In the context of neoliberal corporate globalization, English tends to be regarded as a commodity that can benefit both individuals and national economies by increasing capacities for international communication. English Language Teaching (ELT), therefore, is often perceived as a means to a different - financially motivated - end.

However, by defining English in economic terms we are promoting a pedagogy that indoctrinates learners into the world as it currently exists, and giving them the skills to serve the needs of those who currently hold power within existing structures. This entails an uncritical acceptance of inequalities and injustices, and the promotion of values that reinforce hegemony. In this talk, I draw on the work of Paolo Freire, Henry Giroux and other critical pedagogues to explore alternative approaches to ELT. Rather than using English as a means of complying with existing power structures, I propose that ELT should be used to critically engage with those structures, allowing learners to identify examples of social injustice and take steps to redress imbalances. This leads to a model of ELT that is not only socially responsible but is also far more congruent with widely accepted principles of language acquisition.

About the Speaker: 

Steve Brown started his English language teaching career in 1993 as a volunteer teacher in a secondary school in Mongolia. He then spent a number of years in private language schools, working as a teacher, teacher trainer and director of studies. This work allowed him to spend time living in Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary and South Africa. He returned to his home country of Scotland in 2001 to do an MSc In Applied Linguistics at Edinburgh University. Apart from a brief spell with the British Council in Malaysia in 2011-12, Steve has stayed in Scotland, mostly working in the further education sector as a curriculum leader for ESOL and Languages. He completed an EdD (Doctor of Education) at the University of Glasgow in 2018, and has recently started working at the University of the West of Scotland, where he is a lecturer in English Language and TESOL and Director of Studies of the English Language Unit.