Over the last two years the Middle East and North Africa has experienced dramatic political upheaval and change. The region also faces a number of challenges in terms of education. It has a very young population: Over 40% of citizens are under 15 years of age and more than 20% are aged 15-24. As a result, there are huge pressures on providing schooling for young people. In addition, an increasing global demand for mobile, highly-educated and technically-able workers means that governments are having to implement radical reforms and move towards a more learner-centred curriculum.

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...

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Middle East: ELT Trainer Training Project

Client: British Council Middle East Region

We conducted a baseline survey of the British Council managed ELT English for the Future project involving Ministries of Education in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (particularly Abu Dhabi and Dubai), Qatar and Yemen. The aim of this process was to determine the project’s potential effectiveness and impact and to recommend strategies for sustainability. The process involved UK Global Opportunities Fund input to Saudi Arabian vocational and education training (VET) in the Ministry of Labour.

We followed this study up two years later by providing an independent evaluation of the project’s impact in terms of how far British Council activity had influenced the teaching and learning of English across the region.

The findings of this survey provided input into the British Council’s plans to merge their Middle East Region (MED: Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Kuwait, UAE and Oman) and Near East and North Africa Region (NENA: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, Syria and Tunisia).


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