Many formal and informal discussions emphasize that developing EFL reading at public schools of Nepal is challenging. In this narrative writing, I am therefore trying to investigate the existing scenario of EFL reading in our public school, its impact on developing reading habits and some hints for promoting it.
Let me share an incident that took place in my class. I asked a student to read a simple reading text. In the beginning, he was ready but he tried a little and stopped. I asked him why he stopped but he had no answer to it. He felt insulted in front of the class and flushed in anxiety. At first, he thought he could but as he tried he couldn’t because his reading skill did not support him. Majority of the students who belonged to public school had a similar story (perhaps, still have), a sad story of having difficulty in reading an English textbook fluently. This story reminded me to recall my first stumbling days where I put my full effort, mind and heart to memorize those individual letters ABC…XYZ without knowing what reading actually means. So, till the date, I remember the interesting way of our reading. We were taught to read word meaning in such a way, h-o-u-s-e- house mane (means) ‘ghar’ and gradually started to read sentences.
Reflecting back to those days, what I feel now is that our reading in my time was probably focused on developing the ability to read English alphabets. Later, it was associated with the production of words and sentences than context, meaning and many more. So based on my experience as an ELT practitioner, I do not find any significant difference between past and today. No doubt that reading is definitely a skill, an active skill along with other three fundamental skills of language. Some studies (e.g Dabarera et.al, 2014; Ismail, 2015& Lee, 2012) related to reading skill reported that reading is one of the significant skills foreign language students need to learn for academic success in English. . .
Firstly, we were taught in Nepali even in English language class. Our teacher translated English text into learners’ native language (Nepali) as far as possible. As a result, we are compelled to think in Nepali and literally translated the language into English. This process involved the use of grammar-translation method in language learning and we are still practising it (nani dekhi lageko bani). In our English class, our English teachers used to explain the text into Nepali and asked us to memorize the difficult word meaning. When he taught a lesson, he followed the ethics of grammar-translation method. He read the text and translated into Nepali language, so did the students. Thus, we never felt that it was our English class and we were reading in English. On the other hand, we felt bored like my SEE students when their teacher starts giving a lecture in English class. The interesting thing happened in both classes (classes of my time and now) were similar where students requested their teacher to tell the text into Nepali. In this respect, I would like to add a statement of my SEE student.
She shared, “Miss, can you please explain it in Nepali? We did not get you?” (Translated)
This is only the very common example. As we are using the Nepali language in most of the English class, it automatically creates a problem in reading. Throughout the observation, we experienced the same and even understood that students might have felt difficulty in reading due to the deep impact of the dominant method. There is a lack of concern and exposure of English inside the class. The contexts are also limited. It is my experience that the teaching and learning English in public schools is oriented to how to pass the exam.
The students of public schools did not have exposure in reading from English teacher, parents and elders for developing reading skill since the past till now. So, reading becomes a complex process for them. The students do not know what makes them a good reader and what the right way of practice developing reading skills is.
Another reason behind the lack of students’ motivation in reading is due to the lack of additional reading materials. Most of the public schools of Nepal do not have the access to reading room i.e. library in schools. Even though there is a library, students are not trained how to find appropriate books and read fluently. Moreover, lack of trained English teachers, lack of enough teaching aids students of the public school are poor in reading. If we could provide reading related book like English magazine, storybook, poem, drama and so on to our students from the early grades, there might not be seen such problems in the field of English language teaching. So, establishing a resourceful library is essential for the development of students’ better-reading habit.
Similarly, the reason behind our students’ demotivation in reading (mostly in public school) is the teachers’ own reading habit. Therefore, teacher and their reading habit can be one of the sources of inspirations for the learners. I, thus, think that to improve the quality of present government aided education system and more importantly to develop the reading habit to the student, every school should establish a teaching community of practice. McLaughlin and Mitra (2000) emphasize that teachers’ community of practice is an important vehicle for sharing ideas and getting help from each other in their educational practice. I hope schools can be the best model for teachers along with their students for developing reading skill. In my view, only establishing a library is not sufficient to promote reading habit, but there should be an environment for reading community to enhance the better reading of their young learners. It means there should be a practice of taking children to the library, choose appropriate books and read, then share what they read with their friends and others.
Finally, motivation is one of the key strategies a teacher can use to make his/her students sound in reading. Motivation has positive power for transforming individuals towards wellbeing, Therefore, I felt that at the beginning, mostly the students require a great deal of support and guidance from their ELT teachers. If they get the proper guidance and motivation, they can enhance their reading.
Ms Roka is a recent graduate from the Department of English, TU. Her master’s thesis explores identity construction of female EFL teachers in Nepal.
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