Mortar & pestle

Generally speaking...

...English teachers in Laos choose their topics according to their ability and according to the access they have to teaching material. This applies to foreign teachers as well.
At MEC, the students study with a variety of lessons compiled, designed and most of them created by Mr. Claus. We have been granted great independence in what we teach and how we teach it - and we are grateful for this.
The classes taught have to deal with subjects that are comprehensible for Lao students - not only in terms of understanding the new language, but also in terms of understanding the topics: e.g. the English words "mortar" and "pestle" tend to be not part of the vocabulary of most people in 'the West', let alone used! In 'the West' people use a "blender"! However "mortars" and "pestles" are essentials for Lao cuisine.
An English language learning compendium that explains me how a "ticket-distributor" for the London underground-system works is pretty useless in Luang Prabang. There isn't a railway in Laos - let alone a subway...
Also a work-sheet for beginners that presents the former Pope and Marilyn Monroe preparing the question: "Where are they from?" - ("She is from America!" - "He is from Poland!") is most certainly a good and suitable lesson in any Western country - but not in Laos! 80% of my Lao students wouldn't know what a Pope is nor that Poland is a country in Europe - let alone Marilyn Monroe.

Cultural understanding goes both ways

Many good and well intentioned lessons from teaching books had to be adapted for teaching them in a Lao classroom. Choosing appropriate topics goes along with a deeper understanding of Lao culture. Hence the development of a syllabus, which would match international standards, but would also be relevant for the students it aimed for. The result is two teaching volumes:

  • the first: "Sabaidee - How are you?" for students in their first year at MEC and
  • the second: "Nice to meet you..." for our Intermediates in their second year.

Both English Language Learning Books go along with PowerPoint slideshows, which give step-by-step instructions for our Lao teachers built upon the method developed by Claus Haumer over the years to get the curriculum's contents across to the students. The PowerPoint presentations also include a huge variety of extra information, teaching games and activities to deepen the subjects taught in the various lessons.

Learning English at MEC should be efficient -but also: it should be fun!!!

The teaching contents and their underlying method then became subject of a first teacher training course held by Mr. Claus at MEC from November 2009 to April 2010. Six Lao candidates were chosen on the basis of ability and commitment to the goals of the course. Some of them were former students at MANO or MEC having experienced the contents and the methods from scratch - and others were not. As a result our English classes are taught by Lao teachers! - (in 2015) accommodating 450 to 500 students in five different classrooms with most of our classes in the evening from 16:30 to 20:30, supported by native speakers volunteering at our centre.

Students at MEC.