Interview with Margit Szesztay

Interview description

Margit talks about the Global Issues special interest group, their preconference event led by Scott Thornbury on Gay Rights in ELT and calls for teachers to add to the resources available on their website to celebrate awareness raising days.


Margit mentions a calendar of days to be marked for their special significance and as a prism for looking at some global issue.  One upcoming is May 15, which Palestinians mark as Nakba Day,  يوم النكبة Yawm an-Nakba, the 'day of the catastrophe', commemorating their expulsion from Palestine and the birth of Israel.  This is a good day for dealing with some selected aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which lies at the very heart of continuing problems in the Levant and broader Middle East. Teachers in Israel could also find the opportunity, however difficult, to deal with this in their classrooms. Margit spoke about "widening our circle of compassion" as a part of a pedagogy of social empathy that is central to GISIG. The late Esther Lucas  (1918-2011) was very active inside GISIG in promoting such perspectives of compassion and empathy in Israeli education, and her doctoral thesis from Germany was on "Teaching International Understanding Through EFL". 

To my knowledge, at present there is no association of Palestinian EFL teachers. This needs to be recreated, and IATEFL together with the BC can be instrumental in providing some hands-on midwifery for such an ‘Associate’ organization to be (re)born.Such an association existed in the 1990s.

It was heartening to see a talk by a teacher in Gaza at the present conference, by Hasan Ramadan: “Using writing and drawing to release tension among traumatised students “, presented on YLTSIG day. Among students ‘in difficult circumstances’, those in Gaza today are perhaps at or near the top of the global list. It was also encouraging to see a talk by Anwar Abdel Razaq at Birzeit University in the Occupied West Bank, on “Designing and delivering effective CPD in Palestine:  the teachers’ perspectives”. Continuous teacher development faces many challenges for Palestinian teachers everywhere, who  work in some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable. There was also a talk at the conference by Atiyyeh Al-Habal (Ministry of Education, State of Palestine) on “Using Skype to help Palestinian secondary students’ listening and  speaking “. The Palestinian MoE where Atiyyeh works is responsible for education at all levels in Gaza and the West Bank, and is facing staggering challenges.

Towards the end of the interview it is 'Earth Hour' that gets mentioned as an exmaple of a Special Day that the world has just celebrated. It was on 28 March - here is a link to the offical website where we can hear Barack Obama reminding us: 'We're the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.'  ... Also, in the interview I say that 7 billion live in slums ... well, by the power of compassion perhaps :). I meant to say 1 billion (the exact figure varies according to which source you look at). I was thinking 'every 7th person is affected', that's where the '7' comes from. 

Finally, here is the link to the E-lessons I mention on our Global Issues website: