Modern trends in English language teaching in Azerbaijan: Where we come from and where we are now.
English language has become the highly demanded language in the modern world. It’s the language of international communication, business, politics, and the last not the least, education. Before the collapse of Soviet Union, the Russian language used to have its heyday period. The knowledge of Russian language was required and the Russian speakers were privileged. Moreover, it was the language of aristocracy. Everyone who spoke in Russian walked proudly and was accepted as an educated person.
The advent of independence in the past Soviet Union countries, including Azerbaijan, has given rise to the English language. The urgency for being able to speak in English has become a necessity. Several changes started to happen as Azerbaijan got its independence.
At the beginning of independence, Ministry of Education of Azerbaijan introduced testing system for university admissions. As a result, schools prepared students to tests during the whole secondary education period. Consequently, students had a good command of grammar and vocabulary knowledge of the target language. Having said that, the lack of listening, speaking and writing skills existed.
Study abroad was introduced in Azerbaijan starting with 2007 state program. It enabled bright students of the country to study in the leading universities of the world. Later on, Erasmus program for study abroad in support of European Union was introduced. Students needed international language certificates to prove the level of language proficiency to study abroad. TOEFL and IELTS were among those certificates. In order to get these certificates, students had to have a high level of English language proficiency.
As Azerbaijan got its independence, it established relationships with foreign countries starting from neighboring countries to Europe, USA and Asia. People can freely, certainly via visa system, travel to these countries. (During Soviet Union period, they could only travel within Soviet countries).
Starting from this year, Ministry of Education of the Republic of Azerbaijan has included assessment of listening skills into entrance exams to universities. Changes are happening slowly but surely. The higher educational institutions have also applied changes to semester exams including the university I currently work at, now the university prefers oral and written exams rather than tests as we know that the current tests are not the measurement of student learning.
When talking about English language, we cannot mention its importance in using modern technologies. Nowadays, the Internet is an essential and inseparable part of everyday life. To expand the knowledge in a specific topic, the knowledge of English is essential. If you know English, you can participate in a number of seminars, conferences, read books, watch documentaries and so on and so forth. As English teachers we must know and meet the needs of our students and plan our lessons accordingly. “If a students can simply do a Google search and learn about something faster than a teacher can explain it to them, then what’s the role of a teacher?” (Kevin Coleman, 2017). The needs of today’s students is to prepare them to future where they will use English as Russian once was for our parents. Today’s students live in the world of technology, they are curious about other countries. Hence, we must take a look at how we teach, what we teach and why we teach the thing we teach. “One unavoidable consequence of the lack of classroom evolution is that students leave schools unprepared for the workforce, because even though the classroom model hasn’t changed in the last 100 years, today’s workforce and global landscape has changed tremendously” (Kevin Coleman, 2017). We must reflect on our teaching and try to find answers to questions such as why our students don’t have progress. As Jim Scrivener calls it, we must see if we are a hinder in their learning or a helper.