By Sandra Story
“You don’t talk the walk—you walk the walk.” That is how one participant summarized her cohort’s feelings about the innovative teacher engagement program Embassy Manama’s Regional English Language Office (RELO) carried out from spring 2022 to early 2023. The initiative was designed to support aspiring English teachers by training them in marketable skills to increase their chances of finding employment by helping them obtain a key English teaching credential.
Many would-be teachers in Bahrain were unemployed from 2020 onward due to the pandemic and associated economic difficulties. Many others had not succeeded in gaining admission to the Bahrain Teachers College, the only accredited educational institution in Bahrain that trains aspiring public school teachers. Nevertheless, these potential teachers—most of whom were women—still sought a path into the classroom.
The RELO team worked with the local English Access Microscholarship Program implementing partner, Dar Almarifa (house of knowledge), to develop a plan to address certification and employment challenges in the post-pandemic era. That was the beginning of the English Access Teacher Training Program. Nineteen participants met three times a week, for four hours each day—even during Ramadan when fasting made learning difficult—to complete the intensive 96-hour program. The RELO team and Dar Almarifa prepared them to take the internationally recognized Teacher Knowledge Test, which is valued in Bahrain for its resume-enhancing reputation.
The program created immediate positive results: four participants found jobs and several others obtained raises. Because of this, the RELO team and Dar Almarifa decided to support a second cohort for twenty women who were unemployed, heads of households, recent graduates, or from underserved communities. Several more found new jobs. Participants expressed appreciation for the program content, saying it helped them become critical thinkers and better teachers.
Sandra Story is the regional English language officer at Embassy Manama.