14 May 2010
'We have the longest tradition of English language teaching in Uruguay,' says Gerardo Valazza, director general of Instituto Cultural Anglo Uruguayo - (Anglo) a not-for-profit private language school based in Montevideo.
Anglo boasts a long and impressive history. Founded in 1934 by the then British Minister to Uruguay Sir Eugene Millington-Drake, it now owns four sites in Montevideo, runs 11 franchises in the capital and a further 32 across Uruguay. 'We have been a University of Cambridge ESOL authorised centre since 1948 and together with the network of Cambridge ESOL centres which we supervise, in 2009 we registered over 11,000 students for Cambridge ESOL examinations,' says Valazza. Together with its two bilingual schools, Anglo employs over 300 staff in Montevideo alone, supporting over 700 students at the Anglo School, with over 12,000 students attending English classes at one of the Anglo branches across the country.
Good English is very important in Uruguay, explains Valazza: 'Competent English is a national objective of our state education system; it is very important to our tourist industry, but also increasingly relevant to career development in areas such as finance and law, where English has become a lingua franca for business in general.'
Recognising the need for more specialist financial English tuition, Anglo was instrumental in the introduction into Uruguay of Cambridge International Certificate in Financial English (ICFE), piloting materials while the course was still being designed. 'It was then that we realised its potential for our students,' explains Fernando Cid, head of the Anglo In-Company Teaching Department, visionary in identifying a niche for the course. 'ICFE is a very dynamic and appealing way to learn and practice financial English and so we developed our own course as soon as Cambridge ESOL allowed entries for the exam.'
The school now integrates the Cambridge Financial English blended learning programme into its ICFE course to extend access to more and more students. 'Our programme now comprises two classroom-based sessions a week, each 90 minutes long, two hours a week of homework and exam practice, and 20 online modules expected to take around 75 hours in total,' explains Cecilia Leite, Anglo’s ICFE course designer and tutor. 'This is the first time we have used a blended-learning approach to deliver an English programme and we have found that Cambridge Financial English makes the course much more appealing and flexible, as it allows students to study when and where suits them best - whether from home, the office, on holiday, early in the morning, or late at night.'
Anglo does not yet offer a distance learning option as most students live near the college or commute to class. Currently, students are undergraduates studying economic science (about a third), chartered accountants, or economists - not many are supported by their employer, instead registering on their own initiative. Student motivation is easy to identify, says Cid: 'Most ICFE students consider other English courses as being too general - they want specific financial English skills relevant either to their interest or study in finance, or to their roles in multinational companies. Working students also see the qualification as an achievement which is not only internationally recognised but also, as yet, held by few Uruguayans, thereby giving them an advantage in the local job market.'
In Valazza's opinion, the blended learning programme is now set to grow significantly: 'So far, we have received very positive feedback from students, most of whom have gone on to take - and pass - the ICFE exam. When we first offered the course, only three years ago, we had a small number of students, very few of whom wanted to register for the exam. We have made enormous progress in what we consider to be record time and we are very positive about the potential of this course.'