Europe

Europe

For the last decade educators and policy makers in Europe and the United Kingdom have been debating the purpose of education in relation to work and society. The result has been a re-assessment of ‘traditional’ approaches to teaching and learning away from a transmission mode of the ‘delivery’ of knowledge by teachers towards encouraging children to think more independently and creatively. There are great challenges including providing effective education for an increasingly mobile continental workforce and responding adequately to growing demands on educational resources while also maintaining credible standards.

Our Work in the Balkans

The team’s involvement in Balkans goes back to the mid-1990s when Alistair was Senior Lecturer in English Language Teaching at the University of Sofia in Bulgaria. He was a member of a team developing new courses to teach undergraduates in a more communicative way than the traditional grammar-translation approach used in the past. He also worked as part of a team to develop a new English language testing system for Sofia University with a focus on skills-based testing. The Sofia University Entrance Exam, in the absence of any secondary national leaving exam, was by default the most important language exam for school leavers who wanted to study many subjects in which English was required. One of the most important outcomes of this work was a series of textbooks published by Lettera in Plovdiv (the Sofia University Admission Test of English as a Foreign Language Books 3-5). These provided sample items in the four skills areas and included practice tests with keys and sample answers with accompanying explanations.

At the end of the 1990s, Alistair moved to the University of Novi Sad as an advisor on teaching methodology for pre-service teachers. This involved developing a new methodology course with local colleagues and providing mentoring to secondary school teachers of English involved in the training programme.

At the same time, Hamish arrived in Sofia to work with the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence and was based at the GS Rakovski Military Academy (now the Rakovski Defence and Staff College [RDSC]). He developed language and testing systems for the language interoperability of Bulgarian Armed Forces with multinational forces within the context of Armed Forces reform and NATO/EU accession. Later he helped form an international testing group across NATO accession countries with Alistair and other British Council colleagues, which involved training at Lancaster University. One of the most significant outcomes of this was the securing, as an MOD policy objective, a link between Council of Europe Common Reference levels (CEFR), NATO STANAG 6001 and MOD/General Staff English language courses. He also provided a framework for training in all units active in Peacekeeping Operations and developed focus for CPD Teacher Training.

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Hamish was also Regional Co-ordinator for South-East Europe (Bulgaria, Macedonia and Romania). This involved conducting an Assessment of the Language Training Needs of the Romanian Ministry of the Interior (MOI) for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in order to...

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United Kingdom: SQA ESOL Tests and English for Work

Client: Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)

We have worked with the SQA on a variety of projects including the creation of new specifications for national English for Work courses, which may also be offered to governments for them to use to develop the proficiency and skills of graduates and key workers for the global economy. In addition, we have advised the SQA on the structure of their Access 2 & 3, Intermediate 1 & 2 and Higher English language tests. Our recommendations have focused on test validity (i.e. theory-based validity, context validity and scoring validity) thus covering specifications, item types, authenticity, interactiveness, impact and practicality of tests and test materials.

This report is part of an overall strategy of SQA to work towards the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. We have put forward an approach and programme to help SQA to achieve this objective.

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United Kingdom: Research into Teacher Trainer Award

Client: SQA and Scottish Government

Our brief was to collect and collate details of current courses/ qualifications offered by providers of TESOL training across the United Kingdom in the area of Training the Trainer courses for Higher/Tertiary Education and those offered by private providers. We conducted focus group meetings with ESOL providers and drew up recommendations for a ‘Trainer the Trainer’ course (both in terms of content and approach) for potential SQA trainers on new SQA qualifications. The report has been forwarded for action to the Scottish Office by the SQA.

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