Rob is retracing his steps of last week and he is in Tartu, Estonia again. This time he is addressing Finnish and Estonian university language teachers on text analysis and corpus linguistics at their 27th annual Communication Skills Workshop. Rob presented twice before at the CSW when he was responsible for the Peacekeeping English Project Justice and Home Affairs Project in Estonia from 2001-2006. On Saturday he will be training again at the Language and Examination Centre at the University of Tallinn.
Alistair will be travelling to Juba on Saturday in preparation for a presentation on Monday of the data we have gathered as the first stage of a UNICEF-sponsored initiative in collaboration with Windle Trust International (WTI) to develop a national English language policy framework and implementation guide for primary school teachers in South Sudan. English is the official language of South Sudan, as well as the Medium of Instruction (MOI) from Primary Four. However, with many teachers having acquired their education in Arabic, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoEST) has prioritised raising teachers’ English language and pedagogical skills. This has been started primarily through the Intensive English Language Course (IELC) strand of the Alternative Education System (AES), but it is widely accepted that there is a need to equip teachers, head teachers and inspectors with the competencies and skills for the curriculum to be effectively delivered in English. This needs to be done within a clear national framework. The aim of such a framework would be to develop English proficiency levels of teachers, and their corresponding pedagogical skills, as well as national certification standards.
This framework needs to be based on evidence. So, we conducted a baseline survey in 25 primary schools across five states in South Sudan with the support and co-ordination of MoEST officials, head teachers, County Education Directors, inspectors, teachers and pupils. The purpose of the baseline study was to identify the following:
- Levels of language proficiency of teachers (measured against the Common European Framework of Reference for languages [CEFR])
- The teaching methods in use
- The extent and use of English in classrooms
- Attitudes towards the English language, more specifically, the introduction of English as MOI in primary schools throughout South Sudan.
The survey was carried out by five field researchers in the form of language reviews, questionnaires, meetings, interviews and classroom observations. Feedback from MoEST and other stakeholders such as DFID, USAID and the British Council will be a crucial and necessary component in the subsequent phases of the development of the framework, related standards and a policy implementation plan with associated teacher assessment and certification criteria.
The Minister of Education will be there to listen and advise us on how to proceed.
Rob is in Tartu, Estonia at the moment and will be presenting at The Why Linguistics Conference at Tartu University on Thursday. He will be talking about building and analysing a corpus of intelligence texts; looking at construction and ethical questions and the reasons why such corpus linguistics work is important. On Friday he moves on to Tallinn where he will be training at the Language and Examinations Centre at Tallinn University.
Claire has had a busy month with trips to Kazakhstan and Montenegro. In Astana she spent two weeks working for Cambridge International Examinations on the Kazakhstan State School Train the Trainer programme. Cambridge has been working on education reform projects in Kazakhstan since 2011 and this work has included developing curricula, which are due to be introduced from September 2016 in state schools. In preparation for this Kazakhstani trainers were provided with a four week course to familiarise them with the structure, progression, content and aims of the updated subject programmes and course plans using training materials developed by Cambridge. Claire helped to deliver this training to a group of twenty-six English language subject specialists, who will in turn cascade the training to state school teachers.
In Podgorica Claire was working once again with the military English teachers and teachers from the Institute of Foreign Languages. During the workshop on Course Design they developed study paths for the British Council product Learn English Pathways Intermediate 1 & 2 (http://courses.britishcouncil.org/LEpathways/) that incorporated a blended aspect using Skype and/or Viber and email. The Intermediate 1 course will be trialled over the next 10 weeks with a group of sixteen military personnel.
It’s also excellent to see that Claire has had another good review of ‘Blended Learning in English Language Teaching: Course Design and Implementation’, the book she edited with Brian Tomlinson in the latest issue of the TESOL Quarterly journal http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/tesq.215/full.
Rob is just back from Ruma, a small town just outside Belgrade, where he was leading a PEP seminar. The course focused on developing the skills required by Military teachers in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro so that they can develop high quality teaching materials based on listening texts. The twenty-three teachers who took part learned how to source, download, edit and convert video and audio files, and script and record audio. One team produced a set of general English and Military English paper-based lessons using a collaborative model of materials development, while the second team of Serbian teachers from the General Staff and the Military Academy worked on drafting listening materials for their Moodle courses. The materials were all peer-reviewed and trialled.
The team is scattered all over the place at the moment. Alistair and I have just returned from Juba where we were training researchers in the first stage of a project to develop a National English Language Policy Framework for the South Sudan Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The work is being managed by the Windle Trust and funded through UNICEF. He is off to London to deliver a keynote speech on English in Iraq for the British Council during which he will describe his work there over the last year or so. Mid-week, we will be running a workshop for the MSc TESOL Testing Group students at Edinburgh University. Claire is currently in Astana, Kazakhstan, delivering training for Cambridge Assessment and Rob will be off next week to continue our support in developing the Peacekeeping English Project in Serbia.
Alistair and I are preparing for the first of three visits to Juba in South Sudan with the aim of developing an English Language Policy Framework for Teachers in Primary schools for the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) through UNICEF and the Windle Trust. We will be meeting the main sponsors and training research assistants to help us investigate attitudes towards English, its use in classrooms and methods teachers use with input from MoEST officials, head teachers, County Education Directors, inspectors, teachers and learners. We also hope to be visiting some classrooms.
Alistair recently returned from the Democratic Republic of Congo after a delay for a week in Kananga. I came back a few days later from Abuja in Nigeria where I was delivering a British Council managed and A.S. Hornby Educational Trust funded week of training for researchers into English as a Medium of Instruction in schools. Most of the participants were from states across Nigeria. There was also a team from Ethiopia. I led workshops on research methods with particular emphasis on classroom observations and in conducting interviews. Over the next few months they will carry out their research projects with me offering support and guidance. Towards the end of the year, the completed research papers will be published online by the British Council.
Alistair is currently in the Democratic Republic of Congo conducting an evaluation of the British Council managed PEP project there. After a few days in Kinshasa, he will be spending the next week at one of the project’s training centres in Kananga. It’s also excellent to see that Claire had a good review of ‘Blended Learning in English Language Teaching: Course Design and Implementation’, the book she edited with Brian Tomlinson in the latest issue of the Cambridge journal ReCALL.
Claire has been busy since her return from Chile and Peru where she was carrying out Quality Assurance and Development visits to Laureate Universities on behalf of Bell Cambridge. Last week she presented her findings from the recent PEP Evaluation at the UK-Kazakhstan Staff Talks at the MOD in London. Her talk highlighted the strengths of the ELT programmes that are being run in the military institutes that she visited in Kazakhstan, outlined their current shortcomings, and made recommendations on how the overall programme could be improved. From there, she went to Montenegro where she delivered a one week workshop on Teaching with Technology for a group of twelve military English teachers and teachers from the Institute of Foreign Languages in Podgorica. The aim of the course was to discuss and evaluate a number of websites and activities that could be used for language teaching, as well as the use of mobile phones, and to consider how to integrate them into their ELT courses in a principled way.