Tuesday, February 7, 2023
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Invest in English language to fix skills shortages – education commission

The Lifelong Education Commission has called for better provision of English for non-native speakers to enable the migrant population to fill job gaps. According to the latest report, skills shortages are a “major barrier” to economic growth and productivity.

“The sector has often been treated as a peripheral concern by policymakers”

The group has set out its recommendations to improve the ESOL provision, including offering free English language education to anyone seeking British citizenship after six months in the country.

It has also suggested that the Department of Education should develop a specific ESOL strategy for England.

Liz Bromley, chief executive officer of NCG, a group of UK colleges, said “consistent cuts” in ESOL funding and growing demand make it “extremely difficult for us to provide this essential education to all who need it”.

The number of residents of England and Wales born outside the UK has doubled over the past 20 years and now exceeds 10 million – equivalent to one in six of the total population, according to the report.

“ESOL currently makes up a significant part of adult education in England,” said Andy Forbes, policy leader and report author at the Lifelong Education Commission. “Yet the sector is often treated as a peripheral concern by policymakers – who see it as secondary to ‘current’ subjects such as science, engineering and mathematics.

“This is counterproductive because for many migrants and asylum seekers, improving their English is the most practical and valuable endeavor there is.”

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