Thursday, 12 March 2009

United nations of ELT

MA students of Tesol and Tefl span the globe and the age ranges. We look at their demographic

From EL Gazette, February 2009

Who are the students on MA Tesol or MA Tefl courses? Are they native speakers studying in their own countries or non-native speakers going to English-speaking countries to study? (We found one MA course in the UK, for example, that had several ‘alien’ native speakers from Canada and the US.)

We put these and other questions to numerous MA Tesol/Tefl (some are MSc Tesol/Tefl) courses in the UK, Canada, the US, as well as a few in Australia, and the only MA Tesol we know of in South Africa. The response rate was low. Numerous respondents said they’d forwarded our surveys to colleagues, who didn’t then get back to us.
Distance students tend to be older, and non-native speakers also tend to be younger than native speakers, although one university that had both distance and on-campus courses said that its distance MA students, whether native-speaker or non-native speaker, tended to be older, while they couldn’t discern much of a difference in age group according to nationality. The gender balance of MA courses suggests that EFL remains a ‘pink collar profession’ overwhelmingly staffed by women.

A vast diversity in countries of origin was common to nearly all MA courses, and it was universities located in less cosmopolitan parts of their country, or in harder (or more expensive to get to) parts of the world that tended to buck this trend, catering mostly for their own nationals as part of their state or national teaching licensing system. Even schools that could only spare time for a very brief phone conversation with us, like SIT in Vermont, USA, noted the great diversity of nationalities in their MA Tesol student body. Several respondents volunteered the observation that the native speaker MA Tesol students - nationals of the country that hosted the course - felt they benefited from being among such a diverse student body.

Virginia Soriano Chico, postgraduate programme coordinator of Aston University’s school of languages and social sciences in the UK, said her department has around 145 students on our distance learning MSc in TESOL suite of programmes and 48 students on our MA in TESOL Studies and MA in TESOL and Translation Studies

Aston’s MSc Tesol by distance has British, Japanese, Greek, Italian, Maltese, German students and many others from Europe, Japan, China, Taiwan, the Middle East, South America and African countries. Ten of the 145 are based in the UK. Aston’s campus-based students are from ‘many countries including the UK, Germany, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Poland, Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, China, Taiwan, Japan, Turkey, Iran, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Jordan.’

Their MA Tesol students have a minimum of two years’ teaching practice and are mostly in their thirties with a few in their fifties some work with the British Council abroad, and some own their own schools..The (on campus) MA students tend to be younger – with a few exceptions they’ve just got a Bachelors degree and are in their twenties. Aston MSc students are 58 per cent female, the MA programme has 79 per cent female students.

Istvan Kecskes of the University of Albany (State University of New York) said their MA Tesol course has 45 students, of which three fifths are native speakers born in the US, with the remainder being international students from China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, India, Poland and Spain. Seven out of ten are female, and the age range is from their twenties to their fifties. Albany’s MA intake are all experienced teachers, mostly ‘senior teachers with international experience,’ but with ‘novice teachers’ among them. Albany gets more international MA Tesol students than previously, and sees more students coming into Tesol from other professions.

Half of the MA students at the department of English and language studies at Canterbury Christ Church University in the UK are non-native speakers, from Japan, Korea, Ukraine, Yemen, Pakistan, Turkey and Argentina. 85 per cent are women, ranging from their twenties to their sixties. They have an average of five years’ teaching experience, while at least one has been teaching for 30 years. They are mostly on the course with the aim of becoming a Director of Studies. They haven’t seen any recent changes in the age range, and seem be getting more native speakers from the UK.

At the University of York in the UK, 20 students on the distance MA, all but one who gave their gender were female, UK nationals and native speakers were outnumbered by non-native speakers from Singapore, Greece, Spain and Korea. Asians and Greeks tended to be much younger than the Brits, who were generally in their forties.

Individual distance MA Tesol/Tefl or Applied Linguistics students from the University of Birmingham, also in the UK, distance tended to be male native speakers, in their thirties.

In a random sample of MA Tesol by distance students at the New School New York – one in her sixties, mostly US nationals, one of whom was pleasantly surprised at the ‘diversity of the student body.’

Students from Hamline Graduate School in Minnesota who responded to an earlier Gazette survey were mostly North Americans (US citizens and one Canadian) and in their thirties. One woman aged 50 described her nationality as ‘Scandinavian’ (not a nationality), but given that Minnesota has a high proportion of residents of Scandinavian origin, she may have a US citizen describing her ethnicity.

Liz England of Shenandoah University said of the approximately 200 students enrolled on their MA Tefl/Tesol courses that she was struck by the great diversity of the student body. They’re a mix of native and non-native speakers, the latter from ‘five continents’ including Morocco, Korea, Germany, Japan, Mozambique and the UAE. Women outnumber men. Students range in age from 30 to 70. Most are already employed full-time teaching in EFL/ESL or other fields, and there are Directors of Studies and ministry of education people among them. The student body is becoming ‘more diverse’ with a bigger demand for distance MA courses compared to on-campus courses.

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