Thursday, 19 August 2010

Bahrain English Language Teaching market

From the February 2010 EL Gazette

The island nation of Bahrain, the smallest Gulf State, has just over a million inhabitants. Various estimates put the proportion of expatriates in Bahrain at between a third and a half of the population. It’s also the only Gulf State with free education for all up to age 16, with English a mandatory school subject from an early age and also one of the nation’s two official languages, so there’s a big demand for expatriate EFL teachers, both in the mainstream state and private sector, and in the thriving international schools sector.

Most secondary school teachers in Bahraini secondary school system are expatriate nationals of other Arab countries. The English for the Future Project aims to improve the standard of teaching and learning in the region. In Bahrain, the focus of Teaching for the Future, delivered by British Council trainers, is on teacher training, methodology (including Clil) and introducing new technology into the classroom.

The numerous private schools – which teach most subjects in English –are popular with Bahrainis, and it is in this sector where most native-speaker expatriate teachers are found. By nationality, most expatriates in Bahrain are Indians, and a look at the CVs of many senior teachers in India reveals that they’ve worked in Bahrain. There’s a big market for home tutoring in Bahrain, with many expatriate Teflers earning a living in this way, with surges in demand as the exams season approaches.

Bahrain’s international schools – including several Indian and Pakistani-founded international schools - are world class, with the St Christopher’s International School among the very select few globally that gets its students into the world’s top ten universities. There are a lot of British nurseries and international schools on the British curriculum, and there’s also the Bahrain School, catering from kindergarten all the way through to IB, and run by the US Department of Defense. (See page 11 on Kazakhs studying in relatively close Bahrain, where international schools will take them with a lower Ielts score.)

Many private schools are aimed at Bahrain citizens, with a lot of evening classes after work. For better known private schools like Bell Centres or the British Council, teachers would need a PGCE or Diploma and experience. Expats don’t pay taxes, and their employer has a legal requirement to pay an end of contract ‘indemnity’ bonus, based on basic salary, starting at a basic 15 days salary per year worked. But expatriates can’t establish themselves as permanent legal residents in Bahrain.

There's been a proliferation of universities and polytechnics opening in Bahrain recently, with most courses in English medium, and catering to students from other Gulf countries. There’s a steady increase in Bahrainis who've studied abroad and who are returning to do postgrad courses in Bahrain.

Bahraini universities are establishing a reputation for scientific research, some hold patents on some important AIDS treatments. These universities all have big EAP operations, and many expat EFL teachers work there. Bahrain Polytechnic in particular employs a lot of native speakers.

More recent foundations include the Royal University For Women, and the ministry of health’s College Of Health Sciences, which has its own English department. Private sector universities include AMA International University, a branch of the Philippine-based university. New private universities are proliferating at great speed, and concerns about quality assurance have led to the establishment of a national body to oversee this sector. This has already warned 10 private universities to make improvements or face closure.

As in many Arab countries, the spectre of unemployment – especially youth unemployment – is of concern. Most of the country’s private sector jobs, which demand English, are held by expatriates. The unemployed, as well as those Bahrainis working in lower paid jobs, are perceived as held back by their English.

A recent solution is the government's Career Progression Programme, (CPP) which involves the Bell Bahrain training centre in partnership with the Expert Group, training providers to the oil and gas industries. The CPP, administered by the government’s Labour Fund, aims in the long term to reduce Bahrain’s dependence on an expatriate workforce.

Bell Centres started its first CPP English classes for 70 students in July 2009. Sami Adnan Sulaiman, Bell Bahrain’s centre manager, said the courses were designed so that students could ‘structure their learning around their jobs.’ There are three other providers besides Bell/Expert Group delivering EFL through the project. The ambitious CPP project has a target to deliver EFL training to 6,500 Bahrainis from the ‘mid-income local workforce’ in the next three and a half years. A big incentive ensuring that students succeed at CPP is the salary increase of at least of 50 dinars a month (£81) they will get on completion of the course, which represents an monthly uplift of between a quarter and an eighth to some of the lower paid workers.


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