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Spotlight: Zevar Sabzalieva

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Zevar SabzalievaZevar (in striped
sweater) advising
teachers making their own teaching materials.
Click to enlarge photograph
Zevar Sabzalieva (ISP 04-05) has an MA degree in International Education from the University of Sussex and has been working for the past three years at the University of Central Asia in Khorog, Tajikistan, as a Senior English Instructor.

I was born into a nuclear family in Khorog in a remote mountainous region of Tajikistan.  My two brothers and I were given a good education and a lot of love, care and support by our parents.  I graduated in 1999 from the Foreign Language Department of Khorog State University (KSU) and in the last year of my course was fortunate to be selected for a two-month programme in Academic Reading and Writing at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto, of which I have excellent memories.

When I was in my fourth year at KSU I volunteered for a summer teacher training pogramme with the Aga Khan Foundation. This was the start of my teaching career.  Later, straight after graduation, I taught English Practice and Teaching Methodology courses at KSU and at the same time was involved in an AKF-Education training programme as a part-time language teacher.  I found it enjoyable working for two very different educational institutions simultaneously.  At AKF-Ed I was able to gain new experience and apply my theoretical knowledge. I helped to organize and conduct language and methodology workshops, taught English classes for the staff of the Institute for Professional Development (the in-service teacher education institution for the region of Gorno Badakhshan) and set up an English club for them and other AKF staff.  I also worked with the secondary level teachers of English to engage them in using more student-centred (rather than teacher-centred approaches) and other modern teaching methods in their classrooms.

At that time, the education system was close to collapse from lack of funding and teaching materials, which has been provided by the central authorities before the break up of the Soviet Union.  We worked with teachers and involved them in creating their own material from local resources, a notion that was new to the Soviet-trained teachers. 

The following two years I joined the Aga Khan Education Service (AKES) as an Administrative Assistant and Translator. This was a unique experience in that it gave me an opportunity to observe how AKES runs the Aga Khan Lycee, the only private school in Khorog. This was the time when AKES was in the process of obtaining its license for the school from the Ministry of Education.  It meant long office hours and sleepless nights when we had to make sure that all the criteria were met and had to translate and organize the AKL Charter, Regulations and other official documents for the MoE.    

In 2004 I applied for the AKF international scholarship to pursue my Master’s degree at the University of Sussex. This was again challenging yet exciting, since I had to get used to a new educational system, one which encourages critical thinking and uses different assessment and examination methods than those I was used to in Tajikistan, and where I was exposed to a more cosmopolitan society than I had known back home.

Upon completing my Master degree in International Education I joined the University of Central Asia as a Senior English Instructor and have been teaching Business English at the School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPCE) in the Khorog campus. I have also designed several short-term corporate courses for AKF(Afghanistan) staff, for GBAO secondary school teachers, for AKL staff and for the Pamir Energy Company, among others. I have augmented and improved the English for Business syllabuses and exam papers together with the instructors across the other two University of Central Asia campuses in Naryn. Kyrgyzstan, and Tekeli, Kazakhstan.

My advice to the young people starting out in my profession is to be ambitious and have a great love of their profession. Teaching a foreign language is exciting but also difficult since each person learns the subtleties of a foreign language in their own way. You need to be patient when dealing with difficult students and be creative and sociable to make your classes enjoyable and build rapport with your students.

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