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English Language Teaching

Volume 897: debated on Monday 4 August 1975

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asked the Minister for Overseas Development whether the Government are making any contribution towards the teaching of the English language in the Third World.

Yes, Sir. We attach great importance to this. In collaboration with the British Council, my Department supports the provision of skilled manpower from this country to fill teaching, advisory and other specialist posts; arranges training for teachers and teacher trainees; and supplies books and other equipment for educational and training institutions in developing countries.

As about one-third of the world can neither read nor write, and as English is a second language in so many underdeveloped countries, does not the Minister agree that it is a British interest to promote the teaching of English in the Third World? Therefore, will he do his best to encourage English teachers, or teachers of English, to go out to the Third World and work there, particularly at a time when there is growing unemployment in this country?

Yes. My original reply indicated that my predecessors have been giving priority to our programmes. I wish to continue it. The House may like to know that there are at present about 800 English teachers in specialised posts abroad involved in the teaching of English.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that despite his encouraging reply the comparative figures for France indicate that we are not doing nearly as well as we should be and that in the year for which I have been able to obtain figures—incidentally, not from his Department—the French had over 7,300 people abroad teaching French and the comparative figure obtained from the British Council for the same year was 506 posts for the teaching of English?

In the light of those comparative figures, will my right hon. Friend undertake a thorough review of his Department's programme for teaching English abroad and undertake to devote to this purpose a higher proportion of his admittedly limited funds?

I will certainly study that comparison. The House will know that there are other aid donors which provide English teachers abroad. The United States, Australia, and New Zealand all have aid programmes which involve people going abroad to teach English. This is in addition to the British programme to which I referred.