Consultancies by McIlwraith Education

In China, DPRK (North Korea) and Mongolia

The Team has had long links with China. In the mid-1980s Hamish was a lecturer and teacher trainer in English language at Beijing Foreign Studies University (formerly known as Beijing Foreign Languages Institute), which is one of the country’s leading tertiary institutions. From 1992-1995, he was a lecturer in applied linguistics and teacher trainer at Jilin University in Changchun, Jilin Province and a teacher trainer at Tangshan Institute of Science and Technology (now Hebei Polytechnic University) in Tangshan, Hebei Province. Alistair was also in China in the early 1990s working for the UK international development organisation Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) first as a lecturer in English Language Teaching (ELT) at Tonghua Teacher Training College and then as a teacher trainer at Sanchazi Forestry Bureau in Baishan in Jilin Province.

Since then both have completed a range of consultancies across the country. An example of this was working with the Liaoning International Exchange Centre (LIEC) and the British Council (China) with support from the Liaoning Promotion Committee on International Education. Eighty Chinese teachers of English took part in a three week in-service teacher training course in Dalian. They were shown a wide variety of communicative activities that were designed to expand their teaching repertoires and to develop their teaching skills. Twenty teachers subsequently received further ELT training in the United Kingdom. On their return to China they trained trainers throughout Liaoning Province.

A fair amount of our work in China has involved researching documents, papers and policies with a view to supporting clients’ ability to make decisions. For example, Hamish carried out an analysis of education links between India, China and Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). This included a detailed and thorough analysis of the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, the non-formal sector and vocational education. The study included a policy review for each country. He identified ambitions in each of these countries in relation to qualification frameworks, lifelong learning or international linkages and made recommendations for possible steps that the SCQF could take in relation to more detailed benchmarking activity with China and India. The study was used by the Scottish Education Minister as a policy forming document on official duties in China.

Another example of desk-based work in relation to China (and Hong Kong) was when Hamish and Claire worked on the entire range of English language courses produced by British Council Hong Kong (from Early Learning-Adult) to support major British Council academic development projects. This included a comprehensive review of the China New English Curriculum (NEC) documents and how they relate to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

PEP classroom training in China

More recently, the whole team has worked with the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the British Council to support the China Police Peacekeeping Training Centre (CPPTC) and Ministry of National Defence Peacekeeping Training Centre (MNDPTC) through a series of workshops held at the the CPPTC in Langfang in Hebei Province just outside Beijing. The courses were designed for English language teachers at the Centre and also teachers from the Ministry of National Defence as part of the British Council Peacekeeping English Project (PEP). The overall aim of the project is to enhance the capacity of teachers so as to improve police and military officers’ interoperability when deployed on international missions abroad. Courses have included an introduction to language testing delivered by Hamish, which involved training in the principles of language testing and processes in English language test development and evaluation. Alistair led a second course, ‘Language Test Item Writing’, through a series of workshops on developing tests and test items in a principled way using a set of item-writing guidelines. We are all preparing for further work with the CPPTC.

Both Alistair and Hamish have worked with officials in Pyongyang, the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK [also known as North Korea]). In 2006, Hamish was tasked by the Ministry of Education Pyongyang and UNICEF to carry out an initial analysis of the current implementation of English language teaching and learning in North Korea for the Primary sector and the nature of contributions of other agencies including UNESCO and the British Council. The information was used to develop a strategy for renewal of the English language curriculum and syllabus, which we completed in collaboration with Ministry of Education academics, researchers, trainers and teachers. This followed on from advice Hamish had earlier presented to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on a project working with the three leading universities in Pyongyang: Kim Il Sung University, Kim Hyung Jik University and Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies (PUFS). The aim of this advice was to encourage ELT sustainability and to maintain the project as a tool to support FCO engagement and influence. He subsequently trained British Council teacher trainers engaged on this project to give them the professional tools to help their DPRK colleagues work on curriculum, syllabus and course design.

With Ministry Officials at the Mansuadae Grand Monument in Pyongyang

Later, in 2013, Alistair conducted an evaluation of the same project, which is managed by the British Council. He evaluated the teaching, teacher training and materials development created over the lifetime of the Project in universities and schools in Pyongyang, and made proposals for the project’s future direction in partnership with the DPRK Ministry of Education. Alistair has also worked in Mongolia, training language testers from the Ministry of Defence on test design with a particular emphasis on test item-writing for Speaking and Writing.