Graduate of the month: Mira Namsrai
To meet the huge demand for the English language in Mongolia immediately after the peaceful transition to democracy in the early 1990s, Mongolia’s newly elected government retrained former Russian language teachers to teach English. As a result, English lessons were introduced in secondary schools from the start of the 1992-1993 school year. A Fulbright student from 1995 to 1996 and President of the Association of English Teachers of Mongolia, Ms. Mira Namsrai witnessed the early days of English teaching in Mongolia, as well as the Fulbright Mongolia program, which supported English teachers from Mongolia. and scholars since.
In 1994, at the start of Mongolia’s transition to teaching English, the United States Embassy and the Mongolian Ministry of Education began discussions about professional and academic exchanges for Mongolians. Mira was the first Mongolian selected to participate in the Fulbright Foreign Student Program to pursue studies in Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (TESOL) in the United States at American University, Washington, D.C. given the opportunity to learn more about the theory and methodological bases of Western education, in addition to being a great cultural exchange,” explained Mira.
During her Fulbright program in the spring of 1996, Mira first attended a TESOL conference, which inspired her to consider a similar organization in Mongolia. In 1997, with support from Open Society Foundations, Mira established the English Teachers Association of Mongolia (ELTAM) with the aim of providing EL teachers with professional development opportunities.
The first major project undertaken by ELTAM was to produce comprehensive materials in English for students in grades 5-10, including a student textbook and workbook, a teacher’s manual and audio supplements (cassette /CD). ELTAM received the Best Textbook Award from the Office of the President of Mongolia in 2001 and the British Council ELTons Award for Best Foreign Language Textbook in the International Category in 2009.
In 2005, ELTAM launched a nationwide teacher training project with support from the US Department of State English Language Regional Office in Beijing and the Open Society Foundations. In 2007, Marjorie Friedman, a senior English researcher, helped expand the project to a national and international conference with additional support from the Department of Education and the United States Embassy. The conference enabled English teachers from Mongolia, the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom to connect and share their knowledge on various topics, including theory, methodology and teaching reform of English.
Mire explained, “When EL education took off in Mongolia in the early 1990s, we lacked adequate preparation and resources, including human resources. However, we have now implemented an English teaching system with a national curriculum in line with Mongolia’s K-12 tsum (basic) curriculum. In the future, we must focus on the quality of education and teachers. Teacher training institutions should continue to improve curricula to ensure quality human resources in the sector.
With 30 years of experience and leadership, Mira continues to contribute to the development of English education in Mongolia and to set an example of leadership in the educational community in Mongolia and around the world.