Any kind of recognition to any innovative work works as a guiding force to go forward for any individual and organization. It’s an incentive as well. When it happens in the field of education it brings more pleasure for those who belong to this field. I have been in this line for quite a long time first as a practising teacher and now as a teacher educator/administrator has become elated to see any positive change and recognition to Bangladesh education. It invokes greater pleasure when I see and experience any global recognition of the field I belong to.  My present attachment to the BRAC Education Program, PACE which works for the overall development of secondary education with particular emphasis on the English language and the way of its working for rural teachers has drawn the attention of some global entities. TESOL is the acronym of “Teachers of English to speakers of other languages” which refers to the professional association, the profession, and the field itself.

This global professional association has now picked up the case of the BRAC Education program, PACE and rewarded it with its prestigious award. TESOL’s headquarters is in Alexandria, Virginia, in the United States, having more than 13,500 members in over 140 countries. The mission of TESOL is to ensure excellence in English language teaching to speakers of other languages.

To engage its members and colleagues in the ongoing discussion of current issues, ideas, and opportunities in the field of English language teaching, TESOL publishes two serials: a scholarly, refereed journal and a magazine offering articles of interest to teachers across the profession. Books, professional papers, and other resources on a wide range of theoretical and practical topics sustain sound professional development. TESOL’s electronic resources include an extensive Web site, an overview of employment opportunities, and a newsletter with timely links related to the field of TESOL connections. TESOL’s annual convention, usually held in March in North America, is regarded as the foremost professional development opportunity for practitioners and other English language teaching professionals. Each year, 6,000-8,000 participants gather for this weeklong event, which offers full-length papers, workshops, poster sessions, materials exchanges, plenary speakers, product exhibitions and networking opportunities.

Throughout the year, TESOL conducts professional development symposia, workshops, and online sessions for participants around the world. This year (2012) TESOL’s annual convention was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA from March 28 to 31. The writer was invited by Dr. Christine Coombe, the president of TESOL, to receive the TESOL President Award for making a valuable contribution in the field of education in general and its promotion of the English language in particular throughout Bangladesh in secondary education along with primary and post-secondary. The TESOL President Award is selected annually by TESOL’s Executive Committee in recognition of individuals or entities who have supported efforts for the field in line with TESOL’s values.  

How do the activities of the PACE (Post-primary basic And Continuing Education) Program of BRAC go in line with TESOL’s values? BRAC-PACE training adores and practices innovative ways so that the English teachers can make difference by making the subject very interesting, easier and life oriented to the students in the classrooms. They also learn how to teach this subject to the learners of Bangladesh without teaching them the set grammatical rules and sticking to the traditional method. The field of TESOL involves a professional activity that requires specialized training. The fact that someone speaks English does not by itself qualify that person to teach it, especially to those who are learning English as an additional language. TESOL Focuses on how to use English as a world language and how to understand and become comfortable with the various cultural practices of English-speaking people.

English language educators work all over the world, in various contexts in the public and private sectors. They work in countries where English is the dominant language, as in Australia, Canada, England, and the United States, as well as in countries where English is spoken as a foreign language, such as Japan, Saudi Arabia and India. In English-speaking countries, English as a second language teachers work with immigrants and refugees at all levels of the education system – primary, secondary, higher – as well as adult education in community colleges and community-based programs. In higher education settings, ESL teachers work with international students in intensive and semi-intensive English language programs.

In countries in which English is an additional language, English as foreign language teachers also works at all levels of education. Their special charge is to find creative ways to build English into the lives of learners outside the classroom. BRAC English training tries to implement just this thing driving the teachers from the usual classroom teaching and preparing the students just to cross the stairs of examination. It aims at making language study meaningful even in daily life communications which our English teachers hardly seemed to foster before receiving BRAC training.

Ways to improve English, dealing with students’ learning, an introduction of CLT, familiarization with the syllabus textbook and test types, large classroom management, lesson planning, teaching vocabulary, teaching four language skills, micro-teaching, teaching grammar communicatively gets reflected in BRAC English training.   BRAC possesses twenty-three well-equipped training centres scattered across the country with the capacity to accommodate five thousand teachers at a time. It has the root level officials to contact the village teachers and school authorities to motivate them to receive English training. The field-level officials follow up the classes of trained teachers to ensure that the teachers use the techniques and skills they have gained from training in the classrooms.

Among the trained teachers the potential ones have been identified to develop them into trainers through special training. Their hidden potentials have been bloomed through this process and they have been amply empowered and highly encouraged to do the job. A competition has developed among other English teachers to become Master Trainers. Actually, the teachers are getting professionally developed in disguise and this initiative of BRAC has received a positive response from all corners. The development of Master Trainers is a milestone in BRAC English training.

BRAC has proved that rural teachers can show their potentials and contribute to the greater perspective of the nation if opportunities can be extended towards them. These teachers have developed their confidence through imparting training in different parts of the country and many of them have gone abroad for higher-level training through BRAC initiatives. Students are not attentive to what is being said in a lecture 40% of the time. Students retain 70% of the information in the first ten minutes but only 20 in the last ten minutes (Meyers and Jones 1993.) The trained teacher now started focusing on activity-based classes instead of lecture-based ones as they find in the training centres how the trainers involve them in various activities. These things were unknown to them before completing the training.

The positive outcome of BRAC English training manifests itself in various forms.  Rural students who now exchange greetings with their English teachers in English meaning they are gaining confidence and the teaching-learning scenario has started changing. It also means that the shyness of the students has started disappearing. These positive changes in the schools in which BRAC works have been appreciated by TESOL authorities and took the decision to honour us with the prestigious TESOL President Award.  It was my proud privilege to receive the ‘TESOL President Award 2012’ for our contribution to the field of teaching and improving the situation of English of rural English teachers. Fife Macduff, Regional English Language Officer, who is in charge of improving English in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives played a significant role to make the world know what BRAC Education English Team is doing in Bangladesh.

Ryan Bradeen, the cultural officer of the American Center in Bangladesh, the US Embassy also did a valuable contribution to this field. Finally, as a representative of Bangladesh in general and BRAC Education in particular  I must offer my heartfelt thanks to Dr. Christine Coombe, the president of TESOL International who made the world community know what BRAC Education is doing in Bangladesh and what sort of improvement has been made by BRAC. Rosa Aronson, the Executive Director, TESOL kept us updated about the whole event from time to time and hence deserves thanks from Bangladesh and BRAC. Several thousand spectators from eighty-seven countries learnt about Bangladesh and BRAC Education. Finally, the writer had the rare opportunity to address those distinguished guests and participants and offer them thanks on behalf of Bangladesh and BRAC.

About the author

Masum Billah

Masum Billah

Masum Billah works as an Education Expert in the BRAC Education Program, BRAC, and President of the English Teachers' Association of Bangladesh (ETAB), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Leave a Comment