1.1. First Project Phase: “Teaching English in Laos” (2015-2018)
Project leaders: University of Education Karlsruhe & Angels for Children Foundation
Project partners: Ban Sikeud Primary School, Ban Phang Heng Primary School, Ban Phang Heng Secondary School
Sunshine School, Lao-German Technical College
From 2015 to 2018, our Professional Learning Community (PLC) brought together Lao and German teachers and pre-service teachers at primary school, secondary school, and vocational college level to tandem-work and tandem-teach lessons in Lao classrooms twice a year for the duration of 2-5 months. As we are English teachers, we mainly teach English. However, we all have a second subject as well, so we soon also tandem-taught lessons in biology, chemistry, physics, maths, and – in the end – even German. In order to be able to communicate with our Lao tandem-partners in the first place, we taught them one English lesson a day.
Team I was a pilot and consisted of 5 German graduates and their two mentors, Prof. Isabel Martin, professor of English at the University of Education Karlsruhe (PH Karlsruhe), and Johannes Zeck, manager of the Angels for Children Foundation (AfC). The project snowballed quickly, so from 2016 on we sent larger teams (8-10) from Karlsruhe to four different Lao schools and the Lao-German Technical College (LGTC). We grew into a group of a few hundred people whose work and paths criss-crossed.
The cooperation contract between the two leading institutions PH Karlsruhe and AfC spanned five years, 2015 to 2020. Even if the contract was not renewed as Covid-19 had started badly affecting international working conditions, our partnership continued. We are in touch about education and Laos-related matters.
Angels for Children decided to channel their efforts into the education of apprentices of engineering who came from the supported schools. (The first candidates just completed their second year of vocational training at BHS in Germany.) The University of Education Karlsruhe set up their own cooperation with one of the partner schools (Sunshine School) and the LGTC. Our last two teams (Team X and Team XI) worked there on this new basis, but Karlsruhe had gained a new partner in the meantime, too: the Vocational Education Development Institute (VEDI), a vocational teacher-training college, close by the LGTC.
Looking back: starting point of the project and the cooperation between the University of Education Karlsruhe and Angels for Children (point of view from 2016):
Angels for Children has been actively supporting Lao English teachers for several years by initiating internships for high school graduates or students from Germany and by recently establishing a teach-the-teacher program with the help of the University of Education Karlsruhe, namely Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin (Head of the Institute of Multilingualism) and her first team of university graduates.
In the past, high school graduates from Germany visited Laos in order to help teach at Ban Sikeud school for three months, either from September to December, or from January to April. The academic year in Laos, however, runs from September to May.
Although the persons involved acknowledged the significance of supporting English education in Laos and were committed to the project, the initial realization was not quite sustainable, for several reasons. First of all, the support in English courses lacked a profound systematical and methodical basis. Secondly, the high school graduate internship program ignored the need for English teaching training for Lao English teachers. We observed the reoccurring phenomenon that issues which had (supposedly) been dealt with in one school year still reappeared in the next.
In Laos, there is little possibility for frequent contact with foreign English speakers. Increasing the frequency of contact with foreign English speakers would support Lao teachers in fostering their grammatical and communicative skills while diminishing pronunciation issues.
In June 2015, contact was established between the chairman of the Angels for Children foundation Christian Engel and Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin from the University of Education Karlsruhe (Pädagogische Hochschule Karlsruhe) by the help of Daniel Wensauer-Sieber and Elke Sieber, members of the Engel family foundation who knew Prof. Martin’s work. The first meeting happened to take place on 2 July 2015 when Prof. Dr. Martin and her “Singlish” band (university students) held a workshop at the 300th anniversary celebrations of Karlsruhe city for school children. “Singlish”, the combination of singing and English, is a both worthwhile and fun approach to motivate children for language learning.
After outlining the English education problems in Lao schools, the link for a possible cooperation with the PH Karlsruhe was found very quickly. In less than two months, between September and October 2015, Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin then set up a teach-the-teacher program adapted to the Lao education system and standards. She informed partners in the publishing sector, who started sending large donations of teaching materials for primary and secondary schools. After one brief official call for volunteers at short notice, several English graduates from Karlsruhe volunteered immediately, interviews were held in cooperation with the International Office, and a team of five graduates was set up. Instantly the revision and collections of more materials and methods began and 6 workshops were organized and held to prepare the graduates for teaching English in Laos. On 28 October 2015, the team and Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin arrived in Ban Sikeud.
In a two-and-a-half month pilot project, the graduates from PH Karlsruhe are currently working on the implementation of suitable methods and materials in English education of Lao students and teachers. The results of the project will be presented at the end of January.
In September 2016, the teach-the-teacher program will continue, but this time English graduates from the PH Karlsruhe can accompany English teachers from Laos throughout their academic year. The project aims to support Lao students and teachers in improving their English language competences and to provide educational, didactic and methodical training for teaching English as a foreign language to the teachers at the same time.
(as of September 2021)