Though it is still not sure whether the programme will be cut indefinitely, suspending it for a year means that students across the country will have to look for alternative ways of teaching in another country.
“The great thing about the British Council is that it is a world-renowned institution, with resourceful and helpful staff and offers great insight into the world of teaching, albeit for only a year. It´s like the perfect taster course, with the added bonus of being abroad!”, tells Susie Hall, a recent graduate who went out to Lyon to teach secondary students in 2006.
Teaching abroad under the British Council scheme is what many consider to be one of the best years of their life. As Alastair Campbell, famed writer and lesser-known linguist, told The Independent: “I still remember a sense of excitement that I was on my own, about to have a year in a foreign country [...] I got off the train in Nice and didn't even know where I was going to live. I was forced to set myself up there. It was around 10 weeks before I really felt like I was teaching the students anything useful but I also used the time to write.” He later adds that his interest in his studies back home was ignited thanks to his stint as a Language Assistant, rediscovering the purpose of his degree.
Whether students going on the scheme really do want to go into teaching later on in life, or if the idea of teaching, as Mr Campbell points out, stimulates students to put their all into their degree, come fourth year, the Language Assistant programme can only be seen an advantage. With such severe budget cuts, the future of the programme is in jeopardy, and many British students will unfortunately suffer as a result.
Other famous Language Assistants include Fiona Bruce, Angus Deayton and J K Rowling, to name but a few; though they may not have carried on with a career in the field of education, their experience as teachers has undoubtedly helped them pursue one in media.
“Preparing lesson plans, improvising on the spot in front of a class of 30, presenting, acting out dialogues and offering tailored vocabulary sheets to suit students’ needs are all skills that can be applied in a variety of fields, from presenting, to writing, to dealing with clients,” tells Lauren Pactor, a budding journalist. “I not only learnt how to prepare and present a particular situation in a foreign context, but I also learnt a lot about the culture - a lot more than my other friends did, doing internships, albeit in the same country.” Ms Pactor now works in media, varying between radio and television broadcasting, back home as well as abroad. “You really get to grips with the culture, as you’re learning as much as the students are, seeing how ideas and concepts are assimilated within their educational system, and comparing and contrasting these with your own background; though I didn’t pursue a career in teaching, it has helped me immensely to get to where I am today,” she adds.
If the situation for the upcoming year is looking shaky, the government needs to think ahead and reflect on what may happen to the fate of education within the UK. Cutting Modern Language budgets within universities has become more and more common; threatening to scrap the British Council’s programme will have disastrous consequences on the educational system in the UK, as less students may feel inclined to carry out a PGCE without having tested the waters first.
Though there has been no sign as of yet by either the British Council or its affiliates to cut the programme for students coming into the UK, it seems a real shame to put an end to such a rewarding scheme, for students, linguists and teachers alike.