Consider the EFL industry while negotiating an exit from the EU
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It's often been said that a British education is one of the best in the world. In the UK, we are lucky enough to have high-quality universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews and the University of London colleges. Students from the EU and further afield often put in the hard work and effort (not to mention the money!) to come to the UK for academic study. As a teacher of EU students, I was worried about the impact that "Brexit" would have on these opportunities.
It's also often been said that English is an international language, with variants being spoken outside the UK as an official language in Ireland, the Americas, the Antipodes, South Africa, India and more - in addition to English as a second or additional language in countries around the world, as part of the tourism, trade, humanitarian aid and border control industries.
Straddling the gap between language and study stands the EFL industry. Students coming to the UK occasionally take classes in EFL (English as a Foreign Language), ESL (...as a Second Language), ESOL (...for Speakers of Other Languages) or EAL (...as an Additional Language). Native and non-native speakers of English take a qualification - such as Cambridge CELTA or DELTA, Trinity TESOL or an MA - to teach English to these students.
The majority of students coming to these classes are short-term students who travel to the UK to learn English on a temporary basis. I have been an EFL teacher for five years, and at least 90% of my students have been walk-ins, who have used their freedom to travel around the EU as an opportunity to stay in London for a number of days, weeks or months, and have come to the colleges to improve their English. This is a major source of valuable income for the staff of the smaller colleges (such as the ones in and around Oxford Street), and invaluable education to the varied international students.
The impact of "Brexit" on this industry may be catastrophic in a number of ways:
- Border enforcement on young EU students would cause problems for those wishing to study EFL in the UK, particularly those intending to do so on a short-term basis. Although a student visa is a possibility, there is a complicated system involved in gaining one, and is mostly intended for students studying a long-term course.
- Summer schools for young learners, in which hundreds of EU teenagers travel to the UK to learn English and experience British culture, would be severely affected and much more expensive.
- There would be much less of a market for the English Language as a result, which may cause a large impact on trade with, and travel within, the UK in the future.
- EFL teachers who wish to travel and work elsewhere are able to do so due to the EU's freedom of movement, gaining valuable life experience and providing the aforementioned world-famous British education. This would be virtually impossible.
In short, the effects of "Brexit" may make the time, effort and expense UK citizens spend training to become an EFL teacher completely obsolete. This may cause unemployment, migration, qualification and detention issues.
We call on David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union; David Jones, Minister of State for Europe; and Theresa May, Prime Minister, to:
- Respectfully consider the EFL industry while negotiating an exit from the EU.
- Acknowledge the existence of the industry and recognise its importance and value.
- Consider negotiating with the EU to retain freedom of movement in and around the EU to allow short-term students to continue their studies of English.
- Encourage EU students to study EFL in the UK while the UK remains a member of the EU over the coming calendar year.
If a British education really is one of the best in the world, it makes sense to offer one.
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