AA: I'm Avi Arditti and this week on WORDMASTER: we get the inside story on English teaching in Azerbaijan.
MAMMADOVA: "I'm Ragsana Mammadova from Azerbaijan. I am executive
director of the Azerbaijan English Teachers Association."
AA: "How many members does your group have?"
MAMMADOVA: "So far we have more than seven hundred members for eight
thousand English teachers all over the country. So it means ten percent
of the English teachers are the members of our association."
AA: "What kinds of activities does your group do?"
MAMMADOVA: "Well, actually, the main mission of our association is to
bring the new ideas, initiatives in the field of English language
teaching to Azerbaijan. And we do our mission, we implement our mission
through teacher training mainly and annual conferences where we invite
internationally recognized celebrities, as well as we organize regional
conferences for the teachers from the rural areas who cannot afford our
AA: "What are some of the challenges that English teachers in Azerbaijan face?"
MAMMADOVA: "Well, because that is a newly independent country, and this
is why the teachers mainly do not have skills for teaching English
communicatively. So that is number one issue, that they need to be
trained properly to teach the newly designed textbooks, which are
communicative textbooks. To teach them really communicatively, because
many teachers still teach these communicative textbooks using their
grammar traditional method."
AA: "The grammar translation --
just learning grammar, learning translation. And today, though, that's
kind of old fashioned to do it that way, isn't it?"
MAMMADOVA: "Of course it is too old fashioned to do that, because the
learners, they are a new generation, they have more access to Internet
and also to -- I don't know, they sometimes have satellite TV at home.
so they can watch BBC, CNN channels and they find the information
provided by their teachers obsolete already."
AA: "Right, when
they've got obsolete textbooks, when let's say you've got Facebook and
Twitter and other social media. Let's talk a little bit about the
social media and the new Web sites that are out there. Are teachers
using that in the classrooms in Azerbaijan or encouraging their
students to use social media as a way to learn English?"
MAMMADOVA: "Well, actually the thing is that the teachers, many of them
do not have access to computers and many of them do not have computer
skills. Their students have better skills because they go to Internet
cafes. They are young, they have more time. The teachers, sometimes,
because maybe it is sometimes the culture, so they do not go. But they
do encourage the students to use that sort of Web site links, so that
they can improve their English in many ways."
AA: "And how many years have you taught English?"
RAGSANA MAMMADOVA: "Since nineteen ninety."
"So twenty years. And what developments have you seen in methodology
that you are either very happy or that you're not so happy about to see
how things have changed over the last twenty years."
MAMMADOVA: "What I'm happy about is that now not only English teachers
but other subject teachers, they also can understand communicative
teaching, because before they would mind and they would always
criticize English teachers for noisy classes. They would not accept
that this noise is working noise. That is improving and they are trying
to learn from English teachers and to organize their classes where it
is student-centered and not teacher-centered.
"But one bad
thing is about the students, I think they lose their responsibilities a
bit. In the Soviet time I don't know whether education was stronger,
because it was free for everybody and also compulsory, and now it
requires lots of investment from the people in their own education. But
I think they also need to be taught about it ... that investment into
education is the best investment."
AA: That was Ragsana
Mammadova, executive director of the Azerbaijan English Teachers
Association. I spoke to her earlier this year in Denver, Colorado, at
the convention of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.
can find other interviews with English teachers from around the world
at our Web site, voanews.com/wordmaster. You can also subscribe to our
new weekly podcast. And that's WORDMASTER for this week. I'm Avi