Late in the Saturday evening, I received a call from my colleague who happily announced that her eldest son had passed the exam of Nepal Medical Council. Now with this license he can freely practice medicine in Nepal.
A month ago in this summer, I had my other colleague who received a message from her husband. Her husband had failed the exam of Nepal Bar Association. He needs to wait for few more months before he could start his law practice.
These two encounters with ‘License’ made me look into the issue of licensing and certification from a different perspective. Even after a rigorous study for four to five years, the doctors and lawyers need to have a license to work in their respective areas. Because licensing ensures that they have demonstrated minimum standards of skills and are now recognized by laws. Likewise, we need driving license, pilot license and so on. All these are highly skill oriented works too. This made me wonder why we, as teachers, do not need a license before entering into the field of English language teaching.
Language Teaching as a Skill
Before I discuss on this question, let me first quote Johnson (1996) on what a skill is. Skills are goal directed hierarchically organized, non-stereotyped behaviors. From the environment, the performer receives information along various parameters. The performer’s response is selected from a large repertoire of possible responses. It must be appropriate along all the relevant parameters (hence exhibiting considerable combinatorial skill), and in many cases must be executed speedily (Johnson, 1996).
Now the question is- does English language learning fall into the skill category? Definitely yes, Johnson (1996) further mentioned that a language fulfills the entire requirement to be a skill, what is said about the skills can be equally applied to language and those who use it. He further added that second language acquisition has much in common with other forms of skill learning and that there is much to be learned about the business of language teaching. Thus if learning a second language or foreign language like English in our context is a skill learning, then definitely a teacher teaching this second language must be skilled. In this light, incensing and certification of teacher is the must as to control over the entrance of incompetent English teachers to school education, be it a private school or government-funded one.
Certification in Nepal
Licensing and certification of teachers in the UK, the USA, Australia and many other countries are the requirement to get entry into teaching profession like in Nepal. In Nepal many universities are offering teacher education courses who educate their graduates and certify them. Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu University and many other newly established universities offer teacher education courses. They have B.Ed. M.Ed. MPhil degrees in English language education to prepare teachers and teacher educators. These degrees allows the graduates to get entry into English language teaching in Nepal. Besides these universities, British Council Nepal, TEFL international and some other globally recognized organizations have introduced courses like CELTA, TESOL and TEFL. Several non-governmental and teachers’ professional organizations are also involved in teacher preparation program. Universities and these organizations provide certificates after the successful completion of their training and makes the candidates be eligible to teach in schools and colleges.
Regarding the licensing of the English teachers, Teacher Service Commission (TSC), an independent body under Ministry of Education is authorized for all sorts of licensing processes of teachers. To get a teaching license, a candidate need to sit for a written examination. To be eligible for this examination, the candidate must be graduate from education stream or have gone through minimum ten months teaching training courses of Ministry of Education (MoE). The government of Nepal has made teacher license mandatory for every teacher in order to continue teaching across the country. However, it has been optional in large number of private English medium schools, nor it has been mandatory for all teachers recruited in community schools. It has only been obligatory to be qualified for government quotas (government paid quotas) in government-funded schools.
I believe, the provision of certification and licensing to get entry into teaching is indispensable in Nepali setting as it allows qualified candidates enter into teaching profession. In several cases, if someone gets him or her jobless and failure in other professions, then he or she is expected to join teaching in our context. Therefore, it is more significant. Certification and licensing system is more important as they bring professionalism and minimum standards into teaching profession. In addition, the provision assists to filter qualified and trained teachers to come into this profession. In Nepal a few years ago, there was a strong belief that one who can speak English fluently can teach English. So many private English medium schools used to hire teachers from India, especially from Darjeeling. Now the trend has been changed. The focus has been provided on pre-service teacher education and training the candidates have received. It definitely helps to improve quality of education.
In a nutshell, teaching English in Nepali context or elsewhere demands demonstration of teaching skill and ability as per the demand of curriculum and context. Certification to teach English language in Nepal and India like countries has not been taken seriously. To ensure the quality of teaching, certification and licensing system need to be mandatory.
In Nepal, MoE seemed to be flexible for not making license compulsory for all teachers in both types of schools. For instance, licensing is not compulsory for teachers in private English medium schools. Nor these schools provide focus on the pre-service teacher education program. For instance, there are several teachers working without prior pedagogical knowledge and skills. It shows University degrees holders from any streams could join teaching in those schools. It might underrate the ethics and standards of professionalism. Nor it would help to improve the learning achievement of students.
Furthermore, TSC conducts examination and is providing the license to all candidates from different academic subjects. There is no doubt that one needs have a particular knowledge and skill to teach a language like English. The provision of examination is appreciative to get license but government needs to think over the implementation of licensing system. Therefore, MoE needs to implement the policy of certification and licensing effectively in the education sector and it further has to improve the existing policies, plans and the strategies of TSC to make licensing provision more prestigious and practical.
Ms. Thapa teaches English at Little Angel’s School in Lalitpur. She is in her dissertation phase of MPhil in English language education at school of education, Kathamndu University.
Johnson, K. (1996). Language teaching and skill learning. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.