The teaching and learning process and indeed the situation for teachers and schools was very different from what it is today. There was a general lack of qualified teachers of English. Those who were capable of teaching English longed for a further education mechanism that included both language skills and methodology. Teachers also lacked the opportunity to create new learning materials and the ability to access suitable teaching materials from elsewhere. Moreover, everyone considered it crucial to create a learning environment built on knowledge, synthesis and performance. A situation where sharing and exchanging of experience was encouraged across the country and with colleagues from abroad. I think that these were the original reasons why the associations were established. However, due to geographical and possibly social and cultural divisions, it was found necessary to create two associations - Bohemia and Moravia-Silesia. Interestingly, they possessed similar objectives:
· to provide possibilities for professional development and cooperation on national and international levels,
· to provide information on recent development in ELT worldwide etc.
The associations, from the outset organised and participated in biannual national and international conferences.
Today there are a host of events for teachers of English provided by numerous organisations, funded in part, by the publishing houses, which try to persuade teachers to buy their products. Furthermore, ICT also a great influence on ELT and teachers have materials and webinars at their fingertips. Simultaneously we have witnessed a significant decline in the number of members. This is viewed as worrying and something we are keen to address. The remaining membership of both associations believed there was an urgent need for change and a re-emphasis on our role – with calls for a single country wide Czech association.
We recently agreed that the main objectives need to be reconsidered. One of the pragmatic decisions was the merger of the two Czech associations.
The two associations merged in September 2014 and we agreed on the name of Association of Teachers of English of the Czech Republic. The ATECR Executive Committee comprises the President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer, Immediate Past President, and appointed members in charge of liaison with other organisations, heads of divisions according to types of schools, as well as some special interest groups. Elections take place every two years. Following our merger, the former MSSUA President was elected the new ATECR President and the former ATECR President was elected the Vice-President.
Membership of ATECR is open to all those teaching English at all types of schools and institutions, state or private, as well as freelance teachers, of any nationality, working in the Czech Republic. Currently, there are 15 regional centres located throughout the country.
There are many challenges and items for discussion and indeed important decision to be debated, e.g. whether our conferences will be annual or biannual, how to deal with the fall in the number of members. Moreover, we recognise that new partnership agreements will be required and negotiations undertaken relating to our new operational format.
It is pleasing to note how well the merger has been perceived by our partners. They have been supportive and it seems they are aware of and appreciative of the challenges. We are extremely grateful to all who have embraced and endorsed our efforts. Long may it continue.
We all are excited about the future. The merger makes us stronger. We are now, at long last a united association, our voice will be louder and our views will be wider and deeper - supported by more people. Through this change, we can only gain, never lose.
We will endeavour to do more, to function efficiently and effectively and to better plan for the future.
Mgr. Libuše Kohutová and James Milne