Bishwa Gautam is Regional English Language Program Specialist working for the U.S. Embassy based in Kathmandu, Nepal and responsible for Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives. In the following interview with Praveen Kumar Yadav, one of Choutari editors, Gautam shares about ELT situation, its prospects and challenges in Nepal, ELT programs implemented by the US Embassy’s Regional English Language Office (RELO) and finally various opportunities provided by the office for Engllish language teachers and learners. We hope our valued readers would find the interview very useful and interesting to read.
How do you assess the current situation of English Language Teaching in Nepal? What are the prospects and challenges?
The situation of English Language Teaching in Nepal has two scenarios; one urban, the other rural. In the urban cities, ELT is progressing satisfactorily, but in small cities and rural areas there are many issues. The issues are the (un)availability of well-educated, trained, and motivated teachers, the lack of teacher mentors, limited or no English teaching and learning resources, and unmotivated students because English is rated as the number one difficult subject. This lack of teaching-learning resources and materials development means fewer people want to become English teachers which only makes the situation worse. Moreover, the market of English language is huge. English language skill is necessary for further studies, business, job, technological and tourism affairs as well as for daily activities. Therefore, everybody wants to learn English. This gives English language teaching situation a very prosperous and challenging opportunity.
What are the key programs that the US Embassy’s RELO is implementing for improving ELT situation in Nepal? What has been most effective?
The Regional English Language Office (RELO), U.S. Embassy, has been supporting English language teacher development programs since __ through programs like the English Language Specialist and English Language Fellow programs, which bring American English Language Teaching experts to provide teacher training and give advice and support to educational institutions for the improvement of English teaching in Nepal. Other programs such as E-Teacher Scholarship, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), and the Shaping the Way We Teach Webinar Series give teachers the opportunity learn practical knowledge and skills for their professional development. The United States Government’s Department of State’s after school English Access Microscholarship Program (Access) for economically disadvantaged, bright, adolescents in eight districts of Nepal is also managed by the RELO office and currently implemented by NELTA. Not only are the Access students having impressive results in their formal education and developing leadership roles, but also their teachers are benefiting from periodic trainings from RELO and amazingly are becoming teacher trainers in their locality. The RELO also supports professional exchange sponsoring Nepalese English language teachers to participate in various National and International conferences in the region as well as the annual Teachers to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) conference in the U.S. Finally, English language teaching materials and resources, as well as materials development and support are other equally popular programs of the RELO. The most effective interventions by the RELO office is the training of English teachers. The Public Affairs Office at the U.S. Embassy, Kathmandu, also assists in English language programs such as the English By Radio program which reached 60 districts and training programs at the American Corners to enable teachers to access and use materials from the American English website.
Through this interview, we would like to inform teachers, researchers, and professional leaders in the field of ELT about the opportunities that RELO provides. Please list or describe some of the opportunities and resources that you have for them.
The RELO shares its opportunities widely via its webpage http://nepal.usembassy.gov/relo.html . We have a number of online opportunities which require regular access to computers and Internet. In the coming year, the call for application announcement of the E-Teacher Scholarship program, where participants take a 10-week long U.S. university course online, will be in June/July 2015. This is a highly competitive program for a limited number of slots. Interested English language teachers should submit completed applications. The participants should be able to give 10-15 hours in a week and should have basic technology skills. In contrast, webinars which are in series of 6 different one and a half hour sessions are open to all and can be group viewing if people don’t have computers and Internet. Webinar 15 dates are January 14, January 28, February 11, February 25, March 11, and March 25 and Webinar 16 dates are April 22, May 6, May 20, June 3, June 17, and July 1. MOOCs are shorter and easier than the E-Teacher courses, open to all and groups can get together to give each other study support. The dates of Shaping the Way We Teach English MOOC course 1 are Jan. 05 and Apr. 06, 2015 and the dates of course 2 are Feb. 09 and May 11, 2015. However participants should register themselves one week prior to the course start date. Institutions or organizations who wish to apply to get an English Language Specialist or Fellow and individuals who wish to apply for exchange programs can submit applications to RELOKathmandu@state.gov at any time. English language teachers and learners can access, download and use a variety of materials such as games, activities, audio books, reading material and articles about teaching from our American English site www.americanenglish.state.gov . Moreover, we also provide hard copies of English Teaching Forum which comes out four times a year or it can be read online at the American English website.
Please visit the Regional English Language Office, U.S. Embassy Kathmandu’s web page http://nepal.usembassy.gov/relo.html and the US Embassy Kathmandu Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/nepal.usembassy to check for updates and opportunities.