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Colombia’s powers-that-be place a fair amount of importance, in theory anyway, on improving the level of English here. There was even a ridiculously ambitious plan from the government to have the country bilingual by 2019. Still on track with that guys?
There’s aiming high and then there’s the pie in the sky. Keep it attainable people. (If only the Brits had colonised the place instead of those plundering Spanish, eh?)
Nonetheless, as the global language (for now) in an unprecedentedly interconnected world, there’s no doubt having English up to a workable level is, or at least could be, an advantage.
Thus, convincing the masses to warm to it is a noble pursuit.
Like most things, but perhaps even more so with languages, the younger this is done the better. However, Colombia’s track record in this regard, especially in the public schools, leaves a lot to be desired.
This being the case, the fact that in many university courses you can’t graduate without attaining a certain, usually relatively high level of English could be viewed as being a bit harsh.
Of course, if you’re studying international relations or the like where English is usually a core element and prerequisite for the course, fair enough.
Yet for degrees where English is not essential per se, why then make obtaining a good grade in it a qualification requirement?
If the student has shown to be competent and worthy of his or her degree in the chief area of study, let them at it we say.
Fair enough, as mentioned above having a decent grasp of English may open more doors in the work place. So the universities in question could be seen as forcing a good deed on students who have paid hefty enrolment fees. How thoughtful of them.
Now as you know it’s far from cynical we are here, but those of that disposition could be forgiven for thinking that the English requirement is just a money-making racket. ‘Aw, hard luck, you failed English. Not to worry. Pay for a course to get your level up to scratch, pay for an additional semester and hopefully you’ll be good to graduate in a few months.’ Come on guys, these universities would never be so self-centred.
Easy way out
As tough as it may seem on those who struggle with English, as ever in these parts some centres of learning ‘allow’ a way around it. From what we can gather, in not all places does the English test have to be taken supervised, on campus. There’s an unsupervised, on-line option.
We recently had the friend of an acquaintance ask us to assist her while she took this on-line test. Of course we objected strictly on moral grounds — it had nothing to do with the fact that it wasn’t financially worth it for us.
This practice, where it happens, obviously makes a mockery of the whole English requirement. (For the record, this was Universidad Central.) An Ielts or Toefl exam would soon find out those who profess to have English to a high level (to a point anyway; some people who do have good English don’t always perform well in these type of tests).
Outside of that, coming back to the practice of having an English test requirement for degrees where it’s not essential, isn’t it best to just let potential employers deal with that?
A Spanish-speaking civil engineering firm searching for prospective employees would probably list English as merely an advantage, not an actual requirement.
Forcing the language on people at a later stage in their development isn’t the way to achieve bilingual status.
Needless to say, it starts at a much younger age.
If English is a priority for Colombian officialdom, the place to get serious about it is at primary level education.
Alas, from a public school perspective anyway, it’s more a case of the blind leading the blind in this regard.
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