The British Council Award for the Effective Transfer of English Language Skills
This award is given to a not-for-profit organisation for its contribution to sustainable development through the effective transfer of English language skills and knowledge.
The winner: The Moroccan Association of Teachers of English
English teachers in Morocco in the 1970s realised that their craft needed a new training initiative. Worldwide, the approach to teaching English had become communicative, with greater interaction between teachers and students. In Morocco , French teachers of English were leaving and being replaced by Moroccan graduates little trained for the task. So teachers formed the Moroccan Association of Teachers of English (MATE), to help colleagues raise their game and offer students a better service. It is one of a range of Moroccan teachers associations covering different subjects.
Since MATE was formed, it has held a conference each year, at which teachers talk over their problems and hear the latest ideas from Moroccan and foreign speakers. Speakers provide handouts which can be widely distributed. The King of Morocco has been patron of the conferences since 1989.
MATE is prominent in discussions of educational reform. It publishes a newsletter each quarter and conference proceedings each year, runs workshops and regional meetings and has just introduced distance coaching through the internet.
The net provided a new publication opportunity when it arrived in Morocco in 1996. Moroccan teachers may lack access to their school computers and be unable to afford the phone charges for the internet at home; but they use internet cafes throughout the country. MATE has taken advantage of this to spread ideas. In Morocco it is a leader in promoting the use of information and communication technology for education.
Another MATE expertise is in the use of English for special purposes: training teachers to teach medical, business, science and engineering students. Abdelmajid Bouziane, MATE's webmaster remarks: "Had training in ICT and ESP not been provided by MATE, there would have been little chance of it taking place in Morocco . The Ministry of Education and Youth is working on higher priorities such as illiteracy and education in rural areas."
English has a limited role in Moroccan education but the growth of language schools and centres reflects a growing demand to learn it. Even busy business executives find time for English lessons. Most Moroccan schools teach in Arabic and French, with Berber also being introduced. Pupils learn English in the last four years of secondary school. Some English for special purposes is employed in all university departments. At a few private colleges, students learn in English.
Abdelmajid Bouziane believes that MATE has improved Morocco's English teaching by introducing new approaches, bringing in scholars with ideas, organising discussions on new textbooks and sharing the findings of research, including that done by teachers in their classrooms. For teachers who do such research, MATE offers incentives such as the chance to attend a summer course abroad.
Mr Bouziane sums up: "I believe that everybody appreciates what MATE is doing. The openness of its members has helped to create good relationships. Being an apolitical association, MATE has never had any political conflict, though some members are militants in political parties and teacher unions. It holds very co-operative relationships with different ministries."
What has made everything possible is the commitment of MATE's members, normally unpaid however hard they work, and an efficient and democratic way of doing things which retains their loyalty. A freshly graduated teacher at a summer camp wrote: "I was never let down by any of its staff members. My constant requests and suggestions were always met with smiles and enthusiasm."
Apart from its work for teachers, MATE also provides summer camps for students from underprivileged areas at affordable fees. The camp teachers are newly qualified graduates who get a chance to practise what they have learned.
MATE has not directly improved its members' situations in the state system, where promotion is geared to length of service. But membership has helped them get jobs in private schools and in teacher training centres. Also, publishing in MATE publications helps university teachers win promotion.
The judges say
We felt MATE was the most effective in terms of development and it demonstrated an enormous input of time and energy that is important to the teacher network. Its persistent dedication has made a tremendous difference to many teachers and through them made a difference in the lives of many learners and communities.
MATE has shown real grassroots involvement
A very active professional ELT association
Moroccan Association of Teachers of English,
B.P. 6202, Rabat - Instituts, Rabat , Morocco;
tel +212-66-839223/249509; fax +212-37-778135