KARACHI: Day two of the Society of English Language Teachers (SPELT) 37th anniversary celebrations included an online panel discussion on “Teaching and researching English in difficult circumstances”, in which most of the discussion was based around the major themes of two books titled Research on teaching and learning English in under-resourced contexts, edited by Kathleen M. Bailey and Donna Christian, and International perspectives on teaching English in difficult circumstances, edited by Kuchah Kuchah and Fouzia Shamim.
Speaking a bit about the book Teaching and learning English in under-resourced contexts, president of The International Research Foundation for English Language (TIRF), USA, Dr Kathleen Bailey from Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey looked at the typical challenges of teaching in under-resources contexts in Pakistan and what can teachers do to meet those challenges.
She directed teachers to go to the TIRF webpage for references and resources which can help them here.
Prof Andy Curtis from the University of Anaheim, Canada, said that the notion of being under-resourced depended on where one was. “It’s not just income that is the only measure of poverty. The countries listed by the World Bank in the area of low income, are also working in under-resourced circumstances,” he said.
Dr Ozgur Sahan from Yozgat Bozok University, Turkey, spoke about the challenges faced by novice teachers. “There are instructional challenges, there are over-crowded classrooms, low motivation of students, lack of technology, etc, in schools,” he said while listing some of the challenges.
Discussing the other book International perspectives on teaching English in difficult circumstances, which she co-edited, Dr Fouzia Shamim of Ziauddin University, Karachi, said that there was a need to expand the boundaries of the difficult circumstances beyond mainstream English Language Teaching.
“Explore new spaces for learning English beyond the typical classroom such as mobile learning,” she said, adding that the use of technology also comes in here. “You start with what is available to you before you introduce anything from outside. Because what is available is more sustainable,” she pointed out.
Dr Prem Phyak of the University of Hong Kong said that there were teachers that he had come across who did not stick to just teaching in English to teach the language. “These teachers basically use very fluid language practices, not necessarily following an English-only medium instruction. And not just in content-area subjects but also in teaching English because these students come from very different linguistic backgrounds and that’s how they can take part in the teaching processes,” he said.
Dr Dario Luis Banegas of University of Strathclyde spoke about making the invisible visible. “I looked at the professional lives of two teachers who chose to teach in the concept of confinement. I was interested in their motivation to teach in a prison. Prison education was like liberating for both the teachers and students as they could think about life beyond prison,” he said.
Earlier, Prof Zakia Sarwar welcomed all academics, including those joining from other countries.
Speaking about their topic of discussion, she said that resilient teachers committed to good teaching were now turning to researching to see how teaching and learning could become more effective in the classroom. “They experiment, innovate, strategise and record and share with others,” she said.
Sindh Minister for Education Saeed Ghani congratulated SPELT for having completed 37 years of their tireless journey and commended them for also holding their annual conferences to help teachers teach better so that the children of Pakistan receive better and quality education.
Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2021