Lebanese educators gather at LAU to discuss common challenges
A two-day LAU Beirut conference brings educators from around the country together to address the challenges of using English as a medium of instruction.
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More than 100 school administrators, coordinators and teachers discussed various challenges facing Lebanon’s school curriculum during a two-day conference and exhibit of school textbooks at LAU Beirut’s Irwin Hall, March 18-19.
The event featured presentations and workshops from educators and representatives of various international publishing houses, including Cambridge University Press and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, as well as an exhibit of a variety of new textbooks that participants perused during breaks.
LAU’s Department of Education collaborated with one of Lebanon’s largest book suppliers, Levant Distributors, which sponsored the conference.
Dr. Iman Osta, associate professor of math education and chair of the Department of Education, calls the event a “tradition.”
“We sensed a need for such educational forums whereby teachers can meet other teachers as well as educators and textbook representatives, to share experiences and learn about the educational philosophy and pedagogical foundations of the textbook series they are using or they might use,” Osta explains.
The major theme throughout the presentations was the challenge of when, where and how to use English as the medium of instruction across the curriculum, especially in math and science. The issue has been particular tricky for teachers, administrators, parents and students, given the multilingual nature of Lebanon.
“Is teaching math and science in English beneficial to students?” asked Dr. Kamel Dallal, director of educational affairs at the Makassed Philanthropic Islamic Association of Beirut, during the opening panel, titled “English Across the Curriculum: Issues and Concerns.”
“Changing the language of instruction in schools should consider various dimensions such as the community and cultural environment where the students live, and the school environment as well — we should be sure teachers and parents are ready to make the switch,” Dallal said.
During the same panel, Dr. Tamer Amin, LAU assistant professor of science education, highlighted the need for teachers to receive more support to accommodate the development of language skills across the curriculum.
“As a teacher, you must be asking yourself: ‘How do I teach material that is challenging when I have to think about language issues?’ Teachers need better materials to work with, and that’s what this conference is about,” Amin said.
According to Dr. Mona Majdalani, LAU professor of education with an emphasis in mathematics education, the feedback from teachers, students and sponsors was very positive.
“Attendance at the event was unprecedented to the extent that administrators are enthused to expand it next year,” Majdalani says.
The workshops were particularly helpful, says Osta, as they presented possible textbook- and technology-based solutions to key educational challenges. “Many useful ideas were generated through the presentation of software accompanying textbooks,” she adds.
“The tips offered by keynote speakers addressed general ideas applicable across the board,” Majdalani adds. “The seeds were planted and it is up to the attendees to take those and ‘fly’ with them.”