Editorial

The fields of English studies and English teaching demand inclusive readjustment today. Beyond the age-old concerns of originality and standard in learning and practice, issues like gender sensitive curriculum, glocalization of indigenous knowledge, inclusion of mother tongue in school education seem to question the authority of English as a major medium and resource for modern education. English teachers must be prepared to take up an increasing pressure of interdisciplinary exposure and networking across diverse geographical locations to cater to this need of readjustment in the days ahead.

The June issue of Nelta Choutari is expected to hint at this reality. We have included the insights of Dr. Rajendra Bimal, a Janakpur-based scholar, in our oral history project. Other posts, in addition to covering usual pedagogical issues, aim to present local experiences to mark an increasing sense of awareness to redefine our roles as teachers and practitioners of English.

In this issue we bring to you:

  1. “Interview with Dr. Rajendra Bimal” (Part One) – by  Praveen Kumar Yadav
  2. Challenges in Assessing Learners’ Written Skills in Nepal – by Eak Prasad Duwadi
  3. Learning Style Preferences” – by Khem Raj Joshi
  4. Writing English in Nepali Way” – by Hem Raj Kafle
  5. Gender Disparity: A Classroom Issue” – by Mandira Adhikari

Interview with Dr. Rajendra Bimal — by Praveen Kumar Yadav

This is the first part of an interview with Dr. Rajendra Bimal, a veteran in language and literature from Janakpur.  Dr. Bimal earned doctorate degree in linguistics in three languages English, Nepali and Maithili. He has also been awarded with honorary PhD for his contribution in language, literature and culture of Maithili language from Maithili Vishwa Vidhyapeeth India. He is a linguist, litterateur, professor, poet, author, cultural activist and academician.

Dr. Bimal speaks on the following key points:

  1. His professional growth with English
  2. Memorable moments as an English teacher that have left lasting impression on him
  3. Key changes in the scenario of English in Nepal (teaching/learning/practices)
  4. English as an interdisciplinary field

The second part of this interview will be posted in the July Issue.

The Choutari team thank Mr. Praveen Kumar Yadav for preparing this issue of Oral History Project.

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Challenges in Assessing Learners’ Written Skills in Nepal

– Eak Prasad Duwadi

Being a non-native English as Foreign Language teacher, I have faced innumerable challenges in assessing my learners’ written skills. Out of those, learners’ disliking writing tasks is the most common one. I have seen more than a half of a class often has blank syndromes (causes temporary speechless). Moreover, there are many EFL practitioners and teachers who give marks according to the faces rather than the texts their students have produced.  I think we need some remedies to correct these challenges. Hence, if the teachers are committed and well-trained, many of these difficulties will be addressed.

Some students (mainly from elite and foreign institutions) can answer some questions based on their previous knowledge of extensive reading and exposures, but the capability of  students who come from the schools of rural areas where even medium of instruction of English is not English is quite low. Consequently, what they are able to produce is sentences with wrong spellings, structures and coherence. The courses that I have to teach mainly include the development of macro skills. In assessment tests, they are asked to write reports, proposals, formal letters and academic articles though it is almost impossible to fulfill in a single semester.  Another challenge is that most of teachers do not use analytical rubrics: in my university, for example, there are staffs in controller’s office who has pure sciences background.

I have gained many insights on assessment in this session. Agreeing with Linville (2011), I prefer analytical scoring to either holistic or primary trait scoring. It perhaps is more valid as learners’ performance is not only assessed by a particular aspect but also be evaluated with integrated aspects. I have also learnt from Cohen (1994) who presents a series of reading assessing strategies, their advantages as well as drawbacks says that reading involves a series of abilities: language proficiency, attitudes, motivation and background knowledge amongst others.

Therefore, reading is the must for writing activity too. Be it course books, or reference materials, if learners read it, then only they can reflect or create something new. It is up to us to start trying some or a combination of them in order to find the most suitable for our students and for teachers too. Reading relevant literatures about writing and taking part in the discussion, I have made several assumptions.

First, my foremost duty is to promote students’ achievement in writing. I often do this by carefully designing rubrics, giving clear instructions, monitoring students’ writing to appraise strengths and weaknesses, teaching specific skills and strategies in response to student needs, and giving careful way forward that, I believe, will underpin newly learned skills.

Second, my liability is to provide opportunities for writing and encourage the students who attempt to write. In my own experiences, that is possible only when I also do writing with them instead of just asking them to do so.

Third, I ought to evaluate the writing products according to fluency, contents, conventions, syntax, and vocabulary. Now I believe that designing assessments that confirm to all the five basic principles of assessment (practicality, reliability, validity, authenticity and washback) is no longer an impossible thing for me.

Fourth, before designing writing examination, I should think about what and why to assess although both are very tough questions. For writing, I also ought to select items according to my learners’ needs, levels and objectives of the assessment.

Fifth, because “Each genre of written text has its own set of governing rules and conventions” (Brown & Abeywickrama, 2010, p.225), I should assess not more than one or two variables at a time since assessing too many variables together may violet the principles of assessment by focusing on either micro or macro skills for that moment.

Sixth, I should shun non-relevant amendments but allow to peers’ correction i.e. correcting the mistakes all by students themselves to convey positive backwash. I ought to provide positive feedback rather than merely giving them grades to improve and motivate energetically.

Other trainee friends also have expressed similar challenges that I mentioned in the beginning, whilst communicating online.  I, of course, would like to share some ideas that will help them take new directions so as to assess their learners’ writing.

Assigning them varieties of tasks as Brown (2004) has suggested like imitative, intensive (controlled), responsive (connecting sentences into paragraph), extensive (implies all processes and strategies of writing) and adopting “analytical scoring, we have to facilitate them rather than dictating or dominating. As the axiom goes “like teacher like students”, we teachers have to be role models, first of all. Next thing is that they need to have wider exposures of reading, writing, traveling, etc. Moreover, we must love them unconditionally.

When we involve ourselves with them in writing, we indirectly provide the learners extrinsic motivation and engorgement. Later we first can read out our own, and ask them to comment on it. Gradually, even the shy ones turn up enthusiastically. Ultimately, teachers will be able to shun the situations shown in the beginning of unit 5: Assessing Reading and Writing page.

In Nepal writing is the skill which we (teachers) assess mostly. I think what we must remember is: Why are we assessing? and what are we assessing? I here agree with Brown (2004) while considering about students’ writing ability, we need to be clear about, “What is you want to test: handwriting ability? correct spelling? writing sentences that are grammatically correct? paragraph construction? logical development of main idea? All of these, and more are possible objectives” (p. 218). Writing, therefore, is not only a peculiar element. Actually, it is an integrated form of many other aspects.

 

References

Brown, H.D. (2004). Assessing writing. In Language assessment: principles and classroom practices. White Plains, NY: Longman.

Brown, H.D. and Abeywickrama, P. (2010).  Language Assessment: Principles and Classroom Practices (2nd ed.).  White Plains, NY:  Pearson Education.

Cohen, A. (1994). Assessing reading comprehension. In Assessing language ability in the classroom. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.

Linville, H. (2011). Assessing Reading and Writing. [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://blackboard.umbc.edu

Learning Style Preferences

– Khem Raj Joshi

Learners learn a second language in many ways. Each learner prefers different learning styles and techniques. S/he has a mix of learning styles but may find that s/he has a dominant style of learning. It means that learners receive information through their senses and prefer some senses to others in specific situations. Usually, they learn more effectively when they learn through their own initiatives. When their learning styles are matched with appropriate teaching styles, their motivation and achievement increase and are enhanced. Thus,   researchers   and educators try to discover their learners’ style preferences so that they can help them learn in accordance with their own preferred learning styles.

A good teacher is supposed to keep the following teaching credo in mind:

  • What I hear, I forget.
  • What I hear and see, I remember a little
  • What I hear, see and ask questions about or discuss with someone else, I begin to   understand
  • What I hear, see, discuss and do, I acquire knowledge and skill from.
  • What I teach to

From  the above framework  we can  infer that  a teacher’s  job is not only  to present information that learners need, but also to help them understand what  they are good at. Although it is very difficult to address everyone’s needs, it is important to meet as many needs as possible. To accomplish this, the teacher should assess learners’ styles and preferences.

Defining Learning Styles

Learning styles have been defined variously. Cornett (1983, p.9) defines learning styles   as “the overall patterns that give general direction to learning behavior”. In  the same way, Dunn and  Griggs  (1988) define learning style  as  “the biologically  and developmentally imposed  set of characteristics  that make   the  same  teaching  method wonderful for some and terrible for others” (p.3). From these definitions what is inferred is that learning styles are the general approaches that learners use in acquiring a new language or in learning any other subject. Learning styles are those educational conditions under which a student is most likely to learn. It implies that learning styles are not really concerned with what learners learn, but rather how they prefer to learn. Reid (1995) defines learning styles as “internally based characteristics of individuals for the intake or understanding of new information”. Reid clarifies that learning styles are the learner’s cognitive, affective and physiological factors that indicate how a learner perceives, interacts with and responds to the learning environment. On the basis of all the above definitions, we can say that a learning style is a learner’s consistent way of responding to and using stimuli in the context of learning. The learner may prefer one or more styles over others.

Types of Learning Styles

Scholars have divided learning styles into different types. In this article, I am   dealing with the most common types of learning styles:  visual, auditory and  kinesthetic, introverted and extroverted.

Visual Learners

Visual learners are those who “like to read and obtain a great deal from visual stimulation” (Oxford, 2003). For them, lectures, conversations and oral directions without any visual backup can be very confusing. They learn things best through seeing them and like to keep an eye on the teacher by sitting in the front of the class and watching the lecture closely.  Some   characteristics of visual learners are that they:

         use  words and phrases  that evoke  visual  images;

        learn by seeing and visualizing;

        are good at spelling but forget names;

        understand/like  charts;

        are good  at sign language,

        take  numerous detailed notes;

        find something to watch if they are bored:

        benefit  from illustrations and presentations  that use  colour;

        are attracted to written or spoken language  rich in imagery;

        find passive surroundings  ideal.

 Auditory Learners

Auditory learners are those who “enjoy and profit from unembellished lectures, conversations and oral directions” (Oxford, 2003). They are excited by classroom interactions in role-plays and similar activities. They learn best through hearing. Some characteristics of auditory learners are that they:

        speak slowly and tend  to be natural listeners;

        prefer things  explained to  them verbally rather than to  read  written information;

        learn by listening and verbalizing;

        notice sound effects in movies and enjoy music;

        can’t  keep quiet for long periods  and are good in study   groups;

        talk to themselves or others when bored,

Kinesthetic Learners

Kinesthetic learners are those who like movement and enjoy working with tangible objects. They prefer frequent move around the room. They learn through experiencing or doing things. Some characteristics of kinesthetic learners are that they:

        learn by doing and solving real life  problems;

        like hands-on approaches and learn  through trial and error;

        are good at sports;

        can’t  sit  still for long;

        like lab work, adventure books, movies;

        take  breaks when studying;

        build models;

        are involved in material arts, dance;

        speak  with  their  hands and gestures;

        enjoy field trips and tasks that  involve manipulating materials.

Introvert vs Extrovert Learners

Introvert learners are those who can do more work when they work alone. They learn best when they study alone. They think that it is fun to learn with classmates, but is hard to study with them. Some characteristics of introverts are that they:

        are  energized by the inner  world  (what  they are  thinking);

        prefer individual or one-on-one  games and activities.

        are exhausted after working in a  large group;

        tend  to keep silent and listen in a group;

        want to understand  something well before they try it.

On the other hand, extrovert learners enjoy joining in on class discussions. They prefer group work to working in isolation. If they have to decide something, they ask other people for their opinions. If they understand a problem, they like to help other learners understand it too.

Some characteristics of extroverts are that they:

        learn better when they work or study with others than by themselves;

        meet  new people easily by jumping into conversations;

        learn better in the classroom  than with a  private tutor.

 What Type of Learner Are You?

You can determine your learning style by looking over the characteristics of different types of learners. If one or more of the traits and characteristics of any type of learner sound familiar, you may have identified your learning style. Several   instruments have been devised to obtain learning style information from the learners. The first instrument widely known in second language acquisition was Reid’s Perceptual Learning Style Preference Questionnaire (PLSPQ), which was developed in 1984. Following this, another learning style, Instrument Style Analysis Survey (SAS) was developed by Oxford (1993). Later, Cohen, Oxford and Chi (2001) developed an improved version of SAS, i.e. Learning Style Survey (LSS). There are altogether eleven parts in the survey. The eleven parts are presented in a comprehensive way to help learners identify their own learning style. The framework is briefly presented below:

Part 1: Visual,  auditory and kinesthetic

Part 2: Extroverted vs. introverted

Part 3:  Random-intuitive vs. concrete sequential

Part 4:  Closure-oriented vs. open

Part 5: Global vs. particular

Part 6: Synthesizing  vs. analytic

Part 7: Sharpener  vs. leveler

Part 8: Deductive  vs. inductive

Part 9: Field  independent vs. field dependent

Part 10: Impulsive  vs. reflective

Part 11: Metaphoric  vs. literal

So, we can recognize our own learning styles using the Learning Style Survey which was designed to assess our general approach to learning.

Implications

Second language teachers can benefit by assessing the learning styles of their learners   because such assessment leads to greater understanding of styles. “The more teachers know about their learners’ style preferences, the more effectively they can orient their L2 instruction” (Oxford, 2003). Some learners might need instruction presented more visually while others might require more auditory, kinesthetic types of instruction. It is false to state that a single L2 methodology fits an entire class of learners having different stylistic preferences. If the teachers have adequate knowledge about their individual learners’ style preferences, they can employ a broad   instructional approach instead of choosing a specific instructional methodology. They could incorporate the things to be taught in accordance with their learners’ style preferences. If the learners have the knowledge of their own learning styles, it can be used to increase self- awareness about their strengths and weaknesses as learners. Their preferred styles guide the way they learn. Understanding their learning style is crucial to their personal growth and success. Thus, the major  implication is that an awareness of  individual   differences in learning  makes  the  ESL/ EFL teachers  more sensitive to their roles in  matching teaching and  learning styles to develop the  learners’  potentials in second language learning.

Concluding Remarks

There are different types of learners in a single classroom. If teachers know what their learners’ predominant learning styles are, they can incorporate multiple teaching methods. Identifying  learners’  style preferences  certainly facilitates  teaching  learning process but it does not  mean  that we should divide the  learners  into a set of categories  (i.e. visual, auditory, etc). The main aim is just to allocate a person on some point on a continuum. In other words, we cannot pigeonhole learners as they are capable of learning under any style, no matter what their individual preferences are.

References

Cohen, A, Oxford, R. and Chi, J.C. (2001). Learning  style  survey. Retrieved October 13, 2011, from http://www.carla.umn.edul/.

Cornett, C. (1983). What you should know about teaching and learning styles. Bloomington: IN.

Dunn, R. and Griggs, S. (1988). Learning styles: Quiet revolution in American schools. VA: National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Oxford, R.L. (2003). Language learning styles and strategies: An overview. Retrieved April 13, 2010. From http://www.oomroom.ca/

Reid, J. (1995). Learning styles in the ESL/EFL classroom. Boston: Heinle and Heinle.

Stewart, K.L. and Felicetti, L.A. (1992). Learning styles of marketing majors. Educational Research Quarterly. 15 (2), 15-23.

 

Writing English in Nepali Way

Hem Raj Kafle

Young English writers in Nepal are often confused. Their confusion comes from their seniors’ general advocacy of universality and standard in writings, both in language use and aesthetic productions. The advocacy, in other words, may be of writing English in the English way so that the ‘native’ reader finds it worth reading and appreciation. The confusion would mean there always is a tendency to dismiss the belief that Nepalis can claim some ownership of English by giving it a degree of Nepaliness through local themes and figures.

And this is something to ponder over. Some young writers may begin to wonder the logic of universality against their faith on originality and textual autonomy. They may try to locate their writings within the theoretical trends they are trained (or rather brainwashed) with. Their works may not appear unfit in the Romantic tradition for their touch of spontaneity; nor would they fail the New Critical, formalist, structuralist or poststructuralist/postmodernist ‘standards’ for their autonomy as texts. They would only come low in the strict (neo)classical norms of didacticism, decorum, sophistication and sublimity which the English using elders of Nepal passionately adhere to.

But would that matter much? To many new generation writers, writing in English has all the way been a search for identity and space among the existing Nepali English writers. The ‘established’ writers appear to belong to one or other of the following groups. First, there are literary writers — inspired professors and aspiring young thinkers. The second group comprises the academic and professional circle of researchers and textbook writers/ compilers.  The third includes the commercial group — the ‘writers’ of guides and guess papers, probably the most ‘academically’ sought-after people regardless of the quality of things they launch in the market. The fourth consists of independent contributors of newspapers and magazines, ‘widely’ read and usually forgotten. Many young writers, however, find themselves in the margin of any one the above groups though they may have the aspiration to belong to at least one or all.

The literary writers in English form a smaller group, probably for the same old reason that everybody does not become a poet or a writer of fiction. This group may occasionally meet and make reflections on the types of standard and gravity its individual members (should) maintain in their creations. In such cases, the inspired elders may have all the norms and standards to inculcate on the aspiring young people. One typical characteristic of such reflections, most of the times, is the adherence to either British or American way of thinking, writing and critiquing though from the margin the theoretically inspired young lot may be murmuring the upsurge of postmodernist thoughts and implications.

To put it other way, the (neo)classical ways often confuse the connoisseurs of contemporary English. To study and think in English today almost means to study and think anything irrespective of standards. At an age when postmodernism instructs the blurring of boundaries and standards and shows possibilities of alternative locations, new writers and critics are found at war with the discourse of decorum and didacticism. Our academia has already led the new generation towards study of margins and alternatives with such disciplines as non-Western studies, postcolonial studies and minority studies among others. The English Departments of Kathmandu are already full of ‘discourses’ on alternative literature including Nepali literature(s) in English. So, when the talk of western standards becomes vociferous at times, the attempts to study alternatives appear ironical and therefore problematic.

The old sense of originality is ambiguous. Whose originality? Is it the originality springing from writers’ consciences and contexts, or the one supposedly instilled by old norms and paradigms? Or is it the tendency to westernize thoughts at all costs?  When the writers of non-western locations (say postcolonial thinkers) have already used English as a tool to retort western discourses through realism and indigenousness, what are we doing by advocating western ways most of the times? Theory readers would call it a neocolonial tendency, a misfit for a time when English is no longer the language of a particular nation.

Authenticity is an equally problematic notion. Can there not be a specific way of using English in Nepal? We judge our English either in American or British standards, sometimes disregarding the adaptability of our native images and allusions into this ‘medium’. English, by history, is one of the most acquisitive languages and its power lies in being able to belong to wherever it travels. Nepali English writers need not all the time write for the native readers unless required by a context. Our main intention to write in English is probably not to look like English, but to tell the international readers how much we represent ourselves in this medium. It is also to popularize Nepaliness through a common connecting language. Emphasizing authenticity in western paradigms is therefore pedantic. If not, it is the resistance to originality.

There have always been talks of some kind of Nepali English from some energetic and inspired people, but Nepali English users are yet to see how it looks and sounds. The fact is the most strident advocates of Nepali English are usually the most unappreciative sticklers to classicism. Alternatively, a palatable course for Nepali English writers would be to respect the eclecticism and diversity in the content and readership of English. Can we do away with the changes, when English itself is more a concept, a theory and an encompassing discipline than a mere lingua franca, a confined category? Perhaps we are in need of more thoughts and interactions between the old and new generations. The time is to release oneself from the tendency of waving English and American flags from the location of our native academia. The time is rather to survey the stock of Nepali writings in English — to see whither we are moving, and which course is more appropriate for us in the day ahead.

[Updated from, “Nepali English: Confusions and Directions,” The Kathmandu  Post 23 Sept. 2007]

Gender Disparity: A Classroom Issue

Mandira Adhikari

 

Gender Disparity

Gender disparity means not having equality in terms of gender, either in language use, equal participation in educational program or in the form of textbook or curriculum itself. We can find disparity in different aspects and it is most commonly found in classroom interaction. Similarly, various researches have shown that we can find gender biasness even in the interaction between the teachers and the students. As Freeman and Mcelhynny, (cited in Mckay & Hornberger, 2009) put, especially in teacher fronted classes, the amount of interaction between girls and boys can be defined by the teacher because he/she is the one who defines students’ role and can change the dynamics in the classroom. Thus we can say that the teacher is a person who can provide identity of the students inside the classroom. Wardhaugh (2008) says, gender is a key component of identity (p.316) and if the teachers are focused in the language of a group, another group is left out. Focusing on the place of women in society, Lakoff ( 1973) says “ in every aspect of life a woman is identified in terms of the men she relates to but the opposite isn’t true of men as they act in the world as autonomous individuals but women are only ‘John’s wife’ or ‘Harry’s girlfriend’.  Thus, women’s social identity believed to be is related with that of the men to a large extent.

In the area of applied linguistics, we can find gender disparity because of the use of sexist language. The term ‘sexist language’ means the use of language focusing to a certain gender and not indicating to the other gender. Holmes (2008) says, “Sexist language is one example of the way a culture or society conveys its values from one group to another and from one generation to the next” (p. 317). Thus, we can find the trend of repeating the same sexist language generation to generation as a process and the reason behind it is the use of such sexist language. She further says that language conveys our attitudes and sexist attitudes stereotype a person according to gender rather than judging on individual merits which encodes stereotyped attitudes to women and men.  In this way, she has clearly mentioned why the use of stereotyped language helps to develop negative attitudes to the particular gender and if we are habituated to using such language, we happen to use it regularly because we have already developed our attitudes with the help of such language.

Similarly, focusing more on the user of the language, Wardhaugh (2008) asserts that the disparity and the use of sexist language depend on a person. The Chinese, Japanese, Persian and Turkish do not make the kinds of gender distinctions English makes through its pronouns but it is difficult to claim that males who speak those languages are less sexist than males who speak English. So, a teacher using such language in the classroom must be aware.

By and large, the issue of gender is a global issue and can be found discussed in various parts of the world and even in our Nepalese context. Let’s analyze our own context regarding gender disparity.

Gender Disparity in School

School is a place where the learners come from various social backgrounds carrying their own social identities. Freeman and Mcelhinny (cited in Mckay & Hornberger 2009) suggest that in school children come to understand their social identity relative to each other and relative to the institution. They further say that although schools are not only responsible for teaching students their gender-differentiated social roles, they often reinforce the subordinate role of girls and humans through curricular choices or classroom organizations that exclude, denigrate and/or stereotype them.  Thus, we can say that the source of gender disparity lies in the curriculum and it further comes as a reading material which helps learners(especially girls or females) to stereotype them.

Gender Disparity in Textbooks

Various researches have shown that there is imbalance of using language in terms of gender, especially in textbook.  Fatemi, Pishgham & Hidarian (2011) conducted a research on gender delineation in high school textbooks and pre-university ELT textbooks and revealed a clear gender imbalance, both in text and illustrations in favor of males. Similarly, Hartman and Judd (1978) reviewed a number of textbooks for the purpose of assessing the image of women and men that they present to the student and found out that women suffered most obviously from low visibility and in most cases male referents heavily out- numbered the female.

I found through a study that in terms of using language inside the classroom or in different books articles, there is biasness. I tried to analyze the primary level textbooks used in Nepalese schools. I prepared a checklist to analyze whether the use of language of those textbook is biased or not. I selected a book entitled Delights a Multi-genre Reading Course in English’ by Deepa Shakya, Bunu Dhungana and Nina Amarasinge to analyze whether the writers are concerned about the matter of gender or not.

The cover page of the book has altogether four pictures where an adult male can be seen with a boy and an adult female can be seen with a girl. There is the involvement of both male and female gender in the picture and the book isn’t biased in terms of picture in cover page. I then looked at both pictorial and verbal aspects of the book’s contents. In pictorial part, I analyzed the pictures using two categories:

  1. Adult (male or female)
  2. Child (boy or girl)

I analyzed the content part in three different categories:

  1. Title
  2. Main characters refer to male or female
  3. Authors (male or female)

The writers have used 11 pictures of male adults and 3 pictures of female adults, which clearly shows the disparity in using pictures in the textbook. Similarly, we can find altogether 8 pictures of boys and 7 pictures of the girl. In this way the book is biased in terms of gender in pictorial part.

In the verbal part, the author of the first lesson isn’t mentioned but it has got male main character. The author is a male in unit two and the picture of a boy clearly helps us to guess that the main character of this unit is male. Third chapter is concerned with nature thus; the main characters are both. The Fourth chapter is also devoted to male. The fifth chapter has both characters and is written by a female author. Similarly, the sixth chapter contains the picture of a male and is by a male author. The content choice therefore shows a disparity in consideration of gender. It implies that the sense of masculinity is dominant in the text book while the space for feminine gender is literally underestimated and limited.

Concluding Remarks

The analysis of primary level textbook has revealed a clear gender imbalance both in the texts and illustrations in favor of males. This type of imbalance is the prominent factor which must be considered in every policy and publication to reflect equality between males and females.

A shift towards the way of creating the equality among the genders in education ensures the social and individual confidence particularly in female students. This will help in the social uplift of females in the future. So, curriculum planners should broaden their view towards gender roles and stereotypes. This equally applies to text book writers, who I believe, should be careful while dealing with gender in their textbooks.

 [Mandira Adhikari is a Masters in ELT scholar at Kathmandu University]

 

References

Fatemi, A. H., Pishghadam, R., Heidarian, Z. (2011) Gender delineation in high school and pre- university elt textbooks: a criterian- oriented approach to text. The Iranian EFL Journal, 7 (3).

Hartman, P.L.,Judd, E.L.(1978) Sexism and TSOL materials. TESOL QUARTELY, 12 (4).

Holmes, J. (2008). An ntroduction to sociolinguistics. Longman: Pearson.

Lakoff, R. (1973). Language in society. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Mckay, S. & Hornberger, N. (2009). Sociolinguistics and language teaching. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Wardhaugh, R. (2008). An introduction to sociolinguistics. London: Blackwell

Research for Tertiary Level Presenters

Hem Raj Kafle

This article presents basic ideas of research based on my experiences of teaching a tertiary level course in English communication skills. The purpose is to outline some down-to-earth steps to address the presentation needs of students with moderate competence and performance.

What is research?

To start with the relatively obvious, research is as simple as trying to find a little more than what removes confusion.  It is the attempt to know things to the extent of being able to claim ownership and originality. The teacher can make it a point that presenters must know much more than they present. So, the only basic value to emphasize would be what Booth, Colomb and Williams (2003) postulate about research as the attempt to “free yourselves from ignorance, prejudice, misunderstanding and the half-baked ideas that so many charlatans try to impose on us,” and to “improve not the whole world, but at least your corner of it.” This at least would not sound idealistic given that the tertiary level orients a considerable portion of curriculum to research-based projects, and that the students are already prepared to face a professional work environment ahead.

I propose that the teacher encourage students to work on three main factors in the form of a research activity – knowing the audience, finding and organizing the contents and determining right strategies.

Knowing the audience

Research starts with the care for the audience. A presenter should work with the awareness and recognition of audience in view of their interests, orientation and competence on the subject being presented. Siddons (2008) contends, “Not knowing your audience is lethal. How can you engage people if you don’t have a clue what really interests them?” Knowing the audience requires a process of listener analysis, which according to Careers Skills Library (2004) involves the following considerations:

Ask yourself the following questions: What do my listeners want to know? If you don’t provide information that interests them, you’ll put them to sleep. Find out what they care about and cover this material in your talk. … How much do they already know? They may be experts or they may know almost nothing about your topic. You don’t want to “talk down” to your listeners. But you also don’t want to speak over their heads. Determine what your audience knows and pitch your talk to your audience’s level of understanding. Where do they stand? Your listeners may be likely to agree with what you’re saying, or they may need a lot of convincing. Find out their attitudes; then determine what to say to persuade them of your point of view. [emphasis added]

Search for contents

In addition to the knowledge of the nature and needs of the audience, research entails a thorough search into the content itself. The following three steps would help develop the contents of a presentation.

Somewhere to go:

Research should involve movement, both physical and mental. Even while you are surfing the internet you are moving, or navigating. In addition, you may travel to search for facts and figures, to take samples and to gather data. Going to library from your residence, going to the study from the living room – all comprise the action of going, the bottom-line for research. When you go out, you use your senses to perceive the world outside. You see, hear, touch, smell and probably taste things. Activation of senses helps you get the fuller picture of the phenomena you are exploring. The result is you experience your subject well, and will later present it with great involvement and positive attitude thereby activating your thoughts and polishing language competence.

Someone to talk with:

Research involves interaction with people. The basic purpose of such interaction is to include people’s minds in your venture for finding more knowledge.  This can be done both formally and informally. Talking formally refers to interviews or (focused) group discussions. Informally, it is more than structured interaction. What about asking people where a certain place is, whether such and such book is available or even whether there is someone who knows the subject more? And it does take into account the queries to the instructor or anyone she refers to. Even the SMSs, chats and emails may have substances. Meeting and knowing people both opens up the avenues of new resources and offers opportunities for building a professional connections.

Something to read:

Reading sounds simplistic; anyone at the tertiary level does read. But do students read enough in order to build competence in communication and learn new things beyond the curriculum? Most student presenters start in complete ignorance of what to do. A few get ready with very personal subjects like their most favourite (place/celebrities/idols) and the most unforgettable (events/days/experiences) which may not involve further study.  But the teacher should set a bottom line. In the beginning, the teacher must solicit the presentation all the way from the choice of a topic to final delivery. Thus reading should be compulsory so that it will involve learning. It should teach new ideas as well as ideas of oral communication.

Reading can include multiple types of texts: guidelines for presentation skills (preparation and delivery), handouts on a topic for students who have already got topics, list of possible topics for those who have not fixed them, interesting texts to get ideas on a possible topic, and even a list of things to do before ending up with an idea – visit library, talk with someone, see samples of earlier presentations, among others.  The texts can be of any length and genre: anything that one comes across once the ‘unrest’ and curiosity about a topic starts. It can be a piece of newspaper article, texts on a hoarding board, an advertisement slogan, writings on a new brand T-shirt and so on.

Beyond content

Researching through physical mobility, interaction with people and reading of relevant materials enables presenters to internalize the contents of presentation. But research must involve more work beyond the content.  Because it is a tertiary level class and students are already conscious of building professional attributes, they should be asked to develop certain strategies of organization and delivery. What would be the most appropriate beginning given the nature of the content and audience? What would be the degree of formality/informality both in demeanor and language use? What aids (handouts, chart papers, multimedia) are relevant to facilitate the presentation and audience involvement? What jokes, anecdotes and facts would embellish the content as well as trigger the audience’s positive attitude?

Research is inevitable for developing original content, for competence in knowledge and confidence in delivery. It helps build up credibility in the presenters by according them sincerity and diligence.

 References

  •  Booth, Wayne C., Colomb, Gregory G., & Williams, Joseph M. 2003. The craft ofresearch. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Careers Skills Library. (2004). Communication skills. 2nd ed. New York: FergusonPublishing Company.
  • Siddons, Suzy. (2008). The complete presentation skills handbook. London: Kogan Page Limited.

Interview with Gambhir Man Maskey

Mr. Gambhir Man Maskey started to teach English during the very formative years of modern education in Nepal. The accounts of the different phases of his growth as a  teacher embody a long, perhaps uneven, history of  English teaching in the country. We are deeply indebted to Mr. Maskey for agreeing to share with us some precious recollections of this history. The Choutari team would like to thank Mr. Eak Duwadi for taking the initiatives.

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Teacher’s Travelogue: A Journey to Bangladesh

Kashiraj Pandey

[What follows is a section of a travelogue by Mr. Kashiraj Pandey, NELTA executive member. Please click HERE  for the full text.]

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Seeing Myself in Dhaka

I did not have fixed plans and no one was worried about my arrival. For me, to experience everyday in which almost nothing seemed so familiar was the pride of travelling that way. I reached Dhaka around 10 am, the 19th May, 2011. As I was told to meet BELTA colleagues at 4 pm, that 10 to 4 worked so well that I explored many parts of Dhaka on the first day that delegates other parts of than Bangladesh and a colleague Ganesh from Nepal, another representative from NELTA, who took a flight to Dhaka the same day with grants from the British Council, was surprised to see me steering him towards many corners of Dhaka during our stay there.

Meeting Sudebjee from English in Action and Sonia from BELTA at the BIAM at 5 pm, the conference venue made me realize that a journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles. As soon As I met them one let me use his computer and the next offered to join for the snacks.

At the Conference

As announced, the conference started on time. At 8.30 am, the volunteers were ready, waiting for the participants and delegates to register. Most of the presenters had registered the previous day. During 9.00 to  9.45 , I could see all participants, presenters and delegates inside the dining hall each holding a cup, exchanging greetings and talking, every one busy, what a fine opportunity for networking!

And I was busy too, talking to everybody, if not as many people as I could find who loved listening others, not many actually. But, I did my best to make me heard, and they were amazed to see me and the way I reached there (you know in 40 degree Dhaka city, a man arrives by bus, all wet from every corner of his body and sweating, with fairly grubby clothes, never taken shower for three whole days and nights) and how I travelled all the way to Bangladesh by bus, and my unplanned journey by road– no seats in a scheduled bus with all hopes to eat and stay in  readily available local hotels… and more, all fun when things went well, and that’s how I was there, very excited.

Then I saw all going towards the hall by 10.00 for inauguration, so quiet, so curious we all were.

Then at 11.00 the plenary started with David Graddol for an hour, where he highlighted how the global trends are affecting in reshaping the world of ELT.

Before the concurrent sessions started at 12, I could see all the presenters working on their slides to shorten them so as to fit within the 25 minute time bound which was not very normal for anyone, and I was no exception either, for presentation in such huge gathering meant for an hour in general. The volunteers in different  rooms were so alert, and time sensitive. After 20 minutes, they would show a placard saying 5 MINUTES, which was a good signal for the smart presenters to conclude and switch into Q/A session. And in next 5 minutes, STOP!.

Some big names like Fife MacDuff , Jeremy Harmer enjoyed the opportunity to present at the auditorium for an hour each where other presenters like me had to compromise with a normal hall for 25 minutes time limit, and mine to be more specific was in the fourth floor. Yes, I also had my session on the first day with a topic, Journaling for Teacher Development: An Autoethnographic Approach. I could see all participants very enthusiastic, excited for the topic; for the technique of journaling, for an autoethnographic approach they wanted to know what it was and of course some were little skeptic on how would I deal the topic, very curious, very inquisitive, and involving.

After I gave my session, a bunch of BELTA members, the young faculties from universities in Dhaka encircled me, nice to see them falling in love with autoethnographic approach, I know who does not love to talk about their own feelings and emotions, and more than that, about what Creswell (2002) claims as “a reflective self examination by an individual set within his or her cultural context” (p. 438). When people have their own creation and feeling, they look for their own space within creativity, while autoethnography gives a space to display our multiple layers of consciousness, connecting the personal to the cultures around and that was reason they loved to hold me back. Revealing my days for the past three years that once I started to work in this domain, I have found people around me valuing and celebrating my efforts, kept me update and fresh all the times. I have never found anyone coming out to harm my creation, when I believe in “heart to heart communication” in writing. My teachers, colleagues, students, family members, readers, and participants in any workshops have given energy to save me ahead.

A professor from Eastern University did not delay to invite me to her university to talk about my attempt in using reflective journals to garner students’ and teachers’ creativity as well.

I readily accepted where pleasure was all mine to meet the young budding writers, the faculties of English Department at the Eastern.

At the Eastern

It was already four and the CNG auto took us at the University’s building in Dhanmundi. The professors, especially those who were writers too, were waiting for us. I had Mr. Ganesh Gnawali, my colleague from Nepal, with me. Yes, I shared my experience as a writer, the contents we readily get in this part of the world. I talked about some best pieces of Literature that I have read from around the world. I was more lenient towards the one that best represented life, society, and cultures of course, starting with what we already know. People have their own style  of creation and feeling, very unique but universal. Those dynamic participants promised they would keep in touch, let see how we could keep the promises further, may be by exchanging the ideas, writing and publishing more books of creativity, documenting the moments of pain and pleasure, ups and downs as what was done by other writers, their influencing texts. To name a few texts like King Lear, Malini, Kabuliwala, The Great Railway Bazaar, The Kite Runner, Swan Song, The Necklace, The Lunatic, Munamadan, and Gauri are some works that the world cannot forget even someone is indifferent to, and all of them somehow were able to capture the moment that reflected the social-cultural, or personal-political experiences based on their own spacio-temporal context/s, and reading, such creation of other writers, works as burning fuel to all writers on the rise when we all are the butterfly of a same garden with multiple sets of flowers blooming within.  That’s what I shared in the workshop at the Eastern based on my ongoing research area, reflective practices (Journaling) for overall transformation in teaching- learning. Thank you Professor Iffat Majid, for you gave this wonderful opportunity to meet all these creative galaxy.

At the TA Meeting

Mr. Ganesh Gnawali and I attended a meeting with the leaders of teacher associations from the region; from Bangladesh, from Pakistan, from Afghanistan, and from India. I was glad to observe that the regional Teacher associations are taking NELTA as a model association. We are also the one with branches all around the country who have active life members, more than 2000 by 2011.  While other TAs were advocating to encourage young and new members, we had already had Mr. Ganesh Gnawali, an aspiring and promising young man, the proof, whom the committee recommended to avail the BC grant while myself, though representing the central committee, so happily attended the conference on my own.

I shared how we are smoothly working with the government and the partners while it is still a challenge for other TAs from neighboring countries. Our members’ active participation, specially the new ones who wholeheartedly volunteer during the conference or throughout the years was another asset we shared with them. Agreeing on the need of frequent exchange programs, support in training and material development, and regional cooperation etc. the meeting concluded hoping to meet again soon.

Finally,

As Aldous Huxley  remarks, to travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries, I was really worried whether I would be sold on the way even before reaching Bangladesh (Dhaka), but no one tried to hurt me in any cultural (sensitive) matters. However, as a tourist I could sense how easily things were sorted out when we spent money. Had the money changer not arranged the easy escape, I would have returned Kakarvitta instead of heading towards Dhaka from Burimari. And I had a good cause for this. At Burimari, but I should confess, I was so happy to see the humans in uniform accepting any amount of money from anyone with great confidence, confidence counts, doesn’t it?

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