PARIS, April 11,2007 — When economics students returned this winter to the elite École Normale Supérieure here, copies of a simple one-page petition were posted in the corridors demanding an unlikely privilege: French as a teaching language.
“We understand that economics is a discipline, like most scientific fields, where the research is published in English,” the petition read, in apologetic tones. But it declared that it was unacceptable for a native French professor to teach standard courses to French-speaking students in the adopted tongue of English.
In the shifting universe of global academia, English is becoming as commonplace as creeping ivy and mortarboards. In the last five years, the world’s top business schools and universities have been pushing to make English the teaching tongue in a calculated strategy to raise revenues by attracting more international students and as a way to respond to globalization.
Business universities are driving the trend, partly because changes in international accreditation standards in the late 1990s required them to include English-language components. But English is also spreading to the undergraduate level, with some South Korean universities offering up to 30 percent of their courses in the language. The former president of Korea University in Seoul sought to raise that share to 60 percent, but ultimately was not re-elected to his post in December.
In Madrid, business students can take their admissions test in English for the elite Instituto de Empresa and enroll in core courses for a master’s degree in business administration in the same language. The Lille School of Management in France stopped considering English a foreign language in 1999, and now half the postgraduate programs are taught in English to accommodate a rising number of international students.
Over the last three years, the number of master’s programs offered in English at universities with another host language has more than doubled, to 3,300 programs at 1,700 universities, according to David A. Wilson, chief executive of the Graduate Management Admission Council, an international organization of leading business schools that is based in McLean, Va.
“We are shifting to English. Why?” said Laurent Bibard, the dean of M.B.A. programs at Essec, a top French business school in a suburb of Paris that is a fertile breeding ground for chief executives.
“It’s the language for international teaching,” he said. “English allows students to be able to come from anyplace in the world and for our students — the French ones — to go everywhere.”
This year the university is celebrating its 100th anniversary in its adopted tongue. Its new publicity film debuted in English and French. Along one of the main roads leading into Paris loomed a giant blue billboard boasting of the anniversary in French and, in smaller letters, in English.
Essec has also taken advantage of the increased revenue that foreign students — English-speaking ones — can bring in. Its population of foreign students has leapt by 38 percent in four years, to 909 today out of a student body of 3,700.
The tuition for a two-year master’s degree in business administration is 19,800 euros for European Union citizens, and 34,000 euros for non-EU citizens.
“The French market for local students is not unlimited,” said Christophe N. Bredillet, the associate dean for the Lille School of Management’s M.B.A. and postgraduate programs. “Revenue is very important, and in order to provide good services, we need to cover our expenses for the library and research journals. We need to cover all these things with a bigger number of students so it’s quite important to attract international students.”
With the jump in foreign students, Essec now offers 25 percent of its 200 courses in English. Its ambition is to accelerate the English offerings to 50 percent in the next three years.
Santiago Iñiguez de Ozoño, dean of the Instituto de Empresa, argues that the trend is a natural consequence of globalization, with English functioning as Latin did in the 13th century as the lingua franca most used by universities.
“English is being adapted as a working language, but it’s not Oxford English,” he said. “It’s a language that most stakeholders speak.” He carries out conversation on a blog, deanstalk.net, in English.
But getting students to feel comfortable speaking English in the classroom is easier said than done. When younger French students at Essec start a required course in organizational analysis, the atmosphere is marked by long, uncomfortable silences, said Alan Jenkins, a management professor and academic director of the executive M.B.A. program.
“They are very good on written tasks, but there’s a lot of reticence on oral communication and talking with the teacher,” Dr. Jenkins said, adding that he used role-playing to encourage students to speak. He also refuses to speak in French. “I have to force myself to say, ‘Can you give me that in English?’ ”
Officials at Ewha Womans University in Seoul are also aware that they face a difficult task at the first stage of their Global 2010 project, which will require new students to take four classes in English, two under the tutelage of native English-speaking professors. The 120-year-old university has embarked on a hiring spree to attract 50 foreign professors.
At the beginning, “teaching courses in English may have less efficiency or effectiveness in terms of knowledge transfer than those courses taught in Korean,” said Anna Suh, program manager for the university’s office of global affairs, who said that students eventually see the benefits. “Our aim for this kind of program is to prepare and equip our students to be global leaders in this new era of internationalization.”
The Lille management school is planning to open a satellite business school program next fall in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where the working language will also be in English.
“Internationally, the competition is everywhere,” Dr. Bredillet said. “For a master’s in management, I’m competing with George Washington University. I’m competing with some programs in Germany, Norway and the U.K. That’s why we’re delivering the curriculum in English.”
Written by : Rizki