Another step in the preparation of the English graduates of Team III was marked last Friday, 24 June 2016: In Prof. Martin’s seminar “Teaching English in Laos”, the volunteers came together in order to assess English language teaching material for the Lao schools and to discuss the theoretical implications of teaching English as non-native speakers in Asia. The session, which lasted from 2 to 6 p.m., was divided into three parts.
The first part focused on working with Lao English teaching materials. The formalized school system in Laos does not have a long tradition, and the acknowledgement of the necessity of the English language as a means of global communication is relatively recent, as is the implementation of English as a school subject in the education system (read more here). Therefore, there are only few English teaching resources which are specifically geared towards Lao English learners.
The Ministry of Education distributes the English language learning materials which were developed by the Research Institute of Educational Sciences (RIES) for Lao English learners. They are mandatory for all public and private primary and secondary schools in the country. Therefore, the volunteers of Team III who will work at the primary and secondary schools in Ban Phang Heng and Ban Sikeud will have to use these materials as well. The English graduates will face the task to teach with these textbooks without compromising the scientifically backed language learning insights and principles which form the basis of their English education studies in Germany. Then they will supplement these books with our more communicative Western course material, which, however, first needs to be re-assessed in the light of cross-cultural appropriateness.
During the first part of the session, the volunteers acquainted themselves with the Lao English textbooks and developed ideas on how to implement them in a modern language learning classroom.
The second part of the afternoon was marked by a guest lecture open to the public by Dr. Michiko Weinmann, who is a researcher and lecturer of languages education and the Co-Director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning Languages (CtaLL) at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. In her lecture on “Languages education in global contexts: Reconceptualizing the ‘Asia literacy’ debate in Australia”, Dr. Weinmann carefully outlined the languages education situation in Australia and explained the complicated implications and multi-faceted attitudes towards the study of Asian languages in Australian schools. She challenged the audience to reflect the general geographically-bound concept and construct of Asia as the Other in language teaching. With special regards to the preparatory situation of Team III, Dr. Weinmann offered impulse questions for theoretically penetrating possible meanings of teaching English in Laos as non-native speakers. A lively discussion followed her inspiring lecture, which left ample food for more thought.
After a short break, the third part of the session led the volunteers back to familiarizing themselves with more English teaching material, this time course books published by international publishers which are to be used systematically for teaching the teachers as from September 2016.
Prof. Martin had narrowed down her initial choices by collecting and assessing the teacher lesson experiences made by Team I and II in the pilot phase with different course books (for a list cf. “Thanks“), and her findings were laid out on three different tables:
1) For English teachers: New Headway (Elementary and Intermediate), New Headway Pronunciation (Elementary and Intermediate);
2) For non-English teachers: Straightforward (Beginner and Intermediate);
3) For the LGTC: Technical English (volume 1 and 2) and Straightforward, possibly others – the process of pre-selection and evaluation is still in progress, as we are surveying a large new field.
After carefully examining these course book series, i.e. the respective student and teacher books, workbooks as well as additional audi-visual and digital material, the team collated a book order list for teaching the English teachers of the three schools and the Lao German Technical College. These resources will be provided by the Angels for Children Foundation.
This extensive afternoon programme serves as a fundament for our future work with the chosen teaching resources: All material will need to be adapted to meet the actual needs of the Lao English learners, and in order to do this well, we need to work out in more detail first what their “actual needs” relating to the English language actually are. In other words, apart from the satisfaction of helping our Lao partner teachers and schools, there are fascinating field explorations and research tasks waiting for us out there, and we’ll keep you posted here!
Text and photos by H. Müller and I. Martin