ESOL stands for English for Speakers of Other Languages.
It is English language education for adult migrants in the UK. The classes are generally provided by Further Education Colleges and local authorities but there are also a large number of the third sector and private sector providers. The government funds ESOL for some students but many people have to pay.
There are official ESOL exams, a core curriculum and standard resources called “skills for life” materials but these have not been updated for a long time and are not that widely used. Teachers generally need to have qualifications such as a PGCE or DTLLS.
Government funding for ESOL has been cut by around 60% in the last ten years. In the past free classes,
were available for more or less anyone who needed them. Now, only some students qualify for full fee remission
and the fees vary a lot from institution to institution. There is a campaign called Action for ESOL which aims
to promote ESOL, stop the cuts and improve the quality of provision. English for Action has supported this
campaign since its launch in 2010.
We think ESOL is an incredibly valuable public service. It benefits those who attend class and also the wider society.
Learning the language of the country you live in should be considered as a fundamental right. ESOL is not only
personally liberating but it helps create healthy communities where people of different backgrounds can communicate
and get on well together. Also, ESOL classes help make other public services, like health services, more effective and
often help people to find work or improve their work. It is therefore vital for our economy.
Not to be confused with…
EFL (English as a Foreign language) or TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) which is the global industry of
learning English. Here we are not generally talking about migrants living in English-speaking countries, but English
language education in non-English speaking countries or short courses for foreign students in the UK, or other English
EAL (English as an Additional Language) which is the system of supporting children in British schools to learn English when
English is not spoken much at home and/or the child has recently arrived from a non-English speaking country.