KAU President Inaugurates Saudi TESOL
President of King Abdulaziz University (KAU), Prof. Abdulrahman Al-Youbi, inaugurated the Saudi Association for English Language Education (Saudi TESOL) on Dec. 10th, 2020.
Over 750 people attended the event on Zoom to witness the launch of the Association, which is considered the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia, approved by the Ministry of Education and based at KAU, the top-ranked university in the MENA region.
Dr. Maha Al-Shahrani, Adviser to the Deputy Minister for Public Education, spoke on the Deputy Minister’s behalf and a selected group of distinguished international speakers also took part in the special event, including Scott Thornbury, Harry Kutchah, and Christine Coombe.
The Inaugural Ceremony began with a Welcome Speech delivered by Dr. Abdullah Al-Bargi, Chairman of the Founding Committee and Dean of the English Language Institute at KAU, in which he highlighted Saudi TESOL’s vision, goals and global references to ensure that it has been established on the basis of the best practices adopted by English language associations around the world.
Dr. Al-Bargi said that Saudi TESOL’s goal is to enhance English language teaching at Saudi schools and universities and achieve the noble aims of Vision 2030. In his speech, the Chairman extended his heartfelt thanks to the KAU President, Prof. Abdulrahman Al-Youbi, for the tremendous support he has given both to the association and to the English Language Institute.
Then, the KAU President introduced the association's logo and launched its website, announcing that a free-of-charge, one-year membership has been initiated; a kind initiative which encourages those who are interested in English Language Teaching, including university academics, school teachers and students to join and benefit from Saudi TESOL’s activities during its first year, 2021.
After that, Dr. Maha Al-Shahrani, Adviser to the Deputy Minister for Public Education, delivered a speech on his behalf in which she emphasized the Ministry of Education’s focus on the Human Capability Development Program (HCDP) and expressed the Ministry’s hopes that Saudi TESOL would help the Ministry achieve its aspirations in providing quality professional development to teachers. She emphasized the Ministry’s desire to see Saudi TESOL offer professional development activities to teachers in all levels, including activities for both pre-service and in-service teachers. She said the Ministry would like to see professional development offered in relation to the latest teaching methods, ways to improve assessment systems and tools, e-learning and ways to more efficiently integrate technology, and teaching English to young learners, especially beginning in Grade 1. She also expressed her hopes that Saudi TESOL would help create partnerships between Saudi education departments and internationally recognized education departments and that it would help in the development of future license programs.
Then, Mr. Scott Thornbury, the internationally recognized academic and teacher trainer in the field of English Language Teaching, spoke about 5 functions of a language teaching association. He said that language teaching associations, such as Saudi TESOL, contribute to the professionalization of the field by setting professional and ethical standards both for members and for the organization. Language teaching associations also have an advocacy role, working closely with the government to integrate standards into laws and regulations. Thirdly, echoing Dr. Al-Shahrani’s speech, Mr. Thornbury emphasized the role language teaching associations can play in providing professional development through conferences, webinars, in service training opportunities, and the publication of journals.
However, Mr. Thornbury viewed the fourth role of “building community” as one of the most important functions of a language teaching association. He said that these associations help teachers feel part of a global, national, or local community of professionals and gives them a professional identity. They also provide opportunities for networking and meeting other fellow professionals, he added. Finally, as we all hope to soon enter a post-Covid era, Mr. Thornbury said that a final function of language teaching associations can be to provide healing from the grief, loss, and damage that has been caused by the pandemic.
Dr. Harry Kuchah, President of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL), emphasized the value of local and regional language teaching associations joining as international associates of international organizations such as IATEFL. He explained how IATEFL has over 124 associates around the world and how IATEFL helps connect associates with each other and share best practices amongst each other. He also discussed how IATEFL’s special interest groups can help local associates in specific areas. He highly recommended that Saudi TESOL consider joining the IATEFL family as an associate, noting that it is free to do so.
At the conclusion of the Inaugural Ceremony, Dr. Christine Coombe, Past President of TESOL International and Past President of TESOL Arabia, talked about the impact a professional association can have on people, giving her own career as an example. She then suggested that Saudi TESOL focus on a number of areas including improving the lives and careers of its members, hybrid education as a likely path in the future, and on developing a variety of events including webinars, panels, academies on certain topics, training sessions, and certifications. She suggested taking advantage of this coronavirus time to create a wishlist of all the people Saudi TESOL would like to come in for training and suggested that many more speakers would agree to do a virtual training now than to come physically to events post-COVID since virtual events require much less time, travel, and logistics for the speakers. She also recommended that Saudi TESOL create a journal with context-specific research that is specific to the Saudi context or to the Gulf in general. She further recommended that Saudi TESOL develop a mentoring system and give members opportunities for leadership development.
Finally, she emphasized the importance of giving voice to the members, collecting information from them, and doing a needs analysis to see what training people feel they need. In relation to this, she also recommended that in the early stages the association should let the members set the agenda and that elections be open to all members.
Saudi TESOL, which is based at the English Language Institute at King Abdulaziz University, is concerned with promoting excellence in language teaching in both general and higher education through stimulating ELT professional development, offering academic consultations and conducting research and studies in a range of TESOL domains.
Saudi TESOL seeks to achieve its mission through attention to quality services while adhering to professional standards with the following goals:
- Promoting scientific thought in the ELT domain and seeking to develop and enhance it.
- Introducing an academic, research and professional communication channel for English language teachers across Saudi Arabia to be in touch with their counterparts and with researchers outside the Kingdom.
- Offering academic consultations and training programs in the TESOL domain for public and private sector institutions.
- Building links between the association and its regional and international counterparts in the ELT field.
Saudi TESOL’s activities include:
- Conducting research and studies in a wide range of ELT domains.
- Holding conferences and symposia and providing specialized courses on TESOL.
- Issuing a specialized ELT journal covering various ELT topics in Saudi Arabia and publishing periodicals in the same fields.
- Participating in local and international TESOL conferences and exhibitions.
- Inviting eminent scholars and thinkers in English language teaching, learning, and leadership to participate in the association’s activities.
- Organizing academic trips for the members and holding academic competitions in its field of specialization.