We’ve been working with the Koung Jor refugee camp to improve their educational offerings for four years, supporting supplementary evening classes in English, Burmese and Computing. As part of a new initiative, this October we sent experienced teacher trainer and long-time supporter of The Branch Foundation, Lauren, to the camp to help some of the young English teachers improve their teaching skills. Lauren shares her experiences of training in the camp and Nanta, an English teacher and the Camp Education Coordinator, tells us about being a student for a change. Trainer Lauren in action practising an activity with Nanta


Lauren – Teacher Trainer

How long have you been a teacher trainer?

I’ve been a teacher trainer for over two years now. I usually train Thai teachers, helping them improve their English skills as well as their teaching techniques, with courses ranging from two-day language-improvement workshops to six-month methodology development courses.

How did training at Koung Jor differ from your everyday training?

The training at Koung Jor took place in a temple, which is very different from the usual hotel convention rooms in my everyday training. We all sat on the floor and shared ideas with each other. Training was mainly focused on teaching methodology and communicative activities. Participants were very motivated to improve their teaching techniques and were very active throughout the training.

Why is there a need for teacher training at the camp?

Most teachers in the camps do not have any training or formal qualifications in education before they become teachers and they are selected to become English teachers because they have good language skills and have finished school themselves. They know a lot about their subject, but unfortunately they don’t know how to teach effectively. They often copy what their teachers did when they were at school, which is usually a very teacher-centred style, focusing on rote-learning. Teachers in the camps need to find out about more communicative teaching techniques.

How did the teachers react to your training?

At first, they were very quiet and lacked confidence in both their English skills and their own teaching. However, after a few ice-breaking interactive activities, they were speaking out and actively participating in training activities. By the end of the training, they had all practised using some of the techniques in micro-teaching sessions (teaching each other), which clearly boosted their confidence in their own abilities.

Nanta – Teacher and Education Coordinator at Koung Jor

How long have you lived in Koung Jor and how long have you been a teacher?

I’ve lived in Koung Jor for ten years now and have been teaching in the camp for three years.

Who and what subjects do you teach?

I have taught a lot of different ages and this year I am teaching grades 7 and 8, between the ages of 15- 18 years old. I teach them English writing, reading, speaking and grammar.

Why is there a need for teacher training at the camp?

In Koung Jor camp, some of the teachers are attending local Thai school and when they finish they would like to continue their education at high level school so they don’t have time to teach any more. Every year there are some new teachers who haven’t attended teacher training. That is why we need teacher training.

What was the most useful thing you learnt during the training?

The most important thing that I learnt from teacher training is lesson planning, because in our camp we don’t have a curriculum, so I need to find new ideas for my lesson to teach in class.

What are your hopes for the future?

In my future I hope to keep teaching and build more quality students. Finally, I hope to provide more classes for the youths from Shan State, Burma in Koung Jor refugee camp.

Practicing an interactive teaching activity This first round of training was a great success with all the trainees giving very positive feedback, and we are very excited to announce that we’ll be providing more regular teacher training 2-3 times a year. This will include observing existing trainees to see how they are progressing, as well as training new and existing teachers. Our hope is to make the training accessible to other teachers in the local area, including those from nearby IDP camps. If you would like to support our Education project at Koung Jor you can donate via GlobalGiving US or GlobalGiving UK.