The English Language Teacher Development Project (ELTDP) was a major contract with the Malaysian government which took place 2011 to 2016.
The project formed part of the Malaysian Ministry of Education’s efforts to professionally up-skill English Language teachers in the context of the implementation of a new English curriculum which stressed communicative approaches, going back to basics in terms of using phonics in the classroom and making learning fun.
Why British Council?
The British Council has a long history of working with the Malaysian Government, and brought over 60 years of experience delivering excellence and leadership in the field of English language teaching worldwide to working with Malaysian primary teachers.
The project, which ran for six years, saw 120 highly qualified British Council mentors posted all across the East Malaysian states of Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan. Some mentors were posted in the main cities and towns but many were posted in much more remote areas and accessed schools by boat or four-wheel-drive vehicle.
The mentors each worked in a “sub-cluster” of five schools, with a minimum of ten teachers across the five schools. In addition to the 1,200 ‘core’ teachers on the project, mentors also worked with almost 2,000 additional teachers in various capacities to inculcate a culture of professional development at the school level.
The project set out to provide 75 hours of professional input to each teacher each year, but, in 2012, for instance, actually delivered over 100,000 hours of professional input to teachers, over 10,000 hours over target.
The mentoring approach aimed to go beyond the straightforward training approach. One-to-one mentoring aims to help teachers explore and reflect on their own professional practice and develop new approaches for themselves in order to ensure lasting change. Teachers are not taken out of school for training; instead British Council mentors visited schools to find out about the context and local needs and to help teachers find their own solutions. The British Council’s approach to the project focussed in particular on supporting Malaysian teachers to develop their own reflective practice so that teachers were able to take ownership of their own professional development.”
Teachers were encouraged to become researchers in their own right, using tools such as reflective journals and learning portfolios, in-depth interviews, workshops and group discussions, storytelling/narratives, video observations, peer observations, drawings and diagrams. Through trying different approaches for themselves, teachers were able to find out what works best for them.
However, as teacher-development rarely happens in a vacuum, the project also worked with head teachers, district education officers and other Ministry officials to support whole-school and wider institutional change.
Mentors also supported teachers to work with local communities in kampungs (villages) and longhouses to find ways in which parents can support their children’s literacy.
Results and impact
External evaluation and the project’s own internal monitoring showed a real impact. Ratings of teachers on a teacher competency framework almost doubled over the duration of the project. In addition, measurement of teachers’ language proficiency using the Common European Framework showed that while most teachers were at the “independent’ level at the start of the project, the majority of ratings had shifted to the upper independent and proficient bands after a year on the project. Independent evaluation commented on the impressive changes brought about by the project.