Interview with Myrna Escalona Sibaja

Author of Professional Development for EMI Faculty in Mexico: The Case of Bilingual, International, and Sustainable Universities

1. What was the impetus behind your recent book “Professional Development for EMI Faculty in Mexico: The Case of Bilingual, International, and Sustainable Universities”?Myrna Escalona Sibaja

I lived in the UK from 2015 to 2017. During a trip to Mexico at the end of 2016, I visited the technological university where I had worked for 14 years. During informal conversations with colleagues, I realized that decision makers had a strong desire for the university to become a bilingual Spanish-English institution. I was not familiar with the term bilingual technological university, so I did an initial search and found out that there were a number of Bilingual, International, and Sustainable (BIS) universities throughout Mexico, and that this modality was implemented in 2012. I also realized that there was scarce information about the BIS modality and that no research about them had been conducted, even though the first BIS institution was founded four years prior. This fact encouraged me to conduct exploratory research.


2. The bilingual, international, and sustainable (BIS) university sounds like an interesting concept. It is not familiar to many of us, can you tell us more about it?

BIS universities belong to a technological and polytechnic public-tertiary subsystem in Mexico. In 2012, the first BIS institution was instituted by the Mexican Ministry of Education (SEP for its acronyms in Spanish) and the General Coordination of Technological and Polytechnic Universities (CGUTyP for its acronyms in Spanish), because it was foreseen that the industry established in Mexico would require professionals with English language skills.

BIS universities have become extremely relevant in Mexico. Thus, by the time my book was published, there were 29 universities throughout Mexico offering bilingual education–and this is especially relevant–offering education to a population that otherwise would not have had access to higher education. I mean, technological and polytechnic universities were created with that goal, to offer tertiary education to low-income students.


3. What is the general situation of EMI in Mexico?

EMI was adopted by BIS universities in 2012. It´s been eight years already since teachers and students have been through the use of English for teaching-learning content, at the current 45 BIS institutions. However, there is still research needed regarding the use of English as the medium of instruction. My research is the only study that has been conducted.


4. Can you summarize the main findings of your research?

Regarding the general position and perception of EMI, the majority of the lecturers are positive, open and eager to learn how to better deal with EMI. However, there are a few lecturers that are not fully convinced that EMI is necessarily the best way to provide bilingual education to a low income population that needs to both develop language skills and improve content knowledge in order to be competitive in a globalized market.

With respect to the variety of national, local, and international training provided to the lecturers since 2013, it is strong and positive towards developing better pedagogical practices, as well as for the improvement of lecturers ́ language proficiency in both general and technical English. Nevertheless, the training has reached less than half of the current teaching staff, and, according to their Academic Director, the Technological University of El Retoño (UTR) has not developed a channel to receive recommendations from the lecturers.


5. Do you recommend professional development practices should be strengthened at BIS institutions? If so, how should this be done?

Broadly, there is a need to develop a more robust professional development programme that considers both pre and in-service courses that ideally consider an introduction to approaches to teaching in English, teaching EMI in higher education, resources to teach EMI, class planning, assessment, and providing feedback in EMI contexts, and so forth.


6. In which direction do you think future research about EMI in Mexico should go?

My research was limited to lecturers’ professional development. Therefore, there is a need to conduct further research that explores the implications of EMI for both teaching and learning, for instance.


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