English is better with (an) Accent

Pro Vice-Chancellor International Engagement with ELTO country leaders and staff
Pro Vice-Chancellor International Engagement with ELTO country leaders and staff
Victoria University’s engagement with Southeast Asia is about to move up a gear, with the signing by Accent Learning of a three-year contract with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to provide an expanded English Language Training for Officials (ELTO) programme for government officials from six Southeast Asian countries and Mongolia. This news came as the last intake of the current phase was drawing to a close (see picture). ELTO is funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme.
The ELTO programme will see a 74 percent increase in numbers of officials studying at Victoria, with Indonesia being added to the current countries of  Cambodia, Laos,  Myanmar, Timor-Leste, Vietnam and Mongolia.  ELTO is one component of a three-part contract which also includes delivering English language courses off-shore.
Viclink’s Gary Ward, who manages Accent Learning, says that the increase in the ELTO programme from 96 to 160 participants per year is “testament to the quality and effectiveness of the English language training that the English Language Institute (ELI) at Victoria University has been delivering for MFAT for over 20 years,” adding that Accent Learning has held the contract since 2009.
The ELTO programme is designed to help government officials to communicate with foreign counterparts, for example, in order to participate in international meetings and processes where English is the primary language used – helping them to achieve objectives such as poverty reduction and sustainable economic development as a result. “It has proven time and again to have a really positive, transformative effect,” says Gary.
Officials travel to New Zealand for five months to study English first with either the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) or the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT), before continuing their studies at Victoria University’s English Language Institute (ELI), which with the help of its partners, has designed, developed and delivered the ELTO programme since 1992.  “Each intake centres around a particular theme that the participants have some background knowledge of,” explains Angela Joe, Director of ELI. “To create credible opportunities for them around these topics, we use our connections within the University to draw on resources from a wide range of Schools. We essentially build a community around each course.”
The ELI’s ASEAN Programmes Academic Director, Alastair Ker, is responsible for coordinating the design of the curriculum, but says that all three providers “work closely together to ensure we all have input into the courses, and deliver a consistent, quality programme.”
To support the curriculum, and create a solid base for participants to make the most of the intensive course, Accent Learning also provides a range of social activities and pastoral care. “These officials leave their families and often very young children behind for five months,” says Accent’s Hilary Watson, whose team organises the logistics and the extra-curricular programme. “Some have even missed the birth of their firstborns. It’s a big commitment, but they say the sacrifice is worth it for them to gain the English language skills that are so essential for their countries to operate effectively in the ASEAN community and in the world today. And, of course, a spin-off is that New Zealand has them as friends for life.”
Another aspect of the contract will involve developing bespoke English Language Training courses, where the training is tailored to a particular need: for example, during 2015 and 2016 the ELI is training Lao officials in preparation for chairing ASEAN during 2016.
“Getting the major components of the contract signed off is an amazing way to end 2015, and celebrate a year of hard work and team effort,” says Gary. “I think everyone is looking forward now to working with MFAT and rolling out the programmes in 2016!”
Caption for photograph
Intake 42 of the ELTO programme celebrated a successful course and received their certificates from Professor Rob Rabel, Pro Vice-Chancellor, International Engagement (centre) on 3 December. Pictured are the country group leaders from the six countries who were part of Phase III of the programme, with Victoria University staff. From left: Sourathay Keodara, Laos; Chaw Yu Yu Khin, Myanmar; Dr Alastair Ker, ELI; Ligia Maria Esperanca Pinto, Timor Leste; Hilary Watson, Accent Learning; Prof Rob Rabel, Dr Angela Joe, ELI;  Soyol-Erdene Erdenetsogt, Mongolia; Nguyen Thi Thuong Linh, Vietnam; and Rachna So, Cambodia.