White Plains, New York is a little commuter town about half an hour from Manhattan on the Metro North railway line. It’s a surprising ride the first time you take it – from the bowels of Grand Central Station you travel through bleak industrial areas and then high above Harlem and the endless towers of apartments, until suddenly you emerge into a series of small village stations like Tuckahoe and Scarsdale, flanked by their leafy (and apparently wealthy) suburbs – like Surrey with more sunshine.
White Plains itself is not a particularly exciting, or even quaint town, but it has a major attraction – it’s the US headquarters of Pearson ELT. And this week Pearson was kind enough to host the autumn Board meeting for TIRF – The International Research Foundation for English Language Education – on which I sit as the British Council’s representative. Twice a year I take part in the Board meeting for this generous foundation, which offers research grants and sponsors new research into key aspects of English language teaching.
TIRF started as a foundation connected to the TESOL organisation, but has since become fully independent and is very active globally. TIRF’s mission is “to generate new knowledge about English language teaching and learning. TIRF plans to apply research findings to practical language problems by working collaboratively with teachers, researchers, authors, publishers, philanthropic foundations, government agencies, and major companies.”
TIRF funds a number of post-doctoral scholarships each year, and has launched a research series called Key Questions – the key English language teaching issues of the day. The first TIRF research paper in this series was on “The Impact of English and Plurilingualism in Global Corporations” and was published in 2010 to great acclaim – reviewed here in the Guardian.
We are currently planning our new Key Questions paper, entitled “English at Work: Case Studies of English Language Training for the 21st Century Workforce”, which will be published in early 2012.
To learn more, come and meet the Board at TESOL 2012 in Philadelphia at the end of March, or download the TIRF newsletters from the website.