TESOL Practitioner Identities in the United Arab Emirates: Discourses of Neoliberalism
MacLeod, Ruari Alexander
Date: 10 June 2013
University of Exeter
EdD in TESOL
In the era of neoliberal globalisation, higher education has taken on new significance internationally in terms of its role in creating local knowledge economies to engage with the wider global economy. Universities across the world have responded to this commercial imperative by internationalising their curricula, in many cases employing ...
In the era of neoliberal globalisation, higher education has taken on new significance internationally in terms of its role in creating local knowledge economies to engage with the wider global economy. Universities across the world have responded to this commercial imperative by internationalising their curricula, in many cases employing English language-teaching professionals – particularly those from BANA/Western countries – to facilitate this transformation. While these educators perform a central function in globalising education, little is known about their experiences as migrant professionals and very few studies have examined the professional identities of such English language teachers. This study addresses the gap in research literature on English language teacher identities by exploring the professional lives of a group of eight Western English teachers working at an institution of higher learning in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The study examines the experiences of these language teachers in the UAE, considering both their self-perceived roles as educators, and the ways in which they regard their students (UAE nationals) and the communities of which they are a part. The research utilises interview data verified through summary-memos sent to the interviewees. The analysis of the data reveals that the teachers struggle with their various (and often conflicting) professional identities and the conflicts between "internationalised‟ higher education and the perceived realities of the local context. The evidence suggests that this struggle has resulted in feelings of alienation among teachers toward the institution for which they work. The analysis of interviews also reveals a perceived sense of estrangement toward students among the participants. In many cases this is expressed in their chauvinistic appraisals of "local culture,‟ which is regarded as an obstruction to the globalising institutional ethos. More broadly, the data shows that many of the attitudes exhibited by participants are reflective of ideologies that infuse the discourse of neoliberalism. In particular, these relate to notions of self-sufficiency, entrepreneurialism, privatisation, welfarism and the purposes of education. Assumptions linked to these attitudes have thus led the participants to evaluate their professional context and their students negatively. These assumptions are so prevalent in the discourse of the participants that they may be regarded as significant strands of their professional identities. The study is of particular significance in that it reveals conflict between the discourses of education and those of commercialisation/globalisation and the effect that this can have on professionals working within this domain. In a broader sense, the study exposes the tensions that arise when the macrostructural forces of globalisation intersect with local realities and the effects that this intersection can have upon social actors in these local contexts.
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