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The politics of ESOL (English for speakers of other languages): Implications for citizenship and social justice

Han, C; Starkey, H; Green, A; (2010) The politics of ESOL (English for speakers of other languages): Implications for citizenship and social justice. International Journal of Lifelong Education , 29 (1) pp. 63-76. 10.1080/02601370903471304. Green open access

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Abstract

A number of countries in Europe, including the UK, have adopted language and citizenship tests or courses as a requirement for granting citizenship to immigrants. To acquire citizenship, immigrants to the UK must pass a test on British society and culture, or demonstrate progress in the English language. For those with an insufficient command of the language, there is the option in the UK of taking an English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) with citizenship course. These language and citizenship tests and courses are seen by governments as a way of encouraging immigrants to develop the competences believed necessary for social integration. Equally, these are seen as a means for immigrants to demonstrate their willingness to integrate. However, two types of criticisms have been made against compulsory tests and language programmes. The first questions the need for these. The second focuses on whether they are a genuine contribution to preparation for citizenship or whether these, in effect, constitute a gatekeeping mechanism, or otherwise lead to social injustice; related to this is the question of whether the emphasis on language as defining of nationhood and citizenship is a move away from multiculturalism towards a policy of assimilation. In addition, there are issues relating to funding. This paper presents the results of a study of a 'skills for life' ESOL course at a community college in London that is specifically intended to help immigrants seeking to qualify for British citizenship. An interview was carried out with staff involved in ESOL at the college, and a focus group discussion was conducted with a student group. The aim of the paper is to provide an account of the experiences of the students in the light of the criticisms that have made against compulsory tests and language programmes. We also examine the impact of policy changes, including funding cuts, on the college and students. Although we found the language and citizenship class to be a positive experience, we note inconsistencies and contradictions in policies and discourses around language. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.

Type: Article
Title: The politics of ESOL (English for speakers of other languages): Implications for citizenship and social justice
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/02601370903471304
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Education, Practice and Society
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1502912
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