Programme name: ELT sector transformation

Country: Colombia

Partner: Ministry of Education

The systemic transformation of English language teaching to support bilingualism and social and economic progress at a national level requires a long term strategic approach and a range of innovative solutions. 

“The National Bilingual Programme has as its main purpose to get students in formal and informal education to develop their skills in English at levels comparable to international standards... The British Council has been a key player in this initiative, helping us define strategic initiatives for the programme and implement key actions around it."  

María Fernando Campo, Minister of Education, Colombia

ELT sector transformation in Colombia – an overview

The Colombian Ministry of Education selected the British Council as its partner in the delivery of this ambitious, wide-ranging project to review and reform English language teaching policy and practices in the state education system of Colombia. The project succeeded in transforming national policy and practices, strengthening the teaching and learning of English in state institutions across the country. 

As main project consultant, the British Council worked with the Ministry in conducting an analysis of the state of English language teaching in the country. We surveyed over 7500 teachers, produced new national English standards for primary and secondary schools, aligned the national examinations for high school and undergraduate levels with the national English standards, set up a cascade teacher training programme together with regional partners such as universities, and  supported the Ministry in formulating a framework for the accreditation of private ELT schools. 

Project impact

A long-term goal of the Colombian government is to develop a workforce equipped to compete in the globalised economy of the twenty-first century. To achieve this goal, the government is committed to improving the language skills of the workforce.

Over the last ten years, the British Council has worked in partnership with the Ministry of Education, regional education authorities and a range of private and public sector partners to build capacity and to professionalise the teaching and learning of English. Our approach has been holistic and has always sought to integrate initiatives across the public education system. Our work is divided in three main categories:

Policy making

  • The development of an English language policy framework for the country.
  • The conception of Colombia’s first set of basic education standards for foreign language learning. These standards are currently used by 40% of local education authorities and at least 1,730 education institutions around the country.
  • A key participation in the design of a standardised assessment framework for English language learning based on the Common European Framework of Reference. This assessment framework has been an official part of the state test (Prueba Saber) since 2008.

Teacher training and resources

  • The design and implementation of a national strategy and action plan for teacher development, based on the first nation-wide baseline study of teacher needs, with a direct impact on 18 local education authorities and near 390 teachers between 2007 and 2010.
  • The professionalisation of university teacher training capacity in line with Colombian and international best practice. By the end of 2013 this will have reached around 895 education institutions and near 2,650 teachers.
  • The development of national guidelines and packs of teacher resources for use in secondary school.

Institutional strengthening 

The awareness raising and implementation of best practice in institutional structures at both national and regional levels. Different strategies have reached and impacted:

  • 100% of the country’s local education authorities
  • 75% of universities’ initial language teacher training programmes
  • 50% of initial teacher training programmes in the secondary education

For more information about systemic transformation of English language teaching, please contact the relevant British Council office directly.