According to the interim findings of a report by the British Council and University of Oxford’s department of education, English is increasingly becoming the lingua franca for education institutions across the word – from primary schools to universities.
University administrators tend to regard English as a Medium of Instruction - or EMI, as a facilitator to attracting financially lucrative international students and as a way to improve their institution’s position in global university rankings, the report says. Lecturers, meanwhile, are more idealistic, saying it could improve the exchange of ideas and promote better relations between countries.
Although institutions believe they can improve both financially and academically as a result of EMI, the report also finds that examinations and assessment are a “problematic area”.
“Lectures were sometimes in English while exams were in [the mother tongue] due to university policy, student pressure or the law,” the report says, adding: “Do teachers have a sufficiently high level of English to write and mark exams? What is being assessed: the English or the subject content?”
There was also concern about the impact of teaching in English on the home language and culture, and fears that it could foster inequality between those students who could speak English, who are often from wealthier backgrounds, and those who could not.
“We see the move to using English as the lingua franca of higher education globally as the most significant current trend in internationalising higher education,” said Anna Searle, the British Council’s director of English language.
Ernesto Macaro, director of the department of education at Oxford, added: “More and more institutions across the world are using English to teach academic subjects, spurred on by a desire to internationalise their offer and their academic profile.”
EMI: A Galloping Global Phenomenon: Phase 1 was set to be debated during Going Global, the British Council’s annual conference for leaders of international education, which runs from 29 April to 1 May in Miami.