How can our schools get more from their limited resources for teaching English as a second language (ESL) students?
Australia's ESL student numbers are growing much faster than the number of teachers trained to help them acquire the English skills needed for success at school.
Consider these facts for NSW alone:
- Up to 20% of students come from a language background other than English
- There are 145,000 English as a second language students
- This is a growth of over 60% in just three years
- The number (900) full-time ESL teachers in New South Wales has not increased in that time
- There is one full time ESL teacher for 160 students
This means that teachers are stretched (and stressed!) and many students, for whom English is not their first language, are failing to develop the Academic English necessary for high school. They are often doing okay with the transactional English needed in the playground or shopping centre, but this is not enough for them to cope with the demands of high school education.
The usual solution for an education problem like this is to seek more funding and train more teachers. Of course, that would help. But funding is scarce and will not, at least in the foreseeable future, be enough to cover the shortfall in ESL teacher numbers.
A solution – build the English Brain
Thanks to advances in cognitive neuroscience and technology there is now a way to build a greater English language capability in the brains of the ESL students. Their brains can be trained to recognise, discriminate and manipulate the sounds of the English language – fundamental skills for developing Academic English.
Students with a more developed “English brain” absorb English instruction better. This means better outcomes from existing teaching resources.
Schools in USA, Turkey & China
Schools and English language tuition centres in countries as diverse as USA, Turkey and China are successfully using neuroscience technologies – Fast ForWord Brain Training and Reading Assistant – to enhance the English capabilities of their students.
In 2015, for the first time ever, there are more students from minorities (Hispanics, Asians etc) than ‘white” native English speaking students in USA schools. A large proportion of the minority students are from non-English language backgrounds.
And in countries like Turkey, China, India and many others, the numbers of people learning English has exploded.
The challenge in these countries is the same as in Australia – but on a much larger scale. Not enough teachers. Not enough resources.
Innovative educators from these countries, reassured by the evidence of better student outcomes from limited resources, are using Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant technologies to build the English brain.