We’re All In This Together; IUGB hosts Conference on English Language Instruction in Côte d’Ivoire
IUGB, Ivoirian English teachers and the U.S. State Department all have a stake in improving English language teaching in Côte d’Ivoire. The ongoing business success of the nation’s young people depends on the ability of its young citizens to think, problem-solve and write and speak English fluently. Also, IUGB’s mission, as an American-style nonprofit, student-centered institution striving for international distinction, is to deliver an English-language higher education in fields critical to Côte d’Ivoire and Côte d’Ivoire’s and West Africa’s growth and development. For this reason, IUGB sponsored an English teaching conference with the theme “We’re All in This Together: Improving the Quality of English Teaching in Côte d’Ivoire.” The conference, held April 8, 2017 on the Grand Bassam campus, attracted roughly 70 participants from partner high schools, FPACI (a national English teachers’ association), representatives from the U.S. embassy, and IUGB faculty.
Morning workshops were led by IUGB faculty, FPACI regional presidents, and Ms. Jimalee Sowell, the U.S. State Department’s English Language Fellow in Côte d’Ivoire. The afternoon provided an opportunity for exchange through several plenary sessions. Mr. Eran Williams, the State Department’s Regional English Language Officer, spoke about the current state of English teaching in West Africa; while Ms. Katherine Diop and Ms. Angele Gnako from the U.S. embassy in Abidjan’s Cultural Affairs office presented exchange opportunities for teachers in the U.S. FPACI regional presidents reported on the opportunities and challenges in their districts. Large class sizes (up to 120) were a commonly-cited problem. Other problems include the need for teachers and students to fund extracurricular activities themselves and fewer opportunities for teachers to live in English-speaking countries (when elder IUGB faculty were younger, they received Ivoirian government funding to study in the U.K., but today’s teachers no longer have that opportunity).
Solutions discussed to the above problems were: to ask local businesses for sponsorship; use facilities and resources at embassy-sponsored American Corners when possible; invite IUGB recruiters to visit the school and take part in some English activities with the students and to apply to U.S. exchange programs, e.g. Teaching English and Achievement Program (TEA) and Fulbright. Mr. N’Dri suggested some strategies for managing large class sizes in his presentation, which could be summed up as using collaborative learning. Finally, several IUGB instructors who have authored commonly used textbooks (Go for English, English for Success, etc.) held a panel discussion.
We thank our friends from the U.S. Department of State, partner schools, and FPACI for their help in putting on a successful conference. We intend to cooperate with FPACI to organize more conferences like this one to provide much-needed professional development opportunities to Ivoirian English teachers.