KEY RESEACH INTO SUPPORTING EMPLOYABILITY IN THE ARAB WORLD RELEASED BY BRITISH COUNCIL
Cairo, Egypt, 28 January 2015 – The British Council, the UK’s international organisation for education, has announced plans to share two key pieces of research that can be used to support the development of targeted education for employability programmes in the MENA region.
News of the announcement came at the recent British Council’s Symposium for Employability, Skills and Opportunities for Young People in the Arab World in Cairo. British Council Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Adrian Chadwick said: “Employability of young people is one of the most significant social and economic challenges gripping the region. For the British Council we have been sharing the UK’s language, education and culture for nearly 80 years in this region. This announcement is a continuation of our commitment to creating educational opportunities for young people, and our desire to partner with governments, education institutions and business to support young people by giving them the skills they need to get the jobs they aspire to.”
The first piece of research released by the British Council, looks at the digital habits of teachers in MENA, with the other looking at the potential for online learning with evidence collated from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Morocco. The announcement comes following two days of specialist debate and ideas exchange at a Symposium in Cairo, in which policy makers, education specialists and business leaders participated.
At the Symposium, delegates identified that limited insight and research in core areas of skills training existed in the region; and that in order to create targeted programmes, better insight was needed. One are lacking in research was in English language proficiency and teacher capability. Acting on this the British Council announced its intention to share two pieces of relevant research.
The first piece of research released by the British Council is called the Digital Habits of Teachers in MENA and was conducted in 2014. It provides findings from interviews with1200 teachers of English in MENA, looking at their opinions on why English proficiency amongst young people is the lowest in the world.
Four key issues identified in this research were:
- That there was a tendency to place highly capability and well performing teachers of English in higher years groups, as opposed to earlier year groups. Thus disadvantaging younger learners of English.
- The research also identified serious staffing, capacity and training shortcomings of teachers, limiting their professional development as educators.
- Outdated English curriculums and teaching plans did not make use of international best practice, meaning that methods and approaches to teaching and learning were not producing students with the requisite levels of speaking, reading and writing of English.
- Lastly, the research showed that there was a greater emphasis placed final grades, meaning that long term outcomes were ignored, with teachers teaching to the test instead of giving students a solid grounding in English.
Commenting on the research into the Digital Habits of Teachers, Adrian Chadwick said: “Individuals, governments and business in the region recognise that English is a 21st Century skill and is important when creating job opportunities for young people. However this research points to the fact that teachers of English in the region need better training, greater impetus on teaching better English to younger students and that some English curriculums are not producing young people with suitable levels of English to get a job.”
The second piece of research looked at the use of digital when learning English, with evidence collected from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco. This piece of research conducted last year, showed that a large number of people would consider learning English online especially when offered with face to face sessions with a trained English teacher. This research suggests that adopting such an approach would be more affordable for the learner and reach more people due to it being online.
Acting on this initial research the British Council successfully piloted British Council Learn English online in Morocco and Tunisia in 2014. The pilot comprised 20,000 students and was run I partnership with three universities in Morocco and a blended learning model in Tunisia. Results showed that 70% of students improved their English levels as measured by European Common Framework of Reference for Languages after 4 Months of Study.
Commenting on the pilot programme that was prompted by this research, Adrian Chadwick said: “The research shows that learning online does have the potential to improve a person’s English proficiency, however it is really successful when blended with face to face teaching. The pass rates from this pilot programme support this thinking. The next step is to take what we have done in these two countries and expand across the region, and for this to happen we must do it in partnership.”
The British Council plans to make the research available to governments, education and civil society organisations, through direct requests to their Regional English team. Asked to comment on why the British Council has decided to release these specific pieces of research and at this time, Adrian Chadwick said: “One of the conclusions from the symposium was that more research is needed when it comes to the better learning and teaching of English. We believe it is important that this research is seen and acted on by relevant partners, so that long term, it leads to the better learning, teaching and assessment of English, and fundamentally, creates opportunities for young people.”