The Global Scale of English Podcast

Podcast front cover

In this episode of the Pearson English Podcast, the panel speaks with Director of the Global Scale of English (GSE) Mike Mayor to find out more about the framework and how it works. 

Let’s explore his insights into what the GSE is, why it has been created and how it can help teachers and language learners.  

What is the Global Scale of English? 

If there’s one thing that drives students forward in their language learning, it’s the sense that they’re making progress. They want to know what level their English is and what to do to improve. Pearson’s solution for this is the GSE, which has two main jobs: 

1. It acts as a proficiency scale: This allows us to measure someone’s level of ability in English.

2. It sets out a framework of learning objectives: These describe what a learner is able to do at the different levels of proficiency. 

 In this sense, it has many similarities with the Common European Framework (CEFR). However, the GSE is an extension of the CEFR and comes with a number of tools and resources that facilitate practical application. 

Why was the GSE created? 

The CEFR scale, which was created in the 1990s and published in 2001, has become hugely popular. Yet, Mike states that a number of its users have found that it is lacking in some areas. Pearson Education’s main goal in creating the GSE was to address these limitations.  

There are four key areas of the CEFR that the GSE builds on: 

1. Making it suitable for a worldwide audience  

The CEFR was developed for a European audience, however, it has been adopted around the world. This is an issue because learners in Japan, Russia or Saudi Arabia, for example, may progress at different rates to Europeans due to the nature of their first language. The CEFR does not necessarily reflect their learning needs or set realistic expectations for progress.  

In this sense, the GSE has been adapted to make it less Eurocentric and more accessible and relevant globally 

2. Focusing on different types of English  

The CEFR focuses on general English for adults and young learner. Yet, Pearson also publishes academic and business English, as well as primary and secondary level material. In fact, the CEFR was not developed with this content in mind.  

As a result, the GSE has been developed to target a wider range of English learning, from young learners to business professionals. This aims to satisfy the needs of language learners from different backgrounds.  

3. Demonstrating learner progress  

The CEFR sets out six common reference levels, ranging from A1 to C2, which can be broken down further to 10 levels in total (including pre-A1, A2+, B1 + and B2+). However, as Mike explains, often students will reach the pre-intermediate level quickly, but will then plateau there for some time. If they use these 10 levels to measure their proficiency, they may have the sense that they are not progressing.  

With this in mind, the GSE equivalent of B1/B1+ covers 43-58 – enabling proficiency to be measured more accurately within a CEFR level. The objective is to show learners their progression through the levels more clearly. This will give them more confidence and encourage them to continue learning.   

Diagram fro the global scale of English
The CEFR levels and the GSE alignment

4. Creating a user-friendly format 

Some users of the CEFR have found it quite academic in format, and therefore challenging to integrate into class. A key driver for the GSE has been to simplify the format so that teachers, learners and coursebook developers find it easy to use on a daily basis.  

For example, the GSE Teacher Toolkit is clear, easy and simple to navigate. You can find the learning objectives for each level with a simple search. You’ll then see a series of short can-do sentences, saving you time and making lesson and course planning easier! 

Practical applications of the GSE 

So how can teachers use the Global Scale of English? Mike explains that you can visit the GSE website where you will find lots of relevant information. In his opinion, the most useful resource is the GSE Teacher Toolkit, which offers a searchable database of learning objectives, vocabulary and grammar. The grammar section includes a number of lesson plans and worksheets which are available to download for free.  

These resources target all learners from young to adult, across all levels. For instance, if you want to teach an advanced level general English speaking class, you can conduct a search for specific learning objectives that are appropriate at that level. In this sense, it offers a great tool and support mechanism for lesson planning and supplementing material in coursebooks.  

Learn more about using the GSE Teacher Toolkit with our new illustrated journeys.  

The GSE is not only useful for teachers, but also for educational institutions, who wish to create a curriculum or to address gaps in their program. Ministries of education in a number of countries, including Panama and Ukraine, have used it as a basis to develop their national curriculum and syllabus for English or to address gaps in their program.  

Future developments of the Global Scale of English 

Mike reveals two exciting developments of the GSE that will be available in the near future: 

Expanding the GSE for pre-primary level  

Currently, the GSE targets learners from primary school age and above. However, there has been a rise in demand for preschool-age materials and resources.  

With this in mind, Pearson is working on expanding the GSE to include relevant materials for preschool learners.  

The creation of a Text Analyzer   

A brand new feature of the GSE is the Text Analyzer. Developed in collaboration with Pearson’s artificial intelligence division in the U.S., this tool enables teachers to assess the level of a text. 

But how does it work? The teacher takes a text from the internet, for example a blog post or news article, and pastes it into the text analyzer. The tool reviews the text and gives it an appropriate level from the GSE. If the level is too high, the text analyzer highlights words that may be above level – and the teacher can then target these words and find easier ways of saying the same thing.  

This feature is now live in the GSE Teacher Toolkit – why not give it a go! 

 To find out more about Pearson’s Global Scale of Englishlisten to the full podcast episode.   

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