An overview of the TEFL situation in various countries

Would you please click here and send information on the TEFL situation at the secondary school level in your country by mail? I will add your information to this page later. When you send, please don't forget to give me your name, mail address and the name of the city and the state/province you live in.

Here is the list of the countries from which I have ever collected information. I welcome more information from other countries and other information from the countries below!!

South America
Hong Kong
Czech Republic
North & Central America
Canada (Quebec)
Jersey Channel Islands
El Salvador
Puerto Rico
South Korea
United Arab Emirates
South Africa


In Japan, English is first taught in junior high school when students are 13 years old and all junior high students learn English mainly because there is an English test in the high school entrance exam (Almost all the students go on to high school). The students are required to study English four hours a week at school. The number of students in one class is 40 or fewer.

In junior high school, English is taught with a lot of communicative activities, mostly worked in pairs or small groups. However, the way of teaching gradually shift from communicative to entrance exam-oriented especially for the ninth graders, most of whom are to take the high school entrance exam later that year, and classes are conducted mostly in Japanese with emphasis placed on teaching translation and grammar.

In senior high school, the situation gets even worse and from the beginning English is taught with a lot of emphasis on teaching reading comprehension (or rather translation) and grammar. Most of the teachers teach English in Japanese, spending a lot of time explaining about how to translate sentences and grammar and ask the students for rote learning, which they think is important and necessary for them to prepare for the college entrance exam. Though there are some other foreign languages provided in some schools, almost all high school students take English.

In July, 2002, however, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) formulated a strategy to cultivate "Japanese with English abilities" in a concrete action plan with the aim of drastically improving the English education of Japanese people. This is mainly because the English-speaking abilities of a large percentage of Japan's population are inadequate at present, and this imposes restrictions on exchanges with foreigners and creates occasions when the ideas and opinions of Japanese people are not appropriately evaluated. You can get the whole picture of this strategic plan from MEXT's page, Regarding the Establishment of an Action Plan to Cultivate "Japanese with English Abilities" [Hiroyuki Yukita: Aomori, Aomori]

You might get more information on Japan from the following sites:
Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
ELT News
The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme
Web Japan

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In Israel, all students take English from grade 4, and some from grade 2. There is a lot of emphasis placed on learning English because it is an official language here, along with Hebrew and Arabic. In high school, students study English several times a week, and in 11th and 12th grades they study and take Bagrut (matriculation) exams--from 3 points (the lowest) to 5 points (very high proficiency). Students are placed in weak to strong classes in most schools from junior high, and definitely in high school--although there is a strong push for "heterogeneous classes" mixing students at all levels by requiring different levels of work.

It is a wonderful profession here--we have a lot of English speakers from America, Canada, England, Australia and South Africa teaching, as well as Russians and Israelis. There is wonderful training--the English Teacher's Assoc. of Israel. I teach weak classes--I emphasize remedial work in all areas after assessing students; language awareness (from ABC's through vowel combinations, suffixes, prefixes, etc.); learning strategies, especially for reading, and development of helpful skills (e.g. use of dictionary). There is a strong emphasis on silent free reading here now. In my classes, I try to work through independent learning centers, e.g. using graded work cards, writing practice, etc. Many weak students need advice and training on how to study, learn and work with a foreign language. [Ellen Serfaty: Pisgat Zeev]

I am a ninth grade high school student. In our country we start learning English in the 4th grade (i.e. when students are 10 years old). Some elementary schools teach English from the second or even the first grade, but this is still rare in Israel. Israeli pupils have many difficulties learning English and most of the students are taking private lessons. Maybe that's because Hebrew is written from right to left, and English is written from left to right. Moreover, the Hebrew grammar rules are so different from the English rules; for example, in English the adjective comes before the noun and in Hebrew the noun comes before the adjective.

The elementary school ends in the 6th or 8th grade (depends on the city it is located in). In the 4th grade English teachers spend most of the time on listening comprehension. The teacher speaks English and translates every sentence into Hebrew. Students also learn the English alphabet in this grade. In the 5th-8th grades pupils learn many "vocabulary" words in order to make their English understood easier. They also learn the basic tenses, such as Present Progressive, Present Simple, Past Simple and Future. In the 8th grade students start doing grammar exercises more often. I study in the 9th grade, which is called "Kita tet" in Hebrew. And it's not easy at all to study English in that grade. The material becomes harder. We read many long texts and do "unseens" very often. We also read English books and make book reports. The teacher speaks English all the time without any Hebrew words. It helps to improve your listening skill. In Israel we study English till the 12th grade, which is the last grade in high school. Students will take the "Bagrut" exams in English. [Gal Slonim: Ramat-Gan]

You might get more information on Israel from the following sites:
Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport
ETNI (English Teachers Network in Israel)

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Children start school at 7 years old and normally start learning English at 3rd grade when they are 9 years old. Some children may start learning English later than 3rd grade but by the age of 16 when they finish, most will have studied 7 years of English. Thus almost every child in Finland studies English at some stage in their school years (as well as Finnish and Swedish, the official languages, and sometimes another foreign language such as German or French).

Finland has the highest child literacy rate in Europe. Within last 20 years or so communicative English skills have increased significantly. This may be attributed to high exposure to English on TV and the radio. English language TV programs are subtitled in Finnish, but never dubbed (except for programs for the very young such as cartoons).

Now that Finland is part of the European Union there is a need for Finnish businesses to develop their foreign language skills - mainly English, German and Russian. As a result there is a demand for teaching EFL (English as a Foreign Language) and there are many language schools that cater for the business English sectors.

Language schools are not regulated in Finland in the same way as in other countries (eg with British Council accreditation) so standards vary a lot. Many language schools prefer a teaching qualification (eg UCLES/RSA CTEFLA) but some will accept native speakers of English with little or no teaching experience (both American English and British English).

Rates of pay can vary from 80 Finnish Markka upwards per teaching hour (45 mins), depending upon experience. In terms of the McDonald's global economic index (the price of a McDonald's Big Mac meal is about 30 FIM) the cost of living is quite high.

Helsinki is the capital of Finland and the most densely populated part of Finland. The rest of the country consists mainly of lakes and forests. Business in Finland is very quiet from midsummer through July when most people take advantage of the short summer and leave for the countryside (unpredictable - sometimes very hot 25C, sometimes cold and wet). Winters can be very cold (greater than -20C), dark and wet (with frequent rain/snow). [David Paul:]

You might get more information on Finland from the following sites:
Ministry of Education
The Finnish National Board of Education
Description of Education System - Finland

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South Korea

Basically, what I can tell you about the middle school situation is this. In most schools, the emphasis is on grammar, not on speaking or communicating. That is the purpose for our institute. Students come to our institute to learn how to communicate in English and use what they've learned. This also applies to high schools as well. Even though high school students have studied English for six years, when they come to our institute for a level test, most of them are only level one or two because they can't communicate in English. One of my friends in Korea (a native Korean) who majored in English at university and speaks English very well, has taught in a couple of middle schools. Even though he speaks English, the principal still wants him to concentrate on English grammar. The only time this varies is when the schools have native English speakers in the school. Then, of course, the lesson is all in English and emphasis is on spoken English.

So, that's the basics of what is going on in Korean middle schools (and like I said, high schools also). That's why there are so many private institutes with native speakers. That's where the students go to learn how to speak English. [Dean Comeau: SISA ELC Foreign Language Institute, Youngju, Kyungbuk]

I guess the situation in high schools is almost the same as that of Japan; study as hell to enter prestigious college. In English classes students learn about English, not English itself; only reading and understanding relatively difficult passages and answering questions (multiple choice ones and fill-in types). Theoretically and actually students can't write or speak in English after three-year-learning of English in Korea however bright the student may be.

In Korea "Open Education" has been catching on these days. It has two important points:

1. Students of various levels have to learn according to their levels.
2. Students, not teachers, decide their learning speed and what to learn in classes.

To adopt the theory into English classes,

1. Teachers decide in what level each student is (in a students-friendly way)
2. Teachers make various types of materials (four skills, for example) for the levels. [Yeon Heo: Pusan]

You might get more information on South Korea from the following sites:
Ministry of Education, Science and Technology

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It's rather difficult for me to describe TESOL in Argentine schools as we are in the process of a big change in education. The government is launching a very ambitious reform to our educational system. On the one hand, they've changed the amount of obligatory years our children have to spend in school. Before only primary school was compulsory (seven years) but now children have to go to school when they are five until they are fourteen. Then they carry on three more years in high school where they can choose their orientation according to the career they plan to follow in university. On the other hand, they also plan to change, in my opinion, the approach teachers have towards teaching. We aren't any longer information transmitters but facilitators, our basic task being to help children find their own procedures to reach the information they are looking for. There are different ways of learning English.

*Private schools, with different fees, ranging from rather cheap to very expensive:

In some schools you can study English at a basic level while in others you can graduate with O or A levels, IGCSE, First Certificate or Proficiency Cambridge exams.

*State secondary schools where English is one of the foreign languages included in the curricula, the other being French:

The level is generally very low, putting most of the attention in filling in activity books and paying little attention to oral production. I don't know how many students attend public secondary schools but I would say that in Buenos Aires most middle-class families try to send their children to private schools as most public schools haven't gotten a high reputation and classes are sometimes crammed with students.

*Private institutes which teach English alone:

They are an option for families who cannot afford a private school. Many students, after school, attend English classes where they can be prepared to sit for UCLES exams, from PET up to Proficiency.

*Some private teachers also prepare students for Cambridge exams in their homes:

Cambridge exams are very popular in my country and I think we are one of the countries in Latin America which present the largest number of candidates.

Now, due to the reform, the teaching of a foreign language is compulsory in primary school from fourth form (nine years old). Schools can choose the language and Buenos Aires province has chosen English, but it's not very clear, at least to me, how they plan to implement this. I think it's because everything is so new. [Gladys Ledwith: Buenos Aires]

I can see that some things in Argentina are very similar to Japan; I mean classes are big, considering that the number of students in each class is between 26 and 40. We have two types of schools: the State School and the Private School (I work in a private school). The State Schools are numerous and students start learning English in the 4th year when they are 9 years old. In the Private Schools students start with English classes in Kindergarten when they are 4 and/or 5 years old. They start learning some greetings, colours, animals, numbers, etc., i.e,easy vocabulary and of course, everything is oral at this stage.

I work with teenagers (from 13 to 17) and they have 90 minutes of English a week. (We, teachers have so little time to do things in class!!!) In class, I try to speak in English all the time except for the explanations that I consider to be explained (sometimes, of course) in Spanish. [Maria Laura]

You might get more information on Argentina from the following site:
Education in Argentina

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Nowadays English has become very popular in Russia. There are several types of schools in our city, where English is taught. First of all, we have quite a number of schools, which are called "specialized". They may specialize in languages, maths, sports, arts and so on. In such schools children usually learn English, French or German. The children may also learn English in ordinary schools, beginning at the age of 10. Some children go to private schools and learn the languages there, and some invite private teachers, who teach them mostly at home. The school where I work is called "international". We have 2 departments at school - Hebrew and European. Our students learn 3 foreign languages: English, Hebrew and French. As far as the English language is concerned, we begin teaching it to the students when they become 8 years old. The class of 26 pupils is divided into 2 groups, 13 students each. Our students have 4 English lessons a week. We have such aspects as reading, writing, conversation, home and individual reading. While teaching we mostly use the textbooks which have been written in Russia. However, now we also try to use the British courses (Blueprint, Cambridge Course, English Together) and we find them very helpful. And what is very important for us is that we use computers in the teaching process. That's very exciting for our students and they work eagerly. We are grateful to the Resource Centre ORT-St.Petersburg which provides us with the computers, new technologies and new interesting education projects. It also gives us all kinds of help and advice. [Irina Lukina: St.Petersburg]

You might get more information on Russia from the following site:
Databases and References

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As you know, English is taught as a foreign language in Brazil. Here, English is part of the curriculum in all the schools (public and private) since junior high. A few private schools start the teaching of English from primary level (5-6 years old). This doesn't happen in public schools. Besides the regular schools, there are private English courses. This happens because in regular schools, teachers still use a very traditional methodology with emphasis on grammar and translation. Because of that, these students can't speak the language. Then, students who want to be totally proficient (that is, be able to speak, listen, read and write) and who can pay, go to these private courses. These courses use very modern methodology (Communicative Approach). The most important one in Brazil is "Cultura Inglesa". (There are branches in almost all the states in Brazil. All the teachers have the "Cambridge Proficiency Certificate" and there is a lot of British teaching there.) [Maria Cristina Pereira: Sao Jose dos Campos, Sao Paulo]

You might get more information on Brazil from the following site:
Education in Brazil

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An overview of the TEFL situation in various countries (continued)

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