Training Teachers in Places With Few Resources: Lesson From Burkina Faso

AA: I'm Avi Arditti and this week on WORDMASTER: another interview from this year's convention of the group TESOL, for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Aboubakar Ouedraogo
ABOUBAKAR OUEDRAOGO: "I'm Aboubakar Ouedraogo. I'm a teacher-educator from Burkina Faso. In Burkina Faso, English is taught as a foreign language and it starts in secondary schools from the first year to the last year. It's also a mandatory language that is learned at school."

AA: "And which English do the students tend to learn: is it British, American? Burkina is a former French colony."

ABOUBAKAR OUEDRAOGO: "Yes. British English. This is what we learn in secondary schools and at university."

AA: "And what about American English, is it being adopted more by the younger people?"

ABOUBAKAR OUEDRAOGO: "Yes. I think because of the influence of the media, young students like the American English. They try to imitate the American accent. And we have also the American Language Center which teaches the American language. Those who go there speak the American English."

AA: "Tell me about the presentation that you're giving here at TESOL?"

ABOUBAKAR OUEDRAOGO: "OK, it was a colloquium, a panel of five presenters. And it was about training teachers, English teachers, in areas where people lack resources. Most of our schools are in remote areas, in the rural areas. Students and teachers lack books, they lack audio-visual materials. They don't have access to Internet, I would say information technology, none of this. The only available resources are the teachers themselves, a chalkboard and a course book sometimes, and some print materials from time to time."

AA: "How are the teachers trained, is there a national program to train the English teachers?"

ABOUBAKAR OUEDRAOGO: "Some of our teachers went through a training college. We have some others who have never got training. So we try to catch up through in-service trainings.

"But here too we have problems because we don't have enough teacher-trainers to train all the teachers how it should be. OK, some will be trained once every two years and some will wait until five years before being trained. These are the problems."

AA: "So you talked about some of the methodologies that teachers with few resources can use. Can you give us an example or two of what some of those methodologies might be?"

ABOUBAKAR OUEDRAOGO: "OK, let's say the problem, we have a lack of materials. We have also the problem of overcrowded classes. So one of the things we teach our teachers is how to manage large classes. And this is very important because we have some classes where we have more than seventy students -- sometimes more than one hundred.

"So they need to know how to manage with large classes, how to make the students work in pairs and groups, how to handle disruptive behaviors within these kinds of classes."

AA: "Do you have any advice you could give to any teachers who are listening right now who maybe have a problem with not being sure how to handle disruptive students in a class or how to handle a large class? Because that's a common problem, is large classes in a lot of countries. Do you have a specific bit of advice that you might offer teachers?"

ABOUBAKAR OUEDRAOGO: "What I think is very important is the teacher's attitude himself. Because many of the teachers who did not get any initial training or in-service training, those have never been to a training college or very young teachers very often have problems with students because they deal with teenagers and these teenagers are very difficult. So first of all, they look at the teacher himself; what is his attitude?

"So we tell the teachers to have a good attitude, to be fair, to consider themselves as advisers, as guides for these young students. Now at the same time when they face the disruptive behaviors of a student, they have to at the same time rely on the administration. It's not necessary to try to solve the problem alone, getting angry for nothing. And one of the things I learned as a teacher is that, never go in class without being prepared."

AA: Aboubakar Ouedraogo is with the Ministry of Education in Burkina Faso. I met him at the recent TESOL convention in Denver, Colorado. And that's WORDMASTER for this week. Archives are at I'm Avi Arditti.