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English medium policy should not mean ‘English only’

8 January 2018

By Dr Anna Riggall 
Local languages can complement and support EMI in the classroom. Partnerships are required to achieve both learning and language goals of education. 
It’s not difficult to understand why there is a long history of tension around English as the medium of instruction (EMI) in multilingual societies. People want to be proficient in English. It’s the language of business and often a lingua franca in countries where there is no other language that everyone speaks. Nevertheless, people also want to hold onto their heritage. And it can be difficult for children to learn in what - to many of them - is effectively a foreign language. 
There is, however, some good news in this sometimes fraught debate. Problems can be resolved fruitfully if two issues are tackled well. First, there is clarifying what EMI actually means. Second, there are the many challenges - varying between countries - around how to enact EMI effectively in practice. Our research shows that there is much that policy makers can do to support EMI in their contexts.
To read the rest of Dr Riggall's blog as part of a series commissioned by The Open University, and to see a podcast by Dr Anna Riggall drawing on this reseach, go to the Education Development Trust's website.
Dr Anna Riggall is Head of Research, Education Development Trust. She was part of the Education Development Trust and British Council team that commissioned the research and was overall project director for the research. A copy of the EMI research report can be found here.

This is the fifth in a series of six blogs by the EMI research team. To read the rest of the series:

How can children in low- and middle-income contexts learn more easily when English is the medium of instruction? 

Great opportunities to support EMI with multilingual practices by Dr Elizabeth J. Erling, formerly Senior Lecturer in English Language Teaching and International Teacher Education at The Open University, is now Professor of ELT Research and Methodology at the University of Graz.

Ghana’s teachers need permission and support to incorporate local languages into EMI teaching by Kimberly Safford is a Senior Lecturer in Primary Education Studies and International Teacher Development at The Open University.

Studying teachers' use of language in Indian low-cost English medium schools by Dr Lina Adinolfi, Lecturer with expertise in language in education within the School of Languages and Applied Linguistics at The Open University.

Don't sacrifice good education for poor EMI by John Knagg OBE FAcSS, Global Head of English for Education Systems at the British Council

Photo by Dr Lina Adinolfi. Photo is not to be used without seeking permission from Dr Adinolfi.

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To find out more about our work, or to discuss a potential project, please contact:

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