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JALT and our international partner associations: Meeting challenges together

Writer(s): 
Richmond Stroupe, JALT International Affairs Committee, Chair

 

Asia is characterized by diverse learning communities, and in relation to English language education, different societies and countries in the region face different challenges, address needs with different language policies, and place value on second language education for different reasons. Even so, much can be learned through the sharing of how issues that arise in various and divergent contexts are overcome by teachers, students, innovative teaching methodologies or creative curricular alterations. This sharing of experiences and knowledge is one of the motivating factors behind the reciprocal agreements JALT has fostered with other language associations in the region, as well as our organization’s involvement in the Pan Asian Conference (PAC) series and our partnership agreements with the two largest global organizations associated with language teaching: the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) in the United Kingdom, and the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) association in the United States.

The teaching of English is a global phenomenon. Even so, each learning and teaching context is unique, with challenges based on learners’ first languages, educational experiences, and cultural background. Those of us in Japan have doubtlessly faced these challenges, and at times consider the “uniqueness” of teaching in this country a “two-edged sword,” with benefits coupled with occasional frustrations. However, our colleagues in Japan, in the Asian region, and globally, all face many similar issues in their classrooms. The opportunity to share these experiences and ideas for overcoming these challenges is a valuable component of our professional community.

With our reciprocal partner organizations in the region, and as part of the PAC conference series, each association exchanges representatives at annual international conferences, provides opportunities for featured speakers, and holds an International Forum where common issues are discussed and ideas, advice, and solutions are exchanged. At JALT2010, the topic of the International Forum will be An international dialogue: Our experiences, challenges and creative solutions, which will allow representatives from all the PAC associations to present how educators in each of the countries represented “think outside the box” so that we can identify creative and innovate methods to enhance and improve the effectiveness of the learning experience of our students. JALT’s reciprocal partner organizations include the CamTESOL Conferences (Cambodia), English Teaching Association of the Republic of China (ETA-ROC [Taiwan]), Far Eastern English Language Teachers’ Association (FEELTA [Russia]), Korea Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (KOTESOL), Linguapax Asia, Philippine Association of Language Teaching (PALT), and ThaiTESOL (Thailand). The PAC 2010 Conference will be hosted by KOTESOL in November in Seoul, South Korea, and will focus on ELT in the global context. Annually, the PAC conference series is hosted by one of the regional organizations, and proves to be one of the largest conferences of the year.

Sending JALT representatives to regional and international conferences allows our membership to have a voice on the international stage, and presents an opportunity for JALT to promote our activities, conferences, and publications internationally. At each conference, the JALT representative is provided space to display and promote our association’s activities in the Publishers’ area. JALT representatives also attend and represent our association at the PAC meetings, and in some instances offer to host the PAC Conference Series (PAC was hosted by JALT in 2001 and 2008). In addition, representatives are always looking for international collaborative projects or research opportunities in which our membership can be involved. Most recently, many JALT members had the opportunity to contribute to the global data collection process of a research project focusing on practices in teaching English to young learners.

Even though we represent varying contexts throughout the region and internationally, we as educators can learn from each other’s successes, and even our mistakes, bringing back to our context the best of what teachers in our region have learned from their experiences. The JALT International Affairs Committee (IAC) is responsible for overseeing the administrative side of these relationships, but the value of these reciprocal agreements and exchanges lies in the interaction, sharing of experience and knowledge, and collaborative activities of our memberships. I would like to encourage all of our members to attend our regional partner association’s conferences when possible, and to support their representatives as they come and share their experiences in Nagoya at JALT2010 on 19-22 November. I look forward to helping to develop the ties JALT has with our partner associations, and to finding new ways through which our membership can benefit from our international relationships.

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