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Latin America - Cuba
 

Country update for Cuba - Hornby Trust

December 2002

A. S. Hornby Educational Trust/The British Council Regional Schools in Latin America: a follow-up project

Introduction

This project was set up by two tutors involved in the first two A S Hornby Educational Trust Regional Schools in Latin America as an attempt to retrieve information about the activities developed by the participants after attending the courses. It also aimed at evaluating the exchanges taking place among the participants, both at local and international levels, as well as to evaluate the impact of their projects in their ELT communities.

Background

In August 2000 the first Latin American Regional School was held in Santa Lucia, Cuba. Forty-one participants from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba had the opportunity to exchange information on the EFL contexts in those countries. The group continued exchanging emails and those who did not have one, received copies of the emails by regular post. In January 2001 a letter they had written to themselves was forwarded to them with a request for information on what they had accomplished after attending the Regional School. A preliminary report was published in ELTeCS Info, July 2001 issue.

The second Regional School was also held in Cuba, this time in Cayo Coco, and the 45 participants from Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and Peru had the chance to write down individual plans of action as well as a letter to themselves. These rudimentary follow up activities have been carried out mainly because of the interest one of the tutors had in encouraging the group to report back their activities. However, it was felt that it would be fundamental to have a more systematic follow up in order to complement the objectives set up for the course.

The project received the support of ELTeCS and the institutions of affiliation of both researchers: Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educación, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile and Universidade Estadual de Londrina, Brazil.

Expected results

As indicated in the bid proposal, the outcomes expected from the project were:

1) A significant proportion of the participants contacted will respond to the proposed follow up

All the 96 participants were initially contacted by email or by regular post in January and February 2002, and a few were contacted by telephone. Cuban residents were more difficult to contact due to their lack of access to electronic and regular communication. A few respondents answered the questionnaire (Appendix A) and a second batch of emails and letters followed. This was done three times and repeated several times through email with those who had it. 22 questionnaires were received and 2 other participants kept regular contact through email, although they have not answered the questionnaire properly; 11 attended the Cayo Coco school and 11 went to Santa Lucia. The respondents are from Brazil, Cuba, Peru and Venezuela. Considering that the majority of the course participants were from Cuba and that email contact there is extremely difficult, this turnout can be considered satisfactory.

2) Impact of the activities/projects in their communities

  • Reproducing some of the workshops attended (pre and inservice)
  • Design of a foreign language teaching methodology course
  • Seminars and talks
  • Supervision of teachers
  • Counseling students and teachers
  • Postgraduate course in the department to share experiences
  • Monthly meetings with colleagues
  • Contacts with other participants
  • Paper on action research
  • Articles for teachers' newspapers
  • Teaching (undergraduate and postgraduate), distance education, research
  • Participation in conferences
  • Organization of conferences
  • More involvement with teachers' associations
  • Research

3) A significant proportion of the current activities developed by the participants will make reference to the Regional Schools

There was a unanimous reaction that the School was relevant to the respondents' lives. One participant was promoted and became more involved with teacher development at national level, giving him more "confidence and experience" mainly to adapt ideas to the local context. Many of the ideas developed during the course were put into practice and shared with others.

Mainly local cooperation was sought after the Regional Schools. There was exchange of materials between teachers from Venezuela and Cuba regarding topics included in the course. A project designed in Santa Lucia by Brazilian participants led to publications and joint research, in addition to conference presentations. Cuban teachers were able to get together again at a local conference - GELI. A teacher from Cuba gave a workshop to Brazilian teachers in Florianópolis.

In Cuba, teachers from the same institution attending different Regional Schools got together to prepare courses and exchange materials from the two courses.

Other projects did not succeed because of difficulties. An E-pal project for Brazilian and Cuban students could not be implemented because of the lack of Internet-connected computers in Cuba. There were attempts by two Brazilian teachers to offer a workshop together, but there were not enough participants and the course was cancelled. There were complaints that participants in the same country could not be in closer contact because of the distance.

Although most of the respondents indicated that they were able to somehow share what they learned with others, some were involved with projects which were only indirectly related to the Regional Schools, such as the writing of textbooks, research and dissertation writing, coordination of international affairs.

We were unable to trace stories of opting out of the profession. There is only one case of a teacher for whom the tourist industry was far more attractive than teaching.

4) Relevant topics for future inclusion in the Regional School programme will be suggested

There were references to the same themes presented in Cayo Coco and the suggestion that the Regional Schools should be targeted to specific teacher groups, such as primary school, secondary school, teachers of adults, teacher trainers. This means that there must be a clear profile of the participants and selection has to be based strictly on those criteria. Other topics were:

  • ESP
  • Pronunciation
  • Oral communication with scientific lexicon
  • Project work
  • Language development for teachers
  • Leading tasks
  • Psychology related issues in ELT
  • Research and development on ESL/EFL teaching
  • Motivation
  • Teachers' concern and involvement with the audience
  • Speech techniques
  • Classroom management
  • From teacher self-development to teacher education
  • Testing and evaluation
  • Latin American culture
  • Humanistic education
  • Identity and multiculturalism
  • How people learn a second language
  • Teaching using the project methodology
  • Collaborative teaching and learning
  • Autonomous learning
  • Encourage teachers to apply for higher teacher ranks or posts
  • Dealing with large classes
  • Language acquisition enhancement
  • Creativity
  • Skill integration
  • Research trends in diverse fields among the different countries
  • Teaching management

A wide range of subjects was presented. The need to have follow up activities was stressed by some of the participants.

5) Contributions on guidelines for future Regional Schools will be provided

The respondents identified a list of characteristics of good Regional Schools, the majority of them applicable to what they experienced:

  • To provide information
  • To give a chance for discussion and interaction among the participants
  • To have access to further information on the topics
  • To provide Internet access
  • Well organized
  • Wide range of topics
  • Based on reflection
  • Shared curriculum (but more information in advance)
  • Open space for reflection and interaction
  • Comfortable facilities
  • Hot weather
  • Well qualified tutors
  • Suitable content
  • Keep participants actively involved
  • Foster exchange of experiences
  • Flexible space
  • Promotion of social integration of all participants in a pleasant, friendly atmosphere
  • Provocative and instructive, leading participants to a fruitful self-analysis
  • Meet the needs of participants
  • Present and discuss new ideas, updated information
  • To have a follow-up stage
  • Content/tutors/tasks/place/feedback
  • Good physical and social atmosphere
  • Well defined criteria for the choice of the participants
  • Clear objectives for each lesson
  • Suitable teaching content
  • Based on previous needs analysis
  • Instructive, developmental, relevant and relaxing
  • Real communication among members of the organization
  • An open minded environment
  • A wide range of topics
  • Seriousness on the part of teachers
  • Dealing with updated information
  • Punctuality
  • Telling the truth about difficulties, if they happen

Future prospects

The group from both Regional Schools was constituted mainly of Cuban teachers, who work under limited conditions. Some of the difficulties presented by the respondents indicated that access to references (books, journals, photocopying, etc) and Internet are major constraints to exchanging information and developing joint projects. However, other participants who do have more resources were not able to develop those easily either. They complained about the lack of time to be in contact with other colleagues.

However, when asked about potential projects in Latin America, the following ideas were suggested:

  • Exercises based on multiple intelligences for secondary schools
  • Motivation - what teachers can do to maintain and increase motivation
  • Design of self-development materials for secondary school teachers
  • Cultural aspects
  • Language acquisition x teaching
  • Cooperation agreements, student exchange programs, joint academic projects
  • Strengthen Aplial
  • Teacher exchange program - 3 months
  • Curriculum design
  • Determining enabling skills in skills-based teaching
  • Tutoring and promoting teachers
  • Strengthening university-schools relationship
  • Project where aspects would be tailored to Latin American context: teaching Business English, international examinations, ELT teacher examinations, etc.
  • Teachers in Venezuela receive the same training she had in Cayo Coco.
  • Something related to ethics
  • English language and its influence in Peruvian culture
  • Video-conference or newspaper for teachers
  • E-pal project
  • Creativity
  • Language acquisition enhancement
  • Material development especially for state school teachers
  • Psychological factors involved in motivation
  • Group work and theories of learning to learn

APLIAL stands for Association of Latin American English language teachers. As a result of the school in Santa Lucia, an association of Latin American teachers was created - Aplial. Very few had seen the site and were not able to comment on the usefulness of this. Those who saw it informed that the readings (articles) were valuable. Apparently, though, Aplial is not known or easily available to the respondents.

Concluding remarks

This study has indicated that the Regional Schools have had some impact on the participants' professional lives. All the respondents reported having offered at least one workshop or published a paper.

Regarding cooperative projects, it is possible that joint initiatives are taken, mainly in terms of submitting bid proposals to ELTeCS. Some of the areas were identified: materials design for the Latin American context, exchange programs, videoconferencing workshops. Other suggested topics were directly related to the teacher's own research interests, which does not preclude the possibility of having joint research projects.

We hope that by making this report available to the participants this goal will be considered, and the potential partnerships established.

Telma Gimenez and Mary Jane Abrahams



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