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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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

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

Are Short Language Courses Beneficial?

Many students choose to study a language course for a long period of time as they wish to improve as much as possible. But, this type of extended study is not for everyone. Some students may only have 2 weeks holiday from work, or only 2 weeks in between terms at school or University. Often, it will even come down to cost and students will invest in a course for as long as they can afford, which could only be 2 weeks – or even 1!

So, is there a benefit in doing such a short immersion course or would it be better to invest in a longer course in your home country?

I feel that both are acceptable!

I am currently looking to start a Spanish course (having discovered that I have some aptitude for Spanish) which will take place over summer, for 4 hours a week over 2 nights, plus 1-2 hours of homework each week. So, let’s say, 6 hours a week of study over 4 weeks, so 24 hours in total.

This should give me grounding in the language, give me some vital base vocabulary and introduce me to basic grammar so that if I venture to Spain on holiday, I should be able to, at least, order a coffee.

Take that further and I will slowly learn more over an extended period of time. But, I don’t think I would achieve fluency. Maybe in 20 years or so and after 3456 hours of study, which is not ideal if I wish to be able to use the language in business, for example – my career would be over before fluency!

However, if I were to take a two week holiday, I could do that in Spain, where I could also take an immersion language course. If I were to take an intensive course, then, in one week, I could study for the same number of hours as I did over 4 weeks back home. Plus, I would be using the language out of the classroom, further strengthening my communication skills.

Additionally, as the classes are close together, I would also probably remember more from morning to afternoon than I would back home in between my class on a Wednesday and my next class the following Monday, thus I would develop much quicker. This point is discussed in a blog by Communicad, using research from Shona Whyte, and it supports my assumption. Also, having come from a Psychology background, specialising in Biological Psychology, I am aware of the neural pathways needed to turn short-term memory into long-term memory and I know that this works more effectively with shorter time spans between learning intervals.

Therefore, I feel that a short language course is an ideal way for me to supplement my own language learning back home. I believe that I would come back with better understanding and a more advanced level having condensed 2 months learning into two weeks. I also feel that this would help me to achieve fluency much quicker, thus being of quicker benefit to my career progression.

It may, then, be a good option for you, the reader, to consider a short, intensive language course over this summer. If you are studying a language course at home, then I have no doubt that a short course will be of benefit to you and will see you becoming a more confident user of your language.

It’s certainly something that I will be doing!

Jerry Meldrum