Edinburgh School of English Student Conference

It was a mixture of the sparkling sunshine, excited nerves and looming departure of some close friends that made the atmosphere in the Common Room so special yesterday morning. Students have been working hard for their moment to deliver to the school  presentations on aspects of health they feel passionately about. Determination to succeed was already apparent by the constant conversations this week about conference topics, everyone collecting vocabulary to add to their persuasive arsenal.
The huge variety of topics engaged our School completely as we were astounded by everything from Rafael’s terrifying food trade facts to Al-Joharah’s dream discussion. It was brilliant to see how students such as Adwa, replicated the presentation techniques she’d seen at TEDX into her own talk like a professional! Razan, enchanted her audience by discussing memory techniques whilst perfectly capturing British humour as she sarcastically mocked her peers for being so forgetful! Kalyan demonstrated just how much the students English has developed by their ability to discuss immensely complex moral topics. His presentation on Euthanasia was moving and culturally sensitive whilst showcasing how excellent his command of English has become.
Despite the many nationalities represented at  Edinburgh School of English’s conference today everyone contributed to a series of fantastic talks and debates in English. The lunch break seemed to signal a real cause for celebration, not least because everyone was ravenous from their efforts. Rather, there appeared a genuine pride in creation of our progressive little global community.

We can’t wait to hear from you all at the next one!

 

Advertisements

Edinburgh School of English goes to Tedx

Last Saturday our students escaped the weekend’s torrential rain in Edinburgh’s magnificent hotel Caledonia, host of Herriot Watt’s Tedx event. The theme of the conference was ‘Breaking Barriers’ and with our students new language skills they were doing just that.

We all listened to fascinating talks ranging from artificial intelligence to sexism in Hollywood. The event gave the students an excellent opportunity to practice their ability to listen to a variety of presentation styles in English. During the breakouts the nature of the topics ignited debates amongst our group, determined to challenge each other’s thoughts on these controversial notions. It was brilliant to witness how excitement among pupils to discuss these ideas, surpassed any confidence issues over the English required to get involved in the conversation. At Edinburgh School of English it is especially important to us that our pupils feel just this, the self-assurance to allow classroom work to transcend into real life.

What’s more watching a range of speakers also prompted consideration amongst pupils of how people communicate. Everyone agreed that regardless of the ability to demonstrate perfect English, listeners best understood the ideas from speakers who spoke confidently, with eye contact and belief in what they were saying. The event was a fantastic practical demonstration for our pupils that confidence is one of their greatest assets to communicating effectively. At Edinburgh School of English we are helping our students become so much more than theory and test results. We ignite their passion for learning and experiencing new cultures, ensuring they have the confidence to explain this in English!

Inspired, our students are now going to participate in Edinburgh School of English’s own TedX themed event. Aspiring to replicate the communication skills they saw in action, pupils will get the chance to spread their own ideas on topics they really care about.

 

 

 

 

 

Staff Stories – Catherine (Pip) Penman

As an English literature graduate and competitive sports woman I joined the school of English as an activity leader. I was excited by the prospect of a school that understood the immense benefits of supplementing classroom work with sports and activity.  Edinburgh School of English is more than just a language school and it’s through our activities that theory gets transformed into real life skills. It’s fantastic organising events for groups of kids from so many nationalities, it’s such an incredible social experience for them.

The activity programme also gives me the opportunity to work closely with the kids in a more relaxed environment. I really enjoy hearing their general conversation in English improve, and for me, it’s especially interesting to discuss their opinions of Scotland in comparison to their own countries. I get to learn so much about foreign cultures, discussing everything from politics to favourite musicians while the kids get the challenge of explaining it all in English- it’s a good deal!

By the end of each session it’s always so rewarding to experience our students using their new language skills to make friends and bond over the challenges our activities present.   I love witnessing  how sports tournaments, dance classes, scavenger hunts and so much more help pull down the language barriers that class teachers have been working against . As a result our students are left with an international network of friends they never would have imagined possible before the summer.

 

Do Social Activities help?

Sincere apologies! It has been a while since anything has been posted here. Thankfully, this has been due to the school being busy and due to the August festivals that happen here in Edinburgh every year – the Fringe, International and Book festivals being the most prominent.

For our students, this is great! There is lots to do and see and we purposefully run a social programme that allows students to experience the best of the festival. This programme runs all through the year – in common with many other schools around the country.

But, why do this? Yes, students want to see more of the city they are visiting – but they can do that themselves, surely?

Well, yes, they probably can. However, a social programme provides much more to students than simply sightseeing opportunities.

Students get the most out of studying when they feel comfortable in a situation. When students are at ease in a classroom, they will be more inclined to ask questions – thus helping them achieve their specific goals. By having a school social programme, students meet and become friends with their fellow students, thus negating any embarrassment previously felt about asking a question, helping them to feel more at home and able to ask.

Additionally, overall communication will be improved as students have the chance to converse and interact with many other students from different nationalities. Ultimately, this equips students with skills needed for successful daily use of their chosen language and may not happen if they did all activities by themselves.

Also, students need to relax and have a good time. Courses can be quite intense and if students don’t have a channel provided to release any stress, they will be limited in the language they take on.

Lastly, students often get to experience the culture of the place where they are visiting, far more so than if they were a tourist, by taking part in a social programme. This aids cultural awareness, which will no doubt benefit them in their future endeavours.

Ultimately, learning a language is about the experience you have had when learning that language and a bad experience will lead to bad learning. A good social programme helps to improve the experience and help remember what has been learned – often complementing a reinforcing classroom work.

Thus, at Edinburgh School of English, we see our social programme as an important part of the service we offer. You can see photo’s of our programme on our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/edinschoolofenglish – you’ll see that our students make full use of it and have a great time doing it!

What do you think would be some good activities for English students to do? Are there any awful activities we should avoid? Use the comments to let us know!

Jerry

UK Visa Regulation

There is no doubt that the UK education sector has noticed the difference made by the tightening of UK visa regulations in recent years. As part of the Government’s strategy to reduce immigration, rules regarding student visas have become more strict and schools, colleges and universities have been forced to reduce their ability to sponsor students and undergo new accreditations to maintain their sponsorship status. This is mainly due to the government’s inclusion of non-EU students in their migration figures.

Edinburgh School of English, as a highly trusted sponsor, naturally applied to undergo these new inspections and this was completed recently by Education Scotland, the regulatory body for Scottish state and independent schools. Provisionally, we have passed! This should mean that we will still be able to sponsor students to come to study with us on the Tier 4 general student visa, in addition to the existing Student Visitor Visa (SVV) or Extended Student Visitor Visa.

In many ways we as a school are quite lucky. We focus on intensive language courses – which inherently means that many of our students stay for just a few weeks and therefore only require an SVV. But, we, like many other English language schools, receive students who either wish to study for longer, or students going on to Higher Education and need to be on a Tier 4 to be sponsored by us and then by their chosen university. Currently, students on an SVV must leave the country if they wish to alter the the status of their visa, which is inconvenient and expensive should they be coming back to do a university/college course – and this is putting off many foreign students from coming to the UK in the first place.

Therefore, I welcome the recent push by Damian Green to counteract the negative perceptions of the Visa tightening, insisting that non-EU nationals are welcome in the UK (BBC, 26th June). Mr. Green is correct, the UK has some of the best universities in the world and to remain great, they must continue to attract a global audience of the best students and it is wholly correct that we should do all we can to attract the best international talent.

However, as pointed out in forum groups focused on EFL, the main focus of this drive seems to be on universities – forgetting about FE colleges and language schools.

What is interesting is that FE Colleges and Language schools actually act as feeders into Universities – either helping students obtain a Level 3 or 4 Foundation diploma, or perhaps gaining IELTS at 5.5 or above to ensure their conditional offer to University is accepted. I feel, as do many others, that the Government should not overlook this when considering the bigger picture. Universities may mean more to the UK economy – but they will not maintain this level of revenue if the feeder colleges and schools are not able to suitably prepare students – as they no longer have students to prepare!

It has been reported by the PIE news, that David Cameron is considering a U-Turn by stopping the inclusion of students in his net Migration statistics – no doubt as a result of pressure from Universities, who say that this inclusion could cost the UK economy £2.4 billion.

It would be great to see this U-Turn happen. But, I would hope that Mr. Cameron realises that the £2.4 billion loss is contributed to by other sectors in education and not just Universities and will thus reconsider his stance for the whole International Education Industry in the UK.

I think it will be costly if he does not!

– Jerry

UK Language Learning

It is interesting that the UK is finally taking note of the importance of learning a language from an early age. As reported by the BBC, schools in England and Wales will introduce a foreign language from the age of 7 in primary schools from 2014, subject to public consultation. The Scottish government has previously said that Scottish school children will start learning a foreign language from the moment they start school, aged 5.

This is something I wholeheartedly support. I often feel that my struggle to learn French was directly linked to the fact that I only started learning when I was 11 years old and was only required to learn a foreign language until the age of 15. Being young, and not very good, I instantly dropped French after my standard grade, which is something I now bitterly regret.

Native English speakers often have the attitude “Oh, everyone speaks English anyway.” and I feel that this is why foreign languages have previously been seen to lack importance compared to other subjects. Of course, though, they are wrong.

What’s strange is that my mother, being fluent in French and Italian, had a golden opportunity to bring me up as a bilingual child. However, perhaps inadequate support, or a lack of knowledge of effective implementation, prevented her from doing this with me. If she had known that what she was teaching me was being backed up in the classroom, I wonder if she would have perhaps been more willing to give it a go.

I learnt a lot about my native language by using principals I learnt in French. Tense’s, for example, were something I was never taught in English class (English Literature was favoured over English language), but, they are something I became familiar with by learning their French equivalents.

I feel that by teaching children from a younger age, not only will there be a vastly larger number of British children who become Bilingual and take languages further than GCSE or Standard Grade, but standards of our written and spoken English will also improve. Indeed, in her book, Raising Bilingual Children (Mars Publishing 2003) Carey Myles states that “Bilingualism has been linked to a variety of positive cognitive benefits, including early reading, improved problem-solving skills, and higher scores on the SATs, including the math section.”

Working in a Language School, I am constantly surprised by students’ abilities and often ashamed at my own lack of a foreign language. What is common among the majority of our students, is that they have been learning English since they were very young and many of these students come to us aiming for fluency, not just to achieve conversational level. This will hopefully be the outcome for UK students.

Personally, I’d be happy if I could still have a basic conversation in French! Who knows, had I been caught young – perhaps I’d be doing that and more by now!

For me, there is a long way to go – so here’s hoping that the future generations of UK children will be able to go into a foreign hotel without asking “Do you speak English?” in years to come!

Jerry

English Speaking Universities

I have read with interest the recent news, reported by the BBC that the Politecnico di Milano, one of Italy’s leading Universities is now switching the majority of its Undergraduate courses and all of it’s Graduate courses from Italian Language to English.

The University’s rector, Giovanni Azzone states that if the University wishes to remain visible on the world stage, then it simply must adopt the English language.

Citing that English is now the language of higher education, particularly in science and engineering internationally, and with it being the international language for business, graduates will become more employable, research will be more widely shared and the best international students and professors will be attracted to the University.

Thus, I presume, ensuring the continued success of the University.

Additionally, pointing out the increased competition from wealthy American and Asian universities, Mr. Azzone suggests that to effectively compete with these, students must use English.

I believe it to be a shrewd move by the the University and, to me, this all makes perfect sense. I see it as the University simply reacting to the increasingly globalised world that we all now live in.

Like any good business, they are adapting to fit the new needs that are fast emerging, ensuring that they stay ahead of the game – and being the first Italian University to do this, they should be well ahead in 5 or 10 years time compared to their Italian counterparts.

Many Northern European universities already teach in English and enjoy excellent Erasmus schemes with other Universities and don’t distinguish based on language. Thus, they already receive top talent and are able to be ranked higher for research as this is in English.

This realisation of the global language is something that Edinburgh School of English has advocated for a long time. The communication skills workshops we run are specifically designed to help students use English in international teams and build confidence in English, focusing on performance, fluency and accuracy. Furthermore, incorporating student interests and focuses, we keep classes topical and relevant to the student, leading to a higher level of applied skill when outwith the classroom.

We aim to to help our students perform to the best of their ability on the world stage!

It is my thought that as more Universities and businesses enforce an English Language requirement, communication focused English courses such as ours will become ever more in demand as parents and students alike realise the opportunities this opens to them and the need to remain competitive in ever increasing competition.

We’ll see what happens in 5-10 years time…!

Jerry