Networking Matters: Message from Surkhet (15th NELTA Conference)
Kamal Poudel, Secretary, NELTA
‘I came, I saw, I conquered’. Many modern people may not be aware of the first speaker of this simple sentence which bears a strong sense winning a battle but in an easy way. The battle might have been fearful, but the speaker never felt like that. There were strong teams around him to face the challenges together; they fought the battle bearing the meaning of team spirit to achieve the success. The success and team works are now intricately interwoven, which has been the main driving force for the successful operation of NELTA across the country. Along with this, NELTA has been quite successful in spreading the idea that NELTA believes in the concept of multiple centers. We would like to reiterate that NELTA has been breaking down the compartmentalizing barriers that were raised in the Nepalese society for long. Breaking the barriers, the teachers involved in NELTA have now realized that they are in the dire need of networking among themselves. The meeting of NELTA delegates during the conference itself is the indicator of the need of networking. Their overwhelming presence and the relationship they establish among themselves should be seriously taken by the people who are leading NELTA, no matter what level. Also, its imperative value needs to be addressed as significantly as possible. The NELTA delegates from the different corners have already proved this that they want to be the part of wider network as far as possible. We agree that NELTA delegates were not satisfied with the gathering in the centre only, or they must have thought that now it’s a high time that they broke the concept of one center and establish the concept of multiple centers. Here, the concept of NELTA’s multiple centers bears the idea of helping strengthening the teachers’ professionalism and thus finally enhance the teaching-learning situation in the country from the different parts. These facts finally led the NELTA Surkhet branch colleagues and the other like-minded NELTA colleagues to host the second phase of the 15th International Conference of NELTA from 24 to 25 February 2010.
The Surkhet conference brought the same spirit of dedication from the different parts of the world (India, China, Australia, Poland, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Romania, UK and USA) to the enhancement of ELT in Nepal. The conference drew the attention of local people widely and clearly conveyed the message that the existence and improvement of English in the local level is essential, as it is a tool to see interact with the rest of the world.
Certainly, all languages in a multilingual society and setting have the same prestige and importance. All language speakers have the equal right to preserve and speak their own language as per their desire in their daily life situation; however these people have the right to be informed about the grave value of and to have access to the language that they think is important in the given situation and the relevant age. The people of the present day are required to understand the fact that English is now nobody’s language so it is everybody’s language. Being everybody’s language, it has been able to bring the people of the world together and thus share their diverse ideas on the same platform. To note, we are able to expose ourselves to the outer world through the common means. We are aware of the fact that thoughts/ideas are the core/end of our life while language is the ‘dress of thought’. But, if we are not equipped with the common means, we may not be able to share our ideas efficiently; the sharing of ideas can make this world a better place to live. It is worth noting the words of the welcome speech delivered by Mr B R Khadka, the campus chief of Surkhet Education Campus. He expressed that we have seen that English language has become indispensable to the modern life as it is a global language, which needs to be acquired by all who would like to be interconnected with the world. In this reference, we also need to be quite aware of the significance of the enhancement of the English Language in our country. At this point, I would like to stress on the word ‘interconnection’ which bears the essence of networking. The people now locally and globally have realized that interconnection is the key thing in order to enhance oneself, so the concept of networking among the ELT members needs to be addressed by the NELTA delegates for the overall development education. English is not now for the sake of English. At the same time, English is a language which co-exists with other languages, so the English language should be considered as a factor which helps the diversity grow in a harmonious way. To create harmony in the diversity is the task of ELT stakeholders of the present day world.
Whether we have been able to create positive attitude towards English among the users is an important question. We have seen that English is an indispensable to the modern life. In the name of its importance, we may have been erasing the meanings of life of many young citizens across the country. Because we have been stressing on the value of English language, and at the same time we have not able to teach this language to the students in an effective way, as a result thousands of Nepalese students have failed in the test of English. No doubt, NELTA is not the only stakeholder of English teaching, along with the government agencies there are many. But in some ways, we are also responsible for the failure of English in many schools. We have been playing the role of watchdog as well. But, has this been enough? Or is it that we have not been strong enough to wake up the government agencies to accelerate the teaching of English and make it better? It’s a high time that we started evaluating and reviewing what we have done so far. These questions could be sensed in the inaugural speech delivered by Prof Khaniya. It’s never too late, if we start acting from the time we have realized. Again, for this as well, we the teachers are required to get together and move ahead in a harmony to address the existing problems to bring positive changes in the society. We all realize that it’s our responsibility if we are professionally committed. The professional development matters, which is one of the key statements NELTA has always been raising. So, dear ENLTA colleagues come forward and get connected and widen the networking, share your ideas and finally help each other; and we develop professionally!!! Also, learning is the prerequisite of professional development. Learn with your colleagues and learn from your pupils are the facts of modern education, which we all are aware of. Get interconnected to learn, I would say.
‘What did you learn my lord?’ was answered as ‘Words, words, words!’ These often quoted question and answer are always relevant to the teachers. In addition to what, how do you learn is also an important question. To take an analogy, there was a priest who was to preach in a new place for his new audience. As he got to the temple, there was a huge gathering of people to listen to him. He wrote a word/title on the board and asked his people, ‘Do you know what story I am going to tell you today?’ The people were puzzled and answered together ‘No.’ The priest said, ‘If you do not know anything about the story, why should I tell you?’ Saying this, he left the place. It was on second day, he asked the same question. The people wanted to listen to him. So, this time they decided to say the answer ‘yes.’ They said yes. To their great surprise, the priest said, ‘If you know the story, why should I tell you?’ This time too he went away. Everyone was puzzled again. The same thing happened on the third day as well. He came and asked the same question. This time, the people answered differently. Some half of them said ‘yes’, and some half of them said ‘no’. The priest was satisfied with the answer and said, ‘Good! Now those who know the story tell to those who do not know the story.’ Then, he carried on his work. Now the question is, how should you be rated, if you are the same type of teacher? I believe the teacher like him is a modern teacher. S/he believes in the principle of group work. Further, s/he believes that there are more than thirty people in class, and then there are thirty diverse sources of knowledge. A single person may not be the good source of all different types of knowledge. This is the age of diversity, and diversity is the abundant source of knowledge, indeed authentic knowledge. Enter the world of diversity to achieve the authenticity of knowledge. Connect yourself with more people. Start learning now. Prof Awasthi rightly asked the question in his plenary speech ‘Do Teachers Teach or Learn?’ The classroom itself is the source of knowledge for the teachers and students themselves. Learning from each other is a fun. We teachers, as Prof Awasthi stressed, too need to expand ourselves further widely and get connected more for the self-empowerment.
In this context further, if there is diversity, can we assure that there is only one English? No, never is it possible. Mr Uttam Gaulee, the chair of Surkhet NELTA branch said that English is used more by non-native speakers than the native ones. This also indicates that English is living with various languages. The moment we talk about the existence of a being or a language in diversity, we automatically assume that there is sure to be the birth of another type, which again contributes to the development of diversity. This has been proved by the development of Nepali language itself. We do not speak the same language that Bhanubhakta Acharya or his contemporary spoke. Along with the self development of Nepali language, it has borrowed a lot of features from other languages spoken in Nepal. Certainly, its features have also been borrowed by other languages. Thus, there are different varieties of Nepali language. So is the case with English. We are, indeed, developing our own English, and one day there will be a palpable variety of English spoken in Nepal in the long run. Concentrating on the concept World Englishes, Dr. Numa Markee, the keynote speaker of the conference deliberated that English is growing very fast round the globe and therefore it has a number of variations. He also stated that English teachers can play crucial roles in the language policies of Nepal as the new constitution of Nepal which is to be drafted soon. He also added that bringing about pedagogical innovation is the most challenging task to be done in course of introducing curriculum innovation. So, I would like to stress on NELTA delegates should now take the deciding role what kind of language policy we need. The fact is we need English and we need diversity.
Finally, knowing the value of diversity is essential for the modern teachers. In order to feel the value, the criss-cross matters. Your movement from one point to another point will prove to what extent you would like to see the diverse world: be it seeing different cultures across the country or wathching birds in Chitwan National Park. Or make another plan to meet another centre after Kathmandu and Surkhet. In the conference (in Kathmandu and Surkhet), NELTA participants came, NELTA participants saw and NELTA participants conquered. Move from your place to see the diversity, and thus strengthen the networking of multiple centers, share the ideas of those centres through various means, and finally become a conqueror. One of the ways of sharing is to visit the NELTA Choutari. Post your comments and ideas. We would like to welcome the diverse ideas from different centres. Remember you are one of the centers. Please tell us what is there in your centre.