A world service in tune with a shift in need;Effective teaching and learning;Conference;Making the Connection;Preview

15th May 1998 at 01:00
Raymond Ross reports on how Moray House is tailoring its courses for its international students

The Scottish Centre for International Education at Moray House Institute in Edinburgh has long been prominent in training students from developing countries in education management and in other specialist areas.

Currently, it is a major provider of pre- and in-service training in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and in science and maths to students from Malaysia and Egypt.

Due to the present financial crisis in south-east Asia, however, and the strength of the pound, it is likely that the Malaysian programme will shortly be phased out as the students are financed by their own government.

The SCIE is also a noted pioneer in developing distance learning at MA level for TESOL teachers overseas. Now the main in-service provision for overseas students is the TESOL masters degree which attracts over 150 teachers from around the world, most of whom learn through distance education.

Many of these students are British teachers working abroad (as well as across Britain) and there are "hardly any from poor countries" according to Mike Wallace, director, international education and TESOL at Moray House.

Mr Wallace, who has been involved in international education for over 30 years, says: "One of the main changes in my professional lifetime is that our area of concern has gone further up the academic ladder.

"When I started we were training people at a fairly basic level and now it's mostly postgraduate. For a long time we taught subgraduate level, then first degree level, but that is coming to an end. Now it's MA and PhD students."

Mr Wallace explains the change: "The move from basic and degree to postgraduate in-service training reflects the post-colonial situation where developing countries now have an educational infrastructure of their own and are able to take care of their own basic tertiary education."

But it is also a reflection of the cuts introduced under the Thatcher administration when the emphasis was moved to "in-country activity" rather than relying on bringing students to Britain.

"The way the cuts were implemented quite suddenly in the Eighties was a shock to many institutions. We had to look for new markets. But the change itself was inevitable. In any 'aid' or 'development' work you are always working yourself out of a job," says Mr Wallace.

"But the shift in emphasis now means that going abroad for an education is simply part of an international brokerage. It's not a badge of underdevelopment any more.

"All of this will be accelerated with the Internet as people access more and more information from other countries. The globalisation of education is accelerating and the English language is central to that process."

One result is that more and more students will need to do their training while on the job.

"That is the future as we see it and it does make for more interesting 'active' research where teachers can carry out research into their own practice. Our next stage is to develop materials to be made available on the Internet," Mr Wallace says.

However, Moray House campus is not entirely bereft of students or teachers from abroad. All departments have some international students and exchange programmes with North American universities. These are mostly self-financing or funded by the European Union.

Last year the TESOL section of the department of arts and humanities also enrolled 66 Egyptian teachers of English on 12-week tailor-made in-service courses while the department of science, technology, maths and computing enrolled 64 Egyptian teachers of maths and 64 of science on similar courses. There is funding from the World Bank for the Egyptian programme.

With the collapse of communism Moray House is also involved in developing education programmes throughout the former Soviet bloc countries. An example is PRINCE (Pre-Service, In-Service and Continuing Education) for training teachers of English in Poland funded by the British Council. This has involved Polish teacher-trainers and academic staff attending in-service courses at Moray House.

"The result is that a large number of training institutions have been set up all over Poland to develop their training expertise. These institutions are linked to British universities and a lot of Government money has gone into it," says Mr Wallace.

Similar projects are being developed throughout Eastern Europe including Russia where Moray House is involved in a "teacher development through television project", producing video training materials to train Russian teachers of English. In Tajikistan the institute is helping to set up university level studies in remote areas.

Last year two Vietnamese university teachers attended Moray House for a term (funded by the Overseas Development Agency) as part of the institute's masters degree development project in Vietnam.

Mike Wallace says: "We are also involved in joint research development projects with overseas universities in, for example, Malaysia, including research into distance learning itself.

"In marketing terms, the SCIE is part of our overall professional development centre which markets all our programmes. The future of in-service training for overseas-based teachers is inextricably linked to distance learning programmes, notably the TESOL masters degree."

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