Held in Spain’s capital, Madrid, the three-day event was a chance for members from over 30 countries to network, attend sessions focused on professional development and discuss issues and trends across the language education industry.
“Becoming a member of Eaquals has changed people’s attitudes…and has improved collaboration”
The conference was officially opened by Eaquals chair, Justin Quinn, who welcomed new members to the organisation and reflected on a year of growth for the association.
“[The conference] is a great opportunity for members to learn from each other, and gives non-members an opportunity to learn about Eaquals and the benefits that membership can bring,” Quinn told The PIE News.
In what has been a busy start to 2019, earlier this month Eaquals and Macmillan signed a Memorandum of Understanding to raise awareness with regard to accreditation and quality assurance, while in March, an MoU was signed with LanguageCert to provide opportunities for members to develop a relationship with the language testing provider.
During the AGM, an accreditation scheme for HEIs was also revealed to be in the works.
The scheme – which will sit alongside the current Eaquals accreditation scheme – will be piloted in Q4 of 2019 and launched in 2020, reflecting the growing number of language centres seeking recognition and accreditation with Eaquals at HE level.
In addition, the conference offered a wide range of innovative presentations, plenaries and workshops.
During the opening plenary, author Herbert Puchta presented ‘Developing 21st-century skills in teenage ELT’, with many taking to Twitter to express their thoughts using the official conference hashtag #eaquals19madrid.
Eaquals also announced the winners of the first Eaquals Scholarship Scheme, which was launched at the AGM in 2018.
The scheme aims to enable Eaquals-accredited institutions disadvantaged by challenging business environments, unfavourable exchange rates, and local political issues to benefit from funding to attend Eaquals conference.
The winners were Damla Şahin (Girne American University), Mehtap Özer-Isović (Anglia V), Ozlem Baykan (Özyeğin Üniversitesi), Serkan Aras (Özyeğin Üniversitesi) and Verica Amidžić (Anglia V).
In addition, there was a lot of excitement around the announcement of the winner of the Eaquals Teacher Award Scheme 2019, as Selçuk Bilgin, a teacher at Özyeğin Üniversitesi, Turkey, formally accepted his award at the conference.
But for many first-time conference attendees and new members, the highlight of the conference was meeting and networking with other schools and sharing professional experiences.
“The conference gives non-members an opportunity to learn about the benefits that membership can bring”
Head of department at Turkey’s Karabük University, Tuğba Akbaş – who was attending the conference for the first time – told The PIE that it was a great opportunity for her institution and that they were “delighted” about becoming a newly accredited member of Eaquals.
“It will benefit [my institution] in lots of different ways,” Akbaş explained. “Eaquals is about changing the culture and looking for quality in our profession.
“In the past, [staff] were more interested in their own personal development. But becoming a member of Eaquals has changed people’s attitudes, it has changed their points of view and has improved collaboration,” she added.
Reflecting on the event, executive director of Eaquals, Lou McLaughlin, said the feedback had been “extremely positive”.
“We were delighted to announce the forthcoming Eaquals HEI accreditation scheme at our AGM this year and look forward to the official launch in 2020,” she added.
The next Eaquals annual international conference will be held in Belfast, Northern Ireland in April 2020.
See a gallery from the Eaquals annual conference 2019 here.