Designing an English Curriculum for Everyone

Designing an English Curriculum for Everyone

Angela Bailey (Universidad del Norte, Colombia), Nayibe Rosado (Universidad del Norte, Colombia) and Lourdes Rey (Universidad del Norte, Colombia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3132-6.ch005
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In this chapter, the authors demonstrate a practical view of a foreign language curriculum development in Colombia. Within the chapter, they give a brief description of language policies that guided the curriculum; a discussion of the research framework, methods, and data collection; and a reflection of the choices made with regard to education, language, and language learning. By triangulating existing policies, contextual and conceptual needs analyses, and existing classroom practices, the authors demonstrate a collaborative and flexible means of meeting foreign language teaching across a broad spectrum of inconsistencies. Conclusions review and discuss the importance of maintaining an open and adaptable perspective throughout foreign language curriculum design while establishing and creating a working, flexible English language curriculum.
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Historical Background

In countries, such as Colombia, foreign language teaching has shifted in an effort to remain viable in international realms (Bertolin & Leite, 2008; MEN, 2006). In the efforts to become more competitive economically, a series of actions were implemented to raise the level of education and skills development. The General Education Law 115 (Congress of Colombia, 1994) mandated the learning of a foreign language as part of graduation requirements for high school and university. English as a foreign language has thus become the desired foreign language in academic, scientific and business areas. Consequently, more resources were invested to promote the learning of English (MEN, 2006).

In 2005, the government launched a national bilingual program as a strategy to attempt to increase the English language level of Colombians (MEN, 2005) which ultimately evolved into the current Colombia Bilingüe Plan (2014-2018). Since the 2005 implementation, the program has established a series of actions targeted toward students, teachers and institutions (González, 2007; Herazo, Jerez, & Lorduy, 2012). Among these actions, the creation and implementation of language standards called the Basic Standards for Competences in Foreign Language: English and skill levels per grade occurred (MEN, 2006). These standards were adapted from the Common European Framework of References (Council of Europe, 2001; MEN, 2006). However, after a number of years of implementation and various criticisms, these levels were considered ambitious given the realities of the Colombian educational context (Ayala & Alvarez, 2005; Cárdenas & Hernandez, 2011; González, 2009; Usma, 2009). Scholars’ claims included that the competence standards were designed and implemented without validation and input from local experts (Sánchez & Obando, 2008). Further commentary regarded state teachers’ English language levels, the number of instructional hours, the number of students per classroom, and school infrastructures (Bastidas & Ibarra, 2011; Usma, 2009). Hence, the discussion urged revision and restructuring of the national bilingual program including the design of a suggested curriculum for high school which was proposed in the Colombian National Development Plan (2014 – 2018) (National Planning Department, 2015).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Colombian Educational Context: The Colombian educational context runs from a transition year at early ages until 11th grade (usually 16 or 17 years of age). The system follows similarly to Spanish education.

Intrinsic/Internal Motivation: The motivation a person has that comes from the self rather than external influences (i.e., self-improvement).

Basic Standards for Competences in Foreign Language: The standards are a set of “can do” statements for each grade language ability level of the CEFR. These statements were provided for reading, writing, speaking (monologue and conversation), and listening. The standards per grade level consists of 6 or more standards per skill.

Common European Framework of References (CEFR): The European presented framework for language learning skills and abilities based upon knowledge and know how.

Transversal Skills: Those skills which a student needs in order to be competent in a broad and universal way. These skills are comparable to 21st century skills.

Communicative Competences: The linguistic, pragmatic, and sociolinguistic skills necessary to acquire a language.

Triangulation: The process of comparing and measuring specific sources of information to attain a broader and complete picture of collected information.

Scope and Sequence: The depth and breadth of knowledge and skills to be learned and reviewed through the course of a language learning plan.

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