In 2009 we established the Mekong English Centre (MEC) with 190 students. We have been using a local English syllabus and Lao teachers with the participation of foreign volunteers. The original building was located in Ban Pongkham, Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. In 2014, we had 500 students. Later, we moved to a new, larger building. This new building is located in Ban Nasang Vuay, Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. We now have 800 students, who have come in the wake of the growing of the tourist industry in Luang Prabang , there is an increasing amount of need for English in LPB.
From our experience and information research, we found that our students can be divided into two groups based on their educational needs. These two groups require two different curriculums and courses to address their specific needs.
The first group requires our Local English Curriculum with a Lao teacher and foreign volunteers; which is what we currently offer them. The second group requires an international curriculum with a native English teacher. Therefore, we have decided to separate our students and offer two different course options. For our new course, we plan to exercise a communicative approach in our teaching and we will use the <em>Headway</em> books for our courses and employ native English teachers to run the curriculum.
Since we have been part of MEC we have undertook three technical experiments on different topics as following
1. Technique of teaching
2. Student Behavior
3. Student Information
1. 90% of students are also learning English in their high schools /companies/universities, and they already learn basic English, however it is often from a Lao teacher. They are mostly satisfactory at writing, and reading, but they do not have the skill or confidence with speaking, or listening. That is why the Bright Centre would use a native English teacher, so they can have more practice with speaking, and conversation. This would also allow the students to hear the language spoken more naturally, and would help them with their listening. Having a native English speaker will help them to listen to English spoken naturally, and build their confidence when speaking English.
2. After our first experiment, we decided to look into student behavior. We found; due to the fact that most of our students are high-school or university students, a number of students were quite tired in the evenings, and due to the teaching style of MEC, which is very similar to the teaching style of Lao schools, would often be barely engaged in the classroom, or not engaged at all. Because of this we plan to approach this curriculum differently, using the Headway textbooks, and an approach called The Communication Approach. This would include fun activities, games, and conversation. It has been proven that students who are having fun, and playing games will often be more engaged; therefor they will understand and remember more of the course material. We will also give more emphasis on conversation, and allow the students to speak for themselves, in English. This will give the students more opportunities to practice their English, and gain confidence when speaking in class.
3. We then noticed that some students were not able to complete their curriculum because of the cost. Many of the students studying and pay for their school costs themselves, and often run out of money after 3-4 months, and end up dropping out, no matter what their skill in English is. So because of this, the Bright Centre will be providing two different ways of sponsoring, the first way is BC Sponsor Program which is a direct sponsor, and the second is the NGO Sponsor Program, which is an indirect sponsor. With the BC Sponsor Program, a person picks a student they would like to sponsor, and sends them to school. The NGO sponsor will be different, after a couple of months students who are studying with Bright Centre with good attendance and good behavior will write a letter asking for a sponsor. This letter will be sent to local NGOs, or some organization to be able to advertise them via their program, or sponsor them directly. This allows whole groups of students to be sponsored, and helps the students that work hard to be able to continue their studies.
Due to the fact that Luang prabang is a world heritage site, many people have been coming from all over the world. We have many tourists, business owners, and different people coming to live and work in LPB. Because of this English has become necessary for Lao people, especially those who live in LPB. Local people need to speak English to get a job in a hotel, or a restaurant, and we would like to provide those people with the language to be able to work. Luang Prabang is also the center of Education in the north of Laos and students from 7 different provinces come to LPB to learn, and those who come also want to learn English. The Bright Centre will try to become a part of their education process, and would like to help the people of LPB, and by a larger extent people from all over Laos, become successful.
In the Future, the Bright Centre would like to be able to teach more than English, we would like to branch out into computer and electronic fields, as well as waiting and cooking courses, to help the students when they are trying to find a job.
Bright Centre wants to provide these things, but it will be a huge investment, however we will strive to be able to make a fair price for these students. To be fair to the students we have already, and allow for the maximum amount of students to learn with our centre. Therefor The Bright Centre will charge only 300,000 kip (approximately $38) for 20 classes a month, or $500,000 kip ($US 62.02) for a term of three months, or 60 classes.
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