Plenary by Harry Kuchah

Session description

Harry Kuchah

Session details:

ELT in difficult circumstances: Challenges, possibilities and future directions
Michael West first used the expression ‘difficult circumstances’ in 1960 to refer to English language classrooms ‘consisting of over 30 pupils (more usually 40 or even 50), congested on benches… accommodated in an unsuitably shaped room, ill-graded, with a teacher who perhaps does not speak English well or very fluently, working in a hot climate’ (p.1). Since then, the number of pupils learning English around the world has grown exponentially, especially in developing countries where the movement for Education for All has led to increased enrolments at primary level without a concomitant increase in resources. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, this has exacerbated existing challenges to classroom practice such as over-crowded and multigrade classrooms, lack of textbooks, lack of libraries, poor exposure to the English language usage, lack of financial and material resources and other cultural constraints. Despite these challenges, the dominant discourse on ELT methodology promoted in such contexts is still being largely generated in ideal (North) contexts and sometimes resisted by local practitioners as not sufficiently appropriate for their challenging local realities. Studies examining language teaching policy and practice in developing countries reveal incompatibilities between MoE policies and actual classroom practices of teachers and bring into perspective calls from several ELT professionals and researchers for the development of contextually appropriate forms of ELT pedagogy in underprivileged contexts. In this presentation, I draw from my experiences of teaching very large classes (over 200 teenagers and 100 children) in under-resourced contexts in Cameroon and go on to examine the pragmatic responses of teachers in otherwise difficult circumstances. Then I make a case for an ELT methodology which takes on board both learner and teacher agency and suggest ways in which teaching English in such circumstances may benefit from a bottom-up enhancement approach to teacher development and the dissemination of good practice.

ALSO WATCH: IATEFL 2015 Interview with Harry Kuchah


That was more that excellent Harry.I am learning from the best.How i wish teachers from those remote parts of our country could watch and listen to this.The handout and PPT will help a great deal.

Florence Muluh's picture

Harry, you epitomise a rare species of teachers. Your likes are endangered and God save us from the influx of 'money teachers' into the profession. No sooner do they get a matricule number than they begin to wish they could have to teach just an hour a day per week or not teach at all!! To these new teachers, every ant hill is a mountain and every crack a precipice!  Away from the substance of this presentation is the spirit that drove you to these great heights; commitment, devotion and an unlimited sense of sacrifice. You turned a hell into a heaven and for that you are the great teacher you are today. May you continue to be such aninspiration!