San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Nearly 40 percent of English teachers unfit to teach

Out of 3,193 English teachers working for the Public Education Ministry (MEP) only 1,981 of them (62 percent) possess the training and knowledge necessary to teach that language properly, according to the results of an evaluation commissioned by Education Minister Leonardo Garnier.

The evaluation consisted in having teachers take the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), a standardized English proficiency exam, followed by an oral interview in English. The evaluation was paid for by nonprofit Fundación CR-USA.

Thirty-seven percent of teachers (1,212) scored in the beginner and elementary levels, meaning they are unfit to teach English. Forty-eight percent of teachers (1,550) scored in the intermediate and high intermediate levels. Only 13 percent (431) scored in the advanced level.

Garnier justified the results saying MEP´s English program has existed in a systematic way for only 12 years. At the same time, 62 percent of teachers ranked at a level that regards them as qualified to teach English at an “intermediate high” level.

With the intent of getting the remaining teachers up to the intermediate level, MEP will at the end of this month hold a large teacher training exercise with help from public universities. Once teachers currently in the lower ranges make it to the intermediates range, the emphasis will switch to upgrading them to the next level, which Garnier described as “ideal.”

At the same time, MEP plans to promote exchanges with teachers from English-speaking countries.

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