Colombia’s Growth Plan is Plain: English

colombia's growth plan
Like many world leaders in both developing and developed nations, recently re-elected President Juan Manuel Santos advocates for education as a means of improving earning power and bringing more skills-based income to the national economy. At the beginning of his tenure, Santos focused specifically on English learning at the primary level as a means of expanding the breadth of knowledge in the country.

But in Colombia, a lack of qualified teachers is one of several things that make widespread English education a difficult task. Political Consultant Kevin Howlett wrote for Colombia Politics in 2013 about the challenges that kept Santos’ plan from really taking off:

The findings of “Bilingualism in Colombia” reveal a depressing 75 per cent of English teachers cannot speak the language to the European B2, or “Upper Intermediate” standard. Even more worrying, 14 per cent struggle to pass the A1, or “Beginner” level.

Unsurprising then that over 90 per cent of Colombia`s student population are failing to meet the goals of the “National Bilingual Programme”, which aims to ensure Colombians have at least B1 English.

President Santos, himself fluent in English after years of study and work in London, sees English as an essential skill if Colombia`s economic growth is to continue at the rate it has over the last decade.

In 2014, the outlook on the eventual fulfillment of the Colombian government’s 2004 plan to have everyone leaving school speak a B level of English by 2019 remained bleak. The lack of skilled teachers hadn’t been addressed. In Colombia Reports, Craig Corbett wrote that the English education efforts had resulted in an education split among class lines, as those with the means went to more expensive private schools to learn their English from better teachers:

Students are therefore left with two options in Colombia. Leave school with a very basic level of English, or enroll in a private language academy.
Major Colombian cities such as Bogota and Medellin have schools run by British Council, the leading English language organisation worldwide, and other well-known and respected institutions such as Berlitz and Colombo Americano. While the option is available to students, courses in these private academies are not cheap, and will undoubtedly be unavailable to youngsters who are not from wealthy backgrounds.

Those who are serious about learning English (and can afford it), leave the country all together.

Obviously, this type of division runs contrary to any poverty alleviation goals that the Colombian Bilingualism effort might want to achieve, and isn’t an acceptable way to reach their stated goals.

There have been great advances since 2004 in the availability of hardware and the capability of software to participate in the learning process. Interactive programing offered by Lingo Media (TSX VENTURE: LM, OTC QB: LMDCF) through ELL Technologies’ Speak2Me and The Studio offerings for example are interactive, automatic and conversation-based practice tools. The granular correction of speaking tones allow students to practice and perfect their English without the native English speakers that Colombia presently lacks.

Speak2Me and The Studio are available on all levels of ELL’s English learning products. As the products become more prevalent in Colombia, a new generation of English speakers will emerge in Colombia, encouraging parabolic growth of bilingualism and diversifying the opportunities of the Colombian economy and its people.

Lingo Media announced a deal with schools in the municipality of Palestina recently, and are looking forward to expanding their footprint in Colombia.