|Dave in Thailand
the Cambodia TESOL (=CamTESOL) Conference, Feb 24-5 2007: "Internationalising ELT"
|TESOL means "Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages', more jargon, there's lots of it in the ESL (English as a Second Language) game. But I'm ok with it, people around the world sort of need to learn English these days, globalisation doesn't have to be bad, shouldn't be, really, and there are some positive things about it (although globalised capitalism is NOT one of them although this is currently the main thing you see - making the world safe for capitalistic exploitation and parasitism is not the same as making a good world for We the People, quite the reverse, I better not get started), and when you need to learn something teachers are often useful, and I try to do that - it's a job, and we all need jobs, and this one here in Thailand gives me enough free time to work on things that are important to me, which many if not most jobs in Canada would not. I'm not entirely happy with it all, as I am forced to work within a system with which I have quite a lot of disagreement about many things, but I've carved out a bit of a niche at the PSU Faculty of Medicine where I feel at least a bit useful so can live with it. And the job helps to cover the costs of going to one of these conferences each year, which I find interesting for various reasons, so this year I chose one in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to see what they were doing in a country other than Thailand about the teaching-learning of English. It was a good experience.|
|Arriving at the conference ..... about 0800 Saturday for registration etc, gathering evidence for those who vet the expense claims at the Faculty ....|
|- the main venue - on the right is the large central meeting hall, and to the left is the longish Faculty of Science building, where most of the smaller sessions were held. No frills here, as you will see in some of the pics, the rooms are small and have no air conditioning - and that big conference hall could get very hot in the middle of the day with 800 people inside! (There were a lot of things like that, that indicated there were various money problems around, but nobody was worried about the small discomforts, just working to make things better - after the history of Cambodia the last 40 years or so, you have to admire a lot of things here (and don't just think Pol Pot, think the 5 years of devastating American bombing 1970-75 that gave Pol Pot the chance to come to power ..... if the Americans had not destroyed the country first - well - you won't read that in your average history book - lots of stuff to think about there - )|
|- - and the |
|The first Cambodian I met, after registering and going to the main meeting hall for the opening ceremonies, Mr. Meng Seng Heng - he's a teacher trainer, and was doing some sessions at the conference - and speaks excellent English, as did almost all of the Cambodian teachers.
|- the welcome from the Minister of Education (or a representative, not sure)|
|The conference was themed as "Internationalising ELT", recognizing the increasing importance of English as an international language, and also how different countries are dealing with this, and exploring ways of sharing good teaching practices to improve everyone's acquisition of the language. There were a number of sessions on developing teaching materials and programs, which is sort of my main interest at these things, although I try to attend a variety of sessions to see what else I can learn about anything.|
|- and here some pics from some of the sessions I attended. For the first session, actually the one I wanted to go to was cancelled because the speaker didn't show up, and I wound up here, at a talk by the coordinator of an English program in a small province in Taiwan, who is talking about the challenges of having a number of American volunteers spending some time in an out of the way place, and the successes and problems they had (quite interesting)|
|A Cambodian teacher-trainer talking about how to manage classrooms for effective language teaching in Cambodia - they face many of the same problems Thai teachers face, with too big class sizes, students of varying levels of interest and ability in the same class, a government imposed curriculum that is not suitable for many students, and so on. It was interesting to hear some of the teachers talk about how to work around government rules that caused problems, rather than obediently accept and try to adapt to impossible rules as seems to be the situation in Thailand.
|And after the hard work at the sessions, everybody was ready for coffee breaks and lunch, held in the large open area under the long building.
|And after lunch a couple of more sessions - this was an interesting piece of research by a Cambodian teacher, trying to get some insight into the problems Cambodian students have with articles - something I have often wondered how to teach better to the Thai students, as neither language has articles, and thus they are confusing to people who do not grow up using them -
|This was one of the most popular sessions, called 5 Steps 2 Teaching, by two entertaining and experienced teachers working in Cambodia. They have more at the website.|
|And that was the end of that day - they had a dinner for participants at a fancy hotel for $25US per person, but since I was actually two people I didn't want to spend that kind of money for dinner, so caught the tuk tuk back to our guest house - the tuk tuks were much more comfortable than similar vehicles in Thailand, more headroom and footroom, and the prices quite reasonable too, if you dickered a bit - and the drivers all spoke quite good English and were generally quite polite and drove relatively safely - very much unlike in all ways a certain country to the west.
|- our guest house, the place on the corner with the arrow pointing to our room, a very comfortable one in a guest house called The Hope and Anchor (highly recommended, comfortable room, hot water, good view from the balcony of the river and life on the road below). The Tonle Sap river is just behind and right of where the picture is taken from, and another couple of hundred yards downsteam is the junction of it and the Mekong and a third river called the Basaac. And the street is relatively quiet now, but most of the day it is just packed with motorcycles and other vehicles.
|- - and instead of the $50 spread at the fancy hotel, we had this small feast for $5 - a Thai restaurant just down from the guest house - Thai food better than Thailand, Ann was heard to say more than once. We ate there several times, actually.