Debate: ‘EMI does not bring the benefits that people expect’

Debate: The motion for debate is ‘EMI does not bring the benefits that people expect’ at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

From left to right: Hywel Coleman, Baela Jamil, John Knagg, Lizzi Milligan and Nigussie Negash Yadete

Debating team included (from left to right) Hywel Coleman, Baela Jamil, John Knagg, Lizzi Milligan and Nigussie Negash Yadete

So why EMI? Four speakers with experience of different countries argued for against the motion. Baela Jamil stressed the degree developmental growth and the delights of aesthetics in regions such as South Asia have been accomplished through regional languages – not English. Hywel Coleman gave examples of how the imposed use of English as a medium in subjects including mathematics and chemistry may limit student creative expression, dumb down content and lead to complete incomprehension by students The children’s eyes sparkle when their language is used………….but use of English has huge negative impact. The audience provided a number of examples of stigmatisation resulting from imposition of EMI.

Maybe we need to separate the English medium and educational issues. To Lizzi Milligan, in many EMI contexts, teachers are not trained, textbooks assume proficiency above student levels and curricula are overloaded. But this is not the problem of EMI but are wider quality issues which we need to tackle. Negussie Negash from Ethiopia, a country with English as a medium of instruction since 1944 emphasised the inherent usefulness of English: art has its own language but how do you sell your art to the speaking world?

And a final vote? A resounding draw.

You can watch the debate here:

Post by: Andy Keedwell
The writer is the Senior Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

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