Welcome to Nelta Choutari: September 2013
Lal Bahadur Rana
(with support of Usha Kiran Wagle)
The status of the English language in Nepal to date is that of a language of international communication and medium of instruction in some schools, colleges and universities. Although it is being taught in one way or another over the last century, and although many people consider proficiency in English as a mark of educational excellence, it has not yet become the language of day to day communication.
The importance of English is rising in the society at large even beyond formal schooling. For instance, the civil service commission of Nepal recently updated its syllabuses to require applicants of officer level a test of English which carries a significant number of marks for proficiency in reading, writing, and grammar.
The increase in the value of English in the minds of the general public has to do with the fact that students who want to pursue higher education in science and technology, engineering, medical science, information technology, etc. need to have a sound knowledge of English. Even parents sending their children to government-funded schools want school management and teachers to switch from Nepali to English as a medium of instruction so that their children can pursue academic and professional careers with greater prospects. Even though the government doesn’t have a specific policy about the shift to English medium among public schools, district education offices, regional directorates, and department of education are approving or encouraging principals and head teachers to switch into English medium instruction. Often, these measures are taken in order to ensure that the public schools have enough students to justify the schools’ existence and funding!
The above rise in the popularity of English medium has not, however, led to any significant updates in the methods of language teaching. English teachers go through the routine of learning about fancy theories, principles, methods, and strategies that appear and disappear in their lives like ripples of water on bulbule lake caused due to the wind in spring. However, somehow the grammar translation method seems to stay alive, like the dubo grass that comes back even the most dry season. Truly speaking, we teachers have been teaching and teaching English but somehow our students seem to only learn English for show rather than becoming as fluent and capable as they should be after being formally taught for so many years during school and then some in college. This situation has perhaps to do with how teachers in schools and colleges consider their diary dearer than their lives, stand in front of a large number of students, and dictate what they have written in their diary. One often wonders what kind of language teaching this is. Is it the teacher who is practicing English or the students? Embarrassing as they may sound, such questions still remain a matter of concern in Nepalese ELT discourse.
School level syllabuses maintain that the English language should be taught using communicative method and aims to build up communicative competence among students. But to what extent are we teaching by using this method? Do students interact with each other in English when they come out of their classrooms? Even when they use English with other Nepali speakers of English, how authentic and proficient is their English? Learning English outside of real life situations, based almost exclusively on formal teaching in academic settings, doesn’t seem to be very effective.
Addressing both broader issues like the above and seeking to present specific ways to tackle them, the entries in this issue add to Choutari’s ongoing conversations about language teaching and learning critically. Jagadish Paudel has highlighted the fact that language teachers should take local contexts into their considerations if they wish to be successful in teaching English in Nepal. He further argues that the ideas derived from the West may not necessarily be suitable for us because our contexts are markedly distinct. Secondly, Ashok Raj Khati reflects on Bal Krishna Sharma’s recent talk at Kathmandu University on the ‘critical’ in language teaching arguing that how his talk was beneficial and relevant to the audience in Nepalese context. Blending his reflections on online course and experience of using technology in the classroom, Maheswor Rijal suggests the audience to integrate technology with teaching for effective results through his third entry. Fourthly, Umes Shrestha shares how the Nepali learners create their own kind of English because of the developmental stages of learning language in Nepal illustrating ‘became’ largely. In the fifth article, Dipendra Khatri talks about the teachers’ perception and practices of dealing with homework to young learners in English classroom. Last but not the least; we like in the last issue of this blog-zine have shared a resource link useful for the readers, especially dissertation writers.
Here is the list of blog entries included in this issue, hyperlinked for navigation:
- Is There Any Best Approach, Method and Technique for ESL Classes? I Like all; I Like none, by Jagdish Paudel
- Reflecting on the Talk on the ‘Critical’ in Language Education, by Ashok Raj Khati
- Let’s Integrate Technology with Teaching, by Maheswor Rijal
- The Pragmatics ‘Became’, by Umes Shretha
- Teachers’ Perception and Practices on Dealing with Homework to Young Learners, by Dipendra Khatri
- Resource of the Month, by Choutari Editors
We hope that you will find the entries interesting and useful. But, by the way, we will only know that if you share your comments on what you read and like. Your comment will start new conversations as well as encourage the writers. You can also share these entries on your social networking sites. Beyond that, please also consider joining Choutari by sending your own blog entry for the next issue. If you are interested in contributing, here is a list of what you might want to write about and here is an illustration of how you could approach the writing of your blog entry.
Lal Bahadur Rana
Editor, September Issue, NELTA Choutari