ELT in difficult circumstances: challenges, possibilities and future directions

Kuchah Kuchah

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter in a published conference proceeding

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Michael West first used the expression, ‘difficult circumstances’ in 1960, to refer to English language classrooms ‘consisting of over 30 pupils (more usually 40 or even 50), congested on benches... accommodated in an unsuitably shaped room, ill-graded, with a teacher who perhaps does not speak English well or very fluently, working in a hot climate’ (p.1). Since then, the number of pupils learning English around the world has grown exponentially especially in developing countries where the movement for Education for All has led to increased enrolments at primary level without a concomitant increase in resources. In sub-Saharan Africa for example, this has exacerbated existing challenges to classroom practice such as over-crowded and multi-grade classrooms, lack of textbooks, lack of libraries, poor exposure to the English language usage, lack of financial and material resources and other cultural constraints. Despite these challenges the dominant discourse on ELT methodology promoted in such contexts is still being largely generated in ideal (North) contexts and sometimes resisted by local practitioners as not sufficiently appropriate for their challenging local realities. Studies examining language teaching policy and practice in developing countries reveal incompatibilities between MoE policies and actual classroom practices of teachers and bring into perspective calls from several ELT professionals and researchers for the development of contextually appropriate forms of ELT pedagogy in underprivileged contexts. In this presentation, I draw from my experiences of teaching very large classes (over 200 teenagers and 100 children) in under-resourced contexts in Cameroon and go on to examine the pragmatic responses of teachers in otherwise difficult circumstances. Then I make a case for an ELT methodology which takes on board both learner and teacher agency and suggest ways in which teaching English in such circumstances may benefit from a bottom up enhancement approach to teacher development and the dissemination of good practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIATEFL 2015 Manchester Conference Selections
EditorsTania Pattison
Place of PublicationKent
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)13: 9781901095814
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016
Event49th Annual Conference, International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language - IATEFL, 2015 - Manchester, UK United Kingdom
Duration: 11 Apr 201514 Apr 2015


Conference49th Annual Conference, International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language - IATEFL, 2015
Country/TerritoryUK United Kingdom


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