Last week Claire paid a return visit to Skopje, Macedonia, to deliver her Teaching with Technology course to the Head of the Languages Department in the Macedonian Armed Forces and her team of English language teachers. Also attending were two English instructors from the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, reflecting the drive towards greater regional cooperation. The course introduced the participants, whom Claire and the rest of the team has worked closely with on a couple of previous occasions, to a range of websites, tools and mobile apps that could be used in class or for self-study, in both low and high tech teaching contexts. The participants also learned how to use a number of tools and apps, to design materials using them, and had the opportunity to participate as learners in activities that they could incorporate in their syllabus. It was a pleasure to work once again with such a dedicated and enthusiastic team and Claire is looking forward to hearing how they blend technology into their language courses.
The Montenegrin Armed Forces and the British Council Montenegro identified a need for a short intensive course in Radio English for pre-deployment training and brought together nine teachers from Montenegro, Bosnia and Macedonia to create such a course. The teachers, facilitated by Rob, wrote and immediately trialled the course with a group of 14 soldiers, at the Danilovgrad base near Podgorica, over an intensive week of work. The result is a 20 hour course focused on revising and practising Radio English. The course has a very straightforward methodology and could be taught by soldiers in places where teachers are not available. The course will available to be used in all three countries and will provide an essential component of pre-mission readiness training.
We are starting the process of winding down for Christmas and the New Year and getting ready for 2016. I have just sent off the first draft of a set of research papers I have edited to the British Council. These papers are the product of two British Council-managed Hornby Schools that took place in January 2014 and January 2015 on British Council premises in Abuja. The first was led by Dr Eddie Williams, former Professor of Linguistics at Bangor University. The second was led by me. Hornby Schools are run with the support of the A. S. Hornby Educational Trust, UK. The Trust was established in 1961 by A. S. Hornby, popularly known for the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. The schools are recognised as one of the most prestigious activities in the field of ELT. Each year these schools have enabled teachers to develop their expertise and upgrade their English teaching skills.
Participants on the first school were invited to attend the second event. The majority came from Nigeria, but others were from Rwanda and Ethiopia. Most were senior teacher trainers and inspectors at State or National levels. There were also researchers and education specialists from donor-funded projects such as UNICEF and the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN), which is funded through the UK Department of International Development (DFID).
The schools had similar aims: to help course members share and discuss different approaches used by teachers to deal with expectations of an ‘official’ use of English as a language of instruction in situations where teachers may be working with textbooks in an unfamiliar language, have low levels of English, poor literacy rates and a default bilingual delivery including the use of pidgins.
The participants were asked to conduct small-scale research projects to look at aspects of English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) in their localities and states in relation to national language-in-education policy. They approached their task from a variety of perspectives and this is reflected in the collection, which will be published online in the New Year.
In January Claire will deliver a week long course on Teaching with Technology to the English language teachers who work in the Macedonian Armed Forces Foreign Language Training Centre. This work, along with that which Alistair undertook in December on STANAG testing, forms part of the ‘Working towards Sustainability and Interoperability’ project. Two of the project’s deliverables are to provide targeted training for the English language teachers in the Armed Forces and for the STANAG testing team. The main aim of Claire’s course is to present, discuss, and evaluate a number of online tools and mobile apps that can be used for language teaching and learning and to consider firstly whether to and secondly how to integrate them in a principled fashion into the current courses.
Rob will be in Montenegro in January. He’ll be working with teacher and trainers from Montenegro, Macedonia and (possibly) Bosnia and Herzegovina to create a short course on Radio English, which the participants will then team-teach to some students during the week. Rob will also give developmental feedback during that teaching process. The outcomes will be a short course and teachers trained in the process of developing short courses and some peer review on teaching.
We are also very pleased that NATO Allied Command Transformation has approached the Serbian Armed Forces for permission to use the Introduction to Online Learning Moodle course Rob developed for the Serbs in 2014 as part of the PELT Project. The School would like to use the course in the development of its residential two week e-Learning Design, Develop, Deploy course.
Alistair has also been busy. He is finishing off a desk-based needs analysis as part of our work with the UN China Police Peacekeeping Training Centre (CPPTC) in Langfang, just outside Beijing. This has involved research into existing reports and documents and an analysis of responses to questionnaires he developed for returnees from UN missions (particularly Police Peacekeepers deployed to Liberia and South Sudan) and teachers in the CPPTC itself. The aim has been to develop a better understanding of the English language needs of mission personnel and, as a result, develop a more relevant syllabus, course content and materials for them prior to deployment. All of these results will feed into the design of Syllabus and Materials Design courses that Rob and I will deliver in the first half of next year.
Last week I was in Colombia helping shape an English language policy for the Ministry of Defence and Police. This involved working with a policy framework that had been developed by the British Council. The framework has a number of components including management structures, teacher development, testing and assessment and the creation of an information system. The aim is to set in motion the ‘The Minerva Plan’, which is the Colombian Army’s strategic plan that seeks to revolutionise military education so as to ‘bring the army up to international standards’. The Plan is aligned with Colombian Armed Forces objectives as developed by the Strategic Committee for Transformation (CETI) and Innovation and the Strategic Committee for the Design of the Army of the Future (CEDEF). The ambition is that by 2022 some 80% of military personnel will have sufficient English to be trained abroad and perhaps take part in multinational peacekeeping missions abroad. I presented different views on language policies at the annual Expodefensa event in Bogotá and also advised members of the MOD’s language policy management team on how they might implement their policy more effectively.
During this same week, Alistair was in Skopje, Macedonia, helping the MOD’s English language testing team develop their approaches to testing in line with NATO’s standard: STANAG 6001.
Claire has recently returned from Zrenjanin, a city around 50 miles from Belgrade, where she was running a five-day regional workshop on ‘Teaching with Technology’ for 18 military English teachers from Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina. The workshop was organised by the British Council (Serbia) as part of PELT (Programme for English Language Training for military personnel). We have been closely involved with the PELT project for the last three years working on course and materials design, language testing and the development of online courses using Moodle.
The main aims of Claire’s course were to present, discuss and evaluate a number of tools, apps, websites and accompanying activities for language teaching and learning, and to consider how to integrate them into their current English language programmes in a principled way. There was a great deal of enthusiasm for the idea of using technology to enhance language learning and Claire is looking forward to hearing how, over the next few months, the participants have applied the techniques she showed them.
The development of language policy is an area that we have had increasing interest in and experience of over the last few years. Following on from our support to the government of South Sudan, Alistair and I have been providing advice to officials from the UK Cabinet Office on the development of a Code of Practice on English language standards of fluency and intelligibility for public sector workers, which is part of a UK government commitment to pass legislation to ensure that every public sector worker operating in a customer-facing role must speak fluent English. This is being carried out in an Immigration Bill, which is currently before Parliament. The Bill has had one general debate in the House of Commons (the Second Reading). The draft Code of Practice is intended to support public authorities to comply with this new legal duty, without creating a significant burden or more red tape.
I am also working on the wording of a text outlining the fundamentals of policy as part of the development of an English language strategy for uniformed services in Colombia. The aim is to build up the capacity of the Colombian Armed Forces to participate effectively in national and international missions where English is the medium of communication. This is work that builds on my previous trips to Bogotá; I will be heading out at the end of November to help present the final policy document to a meeting of all stakeholders.
Many congratulations to Claire who is now a member of the Editorial Panel of the English Language Teaching Journal (ELTJ). The panel is made up of eighteen people drawn from a variety of ELT contexts around the world, but all with a familiarity of writing for publication, and with ELTJ. The group carries out anonymous peer reviewing for the Journal and over the course of a year members will typically have some 20 articles to review. Membership is initially for two years.
Alistair and I are delighted that the English Language Policy Framework we developed for South Sudan was approved at a workshop for senior Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) officials on Monday. The policy was accepted unanimously by four MoEST Directors General and over 15 MoEST Directors. The Framework was explained and presented by the Education Minister’s Advisor, Nelson Odur, and was caught on camera and broadcast on the South Sudan Television network in the evening.
It has taken a great deal of effort by a team of people over the last six months to reach this stage. We are particularly indebted to David Masua of Windle Trust International and Tizie Maphalala of UNICEF who supported and guided us throughout, and also to our team of field researchers. We are looking forward to working further with both Windle and UNICEF as the policy starts to be implemented. In the picture above, you can see teachers training at an after school session in Rumbeck in Lakes State.
As part of an on-going investment in the English language skills of the Namibian Defence Forces (NDF), the NDF, British Council and the British Peace Support Team (South Africa) organised a third annual language training event for 40 military personnel at the University of Namibia in Windhoek, from the 20-31 August. Rob, and old PEP-hand Nick Fletcher, flew to Windhoek to deliver the two weeks of training on English for Peacekeeping, with a special focus on radio communication and report writing.
During the course the participants revised the main grammar points in English and military vocabulary and practised key skills. The course included participant presentations about vehicle checkpoints using models constructed from Rob’s cuisenaire rods and his youngest son’s toy soldiers and vehicles. At the end of the course the participants were tested grammar, military vocabulary, report writing and on their radio English by using walkie-talkies to simulate operational conditions.
Sometimes it is good to get a different perspective and to experience life as a trainee and not just as a trainer. This has been the case for Claire, who is feeling professionally re-energised having just completed Weeks 1 and 2 of the Language Testing at Lancaster (LTL) course. During these two weeks input was provided on the principles of language testing; the testing of reading, writing, listening, speaking and language in use; statistics; and setting standards. The course gave Claire the opportunity to refresh her theoretical knowledge of language testing, and to gain hands on experience of developing test items. In addition to the exceptional tutors, led by Dr Rita Green, who has been Course Director of the LTL since 2001, the course participants contributed greatly to the whole experience not only in the classroom, but after class too. So thanks to all those involved and see you in 2016 for Weeks 3 and 4! Until then Claire is looking forward to working with her colleagues at McIlwraith Education, who have a wealth of testing expertise, on language testing projects.