ESL teacher and department autonomy in English-medium international schools

Main Article Content

Clayton Lehman


Although the English-medium international school market continues to grow and primarily enroll English language learners, the autonomy of ESL teachers and the ESL department appears to be eroding, as some schools have already combined ESL with the English department or Special Education Needs (SEN). This quantitative survey-based study with 279 participants explored and compared the opinions of 80 ESL, 119 Primary, and 80 Secondary English teachers concerning ESL teacher and ESL department autonomy in English-medium international schools. Data from the study showed that many participants believed that decision-making processes concerning ESL support should be distributed beyond the ESL teachers and ESL department. Further, data showed there was a statistically significant difference between ESL and Secondary English teachers concerning the combination of ESL provision with the department of English language arts or literature. However, there was no statistically significant difference between ESL and Primary teachers concerning whether ESL should be combined with SEN. Overall, the findings of this study revealed that many teachers in international schools could not differentiate between ESL support and English Language Arts and Literature and ESL and SEN, and as a result, ESL teacher and ESL department autonomy is in peril.


Metrics Loading ...

Article Details

How to Cite
Lehman, C. (2022). ESL teacher and department autonomy in English-medium international schools . Focus on ELT Journal, 4(2), 32–42.
Author Biography

Clayton Lehman, Dongbei University

Clayton Lehman is a lecturer at the Centre for Academic English Studies at Surrey International Institute, Dongbei University of Finance and Economics in Dalian, China. Clayton has taught in schools and universities in China, South Korea, the United States, and Vietnam. He holds a Master’s Degree in Education in TESOL and Reading from Eastern New Mexico University and an Education Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Lamar University. His research interests include language policy, language and content acquisition, and international education.


Arkoudis, S. (2007). Collaborating in ESL education in schools. In J. Cummins & C. Davison (Eds.), International

handbook of English language teaching (pp. 365-377). Springer Science & Business Media.

Bunnell, T. (2016). International schooling: Implications of the changing growth pattern. In M. Hayden & J.

Thompson (Eds.), International schools: Current issues and future prospects (pp. 215-235). Symposium

Books Ltd.

Carder, M. W. (1991). The role and development of ESL programmes in international schools. In P. Jonietz & D.

Harris (Eds.), World yearbook of education 1991: International schools and international education (pp.

-14). Kogan Page Ltd.

Carder, M. (2007). Bilingualism in international schools: A model for enriching language education.

Multilingual Matters.

Carder, M. (2011). ESL in international schools in the IBMYP: The elephant under the table. International Schools

Journal, 31(1), 50-58.

Carder, M. (2013). Managerial impact on programmes for second language learners in international schools.

Carder, M. W. (2014). Tracing the path of ESL provision in international schools over the last four decades (Part

. The International Schools Journal, 34(1), 85-96.

Creese, A. (2005). Teacher collaboration and talk in multilingual classrooms. Multilingual Matters.

Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative

research (4th ed.). Allyn & Bacon.

Department of Education. (2015). Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years. DFE-


English, B., & Varghese, M. M. (2010). Enacting language policy through the facilitator model in a monolingual

policy context in the United States. In K. Menken & O. García (Eds.), Negotiating language education

policies: Educators as policymakers (pp. 107-122). Routledge.

Gallagher, E. (2008). Equal rights to the curriculum: Many languages, one message. multilingual Matters Ltd.

Harper, C. A., De Jong, E. J., & Platt, E. J. (2008). Marginalizing English as a second language teacher expertise:

The exclusionary consequence of No Child Left Behind. Language Policy, 7(3), 267-284.

ISC Research. (2019). ISC research. ISC Research.

Kalinowski, F., & Carder, M. (1990). Setting up the ESL department. In E. Murphy (Ed.), ESL: A handbook for

teachers and administrators in international schools (pp. 18-46). Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Lehman, C. (2020). Parent knowledge and preferences of language learning and use in an international school in Vietnam. VNU Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities, 6(5), 577-590.

Lehman, C. (2021). Resources for ELLs in international schools: A non-profit and for-profit comparison. The Universal Academic Research Journal, 3(1), 38-50.

McHugh, M. L. (2013). The Chi-square test of independence. Biochemia Medica, 23(2), 143-149.

NALDIC. (n.d.). Our school has a lot of EAL learners on the SEN register: Is this a justifiable solution? NALDIC

Podcast. Available at

Office for Civil Rights (n.d.). Programs for English language learners. U.S. Department of Education. Available


Salkind, N. J. (2013). Statistics for people who (think they) hate statistics (3rd ed.). SAGE Publications.

Shoebottom, P. (2009). Academic success for non-native English speakers in English-medium international

schools: The role of the secondary ESL department. NALDIC Quarterly, 7(1), 13-18.

U.S.C. § 6811, seq. (1965) Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act