It’s been over three years since we started the CL in ELT project and in spite of many workshops, events and publications the idea of a critical approach to ELT education still hasn’t reached most of our colleagues and their students where it matters the most, the classroom.
Changes always take time to happen and perhaps changes in education take even longer because they cannot be imposed and have to happen at teachers and students´ own pace. What we can do is to try to bring you as much information as possible and open the space for debate on the concepts we are proposing. That is exactly why we now published a very short and simple booklet with the most frequently asked questions about the nature of CL and how it fits into ELT.
As I wrote in the Foreword, it does not propose to give you definite answers. These are the answers we have at the moment, according to our own understanding. We hope they become the stating point of an interesting discussion in the ELT Community forum and also in your schools and workplaces with your colleagues.
It was the first time I spent my birthday in London. Actually, I wasn’t in town with the purpose to celebrate it, but it happened that I was invited by the organisers of the Equal Opportunities and Equalities Seminar to present in the event and it took place on 20-21 February. I’m really thankful for the British Council and Mike Solly, president of the IATEFL Global Issues SIG for inviting me to be one of the speakers. It was a priviledge and an honour.
The seminar was very much focussed on institutional and practical aspects we have to take into consideration when implementing an EOD policy in our institutions. My talk was more related to how to connect these practical issues to critical literacy and classroom practice. For me, just waving the flag of EOD is not enough and many times such policies are adopted because they are legally or socially imposed on us because of political correctness. If such policies do not emerge from a real concern for promoting diversity and understanding and acceptance of differences, they will soon become the dead letter of the law. If concerns for EOD do not take into consideration the real people and their values and needs, it runs the risk of becoming another sort of paternalism or a political platform.
One person in the audience asked me why I was putting Critical Literacy in this. He could not see the reason for this. My answer was that for me Critical means to be able to see things from different perspectives and analyse them in-depth and Literacy means to be able to read the world text. If we cannot look at EOD using different lenses and cannot read the signs and situations where disadvantaged and disable people are, we cannot really promote equality and human dignity – we will be only paying lip service to the legislation and to a political trend.
This is one of the cliché questions in our Critical Literacy in ELT project. Now after almost 3 years I have stepped down from the coordination and Nella de la Fuente is the incoming coordinator and will reamin in office till the next Braz-Tesol Conference in July 2010.
I think I can say that we have achieved quite a lot since the Hornby Summer School 2006, when the project started, not only in terms of rising a greater awareness of Critical Literacy but also in terms of promoting teacher development and education. Perhaps the second aspect is the most important of all. On the whole, over 200 teachers from Brazil, Peru and Argentina have attended a CL event, being it a seminar or workshop in a TA conference. We have a forum on the BC ELT Community that has received more than 20,000 hits and we have people translating CL material in 28 languages.
I am now leaving the coordination but I’ll still be responsible for the materials and publications. My next step is to edit the CL materials to make them fit for publication on a major British Council website and also publish the first issue of the CL SIG online newsletter.
As for the other aspects involving the project, I am sure Nella and the other members of the committee will do a great job and I wish her and the team all the luck.
You have to be careful when you put your feet out of your door because if you don’t mind your steps, you don’t know where they might lead you to.
This is more or less what Bilbo Baggings says to Frodo and I just thought how well it fits our CL project. When we started it in January 2006 I never thought that three year form that I would be working on it. Now we already sent the project proposal for a third year to the Hornby Trust and the British Council and even before their reply we are already working on it.
This is what we are planning for 2008-09.
- Materials development: a call for Materials Writing will be launched on 30th May 2008 through the British Council Brazil ELT Online Community and ELTeCS lists. ELT educators from all over the world are being invited to submit their materials for the online publication of the ‘Critical Literacy Materials for ELT Education – Volume II’.
- CL Materials and documents in other languages: a call for translators was published on ELTeCS lists around the world inviting ELT educators to work on the translation of CL booklets and sets of materials into other languages. So far 39 professionals have stepped forward and are working on translations into 27 different languages. These documents will be published online throughout the year.
- CL Events: regional workshops focusing on the basic concepts guiding Critical Literacy and material development will take place in Brazil and other Latin American countries in the period between May and November 2008. The objective of these workshops is to help with dissemination and to support potential ELT educators interested in developing the materials mentioned above. Such workshops and seminars will be joint events organised by the Critical Literacy SIG and Teachers Associations, educational authorities and private schools and universities.
- Online Events: fielded discussions will be organised along the year as a means of disseminating our objectives and activities and as a non-fund-dependent way of creating a space for active discussion and debate on Critical Literacy and Citizenship education.
- Views & Reviews – The Critical Literacy in ELT SIG Newsletter: this is intended to be the Official SIG newsletter and will contain news and articles written by ELT educators. Editions will be published online in September and March each year.