English for Speakers of other Languages: a route to civic integration

  • Thomas Foreman

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This research establishes the extent to which English for Speakers of Other Languages classes (ESOL) are a route to integration in British society. In achieving this aim, this thesis examines whether there is sufficient recognition of the ESOL qualification, whether ESOL course materials promote integration in society, and whether the experiences of ESOL learners support greater integration in society. Following a review of relevant literature, there is limited research which explores the aspirations of ESOL learners, the barriers they face and how the learner experience fits into the context of the State’s attempts to promote greater integration. In resolving these objectives, this thesis provides a top down as well as bottom up approach, with evidence gathered from ESOL learners, teaching staff and a former Home Secretary. This thesis makes an original contribution to the field of research by identifying a need to raise the status of the ESOL qualification to meet the aspirations of the learner, as well as meeting the needs of the State. Furthermore, in giving retrospective insight into ESOL from the responsible Home Secretary, this research provides a significant contribution to existing knowledge.

    This thesis also finds that for many ESOL learners, employment and educational progression are priorities to learners and often the main reason for attending the classes. For the government, civic, cultural and economic integration is prioritised, with the promise of the national rebirth through greater participation (Sandman 2008). This thesis evidences the way this integration is achieved through the ESOL material.

    Renewal of the nation and the role of nationalism is the subject of much debate among theorists. Although in this debate, theorists may disagree on a plethora of issues, most agree that language, both written and spoken, is a cornerstone of both
    ‘society’ and ‘nationhood’. In the policy realm, arguments supporting the inclusive potential of language and the importance of communication for inclusion and a feeling of national identity came to the fore through the Nationality, Immigration and
    Asylum Act 2002. This Act introduced English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) as a vehicle for language learning and, for a time, as a route to citizenship for migrants. This route requires both commitment and progression through language
    testing with includes embedded citizenship material. Since this Act was introduced, ESOL has grown and developed with high profile campaigns and research advocating adequate funding and provision. Although its role as a route to citizenship has changed, ESOL has retained a central place in the integration of migrants.

    This thesis utilises theories of nations and nationalism as a way of assessing the importance of language to the State and migrants, and therefore the importance of ESOL. The thesis describes tiers of the ESOL policy: the high-level government
    policy; the medium level of how the policy is reproduced by ESOL teachers; the grass roots level of how this is received by learners. The research explores the views of a former Home Secretary and provides a retrospective view both of ESOL
    successes and areas for further development of the approach. Primarily however, this thesis focuses on the classroom experience of learners and teachers through a yearlong ethnographic study within a large ESOL centre.
    Date of Award4 Oct 2017
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGideon Calder (Supervisor) & John Deering (Supervisor)


    • Nationalism
    • ESOL Learners

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