International Higher Education: Forces Working Against a Global-Local English Department

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Panel for 2018 MLA convention
contact email: 

The intersection of globalization and American style higher education is perhaps most keenly expressed in the necessity of the English language as a connecting force. However, as the lingua franca of many ‘global’ or ‘international’ liberal arts programs, it is more than just a medium of instruction. English operates as the defacto language of globalized higher education, with the assumption that it can be dehistoricized and value-free. Yet faculty teaching in international contexts know that English medium education biases many higher education practices, including text selection, the subordination of other languages, and often an associated second class treatment of non-Western cultures.

Due to the demand for American style degrees, there are other implicit biases about English for academic purposes that are transported alongside the pedagogical practices. One such bias is that the study of literature and language, in English class, develops the academic skills also used by other humanities and social science disciplines including anthropology, sociology, history. The pressure on the English department to deliver academically proficient writers and readers echoes similar expectations of U.S. based colleagues. Critical thinking, analytical writing, and participation in academic discourse are tasks developed in the English reading or writing classroom; students inability to perform to expectations in their other disciplines is often traced back as a failure of the English department.

Related to these pressures are the unique pedagogical considerations of teaching non-Anglophone students in their second or third language -- English. Instructors must consider whether the English abilities of their students match the content of the course: any weakening of one side of the equation results in a weakening of the other – to the point where perhaps a course must forgo content in favor of the mechanics of language instruction.

This fourth annual MLA special session proposes to examine these and other pertinent questions related to the influence of English as a global language at the tertiary level in overseas educational settings. Interested participants should provide their CV, brief academic bio (50 words) and a 100-word description of how they would address the themes outlined above to Mohanalakshimi Rajakumar, mrajakumar@vcu.edu by 15 March 2017.