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#Azerbaijan - Preparing students for excellence




As a graduate of the London School of Economics and Birkbeck, I am very grateful for the opportunities that studying in English has afforded me. This was one of my principal motivations to establish both the European Azerbaijan School (EAS) and the Azerbaijan Teacher Development Centre (ATDC) in Baku, writes Tale Heydarov.

Today, while English is the preferred language of Azerbaijan’s youth, it continues to be taught and assessed more in terms of grammar and written ability rather than spoken competence throughout the public schools' system. Additionally, there are many state schools still running Russian taught prospectus’. This is somewhat attributable to how the country and parents perceive the future and what languages or school they choose for their children. As high school students around the world prepare for the next chapter in their lives, however, whether that be undergraduate education or the world of work, they must be prepared to compete in a global marketplace where English is the main business language.

Within public schools, all subjects are taught in Azerbaijani except for English itself, though even this is taught as a grammar-based subject, with spoken English in classes more a rare commodity than the norm. In private schools, however, English is the principal medium of instruction. A growing number of schools are offering an international curriculum such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), or syllabus’ taught in British and American schools. Some government schools are now also introducing an international curriculum. As Azerbaijan and its education sector continue to develop it only seems sensible that teaching and standards conform more towards internationally accepted norms, thereby allowing the next generation to compete on an equal footing.

This is why I am so pleased that ATDC as a Cambridge Assessment English authorised exam centre recently completed its 2nd CELTA (Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching for Adults) training in Azerbaijan. CELTA is the most widely recognized international English language teaching qualification in the world. It is administered by the University of Cambridge and is delivered worldwide. Teachers are assessed across a number of disciplines; on teaching practice, supervised lesson planning, delivery of classroom feedback, peer observation of practical tutorials, and written assignment. All attendees passed the course, with 17% achieving an A grade (on average only 7% globally achieve an A). As the leading Cambridge English authorised CELTA Centre in Azerbaijan, ATDC is delighted with the success of this course and its record in promoting such a prestigious international teaching qualification. The centre hopes that its example and graduating faculty will inspire teachers at the highest levels to embrace an ongoing personal development strategy that equips them to further enhance student learning outcomes.

ATDC has continued to provide first-class quality teacher professional development and learning since its opening. The centre’s ‘Assessing Learning’ conference in November was attended by over 800 teachers and educators from across the country. ATDC has also provided training through a Ministry of Education contract to over 4500 teachers in more than 25 regions of the country, and has run over 200 professional development courses for teachers throughout the year. The centre has worked alongside the Pedagogical University at its Baku and Sheki campuses, and the Vocational Educational Training Agency, delivering language training and teaching qualifications while mentoring English Language teachers to enable improved learning outcomes.

The EAS has equally excelled and will this year have its largest-ever enrolment. The school has brought the best of the world to Azerbaijan and welcomed both international teachers and students alike. The school continues to evolve and is now an applicant school for the IB ‘Middle Years’ Programme, with formal authorisation expected later this academic year. From top to bottom EAS has embraced best practice to build a truly international, innovative and outwardly focussed school. A central tenet of its success is through bilingual teaching and the provision of additional language options for those in the upper grades. More and more students are interested in studying abroad. This is made that much easier with an IB qualification and an advanced standard of spoken and written English.


While Azerbaijan’s National Education Strategy has fundamentally driven change and the country’s approach to best-in-class techniques over the last few years, further integration of mandatory language teaching and teacher personal development throughout all schools will only stand students in good stead in today’s 21st-century borderless information society.

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