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# President's Message: February/March 2000
David C. Nunan, President of TESOL, 1999-2000, looks at what progress TESOL has made in addressing the needs of its international constituency.

TESOL Matters Vol. 10 No. 1 (February/March 2000)

David C. Nunan, President of TESOL, 1999-2000

In my final President's Message, I thought it would be fitting to look at what progress TESOL has made in addressing the needs of our international constituency. When I ran for president, one of my major aims was to advance our international agenda. I was given a wonderful mechanism for working on this in the shape of the TESOL Board of Directors' International Initiative Ad Hoc Committee, chaired by immediate Past President Kathi Bailey and including Virginia Christopher, Donna Fujimoto, Elizabeth Hanson-Smith, Jim Rogers, and Mary Romney.

There have been some impressive achievements over the past 12 months. Let me highlight a few of these.

# We held our first, highly successful Tailor-Made Professional Development Program in Pakistan.

# The preconvention research symposium in New York City in March looked at classroom research in the EFL context, and research reports from Asia, Europe, and Latin America were presented.

# This year, speaker travel grants were provided to international affiliates in Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Georgia, Greece, Italy, and Pakistan. In addition, travel grants to send members to the 33rd Annual TESOL Convention in New York City were given to Canada, Croatia, Israel, Paraguay, Peru, Thailand, and Venezuela.

# Board members presented at conferences in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Korea, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Scotland, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

# TESOL's Ad Hoc Committee on Virtual Professional Development is looking at ways of developing on-line courses that can serve the needs of international members.

# The TESOL International Research Foundation was established.

# Planning for the first international TESOL academy, to be held in Uruguay in August 2000, is well underway.

# Awards for international participation at the convention have been established with funding from the TOEFL Policy Council.

# International members were successful in winning places in the Leadership Mentoring Program.

# A survey on the needs of international affiliates has been completed.

# The annual business meeting at the 33rd Annual TESOL Convention passed a resolution opposing discrimination against ESL/EFL teachers in the workplace on the grounds of nationality.

Although this list is selective, it demonstrates the considerable commitment that TESOL continues to make to its international constituency. If we review our efforts against the Forward Plan, however, some gaping holes begin to appear. Our efforts to date have been strongly biased towards professional development, with a secondary focus on research. Standards and advocacy hardly feature at all.

I was prompted to think about these gaps a few months ago when I was at a conference in Central America. In the course of a conversation with several participants, the issue of advocacy came up. Suddenly, the conversation, which until that point had been somewhat muted, became extremely animated.

The consensus seemed to be that TESOL had no right to be involved in advocacy, that it was not something for a professional organization to become involved in. This placed me in a dilemma because advocacy is one of the five legs of TESOL's Forward Plan.

"So, what does advocacy mean to you?" I asked.
"Well, it's all about politics, isn't it?" one of the participants in the conversation replied. "I can't see what it has to do with a professional organization for teachers."
"What's the biggest challenge that you're facing at the moment?"
"Large class sizes and inadequate salaries," she replied.
"And don't you think that a professional organization has a responsibility to fight for smaller class sizes and better salaries?"
"Of course!"
"Well, to me that's advocacy," I said.
"So what can you do for us?"
"Well, maybe not much, directly," I replied. "It wouldn't be appropriate for TESOL as an organization to start mixing it with your government. But what we might be able to do is to share with you some of the strategies that people in other contexts facing similar challenges have used. And we can also let you have some of the research on class size that has been carried out. It would then be up to you to decide if to use this information and how to use it."

The conversation brought home to me just how limited TESOL's involvement in international advocacy has been. I wondered what kind of role we might play and how circumscribed such a role might be. Some issues have just begun to be explored: During the 33rd Annual TESOL Convention in New York City, TESOL leaders from other countries were invited to take part in a focus group on international advocacy. The group shared definitions of advocacy, and in comparing strategies they learned that although some strategies will work in particular countries, a completely different tactic has to be taken in other countries due to differences in the educational, political, and social systems.

The group concluded that there "are many commonalities across contexts: problems with funding, lack of government support or recognition, lack of resources, and the difficulty in fitting existing services to the shifting student population" (TESOL International Initiative, Report to the October 1999 TESOL Board of Directors meeting). Also in New York, during the Affiliate Leaders' Workshop international leaders discussed their main concerns about advocacy. The following were mentioned: funding for programs, materials and salaries, issues relating to native-speaking versus nonnative-speaking teachers, limited access to technology, and issues to do with professional employment conditions.

A couple of months after the conference, JoAnn Bouson, chair of the Sociopolitical Concerns Committee, sought the views of affiliate leaders through their e-mail discussion list. Leaders responded with the following concerns: an unfair bias against nonnative speakers of English in many institutions and countries, a practice on the part of many companies and institutions of hiring tourists and people with no training as English teachers, use of false credentials by some people, salaries determined by the color of someone's skin rather than by professional qualifications, bilingual programs under threat, and funds previously earmarked for ESL being used for general literacy programs.

Both lists of issues are concerned with advocacy, and it seems to me that this is an area where we need to focus our efforts in the year to come.

In a position paper commissioned for the board, Jack Longmate, a member of TESOL's Rules and Resolutions Committee, has come up with some exciting ideas in this area:

# lobbying internationally to oppose cases of discrimination on the basis of nationality

# sponsoring an edited database that would function as a clearinghouse of information about employment issues that pertain to foreign national employment

# commissioning a publication that sets out guidelines directed towards a readership of English language teaching professionals considering teaching appointment in countries that employ foreign nationals

# commissioning a task force composed of members experienced in teaching as foreign nationals to compile a set of standards that would be published as guidelines for the hiring of foreign national teachers in the international workplace

# creating a task force with agencies such as the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language, the U.S.Department of State, and the United Nations to examine (a) measures to avert the exploitation of foreign language teaching workers and (b) a procedure for investigating charges of discriminatory, unjust, unethical, or otherwise exploitative employment

The recommendations in Longmate's paper complement those emerging from the international affiliate survey, which identified a clear need for international standards for teacher qualifications and employment standards. Although there have been some significant achievements in the international arena, there is also much more to be done.

David C. Nunan, President of TESOL, 1999-2000