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By Christine June
GCMC Public Affairs

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (Dec. 9, 2016) – Chief of testing, Maj. Khayal Iskandar traveled more than 2,000 miles from Azerbaijan to make sure that he and his 30 employees know how to teach their students to communicate in English to NATO standards.

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Twelve experienced language teachers and language program managers from nine countries graduated from the Partner Language Training Center, Europe’s Language Standards and Assessment Seminar Dec. 8 at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. (Photo by Karl-Heinz Wedhorn)

“We base all of our English language programs on NATO standards,” said Iskandar, who is the chief of testing at the Foreign Language and Partnership Training Center. “All of our teachers should be involved in these type of courses so they are able to have a clear picture of what they need to do to prepare students for exams.”

Iskandar and 11 classmates from nine countries graduated from the Language Standards and Assessment Seminar (LSAS) Dec. 8 at the Marshall Center.

“This 10-day seminar is a highly interactive seminar that familiarizes experienced language teachers and language program managers with the NATO standards for language proficiency,” said Roxanne Harrison, program manager at the English Language Programs Department of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies’ Partner Language Training Center, Europe. “It also introduces them to sound principles of language testing process to improve student learning, make better assessments of student progress and improve the design of classroom lessons in their home nations’ language training programs.”

She added that seminar activities included lectures, small group projects, plenary discussion, hands-on practice in developing and reviewing assessments, and analysis of case studies on language instruction and assessment.

“The first day you come here everything is all gray to you, but by the end of the course, you are quite enlightened,” Iskandar said. “In just two weeks, you learn a lot – how to evaluate speaking, writing, reading and listening skills. It’s really productive.”

Jerry Nowers, head contingency of the Defence Centre for Languages and Culture for the Defence Academy in the United Kingdom, was the lead facilitator for this iteration. This is the sixth time he has facilitated this course for PLTCE.

“The LSAS is designed primarily to familiarize our international participants with NATO standards and introduces them to principles of testing and assessments, which they can take back to improve their own and their nation’s processes,” Nowers said.

These language standards were implemented in NATO as a standardization agreement in 1976 for language standards in the armed forces and language exams, said Harrison. Iskandar said Azerbaijan implemented these standards for the military about 10 years ago.

Through its English Language Programs Department, PLTCE is an officially-recognized NATO Partnership Training and Education Center that offers workshops and seminars for English teaching and testing professionals from NATO and partner nations. PLTCE works closely with the Bureau for international Language Coordination (BILC), which is NATO’s advisory body on language training and testing, to provide professional development for language testers, trainers and managers, said Harrison.

The LSAS is one of four courses that PLTCE delivers for NATO and partner nation training. The other courses are the Language Testing Seminar, the Advanced Language Testing Seminar and the English Teaching Faculty Development Workshop. 

Iskandar attended the Language Testing Seminar last year, and he still keeps in touch with his classmates.

“My classmates (from Lithuania, Slovenia and Georgia), and I created a bilateral cooperation program where my center developed test items and sent those items to my classmates to pilot at their centers. They sent us their feedback and statistics,” Iskandar said. “It’s very valuable to know that these items work in other NATO and partner countries as it does in my country. It shows that we are correctly testing and evaluating our students.”

“These four courses form a portfolio of training related to interoperability of NATO and partner forces through communication in a common language,” said Harrison.

“I would like all teachers and testers at my center to participate in these courses so they know how to prepare our students for success,” Iskandar said. “For me as a tester, these courses are excellent and very important.”