Региональный cоциально-инновационный университет, Шымкент, Казахстан,
ONLINE TEACHING OF FOREIGN LANGUAGES (ENGLISH) AS AN EFFECTIVE WAY OF SOLVING THE PROBLEM OF TEACHING STAFF SHORTAGE AT SCHOOLS IN REMOTE AREAS
Today schools in towns and remote villages in Kazakhstan suffer from the shortage of teaching staff. As a result of it many schools have been closed, students are sent to nearby villages and have to live far from their families in specially organized boarding schools. A good solution for this problem is online or distance education. It is not a new way of both learning and teaching today. It is convenient, rather cheap and it is a good alternative to traditional way of teaching. The problems which may arise in the process of implementing it are the lack of readiness and qualified skills of teachers themselves to teach online. This article is an attempt to draw the attention to the problem of closure of schools in remote areas and a provision of online teaching of foreign languages (English), as one of the effective ways and solutions for solving this problem.
Key words: online language teaching, computer assisted language learning (CALL), mobile assisted language learning (MALL), TESOL
In 2007, in his speech «New Kazakhstan in the New World», N.A. Nazarbayev suggested the project of introducing and teaching students at schools in three languages in Kazakhstan, explaining this by the fact that our country is entering the world level, where the English language has a primary role — to become a tool for successful integration into the world economy. It is easy to say, than to implement in practice. After this speech a decade has passed, much has been done and implemented, something still needs to be done. Grants and scholarships are awarded annually for school leavers who will enter pedagogical faculties. But the problem of the shortage of teaching staff, fluent in English still exists and remains the main headache for the Ministry of Education. The problem of the shortage of English teachers is more painful in the countryside. Graduates of pedagogical faculties, especially philological faculties do not want to go exactly to the places where they are most needed in- villages and remote areas. They prefer the work of a foreign language teacher to a more prestigious one- a translator or an interpreter in a foreign company with a high salary. However, this problem exists not only in our country, according to the media, the problem of the lack of pedagogical staff remains extremely acute throughout all the post-Soviet countries. Unwillingness to work in the countryside can be explained by the following factors:
— Not prestigious work
— Living in the countryside
— Work with children
— And many others
The government of Kazakhstan is trying to do its best. The salaries of teachers have been increased, teachers who come to work in rural areas are offered a housing, or as an alternative way, some loans at low interest are provided to buy a house, some people call them “a little start-up money”. All this can be called in different words. But the situation has not changed much. There is no much interest in working in the villages among the graduates of universities, but as a result of it children suffer.
Being born in the North- Kazakhstan region and studied at Kokshetau state University after Sh.Ualikhanov, I was invited to participate and make a speech in the first scientific conference which took place in my former school in Kishkenekol town in spring, 2018. It was a chance to meet with the wonderful teachers who worked and taught at schools in the villages and who were concerned with the fact that their schools would be closed only because there were no teachers or there was a small number of students at school. In some villages schools had been closed by that time when the conference took place. Children from nearby villages were to leave their families and lived together in one school (it is a kind of boarding school). The teaching staff of such kind of boarding schools (especially teachers of foreign languages) came from Kiskenekol centre and stayed with the children at school for two days and ran the classes. It is explained by high expenses on transportation. It is costly for teachers to go there every day as a special transport is not provided. The situation is terrible from the psychological and educational points of view. Who wants to be separated with the family? Nobody, neither a parent nor a child. Who can imagine what a small child may feel at the idea to live the whole year without his or her parents. Who asked those children what they feel when they live in these schools all year round? Whether they like such way of studying or not? In such cases the government only tries to provide basic education. What about the emotional side of upbringing of our future generation? Who cares about this? I am not a psychologist, but I am a mother at first and a teacher with 20 years of experience and I understand some measures or alternative solutions should be offered and implemented.
Living for about 20 years in the city and teaching at the university I have never thought about the problems of schools of the remote areas. We live in the 21th century, we see technologies around us. But we cannot provide a proper, basic education for our children who live in far and remote villages. Such children can be called vulnerable, for certain. To me today we should not close the schools, we should open them. At that conference I made a speech on innovations and as a kind of help I offered to run English classes online for children on voluntary basis. That trip changed me and my approach to teaching. I am a second year Master degree student now and when the time came to choose the theme and to write a thesis I did not hesitate. I knew it would be the work on online teaching as a way of stopping closure of schools in remote areas to provide education to children in remote areas.
Experience of other countries
To my mind there is no need to close the school in remote areas only because there are no teachers to teach. The solution of the problem for the government is quite simple. The problem may be solved by online teaching. If we have qualified teachers to teach online, the school may need to have an instructor or a coordinator who controls the proper work of equipment used by students, and a teacher who may be in any part of the world but who has an access to the Internet. The solution is in the use and introduction of online language teaching by implementing the Internet technologies, computer assisted language learning (CALL), mobile assisted language learning (MALL) and also application of many other advanced technologies and knowledge into practice.
The technology of teaching online today is not new in the world. In Australia they are called «Air Schools». A child may live in a remote farm with his or her family and study online. There is no need to hurt a child psychologically by sending him or her to a boarding school. He is taught online in air school. By the end of the term a teacher comes to the farm and takes an exam, which is run face-to-face.
In England the Professor of New Castle University, Sugata Mitra is working on the project «School in Clouds». According to the project, children are educated by themselves, without teachers, and they use a computer with an access to the Internet. The scientist and educator, Sugata Mitra is sure if a child is given a computer, in 30 minutes he will know all about the theory of relativity by himself. The school in the clouds today has many supporters, but it also provokes heated debate in the scientific community. Some believe that the machine is not capable of being replaced by the teacher, while others like Arthur Charles Clarke, a professor from Colombo considers if a teacher can be replaced by a machine, he must be replaced by it.
Implementation of technologies and online language teaching
Before speaking about the online language teaching at schools in remote areas, certainly, we should look at the readiness and preparedness of teaching staff in our country to teach online foreign languages. It is clear that for online language teaching, a teacher should at first have not only the specially acquired skills for online language teaching, but basic skills and knowledge to apply and use technologies for teaching languages online. In this case it is better to draw our attention to an issue which covers the implementation of technologies at school. According to Fullan “implementation is a process of altering existing practice in order to achieve more effectively certain desired learning outcomes”[1, 2505]. Today most schools in our country are equipped with technological devices. We have flipped classes, smart classes, classes with the access to the Internet. However, in some cases we do not have enough qualified teaching staff to run classes using and applying technologies. Thus, hardly could we speak about the effective achievement of certain desired outcomes. Teachers with many years of experience have knowledge in methods of teaching foreign languages, but they may have problems with the introduction of technologies. Gross et al in 1971 was one of the first who started to speak about the implementation of innovations at schools. In his experiment he gave five reasons of the teachers’ failure to implement the innovation six months after its announcement. They are “1) the teachers’ lack of clarity about the innovation, 2) their lack of the skills needed for implementation, 3) the unavailability of required instructional materials, 4) the incompatibility of organizational arrangements, 5) lack of staff motivation “ [2, 42]. Looking back at the failure of the teachers at Cambire Elementary school we should keep in mind these five reasons and succeed in our goal. It shows that support in the form of help with curriculum documents, instructional materials on provision of innovative technologies, and trainings on designing and delivering such kind of lessons with implementation of innovative technologies and even some trial online classes with the participation of teachers themselves as students, should be provided by the Ministry of Education of our country. We need to change our traditional approach in preparing teachers of foreign languages if we want to get highly trained teachers who are well qualified and skilled in order to teach in online environment and to meet the requirements digital world dictates us today.
Teachers today should not only be prepared to teach, but be ready to learn themselves. Online language teaching requires the new approaches in teaching methods, and teaching skills that are different from those our graduates of foreign languages departments have been taught before, according to Hampel and Stickler . It is clear that in order to be a good online teacher, a graduate of a foreign language department should not only be taught methods of teaching a foreign language but they also need to acquire skills how to teach using technologies online. We need to change the syllabuses and curriculum at the departments of TESOL as the graduates need to acquire additional skills — the technical and software-specific skills, which are different from those we teach our graduates today.
Skills needed for online language teaching
If we analyze and review the articles and works of foreign scientists on online language teaching, we see that many of them like Hubbard , Abras and Sunshine  also Jones and Youngs [6, 267] have already drawn the attention to that fact that “a lot of teachers today have little or no knowledge of application of technologies in language teaching and there is a lack of teacher preparation courses for digital or online language teaching”. There is a high demand on teachers with technology skills for language teaching which increases day by day, according to Kessler  and Hubbard . In accordance with the survey carried by Kessler , TESOL graduates themselves were dissatisfied with their knowledge of CALL. In their works Hubbard and Levy , also Kessler [7, 27) stated that “teacher preparation programms do not teach the graduates the skills and knowledge they need to enter today’s technologically advanced language classroom”. According to the survey of the graduates of such courses the teaching training courses are more centered on digital, technological, software skills, where the future teachers are taught how to deal with technologies rather how to apply and integrate these technologies for teaching foreign languages.
Davis and Rose suggested “it is a myth that those teachers who are good at teaching face to face class can easily teach in technologically equipped classrooms. According to their research, today’s teachers need to acquire totally new skills, like virtual management techniques, methods of engaging students through virtual communication and many others”. The lack of skills in teaching via audio conferencing can be also very challenging for online language teachers. The scientific world of TESOL has split into two oppositions, those who denied the need for total change in way of preparing teachers and those like Hubbord and Levy, Kessler who supported and promote the idea of preparing new generation of language teachers who are trained and skilled enough to prepare in online environment.
Today we can find the articles and works on CALL and MALL, but hardly we had found the works on pedagogy and methodology of preparing language teachers for online language teaching and the required skills for language teachers in online environment. Although today there are many publications about computer assisted language learning (CALL) and mobile assisted language learning (MALL) but there are no one accepted and adopted programmes how to prepare online teachers. Chapelle and Hegelheimer were among those who firstly made and attempt to distinquish and design the skills needed for online language teaching . Also Bennet and Marsh underlined the fact that online language teachers should distinguish themselves the differences and similarities between face-to face teaching and online language teaching, and outline “the strategies and techniques” for online teaching [11, 18]. Hampel and Stickler offered a pyramid of skills needed for online language teaching, ranging from one to seven according to their importance [3, 317].
Compton in her article criticized the skills pyramid offered by Hampel and Stickler . She “argues that some of these skills can be developed concurrently”[12, 80]. She stated that not all lessons require online socialization with other learners or tutors, thus turning the teacher’s attention to the “curriculum, tasks and the delivery method rather than the online community” [12, 81]. The author also noted the lack of other important skills and competences of online language learning, such as “application of language learning theories, online language assessment and task evaluation”. In her article Compton made an attempt to point out the weak sides of Hampel and Stickler’s mistakes in their offered skills pyramid and to present her own framework, built on synthesis of literature on CALL and teacher education. Compton, Hampel, Chapelle and others are one of those who contributed a lot in online language learning, whose industrious work is precious for the followers of online language teaching.
While working on my Master thesis a lot of books and articles have been read on online language teaching with the aim to get theoretical knowledge. A lot of letters have been written to the professors abroad who taught online to share with the practical results I got during my first attempts to teach online. I wrote to Sugata Mitra to join his project “Schools in Clouds”. I also got introduced with the professors from Sydney University who run projects in online teaching and who started to run the same case study in China (one of the PhD students started to teach English online to Chinese children being in Sydney). I know online language teaching at schools is a new area for investigation in our country. We need to read a lot, to practise a lot in order to achieve good and positive outcomes but I know for certain, to change something for the better, sometimes it is good to stop and look around and see what have been done in this area by others and taking into account their failures and success proceed in your work.
This article is an attempt to show the real problems our society faces today. We have a problem of teaching staff shortage in remote areas and the other is the lack of properly educated and skilled teachers who will be able to teach online foreign languages at school. Before implementation of online language teaching, we should run special trainings for our teachers at schools, elaborate special curriculum and programs for online teaching, run classes for teachers on technical and software skills. A special qualification should be assigned for those who are able to teach online after passing special courses. We should prepare a totally new generation of teachers who would possess the skills of not just teaching in a well-stuffed and equipped with technologies classes, but teachers of a new format, who will be able to teach in digital, online environment. In this case it is better to implement into practice the results of our western colleagues who have gone far in the area of online language teaching. Teachers and scientists today should draw their attention to a new way of teaching in our country-online language teaching at schools. For achieving this we should look at the written works on skills and qualifications needed for online language teachers, stated and presented in already published works and researches. For the start, we need to run a pilot project with children in remote area and it should be a long term project, lasting up to 4-5 years. The results of progress or failure should be compared with the results of those students who would be taught face-to face. In the case of successful and positive results of such “trial students”, I believe we succeed in main-educating children. We will manage to keep their psyche healthy and leave them sweet memories about their school years.
List of references
1 Fullan, M.(1985) Curriculum implementation, in T.Husen & N. Postleiwaithe (Eds) The International Encyclopaedia, pp.2505-2517. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
2 Gross, N., Giacquinta, J. &Bernstein, M. (1971) Implementing Organizational Innovations: a sociological analysis of planned educational change. New York: Basic Books.
3 Hampel, R., & Stickler, U.(2005) New skills for new classrooms: Training tutors to teach langiages online.Computer Assisted Language Learning, 18(4),311-326.
4 Hubbard, P. (2008).CALL and the future of language teacher education. CALICO Journal, 25(2),175-188.
5 Abras, C.N., & Sunshine, P.M. (2008).Implementing distance learning: Theories, tools, continuing teacher education, and the changing distance-learning environment. Texas: Computer Assissted Language Instruction Consortium (CALICO), (Vol.7, pp.175-201).
6 Jones, C.M. & Youngs, B.L. (2006). Teacher preparation for online language instruction. In
P. Hubbard & M. Levy (Eds), Teacher Education in CALL (pp.267-282). Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company
7 Kessler, G.(2006) Assessing CALL teacher training: What are we doing and what we could do better? In Hubbard & M. Levy (Eds), Teacher Education in CALL (pp.23-44). Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company
8 Hubbard, P & M. Levy (2006), Teacher Education in CALL (pp,ix-xi). Philadelphia: John
Benjamins Publishing Company
9 Davis, D.,& Rose, R. (2007) Professional developments of virtual schooling and online learning. Retrieved February 26 2008
10 Chapelle, C.A., & Hegelheimer, V. (2004) the language teacher in the 21st century. In
S.Fotos & C.M. Browne (Eds)., New perspectives on CALL for second language classroom. (pp.299-
316), Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
11 Bennett, S., & Marsh, D. (2006) Are we expecting online tutors to run before they can walk? Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 29(1), 14-20
12 Compton Lily K.L. (2009). Preparing language teachers to teach online: a look at skills, roles and responsibilities. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 22(1), 73-99
Online teaching of foreign languages (English) as an effective way of solving the problem of teaching staff shortage at schools in remote areas
This article is devoted to the problems of teaching staff shortage (English) at schools in remote areas. For the author, the solution of this problem seems to be in online language teaching (English). The author applies to the requirements and skills need for successful online language teaching stated in the works of the scientists from other countries and some recommendations and ideas on gradual implementation of online language teaching at schools are provided.
Онлайн обучение иностранным языкам (английский) как эффективный способ решения проблемы нехватки учителей в школах в отдаленных районах
Статья посвящена проблемам нехватки учителей (английского языка)в школах в отдаленных районах. Решение данной проблемы автор видит в применении онлайн обучения. Автор приводит требования и навыки, необходимые учителям для успешного обучения онлайн, приведенные в работах ученых из других стран, и дает рекомендации и идеи по постепенному применению онлайн обучения в школах.