U.S. Department of State Trains Libyan English Language Teachers

November 29, 2010

IMG_5132 At MEPI’s EFL training, a Libyan teacher focuses on developing lesson plans.

The U.S. State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative is supporting Libyan high school teachers, school inspectors and university professors in improving their English language teaching skills. For nearly two decades, English language courses were mostly unavailable in Libya. The first of a three-phase teaching English a Foreign Language (EFL) course drew 41 participants from eight Libyan cities, all of whom attended workshops while still on their summer holiday in late July and early August. “At first we were concerned about participants’ attendance for the entire three week course, but they came every day,” Training Coordinator Hania Oweis said speaking from Tripoli during the second phase of the multi-week EFL training that began September 19th. The American Ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz, participated at the Certificate of Attendance ceremony at the completion of the course on September 30th. Ambassador Cretz told the participants, “We recognize that these people-to-people exchanges are beneficial for all who participate and I trust that you have taught your instructors about Libyan culture, traditions, and also the unique methodology that works in the Libyan classroom.” For a few participants, this was their first encounter with the hands-on ways of Americans. “I have not seen an American before and never heard an American native speaker in my life; this is an added bonus for me,” said Aisha Rajab of Jufra who travelled ten hours by public transport to attend the training. According to Oweis, participants showed some concern when the first exercise of the course centered on passing a ball around from one individual to another. “The ball throwing was very American for the course participants as they couldn’t see how such an exercise would help them in the actual classroom. But, the exercise is an ice-breaker and a motivator to start the course workshops.” In the end, highlighting their appreciation of the exercise, participants stated they would reenact the exercise in their classrooms. The course is funded by the Department of State’s MEPI Partnership Schools Program and implemented by Creative Associates through World Learning’s School for International Training, an accredited graduate school. The workshops are organized in partnership with Libya’s Academy of Graduate Studies and the General People’s Committee for Education and Scientific Research. Initiated and nurtured by Creative Associates, it is hoped that this partnership with the Academy is the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial undertaking between the U.S. and Libya. The workshops build on EFL teachers’ current practices, offer English language development instruction and present current best practices in competency-based language teaching. The training is designed to help instill in students the same methods and skills to improve learning and expand their own English communications skills. Trainers from the first workshop and participants developed priorities that included English language acquisition based on students’ abilities and the creation of a culture of learning within the classroom. “I have deepened what I already know and at the same time acquired new ways to do things. The challenge is how to transfer what I learned to my own classroom,” said Dr Jamal Giaber, the Dean of the school of languages at the Academy of Graduate studies. One participant said the effectiveness of the training can be measured by the participants’ attendance. “It is one of the first times we have seen all of the participants attend a training course from beginning to end,” he said.

EFL teacher training turns passionate.

“I learned about ‘Smart Objectives’ and Bloom Taxonomy. I found this training very important because I can relay the new techniques and methods of teaching to over 60 or 70 teachers that I evaluate” said Suliman Abdussalalm Greseaa, a school inspector. Most of the 17 high school teachers in the course had never attended an EFL training session and found that the coursework was practical, addressed instruction skills, and stressed a hands-on approach to teaching. The work sessions explored how teachers can develop learning and reading skills for their students and include pronunciation exercises. “Sometimes some methods will be difficult to implement since the capabilities at our schools and colleges are not up to date. We don’t have language labs, and such, but we will try to implement as much as possible within the capabilities we have,” another participant added. At the completion of the first phase of what is likely to be a three-phase EFL training, on August 5th, the 41 participants gathered for a Certificates of Attendance ceremony hosted by the Academy of Graduate Studies. In his opening speech, Academy Head Dr Saleh Ibrahim told participants that the “American-Libyan relationship historically has been governed by oil interests. The EFL training sessions present a small start to what may yield a big benefit. Hopefully these kinds of activities will strengthen ties between Libyan and American people.” “The special partnership that has existed between the United States of America and the Academy of Graduate Studies…began even before the normalization of diplomatic relations when several representatives from the Academy attended diplomatic discussions in Malta and Maastricht that eventually led to the re-establishment of full diplomatic relations,” said Ambassador Cretz at the September 30th ceremony. “Our partnership continues to grow and I look forward to returning to the Academy in the near future to inaugurate our first American Cultural and Education Center in Libya right here at the Academy.”

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