Towards a smaller future

Am I right in assuming that more and more people are now looking beyond traditional learning experiences in a school setting to a more individualized and needs focused learning normally provided through one-to-one and small , closed lesson formats? In my experience, and judging by what colleagues say, this certainly seems to be the case and the success of online learning courses such as EnglishTown also attest to this. And it is not only professionals looking for ESP lessons but also people who want general English as well, mainly for adults but also amongst a large number of adolescents and even some young learners as well.

The reasons for this growth in demand are numerous and it might be worthwhile identifying some of these so that teachers and educational institutions are better able to adapt to the changing conditions in the future.

Many of these factors are intertwined and involve political, economic, social and ideological shifts in thinking. However, the influence of individual factors will obviously vary across different countries.

Amongst the changing circumstances are:

1)      A shift in political philosophy from the collective to the individual.

2)      A change in government policies with the onus on the provision of more individualized service provision. This has been accompanied by a parallel cultural shift towards a desire for more individualized services.

3)      A dissatisfaction with the traditional classroom model of foreign language learning.

4)      A shift in company and corporate culture towards more individualized models. For example, on a more global scale, companies such as McDonald’s going ‘glocal’, or new shopping experiences which treat customers as individual clients, such as the Burberry Experience, and the ‘boutiquisation’ of services such as legal services.

5)      The affordable price and increased prevalence of private language providers.

6)      Educational establishments moving towards seeing students as clients rather than students.

7)      The need of companies and individuals (both adults and young learners) for a more flexible schedule with regards to lessons.

8)      The increase in travel opportunities means that more people across a range of social classes are traveling more.

It is surprising how little of the millions of words on the internet dedicated to English language teaching are devoted to one-to-one teaching and even more surprising that the publishers and resource providers have been so slow in reacting to these changing circumstances.

Given these trends, therefore, we might have to start seriously reconsidering our approaches to teaching so that we are better able to give learners a more individualized and needs based curriculum.


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Dominic Walters

I am CELTA and DELTA qualified and have an MA in Educational Psychology. I have been teaching English since 1991, working in Brazil, Republic of Ireland, Spain, Portugual, Egypt and the UK. I am a DELTA, ICELT, CELTA, FTBE assessor and tutor as well as a CELTA online course tutor. I am also an examiner for the Cambridge, IELTS, Trinity exams.

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