Gill Westaway, Director, British Council Sri Lanka, and Duncan Wilson, Head Project English, British Council Sri Lanka, presented the STEPS (Skills Through English for Public Servants) project which has been implemented in Sri Lanka. The project was completed in partnership with GTZ (an NGO), and Psyche Kennet was cited as the main contributor to the materials development.
Gill told us how according to the UNHCR, the number of people affected by conflict is now at all time high. Gill explained how educational programmes can contribute to conflict transformation, starting from the empowerment of different communities and marginalised groups through a fair selection process and even grouping of candidates on training programmes. The role of English as a link language is also obvious in countries such as Sri Lanka where the national languages of Sinhala and Tamil have become social and ethnic dividers.
We saw how a task-based language learning approach also supports conflict transformation in that it encourages sub-skills of critical thinking, skills which mirror the principles of conflict resolution. Duncan showed us how the classroom materials they use on the STEPS project integrate language learning with the content element of conflict resolution, as well as the interactional skills of negotiating, debating, coming to a consensus, etc, skills which are of obvious use in conflict resolution.
This has been a very successful project, the principles of which could in theory be replicated in other areas which are experiencing similar conflicts.
In this session entitled ‘Managing the Silent Revolution’ the audience watched a video which showed how Activity Based Learning (ABL) has been implemented in schools in Tamil Nadu. We saw the teacher in a non-traditional role, not as the teacher standing as an authoritative figure at the front of the classroom, but as a facilitator of activities in which children were able to participate much more freely. Children were encouraged to work in groups and help each other, as well as monitor their own progress. The classroom scene was a refreshing change from visions of children sitting in rows listening to a teacher; here the role of the child is very much a participative one in which confidence and motivation are key to the learning process.
The film was a great start to the session on ABL, and will truly motivate teachers in other areas to learn from this project.
How could other schools implement ABL?
Rod Bolitho, Academic Director of Norwich Institute for Language Education (NILE), tells us that the teaching profession is not a static profession and as such, teachers need to continually develop.
He also reminds us that development can only come from within an individual – teachers cannot be forced to develop, but they can be exposed to development opportunities.
Rod goes on to say that INSETT (in-service teacher training) and CPD (continuous professional development) are not synonymous. Teacher training is one route that teachers can take to help themselves develop, but there are other ways, such as gaining new qualifications, becoming involved in projects and materials development, mentoring and buddy systems, membership of teaching associations, classroom observations and feedback and autonomous research.
How do your schools and institutes ensure that teachers have access to the latest skills and knowledge in the ELT sector? How is their learning recognised and rewarded?
Alison Barrett and Duncan Wilson began the second day of the Third Policy Dialogue conference by asking two questions:
What does English language mean to you?
What do you think the English language means to people in your country?
What are your answers?
Stephen Jenner, Deputy Head Corporate Training, British Council raised a number of issues and challenges which BPO recruiters face on a daily basis.
Stephen showed how the British Council has used the CEF, a global language benchmark, as a tool to help overcome some of the challenges.
We’d be interested in hearing of any other companies who have used the CEF in areas of recruitment and language training.
Dr Sandhya Chintala, Director Education NASSCOM, shares an anecdote which shows that there is no correlation between academic excellence and employability.
Why is this and what can be done about it?
David Graddol interviewed key figures in the corporate sector around the challenges they find in recruiting employees. The corporate sector wants candidates who are immediately employable as there is the danger that they may invest in people who then move on to join other companies. The skills they are looking for are more than just communication skills, although these are of course of extreme importance, but also inlcude other skills such as teamwork. It was argued that school often kills initiative and confidence, and certainly does not produce the kind of candidate that the corporate sector wants.
What do you think? Whose responsibility is it to produce the kind of candidates who are ready to enter the corporate sector? Is it the resonsibility of the education system or the responsibility of the corporate sector?