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Enseignement supérieur

Why teaching in English may not be such a good idea

Mis à jour : 22 Nov 2017

Research suggests students learn better in their native tongue, and English fails to prepare international students for a job after graduation, says Michele Gazzola.

Whether or not to teach in English has become a major dilemma for universities across continental Europe.

The number of European bachelor's and master's programmes where teaching is conducted entirely in English was 725 in 2001, 2,389 in 2007 and 8,089 in 2014. This is just 6 per cent of all university programmes in continental Europe, but we are dealing with a rapidly developing phenomenon, particularly at master's level and in certain disciplines. And yet, other research has found resistance to change from academics.

The shift to English both in research and teaching in many European universities is essentially the side-effect of the spread of international rankings. The indicators used in such rankings reward the percentage of international students enrolled. Although it has been argued that these rankings are based on a questionable methodology, and that they do not properly assess the quality of research and teaching, newspapers and popular blogs relentlessly quote them.

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