As a crowning moment of the third phase of “Teaching English in Laos”, the project leaders received a high-ranking visit in January 2017: The Lao Minister for Education and Sports, H.E. Mrs Sengdeuane Lachanthaboune, visited the three schools supported by Angels for Children and the project activities in these schools.
After the visit of her colleague, the Vice-Minister Prof. Dr. Kongsy Sengmany in January 2016, an informal meeting with Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin and her then new Team III had been arranged in September very soon after their arrival, to pick up the threads and continue the talks.
After this meeting, H.E. Mrs Sengdeuane wanted to see the project for herself.
She came to visit on 10 January 2017, with staff from her Departments. Prof. Martin had also invited Mr Michael Heller along, Deputy Head of Mission from the German Embassy in Vientiane, and Mme Engel took the chance before the Minister’s arrival to show Mr Heller around the primary school Sikeud herself.
At 11 a.m., there was quite a delegation to lead from the primary school Ban Sikeud to the secondary school and then to the primary school Ban Phang Heng. Mrs Sengdeuane honoured the engagement of Angels for Children, mainly carried out and represented by Madame Gerlinde Engel, especially the investment into the three schools’ infrastructure, the new physics and chemistry laboratory and the computer room in the secondary school, the general education support, and last, but not least, the daily tooth-brushing programme. Her staff had brought donations with them and handed over many books and other education material to the secondary school. There was animated conversation the whole time with the school manager Mr Khamsing, with individual teachers, with AfC assistant Bouangeun (“Linda”), and the school children were asked questions, too. Once more one wished one could understand the Lao language!
Prof. Martin showed the work of Team III – which builds on the work of former teams – for instance the new techniques in foreign language teaching taught to the Lao English teachers, the use of modern didactic material in the lessons, the set-up of English Lending Libraries in all three schools, Workshops and Activities offered by the volunteers, the installation of the new Didactics Room in the secondary school, and the training of Lao teachers in didactics and in the English language by the volunteers – there was something new going on in every classroom that deserved to be pointed out and explained.
In the ensueing consultation, Prof. Martin and Johannes Zeck offered opening up the “Teaching English in Laos project” to H.E. Mrs Sengdeuane and her Ministry and Departments. A cooperation could be started with the help of grants and funding from third parties or the German Government. Our expertise and experience in English teacher training as well as curriculum and materials development, our strong interest in research in TESOL, and our practical experience in this project in three Laotian schools and one Technical College could form the basis for helping to develop English education in general countrywide, on behalf of the Lao Ministry of Education and Sports.
We want to thank H.E. Mrs Sengdeuane for her visit and we are looking forward to our next meeting(s)!
In the meantime, we have secured new contacts and new funds and developed new research questions, which will be followed up in new pockets of time later this year – and the next visit is just around the corner.
Text by J. Zeck & I. Martin
Photos by I. Martin & S. Stöhrer