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Two Ielts bands in six months?

Matt Salusbury asks whether scholarship students can realistically get their English levels up to speed in the limited time available

Putting students with a low language level through a pre-sessional English course in the hope they’ll be able to pass a Ielts or Toefl test and develop enough proficiency to progress on to an English-medium degree course is a risky business.

Brazil’s Ciencia sem Fronteiras (CsF, also known as Science without Borders or SwB) scholarship scheme offers its students fully funded pre-sessional English courses for three or six months to achieve this, and the UK HE International Unit reports there are some 900 Brazilian students currently on such courses in Britain. But with some of them starting these courses with an Ielts band as low as 4.5, how realistic is the prospect of them reaching the level needed in the time available?

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Working on the road to Mandalay

Greg Tinker describes an exciting opportunity to work in Burma as the country opens up its doors to the outside world and welcomes the first internationals to its teacher training colleges


International development charity VSO is offering the first opportunities for teachers to work in Myanmar (Burma) for decades.

We need 22 Tefl teachers for the academic staff who train Myanmar’s student teachers. The volunteers will work in Rangoon and will support senior trainers and cluster managers in locations across the country. This is a unique opportunity to influence teaching practice in Myanmar after many years of isolation and to have a profound impact on the way in which teachers – and therefore children – are taught.

The chosen volunteers will be VSO’s first within the state education sector in Myanmar, and along with their British Council counterparts the first internationals to be working within the country’s education colleges for decades. We’re offering multiple one- or two-year volunteer placements. Successful applicants will receive training, return flights, accommodation and an allowance to cover basic living expenses while in Myanmar. Accommodation, in the teacher training colleges, is likely to be rudimentary. The volunteers will work alongside trainers employed by the British Council in all of the colleges, and be supported by a British Council–VSO support team.

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Tutoring – life after Tefl

Phil Doyle-Wells explains why he has absolutely no regrets after moving on from ELT to private tutoring

Many UK-based individuals in the ELT world are making career moves not so much up the ladder as off it – into tutoring. The traditional entry route into ELT – a bachelor’s degree followed by a £1,000+ Tefl course, then a spell teaching abroad possibly followed by teaching in a UK language school – is less lucrative than it once was.

And in the high streets of London’s less affluent suburbs you are likely to see tutoring services providers where private higher education colleges used to stand. Recent graduates and even school leavers with good A levels are eschewing entrylevel Tefl and going into tutoring instead, many commanding rates of £15 an hour and up, without doing an expensive postgrad course. The exodus has been joined by older Tefl hands, including me.

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From Girl Guides to Buddhist monks

Dr Khaing Phyu Htut and Wai Lin Kyaw report on an innovative new training scheme developed by the British Council in Burma

Girl Guides and teachers in monastic schools are two of the most interesting groups to have participated in the training and support programmes of the British Council Burma. Our trainers have been supporting education from all angles, participating as core trainers for staff from the Comprehensive Education Sector Review, education colleges and Millennium Centres, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NGOs and non-formal-education actors.

A key activity for our trainers over the last few months has involved delivering teacher training to fifty primary and middle school teachers at Maha Thatipahtan Yeiktha Buddhist Monastery. This is in Yone Sin Gyi, Taungtha Township, which is located in the central dry zone. It has very limited access to educational support and resources, and teachers there do not receive much training.

The programme was specifically developed for the local teachers as a result of feedback from a training session in 2012. It is a thirty-hour course which focuses on teaching with limited resources, promoting critical thinking skills in students and helping teachers think beyond the textbooks and exams.

‘We are teachers from monastic schools catering to the education needs of the most poor and vulnerable kids,’ said Daw Wunna, a Buddhist nun and teacher, adding, ‘Since we are in the dry zone, the economic situations are really tough and we rarely get support. Our head nun can’t thank the British Council enough.’

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