Editorial – We’ll Say It Again: Speaking English Is Essential

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Could it really be that we still haven’t learned the importance of speaking English in a province like Guanacaste, where tourism plays such a vital role, in order to land well paying jobs?

Business owners continue to complain about the poor level of language on résumés young people bring to job fairs. Although they’re offered free opportunities by state agencies like the National Training Institute (INA), few students manage to take advantage of those programs.

Two stories in this month’s edition highlight the province’s enormous challenges in helping young people out of unemployment by training them in English. One story demonstrates that while nine out of 10 public high school students receive English classes, coverage decreases as students advance through academic levels.

Combined with this reduced coverage, a report by the association Horizonte Positivo for the office of the Second Vice President of the Republic – part of a project called “Fighting Poverty in Guanacaste with Employment” – shows that 95 percent of senior citizens in the province don’t speak a second language.

The statistics the association shared with The Voice of Guanacaste show that the majority of companies having difficulties filling vacant job posts require an advanced level of English.

So who’s responsible? On one side, young people are. On the other, the institutions are. In 2016, for example, INA offered a total of 130 English courses, but those classes weren’t distributed across all cantons, the report stated.

The situation becomes urgent when you consider that employment is the most effective tool to reduce poverty, as shown incessantly by national statistics.

So what can we do?

At universities, professors could deliver more lectures in English and create conversational programs to take advantage of the large number of foreigners who live in the region. Institutions like INA could improve program coverage and offer night classes so people already working can better their chances of finding a job in the formal labor sector.