All posts by greatsajankarna

Editorial: December Issue

Nostalgic I feel !

We all know that the old team of NELTA Choutari is on the way to departure and a new team of promising ELters is to join the board from the New Year on wards. At this moment, I feel a bit nostalgic about everything we had and we did being associated with Choutari. This moment reminds me of my early days in NELTA Choutari. The story is long and I do not have room enough to tell you all but I still remember how my journey in NELTA Choutari began and how I collaborated with such brilliant minds  in order to help transform Nepalese ELT. I have never seen Shyam Sharma(the key architect of Choutari)  in person, yet we are so close and at one by both heart and mind in shaping the profession. I have had very a few meetings with Balkrishna Sharma but the intimacy has grown so strong that we do care for each other not only personally but also professionally. And Prem Phyak is always close to my heart. What I would like to say is it is Choutari that has at times cemented and strengthened our relation.  We have been together for a single cause and that is transformation of Nepalese ELT and Choutari has been a common umbrella for us and for you.

At this moment, I am not and should not be evaluating the Choutari activities: I leave them upon the newcomers and others but this departure does make me a bit more emotional than I had ever thought I would feel. While I am writing this editorial, I am not in position to believe that I am quitting Choutari from January onwards. On the one hand, it makes me a bit gloomy that I will be, in a way, missing the wonderful company I have had for the last four years; I will no longer be compiling articles, contacting possible contributors and writing editorials. These are the things that gave me utter satisfaction in my academic life.  On the other hand I am happy that the responsibility now on has gone to the shoulders of a very effervescent team who have already shown their utmost commitment and efficiency to maintain the legacy that began four years back. I still remember myself talking to Shyam,  Prem, and Balkrishana for longer hours on messenger, Google chat and Skype, learning technology, requesting professors for interview, encouraging young ELTers to read the contents and share their comments, publicizing things in conferences and so forth. I believe my association with NELTA Choutari has fetched me more than I gave it.

All this makes me so wistful and also lets me nearly utter: “Team, I do not want to quit”. But there has to be a system of entry and exit in all associations and projects. And it is time for me to say “Good Bye”.  Nevertheless, I am pretty sure that it does not in any way curtail my presence from Choutari completely in the days to come. I will be ever happy to contribute NELTA Choutari whatever way possible. With this commitment and also wishing the new team good luck in their endeavor to initiate new but worthwhile discourses in Nepalese ELT, I would like to give a stop to this editorial.

Last but not least

December, the last month of the Gregorian calendar, has turned the last month of my association with NELTA Choutari as a co- editor but I am very much aware that I should not let it become the least in any sense. The issue of NELTA Choutari brings you with some new personalized ELT experiences having typical Nepalese flavor. To begin with,  the interview with Vishnu Singh Rai (my guru) on considerably a new venture that Asian English Teachers Creative Writing Group sheds light on a new philosophy of producing poems and stories for use in Asian EFL/ESL classrooms. The discourse with him is insightful and will have a considerable space in Nepalese ELT in the days to come.  The next two entries again reflect on prevalent fallacies in Nepalese ELT. Whereas Maheshwor Rijal, in his write up, shares his individual reflections on teaching and learning of vocabulary during his school days, Binod Kumar Yadav highlights the need of rapport between teacher and students, the lack of which has considerably affected Nepalese ELT making it virtually a one way traffic. Similarly, Dipesh Sah, in his tiny entry, shares his own strategies of motivating students in EFL classrooms in rural Sindhuli and finally Bharat Babu Khanal measures the effectiveness of a US sponsored Micro-scholarship Access Program implemented by NELTA.

  1. ‘Creative writing brings fresh air in the classroom’: An Interview with Vishnu Singh Rai
  2. Revisiting Vocabulary Teaching/Learning: My Reflections    by Maheshwor Rijal
  3. Significance of Rapport in English Language Teaching and Learning by Binod Kumar Yadav
  4. Motivation in ESL/EFL Learning: Who’s Responsible? by Dipesh Kumar Sah
  5. The Impact of Access Program in Nepal by  Bharat Babu Khanal

Acknowledgement:

I would like to sincerely acknowledge Madhav Kafle’s support in compiling and editing articles for this issue as an intern. His sincere efforts have shown that he will make a good editor. I wish him all the best.

Sajan Kumar

Editor

NELTA Choutari 

‘Creative writing brings fresh air in the classroom’ An Interview with Vishnu Singh Rai

by Sajan Kumar

Vishnu S.  Rai is a well-known name in Nepalese ELT. An Associate Professor of English, Department of English Education, TU, Rai has been involved in teaching, training and research for more than two decades. To his credit, he has published a number of books and articles on linguistics and ELT. More importantly, he has designed present secondary level courses and written textbooks.

Besides, he loves creative writing and his stories poems and dramas are taught in Tribhuvan University, and other universities. He is one of the members of Asian English Teachers Creative writing Group which runs workshops and conferences and also publishes poems and stories for Asian students. The Group has already held conferences twice once in Kirtipur (2008) and in Dhulikhel (2010) in Nepaland this March the group is all set to meet in Birgunj for the workshop and conference. With reference to the objectives, activities and rationales behind those activities, I tendered some questions to my guru, Vishnu Singh Rai. Below are the answers in his own words.

1.       You are involved in Asian English language creative writing project? Could you please inform us about the rationales behind formation of such a group? What activities does the group do and what are the substantial achievements?

Thank you Sajan ji. I am delighted that you want to know about Asian English Teachers Creative Writing Group, and intend to inform the ELT practitioners of Nepal about it.

The Asian English Teachers Creative Writing Group was formed in 2003 by Prof. Alan Maley and Dr. Tan Bee Tin. I am pretty sure that those who are interested in language and literature interface know Alan Maley who was honored with the life time achievement award in ELT by IATEFL in 2011.

About the group: A small group of Asian teachers meets once a year in a different country to write original stories and poems in English.  These are then published and made available for use as teaching input to classes in the Asia region.

So far, the group has met in Bangkok, Thailand (2003), Melaka, Malaysia (2004), Fuzhou, China (2005),  Hanoi, Vietnam (2006), Salatiga, Indonesia (2007), Kirtipur, Nepal (2008.), Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (2009), Jakarta, Indonesia (2010),  Dhulikhel, Nepal (2010), Jember, Indonesia (2011) and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (2012)  Participants to date have been drawn from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Nepal, Pakistan, Australia and the UK.

Rationale and Objectives: The group operates in the belief that teachers whose first language is not English are not only capable of but are also uniquely well-placed to write literary materials for use by their own and other students in the Asia region.  By virtue of the fact that they share their students’ background and contexts, they have an intuitive understanding of what will be culturally and topically relevant and attractive for them.  What they all too often lack is the confidence in their own ability to write interesting material.  The group operates to dispel this misconception.

The following rationale underpins the activities of the group:

  • A belief in the value of creative writing in English both for teachers and for students.(see below)
  • A belief in the ability of teachers in the region to produce their own English teaching materials.
  • A belief that these materials will provide useful input for promoting reading (and other activities) in English.
  • A belief in the value for professional and personal development of forming a closely-knit, Asia-wide, mutually-supportive learning community of teacher/writers.

The objectives are:

  • To produce poetry and stories appropriate in level and content for use by Asian students of English at secondary level.
  • To publish and promote these as widely as possible, thus creating a wider awareness of the value of CW.
  • To develop materials and activities for the teaching of creative writing.
  • To run creative writing conferences and workshops for the wider teaching community wherever possible.
  • In this way, to boost the self-esteem and confidence of teachers of English in Asia.

The intended outcomes are:

  • A set of stories for extensive reading and related language work.
  • A set of poems intended for language work, and to stimulate creative writing by students.
  • A set of teacher-generated creative writing activities.
  • Publications, website and conferences for teachers in the region to raise awareness of the value of creative writing activities.

In other words, the project aims at three main audiences:

  • A small group of writers who produce the materials, and in so doing develop professionally and personally.
  • English teachers in the region at large who will use the materials and hopefully go onto develop their own in due course.
  • Students of English in the region who will use the materials, and will themselves produce texts which can be fed back as input to other students.

2.       Do creative writing activities help to develop language skills of the students in anyway? You know that poetry often makes use of distorted language, i.e. poetry often breaches the code? Could you please specify the possible ways creative writing helps students to learn language?

Yes, I do believe that creative writing activities help students to develop their English in a more interesting way. This is the reason creative writing activities in ELT has been introduced in many countries. It is sad that it has not yet reserved its place in ELT courses and syllabuses. However, the teachers have realized its importance and usefulness in ELT, and they have started using it as an effective tool in ELT. The members of the group have introduced it with great success. I, too carried out a small scale research with M.Ed. Students (Major English) on creative writing activities and its usefulness in classroom teaching and findings were as expected. The students (the prospective teachers) found it very interesting although they had never done any creative writing in English. The research report was published in the NELTA Journal 2009.

I agree that most people believe that the language of poetry is archaic, that it cannot and is not used in daily communication. They are mistaken. If we observe people talking and communicating we notice that they use all kinds of figures of speech (what we call literary language) in their daily communication. We all use simile, metaphor, irony, paradox and what not in our “daily” language. And what’s interesting as an eye-opener is the fact that those who use more figurative language in their day to day conversation are liked by the hearers. The more we use figurative language the more we liked  and appreciated by the listeners.  Poetry ‘breaches’, I would use the term stretches the code of a language, but so does the spoken language in daily conversation. Creative writing helps students to equip them with the literary devices to make their language more beautiful and appreciable.

3.       The conventional belief has been that writers are born? Do not you think the group that you are involved in aims to deconstruct this established belief with the aim of teaching creative writing? Some people still questions if creative writing can be taught.

Firstly, conventional belief and truths might be wrong. We must keep our mind open and do not believe what is carried over as tradition. The tradition of Sati Pratha, for example was considered to be pious by Hindus but it has been discarded because it was based on false belief. The Earth was thought to be flat until 19th century. Had we blindly believed on that, mankind would have never achieved what he has achieved today. Let us not go fat –how about teaching. Traditionally, it was considered good to be caned by guru  -knowledge can gained only by hard work and the ‘hard work’ meant physical punishment by teacher. I still remember my childhood when my friends were slapped, caned and even kicked by gurus (thank god I escaped those punishments because I was somehow better than them). Today physical or mental punishment in schools is completely unacceptable. Our group don’t believe on the belief that creative writing cannot be taught.

I agree that some people have some special talents right from their birth –this is what you call ‘writers are born’. That might be true. But it is also true that creative writing is an art that can be taught or more suitably people can be helped to learn the creative writing art in the same way as they are helped to learn other arts and crafts such as painting, drawing or music.

Another thing which I would like to emphasize is the fact that there are two aspects of creative writing, (a) to be a creative writer and get published, etc., and (b) to use creative writing in the classroom. Our group tries to do both. But when we do creative writing in a classroom, the primary purpose is to help the learners develop their language skills without stress and with fun. It gives me great pleasure to say that some of our members started writing poems and story first time when they joined the group and most of them are published now.  So far, 11 volumes by Pearson Malaysia, 2 volumes by Bhundipuran Prakashan, Kathmandu, and 1 volume by LINCOM EUROPA, Germany have been published.

4.      I came to know that the group is formed with the belief that all too much of what is available on the international market is culturally or otherwise unsuitable in Asian contexts. Why do you think that the available literature is not appropriate for Asian students?

This question is related to the question –Who is a better teacher –native speaker of English or non-native speaker of English? Both have their strengths and weaknesses but teaching English as a second or foreign language, a non-native teacher (I mean local non-native teacher) is better because s/he knows their students and their culture and background far better than a non-native speaker.

Similarly, I believe that the textbooks and teaching materials developed and written by native speakers might be very good in themselves, but they might not be appropriate the students of our region. Although there are individual differences in them, there are many things which are common among Asian students (e.g. their second or foreign language learning style is different from those of the Europeans or Americans). It is quite natural that Asian teachers know more about their students than a native speaker teacher. Naturally then, the materials developed by Asian teachers or stories and poems written by Asian teachers are more appropriate, relevant and ‘larger than life’ for Asian students.

5.       What do you think are the implications of the activities of creative writing group  in ELT in Nepal and elsewhere?

Creative writing is fun. Creative writing breaks the monotony of the class. It brings fresh air in the classroom. It helps students to learn language with fun. The most important thing is that it boosts their morale. It gives them confidence that they can write poems and stories in English. The same is true with the teachers. Once they are exposed to creative writing activities, their self-confidence soars up.

6.      The group holds conferences in Asian countries to demonstrate that creative writing is feasible in a foreign or second language. This is what Braj Kachru said when he coined the phrase ‘Bilingual’s creativity’. How far have you (group)  been successful in unveiling the creativity of Nepalese? How many poets and story writers has the group produced in Nepal?

Well, as I said earlier, the group does not claim to produce Shakespeare, Keats or Yeats. It helps them to find and believe on their own capability. All the group members are published by different publishers in and outside Nepal.

7.       What are the reasons the group has limited its scope only to Asian EFL/ESL classrooms? Do not you think the works can go beyond? Do not you think the works can form a part of Asian literature?

Yes, we would like to see it grow. But you know growth without purpose and direction is like Kathmandu city which is growing in all directions resulting into a polluted city of cement concrete. The group has deliberately kept it small. Too big a group doesn’t work. This group has no president, no secretary, no election and no obvious material benefit as in other organization. All the members are dedicated: they attend the workshop in different countries on their own (they seek for funding on their own and if they cannot find it they do not attend or spend their own good money). So, it is not like NELTA which is big and being its member by paying some membership fee, you can have some material benefit (e.g. attend a conference in London or get a chance to further your study). Asian English Teachers Creative Writing Group is open for all who can look after themselves –the only requirement is that you can write.

8.      How do you compare the literary works by bilinguals such as Nepalese or Indians with native writers of English? Do not you think that the literary works produced by native writers are superior to those by bilinguals’?

Language is not a property of its native speakers. Their millions of native speakers of English but all of them are not creative writer. As to the second part of your question, I would say that there are many non-native writers of English who have won such prestigious prize as Booker Prize. Indian and African writers of English are world known for their creative works. Recently, Nepalis have also started writing in English and I am sure in the coming years, some of them will receive international prizes (some of them have already received prizes (e.g. Samrat Upadhyay for his fiction and D.B. Gurung for his poems) .

So, no. I do not think that non-native writers’ works in English are in inferior in any way to the works of the native speaker of English.

9.      Could you please let the readers know about next conference in details?  Who are the presenters and what are the programs?

The next workshop plus conference is going to be held in Birgunj from 8-13 of March. It has two parts. In the first part, we organize a three days workshop in which the members of the group meet and write poems and stories. Their works are peer edited. They also go to a writing trip to a local place and spend whole day there in their creative work. The products of the workshop are collected and published. The members who are coming from abroad are:

Alan Maley (UK)

Jaikaran Mukundan (Malaysia)

Mallika Vasugi (Malaysia)

An Thyu Nyugen (Vietnam)

Handoyo F (Indonesia)

Teng Minag (China)

Li wei (China)

Kanakon (Thailand)

Gillian (Maynmar)

Khaing Tin (Maynmar)

Iqubal (Pakistan)

In the course of inviting an acclaimed creative writer from Nepal, Professor Dr. Govinda Raj Bhattarai has been requested to be the judge of poetry recitation program to be hosted on the third day and also as a plenary speaker in the conference.

One person is coming from the US as a support from the US Embassy, Nepal. Besides these members from abroad from Kathmandu following persons will participate.

Tapasi Bhattacharya

Maya Rai

Motikala subba Dewan

Vishnu S Rai

In addition to these members, since the conference is being organized in Birgunj generously supported by Birgunj colleagues such as Mr. Kedar Prasad Shah and Sajan Kumar Karn, some enthusiast from Birgung will also participate in the workshop. They are: Sajan Kumar Karn, Suresh Shrestha, Pravin Kumar Yadava  and Ram Awadhesh  Ray. 

In the second part, we organize a two day conference for the local English teachers to expose them on various aspects of creative writing and its use in the classroom. All the members will present papers and run workshops on the various aspects of creative writing in the proposed two days conference. The member from the US will run workshops also in other NELTA branches after the conference is over. I am sure the teachers and ELT practioners in and around Birgunj will benefit from it. I would like to take this opportunity to invite all ELTers and others to participate and make the conference successful.

Thank you very much indeed for your co-operation! 

Revisiting Vocabulary Teaching/Learning: My Reflections

Maheshwor Rijal

Kathmandu University 

 

“Without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed” (Wilkins as cited in Thornbury, 2006, p. 13). Undoubtedly, vocabulary has immense value in teaching and learning as it is one aspect or element that links all the four skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. In this article, I reflect up on the strategies I used while learning vocabulary in schools and colleges and my current research interest. I hope my story relates with many of you and will help us in uncovering the hidden realities and revisiting our pedagogical practices.

I was born in a remote area and got my schooling from a rural public school. I still remember the bitter pain I used to have in English classes.  The class was totally controlled by the teacher. Most of the teaching approaches that teacher used were traditional and boring and there was a little chance of flourishing creativity from my side. “Look and remember” with the help of bilingual dictionary, as I see now, seemed to be not very effective for the learners of English language like me. I was unable to show my creativity in spite of being eager in learning procedure.  My ELT class was totally authoritative and was only focused on examination, not on practical and real life situations.  Every set of words was taught according to bilingual translation and every student was compelled to follow the same method and I was also the part of same tradition. It was, of course, my compulsion that I had to follow the same tradition and had to apply what my teachers said. The teacher made us buy a dictionary and assigned all students to recite and memorize the words from the respective chapters. The classroom strategies were threatening, full of stress and pressure. My teacher used to come to the class with stick and beat students when they were unable to produce or say the meaning of the vocabulary items. I have had many ideas to express but due lack of exposure of English language I couldn’t express. It was due to lack of vocabularies when I needed. I used to go to school with a fear and challenge. So, when teacher came near to me I used to be scared. One of the recent articles “Beat the Teacher” by Khila Sharma in IATEFL journal nicely sums up my feelings: “vocabulary building is one of the biggest challenges English teacher in rural communities face. Even students who have studied English for ten years cannot give a simple narrative or express their thoughts and feelings. They have hard time when writing essays and resort to rote-memorization from their teacher’s note or commercial guide-books” (p.5). This is the reality of our schooling, even now.

After completing   my School Leaving Certificate (SLC) seven years back, I came to Kathmandu with a hope to pursue higher education. In my intermediate and Bachelor’s degree, despite my weak English background, I worked very hard on English and got the reward. I was also fortunate enough to have very encouraging teachers. Now, as a third semester student at Kathmandu University, I am on the verge of completing my master’s degree and busy in conducting academic research. So, my proposed academic research is finding out perceptions and practices regarding vocabulary teaching/learning in the EFL context of Nepal. Carrying out research on such area, as in other areas, is challenging as many terms and conditions specified by the concerned faculty and the supervisor need to be fulfilled.  Although I understand how to carry out research, I was never taught how to write a good research paper in my school life. I don’t have the expertise of producing a research article even after my undergraduate and graduate level of studies. Many of my fellow learners, I am sure,   may have the same catastrophic realization as they embark into the sophisticated arena of education research.

The educational standards of Kathmandu University (KU) have broadened my horizons of thinking. I have become aware of more useful strategies of learning vocabulary such as self defining context, pictures, synonyms, gestures, realia, audio visual aids, games etc. Reflecting on my own experience, most of the students are themselves in search of a new way of learning vocabulary. Now as a teacher (and a student), I have a real platform to develop new horizons for developing academic proficiency in my students using the strategies I just mentioned.

In the context of EFL setting, vocabulary should be taught interestingly, and to do so we can apply   different ways proposed by new teaching methods such as by Communicative Language Teaching. Despite the similar bitter experiences and the awareness of new methods and approaches, most of the techniques used by many of us in teaching vocabulary are still traditional. During my ongoing education in Kathmandu University, I have come to realize that teachers have a huge role in increasing students’ vocabulary as there is not much exposure from elsewhere. For better learning and better communication in English, one should assist the students in selecting the words appropriately as related to their goals, situation, and context.  Since vocabulary teaching/learning is a milestone to be reached in language teaching and learning, I think that it is our duty and responsibility to minimize such unpleasant experiences for the new generation of learners.

References:

Harmer, J. (1991). The practice of English language teaching. London: Longman.

Thornbury, S. (2006). How to teach vocabulary. Pearson Education Limited.

Sharma, S.P. (2012). Beat the teacher. IATEFL Journal September-October Issue -228.

 

 

 

Significance of Rapport in English Language Teaching and Learning

Binod Kumar Yadav

Executive Member

NELTA Siraha

The behavior of the teacher influences the behavior of the student, subsequently affecting learning outcomes. Student motivation is affected by a variety of factors, some of which are directly influenced by what a teacher does (how he structures the course and how he /she behaves in class) and some of which are largely beyond the teacher’s control (expectancy and attitudes students bring with them to the class).

Gorhan and Millette(1997)

Introduction

The term “rapport” lexically refers to “a friendly relationship in which people understand each other very well”, and in the context of teaching and learning, it means the relationship that the students have among themselves on the one hand and between teachers and students on the other hand. That is to say, the maintenance of a positive, enjoyable, respectful and socio-cultural relationship among the students themselves and with their teacher is the subject of good rapport – in the lack of which our expectation in teaching and learning realm ever remains as a wild goose chase. Human life takes its inception in society and ashes there too, where multiple actions are performed but are supposed to get successfully completed only if they are done in proper harmony with one another. It means a social action is effectively performed by understanding the desire or minds of one another that we call a social relation or an example of good rapport in society. Similarly, communicative activities in the target language (English) inside or outside the classroom are social actions wherein each participant should read the minds of others and develop a sense of social relationship among themselves and particularly between the teacher and students learners. This shows how socially they are participating in an activity; the good family behavior or the friendly one. So having a trustful relation between a teacher and students is what we call a good rapport. ‘A significant feature in the intrinsic motivation of the students depend on their perception of what a teacher thinks of them, and how they are treated’ (Harmer, 2008:25).

 Why a good rapport?

Teachers need to find creative ways to teach the language and increase the students’ motivation to learn the language and eventually appreciate language .It has been claimed that the more learners are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated the more they are independent , active, participating, autonomous and successful. One of teacher’s main aims, therefore, should be to help students to sustain their motivation using different activities or making them remind a variety of factors that can create a desire to learn. It means there are a number methods that English instructors can use to motivate students in class and outside and they (instructors) should flexibly imply the most suitable methods for the class. Kabilan (2000) stated “Teacher should develop mutual relationship with their learners”.  Thus, building good relation with learner by the teacher for learning and teaching process is a practical/ natural way of arousing curiosity in them to learn more and better. Motivation of the students also depend largely on their perception of what the teacher thinks of them and how they have treated. His/her behavior influences the behavior of the students and directly affects learning outcomes. It is also a fact that teaching and learning style or process with good rapport improves attitudes, behavior, motivation and learning.

Richard Amato (2003) states: “In classroom in which mutual respect is lacking, differing values can lead to conflict between student and teacher and between student and peer”.  Students are psychologically dominated by the teacher and they feel hesitation to participate in any activities; because they find much distance between them and their teacher; they lack mutual understanding and good relationship with one another. This is one of the major ever-failing factors for language learners. Unless there is a good social relation between them and teacher, they never enjoy their learning. It is only through good rapport, they can have the feeling of asking questions to the teacher, sharing their ideas with themselves inside or outside the classroom. A good teacher always welcomes/invites their learners to discuss what they need as an outcome anywhere. Such a teacher enjoys their company and treats students as friends- allowing them to talk to him/her frankly, face to face, on mobile, on public place, outside/inside the classroom, and on computer based technologies. Once I asked a question (in one of my class of ELT, 2nd year B. Ed) to my students ‘what kind of teacher do you prefer?’, and received the following answers which I think are worthwhile to mention:

-A teacher who knows how to deal with students.

-Teachers who don’t push their thoughts to the students.

-A teacher who has sympathy for us.

– The Teacher who keeps a smile on the face, funny, kind and caring.

-A teacher who never ignores students’ problems.

-Very friendly and active.

– The teacher who is always ready to  help us.

-A teacher who can read students’ minds and understand their need.

-A teacher who spends his time with students and work with them.

From many of them, the fact reveals itself that the learners want to be close to the teacher and share their problems with him/her. What occurs in the language classrooms must be extended beyond the walls of the classroom so that a link is created between what is learned in the classroom and what occurs outside of the classroom. But the problem is that the learners can’t share their knowledge with family members in general case. They need either their friends or their teacher, but they keep their touching on with them only if there is a good rapport between / among them. There is a cultural problem among the learners especially in Terai region regarding sound relationship between boy and girl students of the same or similar level/class. They are living in the same locality, encountering one-another very often, outside the school/campus areas, they hesitate to conduct any social discourse because they are still lacking a mutual relationship due to which they can’t create any link between what they have learned in the classroom with their real life contexts. Not only can’t this but they cannot share their feelings among themselves even inside the classroom.

Let me share one more experience that I have had currently from my campus to residence. Almost all my colleagues (even the most experienced ones in this field) blame me as a lenient and liberal teacher, not maintaining a good distance from my students (as they deliberately talk to me very friendlily, teasing me inside/outside the classroom). One day while we were having a little rest after our first class and about to leave for the second one, one student from B.Ed. 1st year whispered, indicating me from the door of the teachers’ room “Sir, it is your class” and  I signaled “I am coming “. Other teacher laughed at me simply because their students don’t have any dare to call them but mine did so. I didn’t take any care of their laughing at because I got an appropriate expression from my students in a different scenario. I have also found that the students talk to me more and better than any other teachers. I also find myself very pleased where I meet them in the market places and talk to them using very informal and broken English. All these seem to have taught me a lesson “It is the sound rapport between learners and teacher that determines the success and failure in teaching and learning process”. Children are good learners in the family because of sound support with their parents. Thus, if diagnosis of the right problem is said to be the half healing, building good rapport between teacher and learners and among learners is said to enhance natural way of learning, in which they also to take charge of their own learning.

The unanimous view from teaching professionals is diagnosis of the right problem is said to be half only healing” that can be appropriately obtained only through a friendship relation between students and teacher. Lack of students’ participants in classroom activities was the major encumbering factor for low performance level of English. We generally assume that teachers are just consumers who should adopt the new approaches, methods and techniques generated by the researchers or experts no matter how relevant they are to the needs of the students and classroom context .Sometimes the so called new techniques do not work in the classroom. So the first thing for the teachers is to find out what the real problem(s) is /is with his/her students. For this professional task of any teacher, only action research helps to find out the problems and ways to their solution which ultimately brings change in their teaching because it is directly concerned with a local problem and is conducted in new local setting but conducting an action research, teachers urge the learners to participate in new activities and solve the problems collaboratively as an ideal social group. This can possibly develop a sense of good relationship among learners and their relation with teachers. Therefore, the sense of good relationship can create the drive and energy to acquire the targeted language, enjoys the learning process, and experiences a real communication.

Ways to promote rapport

‘It is clear that teachers need to do everything possible to create a good rapport with their students, partly this happens  by providing interesting and motivating classes; partly this comes from such things as treating all the students the same” Harmer (2006). In order to develop a mental relationship between teachers need to understand the students who are from different backgrounds, have different interests, future goals, aims for English learning and most importantly, different personalities. Once the relationship develops, the classroom will become comfortable and enjoyable enough for students to learn positively from the teacher without any hesitation.

In my view, only a positive teacher can build a good rapport with his/her students because  such  a teacher is more interested in his students and his subject, learn all of the students names, allows for question and discussion in class, is available for conferences and encourages students see him/her if they need help. This is how the good rapport can also be developed. We can apply the following activities for building good rapport:

  • Teacher should maximally be guided with CLT approach, TBLT approach and other learner-centered approaches during teaching and learning process.
  • Group activities should be his/her preferred strategy
  • Articulating the name of his students while asking question or discussing.
  • Teachers need to acquire what students look for in teachers in order for -students to be motivated and activated in language learning.
  • Creating the classroom environment similar to a family one.
  • Presenting the lesson friendly, actively, and in funny styles.
  • Giving chances to students for discussion, frankly with teachers.
  • Teaching should be carried out more by doing and displaying than by saying.
  • All students are taken care equally.
  • Students are allowed to ask and talk to their teacher even outside the classroom.
  • Different programs should be organized: education tours, picnic, social visit etc.
  • Teachers should be tolerant and responsible for learner responses.
  • Lesson presentation should be  carried out with the involvement of the student.
  • Student’s actions should be praised.
  • Teacher should talk, stay, sit, watch TV, listen to radio and walk in the market with learners if possible.
  • Teacher should accept he/she also learner from students.
  • While working with students homework/class work teacher should call them one by one.
  • Teacher should conduct different language games inside/outside the classroom with students.

References

Brown,D.(1991) Principles of language learning and teaching . London: Prentice Hall.

Gorham ,J. and Millette, D.M.(1997).  A Comparative analysis of teacher and student perceptions of courses of motivation and demotivation in college classes.

Harmer, J. (2008). The practice of English language teaching. New York: Longman

Harmer, J. (2008). How to teach English. London: Pearson Longman.

Kabilan, M.K. (2000). Creative and critical thinking in Language classroom. The Internet TESL Journal

Richards, J.C. and Rodgers, T.S. (2005) Approaches and methods in language teaching .New York: CUP

Motivation in ESL/EFL Learning: Who’s Responsible?

Dipesh Kumar Sah

dipeshsah76@yahoo.com

“Motivation- do we need it for effective language teaching?” has become common talk among the teachers worldwide. But potential ways for motivating English language learners vary in the perspectives of the teachers. However, effective strategies and local EFL contexts are also responsible for determining the potential ways of motivation

Motivation in second or additional language (L2) learning is generally defined as learners’ cumulative interests, feelings, and desires which dynamically keep changing throughout the teaching/learning process in relation with a multitude or internal and external factors.Such cumulative trait not only initiates and coordinates the cognitive and motor processes but also assesses, reshapes, and prioritizes initial wishes and desires that drive learners to acquire an L2. In other words, motivation is comprised of the thoughts and feelings that make us to do something, continue and turn our wishes into action as an influence.

Now I would like to share with ELT community how I have used the warming up strategy for teaching English language to my students.I encourage my students to regularly contribute to maintain the display board with some latest events, news, welcome-notes, birthday wishes, humors, short stories and so on. Additionally, I make use of web-based resources to get them concentrated on the content that we deal with in the classroom. For example, I let my students watch class related Ted’s inspirational videos (see www.ted.com)which they find much more inspiring and that way they are finally motivated for learning the lesson I planned to teach.

In our context, motivation needs to be created and once created needs to be continued too. If not, the learners become silent and show no interests to learn a particular language. But they may feel so interested when the classes are held in the language of their interest. The circumstances of higher classes in some remote areas of Nepal show that the learners completely abide by strict rules set by their instructors. Besides, the teachers are involved in practicing lecture method and developing the note taking system where students have to listen to them and write the notes as if in dictation. Students often feel frightened to learn English, for they argue that they cannot practice autonomy in the English classroom in comparison with other subjects.Besides, the lack of purpose and thus motivation is one of the reasons. Hence, proper motivation and promotion of learners’ autonomy could be the solution to the hesitation for learning English.

Learners’ motivation is affected by numerous endogenous and exogenous factors. Endogenous factors bring pleasure and satisfaction to students and can be the internal inspiration for them. On the other hand, exogenous factors relate to the tangible benefits of an activity such as the role of knowledge gained by learning a language that is required for the communication and for higher education in national and international universities, as well as professional and socio-cultural circumstances. I believe in making learners enjoy the classroom, for which learners’ motivation is crucial. To promote learners autonomy, interactive activities like role-play, pair work, and group work can become good icebreakers to overcome the classroom drudgery. It is also important to appreciate learners’ effort and the feeling. The abstract nature of motivation makes difficulties for classroom practitioners to gauge learner motivation by using a measurable instrument; therefore, practitioners/teachers can rely on their critical observations about learners’ motivational patterns during the course of an academic program. It is the fact about language teaching that motivation of language learners fluctuates and practitioners need to factor awareness of this reality into all curricular stages.

Learners’ autonomy, an intriguing phenomenon for the motivational part and one’s ability to decide the laws for oneself, is inevitable in all stages of learning. The learners really need a motivational strategy that lets them play with English in the environment.

Here comes the question: who is responsible for learners’ motivation? You may have different answers that may not concur with mine. I strongly argue that it is the teacher who is solely responsible for creating motivation in the classroom. I think that the work of a teacher is complete only if the students are able to acquire knowledge that is applicable in the real contexts. And it is only possible when the learners are interested to learn and teachers are successful in motivating them.

The concept of motivation derived from ‘movere’, a Latin word,means‘to move’. Therefore, the idea of movement is reflected in different commonsense ideas about motivation as something that keeps us working, gets us going, and helps us complete tasks. It is a process rather than a product. Therefore, we cannot observe it directly but we can infer it from actions and verbalization  The interactive methodology gives the students a supportive environment for effective learning.The purpose of sharing this blog entry is to suggest teachers like me to focus on the learners’ motivations and feelings as well as the course contents together so that students’engagement gets better. We should respect the feeling of the learners and try to know their psyche before they are given any tasks in the classroom. This provides untrue insights to learn the ways to motivate the learners.

The author, an M. Ed. in English from TU, Nepal is working at Tinpatan Education Campus, Sindhuli. Besides being a member of NELTA, he is currently involved in carrying out a research on Inclusive Education under the guidance of University Grant Commission.

 

The Impact of Access Program in Nepal

Bharat Babu Khanal

 Access Teacher

“Tell me, I forget; show me, I may remember and involve me, I learn.’’

Collaboratively run by the American Embassy/U.S. Department of State and NELTA, English Access Microscholarship Program has a short history in Nepal but it has become a truly effective means in the field of language learning as well as personality development. I feel proud to be a part of Access Program which has enhanced my own professional career as an English language teacher. Now I realize myself to be a modern teacher. It is obliviously an appropriate platform for my professional development. We teachers get various opportunities to E-Teacher Online Course Programs from the various American universities, participating different national and international teacher conferences.  Last year I successfully completed the course Teaching English to Teenagers (TET) from the University of Maryland which has provided me extra stamina to do better in the Access class. Currently, I have applied for another E-teacher Online Course named “Teacher’s Professional Development on Critical Thinking”. Likewise the Access Program provides us with various trainings from ELT experts. We instantly apply the ideas, activities and techniques in our classroom. Immediately after every end semester result, we have meeting with the parents. It helps them get actual information about their children’s performance in the class and achievement in the exam.

The Access Program officially started in Nepal in 2011 with 120 students and 12 teachers. Now it has expanded to 280 students and 28 teachers. The program is limited only in four districts with five different sites in Nepal but it has an ample horizon to be extended throughout the country. As it is a micro scholarship program for two years, students get free opportunity to develop English language, Nepalese and American culture and leadership development in a group of twenty. The prime objective of this program is to empower under privileged children studying in community schools of Nepal. Wherever the program is launched the particular NELTA branch of that district is responsible for making the program successful with regular monitoring and supervision. NELTA central office gives full ownership to that particular branch.

Within a short span of time, Access class has proved to be the appropriate avenue for the students to develop their English in a real life situation. Unlike their regular school English class, students feel distinct in the Access class as they practically learn things here in group and pair activities. As an Access teacher, I feel proud to work with young and enthusiastic learners in the class. There is no rigorous teaching of a language but the program focuses on creating a suitable environment to flourish their talent through English language. As community school students in Nepal do not have enough exposures to develop their English language, Access Program has taken a genuine step to quench their thirst. In the Access class, what we teach is not prominent but what students achieve is paramount. Students learn English language through various language games. They develop their communication skills doing works and working on computers. Similarly, they watch movies or play outdoor games. They also visit some interesting places like American Embassy, USEF, zoo, temples, mosques and other historically significant places. They participate in public awareness program like Human Rights Day rally, Clean Nepal Campaign, traffic management, etc. This sort of program obviously gives positive message to the locals of the concerned areas. Simultaneously, students become more responsible to the society rather than only to individual life.

The success of Access has to do with the fact that the American Embassy and NELTA work closely together. The prominent aspect of this program is that distinguished guests from the Embassy visit our program and share their feelings with teachers and students. NELTA central committee members and English Language Fellows visit our classes and inspire us to successfully achieve our goals. The Access Country Coordinator’s role is vital to implement to program smoothly in Nepal including receiving and submitting reports by the due dates. The attraction of the program is the participation of guests in American and Nepalese festivities. Students celebrate Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, Independence Day, Teej, Teachers’ Day and other important days in both cultures. It has proved that language learning takes place in natural settings. Book review is the regular activity of this class which encourages students to read new books purposefully. Drawing, painting and designing cards have developed our students’ art skills. Report writing is an inevitable part of Access class after participation in new programs.  It has helped them to present their report confidently on particular topic. I realize our students are getting better opportunity to experience a disciplined and responsible life through this program. A true education brings about a child’s behavioral change; also learning is for all round development of a child.

Indeed Access Program has become very effective medium to open a new horizon to Nepalese students for learning English language in real life situation. I hope it will be promoted and extended in more districts of the country. As our students have got this language learning opportunity, they will be able to grab various opportunities in future. In the globalized context, undoubtedly, they will be able to proceed confidently to meet their academic and personal goals in life.

 

Editorial

BEFRIENDING GRAMMAR

 

Thanks to language, man became man.

 Descrates

It is needless to reiterate that we are human beings for the reason that we are gifted with the faculty of language. Aldous Huxley joined Descrates when he made even a stronger claim that ‘deprived of language we should be as dogs and monkeys’. True, hundred percent true!  Words fall short to illuminate the value of language in human life.  However, a million dollar question is “what is something that makes a language?”, What is something that distinguishes language from other communications?   Of course, there are several defining features of language but perhaps most importantly, human communication is set apart from rest of the communications because language has the attribute of grammar which others do not. The enormous complexity in language also leads us to look for grammar.  Thus, men are not merely homo loquens but also homo grammaticus to tag along with Frank Plamer.

Arguably, grammar (and its instruction) is as old as human language.  Though the history of written grammar is traced back to fourth century in the East (India) and even later fifth century in the West (Greece), some grammar plausibly must have existed in oral tradition of language before. This existence of grammar implies the existence of grammar instruction in some way. To say more explicitly, we have been doing grammar in one way or other since the origin of language. And perhaps, we will not be able to imagine language without grammar any time in future.   Despite criticisms against its tyranny in language learning, grammar continues to survive either implicitly or explicitly. We have heard and read controversies for and against grammar instruction but the fact is that every language teacher is a grammar teacher. Whether a language teacher teaches different skills or aspects or various genres of literature, grammar is inherent. It is because language is language because of its grammar.   If so, then a sensible question is:  “how can we befriend grammar?”  Befriending grammar implies befriending changes in grammar. Changes in grammar are shaped by changes in language which is also called a living phenomenon. If the grammar of a language does not proceed in consonance with changes in language, the grammar can/should be declared dead. Similarly, innovations in grammar pedagogy have deconstructed our perceptions and practices both. Thus befriending grammar also requires us to be familiar with the issues and directions in grammar instruction both home and abroad. Some of the current issues in grammar instruction worldwide as Rod Ellis puts are: Should we teach grammar, or should we simply create the conditions by which learners learn naturally? What grammar should we teach? When should we teach grammar? Is it best to teach grammar when learners first start to learn an L2 or to wait until later when learners have already acquired some linguistic competence? Should grammar instruction be massed (i.e., the available teaching time be concentrated into a short period) or distributed (i.e., the available teaching time spread over a longer period)? Should grammar instruction be intensive or extensive? Is there any value in teaching explicit grammatical knowledge? Is there a best way to teach grammar for implicit knowledge? Should grammar be taught in separate lessons or integrated into communicative activities? These issues demand every grammar teacher to be alert and think critically over them.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Nepalese ELT has ever made an effort to adopt and adapt the global trends. The reason is Nepalese ELT does not have its own research foundation. Though some of the issues in grammar instruction can be addressed with the insights from mainstream ELT, several local issues seem to be cropping up and demanding course desiginers, experts and practitioners to think afresh, to initiate research to diagnose the gaps and to reveal new directions in order to reshape it. For instance, nativisation of English in Nepal has led us think in a new way on whether we should continue with grammar of British English, American English or we should have our own grammar of Nepalese English. We are already familiar with the fact that many discussions have taken place to justify new English in Nepal and to build a corpus for it. Likewise, with the privitazation of education, English grammar writers in Nepal are mushrooming but the quality of their products can be questioned on several grounds. Grammars based on borrowed materials and devoid of any attention towards English and Nepalese English corpus can in no way expose language learners with everyday English. Vertical course designing trend also poses another problem in grammar instruction. We gradually seem to be realising that teaching grammar in isolation does not fetch more and therefore it is the time we moved towards discourse grammar of English.

In this May issue of NELTA Choutari, through an interview and two reflective articles, an attempt has been made to inform the ELT practitioners with the issues in grammar instruction and also some insights and expertise to enlighten their perspectives and  practices both.

Though this issue lays its efforts to penetrate into the issues of grammar instruction in Nepalese ELT, we serve you with the following diverse contents:

  1. What, Why And How of Doing Grammar?  An Interview with Dr. Bal Mukunda Bhandari
  2. Gaps In The Expectations Of Course Designers, Teachers And StudentsBal Ram Adhikari
  3. Almost Every Sentence Has A Tense!!!Madhu Neupane
  4. Examining ExaminationsPavan Kumar Sah
  5.  The Training And Trainees!: A Reflective Report On Training In Birgunj-Suresh Shrestha

We are sure that while you go through the aforementioned writings, you will find the issues thorny, creating controversies and stimulating discussions. Please feel free to share your observations, no matter sweet or sour.

Sajan Kumar 

Editor

May Issue, NELTA Choutari

 

What, Why and How of Doing Grammar? An Interview with Dr. Bal Mukunda Bhandari


There is no denying that a language is language because of its grammar. Whenever there is a question of teaching and learning of a language, grammar stands as the most focal element there. In the context of Nepal, grammar instruction has ever been a vital element of English language teaching and learning both in schools and colleges.  Particularly, for school levels, many English grammars are written by Nepali authors, authenticity of which perhaps can be questioned in many ways.  These grammars seem to have a lasting influence on English language learning and teaching ahead in their life. Likewise, there are a number of misconceptions and issues with regard to what grammar is in actuality, why our students need to be taught grammar and how it can be instructed more effectively. In this interview with Dr. Bal Mukunda Bhandari, who has been involved in grammar instructions for more than two decades, an attempt has been made to penetrate into the issues regarding principles and practices in teaching grammar and to seek his insights to help address the issues.

About the Interviewee

Dr. Bal Mukunda Bhandari, an Associate Professor in the Department of English Education, Tribhuvan University has been involved in Nepalese ELT for about two decades. Dr. Bhandari has published more than a dozen of books on ELT and linguistics. He is also one of the authors of Lotus English Series, school level textbooks for English. Currently, he is the Executive Director of Centre for International Relations, Tribhuvan University.  

 Do you think grammar is necessary to teach at all in order to ensure teaching and learning of a language? There are many who go for interdisciplinary approach to teaching language where grammar instruction is not explicit.  What is your perception?

Human beings are capable of speaking and understanding language. They can use utterances to refer to a thing, state or action. The sounds they produce with a physiological process are shaped to form an intended word or sentence. They have a level of knowledge of the language that they speak. This knowledge helps associate the human sounds to extra-linguistic world. This is a preprogrammed knowledge imprinted in the human mind. This is the knowledge which in the world of linguistics is called grammar.

A second/foreign language is taught at least for two reasons. It is taught as an end to fulfill the immediate goals. For example, someone is going to work in an English speaking country as a waiter, or a baby-sitter or some people may need English in Nepal so that they can guide tourists, they can run a curio shop, they want jobs in the English speaking countries. In such cases, the learners need to learn English as a language, a means of communication. They don’t need the metalanguage. They don’t need the rules that underlie a language e.g. English. In many countries including Nepal English is taught in schools and colleges as a subject (as opposed to language) of an academic grade or degree. When the main focus is to introduce lexis and grammar (as a device of making sentences), the tests and grades matter a lot.

We have been applying two completely different approaches of English education in Nepal. In an approach we have courses on grammar from primary to tertiary level (post graduate level). A significant portion of the syllabus is occupied by grammar. In another approach we teach English through contents such as essays, conversations, interviews, short stories, poems, plays and novels. Students learn English mainly through reading, and their knowledge is tested through writing. There is neither grammar lesson in the class nor there are questions to test any specific grammar points. On completion of their education both the products are sent to perform the same function. No difference in the proficiency of language or in their performance has been noticed. Those who have undergone grammar course can’t exhibit better performance in grammar itself. This shows that grammar teaching in a language class has no ground support.

It is important to keep in mind that there is a strong relationship between grammar and vocabulary. Lexical items inherently posses some property. For example, no NP follows the word ‘die’ whereas an NP should necessarily follow the word ‘kill’ and ‘murder’. At the same time the words suggest that the NP that follows ‘kill’ has to be an animate but it should be human NP to follow ‘murder’.

The value of grammar instruction has been debatable since the beginning of teaching modern language as a foreign language. Everyone involved in teaching and learning has an opinion for or against grammar teaching. Some of them opine that a good knowledge of grammar is necessary if the learners’ have to use the language correctly. While others think grammar instruction is not necessary at all. They think it hampers language acquisition and slows down the fluency.

In the fields of second language acquisition earlier research findings (when communicative language teaching was in fashion) showed that grammar had very little to do in language teaching but recent research findings show that grammar has a role but they still do not accept direct grammar teaching. Grammar instruction may be used as a basis in some practice activity or sometimes as consciousness raising device, not as a device to learn to use a language.

Some say grammar incorporates only morphology and syntax but others tend to think that grammar should incorporate all the levels of language. In the broadest sense of the term, what a grammar is in actuality? On What conditions can we say that a particular sentence is grammatical?

Let us consider the following definition of grammar.

Grammar is the study and description of a language in terms of either syntax and morphology alone or these together with aspects of phonology, orthography, semantics and pragmatics. (The Oxford Companion to the English Language).

In past grammar was considered the art of speaking and writing. The word grammar would include the study of everything related to language. Structuralists separated the levels of language and defined grammar as the level between phonology and semantics so it meant the study of rules in a language for changing the form of the words and combining them in to sentences. However, linguists today treat grammar same as linguistics which is sometimes referred to as a linguistic grammar. Therefore to be a sentence grammatical it should be phonologically (in speech), orthographically (in writing), morphologically, syntactically, semantically and also pragmatically acceptable.

 There are two ways of teaching grammar: deductively and inductively. Most observations show that Nepalese teachers find deductive method to be more comfortable to instruct language with. Why is it so? Which method do you recommend and why?

I don’t label any method ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Both the methods have advantages and disadvantages. For example, the rules and explanations help students understand what is being taught. It respects the creative and generative power of human mind. It introduces bits of language in a systematic and gradual manner. Use of mother tongue makes the environment comfortable for teacher and students. On the other hand inductive method accepts the principle of learning to communicate through communication. It respects the learner as subject (as opposed object in deductive method). In learning a language, we’ll have two goals understanding about the language and learning the language. Deductive method caters for the first goal while inductive method caters for the second one.

I agree with your observation that most English classes in Nepal, we find deductive  (an imperfect  deductive) method. This is because the teachers who have been given the tag ‘trained’ have never got opportunity to undergo, observe or practice inductive classes. The teacher education institutions provide them with the theory of methods – no classroom application. On the other hand inductive method require good command in English, sufficient resources and materials. The attitude of making students ‘understand’ is the chief barrier which stops teachers using inductive method. In fact, language teacher’s job is to make students learn the language.

Application of a method depends on many factors. So the teacher should be capable of analyzing them. Choice of a method depends upon many factors. It is the teacher whose job is to analyze the factors governing the context and choose an appropriate methodology instead of a ‘method’.

Do you think linguistic grammar is any worth for teacher? How do you think a linguistic grammar and a pedagogic grammar interact with each other?

Linguistic grammar, also known as theoretical grammar, is the systematic description of language usually not concentrating on a particular language. It provides a language teacher with the apparatuses to investigate the features of the given language. Pedagogical grammars on the other hand are intended chiefly for classroom use under the guidance of teacher. They may contain rules, exercises, vocabulary lists, dialogues, reading passages and writing activities. There are many good teachers who have not studied linguistic grammar. However, the study of linguistic grammar makes them better. The source of pedagogical grammar is linguistic grammar. For a language teacher linguistic grammar is resource and pedagogical grammar is the teaching material.

Many English grammars written in Nepal are in vogue in both private and public schools of Nepal. How authentic do you find them in terms of contemporariness?  Do they reflect everyday English? How do you think this issue can be addressed? Do not you think that it is important to base grammar on corpus?

Privatization in education is thriving in Nepal. It has opened avenues of opportunities for the people of different sectors. As a result textbooks (pedagogical grammars) of English have come out in abundant number. Few years ago books were produced in Nepal because they were needed, but now books are produced as publishers and ‘writers’ need them. Because of this students and novice teachers are misguided, there is also unhealthy competition. Most of the grammars produced in Nepal are based on (i.e., borrowed materials from) traditional grammars of 19th and early 20th centuries. They have no materials of present day English.

Most grammars now in Britain and America are corpus-based which teach learners the real contemporary English. Languages keep on changing. It is natural and regular process. All the speakers of a language have internalized grammar. They do not follow grammar books but the grammar books have to follow the speakers.

  Do not you think that nativization of English or the birth of local varieties of English has created a big controversy over what is acceptable and what is not? Do you think that different varieties should have different grammar books to describe and explain different grammars? Do you recommend that English grammar for Nepal should base on Nepalese English?

English speaking people from England went to America, Canada, Australia and other countries where their English gradually deviated from the original one, and thus grew many varieties viz. American English, Canadian English, Australian English as so on. Varieties also appeared in the countries where English is taught as a foreign or second language. The English found in Nepal has its own characteristics. So it is also a non-native variety of English. The native varieties are intelligible to each other, but the nonnative varieties are more deviated. A language is what its native speakers speak and what they accept. The idea of writing grammars of different varieties can be done as linguistic research but not for pedagogical purpose. English is not a lingua franca in Nepal, nor a second language. The purpose of teaching a foreign language is to enable the learners to communicate with its native speakers. So the issue/idea of writing English grammar for Nepal based on Nepalese variety of English is illogical and worthless.

 Do you have any other observations to share on teaching of English grammar in Nepal?

In my observation, I have found that most teachers teach the structures in the name of grammar being isolated from the functional aspect of language. They give rule of form (for example, how a tense is formed) and some common examples missing the rule of meaning (for example, how, when and where a tense is used) and activities of language use.

Whoever observes English language classes in Nepal, very quickly recommends that the teachers should be trained despite the fact that almost all the teachers are trained either from a university (mainly from Tribhuvan University) or the ministry of education. The teachers often have to prove their training by showing their certificate. Once a government official rightly announced, “We have given training certificate to 98% teachers”. This situation very easily indicates the inefficiency of teacher education in Nepal. It has to be improved, and we, teacher educators, should take initiative.

Thank you so much for your contribution. 

Gaps in the Expectations of Course Designers, Teachers and Students

 

Bal Ram Adhikari

Mahendra Ratna Campus, Tahachal

 

 

Knowledge gap and expectation gap

A gap in our knowledge is natural. It is the gap that makes the process of learning inevitable, our communication meaningful, and living purposeful. In teaching, it is the knowledge gap that brings the teacher and students together in a specific world of sharing and caring. It makes cooperation and interdependence mandatory between them when both the parties strive for narrowing it down. However, before making concerted efforts in bridging the knowledge gap via teaching , we should be aware of another type of gap lying at the deeper level— the gap in the interpretation of the intension, purpose and expectation of the parties involved.  The gap of the second type results from our attempts to communicate knowledge without establishing a common ground for understanding. Successful communication of knowledge cannot take place unless the involved parties have understood the purpose of communicating that knowledge and the expectations that bring them together.  Against this backdrop, I would like to touch upon my own experience of teaching English grammar course entitled “English Grammar for Teachers” prescribed by Tribhuvan University for the master’s level students. Here I would like to shed light on the nature of the gap in expectations of the different parties who are directly involved in the production, communication and consumption of the course.

The major parties involved in the communication of grammar knowledge are course designers, teachers, students and examiners.  At the deeper level, the threads of communication among these parties are intricately interwoven. However, at the surface level we can specify who communicates what to whom where and how. In our context, this communication is almost one-way. In this monologic communication one party communicates to the other without establishing a sufficient ground for understanding each other’s purpose and aspirations.   Regarding this, I would like to refer to a fundamental question: Who wants what? raised by Chalker (1994) in designing and implementing an appropriate pedagogical grammar. The effectiveness of a course depends largely on how we answer this question.

Course designers and teachers

What do course designers want?   What do teachers want?

Course designers are the major architect of the course. They decide not only what to teach, but also how to teach and how to assess what has been taught and learned.  In our context, they are the people who assume the role of experts and communicate vertically with the teachers who they think are the people to translate their expertise and expectations into practice in the classroom.  Whenever any problem arises during the implementation of the course, the common practice is to come up with the conclusion that the teachers lack adequate knowledge in the subject matter and teaching methodology. On other hand, the teachers criticize the course designers for not taking into account of their views, and situational and institutional constraints. Students criticize both course designers and teachers for demanding too much from them. Such a culture of blame has become commonplace in the Nepalese context, and it is mainly because there is lack of communication among the stakeholders during decision-making process, before launching, during and after the implementation of the course.  The expectations of different parties are often taken for granted.

What is missing?

Knowledge of subject matter and classroom pedagogy are necessary, but not sufficient for the successful implementation of a new course.  The questions are: Have the course designers taken into account of classroom reality by involving the teachers in the decision making process?  Have both the parties shared what they expect from the course? Did both the parties have enough understanding of what they were going to achieve from the course and how? In fact, “these are the questions of negotiation”, and “typically, not enough time is spent on these kinds of questions” (Dragger, Clintok and Moffit, p. 8, 2000).  The lack of negotiation has caused a rift between what course designers want and what teachers want.

Based on the cursory observation of the course content and methodology (Adhikari, 2012), what the syllabus designers seem to communicate to the teachers is that the course is:

  1. detailed, comprehensive and exhaustive ( for it deals with four broad areas of grammar teaching: Basic Concepts of Grammar, Grammar in Practice, Grammar and the Language Teacher, Pedagogical Grammar),
  2. contemporary and in line with the recent research finding and practice of  grammar teaching (i.e. the course deals with task-based language teaching, lexical approach, discourse-based approach, processing-instruction, etc. ),
  3. pedagogical and practical.

In terms of classroom pedagogy, the designers expect the teachers to adopt the following procedures:

  1. Have students read the lesson before they come to the class or have them read in groups.
  2. Give reasons not rules.
  3. Engage students in problem-solving activities.
  4. Have them prepare and present lesson plans (maybe as mini-project work).

What have we teachers made of the course?

What follows is based on my own experience as teacher, and personal communication with the grammar teachers  like me who I came across during my visit to some of the TU campuses in an out of  the Kathmandu Valley:

  1. The course is lengthy. I do agree with the complaint that the course is lengthy. At the end of every session I have the feeling that I am unable to go into the depth of the course. Every year I manage to scrape through it with my epilogue “Yeah, I somehow completed the course.”
  2. The course is difficult to teach. Obliviously, a course becomes difficult to handle for want of sufficient orientation, group discussion, workshop, and training. Except of the one-day course dissemination program that took place once during the formal launching of the course, the concerned authority has not organized any formal/informal programs for teachers and course designers so far.
  3. The course is not well-contextualized. By whom and where the course materials were produced? It is a crucial question.  The course is universalist in its approach. The foreign books are adopted as course materials without taking into account of what Kumaravadivelu (2001) has to say about the parameters of an appropriate pedagogy: the parameter of particularity, practicality and possibility. There is no single academic work prescribed as a reading material that deals with our local/national context. Take for example, the problems that ESL/EFL students face while learning English grammar. All the evidence discussed in the textbook “The Teacher’s Grammar of English” (2009) are from Chinese, Korean, Japanese, German, Farsi and French speakers learning English. These decontextualied examples are very difficult to understand for teachers, let alone their students. Even if understood, what could be their relevance to our context?    The course designers have not justified why we need to discuss with our students the firstlanguage-specific problems faced by the speakers of the languages other than those spoken in our context. Nor are the teachers provided with practical guidelines for contextualising the universalist  materials to fit the local Nepalese contexts.

What do teachers want? What do students want?

There is another layer of gap that I have experienced in my grammar class. To align myself to what the course expects me to do in the classroom while communicating grammar knowledge to my students, I have tried to follow the procedures mentioned in the course— the procedure of  discovery-oriented and collaborative. But what I often feel is the resistance from my students by remaining absent or showing their low involvement in the classroom activity. I often have the feeling that I have failed to communicate my agenda to my students and I have failed to understand their agenda.

At the end of the class, I tell them what the coming topic will be and how it will be discussed. If the topic is theory-based, the next class will see the increase in the number of students. Most of them turn up with the prospect of listening to lecture and getting notes and summary.  If the topic is practice-oriented and the mode of learning is interactive, the number of students thins out. During the class, some students show  ‘open opposition’ to use Holliday’s (2010) term, by murmuring or not working out the solution or not showing keen interest in collaboration and sharing.  As I read the face of my students, some of them seem to have the feeling of not learning anything new as they find their notebooks without any notes or summary.

My teaching agenda:

  1. How to make their learning discovery-oriented and collaborative   so that they can work out the rules for themselves from the available linguistic evidence. As it is widely believed that such learning is meaningful and memorable. If so, it will certainly help them secure better marks in the examination.
  2. How to help them read the theoretical portions from the prescribed reading materials under my guidance and supervision. I want them to read extensively for general understanding of the text.
  3. How to help them envisage the wider application of their knowledge of English grammar to other fields such as copy editing, translation and creative/free and academic writing.
  4. How to take them out from the confinement of examination.

Let me present my students’ agenda that they have expressed in and out of the classroom verbally or through their behavior:

  1. How to pass examination.
  2. The most frequently asked questions are: Sir, what types of question are asked from this unit?

Sir, is this topic important? No questions were asked from it in the previous exams.

  1. How to get notes for the theory portion from the teacher.
  2. How to get ready-made answers and grammar rules for the problems given in the textbook.

Who should read the text for whom?

I want my students to read the assigned chapter before they come to the class. They get the following handout before I make formal entry into the course “The Teacher’s Grammar of English”:

Classroom procedures

  1. To succeed in class and examination both, you should have a good command of the material presented in the first section.
  2. Read the first section before you come to class.
  3. Your teacher begins each class going over the exercises. You are expected to answer the questions given in each chapter. The methodology will be “Give Reasons, not Rules”.
  4. From the second section of the chapter, your teacher picks out some typical errors made by the learners with different L1s. He will briefly discuss the possible causes of these errors and engage you in a short discussion of whether these errors should be addressed through pedagogical intervention.
  5. Your teacher will summarize the first section relating it to the second and third sections, which will be the reading assignment for the next class.
  6. The next class begins with problems and teaching suggestions. While reading the problem section at home, examine the types of errors and explore their causes as proposed by the writer. So far as the suggestion for teaching is concerned, examine and evaluate the activities proposed and discuss your ideas with your friends in groups.

Very few (sometimes not more than two or three out of forty or so) students do home reading. This makes the discussion of salient points from the chapter challenging and sometimes waste of time, for  my communication with the students turns out to be monologic, not dialogic. Contrary to my expectation, my students want me to read the text and summarize it for them. On the other hand, they may find what I want from them being contrary to their expectations.

The challenge that I have been facing is how to wean my students from dependency on me and how I can become progressively unnecessary for them. Despite my attempt to act as a guide to walk on their side (as the syllabus designers want me to do), my students’ expectations push me back to take up the traditional role of the teacher as a sage preaching from the stage.

The expectation gap has widened the gap in the communication of knowledge. So it is imperative that the concerned parties negotiate with each other about their expectations from the course. The course designers should sit with the teachers to find out how they have taken the course.  Also, the teachers should think of possible ways of bridging the gap between their teaching agenda and students’ learning agenda.

References

Adhikari, B.R. (2012).  English grammar: Views of student teachers

and  communication of grammar knowledge to their students. An unpublished mini-research. UGC.

Chalker, S. (1994). Pedagogic grammar: Principles and problems. In Bygate, M., Tonkyn, A. and Williams, E. (Eds.) Grammar and the language teacher (pp. 31-44). UK: Prentice Hall.

Cowan, R. (2009). The teacher’s grammar of English. Cambridge: CUP.

Curriculum Development Center (CDC). (2009). English grammar for teachers. Kirtipur: Tribhuvan University.

 Dragger, N.,  McClintok, E. & Moffit, M. ( 2000). Negotiating health development: A guide for practitioners. Conflict Management Group & World Health Organization.

Holliday, A. (2010). Appropriate methodology and social context. Cambride: CUP.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2001). Towards post-method pedagogy. TESOL Quarterly, vol. 35, No. 4. 537-560.

Almost Every Sentence Has a Tense!!!


 

Madhu Neupane

Tribhuvan University

 

Even after spending 12 long years of my time in ELT, I am still puzzled why ‘tense’ always makes our students tensed. Even students in higher level encounter difficulty in distinguishing between simple past and past perfect not only in terms of structure but also in terms of their meanings and use. Despite our rigorous efforts, students keep on committing errors while using tense. Additionally, they seem to have developed an impression that grammar is merely for the sake of grammar and it has nothing do with the skills of language such as reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Ask students the rules for tense, most of them can easily mention since they have parroted the Nepalised mathematics like formula of each tense. Simple present tense is: Subject+V1/V5+Object and so on for others. Provide them with a sentence and ask them to transform it into twelve tenses, most of them can effortlessly do that.  Provide them with a sentence and ask to change the sentence as indicated in the bracket, they can still do that. Is there anything that they cannot do then with tense? Lots of things! Indeed!! They cannot appropriately use the tenses that they have learnt. They cannot solve the question if it asks them to put verbs in correct form in a given context. One of my students once asked me, “Ma’am, if we are asked to put verbs in correct form (that is tense), are we given the name of the tense that we need to use?” I said, “Usually not”. Then she said, “How can we know then which tense is to be used?” Then I said, “If you know tense, then you know which tense is to be used in which situation”. I do not know whether my answer satisfied the student or not but it did not convice me. This incident let me to think of the ways of making ‘tense’ less tense to my students.

My inference was that this situation might have arisen maybe because of the ways that we adopt to teach grammar. We teach grammar as separate book or separate subject, that is, in isolation from other language skills and ask questions in the same way which, in some cases, seem to be really meaningless in themselves. This frustrated me and I started a text based approach for teaching tense. I asked the students to bring “New Generation English” (one of the books prescribed for B. Ed. First Year) while I was teaching ‘tense’. Then I asked students to read a chapter “Once I Was Lost” at home and underline all the verbs there in the text, notice which tense has been used there, and find out the reasons behind it as far as possible. I asked them to refer to any English grammar book they had to study about tense. I asked them it did not matter if the book explained the rule in Nepali prescribed for any level irrespective of their level if the book has something to say about the tense. Next day students came by underlining the text and brought whatever grammar books were available to them. From this I found that some of them had difficulty even in recognizing verbs. I asked the students to find out the different forms of the verb they had underlined because my target was to make them understand the use of tense in real context and the use of tense is not possible without knowing the proper forms of the verbs for which they had to refer to different texts on grammar. It gave me a sense of satisfaction that the students did not feel that they were talking about tense in class; they were busy in doing things.

It gave them a sense of achievement as well. I asked them the reasons behind the use of any specific tense based on their self study. When they had finished, I started explaining why a particular tense was used in a particular context.  I wanted to make them feel that almost every sentence has a tense. With help of the chapter “Once I was Lost” I taught them simple past, past continuous, past perfect and past perfect continuous.

I selected the chapter “College Teachers” and “Drawing Natural World” to teach simple present tense. I went through the same procedure as mentioned and the students realized that the texts use simple present predominantly since they talk about things that are usually true (that is a sense of timelesslness) because what the writer talks in the text is arguably true. There are three types of teachers in schools and colleges at present, there were such teachers in the past and there will be such teacher in the days to come as well. The same thing is true with drawing natural world as well. The student’s facial expression, their desire to learn by taking their responsibility for their own learning during the process made me realize that text based approach to teaching grammar was more effective than teaching grammar in isolation.

Though the grammar book prescribed for B. Ed. first year is named “Exploring Grammar in Contexts”, it provides short contexts detached from English cultures thereby making the text difficult to interpret in many cases. Anyway it is better than the books which aim to teach grammar devoid of context. But I am in favor of larger context with the use of grammar points we want to develop in learners.

In this regard the textbooks of class nine and ten (I know them better because I taught them) seem to be better. Every grammatical item to be taught has been used there in context. It may be difficult to present each and every grammatical point in context. At the same time the coverage of the course might be low. But having observed the condition of students, I want to say that grammar should be made contextual. Maybe we can only choose certain grammatical points that we consider to be useful for our learners.

The advantage of the grammar books that we have prescribed in M.ED and B. Ed level is that we can introduce the learners with a lot of grammatical items even in the short span of time. This is, I think, a good technique for raising the consciousness of learners regarding grammatical points in question but these do not seem to develop language proficiency of the learners to the extent we assume. Presenting grammatical items without context makes the students suck grammatical items dry thereby reducing their real effect. Other alternative model might be presenting grammatical points with the help of text and making students use grammar books that we are using nowadays as reference books which they can consult if they have any problems with any grammatical points in the text.

In conclusion I want to say that if we are to teach grammar we need to modify the approach that we are practicing now. A point of departure might be text based approach to teaching grammar. The steps in a text based grammar lesson are presented below:

Steps in a Text Based Grammar Lesson

 

Steps

 

Aims

 

Students read (or listen to) the text that contains the target grammar. To check students’ understanding of the context that the target grammar comes from.
Students highlight the target grammar in the text. To focus students on the grammar that is to be clarified
Students check the meaning of the target grammar. To ensure students understand concepts    associated with the grammar (e.g. time       reference, intention etc.) and the way it is    used in native speaker language.
Students check the form of the target grammar. To ensure students understand the     component parts of the grammar and how it is put together.
The teacher highlights the pronunciation of the target grammar (if it is typically used for oral communication). To give very controlled oral practice of    phonological features of the grammar.
The teacher provides controlled to freer practice of the target grammar. To provide opportunities for the students  to use the new language in a variety of contexts.

Consulted

 

http://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/download/ng/file/group-4/n2460-esol-teaching-skills-taskbook-unit-4-e—teaching-grammar-2—grammar-from-texts.pdf

 

Examining Examinations


Pavan Kumar Sah

Treasurer, NELTA Siraha

Email: pavan.sah99@gmail.com

Exams have long been an inevitable phenomenon in schools, colleges and universalities. We assume that exams have the power of enhancing learning. Unfortunately, most exams in Nepal, particularly SLC exams have been most infamous due to slack administrability. In this write-up, however, I take into account of a different cause of notoriety in SLC exams and that is attitudes of people towards it.

S.L.C. (School Leaving Certificate) examination also known as the iron gate of school level education has concluded in the month of Chaitra.  We all know that SLC exams have ever been as famous as infamous. It has been crucial because until now it has been an evaluation system at the final level of schooling but it has been infamous due to rampant cheating. Comparatively the examination system seems to be improving gradually the authorities have claimed. The concerned authorities say that they have paid due attention on the examination this year. The Chief District Officers (CDO), District Education Officers (DEO), Resource Persons (RPs) and other responsible authorities say that they have realized that SLC exam needs to be improved and have therefore have taken steps to do so.

However, upon scrutiny, the exams have not improved to the extent they should have. This year also we witnessed the cases of cheating, fake students appearing in exams, invigilators involved in helping students cheat, brawls between policemen and guardians. At many places it has been found that if students were not able to cheat in the exams or if they were held for cheating, or if they were put in police custody, both the parents and students became upset and approached various people in post and power for help, showed agitation, shouted slogans against the superintendents and invigilators that they be allowed for cheating. We also found many fake candidates appearing in the exams in place of others, even constituent assembly members at some centers.

Students’ preparation for exams can often be questioned. Many times, students do not seem to have prepared properly and have depended on cheats. Their level of study is seen so low that many of them have copied whatever they have been given. Let me share an incident that happened this Chaitra in SLC exam:

One of the guardians happened to be the fake invigilator to help his daughter (candidate) in the exam. He had a number of papers in his pocket including cheats for his candidate. While the Chief District Officer (CDO) came to supervise the exam, he became frightened and hurriedly and unknowingly gave the paper related to court. When the candidate came home and when her father asked her if she copied the same paper, she said ‘yes’ from beginning to end.

This reveals the level of our students.

The most distressing fact is that guardians themselves have been found involved in helping students cheat in exams. It is very sad that they have not been aware of the implications of such cheating in the lives of their children ultimately. Many guardians approach invigilators and policemen and request them to help their students with the unfair means in the exams. They call their relatives, particularly those who have already passed SLC exams to help the candidates during the examinations periods as if they are preparing for celebrating some festivals. If their relatives don’t come to help, they do not hesitate to break relationship. They call some people to prepare cheats and others to take cheat to the candidates. They gather at the examination centers as they have come to watch fair.  They want their children to cheat and secure good marks in the examinations. They think nothing except their children’s success in examinations. In some parts of the country, they think if their candidates pass the SLC exam, their guardians will have to give fewer dowries in their daughters’ marriage and will get good husbands. Their sons will also get good dowry and good family. They can go to foreign country to earn money. It is very pathetic that guardians have taken exam and education synonymously. They merely want their students to get through the exams and obtain higher scores at any cost and that’s it. It is truly very pitiable that many of Nepalese guardians are not aware of what education is and what exam is.

I would like to ask a few questions. How justifiable it is for parents or guardians to approach for cheating? If so, will their students be capable for higher studies even if they can get through the SLC exams? What worth human resources will we have tomorrow? What can we expect from them for the development of the community and nation? I realize that we ourselves are responsible for spoiling our land by producing only certificate holder manpower.

The Training and Trainees!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Suresh Shrestha

Executive Member

NELTA Birgunj

Training!!! There are two inter-related ways of defining it. One – “What is training?” and the other – “What do you mean by training?” The answer to the first question is widely explored, rigorously developed with a broader coverage, so it is supposed to be authentic unless and until something related but a newer one is unearthed in the same way. And, the answer to the second question is self-centered, self-experienced and self-explained, so it may differ from person to person based on the individual insight. And, what is worth-emphasizing is that the second case has much higher practicality that directly affects the upshot of training which evaluates training itself. As a simple example, some training is given to some targeted group with a view to causing some expected change, but as a baffling surprise, the result may not be what may have been expected to happen – just opposite! Why so? Trainees’ perception may act as a pivot to rotate the training to the desired effect. The training might be of great importance and trainers might hold great expertise, yet the result may be poor. It is crystal clear that it is all because of how trainees mean training, i.e. the way of getting leave granted, enjoying some gossip and receiving some allowance – that’s it! But, it may not occur so in each case because the trainees’ perception may not remain the same all the time. Yes, I had the same experience in the second week of April.

It was on the 8th  and 9th of April that US Embassy Regional English Language Office (RELO) and Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) jointly organized a two-day training for +2 English teachers in the premises of Birgunj Public College in Birgunj with the theme “English Language Enhancement for Teacher Professional Development”. It was facilitated by Ms. Jocelyn White, holding the outstanding 32-year experience of teaching in the United States and around the world, being engaged in the fields of international education systems and intercultural education environments and Dr. Meg E. Infiorati, a multifaceted personality, working as a facilitator of various seminars in organizational teamwork, disaster management, personality types, leadership styles, program management and conflict management, and as a teacher at several local colleges as well. It was a part of nearly one-month training schedule across the country. Luckily or unluckily, I was assigned to co-ordinate the program. I felt lucky because it was a good opportunity for me to grasp and learn a lot. But, on the other hand, I felt unlucky since it was the first time I had had such a responsibility and those who had already had the experience of co-ordination were not physically present for instant support and suggestion. Several times I asked myself what was going to come about. And I consoled myself recollecting someone saying whatever was to happen would turn fair at the cost of our ‘true attempts’, and brushed off all the anxieties. There is a wise saying: a problem appears with its solution following behind. So was the case in that regard. In spite of being away from Birgunj, Sajan Sir initiated the co-ordination by letting us know about the program and giving due guidance about what to do and how to. To be frank, I was reluctant to holding the program owing to mainly two factors: first, most of the executive members were so busy with their own jobs that it felt me quite odd and alone; second, it was time to publish the exam results at several schools so it was a big challenge to collect enough participants even from secondary and +2 levels, whereas the training was mainly focused on +2 level. Anyway, I must congratulate myself on receiving warm support from Kedar Sir, Praveen, Kamalesh, Jyoti and Preksha. We managed to have over thirty participants. It was in fact a good indication of positive attitude towards such training of professional enhancement. Enthusiastic participants from Rautahat, Bara and Parsa turned up to mark the training with a good success.

In the inaugural session on the first day of the program presided by Mr. Kedar Prasad Sah, Chair of NELTA, Birgunj, as our token of love and honor, we offered ‘Gamchha’, the invaluable cultural recognition of Tarai dwellers, to the Chief Guest Mr. Yugalkishor Prasad Sah, Academic Director of Birgunj Public College, the Guest of Honor, trainer duo, Ms. Jocelyn White and Dr. Meg E. Infiorati, and the Distinguished Guest Mrs Shobha Benargee, retired Reader of English of TU. And, the session was closed with the vote of thanks by Mr. Prveen Kumar Yadav, executive member of NELTA, Birgunj.

The first-day sessions included reading, personality types and graphic organizers. I understood reading as something interactive to gain energy that fuels the continuity of our action. Reading doesn’t mean merely reading some written stuff, but also trying to decipher some drawings and some facial expressions in different situations. So it refers to reading something else. Introverts are supposed to energize themselves by means of their thoughts that they gain by reading different matters, whereas extroverts gain energy from the environment, i.e. by ‘reading’ the surroundings. ‘If so, are you an introvert or extrovert?’ The question may really put anyone into a dilemma. But, what about the answer ‘Both’? One may explain ‘When I am alone in my room I am an introvert, and when I am in a gathering, I am an extrovert!’ Such a clever answer had no space there when we took a test to chalk out what personality type we had. There were sixteen types of personality based on eight factors: E – Extraversion, I – Introversion, S – Sensing Perception, N – Intuitive Perception, T – Thinking Judgment, F – Feeling Judgment, J – Judging and P – Perceiving. It helped us to find out what type of personality we have. I was interestingly useful to judge ourselves psychologically and act and improve ourselves accordingly. The next one – graphic organizers – was focused on the way we may explain what we perceive through reading. It was indeed implemental in our teaching field. It was all about how we make a graphical presentation of what we have read and understood. Selecting several chapters from the books “The Magic of Words” and “The Heritage of Words” and offering different graphic organizers namely Web, Tree, Flowchart, Fishbone Map and Venn Diagram, the participants in different groups were made to select the organizer that might suit the particular chapter chosen and to simplify the complex information into different small easy-to-understand bits of information. It laid emphasis on the various ways of learning learners may adopt according to their different perspectives. It was of course of great use for teachers to conduct a big class by dividing the students into different groups, engaging them in interaction on certain reading, and reflecting their understanding logically.

On the second and last day, the program was to begin at 8:30 A.M. Although it was delayed by about one hour, almost all the participants attended it with good spirit. From teaching view-point, many more found the session effective. It was all about the different levels of knowledge in Bloom’s Taxonomy: Remember Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate and Create, arranged from the basic level to the advanced one. They were explained how to apply to form right questions from easy ones for the students’ comprehension to challenging ones for their analysis and creativity. Each pair of participants selected a new topic, read it, made several related questions according to the levels of knowledge and arranged main pieces of information on cardboard paper using a suitable graphic organizer. All observed each other’s and interacted how clear and consistent the presentations were. It gave lots of space for us to put our logics, dispel doubts and mark the shifts in understanding having discussions with each other and with the trainers directly. Since we had to wrap up the program by 1 pm or so, we had to shorten it; yet we could grasp the gist of each and every presentation. Had we had more time, we could have enjoyed broader workshop practice. The facilitators-cum-trainers were so amicable and conscious about our moves and inclination to the learning. Personally, Meg asked me how long we could run the program. Had we been allowed to hold the program two weeks later, each of us would have had enough time to enjoy the training in its full length with much better arrangement and Meg and Jocelyn would have been much happier by benefiting us much more. But, sorrowfully, they were scheduled to fly back to the capital so we could not make any instant decision to extend the program. Anyway, it was so wonderful, fascinating enough for the participants to realize the genuine aspect of the workshop training.

One thing that has been sensed noteworthy is that the concept of training among young energetic people seems to have had its own impression. They seem to have understood the value of such trainings and seminars. Previously there were some bitter experiences of trainings and their implications. They were the sources of income and opportunities to have leaves granted. So the outcomes of such trainings used to have several shortcomings. But, nowadays, especially young teachers or would-be teachers are getting ahead to spend money willingly in participating in trainings, since I am optimistic that they are now more serious about their professional step-up through all-around talent. They seem to have realized that degrees and jobs might be secured but the talent is something they must hunt rigorously. I can’t help thanking them for the rise in their perception, those dedicated trainers-cum-facilitators-mentors, and all the contributors!

Could I hope for the same helpful hands from you all on the pedagogical journey ahead?

Thank you all so much!

NeltaChoutari November 2011 Issue


Editorial 

Critical Thinking and Nepalese ELT

The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled”

Plutarch, a Greek historian, biographer, essayist

Critical thinking unveils the shade of black clouds that had blinded us for years, breaks the wall of Berlin which had concealed pearls for ages and leads us from the corridor to headways and highways. In a nutshell, critical thinking guides us from darkness unto light. A critical thinker is one who does not take for granted what her eyes observe, what her ears hear and what her mind perceives at a glance but coalesces  her inner mind and heart both to examine things against observation and perception, asks questions and finally arrives at inferences or conclusions that leads to the elucidation of the problems in a reasonable and the best possible way.

The importance of critical thinking in human life can hardly be exaggerated. Unfortunately, most people are not critical thinkers. They do not ask questions. They do not try to understand why they are doing what they are doing. They just live life in the way it comes to them. Even if they think, their thinking is transient, momentary, only of immediate value.  They think for themselves, for their own life, not for the whole lives. Both their thoughts and actions are self-centered. This is the crux of the problem. An aware life demands thinking-in fact critical thinking. A conscious citizen is one who thinks and acts for society, does not only try to fill up her own stomach but thinks and acts in such a way that others eat first and try to  quench her hunger with the leftover. She thinks and acts both reasonably and responsibly.

Critical thinking is needed in all professions; however education requires comparatively more critical thinking. Particularly, teachers and students are required to think critically. Human life is heaped with piles of issues and it is on the part of conscious educated citizens to think about them critically and address them. Thus, education system of any country requires that its stakeholders –teachers, students, educationists, course designers, textbook writers, test writers, examiners etc. are critical thinkers, that is, they understand the purpose of the activities they are doing. They understand that if their thoughts and activities are not much worth and therefore,  they think and seek other ways.

With deep concern, I have to say that in the paucity of critical thinking element, Nepalese education has remained more stagnant and less progressive. Most professional lectures/teachings have been one way provoking little participation and thinking on the part of students. Most examinations have merely promoted rote-learning. Most textbooks do not tend to stimulate thinking and interactions in the classrooms, let alone critical thinking. Consequently, educational issues have remained unaddressed, piled up. There is very little Nepalese education has contributed in improving life. There is very little Nepalese education has alleviated society.

Nepalese ELT is not different either. It is staggering with the issues discussed and many more. There are a few courses that aim to involve students into critical thinking: most of them encourage committing and reproducing. There are a few teachers who enjoy critical thinking approach in classroom: most of them prefer to recite the same old mantra they recited decades ago. There are a few students who want to take part actively in teaching learning: most students want the readymade capsules prepared by teachers that they can chew and spew it back in the exams. There are a few test papers that require students to argue and reflect: most of them only measure if students are good quality parrots or bad ones. Where is language and where is language teaching?  Where is language learning and where is language testing?

Recently a few courses in ELT seem to have incorporated bits of critical thinking which is of course worthy of appreciation, but  just a drop in the ocean. From course designing to teaching, from teaching to testing, we require to integrate the component of critical thinking.  We require asking questions-a lot of questions. Should we keep doing what we are already doing or there are better alternatives? If yes, why not try them?

We have long been learning and forgetting and relearning Bloom’s taxonomy of three domains: cognitive, affective and psychomotor. Categories of cognitive domain knowledge and comprehension, we have still been stuck to, higher order thinking such as application, analysis, synthesis (create) and evaluation have virtually been missing from Nepalese education and ELT. It is high time we leaped towards higher order thinking and reshaped Nepalese ELT for better outputs. What do you think?

Sajan Karn

Editor

NLETA Choutari

This issue of NELTA Choutari contains a very critical piece of writing by Professor Govinda Raj Bhattarai where he wishes his childhood days were back since the English language for which he deserted his age old family culture and tradition; for which he spoiled his own pious religion eating eggs, with which he has been involved for the last three decades, has merely thrown him at the state of great loss and void. In an interview by Professor Chandreshwor Mishra admits the fallacies in Nepalese English education and unveils his plans of action to adjust them in his tenure. In his article, Lal Bahadur Rana argues that critical thinking approach could prove immensely beneficial not only in developing communicative competence of the language learners but also in inculcating intellectual traits in them. Archana Shrestha and Sarah Chevalllie in their experience based write-up, share their successful practice of encouraging team activities in order to address the imbalance in classroom participation. Finally, it also consists of a Critical Thinking Lesson Plan for teaching a poem which adheres to four conditions of A (Audience), B(Behavior), C(Condition) and D(Degree).Please, do not go after my words, read them yourself to find what is worth and what is not and share your reflections straight away.   

CONTENTS

Reminiscing My Childhood Days  by  Professor Govinda Raj Bhattarai

Exam-oriented Nepalese ELT: An Interview with Professor Chandreshwor Mishra

Critical Thinking in ESL Classroom by Lal Bahadur Rana

The Power and Potential of the Classroom Collective  by Archana Shrestha &  Sarah Chevallie

A Critical Thinking Lesson Plan   by  Sajan Karn and Uzma Arshad (Pakistan) 

Ignorance is Bliss


Reminiscing My Childhood Days

Govinda Raj Bhattarai 

A man translates himself into a child asking for all there in a language he has barely mastered. Yes, I am asking someone, may be Time, to return my childhood days and translate the happiness of innocence back. Leonard Cohen reminded me of this– Canadian poet, singer and song writer. Cohen had once prayed for childhood and so he said prayer is translation. I am praying at this moment. But life seems to be unidirectional translation; one cannot translate the other way. I feel shocked when I feel my dreams translated into a harsh reality.

I have quoted Cohen when I am struggling to establish a theory of translation. Today I am praying for my childhood too. I have quoted Cohen when I am aware of the fact that translation involves at least two languages; it operates on the knowledge of two languages at minimum. But it seems I had lost all pleasures and innocence before I contracted this disease long back, some half a century ago when my father admitted me to Sri Hari Middle School. Since then I started the journey to bilingualism that has led me to a great void today.

It happened on a fine morning I still remember vividly. I just followed my father down the hill to the confluence where the blue Iwan (इवाँ ) and raging Miwan (मीवाँ)  met. He held my hand while crossing the long suspension bridge over the swirling Miwan. It pushed along large boulders and they dashed against larger rocks. I walked on and on along the road. It was full of sharp pebbles, but I was curious to reach Gadi bazaar, on the way to my school, where I could see sweets, and people of my age wearing shoes, and toys and new clothes, sugar bags and many more. How happy are the shopkeepers! They are the owners of precious things in life.

On the way a neighbor met my father– a figure very strong and well-built, very tall with a dark moustache, white shining teeth, round plump cheeks and a beautiful streak of white chandan on his broad forehead.  Not a single hair of his had turned grey till then. He was just 38, I calculate today. The neighbor asked him “Why pundit, where with little Saila (साइला) ?”

My father spoke, “To admit him to school. He is a bit mischievous at home.” I faintly remember he must have said so but my father’s heart was filled with love for us; he never imagined us being mischievous so I knew he had spoken to satisfy the silly villager. We went on and on; during the month of July; having finished all farming field work, perhaps I had nothing to do at home. An eight year old with a thin body, very rickety, whose mother’s womb was nurturing another unknown guest. We were already five siblings.

The school was a strange place. A different world where my father talked to the Head Sir and may be Second Sir, both from Darjeeling, paid Rupee one or perhaps two towards registration, handed me over to them and returned home. It was almost midday, in a hot summer month.

I did not know then that language was power. Today I know the maxim Language is power but they made me feel that my language is not power, theirs is. I am wielding power holding their language, I can pray and sing and boast in their language whereas mine is on the deathbed. I feel like I am always a parasite. I did not know then that any powerful language like English existed on this earth. I did not know that it was going to swallow my own. I was innocent and very happy without any. My mother tongue was enough. I did not know translation worlds.  I was the first child to join any English school as both my brothers had joined Sanskrit. My father and his father and his father too had learnt Sanskrit. So nobody at our home knew about the rules of a school– how you behave when the bell rings, how you maintain time, what the teachers expect of you, which books you are supposed to study…  Nobody knew about a pencil and a rubber, and the uniform that a modern school demanded. No wooden planks on which you spread soil powder and write with a small bamboo twig on it.

It took many days for me to get used to the regulations  of the school– by what time you reach there, how you stand during prayer, what is your body position, how your cleanliness is inspected,  how you behave on the  ground, in the classroom, during school hours and back home. What is homework, what the teachers expect from you and how your home environment never matches with that of the school.

It was grade one. Half yearly exams were just over. Dashain and Tihar festivals were round the corner and we expected new dresses to arrive. The Gadi School was a completely new world for me. I felt a stranger, everything looked and smelled curious.

I had two neighboring friends– Thule and Sane. There were Balram, Ganga and Tulsi (all boys) too but they came from a different world though all of us were first generation children to get admitted to an English school. In true sense it was not any English school but the very term ‘school’ itself had brought us the connotation of being quite foreign; they pronounced it an iskool and contrasted it with a Pathsala. A Pathsala is a very native, traditional, Brahmanic tradition of learning, a Gurukul where Sanskrit was taught both as content and medium, sometimes through translation and numerical, simple calculation, and some letters and application etc. in the vernacular.

An iskool gave a different image of foreignness; something strange to the land and tradition. Every household used to have a Thulo Varnamala, the book of big letters of alphabet. We had one too. The Varnamala’s first lesson started with Devnagari letters of alphabet, vowels and consonants, then numerical and names of seven days and 12 months including general knowledge in the society. The Varnamala has a wide selection of materials from alphabets to slokas in Sanskrit, from Roman alphabets to simple sentences. I had learned Devnegari scripts perfectly before I joined the school. I had a scanty knowledge of Roman alphabet ei, bi, si, di … z,  I could tell by heart. But I didn’t know how to write.

The teachers would wonder how a little Brahmin boy could read even difficult conjunct letters and words. But his writing, in fact copying, was poor.

It was for the first time that my father bought me a pencil, an eraser, a notebook and an old or a secondhand Arithmetic book perhaps. The Second Sir was great ‘master’ of English and song, a perfect music teacher always sitting by a harmonium.

He used to write cursive A  B  C D  and a  b  c  d  on blackboard. He drew those fine lines with the help of a long wooden scale on the middle of the board and he would write one by one artistically the junge a b c d, that is, a  b  c  d ‘s with moustache, very perfectly.

I tried to copy them; it was very difficult, even imitation of imitation was impossible. The notebook had limited paper and the pencil lead too brittle. I did not have a sharpener or maybe it was not invented till then. I would thrust a couple of books, a couple of notebooks, a broken pencil, a few scraps in the bag and run back home.  Home was almost two miles up the hill and down across the raging Miwan and a dark forest of chestnut trees. Sometimes monkeys swinging from the branches in the sky would chase us. We were so hungry; I feel my hunger is still unabated. There was no Tiffin hour, no break, and no pocket money, nothing to eat. In season you could steal fruits from someone else’s garden though every tree used to be guarded by Oscar Wilde’s big giant. Or we could go to the forest beyond the river for some wild fruits like aiselu, jamun,  kafal  etc. The 20 minute break meant going to ‘the jungle’ by which we meant open toilet in the bush. Girls would wait for their turn until they were sure the last boy had returned.   Or we could go to a spring to drink clean water.

Father would often be far away, in some paradesh, meaning a foreign land, though not literally, mother would be around with little ones. After some khaja I would sit in the sikuwa with my books and pencil. Maldaju would sit close by me and ask, “What did the masters do to you today Saila? Did they beat you? Did they check your nails and dirty neck and knees again today? Who was punished today, how? Let’s have a look at your works– how your masters have written in your note book. Have they written in red? Ah, you don’t have a fountain pen and ink like theirs”.

And I would open my paper. I remember now– the broken pencil needed sharpening, he would bring me a karda knife or chulesi, Mother would shout: don’t use the chulesi, Maila! It will go blunt and cutting vegetables will be a problem for me. Use your father’s karda. I would show him the dark paper, all rubbed sometimes with a rubber, very often with a nail scratched or rubbed using spit and made unusable and dirty. Maldai knew nothing about the iskool culture; mother knew nothing about the iskool culture and my father’s Pathsaalas long way back were completely different Gurukuls with a different culture.

So I was very important, I pretended to know many things that Maldai and Mother never knew. Sitting close to me, he would ask, “Where do you sit in the iskool Saila? Does Thule also sit along with you? What do you sing in the prayer? What happens if you are late? Do the teachers beat if you do not satisfy them with a good answer? How do they teach you Nepali and Mathematics? Do you have an English book? Let’s see your books today.” He would smile, his lips would half open and dark eyes would ask me without any language. He was so eager, so curious about the intervention of a new culture in our family. The gesture was full of love and curiosity and I pretended to know: Angreziko junge akchher masterko jastai lekhnu parchha, natra marchan maldaju. (Oh my dear Maldaju, my second eldest brother, the mustached letters of English should be copied perfectly like those of the teachers or they will kill you).

Copying  junge a b c d took me many days but I could recognize them by reading the Thulo Varnamala where there were Nepali pronunciation of each alphabet such A P  B aL  C ;L.D 8L etc. They were not A for Apple days. We could never even dream of such things.

Three months later came the annual exams. I don’t know what questions were given, the masters gave us carbon copies and some white sheets to write. I don’t know what I wrote but remember I was promoted to grade II.  We were some 20 students including four or five girls, already marriageable as the society thought.  Now I knew or learned from my company, knew the iskool rules perfectly, was aware of dirty hands and feet, teeth, nails and neck, was aware of homework, aware of the fight that took place among the hungriest of us on the way home or the swimming over the deep pond by the Miwa river sometimes barely saving oneself from sinking into it for ever. One of our little friends Gore lost his life in one rainy month. He didn’t know the river was flooded. I still remember how his hands fidgeted in the deep waters before he was finally swept away by the bluish currents down the big boulders.

In grade II we still could not use fountain pens, and there were no ball pens invented I think. There were color pencils but we could not use them, only teachers.

We did without any textbooks in grade I and II. But the teachers managed to teach us a few words– Sunday, Monday; January, February, One, Two, Three, Four etc. from their own books. Many of us became perfect writers of the junge a b c d but we had no books. Sometimes I would read the Thulo Varnamala and satisfy myself.

I got a double promotion to grade IV. I was delighted and excited. My Maldai was happier than me though we didn’t know the meaning of it. I brought some chocolates and some other prizes home. In grade IV we got a set of textbooks; my mother bought them for me at a ‘second hand price’ from a neighbor who was selling her son’s books. She paid her some ghee, some bananas and may be 4 to 8 annas. Nothing has ever brought me such happiness. Father was away that winter, I remember.

On Saturdays too I used to go to the garden, climb a tree and turn the pages of the books, especially English and Nepali. Maldai would sit by me and turn his pages; his was a different book of Sanskrit usually. But the Devnagari was quite inferior to English. Maldai was truly surprised and asked, “Saila, how do you read the English book? Will you read some lines for me? His heart was full of such longings. I sometimes would boast “Since you know nothing it’s no use wasting time, the master would kill me. But he would come closer and look at me with very innocent, dark eyes, seemed to smile from the corner of his lips and imploring eyes, silently, mysteriously, and lovingly. How dear he was.  And still he is so for me.

Dumbfounded, Maldai would stare at my face, my lips and moving eyes. Perhaps I was straining very much to decipher the strange, meaningless things from my English textbook. I would read; my brother tried to guess the meaning and failed. I failed too. Yet I pretended to know something wonderful my teacher had taught and would sing, swinging my head specially for my Maldai:

Hyallow Marsing, How do you ?

Hyallow Gopal, How do you do?

The teacher had taught us that way so without knowing anything, we just imitated and pronounced Hyallo Marsing How do you do? It sounded English but a sheer meaningless thing it was. Today I remember the teacher had taught us Mr. Sing as Marsing because Mr. could not be pronounced otherwise, as it is lacking a vowel. He had rightly invented the Marsing pronunciation. He would give stress on the word Hyallow though it was simply Hello. We learnt the meaningless rhyme by heart Hyallow Marsing, How do you?  I didn’t know the meaning of how do you do until I did my bachelors degree in Kirtipur some 35 years ago.

Maldai and I were childhood friends and shared the same bed for many years. We would study together in the warm glow of firewood and sometimes in a kerosene lamp nearby. But it was more expensive than medicine. Mother would just watch us in case we got sleepy so early. Sometimes I got angry and thought, why is this illiterate woman forcing me to read since she knows nothing? I know English… When it was late and piles of firewood exhausted and all our body was full of ashes, we would jump to our bed. Mother knew it was enough. We used to keep our books or bags close to our pillow or used it as one.

One night I had a very bad dream. I woke up frightened. Some giant or ghost was chasing me and I was trying to catch hold of my mother. Terrified, I told the dream to her and said– we don’t like to sleep in that corner. It’s a horrible place so would like to change. Mother consoled me– I will cure everything, I know the medicine, don’t worry my sons. Then she brought some ashes in a scoop from the glowing hearth and sprayed it around our bed: Now keep the Gita book under the pillow, and no bad dream will chase you she said.  In the meanwhile Maldai spoke: I keep the Gita and Chandee books under my pillow, and a small Khukuri too, but Saila puts his bag.

“Oh I see, I got the point saila, do you keep that English book there too? Gods will be angry and they will chase you in dreams,” said my mother.

My heart was filled with a sense of guilt and remorse since Mother reminded us: Saila-Maila, since both of you are quite old and since bratabandha rites are performed,   you have to change your life patterns.  First, get up early every morning, go to the spring, wash and bathe, fetch some pure water in those copper pitchers each and flowers and wild leaves and do a pooja in the god’s place. You should not eat before you worship. You should always don a sacred janai thread, you have to wear a dhoti while eating or doing a pooja, put a tika chandan on your forehead, and offer gods some flowers, chandan and acchheta; if you eat without this ritual you will be punished in heaven. Do recite some slokas that your father does. Saila, do not read that English book until the Morning Prayer is done. A good Brahmin son will have prayer two times morning and evening; if you cannot do that, then you have to do at least once. And do not read that angrezi book before you have touched the Gita or other holy books.”

This reminder was a serious warning.  I faintly thought: I am not following the proper moral path of my parents; not doing a good thing, that angrezi has led me astray a bit. One day another neighbor of ours asked my father: guru, hamra saila nanilai iskulmai padhaune? bigrane hun ki ? Oh Punditji will you continue educating our saila at this English school? Won’t this spoil him? I don’t know what reply my father gave, but he felt quite uneasy to know they did not approve of the English education. Two of my elder brothers were safe– in Sanskrit education system. They were even appreciated as the followers of great tradition.

I removed the bag with the English book from my pillow and I guess the Gita and Chandi books replaced it. They gave me sound sleep, happiness and deep solace.

I gradually began to feel there were two worlds– home and school, the home never matched with school. How would they match? You have different books, manners, timing and a culture very slowly encroaching your world. In those days there was not a single English book in our home. Nobody could pronounce a word. I was undertaking a great venture by entering into an unknown world.

After 50 years I can see I have destroyed my ancient home. I have allowed termites to eat it. So   almost all of my books are English, hardly some Nepali and few Sanskrit. On his death bed my father expressed deep worries: Who will now use this property of mine, my Sankrit books, I collected throughout my life, this worries me a lot my sons. But we had chosen the way to ruin.

How everything has been subverted and how a great tradition is being erased, like fertile land being turned into a desert. Why I read or was taught English, I don’t know. There was no explanation, no interpretation, no scope was clear. But my parents must have visualized that the iskool will educate our Saila and he will learn new things. Why did my father, himself a great Pundit, have so deep a desire for changing my direction? I am just wondering today.

One day mother asked me to read the English book for her. There were other relatives sitting around. I read (It was in Grade V) the story of a Thirsty Crow and a Pitcher. I read it haltingly, after some time she spoke: janne bhaichhas Saila tara kyai bujhiyena. Oh Saila, you are quite a learned boy now but I could not understand anything.

How we were forcing a wedge into our own culture.

One day one of my phupas came to our place with his son Omnath, junior to me at the iskool. After meal in the evening, phupa asked his son to sit close by me in front of a flickering kerosene lamp and said, Oh my son why don’t you learn from Govinda saila the way he reads English. Then all family members gathered together and I began to read the English book. I began doing a meaningless thing, but they were proud to hear that Pundit’s son saila can read English. I began my performance. I could pronounce only half of the words correctly but nobody could tell even if I knew none at all. I could pretend now. Phupaju would look at my face. Sometimes blinking his eyes and sometimes nodding his head and changing his lips in shapes like mine and sometimes looking at each others’ faces with a sense of see what a great master has our saila become! He will be a glory in our family. He was very happy and surprised to see me doing a great magic. And he scolded his son  “Why don’t you learn to pronounce clearly like your brother. Then Om Nath also obediently bent his head and tried to do haltingly, letter by letter, word by word, after me slowly the krau was thrusty, After long hours of trial my Phupa was so happy and so was Om Nath. My mother said: It’s good and enough, go to bed. But I knew Phupa   was hardly literate in his mother tongue, Nepali.

What a strange thing was happening! I was entering into a different world, deviating from all the centuries old values.

One morning, Have you had any other bad dreams?  Mother asked.

No, since then they are ever good ones, mother, I said.

English sounded an alien or a foreign thing. We thought we were becoming modern by learning more English.  My mother was doubtful of its use; I half heartedly was lured and attracted to learn more of it. Every bit of things looked strange. My teacher Ganga sir was interested to teach me all the English he knew.  I still remember one answer he wrote for us from a story: The disease to whom bitten by a mad dog is called hydrophobia. People will judge this kind of English but we were fed with love and affection. The words, their meanings and their sentences made up of them. The method we were taught was D O G -8Uf –    s’s’/, we would repeat hundred times and learn by heart. But I didn’t know that the D O G in English, C O W in English, C A T in English were the same animals in my home. Why on earth were these new names given?

In grade V, we had a textbook called My English Book, maybe prepared by a Nepali writer of Kathmandu. There was a rhyming poem.

The day is gone

and the sun is set.

We would sing it in chorus. But there was a friend, already a boy of 18, though one of our class friends. He was Kadariya. On his left temple there was a large spot of burn. We would call him …88]Ú (burnt one) when angry. He would chase us and beat us mercilessly when he heard the song.

The day is gone 

And the sun is set

because ‘The Day’ was pronounced like …88]Ú a single word in Nepali.

We didn’t know there was a grammar, we never knew a book like Dictionary would exist. We knew English books, the teachers teaching us. When both the Darjeeling teachers left our school, some local teachers were appointed. They were very much learned. We regarded them as scholars. Obviously they both had passed School Leaving Certificate Exams, that is, grade X equivalent national exams.

I grew more eager to learn English– by reading books many times, by learning word meanings by heart, by writing as beautifully as possible. There was no spoken class, no use of speaking. We were ashamed of speaking a foreign language.

My mother wanted us to follow the path of my father and kakas and grandpa. No woman was an ideal, worth following. They had wishes and dreams but those were quite inferior. All were illiterate, lacking in knowledge and wisdom. When I read Pahadjasto Batojasto Ma of Manjul Dai, a famed Nepali poet, I feel pity for my mother, for all the mothers of those days. They were deprived of all opportunities and were simply imitators of their mothers, followers of their husbands, and the traditional social norms and values.

My father used to take us both, me and maldai, to some jagges, when Brahmins would perform some religious rituals like pooja, homadi, reciting of some religious texts, or small apprenticeship to a major pundit. We would sit close by father and imitate taking a bath, putting chandan and observing fast in a dhoti– there are many things a Brahmin boy follows and observes. At the end of the day we would earn some four or eight anas, some gifts, presents, offerings and lot of honor. To be worshipped as a bahunnani or guruputra or the son of a Brahmin was a great honor, incomparable.

I did help my father, follow him and Maldai; my mother was happy; English had not much spoiled my mind, or culture. One day my mother went to an astrologer and asked him: Daju, what will our Saila be in future ?

The astrologer read my horoscope for long and said, Bainee, Saila will be a Pundit or a Dhami, that is, witch doctor. No third choice.

Satisfied, my mother brought me back home.

Then I began to imagine being a Dhami and beating a dhyangro, I did it secretly thinking of how my kaka used to do the same.

The Pundits and Dhamis were much honored in those days.

I was very good at English. Having passed grade VII, I descended to the plains, after some six days’ journey from the hills of Panchthar, eastern Nepal. There was no high school education facility. So Father brought me there.

In the plain lands I saw a concrete building for the first time. I touched a transistor radio for the first time with my own hand. I could see a bicycle, I could ride a bullock cart for the first time. I could see markets and bazaars, even a town with land rovers and trucks. I landed in a different strange world.

I began to live in a hostel with other boys.

At the age of 13, I was admitted in grade VIII. As one of the brilliant boys, there I had no rival in English. The teachers loved me so much. They taught us in new style; there were even two volunteers: Tim and Peter. I started talking with them too.

I was so proud, happy and distinguished– I thought.

We were some 20 boys in the hostel. We cooked our own food. I was considered too rustic and uncivilized as I hailed from the ignored hills. I had not seen the world, not known manners. I was not modern.

One day they proposed that one should eat eggs to gain stamina, Health Books also said eggs have high quantity of vitamins. You will be weak and cannot study away from home suggested one of uncles there. I had no courage to touch one. But they used to boil and deep fry the local eggs in oil and spices until they turned brownish red. Each had a share of two. Whether one ate or not one had to pay his share. So I was also attracted and lured and tempted to the road of hell.

For a whole year my heart was filled with remorse and guilt. But I could not undo it, because my temptation had spoiled me. How could I tell my parents I ate eggs?

Not only this, there were other similar roads. I walked them too.

One day I got my hair cut by a barber instead of getting it shaved. A Brahmin boy began to spoil himself further. I came home from the Hostel after six months completely a different boy.

Having seen my head father asked me to shave instead. I did it.

Every evening before food he would gather us together and sing prayers–

अनेक मद् भुतम् प्रियम

निरीह मिश्वरम् विभूम्

जगत गुरुम्च साश्वतम्

तुरीह मेन केवलम् ।

Every evening he would lead us to sing a prayer from the Bhagwad Gita, Brahmanand Bhajan Mala or some other great works. We would follow him– mothers, brothers, sisters, uncle or guests if any, for some 30 minutes or so. Father had taught Mother how to read, but her voice was so sweet and she would love to sing with father– a sharp melodious tone would pervade.

Father contemplated a spiritual world, meditated in great Sanskrit but I felt quite irritated, though I could not express it. I thought he was in a worthless world compared to mine.

One day father asked me to follow him to a pooja where I could recite any book as part of ritual where he would do the major part.

I said yes in the morning and father left but when it was time for me to go I just pretended I had a stomach pain. I went to bed instead, spent the whole day writhing in it. My mother was worried that some spirit had caught me.

Since then I never followed my father, I never obeyed his requests to do the religious things he did. He knew perhaps I had no respect for the tradition and never insisted.

I then took the ways of Willy Chandran– a character of VS Naupal’s in his Half a Life. I was capable of ignoring my own parents and their ways of life. I thought ‘English’ had taught me new truths. I thought it was far better than my father’s. I learnt more and more English without any purpose in mind.

Hundreds of centuries had made my father’s heart. He was saturated with Oriental knowledge, spiritualism, humbleness and God’s ways. But gradually I moved to another direction– I bore a heart void of past and sans spirituality, it was a sheer materialistic education, so called scientific, that forced everything into disconnected fragmentation. My parents had the ancient Gods with them, how strong was their belief and faith. Had they known I would turn such a hopeless materialist, they would never have bought me a pair of expensive Western spectacles. They now began to believe they had exchanged gems and rubies for a fake trinket.

Today I wear the fake gem and dance happily.

I feel, half century of my English has successfully tuned me into a rootless man. A man without his past because English does not bring or preserve my past memories. It promises me a wonderland where I find no root, no origin of mine. My parents are disconnected now.

English had brought us new values, new cultures, new facts and truths. It has replaced mine and buried them deep into oblivion. A race without past is like a kite cut off and disconnected. English brought us many things– their literature, their history, geography values and glory. It buried ours gradually. Now it seems intolerable. But we cannot go back.

Let me just quote Frederic von Schlegel, the great German writer critic and philosopher, the most prominent founder of German Romanticism—The ancient Indians possessed a knowledge of the true God, conceived and expressed in noble, clear and grand language… Even the loftiest philosophy of the Europeans, the idealization of reason, as set forth by the Greeks, appears in comparison with the abundant light and vigor of oriental idealism, like a feeble spark in the full flood of the noonday sun.

I have enough time to repent that I am dancing around the feeble sparks today. But I have no time to unlearn this artificial knowledge and regain my lost paradise.

This knowledge I got through English however.

About the Author

Govinda Raj  Bhattarai is a highly multifarious academician. A Professor of English, Dr. Bhattarai is editor, translator, novelist, essayist, columnist, linguist and one of the most popular critics in Nepali literature. To his credit, he has got more than a dozen of books and hundreds of articles published in newspapers, journals etc.  He has widely traveled and presented papers on different linguistic, ELT and literary issues such as post modernism, diaspora etc. He has led NELTA  and Linguistic Society of Nepal twice in the capacity of President.  His efforts to promote Nepali literature has ascended him to a great height. A well-known postmodernist, Professor Bhattarai ever writes from his heart and aspires to change the troubled Nepalese literary/academic landscape. 

Exam-oriented Nepalese ELT

An Interview with

Professor Chandreshwor Mishra

Professor Chandreshwor Mishra is the new Chair of English and Other Languages Education Subject Committee, Tribhuvan University. He has succeeded veterans Professor Shishir Kumar Sthapit, Professor Shanti Basnyat and Professor Jai Raj Awasthi. Having been involved in teaching English for the last 30 years, Professor Mishra is a Ph.D. in ELT from CIFEL Hydrabad. The post of Chair is challenging in the sense that there are a lot of issues to be resolved such as taking the mission initiated by predecessors to the destination, leading Nepalese English Education in the right direction, standardizing thesis writing, departmental autonomy etc.  I tendered a few questions-some personal but academic, others departmental. Find his observations in his own words below:

1. Professor Mishra , You are the new Chair of English and Other English Languages Education Subject Committee. How challenged do you feel?  How do you plan to proceed in the days to come?

I have taken the chairmanship of the English Education subject Committee both as a challenge and an opportunity. It’s a challenge because there is a huge demand for effective implementation of newly designed course throughout the country. It’s an opportunity because my predecessors have built a strong foundation of English education to go ahead. I think in order to bring more developments definitely there is a great need of skilled manpower in the country. As you know one swallow does not make a summer. I feel the cooperation from my predecessors and continued efforts of the ELT distinguished personalities will of course energize me to work. I will be working in collaboration and consultation with all teachers throughout the country for the development of English education in Nepal.

2. Departmental autonomy has long been desired in order to introduce more specialization courses instead of core courses such as Foundations of Education, Psychology and Curriculum. How do you rationalize the need and how do you think you are going to take this issue to the concerned?

The talk of autonomy has been raised since long. I remember during the days when Professor Tirth Raj Khaniya was the Head of the Department, he had raised this issue very seriously. But because of non-cooperation from the concerned agencies and authorities the issue of autonomy was foiled. Luckily the present system of education is in the favor of decentralization and autonomy of the departments. I think it is the high we started hammering the nail into the right at the right time. What I feel is that the quality development as well disburdening the rising administrative cost of education under TU system can be facilitated with autonomy of the departments. TU and the Government of Nepal is no more in a condition to pay off the entire cost of education.  Autonomy would be a boon to academic promotion of TU as well as the department of English education. As there is an acute shortage of people with high caliber in the field of ELT and Applied Linguistics, granting autonomy to the department of English Education would be a significant step to bring about desired changes and qualities in the field of English Education. At this point I would like to state that Department of English Education is well equipped with necessary manpower to handle the autonomous department quite successfully. As the chair of the subject committee, I will be raising my voices to the concerned authorities continuously. I am sure that I will be able to convince the need of autonomy to them.

3. Most of our practical exams and project works (e.g. Foundations of language and linguistics, English for Mass Communication, English for Communication etc.) including practice teaching have virtually been reduced to a ritual. How do you think we can improve it?

I do admit that there are some challenges in the implementations practical examinations throughout the country not only in the English education courses but also in all the other subjects. The practical exams, as reported from various campuses and by teachers, are not executed in the true spirit of the courses. However, it is not because of the structure of the course but because of a large number of students as well as teachers’ unprofessional approach to handle these courses. First of all, we, all the teachers need to realize the ethical issues of your professionalism. Secondly, there should strict follow-up and monitoring mechanism from the Dean’s office and other examination related offices. Besides, the remunerations for practical examinations should be substantially increased so as to stop people taking it as a ritual.

4. Nepalese students learn English for fourteen years but still most of them have problems in expressing in English. Does not it conclude that our ELT has failed and therefore needs to be subverted?

So far as I have experienced for 35 years, teaching English in Nepal has remained only as an exam-oriented and completion of the course. There is hardly any interaction and discussion among the students in the teaching and learning process. Teaching of English should not be considered as teaching of other subjects. It is taught as a subject but not a language which is unfortunate for us. We still see that students are learning English through rote memorization which results into a handicap to express their ideas in English in different social and academic contexts. I think first of all teachers should be trained on how to teach English as a language not as a subject. Second, the patterns of questions asked in the examinations should be changed.  Questions that require creative and critical thinking of students should be asked so that they are discouraged to memorize bits of information from textbooks, teachers’ notes and guidebooks. I do not think that ELT has failed at all but the objectives have been mislead and unintentionally misinterpreted.

5. There has been a voice from some corner that our thesis writing has remained more mechanical and less academic? Do you agree with it? If yes, what changes are you going to introduce in order to improve it?

First, the issue of thesis writing is to be understood from the right perspectives. All the students are not either capable or in need of taking up thesis writing genuinely. As thesis writing is a rigorous and very serious academic exercise which calls for extensive readings, research skills, and academic writing ability, I feel that all students do not qualify for this. But in the past there had been a convention that all the students were expected to go through it. I think now we should give more emphasis on the qualitative approach of research. Thesis writing has become more mechanical because of its rigid nature and quantitative approach. However, the freedom and creativity of ideas manifested through language is always possible in the body of the thesis. I feel that all teachers should also keep themselves abreast of the latest development in the field ELT and Applied linguistic research works. This will of course benefit the students as well as the society they live in.

6. Latest revision of the courses reveals that we are in consonant with the wave of change in ELT around the globe. But global changes and local realities are poles apart. What do you think is the middle path to take?

Our new courses are undoubtedly quite updated and no less than the quality of courses in the world class universities as commented by Professor Numa Markee, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA. In this regard, we all should be grateful to Professor Jai Raj Awasthi who led the challenging job of designing new courses. As local needs throughout the world are against the global needs it is natural that we have to be cautious of it. But I do not think that the courses ignore the local needs and realities. We have adopted a balanced approach in which both global changes and their contextualization in local situation have been given a noticeable space in all the courses. However, what we should not undermine is that although the courses are quite challenging, the teachers who are responsible to translate these courses into practice may not be in tuned with the spirit of course. Therefore, I strongly urge the Dean’s office to take up immediate steps to reorient the teachers to handle the courses.

7. What do you think could be the ways to collaborate Department with NELTA in order to resolve ELT crises?

Yes there are many areas where we can go together hand in hand. At present we are working with NELTA to host Senior English Language Fellow(ELF), who is training teachers of English (both campus and school levels) throughout the country. In fact, NELTA is the most vibrant forum to promote ELT in Nepal. Since we have same mission, we can work together on teacher training, designing the courses for teachers, developing materials for short and long-term training course. We can also exchange our expertise and share our ideas and experiences from time to time in different events organized by NELTA and Department.

8. What directions do you think Nepalese ELE should take? What efforts are needed?

First, the policy of English language education should be restructured and redefined in line with the challenges that the students and society have to face. We have to plan for effective teaching of English but not the populist views of English education. We should also look at the needs and realities of the students, parents and other stakeholders. Even if we have introduced English from Grade 1, due to lack of competent and professionally motivated teachers, the teaching of English has simply become a ritualistic practice. Although the government claims that more than 80% teachers of English are trained, we have not seen substantial changes in their approach and motivation resulting into a poor performance of the students who miserably fail in their School Leaving Certificate examination. This indicates that we should rethink about the way we are teaching English, the way we are training teachers and the way we have been designing courses and developing textbooks.

 Thank you very for your time and contribution. 

Critical Thinking in EFL Classrooms


Lal Bahadur Rana

This article discusses what critical thinking is, why it is important for second or foreign language learners and analyses whether or not it can be applicable to teaching English as a foreign language in the contexts of Nepal. If it is applied, what kinds of challenge are likely to occur and how the teachers who practice critical thinking can overcome them.

On defining critical thinking

Critical thinking refers to a type of lateral thinking that enables individuals to analyze and evaluate information about a situation or phenomenon or a problem and to make appropriate decisions that befit in their contexts. As a matter of fact, it is the thinking process through which people tend to gather knowledge, deconstruct the gathered knowledge and create new knowledge. The people who think critically do not take anything for granted, no matter who says.  Instead, they raise vital questions and problems, formulate them clearly, gather and assess relevant information, use abstract ideas, think open-mindedly and communicate effectively with others.

Critical thinking, like many other phenomena, has been defined variously by many scholars. So it is worth discussing some of those definitions. Ennis (1989  defines critical thinking as a “reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do”. This definition implies that critical thinking enhances our judgmental ability” (as cited in Fisher 2011, p. 4). Similarly, Beyer (1995) is of the same opinion and maintains that critical thinking means reasoned judgments. Kelley and Browne (1994) maintain that critical thinking consists of an awareness of a set of interrelated critical questions, plus the ability and willingness to ask and answer them at appropriate times. For Paul (2003), critical thinking is that mode of thinking about any subject, content or program in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charges of the structures inherent in thinking or imposing intellectual standard upon them. Likewise, Lohani et al. (1998) also define critical focusing on standards to be maintained. According to them, critical thinking is consciously observing, analyzing, reasoning, and evaluating, according to proven standards. To conclude, critical thinking is that mode of thinking which stimulates higher level of thinking in individuals, and enables them to take rationale decisions analyzing different contexts skillfully and wisely.

Why critical thinking

To my knowledge, the teachers of English in Nepal carry out their teaching activities focusing on contents or information only, because their main focus is to facilitate learners become proficient in English, rather than developing higher order of thinking in them. In other words, our teaching learning activities are confined to knowledge and comprehension level only. Consequently, we are not able to help our students develop higher order thinking skills such as of application, analysis, evaluation and creating. However, it does not mean that the adherents of critical thinking deny the importance of information; rather they maintain that learners should go beyond the information level, because in real life situations learners need to possess higher order of thinking skills in order to face their challenges. If we believe that the education that we impart to our learners should cater to their needs, we should conduct our teaching and learning activities following the framework and strategies that adhere to critical thinking. It is because critical thinking encourages learners to think independently, share their ideas, respect others’ opinions-be they against or in favor of them etc. To put it other way, learners are likely to foster human rights, democratic norms and values just by carrying out small tasks in classrooms, because they sub-consciously build up the knowledge that there is power and pleasure in accepting the existence of others.

In the post conflict scenario of Nepal, the importance of  teaching and learning of critical thinking can hardly be exaggerated, because the students who have been studying at schools and colleges have got the hangover of the conflict in the past. They have lost the abilities to raise questions against any issues or problems, no matter how bad they feel. The ability to think critically is especially important for students living in a country with political and socioeconomic problems, for it will help them to look at issues from different viewpoints and become independent thinkers and responsible citizens (Shaila and Trudell, 2010). The students who have been studying at schools and colleges have bittersweet experiences of insurgency, which seem to be deeply rooted in their minds. If we follow the ideology of critical thinking in our classrooms, learners will be able to analyze those experiences through different perspectives and make sure that they will respect and make others respect human rights, democratic norms and values, laws of the land, individual freedom etc.

Although Tribhuvan University has prescribed the courses such as ‘Reading, Writing and Critical Thinking’ in B. Ed. and ‘Critical and Creative Thinking’ in B.A., these courses are also taught and learned focusing on contents. Lecture is the only classroom activity for teaching of those courses. Because of this system, students heavily depend on teachers and begin to memorize the information with the faint hope of reproducing in the examination so that they can pass the examination to be administered once a year. They think that teacher is the bank of knowledge and therefore they take whatever teachers provide them for granted. Thus, we are not preparing learners to be independent thinkers, but blind supporters of certain -isms or persons, which has resulted deadlocks in every sector of our country.

In order for a good learning to take place, three perspectives- materials, methodology and pedagogy play pivotal roles, therefore, all these three aspects should simultaneously be changed. Of these three perspectives, bringing about the changes in the pedagogical perspectives is the most challenging task. Therefore, we tend to change learning materials only, retaining the same teaching and testing systems. Therefore, despite the implementation of good syllabuses, the result remains the same.  Nowadays, I am fully convinced that without bringing about changes in classroom activities, we cannot obtain the desired outcomes. As far as I know, strategies to be followed while conducting classes following the principles of critical thinking can be very instrumental to help learners develop their proficiency or competence in second language and foster higher order of thinking skills at the same time.

Application of critical thinking in EFL classrooms

The application of critical thinking in EFL or ESL classrooms is quite possible, because the strategies such as Think Pair Share (TPS), quick write, know- want to know- learned (KWL), pen in the middle, jigsaw, predictions by terms ,debate etc.  prescribed by critical thinking are almost familiar to the teachers of English. Similarly, the ABC (Anticipation, Building knowledge, and Consolidation) framework followed in teaching following critical thinking is very much similar to the PWP (Pre-, While and Post) or BWA (Before, While and After) framework used in teaching reading and listening.

In the anticipation stage, teachers set contexts for carrying out the main tasks using learners’ experience or previous knowledge so that learners can easily understand the main texts. Similarly, in building knowledge stage, learners receive new information, or ideas, and consolidation stage learners consolidate what they have learnt in a lesson going beyond the texts so that their learning can be permanent or automatic, because the learners are provided with the opportunities to assimilate the new knowledge with their real life experiences.  Thus, it seems that ABC and PWP or BWA frameworks are different terminologically only. However, it is not true. There are certain differences between these frameworks. The PWP or BWA framework is generally used for teaching receptive skills- listening and reading, whereas the ABC framework is applicable to any kind of teaching items or subjects. The striking difference between them is that, in the former, the teachers are much concerned on how they can include the activities as per the six levels of cognitive domain given by Bloom (1956), but   in the latter teachers focus on only how they could help learners develop their language proficiency.

While we are teaching English, we teach different kinds of texts such as essays, poems, stories, memoirs, biographies, dramas, novels, etc. In order to teach these discourses, we can very wisely utilize critical thinking strategies, which can help us shift our activities from teacher centered to student centered. These strategies can help us dissect texts into various pieces and analyze each piece with some criteria or standards.   If we apply ABC framework with suitable strategies, we are sure to ‘improve today and create a better tomorrow’ Chapman (2007). It is because teachers will not only help students develop their abilities to communicate effectively, but also the abilities to make appropriate decisions taking wider perspectives of their social and cultural lives into their account.

The above discussion implies the fact that we can apply critical thinking strategies in EFL or ESL classes successfully. The objectives of English curricula should not be circumscribed to linguistic factors alone. They should include the art of critical thinking. It is because, in order to be proficient in a language, learners need to use creative and critical thinking through the target language.

 Challenges

 In course of implementation, few challenges can easily be envisioned, which need to be faced by all teachers of English collaboratively. Most of the students focus on linguistic factors; rather than higher level of thinking. Thus, the development of critical thinking in language classroom seems to be a by-product of teaching English. To some extent, it seems to be true as well, because relatively a large number of students struggle for the improvement of linguistic abilities in English. Thus, for those students whose English proficiency is not fairly good, developing critical thinking in them seems to be a far-reaching goal. My own experience in ESL classrooms shows that students are engaged in higher level of thinking if they are provided with opportunities to use their native language in the discussions of different kinds of texts selected for them. In other words, many students have good ideas, but due to the lack of good command over English, they lag far behind.

Another challenge is that most of our teaching learning activities are guided by testing. To be specific, teachers in Nepal tend to teach what are likely to be asked in the examinations; rather than what are important for learners to learn. Most of the examinations at schools, colleges and universities contain test papers that are limited to knowledge and comprehension levels. If an examiner happens to construct papers including the questions which require students to use their higher level of thinking, the examinees tend to claim that the questions are out of syllabi, which results into re-administration of the examination.

Courses to be taught and learnt, on the other hand, are highly challenging both in terms of length and contents. Teachers hardly ever finish the courses just by doing building knowledge stage only, let alone anticipation and consolidation. Moreover, some teachers are likely to show their reluctance to change their stereotypical teaching techniques. Critical thinking emphasizes that learners should learn to analyze the same texts or situations through different perspectives. Thus, the teachers who follow critical thinking strategy are sure to go beyond the texts spending much time on the same lesson. So the implementation of critical thinking strategies will require comparatively more time than in the ways the teachers tend to teach. In some cases, large number of students in the classroom will also pose some challenges. The government of Nepal has specified that in a standard classroom there should be fifty students. In colleges or universities one hundred and the above students study in a classroom. Most of the strategies prescribed by critical thinking methodology seem to be appropriate for the classes which consist of some twenty to thirty students.

All new things in Nepal are introduced following top down modality of implementation. Teachers in the classrooms can adopt the innovative ideas and strategies in the classrooms, but they may not be supported by the personnel in high ranks or positions. The examiners are also not very much well-informed in the use of critical thinking in  setting question papers that can check the different levels of critical thinking. If there are incompatibilities in teaching and testing, it can exacerbate the result of our academic institutions.

Possible Solutions

Both the teachers and students should be crystal clear about the fact that language is not used in vacuum; neither is it used without contents. In order to develop language proficiency, we need subject matters to be discussed or studied or taught by using a target language. So both knowledge and language get developed simultaneously. Surely, the critical thinking strategies if applied properly will stimulate learners to develop higher levels of thinking and make them feel like expressing, sharing, doubting, debating, discussing, etc. At the same time, when they feel the need of expressing their ideas, they automatically acquire their target language i.e. English in the context of Nepal. Undoubtedly, in the initial days, learners can be confused and will even think that they are not learning, nor will they think that their teacher is teaching, but their perseverance to try a new way of learning will certainly count in the long run. It is because almost all the strategies to be used in critical thinking enhance learner-centeredness.

Syllabus designers, textbook writers, examiners certainly play significant roles in deciding what instructional techniques and evaluation schemes should be followed in a particular program. They should know the fact that critical thinking is an important way of imparting education to the students. These three key stakeholders should collaborate and take initiatives to make textbooks, exam papers and teaching learning activities critical thinking friendly.

Conclusion

In conclusion, critical thinking is one of the most thought provoking methods of teaching, which can be implemented in any discipline. From the above discussion, it can be discerned that this methodology can be applied in teaching English as a foreign language, disregarding to whether the learners are in elementary level or advanced level. The implementation of critical thinking can help learners bring about positive changes in the ways they think and expand the horizons of their knowledge. Therefore, if it is implanted in ESL classrooms, the learners will not only build up communicative competence in English, but also intellectual traits.

References

Atkinson D. 1997. A critical approach to critical thinking in TESOL. TESOL Quarterly, 31 (1), 71-94.

Barbara, L. and Wendy, W. 2006. Critical Thinking Framework for any Discipline. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 17: 160-166.

Chapman, D. E. 2007. The Curricular Compass: Navigating the Space between Theory and Practice. Thinking Classroom. 5: 29-34.

Craford, A. et al. 2005. Teaching and Learning Strategies for the Thinking Classroom. Kathmandu: Goreto Nepal

Fisher A. 2011. Critical Thinking: An Introduction. New Delhi: Cambridge University.  Press.

Gardner P.S. 2009. New Directions. Reading, Writing and Critical Thinking. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press.

Lohani, S. et al.(eds). 1998. Critical and Creative Thinking. Kathmandu: Modern Printing Press.

Mahmuda Y. S. and Trudell. B. 2010. From Passive Learners to Critical Thinkers: Preparing EFL Students for University Success. English Teaching Forum. 3: 2- 9.

Shea, G. I. 2009. Public Speaking Tasks in English Language Teaching. English Teaching Forum. 47: 18- 23. Underwood, M. 1989. Teaching Listening. London: Longman

The Power and Potential of the Classroom Collective: A New Approach to Class Participation and Behavior Management


Archana Shrestha &  Sarah Chevallier

In any classroom, there is a constant struggle to balance the needs of the individual against those of the collective. This struggle is visibly manifested in the push and pull between class participation and classroom management, particularly within the context of teaching English as a foreign language in Nepal.

Many Nepalese classrooms are dominated by two equal and opposing forces: the highest and the lowest performing students. Spurred by a system of individual praise, top students dominate class discussion and participation. Conversely, the lowest-performing students, who frequently have no confidence in their ability to answer questions correctly, seek attention (albeit negative) through misbehavior and disruptive tendencies.

The obvious losers in these classrooms are those students in the middle, cowed into silence by the raucous behavior of the lowest-performing, and scorned into shyness by their domineering higher-performing peers. These students rarely volunteer to participate in class activities, exhibit sometimes spectacular reticence to speak when called upon (due to the fact that their errors are frequently mocked by both ends of the performance spectrum, as these dominating forces seek to re-secure attention), and generally display a lack of confidence in spoken abilities, preferring instead to focus their energy on the lower-pressure context of written homework. These middle students form an impenetrably meek and mute collective, unmotivated by the lure of individual reward, given the potential for individual rejection and ridicule.

In our own English classroom, we have decided to address this imbalance through the implementation of team activities to encourage in-class participation, and collective rewards for homework completion. In this way, we hoped not only to address individual needs and behaviors, but also to render the collective mastery of material more effective and class time more productive, as the students would take on the responsibility for participation and behavior management.

Practical Effects of Collective Reward and Punishment

We have found that this method of regularly combining students at various performance levels into teams for group activities and games has proved immensely valuable in our classroom. First, it has served to create a sense of unity and equality, as it impresses upon them that they all have an equal role to play in their team’s success or defeat and by extension in their own individual reward. Students’ immediate focus is transferred from the individual response to team performance – the highest-performing students are no longer able to simply answer every question; the lowest-performing students’ energy is harnessed, directed, and motivated by the promise of reward; and those in the middle (given more opportunities to perform) are inherently more likely to perform well, and their efforts are thereby positively reinforced and more likely to be repeated.

Beyond the innate merit of this team dynamic, however, it has become even more effective through a consistent implementation as a system of reward and punishment. In our classroom, this has taken the form of tracking teams’ wins and losses, rewarding the first team to win a total of five games. After this reward, both teams start again at zero. We have also expanded this concept of teamwork to apply to homework – when all the students have completed five consecutive homework assignments, they are rewarded. If one student does not do his or her homework, the class tally is returned to zero. In this way, homework becomes more than an easily avoided classroom formality – it becomes a class-wide team effort in which their opponent is their own lack of motivation. In this way, students learn the value of consistent and cumulative effort.

Finally, an unintended but certainly welcome effect of this system has been the transferring of responsibility for class behavior onto the students themselves. When misbehavior disrupts a game, or results in the withholding of a game entirely, students become incredibly apt to police one another’s behaviors, attention, and participation. If one student does not complete his or her homework, he or she then suffers the consequences of letting down their classmates. If one student’s disruptive behavior results in the class copying silently from the book rather than playing a game with the hope of eventual reward, that student will hear about it from his or her classmates.

In this way, the collective’s interest polices the actions of the individual, and the classroom dynamic shifts from an individual struggle to a team effort to master English.

Critical Thinking Lesson Plan Sample

Critical Thinking Lesson Plan

DESIGNER’S NAMES:Sajan Kumar Karn  (Nepal)Uzma Arshed (Pakistan) Type of course the Lesson is planned for (i.e. low-intermediate reading course for 16-year-old high school students): Low-Intermediate
Title of Lesson: My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold (A Poem by William Wordsworth) Length of lesson:45 Minutes
I.  Overarching goal of the lesson: This lesson aims to expose students to the creative use of language and to develop creative writing ability in them.
 
II. Prerequisites.  These are assumptions you are making about your students’ skills, knowledge, and experience for this lesson.  At the beginning of this lesson, students are expected to know or Should have experienced:

  1. What poetry is and its basic elements are
  2. Who Wordsworth was
  3. What a paradox is
  4. Rainbow after rain
  5. Nature and its human’s association with it
  6. Difference between concrete and abstract language within poetry.
  7. Poetry is different from prose
  8. Knowledge about similes and metaphors

 

 
III. Instructional Objectives for the lesson: Please write 2 explicit critical thinking objectives.  Be sure to use the ABCD (Audience-Behavior-Condition-Degree) model. Bloom’s domain and level CT Strategy(No more than 2 per objective)
1.  Given the poem, students will summarize the main ideas, explaining the paradox ‘The child is the father of the man’ and conveying the poet’s intent in a paragraph. Cognitive, Analysis Level  S-21 reading criticallyS-32 making plausible interpretations
2. Given the poem, the students will be able to compose a nature poem in two stanzas. Cognitive, Synthesis(Create) S-12 Developing One’s Perspective: Creating or Exploring Beliefs, Arguments, or Theories 
IV.  Lesson Description—This may include pre-, during, and post-activities, steps, or techniques that the students are doing.  Please cite ideas that you have included from Week 4 or Week 5 readings by indicating the author’s last name next to the activity or approach.  (You do not need to cite the 35 strategies list.)Pre-reading activities:

  1. 1. Set some pre-questions(Duron, Limbach & Waugh, 2006)

Teacher (T) shows the picture of rainbow and asks students (Ss) questions such as ‘What does the picture contain? Have you seen it earlier? Does it make you happy, if yes, why? Have you read any poem by William Wordsworth? What was the theme of the poem? etc.

  1. T asks the Ss to guess the meaning of the title individually.
  2. T helps Ss with difficult words such as piety etc.
  3. T asks the Ss to read about the introduction of the poet given in the book and ask a few questions such as, where was William Wordsworth born? What does he mean by poetry? What was his relation with nature? And so on.
  4. T asks the Ss to think and say what the poem is about and also for their reactions on it.

While-reading activities

  1. T asks the Ss to read the poem and find the words for the meanings such as deep respect, see, jump,
  2. T asks them to find the most unusual sentence in the poem. Tell them that it is a paradox( a controversial statement with some truth)
  3. Divide the students into 3 groups and assign them the task (Jones, 2004) and asks them to work on three tasks- summarizing the poem in one sentence, guessing meaning of the paradox “The child is the father of the man” in the poem and guessing the intent of the poem.
  4. T asks each group to make a sentence using these three pairs of words. (child-past, father-outcome, man-present)
  5. T tries to derive the meaning of the paradox from the students “The present is the outcome of the past and consequently the future will be the outcome of the present”.

Post-reading activities

  1. T divides the students into pairs and asks them to fill in the blanks on their own and share with their mates.
    1. The poem is about………………..
    2. The poem makes us realize that………………….
    3. The poet pays deep respect for…………………….
    4. The poem recollects……………………………………..
    5. According to the poet, nature is the source of ………
    6. T asks the Ss to discuss amongst their group members “A child shows a man as morning shows the day”.
    7. T assigns the Ss homework to compose a poem on nature (Encourage Creativity, Schneider, 2002).
V.  Continued development of critical thinking — No one lesson is going to fully cultivate critical thinking.  Based on the Lesson Plan, describe specific ideas for on-going development of critical thinking, such as student activities or techniques and/or teaching strategies or approaches.  These are broad terms, used in different ways.  They are intentionally general to encourage you to think creatively about further development of critical thinking.Through this lesson we would like to develop in our students

  1. The ability of guessing(reasoning)
  2. Questioning and respecting others’ views
  3. Discussing among group members and reaching a logical conclusions
  4. Encouraging students to compose a poem(creating)

May Issue of NELTA Choutari

Editorial

Certificate Distribution Centers (CDCs)?

Are our schools and universities primarily serving as Certificate Distribution Centers? Yes. And that happens when educational institutions aim merely to help students get high scores, when teachers teach students just to enable them to get through exams, when students go to schools and colleges mainly to get certificates.

Nepalese education has always overemphasized examination and under-emphasized learning and education. Exams are held mainly as periodic rituals. Of course, exams can serve legitimate educational purposes. But if education merely aims at giving away certificates, why invest so much of effort, funds, resources and time into it? Why not just open educational institutes that confer degrees to students in three days: first day for admission, second day for filling up forms and third day for distributing certificates that are as good as the students demand? That would be very “loktantrik,” wouldn’t it?  Such a democratic education would require no teaching, no hassle.

So, exams can be used well–as when they are used as teaching tools–or they can be used badly–as when they are given for passing or failing students. Unfortunately, we seem to have done the latter very well. Thus, the million dollar question that we need to ask is: how do we use exams to serve the larger purpose of genuine education? We certainly cannot get rid of exams. Despite criticisms, exams survive and are bound to exist in education for some time.  Then, what are challenges and what could be their feasible solutions? There is a whole lot of exam related issues in Nepalese academia that are waiting to be tackled. For instance, most of the exams that are taken at almost all levels of our education demand nothing but memorization and reproduction. Students either commit contents to their memory or carry “guess papers” into examination rooms. There is little space in the currently system for students’ creativity and critical abilities. Tests writers hardly receive any orientation on what is to be tested and how students should be tested. Likewise, examiners never receive any training on how to mark the papers. Without any doubt these practices have harmful effects on education and ultimately on society. It is high time that we address the problem of our education systems’ overreliance on exams.

The posts in the May issue of NELTA Choutari address those testing and language testing issues in Nepal with a very insightful interview and a few articles. The interview by Professor Tirth Raj Khaniya, a testing expert discusses a number of significant issues about testing practices. Similarly, the article by Dr. Ram Ashish Giri, another well versed expert on language testing who now works in an Australian University argues that it is extremely regrettable that while tests are the cheapest but influential tool to reform academia elsewhere. He also proposes to develop an explicit English language education policy to bring changes in the existing problematic English language testing situation in the country. In his article, Suresh Shrestha argues why cheating is tending to have moral grounds in today’s contexts. Please do not go after my words, read yourself to find what they have to say and please do show your acceptance or dismissal through comments. Last but not least, Exams, Academic Writing and Nepalese ELT by Shyam Sharma proposes academic writing as  an alternative to tests, tests, and tests that the Nepalese ELT as well as the entire education system  is submerged in.

Sajan Karn
Editor
NELTA Choutari


Contents

1. An Interview with Professor Khaniya on Issues in Nepalese Testing 

2. Examination as an Agent for Educational Reform by Dr. Ram Ashish Giri

3. Testing: What? by Suresh Shrestha

4. Exams, Academic Writing and Nepalese ELT by Shyam Sharma

An Interview with Professor Khaniya

Mr. Test Writer,

Does your test really test what it should test?

It is all apparent that testing in general and language testing in particular in Nepal have been plagued with a bundle of issues. Some of the blazing issues that call for immediate intervention include memory and content based (English language) tests, slipshod marking system, lack of post result analysis, derogatory influence of exams on education, guess paper based exams, abolishment of entrance exams, issue of remarking papers, escalating cheating and so forth. Unfortunately, exam authorities have turned deaf ear to the issues. I put a few questions before Professor Tirth Raj Khaniya, a well known expert on the subject of testing if his visionary perspectives and long gained expertise could offer some guidelines to trim them down. Here are his insights and observations in his own words.

Please also feel free to put your comments, no matter you like or you feel difficult to digest the views expressed in the interview.


1.   Professor Khaniya, you have been involved in testing and evaluation for a long time. We do acknowledge your contribution in exam reforms in Nepal. However, if you look at the current trends in testing in Nepal, are you satisfied with what and how we have been testing?

Your question reminds me of the time when, after completing my PH. D. from University of Edinburgh, I was flying back to Kathmandu from London in the then RNAC flight thinking of how I would be working on bringing about reforms in the SLC Examination in particular (my area of investigation) and examination system of Nepal in general. As a matter of fact, I was able to influence some authorities involved in the management of the SLC exam to initiate some reform activities. I must say that there have been several changes in the SLC exam since then. However, I should also confess that I have not been effective in bringing about the reforms I wanted to bring about in the SLC Exam. What it is that I wanted the SLC to be is both an exit exam, as it is now (administrative), as well as a research process (academic) to bring about reform in the whole school sector of education. What it means is using the SLC exam as evidence of school performance and post analysis of the exam would give us sufficient information about what kind of intervention is needed in the school sector reform so as to make the system better. Doing this every year would obviously build the system better. It is mainly because of our failure in utilizing useful information available from the post analysis of the academic aspect of the SLC exam, even after spending a lot of money on school education, accomplishment is very little.

In response to your query, I must say that my academic pursuit forces me to work on making examinations as powerful instruments for causing learning, which is possible only when we produce good exams, but the situation in which I and we have been working leads me/us to be with the community that understand(s) exam only as an administrative tool. In that sense I have not been able to accomplish my mission so far. I will continue working towards this direction. The new generation is very positive about such changes. I am optimistic about it.

2.   When we look at the tests made in Nepal-whether be them for the English language or for other subjects/disciplines, we find most of the questions can be answered only if students have committed the contents well. Are we supposed to test that at all?

You have rightly touched on the main problem of testing in Nepal. As a matter of fact, we do not care what questions we ask, what answer our questions will stimulate the learners to produce, how to develop a question, how a learner will answer our question, etc. Especially in language testing, asking a question is more difficult than answering it if we really appreciate the art of questioning.

In response to your concern, I would say that the whole lot of the people involved in testing in the present set up does not have adequate orientation to testing. Their main source of knowledge about testing is that they took exams during their study period. But in modern education, testing has become an independent discipline and thus people who want to work in the field of testing need training on it.  Without training they cannot appreciate that a question cannot be a question simply because of its structure and a question mark, rather the one who asks a question needs to know what he is asking for (i.e. the expected answer or response or performance). On most occasions, I have seen people setting questions in such a way that there is no way for creative and innovative answers. To give you an example, in most question papers on the top, you find the statement saying “Candidates are required to give their answers in their own words as far as practicable” whereas you do not find even a single question in the paper not asked in the previous exams. How can the teacher expect original answers from students when he has not used even a single word in the whole set of question paper on his own? The argument is that in order to stimulate students to produce creative and innovative answers, you need to ask such questions and this is possible if testing procedures (e.g. specification) are truly followed.

3.   You have written a book entitled ‘Exams for Enhanced Learning’.  Contradictorily, tests are criticized for exerting deleterious influence on education and for not being able to assess the actual competence of a person. If so, why should test exist at all? Do not we have any alternative to it?

In my views, what we test, if done professionally, represents what we want our learners to learn. It makes the learner clear what they should strive for. In addition, testing is associated with intrinsic and extrinsic values which make the learner work hard. The combination of all these has a lot to do with how teachers prepare students for testing, how students prepare for it and how parents support them for getting through it. Then if we have good tests, working for such tests will enhance students’ learning. By the same token, if it happens to be a bad test, students are bound to suffer from its derogatory influence. The argument is that derogatory influence of an exam is not inherent, it depends upon whether the test is good or bad. A good test allows students to deal with what they are supposed to learn, and through testing their learning becomes powerful.

The main crux is what we ask students to produce and how we want them to demonstrate. Since a human brain is intelligent, and can tell a lie, as you said, it may be difficult to test real competence. However, a good test can lead a learner to truly perform tasks which can be accepted as an indicator of the learner’s competence.

My argument about exams is that at least for a foreseeable future, exams are likely to survive because even the advanced technology could not find a substitute for an exam. If so, why not prepare for using the power of exams which leads towards better learning, and it is possible if we design good tests

4.   Many allege that exams in Nepal have virtually remained guess-paper based? Why is it so? How can we check it?

As I said above, students’ behavior in an exam is shaped up by the questions we ask. When we ask questions borrowed from previous exam papers, commercial notes and guide books, we are forcing the students to be guess paper based. We can change the situation only when we make our students know that questions will not be based on market materials, and marking will be done on the basis of a marking scheme not on the basis of the answers copied from different sources.

5.   Specifically, what are English language testing issues in Nepal? What efforts are to be made in order to check them?

There are several issues in language testing in Nepal. One of the major issues, for example, is that we need to be clear about what we want to test- language or content. For me it is language not content.  If we want to test language we should not put a pressure on the students about contents. Content in language is merely a way of eliciting language. Lack of knowledge about this concept makes the whole process of testing complicated. We do not understand the difference between asking Nepalese students to write on Pashupatinath and The White House. When students do not write, we do not know whether it is because of lack of knowledge or language. In language testing we need to make sure that when students do not give us proper answer it is because of language not because of content.

6.   Particularly what tips or suggestions do you provide to test writers so that they unveil creative and critical abilities of the students?

What we need to understand is testing should not be treated as an isolated activity; rather it is a comprehensive activity. What I mean by this is that testing cannot be improved only by changing tests. Before we produce a changed test in an exam hall, we need to present it to the classroom in the beginning of the academic year so that the teachers and students understand what they are expected of; be it creative or innovative or practical or something they need to demonstrate. Once students and teachers know what they need to demonstrate in the exam, they will work for that and when what we want them to learn and what they need to demonstrate in order to pass an exam become the same, then we can concentrate on strengthening creative and critical abilities of the students through and for the exam.

7.   Language Testing has been established as a separate discipline elsewhere and that has systematized the evaluation of language learning from perspectives to practices. What about ours? Do not you think we need to make it more organized here in Nepal?

Everywhere language testing is emerging as an independent discipline.  In a short period of time, let’s say, after 1960s, it has grown in such a way that it is like any other disciplines which have long history and rich literature. Nepal’s case is the same. When we were students in Nepal, there was no concept of language testing. We were trained through measurement and evaluation concepts under pure education courses. Now we have a 50 marks’ course for language testing. I agree with you that we need to do more like forming language testing groups, publishing language testing journals, organizing special activities for training and sharing focusing on language testing, etc. The increasing popularity of language testing is creating sufficient spaces for doing what you are proposing.

8.   Often fingers are lifted on the marking system in Tribhuvan University and elsewhere. Many departments have been set on fire alleging subjective and careless examination of the papers? What do you have to say on this?

You are right. Our department was set on fire two times during my headship. I see problems not only in marking, but in the whole process of enrolling students for teaching and testing. Recalling that time, I think the students who were serious and regular in the class were not the ones who damaged the department. Those who led the vandalism were guest students but strong enough to exploit the situation. Saying so, I also agree with you that our testing involves subjectivity and carelessness. We need to provide some sort of professional development courses to all who are involved in teaching and testing about language testing. We happen to wrongly believe that good teachers are good testers. Once questions are developed professionally, many anomalies can be sorted out

9.   Students of TU and Higher Secondary Board have expressed their disgruntlement over the marking system time and again. Universities in the world do have the provision of remarking system. Do not you think TU should introduce this system at least for the students’ satisfaction and also to show the fairness of exams?

Many universities have a provision for an appeal when students do not accept results for any reason. In order to satisfy them, the provision for remarking is a way to give them justice. There is another advantage of remarking, that is, making teachers feel responsible for what they do. When teachers know that they are not the final authority for marking, when they know that the answer sheet may be examined again, they would to be more serious and do the job sensibly.

10. Tribhuvan University abolished entrance exams in some disciplines? How justified was the decision? Is there any university in the world which holds open admission?

It is unfortunate that the TU abolished entrance exam in some disciplines. As a matter of fact, it comes under university’s autonomy- a university making decisions on who to be allowed for admission and who not- my argument is, it is a matter of deciding on the quality of students for enrollment. When a university has no say over what kind of students it wants to invite and select, how can it talk about the quality of its product? Our student leaders also feel proud being able to allow those who do not merit for admission. They do not understand how it damages university’s credibility. In my view, this decision should be revisited.

11.    Last but far from the least, cheating has been rampant in Nepal-whether be it SLC or Higher Secondary or even exams of university? It has become a matter of headache for one and all. Why do you think has it happened? What do you think could be the best solution to check it? Can anything be done on the part of test writers to check cheating?

I am of the opinion that cheating is a byproduct. Students go for cheating because cheating is possible in the exam, they have seen their friends passing exams by cheating, questions are asked based on previous exam papers and published materials available in the market, etc. If we do not ask cheatable questions, if we effectively communicate to them that cheating cannot lead them to pass an exam, if we ask them questions answers of which cannot be supplied through cheating, and if we make them that cheated answers would not be awarded marks, I think they would not cheat.

Yes, you are right, we can stop cheating by improving how questions are asked and how answers are expected. But this has to be clearly communicated to teachers and students and classroom teaching has to be improved.

Thank you so much for illuminating us with your viewpoints.


 About Professor Khaniya 

Tirth Raj Khaniya is a familiar name in the arena of Nepalese education and ELT both. A Ph. D. in Language Testing from University of Edinburgh, UK.  Dr. Khaniya led several examination and education reform taskforces. Currently, a Professor of English Education, he teaches language testing in the Department of English Education, TU.  To his credit, he has a number of books and articles published in national and international journals on Nepalese education and ELT. New Horizons in Education in Nepal (2007) and Examination for Enhanced Learning (2005) are his highly acclaimed works.