Parents have rights to choose medium of instruction: Executive Director of NCED

Khagaraj Baral

Khagaraj Baral, Executive Director, NCED

National Centre for Educational Development (NCED) has been running National Initiative to Improve Teaching in English (NIITE) Project. For this special issue dedicated to EMI, Choutari editor Jeevan Karki has spoken to Khagraj Baral, Executive Director of NCED on EMI practice in Nepal. Here is the excerpt: 

What kind of project is it? And, why was the necessity of it felt? Could you please explain?

NIITE is a project to support our regular teachers’ professional development programmes. English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) was already in practice in our community schools before launching NIITE, whereas, it was launched two years back. There is a provision of conducting teachers’ training based on the needs of teachers in the School Sector Reform Plan (SSRP). The need of the most of teachers from community schools was skills to teach through EMI. It was because of the decrease in number of students in community schools in towns, would-be towns and district headquarters and the reason behind the shift of students to private boarding schools was the choice for EMI education. The next factor was the interest of parents to educate their children through EMI. Considering both the reasons, the School Management Committee (SMC) and teachers started working on teaching and learning through EMI. Then, we designed the training programmes as per the demand of teachers to get trained for delivering EMI based lessons. There is no pressure for schools to shift for EMI. Schools are free to use Nepali, English or both according to education act (2010), regulations and curriculum.

How many community schools are teaching through EMI and how many teachers are trained for EMI?

During last Fiscal Year, 7,500 teachers were trained from NCED. The training was provided to the teachers who were teaching subjects other than Nepali and English. Some schools are also managing the trainings on their own. The community schools from Daunne to Gaidakot in Nawalparasi district have conducted trainings with their own initiative. The schools that want to start EMI are not going to wait only for our support, instead our support seems to have been late than their initiation. Some schools have even recruited teachers for teaching through EMI in self-funding.

According to language policy, schools can use Nepali, English or both as a medium of instruction. Based on the policy, schools are adopting EMI even without qualified teachers and minimum resources. What kind of outcome this may bring in future? Doesn’t the government have to ensure the fulfillment of minimum requirements before implementing EMI?

Schools have adopted the medium of instruction as per the existing language policy. Are there qualified teachers and sufficient resources in the schools that use Nepali as a medium of instruction? If it is yes, there is also not satisfactory results. The medium of instruction does not solely improve the result. However, it has been observed that the results of the schools which have adopted EMI have been improving slowly. The result may not be satisfactory for few years but it will improve thereafter.

The SLC result of 2013/14 has shown that the schools that produced encouraging results were found to be adopting EMI, take an example of Kanti and Kalika schools of Butwal, Shanti school of Manigram. Similarly, schools of Biratnagar, Pokhara, Surkhet, Kathmandu, Bhaktpur, Lalitpur, Damak, and Hetauda have proved the same level of results. Why don’t you analyse the result of the community schools after adopting EMI in last ten years?

A lot of issues and controversies have been raised internationally in terms of shifting the medium of instruction (MoI). In order to systematize it, different countries have clearly set guidelines on age/level to start EMI, subjects to teach through EMI and so on. For instance, there is a provision of introducing EMI from the third year of primary level in China. What are the guidelines of teaching through EMI in Nepal?

The medium of instruction is determined by socio-economic, political and linguistic factors of the country and it is led by politics. As the politics is also based on democracy, the need and interest of people is strong. If there was an autocratic rule, only one language would have been recognized. If parents want to educate their children through EMI, the theories and principles of language become secondary. They lay-men do not care about the principles of language teaching. They want their children to get quality education of international standard. Secondly, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the authority is vested in the parents to choose the kind of education for their children. Talking about the case of China, although Chinese is the largest language in the world, they start EMI from the third year of primary level. Why is there a need for EMI in China as they have the most spoken language in the world? China is the leading economy in the world. It doesn’t need to depend on other countries. It doesn’t need to worry about foreign employment and it has excelled in technology. Despite all, it is also adopting EMI. The reality of our country is different. So, it we can’t compare with other countries.

In our context, the existing law and policy are sufficient. The important thing is to implement it honestly.

We are still not able to teach EFL/ESL effectively in our schools. In this context, don’t you think it is a hurry to start teaching other subjects in English medium?

You are right but the major question is how effective the Nepali medium classes are. We can never start if we wait to fix everything and then start. Attempts for changes have to be made. Schools have never been forced to shift for EMI. This shift has taken place in those schools which are interested to start and their infrastructure, teachers and SMC are ready for it. Nothing can stop those who are willing for change and those who want to remain as they are, there is easy policy for them too. You know that that institutional schools use EMI. Are there sufficient and qualified teachers for EMI? I’ve also found their teachers weak in both language and contents. Challenges are obvious during reformation. We need to move forward resolving the problems.

When children are taught and exposed to English language from very young age instead of teaching in their home language. Such products for instance, from private boarding schools, are found to be loving foreign language and culture rather than their own. Furthermore, the government is also promoting English language. In this context, what will be the effect in Nepali language and culture after introducing EMI at very young age?

The issue you raised is serious. However, it makes no difference. Have the products taught in Nepali medium protected and promoted their language and culture? Are they aware of their language and culture? Have they used their local or home language? Has the only use of Nepali or local language helped in the livelihood of people and in international competitions? And, have the ones taught through EMI gone against the languages and cultures of their country? Language is only a medium of learning. Although children are taught through EMI, they have spent more of their time at home. Have parents made their children aware of their language and culture? Every house has been promoting Hindi language watching Hindi movies, TV serials and cartoons on TV. Hasn’t it promoting the culture? Similarly, hasn’t the culture coming through English movies and cartoons? The education in schools has made the future leaders prosperous. The issue you raised is more serious for out of school scenario rather than schools.

What kind of programmes and modality does NCED have to produce qualified teachers for teaching through EMI?

NCED supports through trainings. Although we don’t have sufficient trainers, we provide training through our roaster trainers. We’ve prepared 150 trainers in cooperation with British Council in the last year and developed the package. I think now time has come to select teachers having basic communication skills in English in community schools. Like Public Service Commission, Teachers Service Commission also  need to test the English language skills of teachers. Talking about our programme, we now are going to design our modality in terms of needs of teachers including EMI training.

Choutari team would like to thank the Executive Director of NCED for his valuable time and insights into the practice of EMI. 

2 comments

  • Baburam Pokharel

    Dear sir,

    Perfect and useful interview.

  • Shyam Sharma

    I just read this post again (more carefully) while reviewing available literature on EMI in Nepali public schools, and all I can say is, gosh, what sad state of affairs! What twisted logic it is to say that parents have the right to educate their children in a foreign language and credit the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for this myth; in reality, that Declaration says that children have the right to education in their local/home languages. All the defensiveness in this interview made me wonder: who is running this project and who is actually benefiting from it? Where is the intellectual courage to correct course and tell private schools that they should let teachers use whatever language works best for learning, that even English language is best learned when learning is meaningful, that it is irresponsible to equate quality education with EMI? In fact, how educated are our government officials on the subject of EMI? Have they studied any research from other countries?

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