The English Language Teacher Development Project (ELTDP) works with around 2000 teachers across 600 schools in East Malaysia – the Malaysian part of Borneo. 120 British Council mentors live and work in locations across the Malaysian states of Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan. Some are posted in towns and cities but many are posted in very remote locations indeed and must travel to school by boat or four-wheel-drive vehicle.
The project is part of the Malaysian government’s efforts to up-skill primary English teachers, particularly in the context of a new English curriculum which stresses communicative approaches and making learning fun.
Teacher development takes place through a mentoring approach which aims to go beyond the traditional training approach. One-to-one mentoring aims to help teachers explore and reflect on their own professional practice and develop new approaches for themselves. Teachers are not taken out of school for training; instead the British Council mentors visit schools to find out about the context and local needs and to help teachers find their own solutions. In this way the project aims to support Malaysian teachers to develop their own reflective practice and take ownership of their own professional development.”
The project has also worked with head-teachers and education officers to support wider institutional change and mentors have supported teachers to work with local communities in kampong villages and longhouses to involve parents in their children’s education.
Independent evaluation of the project has commented on the impressive range of positive changes brought about by the project and the projects own monitoring has found large improvements in teaching competency and levels of English amongst the teachers that have been involved with the project.
More recently, teachers have demonstrated their newfound confidence and learning through presenting at a range of symposiums across East Malaysia. The largest of these took place in Kuching and involved over 200 local teachers, head teachers and education officials celebrating the project’s achievements while exploring the reflection and professional enquiry that the project mentoring had supported teachers to engage in. Local teachers themselves facilitated a range of workshops on subjects ranging from classroom management, differentiation, inclusion and the use of puppets in the classroom.
In addition to the core work of teacher development, the project has also supported a literacy pilot project, the “Power of Reading”, which has involved the introduction of over 30,000 high quality English Language picture books in English in 40 schools. Early indications are that this sub-project is having a powerful impact on children’s literacy.