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EfA's Participation in the 5th Annual Conference on Educational Equality

On Wednesday 9 March, EfA Director Mohamed Oummih presented a paper on the English for Morocco Coursebook. Below is the abstract of his presentation.

Making EFL Coursebooks Inclusive: Local Content for an International Language

Rationale English is widely recognized as being the world’s current lingua franca. It is the most widely taught foreign language in the world, the world’s most common second language, and the world’s most spoken language. Teachers generally use course books published by large international publishing houses which are based in countries where English is not a second language, mainly the United States and the United Kingdom. This in itself does not reflect the fact that over 70 percent of English speakers speak it as their L2, and not more than 4 percent of conversations in English involve only non-native speakers.

It’s true that these course books have been showing a trend towards internationalization in recent decades. Texts and contexts relate to places outside of the English-speaking world, and L2 speakers are now common in both video and audio texts. Culturally, though, the course books remain firmly anchored in native speaker territory, and the international contexts are almost always in countries with very large EFL learner populations such as China or India. This increases the “foreigness” of the English language for learners living in smaller or less wealthy countries, and places them at a cognitive disadvantage when learning the language, as well as when practicing the language in their local contexts—contexts that are radically different from those found in their course books.

This paper aims to rectify this situation by presenting a unit-by-unit plan for a Moroccan course book for EFL students. The course book will be crowd sourced and made available for free to all teachers.

Ethical Considerations Languages are more than a means of communication, they are an intellectual tool used for conceptualizing, planning, and executing (e.g., speech acts). The more familiar the context in which one is doing these things, the lighter the initial cognitive load will be, making it easier to devote greater resources to the language one is learning.

Given the content of EFL course books today, this creates an unbalanced playing field for EFL learners from smaller countries, in particular those in Africa, where the culture and the social and physical environment are often very far removed from the texts and contexts found in course books. By including situations and contexts directly related to the Moroccan learner, the English for Morocco course book aims to fight against the resulting exclusion.

Methodology Writing a course book for a small market such as that of Morocco is not a lucrative activity. This is why we are crowd sourcing the coursebook. The scheme of work and outline will be made public, and English teachers around Morocco will be invited to submit texts, activities, and other resources in line with the course book plan. The final result would then be made available, pro bono, to all private and public sector English teachers in Morocco, to be used either as a main or supplementary course book in their lessons.

Results The plan for the course book and several sections have already been written. It is topic-based, each unit combining situations relating to a specific topic and taking place in a different Moroccan city, with “strands” running through each unit. The strands represent different aspects of Moroccan life, from “Moroccan IT inventors,” “MRE (expat Moroccans)” or “religious life,” etc. A unit topic—e.g., work, or the family—would have texts and situations related to both that topic and each of the strands.

The book is specifically designed to make learning English more closely related to the life of the Moroccan learner, while reflecting the diversity of Morocco and of the non-Moroccan L2 and L1 speakers with whom they commonly interact in English.

Conclusions Successfully completing and making the English for Morocco course book available for free would set a model for other countries to follow. This could represent a paradigm shift in the ELT world, with local or regional, more inclusive course books eventually taking the place of those produced by the currently dominant international conglomerates, facilitating learning for millions, and more fairly reflecting the diversity of the world’s English speaking community.


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