The ICELT conference is coming in September and many of you are probably thinking of going to the conference to learn new ideas, techniques or merely to rejuvenate. The main reason for this post is to raise the perennial questions that teachers ask- "Will our school allow us to go?" "Do we have permission to attend?" My answer to these perennial questions was "go to the ICELT website and download the letter". However, after reading the letter from MOE, I was disappointed to discover that no certainty is given.
As a teacher and loyal public servant of 24 years, may I offer some thoughts about this perennial problem we teachers face in our effort to develop professionally:
- Most of us who take the initiative to improve professionally look out for English Language Teaching (ELT) conferences to learn new ideas, gather knowledge and improve teaching skills and ICELT is one such conference. ELT conferences provide opportunities for networking amongst English teachers and practitioners too.
- The majority of teachers are self-sponsored and it is an EXPENSIVE affair (conference fee, accommodation, travel expenses). But many are willing to pay for their professional development. If there is any sponsorship from the JPN, only about 10 lucky teachers will have the opportunity to go- hence all teachers need is permission to attend without having to take leave.
- It is amazing how we receive different letters every year and different instructions at that! I wonder which department is actually handling permission to attend conferences for teachers. I wish there is consistency on the matter. If leave needs to be taken, I am confident teachers would not mind taking it provided schools do not attach another 'clause' to it.
- Everyone knows the importance of professional development but few really embrace the idea. Many think of it as a personal agenda. On the contrary, I've learned many innovative ideas in conferences and used them in my classrooms and feel rejuvenated and motivated after attending conferences. Motivation is what keeps a teacher going.
- Teachers don't go to many conferences a year because of the expenses. Local conferences are cheaper and they are the first choice for many. I know of many teachers who leave work and replace their classes as soon as they get back from conferences.
For the sake of CPD (continuous professional development), which is by the way, an important element in the new PTK component, I wish for the ministry to be consistent in this matter. I long for the day when teachers do not have to worry about getting permission to attend a conference relevant to their subjects. Perhaps we should take a look at our neighbouring countries and how professional development is structured and encouraged for teachers. We can certainly learn a thing or two from them.
p.s I have emailed Dr Jayakaran Mukundan, Chair of ICELT 2011 to kindly look into the matter and hope that there will be a positive development.