ELT in Brazilian public schools: History, challenges, new experiences and perspectives
Historically speaking, the teaching of English was never a part of Brazilian primary schools programmes. Foreign language teaching as an obligatory school subject appears only in the sixth year of basic education, and its goal is more connected to the development of critical citizens, rather than to the promotion of proficient speakers of the language. Recently, however, a number of municipal public educational systems, often in partnership with private language institutes, have introduced ELT from the very first year of primary school. This is the case, for example, of the project Rio Global Child 2016, created by the City of Rio de Janeiro in partnership with Cultura Inglesa, a well-known private English institute in Brazil. What I intend to do in this paper, thus, is: firstly, to present an historical overview of ELT in Brazilian public schools, discussing its educational relevance and functions, the challenges faced by teachers and students, and both the beliefs and debates concerning the issue (cf. Almeida, 2012; Assis-Peterson, 2003; Moita Lopes, 1996; Tílio, 2012) – including also a first account of the Brazilian cities involved in the implementation of ELT in primary schools; and, then, to discuss critically Rio de Janeiro’s project for the teaching of English in primary schools. Such a discussion is necessary not only because it may help to understand better the risks of adopting a single method (and its materials) for teaching in contexts that can be extremely different from one another, but also because other projects and experiences may benefit from an honest account of the problems faced by the association of private and public spheres and interests exemplified by Rio’s project.