Not a fix-it shop: Making mentoring productive

Prem Phyak, PhD Scholar  in Second Lang. Studies, University of Hawaii, USA

In this blog post I discuss some strategies that can be helpful to make mentoring more productive and goal-oriented. Drawing on my own experience working as a writing consultant/tutor for the Writing Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa for two years, this post focuses on how to make mentoring more interactive, grounded/bottom-up, and collaborative rather than top-down and authoritative.

Starting the conversation

One undergraduate student came to the Writing Center and asked whether I could help him. “Yes, I am available now”, I said. After we introduced to each other, I asked what his problem was. He said, “I want to write a research paper for my political science class. But I am struggling to identify a topic. I am worried because the assignment is due next week.” His face was telling me that he was procrastinating and finding no way to move forward.” 

First, I was perplexed how I could help him as he was not sure what he was going to write about. Second, I was not sure what the student was expected to write in his  research paper. I began our mentoring session by telling him that every student faces the same problem. I gave my own example; I quite often do not know what I am going to write in the early stage of my writing projects. Continue reading »

Editorial: November Issue

Dear All
In this issue, we have six articles. Although these entries are different in terms of issues, all contributors focus on bottom-up and personalized teaching/learning experience. While Madhav Kafle, reflecting on his own teaching, shares his ambivalent situation by showing the gap between what he preaches about critical pedagogy and how he teaches, Madhu Neupane shares key aspects of effectively running teachers’ associations that she learned from the seminar on strengthening teachers’ associations in Dhaka, Bangaladesh. Focusing on importance of active reading process, Dinesh Dahal discusses how SQPRRS and note taking techniques can help teachers engage students while teaching reading. Likewise, Tara Sapkota describes the ways of teaching listening skills and Sharmila Sitaula analyses whether learning a second language, especially English, is need or preference. Both articles draw on authors’ own lived experiences and provide a critical insight to the respective field. Atma Ram Bhattarai and Praveen Kumar Yadav analyse increasing trend of public schools shifting from Nepali to English medium of instruction in terms of access, quality and governance.

Table of contents
1. Do I teach what I preach? Teacher’s ambivalence, Madhav Kafle
2. Sharing Best Practices:Strengthening teachers’ association in South Asia, Madhu Neupane
3. Making students read in teaching reading: A reflection, Dinesh Dahal
4. … listening then…? Tara Sapkota
5. Learning second language: Need or preference? Sharmila Sitaula
6. At the crossroads: Community schools in Nepal, Atma Ram Bhattarai & Praveen Kumar Yadav

We hope you enjoy reading the articles in this issue.

Cheers!
Prem Phyak
Praveen Kumar Yadava
Editors, Choutari, November Issue, 2012

Do I teach what I preach? Teacher’s ambivalence

Madhav Kafle

In this narrative I share with you my recent realization that despite self-labeling myself a practitioner of critical pedagogy, I do keep following the old teaching tricks in most instances. To begin with, early on my academic journey as a learner, I had figured out that my answers can be only either right or wrong; and the more difficult and arcane words I used in my writings, the more impressed would my teachers be. My very attitude sustained during most part of my graduate teacher training both in Nepal and in the US. However, I was also fortunate enough to get an opportunity to work with champions of critical pedagogy in both countries, and to develop my teaching philosophy and practice accordingly. Nevertheless, I am starting to realize my current practice is not adequate enough to make the pedagogy truly critical. Let me first point out the gap between what I preach and what I practice.

What I think I preach: I’m a language and literacy specialist who believes that languages are mobile resources rather than discrete and fixed entities. What that means is we need to focus on the process of meaning making–not on a predefined form of grammar. Social practice outweighs the individual competence; therefore, assessment practices should acknowledge, if not reflect, that. Learners not only use language, they also change the language; we should not treat the target (language) community as a homogeneous one. Overemphasis to verbal features of the text is limiting as meaning is often created by integrating multiple codes and modalities. Similarly, language learning is a quite dynamic and complex system and does not necessarily follow the same incremental pattern. Even more, I’m all for integrating local epistemologies in my pedagogy;I would like to use what students bring with them as their resources to build up on. All of these sound great, don’t they?

Here is what I practice: Yes, I’m a language and literacy teacher, who keeps correcting my students based on the superficial grammatical errors they make rather than complimenting them on their ability to connect various texts. If they bring in some nuances I’m unfamiliar with, then, I think that they are wrong. I judge my students based on the product not on the process. Despite high level content, I penalize them for using a wrong article when, in fact, I’m still not confident about my own use of articles. Rather than being concerned with if they will be able to utilize their repertoire to accomplish some functions, I’m obsessed with if they will follow what I think are the correct features of academic discourse. And, I’ve to teach them how they should read and write, despite at times lacking knowledge of what goes on in their broader academic communities.

I suspect there is not much I can change in some academic settings. However, something must be missing in my current practice, which hardly can meet the goal of critical language and literacy teaching.Yet, I try to justify my helplessness. One mundane logic that soothes me: I’ve to do my “stuff” as it is generally expected, plus I don’t have a whole lot of time (and resources) with me to improve my practice. Next, in a multilingual class, I also take for granted my expertise in dominant tongue, which assists me to disregard the minority languages. Alternatively, I can pretend that I can’t do anything for the students because I don’t have a competence in most of my learners’ languages as they generally hail from China, Korea, and Puerto Rico than from Nepal. And, yet, I become wishful that whatever I do in class will somehow assist my students to be critical in the long run as long as I keep browsing the critical pedagogy literature. May be to test my pedagogical competence, some students from Nepal have finally landed in my current university this semester. Unfortunately, the current semester is already half way through, still I find myself at unease to do something really critical in class as the majority of the students are from elsewhere. But aren’t those lame excuses?

Now let me get real.In a nutshell, one of the major goals of teaching language and literacy is to enable learners to “language.” So, what does languaging entail? We use language for some tangible purposes. The real question, therefore, is in what ways we can involve our students in real actions, where meaning making can unfold by itself.Some might argue that since we have the hurdle of standardized testingand our academic culture also prioritizes the grades rather than the learning process, languaging is not a good option. However, while I do not mean to neglect these conditions, by being obsessed with gatekeeping we are already undermining students’ creative languaging. If we create some safe houses for them and let them play with the semiotic process judiciously that will provide an opportunity for the students to be real language users. I’m not saying that we as teachers can let students do anything they want in the name of providing agency. Nevertheless, we should not hesitate in letting the students to experience the process of languaging. Please share what you have been doing already or what possibilities you see in this light.

Sharing best practices: Strengthening teachers associations in South Asia

Madhu Neupane

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt.

With Eleanor Roosevelt’s quotation mentioned above, George Pickering (also a life member of NELTA and the past key note speaker of its international conference), who trains English teachers and supports Teachers’ Associations (TAs) facilitated the seminar ‘Sharing Best Practices: Strengthening and Extending Teachers’ Associations in South Asia’ on 11-16 December 2011 in the Brac. Inc, Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. There were thirty participants representing seven different TAs from South Asia: NELTA (Nepal), ELTA-A (Afghanistan), BELTA (Bangladesh), ELTAI (India), AzerELTA (Iran), SPELT (Pakistan) and Sri Lanka (SLELTA). I, along with other three members (Mr. Bishnu Silwal, Mr. Min Bahadur Gurung and Mr. Shankar Datta Bhatta) participated in the seminar that was organized by the Hornby Regional School (HRS), Dhaka Bangladesh with the British Council support.

There were three main purposes of organizing the seminar: to offer TA participants a platform for sharing their success stories and best practices in key areas; to review TAs’ current strategic plans and facilitate on how to prepare an effective strategic plan; and to provide the participants with substantial capacity building training for strengthening and extending TAs in South Asia. The capacity building training was focused mainly on the core financial management skills like marketing, fund-raising and sponsorship, keeping membership databases, empowerment of members, and promotion of more transparent succession planning through open voting, recruitment, and role shadowing and mentoring. Besides, the seminar provided an opportunity for the TAs in South Asia to establish stronger links among them.

Key points of the discussion during the seminar

We were asked if TAs have their strategic plan, which most of TAs had. Following the review of our plans, the course director provided us with some guidelines for preparing better strategic plans. The analysis of the current situation, considering both internal and external customers, using the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) framework is important for preparing a strategic plan. While objective, which should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound) is a key component of a strategic planning, its implementation and monitoring are equally important. We all participated in a selective attention test that showed us how we miss another aspect while focusing on one aspect. We concluded with the fact that proper strategic planning from the bottom-up is unnecessary to materialize the mission of TAs.

Teacher Associations need funds. Fundraising is an integral aspect of running an association successfully. Like Helen Keller’s quote, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing”, fundraising is an adventure and can be a fun if it is planned properly and make clear to others about who we (the associations) are and why somebody should give us funds, as George mentioned. Convincing logic, clear targets and proper communication of such targets to potential sponsors are instrumental in fundraising. Preparing a credibility file consisting of promotional literature, letter of endorsement from experts and prominent figures’ saying about the associations is necessary for convincing sponsors. One of the participants, Sheilagh Nelson, suggested to find out the annual calendars of the potentials sponsors. George presented the key principles of fundraising: giving priority to hi-touch before hi-tech, personalizing message and benefits to the sponsors; and including stories and using visuals to authenticate the message being communicated.

Organizing conferences is one of the main events of TAs. The conferences provide a rich platform for teachers to learn collaboratively through an exchange of their experiences with national and international professionals. Organizing successful conferences is, however, a challenging task. All we need is to pay attention at all the phases of a conference (pre-, while and post). The selection of the conference theme, keynote speakers/plenary speakers, quality of presentations, good communication, participation of teachers, food, accommodation and transportation services to the participants, social activities, variety of speakers in terms of levels and geographical regions, volunteers, provision of training materials and handouts, exhibition and shopping/site-seeing, etc. are the things that should be taken into a consideration before and during the conference. The post conference phase, which includes publication of proceedings, journals, dissemination of PowerPoint sharing among the participants and thanksgivings and acknowledgement to the presenters and other concerned stakeholders and press coverage, is equally important for the success of the conference. The organizers must review the conference to learn from the past experience and plan better for the future.

George said, “Every moment of contact with a member is a chance to impress or disappoint him or her”. As a conference organizer, the teacher association should always try its best to leave positive impression in each and every moment of truth for there is never a second chance for leaving the first impression. Leaving such impressions comes up with different avenues to make it difference and better.

The success of an association depends on the quality of leadership it has. Teachers associations are non profit making organizations and they have continuous change in the leadership and therefore, the new professionals need to be groomed and empowered for handing over the coming leadership. The ‘Leadership Development and Succession Planning’ session was very useful to provide the participants the ideas of mentoring/coaching and leadership training program for preparing the new leadership.

During a mentoring- coaching session, George demonstrated Catherine Kelly’s ideas on the GROW model of mentoring, wherein Goal (Coach and Clint agree on the topic of discussion) Reality (What is the current reality? Invite self assessment and seek specific examples), Options (Suggestions and choices made), Warm up (Commit to action and agree time frame and support required). He summed up the session with the facts that mentoring does not mean imposing. Thus, offering suggestion (Would you like to try this?) can be the best way of mentoring. It is always easy to give suggestions but difficult is to follow them.

People join TAs for different reasons such as practical benefits, sense of belongingness, professional support, desire to make contribution to society, and professional advancement. The role of the leadership is imperative for meeting different expectations of its members.

Information and technology is an integral part for the development of TAs. This is the age of C generation which includes connected, communicated, connect centric, computerized and always clicking. The use of technology saves our time, money and efforts and provides wider exposure to the members beyond geographical barriers keeping them together through professional networking. The web technologies used by teacher associations include TA websites, social networking sites like twitter, face book and LinkedIn, VLEs (Moodles), Google docs, Skype and blogging. It does have environmental benefits too since it helps the association to minimize the excessive use of paper.

Collaboration, linkage and networking with likeminded organizations for TAs. George explored some possible areas of collaboration, linkage and networking with regional level activities which included the publication of newsletter, peer support review, organizing regional conferences, sharing speakers, rapport building with contact persons from each TA and creating yahoo groups. Finally, we agreed on leading regional cooperation forward with further discussion.

Sharing and reviewing the best practices among TAs. The membership of different special interest groups (SIGs) of Bangladesh English Language Teachers’ Association (BELTA), well organized website of Sri Lankan English Language Teachers’ Association (SLELTA), mobile conferences of Society of Pakistani English Language Teachers (SPELT) and regular meeting on every Saturday and a wide range of activities including the publication were the best practices sharing among TAs. However, we were all moved by the struggle English Language Teachers’ Association of Afghanistan (ELTAA) is facing because of insecurity in the country. This is a kind of peer support review and evaluation too, which provides us an opportunity to exchange and replicate the successful ideas from one another.

Conclusion
The seminar concluded with the feedback session, for which we were provided with a questionnaire and Catherine’s inspiring suggestions, “Less is more, do not put for tomorrow what you can do today, set your own objectives, and say what you mean and mean what you say”.

The reflection of the seminar does not end here if delicious food, cozy accommodation and other management facilities provided are not appreciated. Besides, organizing social gatherings by a riverside reflecting the flavour of cultures of Bangladesh, shopping and boating trip were worth mentioning here. A short film capturing the events of the HRS, which I got to know later was shown at the IATEFL Conference in Glasgow 2012 during Associates’ Day.

The seminar was successful in enabling TA participants to share their best practices and collaboratively learn specific skills required for running the teachers’ associations effectively. We, the participants not only learnt about necessary organizational skills required for successful associations but also the ways of organizing successful workshops and dealing with adult learners.

Acknowledgement
My sincere thanks go to the British Council, Nepal for providing us with such an opportunity and the gratitude to the course director George Pickering who facilitated the seminar in an interactive and learner friendly way.

Making students read in teaching Reading: A reflection

Dinesh Dahal

Introduction
Teaching reading in Nepal is still teacher fronted and it is not believed that teaching reading is not possible unless the teacher reads in the class. But I found something very different during my observation of the Intermediate level English Language Learning (ELL) class in the United States. I am impressed to see how reading skill is taught by making the students read in the class, where the teacher’s role is just a facilitator. The SQPRRS (SQEEPERS) and note taking are key techniques adopted to make students engage in active reading process. Based on my observation of the ELL classes in the US and my own experience of teaching English in Nepal, in this post I am sharing how SQPRRS (SQEEPERS) and note taking techniques can be used in teaching English.

Applying SQPRRS for teaching reading
SQPRRS (Squeepers), which stands for Survey, Question, Predict, Read, Respond and Summarize, is one of the effective classroom reading strategies that I noticed the US teachers use in reading classes. I found this technique quite relevant to promote active reading process in a reading class. I learned that this technique is helpful for language teachers to train their students to use cognitive and metacognitive strategies to process non-fiction texts (and even fictions).

S for Survey
First, students are asked to scan (Survey) the text in 2- 3 minutes. They are asked to read the first line of each paragraph, look at the titles, pictures, graphs, captions and words in the bold face or italics.
Q for Question
Next, the students are asked to write 4-5 questions that they will be able to answer after they have finished reading. Students might feel difficult to formulate questions. But the teacher can facilitate them by suggesting some questioning words like what, where, why, etc. The teachers need to make sure if they have written the questions.
P for Predict
Third, the students are asked to make predictions about the text. Predictions can be of two types: one, for fiction – What is the theme of the text? and for nonfiction – What will you learn from this text?
R for Read
Then, the students are asked to read the text in detail. While they are reading, they are asked to look for the answers to their questions and check their predictions. But they will not be allowed to write.
R for Respond
After students finished reading, they are asked to respond to the questions they asked themselves. Here, they will be allowed to correct the predictions if needed.
S for Summarize
Finally, they are asked to write a paragraph summary of the text on a worksheet (the format is presented below) with the teacher’s help.

Applying NOTE-TAKING for teaching reading
NOTE-TAKING is another technique that works very effectively in teaching reading. The students are asked to take a note following the format presented below and to make a 4 squares about the text with the main idea at the center and supporting details in the periphery. And finally they are asked to write a summary and present it.

Conclusion
On my return to Nepal, I would follow these techniques to teach reading at my class. I am also planning to disseminate this idea to my colleagues through workshops and conference presentations. The article is also part of my commitment to share these techniques to other readers. I would appreciate your comments on this post.

Formats of the Worksheets for SQPRRS and Note Taking:
Name: _______________ Roll no. ____ Date: ________

SQPRRS
Survey the text.
What do you see?

Question
Right There
1. ________________________________________________________________________
Think and Search
2. ________________________________________________________________________
Author and Me
3. ____________________________________________________________________________
On My Own
4. ________________________________________________________________________
Write a Prediction about the text.
This will be about….

Read the text
Read with your partner.
a. Partner A read 2-3 sentences. Partner B listen.
b. Partner B explain what partner A read.
c. Partner B read next 2-3 sentences. Partner A listen.
d. Partner A explain what Partner B read.
e. Repeat, asking teacher for help with difficult words or sentences.
Respond: answer the questions that you wrote before you read:
Right There
1. ________________________________________________________________________
Think and Search
2. ________________________________________________________________________
Author and Me
3. ____________________________________________________________________________
On My Own
4. ____________________________________________________________________________

Make a 4-sqqare about the text

Doc1

Write a Summary of the text.
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
Format for note taking

Peg no

……listening then…?

Tara Sapkota

“…… it was in the SLC (School Leaving Certificate) test, I had, for the first time, sat for a listening test.….” I wondered when one of my classmates told this to me. I was doing my intermediates then. I was even more surprised when I heard that all the answers to the questions were written on the board by the invigilator during their test and nothing significant was asked in the speaking test as well! There was nothing more to talk about, we stopped our conversation then.

I discovered that I was the only one, in the group of my colleagues, who had as experience of listening practice in school. I began to see myself as a lucky person among the friends. Not only this, every now and then, then, I realized that I had so many things to share with my friends about my English teacher, “……our English teacher did this in class, our English teacher did that in class, we had learnt to do this and we had learnt to that…..” I wasn’t boasting about my teacher and the school, of course, but unfortunately, they realized the same, however, it made no difference, I was still happy that I had some extra knowledge and skill of the English language which allowed me to speak and write simple texts without much trouble like they used to have.

Of course, the reason behind the so-called ease was the frequent use of language, may that be in spoken or in written form. In addition, I used to feel that we had got good exposure of the language. In the junior grades, the practice remained limited to reading, writing and speaking. As my school was an English medium school, no doubt, ENGLISH was medium of instruction between teachers-students and students-students interaction. Further, we also used to hear the teachers speaking in English whenever they had something to communicate among themselves. Perhaps my listening skill in English was strengthened by the occasional listening practices I did in schools, I thought.

This was the reason I had given some listening classes when I started teaching. I didn’t know how it was being practiced in other schools, but the way I gave the classes were just like the way I had taken them; I used to have a class on listening after a certain period of time. I taught the other sections in the class. I had at least three exercises of listening in one class. In the class I did nothing more than letting them listen to the recordings and do the exercises they had in their textbooks. It was something that we used to do when we were taught. As a teacher, I used to have easier classes on the day. I didn’t have to do anything in the class more than playing the tape, nor I had to prepare a lessson in advance. This way I recounted my stories of listening English while talking with the friends and also while working as an English teacher.

I had to go back to my school in the last evening once again, however, the reason behind the reminiscence was completely different this time. We had a class on designing tasks for listening skill last Wednesday. The teacher wrote a series of steps that a teacher has to follow while teaching listening which showed that a teacher has to do a lot of homework before coming to the class with the recorded listening texts. There I was enlightened that a series of exercises are to be produced for the students so that they develop a better understanding through the text.

The teacher told me that I have to start the class with schema activation by giving a background context of the listening text so that the students make themselves ready for the class. They, at least, have some clues about the following exercises they are going to do. Similarly, the difficult words of the text have to be dealt with before the text is played. They also need to be made curious about the text so that they listen to it actively. In addition to this, the extensive and intensive exercises need to be developed that are followed by the text related activities to keep the students engaged throughout the class.

I had never done these things as a teacher. All I did was I made them listen to the text and do the exercises of their textbooks. Now those students are in college, perhaps, they don’t say to their friends, “…… it was in SLC, I had, for the first time sat for a listening test.….”

Learning second language: Need or preference

Sarmila Sitaula

Introduction
Learning language is one of the basic aspects of human growth and development. Allowing both intra-personal and interpersonal relation, language, “socially shared code or conventional system for representing concepts” (Owens, 1996, p. 8, serves as a means of communication. Among three forms of language – spoken, written and sign – the spoken form is generally considered to be primary as it can be understood and used by all, both literate and illiterate people. Written form of language is considered secondary because all people do not learn to write and communicate by writing. The sign language, also known as the body language, may be the language that is understood by the vast majority of the people, even more than the spoken language. It is said that body language is the language that can be understood across the geographical locations. Whatever the form, language is the basis for establishing human relationships and interactions.

“Language acquisition is one of the most impressive and fascinating aspects of human development” (Spada, 2006, p. 1). A child learns a language as soon as she/he is born. The primary language or the first language is the language that a child has learned since his/her birth and learning of such language can be considered as ‘learning without awareness’ (Rünger, 2012). Due to human progress, the first language of the child may not always be the mother-tongue of the child. The mother-tongue is the language of the ‘ethnic community’ (Selinker, 2008) that the child belongs to, or the language of his/her parents. However, the language of the ethnic minority may not always struggle over the language of the majority; this is why the child never really gets maximum exposure to the mother-tongue. Then, the child may have to learn the mother-tongue as a heritage language and learn it as a second language. Likewise, the child in the process of growing up may be exposed to a different language and may want to or have to acquire it, which is categorized as a second language. Now, in the following chapter let me share my process of learning language:

Process of Learning Language
The different questions such as: how can we learn a second language? Is there something inside us that helps to learn more than one language? etc are some of the frequently asked questions among the individuals. There may be many reasons why we are able to learn any language in addition to our first language. There are many theories that define why and how we can learn a second language. For example; behaviorist theory claims that language acquisition is the process of habit formation. “It is based on modeling, imitation, practice and selective reinforcement”(Robert E. Owens J. , 1996, p. 8) Likewise, Chomsky talks about the LAD or Universal grammar which he says is inherent in every child, only needs to trigger it so that language learning becomes a natural process.

Context
I have been able to acquire English as a second language because I have had enough exposure to this language at school and also because I have been motivated to learn the second language. As a person from a Brahmin family, my first language is Nepali and that is what I was exposed to during my early childhood. Later on, I went to school where teacher taught me though I was quite small, and I could utter a few words and that helped me to catch a few words in English like “hello” “hi” and “bye” and so on. This was probably my first direct exposure to the English language. My learning of second language was limited to English because nobody could speak English at my home. Later on, when I started to know some English words and when I got more exposure, then I was keener on learning English. My Village was near to Tamang community so I could speak some Tamang words too. When I moved to Dhading Bensi for my further study, I couldn’t get more exposure and now I have forgotten those Tamang words. This is mostly because I got minimal exposure with the Tamang community there, and even the Tamang people communicated with us in Nepali. There was no need for my family to learn or to communicate in the Tamang language. I was motivated to learn English from my childhood because I wanted to understand the stories from the English story books, which made me learn English from my own will. I wanted to be good at English because I used to dream about the wonderful stories that I read in the books. My mother had a role to play in my acquiring of English, as she taught me the ABCs when I was around four years old and started to go to school. It is needless to say that I got exposed to more English in my school, and that has continued until my M.Ed. in ELT. So, the following will discuss all about my learning second language as need or preference:

Learning Second Language: Need or Preference
With the support of exposure and largely because of motivation, I acquired English as a second language (I may not go into the philosophical/literal distinction between a foreign language and second language at this point). Additionally, I have also acquired some Hindi as a second language. However, my learning of Hindi language was an inactive process in the beginning. I did not have communicative opportunities in my surrounding for this purpose and I did not have any formal teaching either. I got exposed to Hindi due to the television and movies that were in Hindi. Likewise, Hindi songs have been a source of fascination and interest to me ever since I was a small girl. I wanted to understand the dialogues in the movies, the television series as well as the lyrics of the songs. This was only possible if I learnt Hindi. So, my learning of Hindi language was my own preference to understand Hindi movies, Hindi series and songs. The learning of Hindi language was thus possible mainly because I was fascinated by the fun world. Now, it is beneficial for me to be able to converse in Hindi if I require it. To my understanding, I preferred acquiring both languages, but the fundamental needs were different. Learning English was supported by formal teaching and related exposure, while learning Hindi was supported by the fun world, which perhaps was relatively painless. The more informal and fun oriented the language learning environment is, the easier and interesting it is to learn the new language. However, I may not be good at accuracy of Hindi.

Motives for Learning English
In case of acquiring of English language, there are several needs on my reflection. Firstly, I wanted to be able to read in English. This is purely individual or my preference. If this was the only motivation factor for me to learn English, then I would not learn it so well. As mentioned above, I needed to understand English stories. This reason for learning English can be kept under the need of learning a language. Secondly, everybody learnt English due to the effect of globalization. Especially in the schools and colleges, if you don’t know English language you may not get admission. In a way, it is promoted in our educational institutions as a medium of teaching and learning. There is no way out, if you want to get a college degree of any sort, then you need to be apt in English. Not only me, but everybody else is in some way encouraged to learn English. This reason is also need or necessary to learn English to achieve any kind of concrete success. Finally, the most important and hidden necessity why I learnt English is that it is a language that people feel is superior and globally recognized. It has been deeply rooted into psyche of human beings. Of course, English is a global language. Where-ever you travel, you see English signs and advertisements. Whenever you enter a hotel or restaurant in a foreign city, they will understand English and there will be an English menu. If your English is good or mother tongue is English, you may feel pride that your language is the one which has been so successful. If you know English, then you can go anywhere in the world, and at least be able to communicate minimally. Likewise, if you know English then you can have the most attractive jobs that you want. This reason is also need, even though it is not seen at the surface. English has been promoted as a lingua franca throughout much of the world as a result of political and cultural influence. In some ways, it can also be considered a linguistic cum cultural imperialism; a welcome imperialism of the modern world!

Conclusion
I am quite glad that I can use and understand more than one language. If I knew only one language, then my thoughts and creativity and experiences would be confined to the world equipped with one particular language. I am so delighted that I can watch movies, listen to songs and be adapted to the cultures of at least some different languages. I can have my preferences and decide to listen to the language I prefer at different times. It is my privilege that I got exposed to these languages and also my luck that I got interested in more than one language. In my view, all people should be open to more than one language so that their knowledge of the world and of the cultures is broadened. The point is that you need to be motivated, but you should also get some kind of exposure for the enhancement of second language learning experience.

References
Owens, Robert E. (1996). Language development.Needham Heights, MA: A simon and schuster company.
Rünger, P. A. (2012). Implicit Learning. Current directions in psychological science, , Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 13-18. Retrived from: HYPERLINK “http://www.jstor.org/stable/20182823” http://www.jstor.org/stable/20182823
Selinker, S. M. (2008). Second language acquisition.London: Routledge.
Spada, P. M. (2006). How languages are learned.Oxford: Oxford University Press.

At the crossroads: Community schools in Nepal

Atma Ram Bhattarai & Praveen Kumar Yadav

At a time when community schools across the country are facing a lot of challenges in terms of ensuring access, enhancing quality and educational governance, they are struggling to attract students as increasing number of children are enrolled in private schools, dropping the public schools, to receive education in English medium. Hence, the community schools took a step to compete with private schools rather than closing themselves in the lack of students. Better late than never, they have started teaching in English medium. We can see the trend of such shift at community schools in Nepal proliferating by leaps and bounds.

It is seen that the community schools which have started teaching in English medium are able to attract more students than before. Even, they reject the admission for the current academic session due to lack of infrastructures available for more students. They have chosen this move to save their fate ensuring their survival among the private schools. But such a move at community schools for English medium instruction without adequate preparations and proper plan has brought them at crossroads, where they meet with different consequences than it was expected.

We could draw the above situations reflected during an interaction with the teachers from different thirteen-community schools in Sindhuli district of Nepal held to find out common educational issues focusing on their roles for girls’ education. The interaction was a part of celebration of the first international day of the girl organized by ‘Janta Higher Secondary School’ a community school located at Ratanchura VDC in the district with support of Plan Nepal, Sindhuli Programme Unit. Another significant event to mark the day was the essay writing competition among 26 girl students from 13 different schools on theme ‘Because I Am A Girl.’ ‘Because I Am A Girl’ (BIAAG, in short) is a five-year global campaign officially launched by Plan International, global child-centered development organization with an aim to help 4 million girls to get the quality education, skills and support they need to transform their lives.
Please take a glance on a brief account of the International Day of the Girl Child before we come to the consequences that shifting from Nepali medium to English at community schools has brought in terms of access, quality and educational governance.

International Day of the Girl Child

Last month, October 11, 2012 as the first ever International Day of the Girl Child, which was unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, was celebrated by the governments, international development agencies and people around the world. Following are the facts behind the special day;
-Majority of the 75 million girls out of school in the world by the daily realities of poverty, violence, discrimination, and child and forced marriages.
-One in three girls are globally is denied a secondary education.
-Less attention to the difficulties and specific problems faced by girls, especially girls born in developing countries
-One in seven girls in the developing world married before they are 15, some as young as five years old.
-150 million girls under 18 have experienced rape or other forms of sexual violence.
-Pregnancy and child birth are the leading causes of death for girls aged 15-19 in the world’s poorest country.

This is all happening because girls are not being seen as priority at home, community and even schools. The distressing thing is that girls are not even allowed to be born. No one can deny the fact that an educated girl is less vulnerable to violence. We, the people involved in the academia are key stakeholders of the community and hence, we need to be accountable to pay attention on the importance of girls’ rights, particularly the right of girls to access to quality education.

Consequences of Shifting from Nepali to English medium
The shifting from Nepali to English medium is deemed as the matter of great achievement in community schools. However, there are many other issues mounting. It is matter of worries to note that there is a great malady of English language teaching.
Based on the interaction with the participant teachers and our observations of schools in Sindhuli, I have made following analysis in terms of access, quality and governance.

Access:
No doubt, parents in Nepal having even low-income send their children to private schools but the number is very less since all of them cannot afford the high charge of those schools. The community schools charge minimum fees from the students, therefore they are easily accessible to all the parents even the poorer. Besides, textbooks prescribed and prepared based on the curriculum are also provided to them freely in some schools. Once the community schools have started teaching in English medium, they assign English medium textbooks, which are high in price. Some of them have not even been prepared as per the educational goals mentioned in the curriculum of different levels.

Quality:
The percentage of students from community schools failed in SLC Exam in English subject only indicates poor English language proficiency. Community schools which teach all the subjects except English in Nepali language lack English language proficiency greater in comparison to private ones where all the subjects except Nepali are taught in English.
When the teachers who have been teaching all the subjects except English in Nepali medium for years start teaching in English, they face challenges on language issues. They cannot communicate with the students in English and comprehend the subjects since they have a very poor command of the English language.

Governance:
The relation between parents and schools is being improved. The parents started regular visit to schools for knowing the learning achievement and behavior of their children. They are in the practice for improving the sanitation of the children at home as well.
The School Management Committee (SMC) is being responsible for improving the quality in education by the trend in teaching in English medium. The SMCs are always worried on managing quality resources as well.

Conclusion:
It is not surprising that English was the medium of school education in Nepal until the 1950s. Following the facts that there was political move of the educational system from English influence, formulation of the first Nepali language policy and adopting the educational practices from the Indian education system, the National Education Planning Commission recommended to remove English from the medium of instruction through its report in 1956. The New Education System Plan-1971 devised during the Panchayat system under the regime of King Mahendra was also in favour of Nepali language as the medium of instruction. There were not English medium schools except few missionaries in Nepal, which had been operating since the early 1950s. But during the regime of King Birendra the education ideology got change and private schools were encouraged to apply.

The Education Act in Nepal allows schools to adopt Nepali or English or both languages as the medium of instruction without any legal restriction. The Interim Constitution of Nepal has focused on the free and compulsory education of all children. Similarly, the Government of Nepal has initiated different interventions for improving on quality in school education and increasing access of girls of basic education. At last but not least, reward and punish is one of means for improving the above issues which lacks in this period.

(Besides being the members of NELTA, the authors are working for Plan Nepal, Sindhuli Program Unit)

Editorial: September, 2012

– Prem Phyak

Dear valued readers
Welcome to the September-2012 Issue of the NELTAChoutari!

We have four articles and two teacher training/workshop reports for this issue. In his article Janak Raj Panta critically analyzes various issues and challenges of teacher training in Nepal. Based on his conversations with teachers from various districts and his wide range of teacher training experiences, he argues that teacher training organizations lack conceptual clarity and rigor in their programs. Hem Raj Kafle’s article, although not directly related to English language teaching, discusses the meaning of being a teacher. His article informs language teachers in understanding our roles and defining our identities in a society at large. Likewise, Raju Shrestha shares his experiences of working with teachers on the Teacher Professional Development (TPD) program. His article analyses practices and beliefs of teachers on-the-ground. He identifies some major issues for the further improvement of the program. Shyam Sharma shares his experiences of professional growth and his association with NELTA. He also succinctly discusses the roles that NELTA has to play to help teachers develop their academic and professional life.

Finally, Anil Kumar Nidhi and Praveen kumar Yadava report workshops that were organized by NELTA Rautahat and the Center respectively.

Table of contents
1. Janak Raj Panta: Teacher Training in Nepal: Reflection and Realities
2. Hem Raj Kafle: Being a teacher
3. Raju Shrestha: Teachers Professional Development (TPD) Program: Boom or Bane?
4. Shyam Sharma: Growing Together with NELTA
5. Anil Kumar Nidhi: I write, therefore I am: A report
6. Praveen Kumar Yadava: Writing workshop: A report

I hope you enjoy reading these posts for the month.

Sincerely
Prem Phyak
Editor
September, 2012 Issue

Teacher Training in Nepal: Reflection and Realities

– Janak Raj Pant

In Nepal, we have a lot of trainings in which we discuss the modern teaching techniques and learner centered teaching. Although, in its School Sector Reform Plan (SSRP), the Ministry of Education (MOE) has focused on the teacher professional development, still teaching learning activities have largely remained the same i.e. traditional teacher-dominated classroom activities. Although we reiterate, in theory, that we should move from the eastern highly strict teaching methods with due importance on the teachers’ role to the students’ and from rote learning to discovery and innovative, explanation and oratory to activity, the current situation shows that we could neither maintain our originality nor incorporate the innovative practices and standing in the transition with a high risk on making the situation even worse. This situation has made us critically reflect and explore the root causes behind this: if there is something we can do with our teacher training to make it more effective?

Against this brief backdrop, in this article I present my reflective note which focuses on my teacher training experience for different institutions and organizations in Nepal including NELTA. My reflection is based on face-to-face interactions with teachers, trainers, education officers working for different I/NGOs in different teacher training programmes in Tanahu, Dhanusha, Kapilbastu, Baglung, Surkeht and so on. In addition, I also draw on the field observation of a number of schools in Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Lamjung, Makwanpur, Kaski, Kailali, Sindhuli, and Kaverplanchwok. Mostly my reflection represents the situation of teacher trainings in community (public) schools in the country.
Basically, I have tried to focus on the existing gaps and limitations in teacher training with an intention to initiate ‘thought for actions’ for improvements. Some major needs and ideas for addressing challenges are also mentioned briefly.

Uniformity?
Presently there is little uniformity among the teacher training courses and programs. So far our state agencies have not been able to monitor the teacher training courses and programs implemented by different organizations in terms of their relevance, need and quality. It is bizarre to mention that your expertise and the standard evaluated to be a teacher trainer. In many cases, I have seen that the Teachers’ Professional Development (TPD) courses are developed overnight including the content that comes on the top of one’s head rather than from teachers’ needs analysis. This has made teacher training programs unfocused and ritual.

We have not been able to make our teacher training courses/programs consistent and uniform within and across institution. So-called trainers have been using different modules and content according to their convenience and capacities without considering their impacts and relevance in teaching and learning. My observation is that there must be at least some kind of perceived sense of standard for which everybody should try hard to achieve and therefore, not facilitating training with the content that comes in his/her mind but with some preparation, planning and reflections of their working context.

Resourcefulness?
In the training programmes, we rely mostly on awfully limited materials. Frequently, we notice the trainers using the same training sessions in all the places and times not because the context and need is the same but because the trainer is good at that particular bit that he/she got from another trainer. And the trainer asks our teachers to generalize them in rest of the context. It is good to ask them to generalize but it is not fair to ask them to generalize something we fear to do and fear to bring into a broader discussion. So, another major gap in the field of teacher training is the fear to accept we are not enough and we do not have enough materials. I think first we as trainers need to be ready to accept our weakness and work hard to enhance our skills and explore resources. To this end, we can work with the teachers collaboratively and share resources with them so that they feel that what they are trying to do is new and worthwhile for improving their situation. By doing this, they feel proud of what they have created and will be able to convey the message to other teaches as well. But so far, it has not been possible not because it cannot be accomplished but because we did not try to do it. I have felt that there is we need to develop a a resource center where teachers have access to updated materials that they can read and use in the classroom. They can produce something like that in their own effort as well.

Coordination and collaboration?
There is lack of coordination among the teacher education organizations. All the organizations have their own resources. They are doing the same job in their own. What if they do it together and share it for the larger number of teachers. Instead of doing the same thing ten times, we can do the same thing accumulating all the efforts in the same place so as to make it very effective and uniform. This will foster the culture of collaboration among the organizations working with the same objectives.

Follow-up and support?
For the effective use of knowledge and skills gained during the training, trainees need frequent follow up and support based on the action plan prepared at the end of the training. It also exerts some positive pressure for training transformation. But unfortunately in many cases I have noticed that the action plans for the implementation of the training are rarely prepared. Majority of training programs lack comprehensive follow-up plans as well. And where the follow-up is conducted the support mechanism and time remains vague. The Government Resource Persons who are responsible for the regular supervision and support to the teachers have the responsibility of covering more than 32 schools in average, which is impossible for an expert to make observation and provide substantial input to teachers on their teaching skills.

Continuation and conformity?
Teacher professional development is not something that takes place in the form of an event e.g. marriage. It is something that occurs as an ongoing process. The teacher training programs we conduct need to be based on previous training, should start from what teachers practiced in different contexts, how they are using them, what were easy and what were challenging to implement in practice. Having reflected on the previous training and making it stronger in action, we can step ahead with further training. Most of the trainings we have currently are not based of previous experience and we always make a fresh start. Our trainings always begin with and dismissed in the middle, before they get matured. We remain always immature in our action and the impacts we intend to make are not seen. That is what most of our teachers are experiencing.

Responsibility?
One of the most important features of teacher training is to what extent its effectiveness becomes visible in the classroom. The trends in our teacher training are not focused enough in this regard. The teacher themselves are supposed to be the only responsible agent for the transformation of the training. What about the trainers and training providing organizations’ role? How many of the trainers contact their teachers in this regard?

So my feeling is that teacher training has been taken very lightly and the job of training has become just a recreational project, something done for pleasure rather than for making professional impact. It is important for all the teacher educators and teacher educators’ organizations to have teacher training policy guidelines first.

I sometimes feel, maybe it is worth having a conference on teacher educators’ organizations in Nepal to develop a common teacher education policy guidelines to make them responsible for their actions and impacts.

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