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December 1997 - Issue No. #29 (p.16)

Appeals and Opinions:

Professeurs sans Frontieres

by Alan Maley

National University of Singapore

A number of educators have pointed to the need to bridge the gap between the "haves" and "have nots" in the English Language Teaching (ELT) profession. So much of what is debated in professional journals is based on sa Western, well-resourced paradigm, yet the majority of English teaching worldwide takes place in under-resourced environments, with untrained teachers - and little hope. Although organizations such as the UK group VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) go some way to meeting these needs, we could clearly do more.

Here is an idea I hope may open up a debate among ELT professionals. Would it be possible to set up the pedagogical equivalent of the French volunteer group "Medecins sans Frontieres" (Doctors without Borders) - a group called perhaps "Professeurs sans Frontieres" (Teachers without Borders)? This would be a group of ELT professionals who would become part of a register of those willing to provide their services free anywhere in the world for an agreed amount of time each year. Mrs. X, a 55-year old retired ELT teacher with 15 years overseas experience, might agree to pledge one month of free service per year. Mr. Y, a retired British Council officer with extensive experience of ELT development projects, might offer his services for two months a year. Mr. Z, a textbook writer who makes a good living from royalties, might offer a month a year.

  • There would need to be some form of central administration to set up a database and to vet volunteers and potential projects.

  • there would need to be funding to cover administration, travel and living expenses.

  • there would need to be extreme vigilance to prevent this being exploited by unscrupulous governments which might see this as a cheap alternative to existing schemes.

Are these problems beyond the wit of determined professionals to resolve? It's my impression there are a large number of professionals who would respond positively to such a scheme if it were well organized. I would welcome the reaction of GILE readers.

Alan Maley
Assumption University, Bangkok, THAILAND


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