Yvonne Fraser on how English is being delivered by remote teaching techniques at a time of national crisis
The ongoing conflict and general instability have of course changed many things about life here in Libya. And from a British Council perspective, at least, one of the most pertinent effects has been the lack of a stable Ministry of Education over the past few years – our usual partner for work on education reform. For that reason – and given the difficulties and expense associated with teachers or students travelling to training centres outside Libya – we knew that if we were to continue delivering training and courses to the Libyan people we would need to build on existing relationships, as well as develop new partnerships with universities and seats of learning across the country.
In late 2014 we successfully piloted Skype-based training which is now being delivered through our established partnerships with university language centres across Libya – eight in total: Tripoli, Zawia, Assmarya, Misratah, Omer Elmokhtar, Subratah, Sabha and Gebel El Gharabi. Through this training, we provide an international trainer based anywhere in the world, course content and materials, while the partner university provides the venue, internet connection and a two-way satellite. We also have local trainers on the ground to assist in setting up the classrooms.
Although initially sceptical, Libyans have definitely warmed to the idea of remote training. Since 2013 through Skype we have had significant success with 468 teachers having attended teacher training and our Using Technology in the Classroom programmes. We’re also delivering Ielts preparation courses to fifty participants. Setting up the necessary equipment for Skype at the university centres has enabled us to take part in three university conferences. Again through Skype, we have delivered sessions and workshops from Tunis, the UK and Slovenia.
That said, despite these successes English levels in the country are still generally low, which is probably unsurprising when you consider Colonel Gaddafi banned English as a foreign language in Libyan schools for most of the 1980s and ’90s. More than that, there still remains a general lack of teacher training and continuing professional development opportunities for teachers in Libya. And while English graduates aspire to become teachers, for the most part, they receive no formal training and so tend to rely on old-fashioned lecture-style teaching methods.
All things considered, while there has certainly been progress in this area to date, much more still needs to be done. And due to the success of our own offering, so far at least, we’re looking to branch out and deliver more specialised courses to meet the needs of more Libyans. We hope this goes some way to ensuring that English teachers in Libya are supported in fulfilling their potential.
Yvonne Fraser is English project manager and teacher trainer at British Council Libya
Pic courtesy: International Committee of the Red Cross Libya