Instituto Blaise Pascale

In 2006 we began to construct a Department of English Language Studies for the Instituto Blaise Pascale in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca. Prior to our arrival there was no formal department of any type in place. English classes had been offered through a private entity with little or no interest in investing in any manner of long term vision or plan for the school nor its students and community.

To build a comprehensive and sustainable department we have focused our attention around developing four key areas: curriculum; staff and teaching; evaluation, and bilingual education.

1. Curriculum: At Blaise we have set out to design and write our own text-books and curriculum which promote the study of English Language through a western context as it relates to local or national context. Each curriculum is built around a central theme, for example, 1599: A Year in the Life of Shakespeare. Themes are chosen on the weight of their significance and relevance as learning tools for the local context as well as the interest of the recipient group. Books are designed and printed locally providing a small, but important resource to the local economy. In the last two years an ever expanding series of bilingual elective courses have been designed and implemented to expand the course offering available to bilingual students. These courses include: An Introduction to the United Nations, Art History, International Communications, Adobe Youth Media, and The Films of Ken Loach, to name some.

2. Staff and Teaching: TTo build a sustainable department of studies we have set out to build a strong network of teachers and educators. To this end we have begun not only to bring experienced, creative, and quality teachers to share their skills, but also educators whose expertise stretches to professional development and curriculum planning. All teachers, both Mexican and foreign, are certified and experienced teachers with education degrees in their professional portfolios. Focusing on seasoned professionals rather than mere English speakers is an obvious, but pivotal change that as enabled us to raise the standards of English Language Studies in Oaxaca as well as teaching standards in general.

3. Evaluation: In IBP we have implementing a series of high-quality, comprehensive evaluation materials. These include: A comprehensive entrance exam so that students can for the first time be placed successfully in a level of study which is challenging and rewarding to them allowing them to work with students at their own level of language. We have also brought the TOEFL ibt examination to Oaxaca which allows us to evaluate the exit levels of students in relationship to a universally accepted marker and standard of English proficiency.

4. Bilingual Education: IWe are committed to building a comprehensive bilingual environment at IBP and to engage the student in a wider, more comprehensive format of education. Knowing that no standard of bilingual education exists we have worked hard to create a manifesto which outlines clearly for our community the characteristics of bilingual education that we strive to achieve. We recognize that creating a bilingual community, both inside and outside of the classroom is an integral part of building language competency in the student. For this reason, we have begun to look at every area of our learning environment to ensure that the context is reinforcing the learning taking place inside the classroom and creating a space that is comfortable and challenging for bilingual speakers.