Therefore, the traditional committee meeting was preceeded by two events: a leadership workshop led by Sakil Malik, IRA Global Operations Unit Director, and a Reading Conference. These two events built a very productive base for further discussion of regional issues. Leaders from several Eurasian countries participated in the leadership workshop. Mr. Malik gave an overview of key events in IRA and demonstrated use of the IRA website to learn more about some of the projects and activities.
Participants learned about online networking tools, task forces, the IRA President’s blog (Presidential Corner), Teacher’s Inquiry, and Eurasia’s online journal in Russian on the IRA website. Some of the participants said, “Now I see what IRA is all about.” Others commented, “Oh, now I know how to do my leadership work, I know what you expect from me.”
The one-day Reading Conference theme was “Language & Literacy: New Ideas & Insights in Learning and Teaching,” aimed to attract people from different universities, organizations, and the Ministry. The participants included many teachers from Kazakhstan, Georgia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Representatives from USAID and the Aga Khan Foundation, which has Reading Programs in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, were able to take part in the Conference. Ministry representatives were also invited.
The keynote speech “New Ideas and Insights in Text Comprehension” was presented by Past-President Dr. Victoria Risko. Many participants commented that this presentation deepened their understanding of how to work with text, which demands more detailed understanding, detailed preparation, and attention to many other factors which can be missed when selecting texts or in further work with the text.
At one of the sessions, there was also a good overview of children’s literature presented by Dr. William Teale, IRA Board Member. Prior to the start of the conference, Teale and Risko visited a school in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and were also able to conduct lessons which showed the possibility of pupils’ involvement in reading, having only one book for the class. These lessons showed that the book is a universal method of communication even if the teacher is speaking in a foreign language. Teachers could create an atmosphere during the lessons which allowed them to work with every pupil, despite their level of English knowledge. All pupils could be heard and successful.
Katya Jurina, an English teacher in Karagandy, Kazakhstan, and contributing writer to this article, came to this conclusion after the conference: “From my point of view, the most important idea which I heard during the conference was that a student will be interested when he realizes that it can be used in his everyday life.”
IRA sign welcoming attendees
Sapargul Mirseitova is the IDEAC Chair. Katya Jurina is a Kazakh English teacher who attended the conference.