Experts call for sharing lessons learned during pandemic with BRI partners
English-language teachers in China and other countries and regions participating in the Belt and Road Initiative should enhance cooperation and communication and learn from each others' experiences in language teaching and learning, experts and educators said at the 2021 Global English Education China Assembly.
This year's assembly included a special online forum on BRI English education. The three-day assembly, held from Friday to Sunday online and offline in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, was a valuable opportunity for teachers from BRI countries and regions to share their experience of dealing with common challenges in English-language teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic and their development of effective new teaching methods.
Wang Xuemei, a professor at Shanghai International Studies University, said efforts should be made to cultivate more multilingualists to foster trust, economic integration and cultural inclusivity among countries and regions involved in the initiative.
The university has an ongoing project to increase the number of trilingual interpreters and translators, while disciplines such as journalism, politics, law, education, economics and management include graduates majoring in less commonly taught languages, she said.
Since 2015, the university has also increased the numbers of multilingual country and area studies experts.
Visal Sou, manager of the Cam-TESOL(Teaching English as a Second Language) Conference in Cambodia, said that since the start of the pandemic, there has been a shift in focus in teacher training toward innovation and the mental health of teachers.
More teachers and students are able to use technology in education, so it is important to focus on technology-driven practice in the classroom, using big data to assess performance and give students better feedback, he said.
Alvin Pang Khee Meng, dean of the training, research, assessment and consultancy division at the SEAMEO Regional Language Centre in Singapore, said that in the post-pandemic era, more effort should be made to strengthen collaboration and ensure equitable access to technology and reliable internet connections to make sustainable lifelong learning possible.
Supong Tangkiengsirisin, director of the Language Institute at Thailand's Thammasat University, said that since the pandemic forced education online, the learning environment had become more internationalized, and students in Thailand have more opportunities to learn English with their peers globally and improve proficiency together.
The university has run many webinars featuring speakers from all over the world delivering talks to a global audience, he said.
It plans to expand its network to encourage students and scholars to use English as a lingua franca so they will have more confidence speaking the language, he added.
Daryl Streat, academic and growth strategies manager for English language at Lincoln University in New Zealand, said many opportunities exist in shared promotions, conferences, online events, teacher training programs and promoting key relationships among countries and regions involved in the initiative.
"What we have learned from the pandemic is that we need to collaborate with other countries and we cannot do everything independently," he said.
Priority should be given to facilitating educational cooperation, breaking language barriers and fostering closer ties that could create new dynamism for educational cooperation between BRI countries and regions, Streat said.