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Teach English in BAlihan Zhen - Chifeng Shi
English has been one of the languages most spoken around the world for decades. In fact, it is now difficult to find a country where learning English has not become a norm. Colombia is not an exception! Indeed, the Ministry of Education from this country launched a public policy for formal educational institutions in 2013 known as Bilingualism. The aim of this law is helping learners develop receptive and productive skills to express themselves correctly in English. However, National and International tests results such as PISA and ICFES evidence that Colombian student population, in particular learners from the state schools, have difficulties to the development of their skills and abilities in English. This is due to several reasons. First of all, Colombian context was not taken into account at the time of designing the curriculum to teach English in state schools. This problem lies in imitating models of teaching English from other countries such as Australia and The United States of America, places where this language is their first one. It can be seen that Colombian government considered the needs from those countries ignoring the own ones. Thus, the objectives stated on the Bilingualism policy are impossible to accomplish. For instance, one of the aims proposed is to learners communicating with a native speaker fluently. Nevertheless, the state schools do not provide learners the facilities needed to have a successful learning setting and build it up the skills to communicate in and outside the classroom. Secondly, English teachers are facing critical economic and motivation challenges that cause barriers to a positive and equitable language learning in the formal education, especially in those schools that are financed by the government. Due to the numbers of subjects (e.g. science, math, history, music) that an English teacher is responsible for teaching, he cannot spend the time required to teach the subject he is specialized in. Moreover, educators are not well paid so they find difficult to continue studying and grow professionally. As a result, they feel frustrated because the Ministry of Education does not provide any training and incentives that help them improve their profession. Thirdly, the teaching methodologies are outdated. Due to the several problems teachers face, they also have to handle with large numbers of students in each class. Most of the classes have about forty or fifty learners, and each teacher has thirty classes per week. Hence, they do not have enough time for doing lesson plans and make use of worksheets during the whole lesson. This material is not contextualized since students do gap filling exercises that are mainly isolated sentences; students need to translate them to understand the meaning so they are using their first language all the time. In addition, it is difficult for educators to involve learners in the process of understanding and discovering the language. Given that, it is not possible to know students' weaknesses and give help and individual attention where necessary. To conclude with, I think that the Ministry of Education must make adjustments in the Bilingualism policy considering the Colombian context with the aim to achieve the goals proposed. Furthermore, teachers need to be trained and updated with the new methodologies to teach a second language; they only have to be in charge of teaching the subject that they are specialized in, it means English. Therefore, they can promote new strategies to encourage students to learn. In addition, formal educational institutions and teachers ought to create learning atmospheres where students have the opportunity to use English, so learners can be involved in the process of understanding and discovering language for themselves. I also believe that even if teachers are frustrated for all the problems they are facing, they should change their attitude and make efforts for helping students to learn using different activities in class such as games, music, interesting pictures, stories, so learners can find lessons more stimulating and fun.