34 comments on “Something different in Dhaka

  1. Thanks for this post, Jeremy. I recently blogged about attempts made in Ethiopia at using technology to help the teaching of large classes – specifically ‘plasma teaching’ (http://tinyurl.com/6ag7hg2)and though on paper the thinking behind this (at least in the short term) is sound and is even an admirable (if ambitious) attempt to solving an educational problem, it seems to not be working very well in practice.

    I am very interested in finding out more about the solutions that educators and government come up with in such situations, where there seems to be such a conflict of different interests, that just deciding on a direction is fraught with problems. I’m sure that initiatives such as the one you describe here does help, though, and it’s working through the problems slowly and engaging people in dialogue that will help move things forward. I look forward to hearing what other people have to say about this – some more information would be good too. For example, did the people at the conference share their presentations? s there a website I can go to to find out more? Thanks.

    • Hi Graham,

      thanks so much for this – your reply. I enjoyed reading your ‘plasma teaching’ blog a lot, and I think we are in broad agreement here. It MAY be the case that delivering content through plasma screens, mobile phones etc is a good diea, but on the other hand, in the end it’s about people and face to face development and all that old-fashioned stuff.


      And is, say, geography or maths different (in this case) from language learning?

      Lots to think about!


  2. Great to hear about this conference, and that you had a fantastic time. Very interesting points about linguistic imperialism. I’ve been aware of this for many years when I studied it for my diploma. A loose connection, I also remember my helpless rage at school in a geography lesson when we learned about the destruction of the rainforest and how there seemed absolutely nothing I could do about it.

    • Hi David,

      thanks for your comments.

      yes, it’s easy to feel rage isn’t it. Though as I suggested the linguistic imperialism issue is not as clear cut as we first thought, perhaps….


  3. Hi Jeremy, nice blog piece. Thanks for this additional publicity :).

    Hope to see soon in the future.


    • Hi Arshia,

      thanks for leaving a comment. As you must realise, I thoroughly enjoyed BELTA, and congratulations for your part in it.

      Mostly, for me, I enjoyed being challenged in the ways I have suggested – I mean new topics etc!


  4. Thanks so much for this post Jeremy. It has encouraged people at EIA enormously and I’m sure will do the same to all involved with BELTA. Frankly the questions you raise are more than appropriate, in particular questions 6 and 7.

    • Hi John,

      I am so pleased that you ‘enjoyed’ the post. Yes, questions 6 & 7 are the ‘big’ ones and of courser I do not profess to have (or understand) the answer. But at least BELTA got me thinkng….


  5. Nice post…Thanks for sharing…BELTA really exists???? I’ve never heard anything about it before except a dead website. Anyway, congrats to BELTA and English in Action for doing a great a job.

    • Hi Akther,

      yes, BELTA definitely exists (as my post recounts). I believe (but do now know) it nearly disappeared a few years ago, but it’s back and very healthy!


  6. Hello Jeremy
    It’s nice to read your experience of BELTA conference. I appreciate you raised the issue of failing CLT in Bangladesh. I have been working in ELT field of Bangladesh for more than fifty years. My experience says very few teachers understand and practice CLT. Many think that CLT is only based on informal oral communication. At the beginning of my teaching career CLT was introduced in Bangladesh. When I first got training on CLT from another project like English in Action then I started practicing it. My belief is only practice can ensure understanding of CLT.
    In policy level there is hardly any practitioner. Not involving practitioners in policy making might be one of the reasons of failing CLT. I think through BELTA conference awareness has been created to give rebirth CLT in Bangladesh.
    Best regards

    • Hi Masuda,

      you’ve hit the nail on the head there for sure.

      When educational decisions are taking practitioners HAVE TO BE INVOLVED! You will never be able to impose a new curriculum or teaching approach etc without the willing participation of people at the bottom and the middle – as well as at the top!!


  7. Going through your blog piece just feeling that you have picked up some real fact with what we are struggling. Specially question 1 and 2. I’m working in English in Action,Bangladesh and fortunately I got opportunity to work with a number of primary and secondary school’s English teachers in Bangladesh. For several times I had to face this question ‘how to manage a classroom with 150 students even sometimes more than that?’ And even in some cases I could found their difficulty to do any games or other interactive activities with the students where a teacher can hardly move for tiny space. Though it’s true Teachers are trying a lot but you know with this number of students they have to take at least 6 to 7 classes in each day. So it’s really a challenge to establish classroom routines there. Anyway I’m very new in this field and don’t have that much experience. I look forward to learn and share.
    Finally thanks a lot for your inspiring post as it has moved my mind to think with this practical problems.

    • Hello Alnoor,

      thanks so much for coming along to the blog.

      The ‘large classes in difficult conditions’ scenario is OF COURSE a major issue that has to be tackled. And it is there that I would love to see/hear of real (and realistic) efforts being made in thinking about exactly what works in such circumstances and what doesn’t.

      Ideally, of course, it would be great to improve the conditions in which English is taught. But if that is not possible, let’s put our heads together and come up with really effective ways of of ‘doing the best we can in difficult circumstances’.

      How does that sound!!

      Good luck in your work with EIA.


  8. Hi Jeremy,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences at BELTA.I think that many of the points discussed during the conference and raised by yourself in the blog post would resonate deeply here in Brazil with many of our state school teachers, especially questions 1, 2 and 7.

    For the past year I’ve been deeply involved in the development of training programmes for state school teachers in Rio de Janeiro, for teachers who are working with 6 year-olds for the first time with the focus on encouraging oral interaction and communication in the long-run, going up to the end of Primary education (this is a huge paradigm shift from our traditional more ESP approach based on developing reading skills).

    The question I have continuously asked myself, and so have my fellow trainers and many teachers, is what is CLT for large groups? I’m not sure it really does exist at all (me being very skeptical here)…what is being done is some hybrid synthesis of approaches…which first and foremost has to take into account that the teaching is taking place in a school environment and not a language course environment. This is a significant difference!

    The challenges state school teachers face are tremendous and I consider these unsung “heroes” and “heroines” key contributors to the discussions many of us are engaging in. These are the teachers who will probably find it quite difficult to participate in conferences and congresses, due to time constraints, due to distances, due to lack of funding to attend paid-for events (even the Teaching Association conferences may be prohibitively expensive.)

    During IATEFL many of us from around the world discussed many of the related issues mentioned in your blog post. I think Alnoor (the teacher who posted above) might enjoy looking at this:http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2011/sessions/2011-04-16/investigating-large-classes-are-we-making-progress-panel-discussion

    Again, thanks for bringing this topic up and sharing with us some aspects discussed at BELTA. Wouldn´t have known about it at all hadn´t it been for your post.


    • Valeria,

      I am extremely concerned that I never (appear to have) replied to this. Rude. Sorry.

      But you raise the issues perfectly. It’s a question of trying to trim our own sails to the needs of the teachers we are working with. Hybrid if you like, but no less appropriate for that.

      But in the end it’s the quality of training and teacher development that matters if anything good is to happen.


  9. Hello Jeremy,
    First of all, I want to thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience on teaching English.
    After reading some chapters from The Practice of English Language Teaching and How to Teach English books, I would like to ask, in your opinion: What is a teacher?

    • Hi Yesika,

      there are as many types of teacher as there are people! But all of them (if they are in any good) share one thing: a desire to help students achieve what they are capable of!


  10. Hi Jeremy, How’re things there?

    Well, my name is Alexandre and I’m a novice teacher. I’ve been teaching English in Brazil for 2 years and I was introduced to CLT last year. I found your book really interesting “How to teach English” and I’ve been googling in order to find something related to CLT but It’s been quite tough. Would you mind helping me?
    COuld u advise me any good CLT reader or something related to it for me?



  11. Thank you for this informative post. As a spoiled English teacher in the United States, I’ve never had to consider some of these questions. The first question – “What is the correct approach and methodology when facing classes of 150 (and sometimes more) in unattractive physical conditions?” – floored me. As somebody who found teaching ESL in South Central Los Angeles to 50 students overwhelming, I can’t imagine there could a “correct” approach. Isn’t this a pick your poison situation?

    • Eric, you commented on my blog more than a year ago. But for some reason I never saw it or anything. I am so sorry.
      Not so much choose your poison as, well there are situations like this and somehow we need to be able to help people deal with them. Or, maybe they have to teach is how they do it.

  12. I don’t know whether learning and teaching English will ever lead to socio-economic progress or whether teaching English only profits an elite but what I do know is that as teachers we should be humanitarian if we are to be called “good” teachers.Those institutions and schools who can help the poorer countries ,should do so.Maybe if we all help a little,poorer people will have the chance to have an education which is the best way to progress.Why don’t we let us give them education for free? Thousands of children and Adults all over the world need it I think education is the way to freedom and success.Freedom is important.Very important.Shouldn’t we worry about this rather than technology? I wonder.

    • Ana, you commented on my blog more than a year ago!! And I never replied. I am so sorry.
      I completely agree that beyond English or language or technology, teaching is about helping people to grow. A good teacher can do his or her stuff with a stick in the desert…

  13. Hello Mr. Jeremy! I heard about you during the 5th BELTA conference which held in Dhaka in 2011. It was Mr. Osman Ghani Azam Khan, a great fan of yours, and a very dear college of mine, who told me all about you. I also had the chance of attending the conference but missed it for some unavoidable circumstances. However, I have just gone through your experience here in Dhaka and have been tempted to be inroduced with you. I would not like to comment on any of your comments today but in near future I would like to. To conclude, I must not forget to thank you for inviting your readers to visit Bangladesh (perhaps, one day we will

  14. Keep up the good work Jeremy. You inject a good deal of objectivity and thought into the discussion/debate. I will comment in more depth later – heheeh but just what we need hey more bloody theories on language teaching. An ecclectic approach is best, and new ideas are welcome – however we need to leave egos at home, and seperate vested interests from genuine concern for language teaching and learning. Look (heheeh) i got this great idea, its to make ELF that is right a lingua franca called English, that can allow Non native and native speakers to communicate. Now it will mean forgetting ones first language if it is English, but if you are all patient i have noticed these second language learners are some things in common. What i want to do is take those and present them as the new paradigm of English teaching and learning. What do u think? I mean, some of these speakers mark tenses and some don’t i am not sure why, and my model is a work in progress, but i have noticed – wait for it – there is variation among second language learners. In the mean time keep learning the native speaker subtrates and I will call u when I have put together this new paradigm, it is going to be exciting.
    On your first point just point out to the 150 students that we have got it all wrong, that we are going to allow them to tell us how to speak English, and it is no longer in their interest to have native speakers (albeit most of us) from varying backgrounds, to teach them. So yes, use a lingua franca, but only when we work out what that variety will be. Because, we have just discovered that what we are teaching is not real English. So carry on chaps, ignore what we said earlier.
    Yes, there are English institutions who are poisoning the waters of those who wish to teach and learn English and do so with a genuine desire to make a difference without hubris. We need to take a big breathe and have standards that reflect all cultures. Whilst we do not want grammar nazis dominating and stifling variability among speakers of English, we do require some norms with the coveat that those norms can be localised or changed to suit various cultural norms.
    We are on a global scale now having to deal with the varability in the same way Bahasa Indonesia, or Korean, or Pinyin sought to create a homogenous standard. But I can not realistically see that changing the standard is a step forward – it seems counter intuitive and regressive and once again seeks to compartmentalise variability. To say, okay here is this variation, we should build on this because it seems there are some patterns emerging, among eighty percent of English speakers. Of course there is variation, variation does not mean 400 milliion English speakers now need to ‘relearn their language’ are they not also entitled to their varieity.
    Make no mistake linguists in some quarters are arguing under the guise of sympathy with native English speakers, that only non-native speakers are able to effectively teach in countries, such as, Bangladesh – as soon as we put together this new model that is ELF – m’m and also that because Australia is multilingual and ‘most communication is between non english speakers with non english speakers we should look at adopting their interlanguage and that they are the new gate keepers of English.
    Never mind the clash of civilisations, this is the clash of English varieties and who is better placed to teach it.

    • Hi Perry.
      I am sorry it has taken me two months to answer your comments. I am very pleased to see you here on this page!
      I agree broadly with what you say, actually. It’s not who you are as a teacher, but how you do kit! And as for Englishes, well there’s nothing wrong with british English or Australian English as it happens, or any other ‘native speaker’ variety – if we could find out what that was- unless if is so localised that is not effective for international communication. I don’t believe (as a speaker of BrE) that I am in any way a gate keeper (that’s something for exam boards to worry about). But my variety works fine (in my experience) for international communication and I’d be happy to use it in a Bangladeshi situation, always provided I took away too many of the focused cultural stuff that happens on this small island!

  15. Dear Jeremy, sorry for the spelling mistake of ‘collegue’ which was composed as ‘college’- Shams

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