparing IELTS & TOEFL candidates for under or post graduate studies abroad.
The market needs have changed and many Greek parents still seem to remain oblivious to the fact that students in most European countries learn English without any kind of examination or the need for any kind of certification.
The Dutch rank themselves as the best English speakers in the world without any kind of assessment board nor have the need for any kind of certificate to validate their knowledge.
Yet, the Greek ELT indusrty has been slow in reacting, evolving and most importantly repositioning itself in the midst of changes and challenges. It should be leading, as tourism and the tourist industry still remain the country’s main bread winner while more and more people are considering relocating as their ultimate solution in a 7 year economic crisis which is not showing any signs of recovery.
Instead of fighting and competing against private tutors on speed and price they should be focusing on what matters most…
Private Language Schools should be evolving, adapting and catering for the Language skills necessary in the 21st century. Instead of fighting and competing against private tutors on speed and price they should be focusing on what matters most. The value of knowledge, knowledge as a 21st century commodity and in this case the acquisition of English language learning and the vital importance it has in being not only the global language of communication but also the language of the digital natives in the digital era.
The global economy is digital and it only speaks one language…English…
EF Language schools should be pathing the way , becoming digital leaders, integrating and teaching information literacy , writing and speaking skills that will empower their students to become 21st century contributors.
Certificate acquisition is just the remaining relic of a validation system required to quench the thirst and provide proof to a low trust zero accountability society.
Can EFL schools & ELT Greece reposition themselves?
The 4Cs of Education (creativity-communication-collaboration & critical thinking) are the 21st century educational tools. The ELT market and EFL schools should fast pace themselves towards adapting these principles in their curricular, shifting towards student centred teaching approaches, creating personal development plans in order to become digital leaders themselves, educating and delivering value and values to parents, students and society.
Educators and educating is about making a huge impact on peoples’ lives, that is what we do…We are in the changing peoples’ lives business only if we are perceived and acknowledged as such….