Muhammet Aydin’s first teacher was his mother. She taught him to read and write from a very young age and, in turn, he decided to impart this knowledge to his peers – earning the award for the 'smallest' teacher at just age six. And so began his career in a job he describes as his “gift”. Starting to teach in one of the most deprived regions of Turkey, Muhammet’s students scored amongst the lowest in the country. Health problems meant many parents could not provide for their families, so students had to undertake long hours of agricultural work during the summer. Physically underdeveloped because of hardship, and marginalised by society, they lacked self-esteem. Their disadvantage also extended to school, where Muhammet witnessed prejudice and a culture lacking in aspiration.
Muhammet set to turn this around with his innovation English In Street. The project uses technology and role-play to take language learning beyond the classroom by placing students in real-life scenes at cafés, shops and hospitals. They work in small groups to draft scripts, prepare sets, act and record scenes. The approach embeds language in everyday life and gives students ownership of their learning, allowing them to gain the confidence to act out dialogues. Along the way, they have fun and grow in their enthusiasm to speak English.
English In Street has had a profound impact: the number of students enrolled at the vocational school where Muhammet taught doubled; 50 students were accepted to the university; and over 550 learnt to speak English to grade B. The project – which Muhammet funded with five months’ worth of his salary – also gained widespread media acclaim. Seeing its success, the Turkish Ministry of National Education implemented the project all over the country. To date, more than 50 schools in Italy, Poland, Romania, Albania, and Northern Macedonia have also adopted the scheme and gained Language Learning Centre status in their own right.
Away from English In Street, Muhammet holds voluntary roles with a number of children’s charities, including UNESCO and the International Labour Organisation. In 2020, during the pandemic, he volunteered at training camps for children and refugees in Ordu Province. He organised reading activities for children deprived of education and provided literacy training for illiterate parents. He is an award-winning teacher of eTwinning, Europe's largest education community, and was selected as one of Turkey's 200 most successful teachers in 2019.
If he wins the Global Teacher Prize, Muhammet plans to open an orphanage under the name of the Varkey Foundation. He would like to build safe and healthy educational centres in Africa. And he would develop and launch EIS FOREVER, the universal version of English In Street.