SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at the University of St. Martin (USM) are scheduled to start again on February 15 with face to face classes. Due to COVID restrictions and lockdowns, the ESL division suffered diminishing numbers due to students’ inability (for various reasons) to follow online classes, last year. The ongoing semester, which started in February 2020, resumed classes online, and the remaining students completed the course and received their certificates in May 2020.
After that period, and taking into consideration diminished registration, and withdrawals due to continued online classes, and that the University was closed to the public, it was decided that ESL would go on hiatus, pending relaxing of COVID lockdown regulations.
Division Head Corinne Lejuez stressed that such a program is most effective with in-person instruction, and agreed that the hiatus was needed to continue to research the efficacy of in-person learning, strengthen the program’s sustainability while reaching out to entities that could further support the program while encouraging prospective students to register and learn to speak English.
The goal of the ESL program has always been to help ESL students improve their English language skills, which would allow them to be more confident in the world of work, and be encouraged to further their education by following advanced programs at USM or other English colleges and universities.
Lejuez also mentioned the finalization of an Adult Literacy course, which was under discussion and development. The pilot program ran as part of ESL classes that were being conducted in conjunction with the Sint Maarten Training Foundation (SMTF), with which USM has an MOU.
The Adult Literacy course is geared towards adults who struggle with reading and writing English. The course also includes instruction on basic computer skills, which has been showing to improve students’ reading and writing capabilities at a faster rate.
ESL classes will start with BASIC and Level 1 classes only, taking into consideration limited space in USM classrooms due to COVID restrictions.
The ESL Basic, Level 1, and Adult Literacy programs consist of 72 hours of instruction over 12 weeks. Classes are 3x weekly for 2 hours.
Lejuez stressed that though her goal for ESL is to create a structure that would achieve quality, and sustainability at USM, at the same time, she and her instructors insist on making learning fun and meaningful for her students, where they are compelled to learn the language through different methods.