Dear Colleagues and Friends,

I am excited to report that TIRF was well represented in the Sixth Annual Global English Education China Assembly held at City University of Macau at the end of last month (July 28-30, 2023). This event aimed to promote scholarship, professional development, and cross-cultural understanding among English language educators in China. It was also designed to enhance dialogues between China’s ELT professionals and their peers around the globe.

The theme of this year’s conference was “New Opportunities for the World with New Advances in China’s Development: Opening Up New Prospects in the English Education Cooperation Worldwide.” The event adopted 12 topical areas, for example, English language education in the post-pandemic era, the role of AI in English language education, opportunities and challenges for English language teachers with ChatGPT, and global communication of Chinese culture in bilingual and multilingual contexts.

Attendees at the Sixth Annual Global English Education China Assembly (Image Credit: City University of Macao)

More than 1,600 participants from over 20 countries participated in the conference, with half of them on site and half online. The conference was jointly organized by China Daily, Shanghai International Studies University, and The Education and Youth Development Bureau of the Macao SAR Government. 21st Century Newspaper and City University of Macao were local organizers. More than 10 sponsors and supporters were listed, including TIRF, the British Council, Duolingo, and ETS China, among others.

The role TIRF played at this conference was significant. First and foremost, TIRF was advertised in the program book with succinct messaging about what TIRF is, what its mission entails, and what it offers to individuals in our field. Secondly, there was a featured session of “TIRF Talks: Integrating Teaching with Research” by two TIRF Trustees (David Nunan and me), and a former DDG recipient, Dr. Yueting Xu, Professor at South China Normal University . It was the first time TIRF had been formally introduced to ELT professionals in China, and members of the audience asked many questions about the Foundation. 

Thirdly, two out of nine keynote speakers were TIRF Trustees. In my opening keynote “An International Agenda and Roles for English in the Future: The case of Macao,” I argued that Macao enjoys its strategic geopolitical advantages within the “one country, two systems” framework by positioning itself as a center for international tourism and leisure, a window connecting China and Portuguese-speaking countries, and a platform for multilingualism and multiculturism to bridge East and West. Nevertheless, the advancement of Macao’s international agenda must include and emphasize the role of English and English education in spite of the fact that only Chinese and Portuguese are official languages by law. I further cited statistics that pointed out the need for talent in the labor force in Macao, especially in tourism, business, finance, and education – sectors that require high-level English proficiency. Drawing on insights from success stories in Singapore, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and India, I asserted that only by embracing English as a lingua franca – as a mindset and in practice – can Macao’s international agenda diversify and boost its economy.

(Let to Right) Jun Liu, David Nunan, and Yueting X (Image Credit: City University of Macao)

In his keynote speech, “Paradigm Shifts in Language Education,” David Nunan, looked at the imperative for change and those that facilitate change, and what stands in its way. He argued that education in general, and language education in particular, are curiously resistant to change. David explained that’s why it takes so long for paradigms to shift in education, and he elaborated his thoughts about an expanded role for language teachers in an unpredictable global world, the potential for technology to be a force for positive change.

What I also enjoyed about this conference was introducing David Nunan, a man who needs no introduction, to the captive audience. I shared an anecdote that when I was a doctoral student at The Ohio State University, I was assigned a book to read and to present to the class as if I were Dr. Nunan. It was not until I actually met Dr. Nunan at a TESOL Conference that I realized I was not Dr. Nunan, which was about some 25 years ago, coinciding with the birth of TIRF.

If you would like to read more about the Sixth Annual Global English Education China Assembly, please click here.

Connecting with colleagues at such international events to share information about TIRF is one of the many ways the TIRF Board is working to further our mission. I hope to connect with you at such an event in the near future!

Kind regards,

Jun Liu

TIRF President