Elta president Olja Milosevic explains how Serbian English specialists find that teaching conferences can help keep their classes creative
English is a compulsory subject in Serbian primary schools. In the majority of cases, schools introduce English in Grade 1, but there are schools that start with English instruction in Grade 3. In primary schools English teachers are among the few staff who are subject specialists.
Parents consider English a necessary tool for the future of their children, and very often do not believe the instruction they receive during the school day to be sufficient, so they enrol them in private language schools for extra English classes. By the age of fifteen, the majority of students can speak English reasonably well, can read for pleasure and write some text types. English also helps students to become confident internet users, where they can experience the immediate benefits of learning English.
Bearing in mind the number of children who attend additional private English classes, it is understandable that Clil has not gained much popularity in the Serbian state sector. However, there are a number of primary and secondary schools that implement bilingual education. In the majority of bilingual schools, English is the second language and several school subjects are taught in the language.
There are a lot of opportunities for professional development for teachers of English. The most recent was a large regional conference and fair organised by the British embassy, the Ministry of Education and Technological Development and other partners. The conference theme was ‘New Technologies in Education’ and the aim was to raise awareness of the significance of using new technologies in education. There were over 120 speakers from Serbia, the Balkan region and the UK. It was a great opportunity for educators from different fields to consider possibilities provided by new technologies.
The English Language Teachers’ Association (Elta) is the biggest grouping of teachers of English in Serbia, and one of its goals is to provide teachers with opportunities for professional development. In partnership with the British Council, Elta organised ‘Creativity in the English Language Classroom’ seminars in fifteen towns in Serbia. The training sessions were developed by Elta, with the conceptual framework taken from the Creativity in the English Language Classroom, a British Council publication edited by Alan Maley and Nick Peachey. Around 300 teachers have been trained by Elta trainers.
Another opportunity for professional development is the Continuing Professional Development Programme for Primary EFL Teachers in Serbia, 2014–16, ‘Theme-Based Instruction in Teaching English to Young Learners’. This series of events was organised jointly by the Faculty of Education in Jagodina, University of Kragujevac, the United States embassy in Belgrade and American Corners Serbia.