The Qatar University (QU) Foundation Programme (FP), under the Deanship of General Studies, held its fifth Annual International Conference on English Language Teaching (ELT) virtually, via the WebEx platform, recently with the theme 'Teaching English and the Skills of the 21st Century - Communicate, Collaborate, Create'.
In the presence of more than 8,000 specialists and interested professionals in ELT in Qatar and abroad, the conference highlighted the latest cutting-edge skills and practices in language education that would support students to develop their skills and acquire knowledge that contributes to further advancement, QU said in a statement.
Over two days, this year's conference discussed ELT and the skills of the 21st century that educators seek to establish in the curricula. These skills would enable students to acquire knowledge to enhance their participation in supporting the development of knowledge economy in their countries and local communities. Moreover, the conference highlighted the importance of professional development for ELT specialists through academic conferences such as this.
A large number of education experts, QU faculty members and teachers at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) and other practitioners from Qatar and the world attended the opening ceremony of the conference.
Dr Hassan bin Rashid al-Derham, president of QU, inaugurated the conference and welcomed the speakers and attendees, saying: "We are very proud to host the fifth edition of this international online conference, which brings together a large number of teachers, educators and language experts in Tesol (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) The conference title reflects the current reality, as learners need these skills to integrate into the global labour market effectively.
"In line with the current reality, we are having a virtual conference this year because the pandemic has made it impossible to meet in Doha as we did in the last four years. I hope that we will be able to gather physically in the near future. We must not let the pandemic affect our spirit to grow the 21st-century skills in education because we believe that at the heart of every challenge comes opportunities."
He added that one advantage of hosting such a virtual conference is reaching out to a much wider global audience. "We have participation from over 40 countries, and I see this as a positive development in itself. Thus, we must continue this tradition and host larger conferences in the future," he added.
Dr Ibrahim al-Kaabi, dean of General Studies at QU, said: "The conference is the first online international conference hosted by the Foundation Programme at Qatar University. As we welcome everyone, I am pleased to have among us in this conference colleagues from the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in the State of Qatar in particular. We will continue to work together to promote best practices in ELT and learning.
"We ??strongly believe in the vital role that continuous professional development plays. Therefore, despite the difficult conditions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide, we hope that hosting this virtual international conference will provide faculty members at QU with opportunities to communicate with colleagues working in this field from inside and outside the country."
Dr Hezam al-Awah, the conference chair and director of the Foundation Programme at QU, said this conference is one of the most essential and largest academic conferences held at the university and in the region in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030 strategy. The conference has provided an opportunity to review and discuss modern academic skills in the education sector. These, in turn, contribute to the significant development of faculty members and researchers and upgrading their capabilities to a high level, "which would enhance the quality of services provided in our educational institutions", it was observed.
In this regard, Dr al-Awah noted that the role of the MoEHE in Qatar, represented by the Training and Educational Development Centre, has been crucial in achieving the effective training partnership through the fifth annual conference. This, in turn, has contributed significantly to providing ample professional development opportunities.
Dr Mohamed Manasreh, head of the QU-FP Department of English, said the ELT conference serves as a platform that promotes and
facilitates educational experiences in teaching and strengthening professional and academic co-operation networks with QU's permanent partners. The conference also provides opportunities to have further internal and external partnerships.
Stephen Krashen, emeritus professor of linguistics at the University of Southern California, US, and a distinguished author in second language acquisition, delivered the conference's opening plenary session, 'Three Issues in Language Acquisition and Use'.
The conference offered 85 discussion sessions and a variety of training workshops that dealt with emotional intelligence, collaborative
learning, critical thinking, innovation in Tesol, autonomous learning, practical ideas in e-learning, project-based learning, educational management skills in virtual classes, assessment and electronic tests. It also included workshops and panel discussions that focused on developing language teachers' skills in Qatar in research, learning and teaching.