A Coda: Makerere

A short addendum to my review of A.P.R. Howatt’s A History of English Language Teaching.

The Commonwealth Conference at University College of Makerere, Uganda, has been seized on as as a symbolic point in the history of teaching English (which is interesting in itself).

According to the 1961 Makerere Report, the issue of teaching English in Africa was not “in any way concerned with politics”. It was only to be a “gateway to better communications, better education, and so a higher standard of living and better understanding”.

For Robert Phillipson in Linguistic Imperialism, this is a crystallisation of how the discipline of TEFL/ TESL has insisted on being seen as outside of the political sphere, negating any role for itself outside the self-evident narrative of Progress, and stubbornly making this plain in the minutes from the word go.

Pedagogy, the classroom, the choice of medium: disinterested decisions. Or at least if these do have wider consequences, it is not the role of professional teachers to examine them. The divisions between disciplines hold everything strictly in place.

More on Phillipson’s book soon.

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