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Title: ESL : second language teaching and social control
Author: Dowson, Nanita
ISNI:       0000 0004 2700 0430
Awarding Body: Institute of Education, University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 1991
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This study examines the development of English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching for adults as a distinct discipline from the period of its inception until the mid-1980s when it appears to have been well on the way to its constitution as and acceptance as a separate discipline. The history of ESL provision is established from interviews and from the literature, and competition between paradigms is discussed. The ESL provision in one borough in the London region is examined, and particular attention paid to the ideas and views of teachers who appeared to be undergoing a transformation from what could best be described as voluntary workers to professionals. Interviews with potential students are discussed because their ideas and concepts not only came into conflict with the received wisdom of ESL, but also had an effect upon the development of the subject. Particular attention is paid to women students because of their importance to the development of ESL. The thesis addresses itself practically to debates within ESL about its context and its politics, and academically to discussions about the relation of education to "race", gender and class. Additionally, it discusses the relationship between changes within the curriculum and outside social aims and social forces. Here the professionalisation of ESL is of importance: the thesis links the claims and practices of the new professionals to their working-conditions on the one hand, and issues of social control on the other. A crisis accompanied the establishment of ESL as a subject which was both financial (fear of cuts) and ideological (challenges to the old approach). Two ways of seeing the work have competed: assimilationist views linked to ESL's welfare origins which saw "the need for English" as self-evident; and a pluralist discourse emphasising "bilingualism". Interviews with potential students showed that "the need for English" was not staightforward; but the pluralist discourse in ESL was stimulated by a struggle for professional status within education rather than by increased proximity to students. It was found that though pluralist views were put forward in ESL publications, the assimilationist discourse was widespread among tutors, who were unlikely to give up their freedom to define the work as they chose unless improvements to their working-conditions were available. The need for an alternative to both is discussed. The thesis is in three parts. Following a chapter on theory and method, the first section (chapters 2 and 3) examines the development of ESL up to the mid-1980s. The welfare origins of ESL and its development into an educational subject are discussed. The second section (chapters 4 and 5) draws on fieldwork in an outer London borough in 1984-5 to describe the different sorts of ESL provision there and discuss the teachers' views of the work. The third section (chapters 6 and 7) explores issues of potential students' approaches to ESL classes. Chapter 6 considers factors affecting adults' approaches to learning new languages and to formal education, and chapter 7 discusses interviews with potential students of ESL in the same outer London borough to compare with the ideas of providers. In conclusion, chapter 8 discusses the implications of the work of ESL in terms of social control. The importance of the curriculum is stressed, and alternatives to assimilationist and pluralist conceptions argued.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available