Teaching Standards or Standard Teaching? : An analysis of the Swedish national curriculum for English at upper-secondary school level

University essay from Södertörns högskola/Lärarutbildningen

Abstract: English is the most expansionist language in the world today. Currently, native speakers are outnumbered by non-native speakers by a ratio of 3:1, a ratio that is set to grow to 10:1 within the next ten years. One of the consequences of a language growing so rapidly is that its new users tend to ignore already accepted standards. In what linguists refer to as the outer and expanding circles of English-speakers (mainly in Africa and Asia) new varieties and standards of English are now being invented. In this study, the effects of the current expansion of English on the teaching of English in Swedish upper-secondary schools are explored. Questions raised include: Should teachers of English in Sweden reflect the changing nature of English in their teaching? Should they readily adopt the New Englishes that are emerging or should they teach with the standard they have always used? The national curriculum for the teaching of English in Sweden is discussed in some detail. The guidelines therein are evaluated in terms of their ability to capture the changing face of English as well as their ability to give solid guidance to teachers in a classroom situation. Findings derive from linguistic literature and from interviews conducted with English teachers at upper-secondary level. One of the main conclusions of the study is that whilst the national curriculum recognises the global diversity of English, its goals are overambitious in what it tries to achieve and thus it fails to provide teachers with practical guidance in their day-to-day teaching. A recommendation, therefore, is that the curriculum should be clearer in spelling out the importance of adhering to native standard varieties of English. However this does not mean that teachers should ignore the cultural diversity of the English-speaking world.

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