The international nature of the annual IATEFL conference means that it offers a chance to catch up with friends and former colleagues from around the world. This year Claire was delighted to have caught up with Erkin Mukhammedov, who she worked with 13 years ago on the Peacekeeping English Project in Uzbekistan. During that time Erkin was a teacher at the PfP Centre, which was based in the Military Academy in Tashkent, where Claire worked as a trainer. She remembers his enthusiasm for teaching and his keen interest in professional development, and was very pleased to hear that he’s currently doing an MA in ELT with a focus on assessment and testing at Warwick University. He is now also a trainer himself. It is a real privilege to have played a part in Erkin’s professional development and we wish him all the best with his studies. Also in the photo are Nargiza Kuchkarova from the Inha University, Tashkent, and Guzal Utemuratova, who is studying for a degree in TESOL at the University College London.
In 2015 I led a British Council Regional Hornby School in Abuja for teacher trainers and academics from Nigeria, Ethiopia and Rwanda. Some were from UNICEF and others were supported by DFID’s Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) and the Teacher Development Programme (TDP), which is a UKaid programme managed by a consortium led by Mott Macdonald that involves the Nigerian government and six State governments in the north. Over the past year or so I have been guiding the participants’ research and editing their papers, which have just been published. Many thanks to the British Council’s Yetunde Oluwatosin for all her help and advice.
Claire and I thoroughly enjoyed the many excellent presentations at the IATEFL conference in Birmingham last week. It was a good opportunity to meet up with old friends and colleagues and to wander around the centre of the city…
Last week I was in Montenegro evaluating the work of the PELT project, which has been running for three years and is due to finish this time next year. I talked to officials at the MOD and visited the Masline Barracks in the capital, Podgorica. I also made separate trips to the main MOD training centre in Danilovgrad and the Mountain Company in Kolašin. The aim was to see the progress of the teaching and learning of English in the Montenegrin Armed Forces (MAF) and to make recommendations as to what needs to be done before the project closes.
I had very constructive talks with teachers in the system as well as IT specialists, learners and unit commanders. In all the meetings I attended, there was agreement that there has been marked progress in the overall provision of English language teaching and learning for the MAF as compared to 2013 when an initial needs analysis was conducted. My thanks go to Jasmina Alkovic of the British Council who co-ordinated the visit and, especially, all of the teachers and also Lt. Col. Petar Ducic and Capt. Sanja Pejovic of the MOD. It was a thoroughly enjoyable few days.
We have been delivering training courses for Peacekeeping English Projects (PEPs) in a number of places recently. Last week Claire was back in Zrenjanin, Serbia, running a five-day regional workshop called ‘Teaching with Technology Part Two’ for 18 military English teachers from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This course built on what was covered during Part One in October and the main aim was for the participants to develop activities using a range of websites, tools and apps that could be integrated into their courses. The participants excelled by creating a far greater number of activities than anticipated, which can now be trialled with their learners.
Rob was in Macedonia after his three weeks working on the PEP project in Namibia. The Macedonian MOD has invested in a Moodle Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). This was set up to enhance delivery of courses, including English language instruction. The British Council organised a three day ‘Introduction to Moodle’ training course for English teachers in Skopje. Rob and Mirjana Ivancev, a consultant from Serbia, led the training of ten teachers and testers. Two teachers from Montenegro also attended and reported back to their MOD on the potential for Moodle. The topics covered included the pedagogy of online learning and practical hands-on experience of the platform in preparation for future course development. The teachers are planning to upload supplementary materials onto Moodle as a first step to gain experience before developing longer courses. In addition, the Macedonian Testing Team are considering uploading information about STANAG 6001 examinations and practice test materials.
Alistair has just returned from China. He was at the UN China Peacekeeping Police Training Centre (CPPTC) providing support and training for Superintendents from across the country who are looking to apply for higher-level, senior positions in the UN Police (UNPOL). Many of the participants had already had significant police peacekeeping experience with some having been on three missions abroad. Alistair was working with Maureen Brown, a former assistant chief constable of Central Scotland and former adviser to the EU and DFID.
Finally, I will be in Podgorica, Montenegro, next week to evaluate the PEP project there. I’m looking forward to it.
Namibia sees it as essential that their military can contribute to peace support operations in Africa and throughout the world; to help achieve this the Namibian Defence Forces and the British Peace Support Team based in South Africa agreed a further course in the training of Namibian Defence Force personnel for peacekeeping and interoperability, to build on the work done last July in Windhoek. This course, the fourth English language training event for Namibian Defence Force personnel, was held from the 8th to 26th February 2016 at the University of Namibia Khomasdal campus. The three-week intensive course was delivered by Rob and Nick Fletcher.
The course was designed to improve the English communication skills of NDF soldiers for peacekeeping purposes and concentrated on communication skills such as giving briefings, radio communication skills [through realistic practice with walkie talkies], and report writing. The twenty-nine participants did a lot of briefings on humanitarian assistance operations and problem-based scenarios, and role-played running checkpoints and vehicle searches (outside in the car park) to develop the practical skills which might save their lives in future operations.
We are involved with a number of publications at the moment. The research that Alistair and I conducted into Basic and Secondary education in Egypt has just been uploaded by the British Council. We looked at education from the point of view of ministries, teachers, students, parents and employers in relation to the education goals of the Ministry of Education and the National Curriculum Framework for English as a Foreign Language: Grades 1-12. I will be travelling to London to present the findings at an event on Monday 7th March to help UK stakeholders to learn more about the context for English teaching and learning in Egypt and the current issues, and to strengthen and explore potential partnerships and opportunities for collaboration. It is similar to a presentation that Alistair made a year ago following research he conducted in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan.
I am also putting the final touches to editing a collection of research papers by Nigerian academics, which is due to be published in the next few weeks.
Claire is delighted to learn that one of the chapters she wrote for the British Council publication Blended Learning in ELT: Course Design and Implementation, has been used by Pete Sharma Associates to inform the final unit of their new course on blended learning for language teachers. All at McIlwraith Education wish Pete and his associates the very best with the launch of what promises to be an interesting course. For a free PDF copy of the British Council publication click here and and for more information on Pete’s course go here.
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.