Consultancies by McIlwraith Education

Education Reform from Primary to Tertiary Levels

We have had considerable experience in education reform from primary through to tertiary levels in North Africa. This has mostly been in three countries: Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt. Tunisia looks north towards the Mediterranean and Europe for both commercial and cultural reasons. It was the first Mediterranean state to sign the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement (EMA) in 1995. It was the first North African state to conclude negotiations with the European Union to become part of the Euro-Med Free Trade area by 2010. Much of Tunisia’s trade has been with Europe. Much of the trade and cultural relations which Tunisia engages in with Europe are mediated through English. Therefore, the Ministry of Education and Training (MET) had clear reasons for promoting the strengthening of the study of the language. It is a need based on the wider importance of English in the world today particularly as a means of accessing and transferring knowledge.

In 2007, we led a team of three consultants to assess: the professional and management structures in MET; the effectiveness of pre- and in-service training and the development of primary and secondary English teachers, both in terms of methodology and of language skills, the testing and examination system; curricula, syllabuses and teaching materials. In addition, we evaluated the impact of the teaching process on the learners themselves in the primary and secondary schools.

We studied the relevant documentation and, during the scoping mission, talked to a number of Inspectors of English, professeurs formateurs (PFs) and conseils pédagogiques (CPs), who are responsible for training, and teacher observation and support.  We also talked to officials at the MET in Tunis, at the national centre of trainer training (Centre National de Formation des Formateurs en Education [CENAFFE]) in Carthage and at teacher training centres (Centres Régionaux de l’Éducation et de la Formation [CREFOCS]). We also observed in-service training and pre-service training of teachers as well as class lessons.

Year 1 schoolchildren

We then drew up an analysis of each of these areas, which, later, Hamish wrote up into a 10 year English Language Reform Plan (ELRP). The first stage of this plan was a needs analysis. The primary aim was to collect data on English language use by Tunisian staff from a random, but representative sample, of organisations and companies in both domestic and international environments. The organisations and companies were drawn from a cross-section of trade and industry sectors including oil and gas, telecommunications, tourism, textiles and finance. A secondary aim was to gather interviewees’ perceptions on the usefulness of their school and university experience of learning the English language. Hamish used this information to write up a 10-year implementation plan for the MET, using PRINCE2 methodology, designed to co-ordinate people and processes in the following areas: Inspectorate and Team Training; Curriculum Development; Syllabus and Materials Development; Testing and Assessment; Training, Teaching and Learning.

In 2011, Hamish was commissioned by officials from British Council (Algeria) and the Algerian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHE) to investigate how English language teaching at tertiary level could be ‘modernised’ in the light of (then) recent MOHE reform of Higher Education, which was set out in a 10-year strategic plan from 2004-2013 by the Cabinet and the MOHE. It was purposefully linked to the Bologna Process and was intended to provide a new direction for tertiary education following on from the last large-scale reforms in 1971. The aim was to provide greater compatibility and comparability of Algerian qualifications internationally and to provide opportunities for young Algerians, through their university education, to have access to jobs that have relevance in the global economy. The shorthand for these reforms is ‘LMD’, which refers to the three-cycle degree structure of ‘Licence/Master/Doctorat’ [Bachelor, Masters, Doctorate] degrees under the Bologna Reform process. The MOHE recognised, as do many Algerian academics, that Higher Education has a critical role in supporting sustainable economic development and in stimulating innovation. To this end, it was generally accepted that universities must evolve and modernise.

He visited a number of universities (University of Algiers 2, Bouzareah, University of Blida, Constantine University of Mentouri, Annaba University Badji Moktar, Oran es Senia University) and, on the basis of research and discussions, made a series of recommendations related to improving teaching quality, developing links with business (through the creation of new ‘English for Work’ courses) and improving students’ experience at university through higher standards of teaching, better professional development and improved standards for research for academics, and better support for students with a strengthened tutorial system.

The Egyptian Ministry of Education (MOE) ‘Strategic Plan for Pre-university Education Reform 2014-30’  states that every child has an equal right to receive quality education in accordance with international standards, thus allowing every child to contribute effectively to the social and economic development of the country and to compete regionally and globally. This idea of global participation was developed by the MOE in ‘The National Curriculum Framework for English as a Foreign Language: Grades 1-12’. The ambition is to develop research and lifelong learning skills, learners’ communication skills and to support active learning and the enhancement of critical thinking to standards developed by the National Authority of Quality Assurance and Accreditation of Education (NAQAAE).

Year 4 boys completing group work

In 2014, Alistair and Hamish made two separate consultancy visits to Egypt in September and October 2014. The first visit was limited to Cairo and to meetings with MOE staff and British Council partners including Al Azhar School and University, the US Embassy Regional English Language Officer, the National Centre of Examinations and Evaluation (NCEE), Ain Shams University and school supervisors. The second visit was extended to include Alexandria and involved observations in a secondary school and private classes, the National Institutes, Ain Shams, meetings with employers at two major international companies, interviews with parents and a meeting at the Centre of Educational Leadership. We developed two surveys to gauge attitudes towards and use of English (one for students and one for teachers), which were translated and distributed by the MOE. We gathered different perspectives of ELT, particularly at Basic and Secondary stages of education, from the point of view of ministries, teachers, students, parents and employers and, on the basis of this, we made recommendations as to what changes education authorities might make to improve English learning and assessment and to suggest how UK agencies might successfully engage with the Ministry of Education’s reform process.