I have often spoken about the importance of learning English as a second language, especially for children. When I founded the European Azerbaijan School in 2011, one of my goals was to create an environment where children can learn and become truly global citizens – an institution that allows individuals to flourish abroad while instilling a sense of the importance of contributing to their local community.
A key facet to achieving this is the opportunity to learn English and be exposed to an international curriculum. As a result, The European Azerbaijan School (EAS) is an IB (International Baccalaureate) world school where the medium of instruction is English.
Learning English can give children the confidence to communicate globally while providing access to a lifetime of enriched experiences and opportunities. Though I am also an advocate of knowing one’s regional language, in my case Russian, English is the world’s most widely spoken language. By mastering English, or one of the other more widely spoken ‘traditional’ languages, young people can go on to study abroad, gain exposure to the best international research and academic resources, compete for the best work opportunities globally, and travel with confidence.
Learning a second language also fosters increased awareness of other cultures and helps bring people closer together in a globalised world. English is also the dominant language of the internet. Being able to navigate the web allows access to the online world, to search for knowledge, and to communicate on a global scale. With enhanced English language capabilities, students can also enjoy a wide range of world literature and film, which in turn helps broaden their world view.
Another institution in Azerbaijan furthering this cause is the Azerbaijan Teacher Development Centre (ATDC) in Baku. It is at the forefront of supporting teachers to learn and enhance their English language skills. ATDC is an authorised Cambridge English exam centre and runs classes for anyone interested in learning or improving their English – young or old. ATDC offers the Cambridge suite of English exams from Young Learner Starters, Movers and Flyers for children aged 6 to 12, and for older students, teachers and adults, with all exams built around the CEFR (Common Framework of Reference).
Cambridge English has the world’s leading range of qualifications for learners and teachers. Cambridge English, part of the University of Cambridge, runs exams through authorised exam centres such as ATDC for over 50,000 schools each year. Over 5.5 million Cambridge qualifications and tests are taken every year, recognised worldwide by over 25,000 universities, employers and governments. These organisations trust Cambridge English Qualifications as a secure and reliable proof of English Language capability. The qualifications are a mark of excellence and open the doors to higher education and employment opportunities for recipients.
ATDC hosted a Cambridge Day event in Baku at the end of February attracting over 550 teachers, educators and university language students from not only Baku but across Azerbaijan. The day featured presentations by ATDC staff and workshops on developments in language learning, as well as the keynote address by EAS’ Deputy Director (Academic), Francesco Banchini, on teaching creatively. As a part of the Cambridge Day celebrations, teachers and students from the Azerbaijan State Pedagogical University (APU) were presented with certificates for completing the Cambridge qualification. The event also welcomed the Dean of Philology at APU, Professor Mahire Huseynova, to address the conference alongside Richard Pinkham, Cultural Attaché to the US Embassy who has keenly supported ATDC’s work with APU.
ATDC’s work continues to grow and expand in its support of teachers, educators and learners throughout Azerbaijan. I am pleased to see an improvement in English language ability across Azerbaijani society. I encourage all those in our education sector, including the Ministry of Education and State Exam Sector, to take advantage of the opportunities available to increase English language skills of students in our schools and Universities. Azerbaijan can take advantage of the positive impact on learning that Cambridge English qualifications provide. I will continue to promote this in the European Azerbaijan School by providing students and graduates with qualifications that set them on a path to global citizenry and a life of learning.
Azerbaijan Teacher Development Centre is the distributor of Cambridge University Press for English Language Teaching books and resources in Azerbaijan.
*Tale Heydarov is the founder of the European Azerbaijan School, Azerbaijan Teachers Development Centre, Libraff bookstores network, TEAS Publishing House, and until recently served as President of Gabala FC football club (Azerbaijan Premier League)