ASEAN Teachers and Officials Receive English Training in New Brunei-U.S. Enrichment Initiative


HONOLULU (Nov 15, 2012) – More than 50 teacher-trainers, officials and diplomats from nine Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries have arrived at the East-West Center for a month of intensive English-language education training as part of the new Brunei-U.S. English Language Enrichment Program for ASEAN.

With English as the official language of ASEAN and the leading language of global commerce and diplomacy, the project aims to strengthen ASEAN’s integration and global engagement by raising the level of English language skills in ASEAN countries. Funded by the government of Brunei and managed by EWC and Universiti Brunei Darussalam with guidance from the U.S. Department of State and Brunei’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the program includes all ten ASEAN countries but is focusing on those where English language needs are the greatest.

Prior to coming to Hawai‘i, the program’s first group of participants spent two months studying in Brunei, where U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Brunei Foreign Minister Prince Mohamed Bolkiah officially inaugurated the program in September.

“We believe that learning English is a valuable tool in the 21st century, especially here in Southeast Asia,” said Clinton, who noted that assistance with teaching English is the most common request she has heard from government officials during her travels to ASEAN nations. “So this program is about more than learning a language. It’s about building ties of friendship, learning, cooperation, and partnership among the peoples of this diverse region. It’s about making ASEAN an even more effective and active organization. And it’s about strengthening the people-to-people relationships between ASEAN and the United States.”

The five-year program is being implemented through a series of phases including a regional needs assessment, curriculum development, and the implementation of programs designed to strengthen English language teaching capacity, assist ASEAN participants in developing new media communication skills, foster ASEAN participants' people-to-people connections, and cultivate awareness of the rich cultural diversity in ASEAN countries. Training modules for government officials also emphasize leadership and regional issues affecting ASEAN.

The program is also developing an interactive website designed to serve as a regional resource for teaching, learning and nurturing the network of participants across ASEAN.  A bi-annual Forum on English for ASEAN Integration will ascertain language policies and gauge implementation across the region.

"The idea of the English-language proficiency approach is to prepare diplomats and officials for being able to use language effectively in the work that they do," East-West Center Director of Education Terance Bigalke explained to Britain’s Guardian Weekly newspaper. "For the teacher trainers, the modules deal with education materials and methods of teaching. For the diplomats, there are specific courses on leadership and a range of regional issues, such as environmental, population, health and international relations challenges."