In many countries around the world, it’s very difficult to find English teachers. This is one of the reasons why online English teaching is growing so rapidly: simply put, it helps people who want to learn English find someone to teach it to them, regardless of where they live. The spread of Internet access to some of the more remote parts of the world and cheaper Internet-enabled devices has made this possible.
English teachers in school classrooms
The demand to learn English, the global language, means that parents now expect and demand that their children are taught English, but many schools find it difficult to recruit high quality English teachers. This is partly down to pay: why teach in a government school when you can earn a lot more in a private one? And it’s also down to the availability of English teachers: it’s very difficult for schools in remote, provincial towns to find the English teachers they need. But online English teaching is now starting to respond to this problem of supply and demand.
Plan Ceibal is a project run by the British Council in which trained, highly qualified English teachers teach children in classrooms in Uruguay, via the Internet. Using custom-built video conferencing software, the teacher is beamed into the classroom, usually to a big TV screen, and leads the English language lesson, supported in the classroom by one of the school’s own teachers. The teachers are based in the United Kingdom, or in the British Council’s remote teaching centre in Buenos Aires or in the Philippines.
Plan Ceibal began in 2012. Within a year over 1000 lessons a week were being delivered. By 2015 the project is expected to reach 4000 lessons a week, reaching 90% of Uruguay’s schools.
Here’s a video of Plan Ceibal in action.
My immediate reaction was quite skeptical. I mean, online teaching is great when it’s one-to-one, but one-to-many…when the “many” are children? Might the cost of the technology used to bring this about be better used for teacher training? (Although, as I understand it, an extra component of Plan Ceibal is teacher training). But on reflection, it’s an idea with huge potential and if done right can have a major impact on the English language learning of children who, otherwise, might never receive high quality English language teaching from someone who can actually speak the language.
What do you think? What’s your opinion after watching the video? Are you involved as a teacher with Plan Ceibal? How is it going?
Find out more
Here’s an overview of the project from the British Council Uruguay’s website.
Here’s an interesting take on the project by one of the teachers who delivers the lessons to the children.