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Uzbekistan ups its EFL game

Natalia Tsarikova, ELT manager at the British Council Uzbekistan, explains how the Council is helping the country fulfil a commitment to boost English language teaching

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On 10 December 2012 the president of Uzbekistan signed resolution 1875: ‘On measures on improvement of learning foreign languages’. The resolution stressed the importance of learning foreign languages for all irrespective of their workplace but, in particular, for those in educational establishments and the Ministry of Education. Since then all the resources of the ministry have been mobilised to realise the presidential decree, including intensive training of all teachers in the country and the introduction of foreign language teaching from the first grade of schooling for all children in the country, with English being taught to over 500,000 children a year.

A set of new English textbooks was developed in country to provide for teaching at primary level. The ministry selected the best teachers to produce the textbooks, and Grade 1 of Kid’s English year. In September it was piloted across the country, and Grade 2 was complete by February 2014. The ministry acted on teachers’ feedback to improve the Grade 1 textbook and review its approach to introducing English at primary level.

On 10 March teachers, trainers, heads of departments and textbook developers gathered at the Primary English Round Table to discuss how to make English language teaching and learning effective. This included discussions and workshops for materials designers who worked on Grade 1 and 2 Kid’s English textbooks, guided by Wendy Arnold, an independent ELT consultant. Representatives of the Ministry of Public Education, the State Testing Centre, Central InSETTI and key players in the public education discussed how they could improve and coordinate their approach to ELT at primary level.

One important achievement of the week was the mini round table with all the major policy makers in ELT, after which the Ministry of Public Education’s lead implementer of the presidential decree, Mr Nosirov, said with relief, ‘Thanks to the British Council in two hours we’ve managed to reach what we couldn’t do in six months.’

Another big achievement was the revision of the Grades 1 and 2 textbooks and improvements to the teacher’s book. Teacher training on the new methodology and textbook was a logical follow-up which took place shortly after the round table and involved around 160 teacher trainers from around Uzbekistan. The trainers have now been cascading the course to about 26,000 school teachers. The training was supported by the British Council and included the Primary Essentials course, sessions on CPDF and the LearnEnglish Kids website.

At the meeting with the British Council Uzbekistan country director, minister of public education Inoyatov Ulugbek thanked the Council for its contribution to the implementation of the presidential decree and emphasised that the Council has been the core partner for the ministry in its realisation.