Teaching English language for sustainable development: curriculum review and teacher’s professional development

Abstract. This article is devoted to the implementation of The Sustainable Development Goals in Kazakhstan, namely the 4th goal which deals with Education. The purpose of the 4th goal is to improve the quality of education and advance lifelong learning. As the improvement of English language competence is considered to be the Kazakhstan’s priorities, it has a special status in Kazakhstan’s education. One of the ways to reach this is seen in curriculum review and teacher’s professional development. While developing programs in the language subjects special attention must be paid to their practical applicability. As for teacher’s professional development, quality of education and lifelong learning directly depend on the teacher’s skills and knowledge. 

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is the new policy that consists of 17 goals covering a broad range of human activities from environment protection to unemployment. Education is not an exception and it comprises the 4th goal. The SDG is called to transform the world we live in and the successor of the Millennium Development Goals. Kazakhstan as the country with high social awareness also adopted both policies and implements them into practice.

The SDG Goal 4 runs that governments should “ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning” [1]. Education is the foundation of the development and quality education promotes quality sustainable development and contributes to the improvement of people’s lives. Goal 4 implies that all people must get equal access to all cycles of education (primary, secondary, higher, tertiary) despite their gender, social status, nationality, disabilities. One of the main targets says that by 2030 the number of young people and adults possessing “relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship” should increase. It is true that quality education is possible only if people possess skills that can be and need to be applied in practice and that lead to productivity.

Kazakhstan as a young and ambitious country has set a goal to be in the top 50 most developed countries in the world. Thus, Kazakhstan’s president in his annual address to the people of Kazakhstan says that our main aim is the prosperity of the country. “Kazakhstan – 2050” Strategy states that main areas of country’s prosperity are national economy, domestic and foreign policy, democracy, education. In education area the main priority is “knowledge and professional skills as key landmarks of the contemporary education system, employees’ training and re-training” [2]. So, nowadays education in Kazakhstan undergoes some reforms, which touch content of secondary and higher education and language of instruction. In order to “raise the competitiveness of education, develop human resource providing access to quality education for sustainable development”, which is the main goal of State Program for Education Development in the Republic of Kazakhstan, government introduces the changes in education from the primary school and continues them at university level [3]. The character of subjects are planned to be more integrated, technologically and scientifically oriented.

Significant attention is given to the proliferation of English language as

the world lingua franca.

English language and Sustainable Development in Kazakhstan.

What is sustainable development? The concept is not so new as it seems. The definition to sustainable development was given in “Our Common Future” report by the Bruntland Commission in 1987 and sustainable development was defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” [4, p. 43]. Sustainable Development paradigm implies three major aspects that further define sustainable development goals. These aspects are economic, environmental and social. Social sustainable development aspect in its turn is the development of equity of any kind, “political accountability and participation” and “adequate social services including health and education” [5].

Provision of sustainable development in education sphere is impossible without knowledge of English language due to its global status.

Kazakhstan puts a special role to English as the global language. In his book “English as a global language” David Crystal writes that one of two traits that characterize global language is that “…. a language can be made a priority in a country’s foreign-language teaching, even though this language has no official status” [6, p.4]. The same happens in Kazakhstan as English language competence is alleged as one of the integrated components of quality education. All aspiring people learn English because it gives access to up-to-date information, lets them keep up with the latest trends in this or that sphere and, what is more important, English language opens doors of the world job market, makes them competitive employees.

One of the most important and controversial trends in education that causes heat debates is multilingual education. By 2020 government predicts to increase the number of people speaking in three languages (Kazakh, Russian and English) to 15% and number of people speaking English language will rise to 20% [7]. Now English language is already taught in kindergartens, it is continued to be taught throughout 11 years at school. English is an obligatory discipline for all programs at university (see Table 1) and some specialties for which English language competence is important such as Tourism, International Law, International Relations and others continue to learn it as optional discipline.

Table 1 English language discipline workload (obligatory disciplines)

Name of level

Name of discipline

No. of KZ

credits

No. of ECTS

credits

No. of year

undergraduates

English language

6

10

1

undergraduates

English for

Specific Purposes

2

4

2/3

postgraduates

English for

Specific Purposes

2

4

1

Another evidence of the importance of English language in Kazakhstan society is a great amount of language centers. Since 2005 Kazakhstan has been experiencing a sharp increase in private language centers that provide such services as language courses for adults, young learners and children, IELTS, TOEFL, A-level and other exams preparation necessary to study abroad or emigration. So, in Astana city there are about 80 language schools/centers, in Almaty – 88, Karagandy – 25, Pavlodar – 28, Shymkent 8, Atyrau 42, Ust-Kamenogorsk 20. These numbers, acquired with the help of 2GIS application and online manuals, show that Kazakhstan people understand the significance of English language for their future successful work and 

To support multilingual education reforms there is a plan to teach science subjects and computer science in English in senior classes at school. To be more competitive at educational market Kazakhstan universities introduce programs that include disciplines which are delivered in English (before English language education was available at Nazarbayev University, KIMEP, Kazakh-British Technical University), i.e. Kazakhstan higher educational institutions are getting ready to graduate multilingual specialists, but only in limited areas as still there is no enough staff with good English language knowledge.

Curriculum review: KAZGUU University experience.

Kazakh University for Humanities and Law or KAZGUU University is a leading university in Kazakhstan in the sphere of law and economics. The mission of KAZGUU is to serve people providing quality and affordable education. KAZGUU diploma is considered to be a sign of quality for potential employers. Such achievement is not easy to gain. It demands university to employ qualified instructors and keep academic programs upto-date.

Curriculum is a must-have component of any academic process. It reflects the direction of the academic programs. Dr. Mary Alvior (St. Theresa International College) defines curriculum development as “planned, purposeful, progressive, and systematic process in order to create positive improvements in the educational system” [8]. Curriculum must be developed to meet society’s needs taking into consideration its changes.

In 2016 at KAZGUU University there have been reviewed all bachelor academic programs on the applicability to modern requirements. One of new amendments that has been made is English language teaching trajectory designed for each major. In addition to 6 KZ credits in General English and 2 KZ credits in English for Specific purposes (ESP) there was introduced a new discipline “Academic English” in the first year of study. In Kazakhstan full-time bachelor degree programs last 4 years. Academic programs consist of obligatory and optional disciplines. Obligatory disciplines are assigned by state, i.e. they are present in all programs, and university itself. In all Kazakhstan universities obligatory state disciplines are delivered in different years of study. KAZGUU University has modified such approach and allocated all disciplines for the first year – foundation course.

In 2014 KAZGUU University successfully launched the first multilingual group for International Law major. This success determined to open multilingual groups for such majors as “Jurisprudence”, “Law enforcement bodies”, “Economics”, “Finance”, “Accounting and audit”. Moreover, the university is planning to open groups with English language of instruction for such majors as “Economics”, “Finance”, “Accounting and audit”. All these have made the university give more credits on English language improvement at the cost of optional disciplines. Thus, in their first year of study first-year students are to take at least 8 KZ credits in English language discipline (Table 2).

Table 2 English language disciplines workload

 

 

Name of the major

General English (1st term)

obligatory discipline

Academic English

(2d term)

optional discipline

No. of KZ

credits

No. of

ECTS

credits

No. of KZ

credits

No. of ECTS

credits

International law

6

10

4

7

Jurisprudence, Law enforcement bodies

6

10

3

6

Economics, Finance, Accounting and audit, Tourism

6

10

6

10

Another amendment concerning the English language is the entry test for “International Law”, “Tourism”, “Economics”, “Finance”, “Accounting and audit” majors. Now applicants must take English language entry test in the IELTS form. The minimum score to get is band 3.0 that corresponds to per-intermediate level. It is suggested (decision has not been taken yet) that along with assessment specified by the program students must take independent assessment after completion of each discipline.

Students of all majors also have to take entry test in English language in order to enroll in the groups in regard to the English language competence according to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). There were 82 students with IELTS certificate that comprises approximately 10% of the total amount of students (Table 3).

Table 3 Number of students with IELTS certificate

Overall band

Kazakh language of instruction

Russian language of instruction

7.0 – 8.0 / C1

3

5

5.5 – 6.5./ B2

18

43

4-5.0/ B1

3

10

New trajectory enabled to review existing programs “General English” and “English for Specific Purposes” in terms of goals, learning outcomes and skills. The main principle is consistency and continuity of the disciplines.

While designing the syllabi needs assessment was conducted. Within needs assessment stakeholders were asked what skills a contemporary specialist must have, what skills must be developed along with English languageliteracy. Thetopskillsthatneedtobedeveloped arecommunication, critical thinking, problem solving and team work. These skills and creative thinking with decision making and technological literacy are considered to be the 21st century skills. Ledward B. and Hirata D. wrote that such skills help to:

  1. access, synthesize, and communicate information;
  2. work collaboratively across differences to solve complex problems;
  3. create new knowledge through the innovative use of multiple technologies [9, p. 1].

Expectations from English Language Teachers.

Tony Wagner, an Expert at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab and a Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute, claims that “Even our “best” schools are failing to prepare students for 21st-century careers and citizenship” [10, p. 20]. In other words having graduated from this or that educational institution, graduates cannot apply their knowledge and skills in practice due to various reasons. One of the reasons is that academic staff is unaware of state-of-the art competencies and skills needed for the 21st century. As it was written above quality of education directly depends on the teacher’s skills and knowledge. Therefore, it is reasonable to highlight that teaching staff must always advance their professional competences.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development (UNECE) issued the brochure with some recommendations “Learning for the future: Competences in Education for Sustainable Development” that were adopted on April 7, 2011 at the sixth meeting of the UNECE.

Giving the recommendations for policymakers, they indicated 4 major fields in which the work must be done to reach sustainable development in education:

  • professional development in education;
  • governing and managing institutions;
  • curriculum development;
  • monitoring and assessment.

Concerning professional development they write “Particular attention should be paid to developing the Competences among educators who work in higher education. Institutions of higher education play a crucial role in preparing future leaders and specialists in a variety of fields, including education” [10].

There are a lot of publications on professional development of the EFL teachers. Some of them provide the ideal profile of the EFL teacher. For example, D. Cross’s set of competences are the following: general education, subject competence, professional competence and attitude.

General education is the qualification gained at the higher institution. Subject competence is that a competent teacher must be a professional at his/her content-area, i.e. English language teachers must have a good command of English language: grammar, vocabulary, phonetics etc. Professional competence refers to methodology field. An effective English language teacher is able to plan and deliver classes, search for well-fitted textbooks and supplementary materials, conduct assessment work and provide effective feedback. It implies that a teacher must be aware of both contemporary approaches to teaching English as the foreign language and applying technologies to achieve better results. As for attitude it is how a teacher treat his/her work and students [11, p. 41].

Here, below we want to present the framework of competences relevant to EFL teachers and provided by the British Council. In our opinion, this list of competences should be striven for while taking any courses for professional development. In order to reach the quality in the classroom EFL, and not only, teachers must get through 4 stages of development:

  • awareness – teachers know this professional practice:
  • understanding – teachers know what the professional practice is for and realize its importance;
  • engagement – use this professional practice in their classrooms;
  • integration – highly competent in using this professional practice.

The practices that teachers should work at correspond D. Cross’s professional competence. They are:

  • planning lessons and courses;
  • understanding learners;
  • managing the lesson;
  • knowing the subject;
  • managing resources;
  • assessing learners;
  • integrating ICT;
  • taking responsibility for professional development;
  • using inclusive practices;
  • using multilingual approaches;
  • promoting 21st century skills;
  • understanding educational policies and practice [12, p. 4-5].

In conclusion, it should be highlighted once again that successful implementation of sustainable goals is along with quality education and the improvement of English language competence. Moreover, in order to enhance the knowledge of English language policymakers should review curriculum and lead work towards professional development of skills applicable in the 21st century.

 

REFERENCES

  1. The SDG Goal. Access URL: http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/ education/. Accessed 7.2016.
  2. Strategy Kazakhstan – 2050. Access URL: http://www.consolatokazakhstan. venezia.it/ Poslanie-English.pdf. Accessed 7.2016.
  3. State Program for Education Development in the Republic of Kazakhstan. Access URL: www.akorda.kz/ Accessed 7.2016.
  4. United Nations General Report of the world commission on environment and development: Our common future. Oslo, Norway: United Nations General Assembly, Development and International Co-operation: Environment, 1987. P.43.
  5. Harris J.M. Basic Principles of Sustainable Development. Access URL: http:// www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/publications. Accessed 7.2016.
  6. Crystal D. English as a global language. Cambridge University Press, P. 229.
  7. Gosudarstvennaja programma razvitija obrazovanija Respubliki Almaty, 2010.
  8. Alvior M. The Meaning and Importance of Curriculum Access URL: https://www.linkedin.com/. Accessed 24.7.2016.
  9. Ledward B.C., Hirata D. An overview of 21st century skills. Summary of 21st century skills for students and teachers. Honolulu: Kamehameha Schools–Research & Evaluation, 2011. 113.
  10. Wagner Rigor Redefined. Educational Leadership, 2008, Volume 66, № 2, P.20-25.
  11. Cross D. Language Teacher Preparation in developing countries: structuring preservice teacher training programs. English Teaching Forum, 2003, № 4, 41 – 43.
  12. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Framework for teachers. , British Council, 2015. -P.20.
  13. Nabieva Zh. Innovaciyalyk tekhnologiyalardy kursanttarga nemis tilin okytu uderisinde paidalanu. Izvestiya KazUMOiMYA imeni Abylai khana. Seriya “Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya i Regionovedenie, 2014, № 1 (15), S. 115-120 [in ].
Year: 2016
City: Almaty