Re-thinking the reality of Primary English Language Teaching (PELT)

17th January 2018

Re-thinking the reality of Primary English Language Teaching (PELT)

By Wendy Arnold

Director ELT-Consultants


As 2017 becomes a memory and ELT-Consultants looks forward to 2018 our thoughts gravitate towards PELT, as well as SELT (Secondary English Language Teaching) and VELT (Vocational English Language Teaching).

With the benefit of Associates, whose work takes them around the world, this year we will be sharing blogs on our individual and team work in the following regions: Americas (Central and South), Asia, Europe, Middle East & North Africa (MENA), Sub-Saharan Africa and Wider Europe.

ELT Consultants have been involved in education reform of teaching English globally since 2010 when the consultancy was formed. ELT Consultants have worked on the two education reform projects shared below since 2013. Mutual respect and trust is needed with partners, as well as consistency and continuity.


AMERICAS (South America) - Venezuela


This part of the blog will outline a presentation to be delivered at the forthcoming IATEFL Brighton 2018, FORUM ON EDUCATIONAL REFORM on Tuesday 10th April, 2018. It will be one of three presentations from Latin America, which are:

  “Changing the mindset: sustainable reform in Venezuelan state education”


“A study in EFL rural classrooms at Ecuadorian high schools”


“Panama’s Steps Towards Bilingualism: A Case Study”


“Changing the mindset: sustainable reform in Venezuelan state education”


A major education reform is occurring in Venezuelan state run schools. A mismatch between policy and reality necessitated capacity building for teaching all subjects including English. In-country research at primary, secondary and teacher training levels identified the gaps and the visionary national Micromision Simon Rodriguez (MMSR) programme provided the means.

The innovative MMSR innovation, which drew on a wider circle of professionals to build capacity, as well as developing national materials, is probably what makes this project unique in the PELT world.

The specific innovations in the teaching of English and lessons that can be learnt for other contexts (Alvarez et all 2015, Arnold 2017) include:



1)    complete a country-wide rigorous needs analysis at the beginning of the reform so the position, with reference to teacher language ability and teacher training courses, is understood clearly

2)    needs analysis carried out by national experts in all the provinces

3)    results published


4)    identify and INVOLVE the stakeholders to be included in the reform process and ensure they understand the processes needed for change


5)    if there are not enough teachers to deliver English lessons, start to build capacity with a language and methodology course

6)    build capacity within the country by training university and teacher training professionals to develop the training materials

7)    invite members of the public with a university level education and who want to become English teachers to take part in the language and methodology training

8)    ensure that the national professionals feel ownership of the training materials, as well as delivering the training materials


9)   develop classroom materials designed by national writers aligned to language and methodology of the teacher training materials


10)  monitor and evaluate the process at every stage

11)  reflect and adjust

12)  ensure ownership of the processes by all the stakeholders

13)  publish results and make them accessible

14)  present results at conferences and make them accessible to the general public


15)  ensure that it’s affordable by using recycled materials for make resources for classroom delivery of lessons

16)  ensure that outside help is not needed on a regular basis by building capacity within the country to develop teacher training materials, as well as classroom materials

Probably the most important factor in an educational reform process is the INVOLVEMENT of the Department of Education and all the relevant departments within, e.g. curriculum, materials development, teacher training, assessment, inspectorate, in order that they all share the same vision and have a JOINED-UP THINKING APPROACH. This is not easy to do as traditionally they seem to work in isolation (this is a generalization of all contexts) which can cause discord when they pull against each others processes.

Building capacity in relevant departments to develop, monitor and deliver high class education in all the subjects in the school timetable is crucial, as well as ownership of the processes. For long term sustainability the context needs to be in control of their systems, with checks and balances in place.



This part of the blog will outline a presentation to be delivered at the forthcoming Africa TESOL, Dakar, Senegal 4 – 6 May 2018. The theme of the conference will be “Expanding Networks, Overcoming Challenges”. The venue of the conference will be at the Faculty of Science and Technology of Education and Training (FASTEF). The presentation is titled: ‘Time doesn’t stand still for young learners’ education’.

IATEFL YLT Sig and GI Sig will be organizing a pre-conference event on the 4th May focusing on education at the secondary level.

The constitution of the Republic of South Sudan declared English language as the official and medium of instruction. This was further reinforced by the 2012 Education Act that specifically stated that English will be the medium of instruction from Primary 4 and above. As a result of the above language policy, an English Language Policy Framework was developed in 2015 with set of objectives of English linguistic standards for teachers in order to facilitate the use of English Medium Instruction. The policy framework gave  step by step stages and phases for the implementation of the English language policy, including how the language levels of teachers will be improved through assessment of their language skills, developing of appropriate course materials for South Sudan context and rolling out the training.

In 2017, Windle Trust International were contracted by the Ministry of General Education and Instructions, with funding support from UNICEF, to implement the 2015 policy framework. ELT (English Language Teaching) consultants provided the training to build national capacity for the following seven outcomes:


1.    Train a team of 10 English language assessors for South Sudan

2.    Produce standardised English language testing/assessment materials

3.    Conduct a rigorous English language needs assessment of teachers English language

4.    Train a core team of 30 South Sudanese English language specialists

5.    Produce locally designed and contextualised English language training materials

6.    Support the consolidation stage to pilot, review and modify the materials

7.    Monitor and evaluate the pilot


Assessors were trained, teacher’s language skills in five States were assessed, trainers trained, course materials developed, piloted and modified ready for a whole country roll out.

Three ELT-Consultant’s collaborated in the various trainings: Wendy Arnold (past IATEFL YLT Sig joint co-ordinator) , Fiona Connolly and Dr. Harry Kuchah Kuchah (incoming Vice-President of IATEFL).

The results of note were as follows:


Assessment writers and assessor’s of language skills

a)    The teacher’s language assessment was designed using the updated CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) for 7 to 10 years old as a benchmark. The rationale was that whether the teacher’s were proficient or not they needed to be able to grade their language to the level of their learners, and as a minimum needed to be more proficient than the learners. The ten national assessment writers learnt the importance of reliability and validity of assessment tools and designed, trialled and then delivered the language assessments to 198 teachers in five States

Teacher’s linguistic skills after the needs analysis

b)    All four linguistic skills were assessed. The results showed that the listening and speaking were on average CEFR B1, but the average of the reading and writing was considerably lower at A2

National materials developers

c)    30 national material developers were trained to design training modules at two different levels (P1-3 and P4-8) together with making sustainable sample materials from recycled resources.

d)    In total 10 modules of P1-3 and 10 modules of P4-8 were designed making a total of approximately 240 to 320 training hours depending on how much time is allocated to the workshops. Each module has 4 x workshops of a minimum of 3-4 hours each

Post pilot

e)    After the pilot of approximately 20 days intensive English language and methodology training in two groups (depending on their assessment results) P1-3 (for teacher’s who averaged A2) and P4-8 (for teacher’s who averaged B1) most of the teacher’s improved by at least CEFR 0.5 level which was promising as the English Language Policy Framework requires P1-3 teachers to be at least a CEFR B1 level and P4-8 teachers at least a CEFR B2

f)     Although only one state was able to observe the trainee teacher’s methodology during the pilot the narrated observations were promising

The project has now reached the stage of needing to roll-out the training whole countrywide but there still remain security challenges with many of the Teacher Training Colleges not functioning to full capacity. It is hoped that 2018 will be an end to the conflict and the student’s can return to their education.




Alvarez, ML, Arnold, W, Bradshaw, C, Gregson, M (2015) Capacity Building and Empowerment: A Primary Teacher Training Project in Venezuela in C.N. Giannikas, L. McLaughlin, G. Fanning & N. D. Miller (eds) ‘Children learning English: from research to practice’. UK: IATEFL YLT Sig/Garnet


Arnold, W (2017) ¡Se respira cambio! La enseñanza del inglés y su implementación en Venezuela in M. Gregson & R. Lopez de Amico (eds) Se Respira Cambio-transformando la ensenanza del ingles  en el sistema educativo venezolano’.. Published by the British Council 2017 :


CEFR – Collated Representative Samples of Descriptors of Language Competencies developed for Young Learners aged 7 to 10 year old. Accessed 15/01/18:


Windle Trust International Accessed 15/01/18:


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