Book Review: English Language Teacher Preparation in Asia

Book review - English Language Teacher Preparation in Asia

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Written by international scholars specialising in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) and edited by teacher educators Subhan Zein and Richmond Stroupe, English Language Teacher Preparation in Asia brings together research-based insights on teacher preparation for pre-service English teachers in the ASEAN Plus Three region[1]. Drawing on the unique linguistic ecology of the region, this volume focuses on local teachers who typically are not native English speakers and the multilingual contexts they operate in.

A crucial debate that stood out was the role of native languages in the teaching and learning of English. Subhan Zein argues for the use of students’ native language along with English in a scaffolded and systematic manner to teach English, as opposed to the monolingual ideology, where English is taught using only English as the instructional medium. He also calls for this pedagogical approach to be incorporated in teacher preparation programs.

Sovannarith Lim and Anne Burns similarly echo a rejection of the monolingual ideology. They found that Cambodian pre-service teachers are ambivalent about how English should be taught – if students’ native language should be used to teach English, and if accuracy of English includes using the ‘right’ intonation and accent. The authors also found ‘native-speakerism ideologies’ embedded within policy documents. They argue that excessive adoption of such ideology is counterproductive to teacher training and detrimental to student outcomes. In the ASEAN Plus Three region, students do not need to speak like a British or an American to communicate effectively. The attitudinal change to position English as the lingua franca instead of native language, starting at policy level, should be seriously considered if countries wish to move towards a pragmatic and practical teacher preparation program.

The book highlights challenges commonly faced by education systems across the region through qualitative and quantitative research with rich and contextualised insights. The issues explored include the problematic measurements of teacher efficacy, implementation gaps in curriculum, instruction and assessment, and the balance between theoretical knowledge and practical skills in teacher preparation programs.

In the concluding chapter, Richmond Stroupe and Gabriel Diaz Maggioli recommend a collaborative policy making strategy, in view of the diversity in the region. The authors also call for rigorous local research to drive evidence based pedagogical practice.

This book is intended for education policy makers, teacher educators, teachers and researchers who are interested about teaching English as a second language in a multilingual context.
Tham Yin Yee is a Li Ka Shing Scholar and recent Master in Public Administration graduate at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Yin Yee is also a Teach for Malaysia alumna and member of the Teach for All Community of Practice for Education Policy.

[1] Referring to the 10 ASEAN member countries along with China, Japan and South Korea.
English Language Teacher Preparation in Asia is part of the Routledge Critical Studies in Asian Education Series, published in collaboration between The HEAD Foundation and Routledge, Taylor and Francis. The series examine key theoretical and empirical research on educational practices and pedagogies in the changing institutional and cultural contexts of Asian education. Click here to purchase a copy of the book.

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Mr Ho Swee Huat

Mr Ho Swee Huat is the Founder and Managing Director of Abacus Assets Advisors Pte Ltd. Before starting the company, he had an established career in the banking industry, with 20 years of experience in Singapore, Hong Kong and New York.

He was an Independent Director and Chairman of the Audit Committee of CapitaCommercial Trust Management LTD from 2004 to 2013.

He is the current Chairman of Autism Association (Singapore) which he co-founded with a group of parents in 1992. He is also Vice-Chairman of Eden School, a special school for children with autism.

Mr Ho holds a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Liberal Arts degree in Economics from Hamilton College, USA.

He has been a member of the Board of the Foundation since its incorporation.