EMI in community schools: A case from Mt. Everest region

Mahendra Kathet

Mahendra Kathet

In this blog post, I begin with rationale behind community schools adopting English as the medium of instruction (EMI) in Nepal, and a case of Schools with EMI from Solukhumbu district followed by importance of EMI and some suggestion for its effective implementation in schools.

Rationale for Community Schools adopting EMI

Since formal school education has introduced in Nepal, English has been included in the curriculum as a compulsory subject. Even English was later introduced in early child education and development (ECED) or pre-primary level. However, high school graduates from community schools have failed to develop their proficiency in English in school level. Whereas, proficiency level of the same graduates from private schools are better than of community schools. When analyzed the gaps, the only tangible difference between private and community schools is medium of instruction. The private schools have been using English as medium of instruction (EMI) while Nepali is the medium of instruction in community schools. The impacts are visible on the performance of the school graduates in higher education as a whole. When they pass SLC, and join the college to further studies, they find it difficult to cope up with teaching and learning methods. Only the bright and ambitious students can pursue their college studies while others face English language problem. Lack of adequate knowledge in English has left many of the students feel inferior and lag behind in higher studies in comparison to the students who come from English medium schools. The poor performance by community school graduates in higher education home and abroad has made children, guardians and teachers attract toward the private schools with EMI.

Families with strong financial backgrounds have started sending their children to expensive English medium schools. The children from financially weak families have been bound to continue going to community schools with poor English exposures. Even some of English teachers teaching in community schools are unable to conduct classes in English in remote parts of the country. Those with bachelor’s or master’s degree in English seldom communicate in English. The absence of English speaking environment has further deteriorated their English speaking skills. In many cases, they teach ‘English’ in Nepali language.  I have found that many lower secondary and primary school teachers can hardly read English texts with correct pronunciation. These days, many master’s degree holder teachers in the community schools are feeling awkward as they cannot communicate in English properly. Here, teachers’ inability to communicate in English means students lagging behind in higher education and job opportunities in the competitive world.

As a result of the justifications mentioned above, community people of Mt. Everest region (Solukhumbu district) in eastern Nepal have come together to adopt English as Medium of Instruction (EMI) in their village schools.

EMI in Schools of Mt. Everest Region

 With the beginning of academic session of 2011/12 A.D., EMI was adopted and are now practice in Khumjung Secondary School and Mahendra Jyoti Higher Secondary School along their four lower secondary and six primary feeder schools. However, a serious challenge came forth was teachers, who were not confident and reluctant to adopt the EMI despite their basic knowledge in English. The teachers were needed to enhance the teachers’ English knowledge and get them ready to teach in English.

 In 2011 and 2012, with the financial assistance from Himalayan Trust Nepal, we coordinated with Rato Bangala Foundation (Patan) to organize a month-long EMI training. This training solely aimed at increasing and improving communicative skills of the teachers in English language. A total of 40 school teachers were the beneficiaries of the training program. However, large number of teachers have remained deprived of EMI training. Then in 2013, REED Nepal, a non-governmental and not-for-profit teacher training organization took the responsibility of training the remaining teachers with EMI. The REED has started EMI training in the district since 2013 in co-ordination with DEO Solukhumbu and NCED .

I believe that hard working teachers, who practised the language seriously with colleagues and students during the training, have improved their English knowledge and skills. Some stiff teachers are still struggling to improve their skills to teach in English. In addition, classroom support programs and school based trainings are proving effective to help them learn as well. Ironically, some students are found far better than some of the teachers in terms of communicative skills in English.

As the teachers are always the key figures to impart quality education through English language to the students. If the teachers are not competent enough, students certainly lag behind and cannot achieve their expected goals. This vision prompted Himalayan Trust Nepal to grant financial support to 12 EMI schools in hiring competent teachers to teach in English medium.  Although there is not much sufficient exposure and English speaking environment as expected, students, especially children from poor financial backgrounds, are benefitting from this program.

Why EMI is important in community schools?

Earlier for thousands of years the world was so huge that people had only few ideas and hypothesis about it. Gradually, the human intelligence explored the world making access to it much easier and simpler. Remarkable human inventions of transportation and communication technologies has transformed the whole world into a global village. English language, which is the most widely spoken language, made communication possible at any part of the world. English language transformed the gigantic world into a small community.

English Language is an enormous medium of world knowledge and affairs.  Most of the world’s popular books and literatures are written in English. Ability to comprehend English means an easy access to the works of world’s most famous writers.  It is the dominating language as used in science and technology. Medical doctors, pilots, engineers, university professors can hardly develop their career in the absence of English knowledge.  Majority of the web-pages are written in English. Knowledge of English skills, therefore, allows us to enter into the world’s ruling intellectual resources. The knowledge of English opens the door to boundless opportunities including works in foreign countries.

Careers that involve lots of travel and international exposures such as the airline, tourism, film industries, etc. use English language  as their  official language and many  employers  in these sectors  demand a certain  level of  proficiency in English. The proficiency in English broadens social networking and increases our chances of getting a good job in foreign countries.

Most importantly, English has occupied a place of primary language in world business. It is a must for international business persons to learn and speak English. A lot of English speaking multinational corporations with offices in Nepal use English language to communicate.  They often use English in business meetings, customer services and sales, and marketing and  communications.

English is widely regarded as the language of higher education. It gives us access to the world’s famous and best universities. The academic proficiency obtained from such renowned universities opens up opportunities to find respectable job anywhere in the world. Learning English really can change our life. People all over the world study English as their second language in their school syllabus and children start learning English at a young age.

Suggestions for implementing EMI

Trends of community schools shifting their medium of instruction to English are high in different parts of the country. Although learning English is quite challenging and time consuming, many remote village community schools are taking the risk of implementing EMI. Lack of communicative skills in English in the teachers is one of challenges that the schools are facing with the change in their medium of Instruction.

Collaborative and consistent efforts in the part of teachers and management body are a must to improve English language learning environment for the EMI. The teachers equally need to be hard working and studious to cope with the change. The hard working and energetic teachers can also arrange self-learning opportunities, develop English language lab, teach English in an interactive way, develop self-learning package, build English language development centre and work together to develop their communicating skills. They can stimulate themselves to watch English program on TV, and listen to radio talk programs in English.

Another suggestion for facilitating effective implementation of EMI is making speaking English environment in the school premises. The teacher trainings should be based on classrooms communication English. The school authorities should also hire and appoint competent teachers, who will be the great asset for effective implementation of EMI. The authorities should also organize English learning sessions and encourage and facilitate other teachers to improve their spoken and written English. Enabling teachers for developing communicative skills in English will contribute to the success of EMI in schools and help students for their better performance in higher studies and better opportunities ahead.

The author was the former head teacher of Khumjung High School, Solukhumbu and teacher trainer at Himalayan Trust, Nepal at present.

The Photography Project: Education in Emergencies

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Sunil Sharma

This photography project is the continuation of a new khurak for our readers initiated by Choutari since July issue. For the August Issue, Sunil Sharma, a photojournalist associated with Chinese News Agency ‘Xinhua’ has contributed to the project. The photos speak of education in emergencies following the monstrous earthquake of April 25.

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Students of Nawa Adarsha School are studying under the temporary class prepared inside the tent at Basantapur in Kathmandu,Nepal.(Xinhua/Sunil Sharma)

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Students of Suryodaya School are studying at a temporary class prepared at a open place at Maitidevi in Kathmandu,Nepal.(Xinhua/Sunil Sharma)

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Students of Shri Padma Higher School School are chatting at TLC (Temporary Learning Center )temporary class prepared at Bhaktapur in Kathmandu,Nepal.(Xinhua/Sunil Sharma)

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Students of Nawa Adarsha School are studying under the temporary class prepared inside the tent at Basantapur in Kathmandu,Nepal.(Xinhua/Sunil Sharma)

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Students of Nawa Adarsha School are studying under the temporary class prepared inside the tent at Basantapur in Kathmandu,Nepal.(Xinhua/Sunil Sharma)

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Students of local Government school are studying at a open place in Kathmandu,Nepal.(Xinhua/Sunil Sharma)

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A boy draws an art under under the temporary class prepared inside the tent at Dillibazar in Kathmandu,Nepal.(Xinhua/Sunil Sharma)

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Students of Durbar High School watching T.V during break time under the temporary class prepared inside the tent at Bhotahity in Kathmandu,Nepal.(Xinhua/Sunil Sharma)

School Resumption Brings Smiles to Children

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NIRJANA SHARMA

 

Attendance was encouraging on the first day children returned to school Sunday, 37 days after the devastating earthquake rocked Nepal.

The month-plus unscheduled holidays have come to an end. But the tremors have not. Amid aftershocks striking every single day, children in most Valley schools not only managed to bring smiles back to their faces, but also boosted the confidence of their teachers about continuing with the classes.

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Arman at the center

Five-year-old Arman Khan had gotten admission to nursery class at Durbar High School in the first week of Baisakh, when the new academic session started. But his first day of classes took place only on Sunday. No one asked him to read or write anything. All he had to do was sing and dance along with other children.

At this oldest school of the country, the children paid no attention to the collapsed infrastructure and instead enjoyed the cultural program at the Temporary Learning Centre set up by the school.

Rojina Lama, 13, and her 11-year-old brother Kumar were witness to many old structures collapsing in Thimi on April 25. And their home in Dhading district is now only a memory. But all that was not enough to keep the siblings away from their Adarsha Secondary School at Sanothimi, Bhaktapur.

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“We are happy to come to school and hope to resume our studies soon,” they said while walking in the streets of Thimi.

School teacher Roshani Shrestha at VS Niketan Montessor shared that those who came in the morning crying also seem to have forgotten everything and were playing happily.

For eight-year-old Younish Shrestha, it was a little different. The paper-made ‘smiling’ hairband did not match his expression. About the reason for his sadness, he said, “I enjoyed the holidays and wished they could be extended for more days still.” Roshani explained Younish’s attitude in terms of general child psychology and the tendency to keep avoiding school when there has been a long gap.

Sixth grader Rahul Yadav of SOS School, Sanothimi says he found the earthquake-related information at schools quiet boring.

“We have been facing earthquakes every day and watching the awareness messages on TV and the internet and it was boring to see the same things repeated at school,” he said. Rahul’s mother Bina nodded and suggested that the schools impart quake-related education in a more interesting way.

Less than half of students attend at most Valley schools

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Around 70 students made it to Durbar High School where the enrollment was around 225 during the last session. Out of 1,000 students, hardly 350 reached Nobel Academy at New Baneshwor.

Nobel Principal Rishikesh Wagle said most of the students who have gone to the districts with their families are yet to return.

“It is mainly children who have gone to their homes outside the Valley who are yet to return,” said Wagle.

At VS Niketan Montessor at Tinkune, 87 out of the 200 toddlers managed to come, whereas 250 out of 500 students at Suryodaya School attended.

PABSON, an umbrella organization of private and boarding schools, said that around 40 percent of students came to school. But the numbers are expected to increase gradually as the guardians see more and more children doing so, said PABSON Chairperson Lachhya Bahadur KC

PABSON has estimated that around 15 percent of the children might not return to the Valley following the quake. KC said this was no bother for private schools, which would soon begin classes in full form as per the interest shown by students.

“The senior class students have shown interest in returning to full-form classes,” said KC. If the aftershocks become milder, schools would resume formal classes for grades 9 and 10, he mentioned.

The Department of Education (DoE)said that most of the schools managed to gather students in their makeshift classrooms for amusement and extracurricular activities, as earlier planned, to help them overcome the post-quake trauma.

“We have received good vibes from the badly-devastated districts and this has encouraged the government to gear up for full fledged classes soon,” said DoE Director Khagendra Nepal.

Stressed guardians wait outside for children

fThough some schools such as St. Xavier’s at Jawalakhel restricted media from the school premises, guardians were allowed to accompany their children to the classrooms.

Some of the schools engaged the guardians also in their activities, and in most schools the guardians waited outside for more than two hours until the school wrapped up for the day.

At the premises of Suryodaya School at Dillibazar and at Maitidevi-based Universal Academy, which was damaged by the quake, the guardians could manage a smile on seeing their children singing and dancing.

Engineer Shambhulal Kayastha took his eight-grader granddaughter Bhumika to Nobel Academy from Koteshor. This was the third time Kayastha has been to the school within a week.

“The green sticker at the building did not reassure me untill I examined the infrastructure myself,” 60-year-old Kayastha told Republica while waiting for Bhumika at the school premises.

Nobel carried out yoga, meditation and cultural programs alternatively, dividing the students into different groups. Guardians witnessed similar activities from a distance at VS Niketan as well.

Like many, Sunita Maharjan said that fear of strong tremors during school hours prevented her feet from leaving the school area.

The author is education journalist with Republica English National Daily in Nepal. She originally published it in Republica and blogged for ELT CHOUTARI.

The impacts of the earthquake on education: Contemplation of an EFL teacher

Dinesh Thapa dtathapa@gmail.com

Reminiscing the day!

A large circle of Early Childhood Development (ECD) teachers–mostly female teachers–are joining their hands. Two facilitators in the hall, one inside the circle and the other at the corner, are observing the activity. Saturday, after the morning meal of 12th Baishakh 2072 (April 25, 2015), the second teacher training session of the day was in progress. The teachers were preparing for an introductory language game which requires them to perform a chant by clapping hands. Sometimes they needed to walk back and forth. Everybody was engrossed in how to perform game the best; they were excited with the easy tips and activities to teach the ECD kids in a better way. They were attending to every bit of the sound, the rhythm and the art of performing a circle-time activity in ECD classes. Then the facilitator in the center began instructing the participants for the refined repetition of the activity. When the participants had just started moving in the circle, the entire building trembled, and the whole earth shook so badly. Nobody could stand upright. Everybody started stumbling to the main gate of the hall. Earthquake! Earthquake! They cried. Soon, a pool of people from all around the vicinity arrived at the open ground in front of the hall, gasping up and trembling. They were praying for safety, for themselves, for their relatives and for their houses and property. In a minute, the exuberance of the training was converted into a formidable catastrophe and a deep serenity resided compelling people to give up all their arts and skills for the sake of life and bodily safety. It was indeed a mega earthquake disaster that had wiped out all the beautiful dreams instantly. Everybody attempted desperately to connect to their families; the entire atmosphere was then terror- driven by an unimagined might of the mother earth. In a minute, news reports about the fall of the Dharahara and many other heritage places were broadcast. TVs showed the damage of lives and buildings; soon, the whole country was mourning in the loss of dearest ones. Hospitals were crumbled, and there was a crowd of the injured outside hospitals. Scores of schools that cheered with the aspirations of the millions of future citizens were damaged; several public and private structures were flattened onto the ground. In a minute, most of the central part of Nepal was deserted. The Kathmandu valley lost several world heritages; the beautiful tourist destinations in Gorkha and the business hubs in Tatopani were completely damaged. People feared the most what they long forever- the hard earned resident buildings. Indeed there was a complete standstill of normal activities. This terror continued for over a month; it still haunts all those who were directly and indirectly affected. The country is thus under a dreadful situation hardest-hit by the earthquake.

Disaster situation in Nepal

Nepal is one of the most disaster prone countries in the world. Some of the disasters such as floods, landslides, cold waves, fire, and lightings are a common occurrence in Nepal. Every year, Nepalis are facing the problem of flood, landslide and fire particularly in the hot and summer season. It is reported that Nepal stands at the 11th and 30th position in terms of earthquake and water induced disasters respectively in the world. The vulnerability to disaster also continues to increase annually, particularly as a result of rapid population growth together with the unplanned and poorly regulated urban planning. The people of Nepal face a variety of life-threatening hazards. The recent earthquake of 7.8 magnitude and thousands of aftershocks have caused an insurmountable devastation in different parts of the country.  Although the actual data about the human casualty and injuries and physical and economic damages are yet to be confirmed, the Ministry of Home Affairs has declared over 8500 casualties, and about 21,000 human injuries.  The government has declared 11 districts as the most afflicted areas in terms of human and non- human damages. Informal observations and inquiries suggest that hundreds of human settlements (including houses and property) have been completely or partially destroyed. The roads, water supplies and electricity have been interrupted. Basic service centers such as schools and health centers and police posts have been dismantled. In a sense, a vast segment of population in the earthquake hit regions is living in a complete middle-aged-like-darkness at present.

Sample statistics about the impact of the disaster

Immediately after the devastating earthquake, the entire nation and several international organizations began their rescue and relief operations in Nepal. The government, charities and donors from different parts of the world joined hands to immediately help Nepal and its people to recover from the devastation. Inspired with the spirit of humanitarian assistance, I also worked with a non-governmental organization (Friends Service Council Nepal) in order to support the earthquake survivors in Lalitpur and Bhaktapur districts. We reached out to different earthquake affected communities with relief materials on the third of April 25 disaster. We were also accompanied by a team of volunteers that attempted to document human casualties and physical property in eight different communities. Among the 2900 supported families, 1192 were involved for a detailed survey. The survey shows a preliminary picture of the earthquake damage as follows.

Figure 1: Respondent’s VDC/Municiplity
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid Jharuwarasi Lalitpur 182 15.3 15.3 15.3
Bishankhu Lalitpur 92 7.7 7.7 23.0
Ikudol Lallitpur 121 10.2 10.2 33.1
Shankhu Lalitpur 191 16.0 16.0 49.2
Chapagaun Lalitpur 71 6.0 6.0 55.1
Lamatar Lalitpur 141 11.8 11.8 66.9
Dalchoki Lalitpur 129 10.8 10.8 77.8
Maha Manjushree Bhaktapur 265 22.2 22.2 100.0
Total 1192 100.0 100.0

 

The sample communities have different characteristics in terms of the topography and development features. Two villages, Ikudol and Shankhu in Lalitpur, are located in a remote hilly area whereas Bishankhunarayan and Jharuwarashi are semi-urban settlements, near the city. Likewise, Chapagaun represents the community of the marginalized people (Dalit community) whereas Lamatar and Mahamanhusree represent to an averagely developed communities. These communities are chosen as to understand how the disaster acts upon differently built-up communities, though it has affected all Nepalis. The following table shows the present status of the respondents.

Figure 2: Respondent’s present shelter status
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid Living under open sky 413 34.6 34.6 34.6
Living in tents outside 666 55.9 55.9 90.5
Living in community places 32 2.7 2.7 93.2
Living on rented homes 41 3.4 3.4 96.6
Living in own home 40 3.4 3.4 100.0
Total 1192 100.0 100.0

 

Home is the source of aspiration and physical-emotional wellbeing for human beings. When there is a threat to our home, all the hopes turn into a painful agony and frustrations. A home is the emblem of emotional attachment; it doesn’t matter whether it is a cemented or just a thatched one. Education, prosperity and futurity become mere dreams when there is an instant threat to survival. We cannot even imagine how dreadful it is to live under the open sky. It was not an adventure for them; they were compelled by the unlucky fate. It was found that more than 90 percent of the sampled families had their houses either completely damaged or unfit for living. I cannot describe the pathetic situation of the children and the elderly. It is hard to describe the shattered dreams of the adults and how the damaged souls take on for the future. Buildings can be reconstructed, but it is very difficult to regain the shattered emotions and passion attached to them. The chart below displays the condition of damage houses and property in the sampled communities.

 Figure 3: Damage of house and indoor property

damage of house & property

Along with private property, the earthquake also caused an insurmountable damage to the hard made public property. Local school is just an example. The Nepali society has a very short history of public education. Indeed, school represents the single most development indicator in many rural parts of the country. As of now, there are many places where no market places or health centers are built yet, but there are public schools to educate the children who could contribute to the national development in the future. Public schools are the only places that show the presence of the government and serve the poor and the disadvantaged. In the sampled communities the public school buildings are also flattened down; the children of these schools cannot takes classes in the past buildings. The new academic session had just started when their schools were crumbled. Reconstruction of these public school buildings is really a challenging work in the present context of Nepal, in which the private educational establishments are seemingly drawing the sympathy of the middle and upper classes of the society. These already peripheralized public schools may take a decade for their complete reconstruction. By then, millions of children might have been passing their formative lives yearning for a good school building. The condition of local public schools is presented below.

Figure 4: Damage of local public school

damage of public school

The post- disaster context in education

It is often observed that the emergency response to disasters such as flooding and earthquake focuses mostly on food, shelter, and water. Restoring the dignity and identity of the people become a less priority in the time of crisis. Education, which comes only after the survival needs is, therefore, affected for a longer time in the disaster-hit contexts. The relief and reconstruction initiatives in the present context of Nepal also observe a similar trend. Schools in the most disaster-affected areas had remained closed for over a month. During this long span of terror, a lot of upheavals could be seen in the everyday lives of the people. The quake took away the lives of 64 teachers and over 1,000 students and damaged 25 thousands classrooms. The entire community of teachers and students were also at a complete break-off from the teaching-learning activities. This situation shows an educational crisis in Nepal.

Even after the resumption of schools, a deep sense of fear lingered due to incessant aftershocks occurring day and night. The safe schools buildings had cracks due to aftershocks. A sense of terror was further exacerbated by the danger signals that hung at the entrance of the damaged buildings. Only a few schools had buildings which were safe educational activities. In such a situation, panic stricken teachers and students came to the school ground and involved mostly in psycho-socio trauma soothing activities. The reopening of schools created a space where teachers-students can get rid of the long held trauma. The trauma in the tender minds had to be released through non-content engagement rather than through involvement in instructional activities.

The deeper impacts of the disaster

The field of English language education in Nepal’s post-earthquake context is also no more appalling than other sectors. The primary indicator for this can be traced back to the psychological fear that has been lingering in the minds of students, teachers, parents and the general public. It is indeed a survival threat; a challenge to livelihood and safety of property. Be the cause the loss of relatives or acquaintances; be it the damage of houses and property, all the stakeholders of education, including the forefront agents (students, teachers and parents) are reeling the disaster with a terror and anguish. Neuropsychologists have researched in depth into how the differently specialized functions located in the different parts of the brain are affected by the survival threat of the organism; especially in relation to the role of Amygdala in the temporal lobes of the brain. It is, however, apt to note here that where there are fear and stress intrusions overpowering the normal functioning of the brain, there will hardly be any learning taking place. The brain is then sensitive to respond only against the threat to the ‘life’; it is focused to the ‘here and now’. The brain then spends most of its directional resources only to accumulate the energy spread across the body so that the collected energy can be used to save the life. This safety mechanism, so, responds in such behavioral forms as running away of the life-organism from the spot, sweating, uncontrolled urination, clenching of fists and teeth, and so on. We can argue that this is the state of a complete ‘distraction’ and ‘firewall’ of the normal academic practices required for learning, including English language learning. This phenomenon is similar to what Krashen argues in his Monitor Model of language acquisition (1977, 1988). In the context of disaster induced anxiety and fear, the monitor is already heightened (though not necessarily for filtering for the correctness) barring any perception and processing of the language input.

Another area of impact lies on the learners’ external social-material dimensions of education. It is evident that hundreds of school buildings have collapsed and become inhabitable for teaching-learning activities. All the classrooms, ‘facilities’, and ‘affordances’ are gone. The cosmic gloom that grows while observing the damaged school infrastructures can never be substituted with any other tragic feelings.  But with better hopes some ‘Temporary Learning Centers’ have been built to help students engage in educational activities. Teachers are worrying about how long this situation persists. There is not a staff room intact. With this mega-scale disaster, people throughout the country have a very slim optimism for the speedy resettlement of the school facilities. Not only students have their textbooks and other stationeries buried or lost, but they have also lost the educative-entertaining community of hope in the pre-disaster days. Informal talks now are confined mostly to ‘where and of what scale of magnitude of the after- shocks’, and people are primarily concerned with ‘how to get relief materials. However, much attention has not been paid to reconstruction of schools and support to children. Indeed, the school atmosphere created the feeling of ‘unbelievable loss’ of the gambler, who cannot easily accept that the wallet has become completely empty just because of the single unlucky event. Every activity, and of course, everything in school and at home are strange now; there are strange classrooms and toilets; there are strange needs and responses of the students and the teachers. Occasional visits of the authorities and relief material providers further constrict the already shattered ego to the level of a pitiable infant-dependent. That the classrooms are damaged; that the library is collapsed; that the laboratory equipments are damaged; and that other basic school supplies are halted imply that school is shrinking down rather than flourishing. Therefore, the days ahead are going to be more challenging for EFL teachers to create conducive learning environment for the earthquake affected children.  Again, when there is a threat to one’s livelihood, education and its quality, and a quality learning of English will surely be negatively affected.

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Mr. Dinesh Kumar Thapa, a life member of NELTA, is currently a Faculty of English at Kitini College Lalitpur Nepal. He has been teaching English at different levels for over 10 years. He is also involved in EL teacher training. He has published on issues related to ELT in different local and national journals. He is one of the editors of NELTA ELT Forum (neltaeltforum.wordpress.com).

Teaching helps forget quake victim Sarita’s pains

And then there was teaching which she chose to forget her pains, and resolve her psycho-social problem. “While I was idle, thoughts of damaged house, shop, studies, mother and brothers always used to come into my mind. Such thoughts adversely affected my health as well,” she recalled. “Wherever I looked at, I found similar plight of many people. Then I decided to deviate my mind to something that would help me forget my troubles. Finally, I decided to teach children.

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Rojita Adhikari, Journalist

This is the translated story, that was originally written in Nepali language and published in Kosheli edition of Kantipur Daily.  Click here to read the Nepali story in Kantipur. 

After the monstrous earthquake of April 25 left them devastated, Sarita’s four-member family is now forced to live in a temporary shelter at Tundikhel of Chautara in Sindhupalchowk district. Although five persons can comfortably live in a tarp provided by a foreign aid agency, twenty persons from four families, including hers, are to live together under the tarp awkwardly. Anyone visiting them can easily figure out hardship of their life in a small tent.

Sarita wakes up early in the morning, cooks for her family at a corner of the tent, and leaves for another temporary shelter nearby with a bag of copies and pen at around 9:30 am. By the time she reaches a temporary learning space created by Save Our Soul (SOS), children of quake-hit families from Chautara are already there waiting for her.

Over a hundred children of displaced families living in temporary shelters at Chautara and Tundikhel attend the learning center. Though it is an emergency class, it starts formally with the national anthem ‘Sayaun Thunga Phoolka Hami Eutai Mala Nepali’ from 10 am and ends at 5 pm.  Four volunteer teachers engage children of grades ranging from nursery to five in fun activities like drawing and games. Sarita is one of them.

Sarita is neither a teacher by her profession nor had she wished to be a teacher someday. The student, pursuing her Bachelor of Arts (BA), used to run a grocery before the earthquake. However, the earthquakes of April 25 and May 12 have changed her daily lives.

Following the death of her father some years ago, Sarita, the eldest child in the family, had to bear the responsibility of managing home. Even her mother, after her husband’s death, had to struggle to raise a daughter and two sons and educate them. They possessed the only property ‘house’, where they had starting a shop. The family used to live on a handful income generated from the shop. They lived a simple life and their lives were gradually improving, but the earthquake ruined them all of a sudden.

“The sudden quake left us back to the poor life of early days,” said Sarita, whose eyes filled with tears. She could not utter any word for a while. The only property was a house, while the shop was the only source of income for the family. The earthquake destroyed them.

“Where to go? What to do? How to manage fees for my education and also of my brothers? How to rebuild our houses. Worried over all these problems, my mother fell sick,” she further said. “We could not even brought out the valuables and goods from the shop before our house reduced to rubble in the earthquake.” With the deteriorating health of her mother thereafter, she was also worried over how to cope with the situation. “Later I also felt like a sick person,” she added.

And then there was teaching which she chose to forget her pains, and resolve her psycho-social problem. “While I was idle, thoughts of damaged house, shop, studies, mother and brothers always used to come into my mind. Such thoughts adversely affected my health as well,” she recalled. “Wherever I looked at, I found similar plight of many people. Then I decided to deviate my mind to something that would help me forget my troubles. Finally, I decided to teach children.

She has been teaching quake-affected children since the fourth day of the April 25 earthquake. For her, teaching was not a difficult task because her love for children, she told me.

By the time I was talking to her, the clock had already struck at the noon. Then I saw three of children, approaching to Sarita, told her, “Sarita Miss, Sarita Miss, give us drawing papers.” She handed over a paper and pen to each child. It was the time to draw.

“Miss, which picture should I draw?” said one of the girl children.   Sarita was quick to respond her, “Draw a picture of a house.” Sitting nearby her teacher, she started drawing. First she drew a house that stood intact, then another damaged house. After that, he wrote ‘before’, on the top of the first house, and she wrote ‘after’ on the top of the second. Finally, she showed the pictures to Sarita. The pictures that her student drew and showed to her once again reflected her damaged house in her mind.

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Sarita is teaching school children at a temporary learning center in Sindhupalchowk district following the earthquake

According to her, most of children from Sindhupalchowk have similar feeling after the earthquake. “If it is difficult for a 25-year old girl like me to forget such catastrophe, how much has the quake terror traumatized children?,” she questioned.

She complained about the government’s apathy to address the psychosocial impact on children even after a month of the earthquake.

When and how can children in trauma after the earthquake can overcome them?, she questioned, urging the government to understand the need of psychosocial counselling before their classes resumed.

Now she enjoys a new experience of her hobby that has changed due to the earthquake. “I want to pursue my interests in teaching quake-affected children for some time,” she said. “However, there is no destination of our life now. No place to live and go further.”

“I rushed out of home in a pair of clothes at the time of earthquake. I do not have additional dresses to change. I wear the same dirty clothes and go to teach children,” she further said.

She says, whenever she goes near the children, she forgets her dirty clothes that she is wearing and the destroyed house.

I wonder how many generous people like Sarita could be in our society, who devoted herself to teach quake affected children even after losing all her properties in the earthquake.

The author is an investigative multimedia journalist. For the investigative reporting in Nepal, she was awarded an investigative reporting prize by International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) in 2014. Currently, she is reporting on investigative reports and news stories with focus on migration or foreign employment of Nepalis, violence against women, and good governance in Nepal to be published in different media.

Recently, she has completed my assignment of producing and presenting radio magazine Nikash for Equal Access Nepal which was focused on transitional justice. Before that, she worked as producer and presenter of Sarangiko Bhalakusari for the BBC Media Action. Sarangiko Bhalakusari is a Nepali radio magazine produced by BBC Media Action.

May Special Editorial: Re-envisioning ELT/Choutari in the Aftermath of Great Earthquake

Dear Readers and Contributors,

We apologize for the hiatus in May — as you know, the entire nation was stunned by the major earthquakes that took the lives of thousands and affected those of millions of others in Nepal.

As we start gathering and rebuilding hope, energy, and enthusiasm as educators and citizens, and as members of the profession across national borders, we realize the need to ask new questions. Our questions must be situated in the new context of rebuilding the nation, as well as reforming education.

English Language Teaching (ELT) has always been a means for achieving social goals, and not an end. This is the time to think about what that end, that purpose of ELT and of education at large is. This is the time to reconnect ELT and education at large with challenges, changes, and opportunities in life and society. This is the time to embrace new ideas and perspectives, methods and technologies, people and cultures.

ELT is a means to prepare students for society, professions, and successful lives. We must now reframe the teaching of English language and literature (and all the knowledge and people that they connect to) within the vision of a new Nepal. A Nepal that rises from the rubble. A Nepal that took a disaster and turned into a new journey.

At times, it feels as if work that like this only serves to reinforce the inequity in the society, that it best serves the already privileged. Those of us who run this blog are teachers and scholars mostly living in cities; we use technological platforms that are not available for the majority; and we focus on a foreign language that, for many, is only taught and learned to pass exams (which are deeply discouraging and can drive many away from future careers in learning altogether). This feels like we are driving little scooters around a few cities in a country where doing so will only reach a quarter of the population; half of the nation is only reachable by buses and tractors, and the other quarter is unreached by any vehicle so far. Who are we doing all this for? Are fellow teachers across the country able to join conversations like this, conversations that are framed on the terms of those whom they cannot relate to? How far can technologies go in engaging teachers in vastly different contexts and situations across the country? And, most significantly, what is the new vision for the relatively few connected scholars/teachers after the national crisis, this rising from the dust? How can we leave behind our old modes of thinking and develop new visions, new alliances, new strategies?

ELT is one of our links to the rest of the world. It is also a link between many disciplines in our education. And it is a link between education and many professions in the world. English as a lingua franca links our young generations to bodies of knowledge and other nations/cultures, and to professions like diplomacy and development, business and journalism in the broader/global context. But English has also created bottlenecks in opportunities, hope, and confidence for generations of communities that are already disenfranchised in other ways.

So, especially in the aftermath of this national disaster, how can we expand the scope of opportunities above while disrupting the bottlenecks? How can we pause to think about the many ugly realities of inequality, marginalization, and irresponsibility of the privileged that the disaster has exposed–and how can we start using education (including ELT) to start addressing the problems and building on the opportunities?

At a more practical level, because Nepal is prone to different types of disasters (including earthquake, floods, and landslide, which take thousands of lives every year), how can we re-envision ELT curricula, pedagogy, and resources in order to help prevent damage of infrastructure and loss of life in the future. It is not enough to stand akimbo and say that these are issues that the engineers will take care for the society. No doubt, we cannot prevent them; but the community must be aware of three R’s of disasters — readiness, response and recovery — before, during, and after natural calamities.    In this sense, everyone can and should be partner-engineers of social vision, of thinking and communicating new ideas, of forging a new future.

Incidentally, it was saturday when schools and colleges were closed when the first earthquake jolted the nation. Even the second earthquake occurred during daytime at a time closure of educational institutes were already announced in the aftermath of the disaster. Otherwise, casualties, especially students and teachers might have been worse. It is high time for teachers, practitioners and education experts, including ELT communities, to contribute to raise awareness among children and youths in schools and colleges about disaster management. Education is the most effective means to disseminate such knowledge and skills in the community.

We hope to raise broader issues of education in the days to come. We invite you to contribute your blog posts to this venue, encouraging you to write about a broader range of issues, including classroom practice and the emerging issues of the day. During the month, please consider joining ongoing conversations on our Facebook page.

Let us envision rebuilding our society, and education an ELT can be important tools. You can be an important agent. Let us rise from the dust and leave a legacy of resourcefulness and resilience for future generations.

Thank you.

Praveen Kumar  Yadav and ELT Choutari Team

(with contributions from former editor Shyam Sharma)

Attend Online: The 49th Annual International IATEFL Conference being held in Manchester, UK

Dear Valued Readers,

We are more than happy to announce that ELT Choutari, invited by the British Council, is one of the Manchester Online Registered Bloggers, for reporting on this year’s IATEFL Conference.The 49th Annual International IATEFL Conference and Exhibition is being held in Manchester, UK. 

For our readers to attend the IATEFL conference online, please follow the event online by clicking here or Iatefl Online.  

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These links will take you to access video coverage broadcast live from the venue. You’ll be able to follow all the latest news and updates on Iatefl Online. As well as our live coverage, you’ll be able to watch video sessions and workshops. There’ll also be interviews with presenters and conference delegates as well as session reports. Iatefl Online will provide teacher audiences worldwide with an opportunity to share ideas with colleagues before, during and after the conference

Thank you

ELT CHOUTARI Team

Welcome to March Issue of Choutari

Conference Special Issue

Editorial:

In what is a landmark for the over two-decade-old organization, Nepal English Language Teachers Association, a female member has just become its president. On the International Women’s Day today (on March 8), ELT Choutari team members (including founders, contributors and larger audience) would like to congratulate Meera Shrestha on this historic achievement. We wish her and the newly nominated executive body great success in leading NELTA. We are also proud to share with our audience that our colleague, Ushakiran Wagle, one of Choutari editors, now serves in the executive committee. We wish her successful tenure towards achieving a new milestone in ELT of the country.

As in the past, we have maintained the legacy this year as well, by publishing reflections of participant, presenter, and rapporteur, upon their participation in the international conference of ELT organized by NELTA in the country.

For this conference special issue, we have five contributors –Prem Bishwokarma, Jyoti Tiwari, Priyanka Pandey,  Dipak Dulal, and Praveen Kumar Yadav—who have reflected their experience and learning upon participating in the 20th international conference. Among the contributors, Prem Bishwokarma, Jyoti Tiwari and Dipak Dulal are first timers to attend the conference. Prem and Dipak attended the event as participants while Jyoti was one of the rapporteurs. Similarly, Priyanka Pandey shares her reflections on presenting the paper for the first time. Finally, Praveen Kumar Yadav shares a news story written by him for Republica during the conference.

Meanwhile, we would like to welcome two talented ELT scholars—Rajan Kumar Kandel and Pramod Kumar Sah—who have joined the editorial team.

Here is the list of the entries we have included for March issue.

  1. Teacher’s Travelogue: My First Trip to International Conference of NELTA, by Prem Bishwokarma
  2. Conference through eyes of a rapporteur by Jyoti Tiwari
  3. Presenting for first time in the conference by Priyanka Pandey
  4. My first ever experience attending the conference by Dipak Dulal
  5. Hundreds of English teachers throng capital to enhance teaching skills  by Praveen Kumar Yadav

Finally, we would like to thank our contributors of this issue and also urge our valued readers and contributors to please SHARE the blog entries with the community, and press LIKE buttons on social media. Please join the conversation by adding your comments/views on the blog posts that you have read.

Thank you

ELT CHOUTARI Team

MARCH ISSUE

Hundreds of English teachers throng capital to enhance teaching skills

Praveen Kumar Yadav

Prem Bahadur Bishwakarma, an English teacher from Surkhet district, had longed for the past few years to attend a mega event of English teachers and participate in the discourse of English language teaching methods and practices. He teaches English at SOS Hermann Gmeiner School, Surkhet.

Eventually, his wish came true this year and now he is in the capital to learn about different English language teaching (ELT) methodologies practiced across the globe. He was happily sharing his experience of teaching English during interactions with other ELT practitioners.

Although Bishwakarma has been teaching English to secondary level students for a decade, after attending the program he realized that he had actually yet to know a lot of things about teaching English.

“I found out that way of teaching this language has changed a great deal. People like us hardly have such knowledge. It has really turned out to be a great opportunity,” said Bishwakarma.

Another English teacher, Durga Kumari Devkota, who teaches at Kanya Secondary School in Birgunj is also in the capital to attend such a program for the first time in her life.

She was encouraged by her colleagues to participate in the program. Interestingly, when she set off for the journey, she also managed to persuade few more teachers to join her to attend the international conference in Kathmandu.

With a view to enhance their knowledge and skills in teaching English, over 800 participants from across the country have thronged to Kathmandu to attend the 20th international conference of English language teaching organized by Nepal English Language Teachers´ Association (NELTA) from Tuesday.

The three-day-long conference that will conclude on Thursday is organized under the theme ´´The Quest for Quality ELT: Riding the Waves and Creating the Landscapes.”

Inaugurating the conference, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mahendra Bahadur Pandey said that English language is not just a lingua franca as it is seen around the world today as a passport to global competition.

“English is the key to vast treasure of knowledge and skills and it is also the means to economic prosperity,” said minister Pandey. “Hence, English teachers must enable themselves to cater to the learners´ needs.”


Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mahendra Bahadur Panday, inaugurates the 20th international conference on English language teaching, organized by Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association in the capital. Over 800 English teachers have gathered to take part in the conference.(Republica)

“Professional enhancement through such conferences and workshops could prepare them for the job,” he said referring to the 3-day event organized by NELTA.

Meanwhile, Lava Deo Awasthi, joint secretary at the Ministry of Education, said that teachers at community schools that are switching to English as the medium of instruction need to develop their proficiency in the language first. “Only then they can effectively deliver the contents to the students in English,” Awasthi said. At the same time, he also expressed worries over threats to local languages resulting from the increasing focus on English language.

“English is important, no doubt. However, this somehow undermines the existence and development of local languages,” joint secretary Awasthi said.

Prof Abhi Subedi, Prof Tirthraj Khaniya, Prof Govinda Raj Bhattarai, and Prof Jai Raj Awasthi were some of the figures who spoke at the program.

The key speakers Professor Elka Todeva from SIT Graduate Institute of Brattleboro in the United States and Professor David Hays, from the UK, who is currently involved in Brock University, Canada, facilitated the plenary sessions focusing on challenges and opportunities of English language teaching all over the world. In addition, experts from Nepal and delegates from 16 different countries, including India, Japan, the UK, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka, UAE, the US, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand are presenting papers, posters, and participating in workshops related to English Language teaching during the conference.

The conference includes 10 plenary sessions, two panel discussions, 161 con-current sessions and 17 interactive language fair sessions. The presentations cover a wide range of ELT issues focusing on alternative assessment, use of information communication technology (ICT) in ELT, creative and academic writing, teacher professional development, literature in pedagogy, mother tongue education, and current trends and other researches in English language teaching.

During the conference, a special book exhibition with relevant books for the participant English language practitioners has also been arranged with the support from Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Routledge, Collins and the local publishers, informed NELTA President Hemant Raj Dahal. “The participants will be offered special discount on the purchase of books,” he added.

NELTA is a non-government professional association of English language teachers across the country. Through the membership of 3000 ELT practitioners and 43 branches, NELTA has expanded across the country to provide English language teachers with an academic and professional platform for sharing their ideas and networking.

Community schools at a crossroads

A significant number of community schools across the country have already started teaching in English medium while many others are preparing for the shift at a time when they are struggling to deliver quality education due to lack of resources.

However, such a shift has not led to impressive results, linguists say. Every one knows that community schools are taking the step just to retain their students.

“I see the move as a desperate attempt to compete with private schools rather face closure in lack of students,” said Ganga Gautam, a teacher trainer, who is also an associate professor of English Education at Tribhuvan University.

No doubt, community schools that have started teaching in English medium are able to attract more students than before, according to Gautam. “This move is just to ensure their survival,” he said.

Unfortunately, the government has not yet formulated any clear cut policy on English Language Teaching (ELT). Last year, a committee of ELT experts from NELTA reviewed the government plans and policies in order to find any clause related to English. One of the committee members, NELTA president Hemant Raj Dahal, said, “We could not find any clause related to ELT in those documents except in the last School Sector Reform Plan.” Dahal said this during a panel discussion on policy issues on ELT on the second day of the conference on Wednesday. The panel discussion, moderated by Bal Krishna Sharma, a PhD scholar at the University of Hawaii, USA, saw participation of English language experts, Prof. Jai Raj Awasthi from Nepal, Z. N. Patel from India and Zakia Sarwar from Pakistan.

Unlike in India, there is no clear English language policy in Nepal and Pakistan, according to the panelists.

“The contents of other subjects when delivered in English at community schools cannot be rich and resourceful in our context because teachers are not efficient enough in English,” moderator Sharma argued. Prof. Awasthi suggested that the government needs to have a concrete policy on English language teaching based on empirical research. “Then the policy should clearly state that children should be taught English at what age and from which grade.”

Recently, the government allowed community schools to switch their medium of instruction to English if they find themselves capable, according to Prof Awasthi, joint secretary at the Ministry of Education. However, the government has established no mechanism to check whether schools shifting their medium of instruction to English are fully prepared, according to the teachers.

Without adequate preparations and proper plan, this move at community schools for English medium instruction has brought them at crossroads.

This news story written by the author was published in Republica (English National Daily) on February 19. Click here to the original publication.

Interview with RELO Specialist, US Embassy, Nepal

Bishwa Gautam  is Regional English Language Program Specialist working for the U.S. Embassy based in Kathmandu, Nepal and responsible for Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives. In the following interview with Praveen Kumar Yadav, one of Choutari editors, Gautam shares about ELT situation, its prospects and challenges in Nepal, ELT programs implemented by the US Embassy’s Regional English Language Office (RELO) and finally various opportunities provided by the office for Engllish language teachers and learners. We hope our valued readers would find the interview very useful and interesting to read.

How do you assess the current situation of English Language Teaching in Nepal? What are the prospects and challenges? 

The situation of English Language Teaching in Nepal has two scenarios; one urban, the other rural. In the urban cities, ELT is progressing satisfactorily, but in small cities and rural areas there are many issues. The issues are the (un)availability of well-educated, trained, and motivated teachers, the lack of teacher mentors,  limited  or no English teaching and learning resources, and unmotivated students because English is rated as the number one difficult subject. This lack of teaching-learning resources and materials development means fewer people want to become English teachers which only makes the situation worse. Moreover, the market of English language is huge. English language skill is necessary for further studies, business, job, technological and tourism affairs as well as for daily activities. Therefore, everybody wants to learn English. This gives English language teaching situation a very prosperous and challenging opportunity.

What are the key programs that the US Embassy’s RELO is implementing for improving ELT situation in Nepal? What has been most effective?

The Regional English Language Office (RELO), U.S. Embassy, has been supporting English language teacher development programs since __ through programs like  the English Language Specialist and English Language Fellow programs, which bring American English Language Teaching experts to provide teacher training and give advice and support to educational institutions for the improvement of English teaching in Nepal.  Other programs such as  E-Teacher Scholarship, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), and the Shaping the Way We Teach Webinar Series give teachers the opportunity learn practical knowledge and skills for their professional development. The United States Government’s Department of State’s after school English Access Microscholarship Program (Access) for economically disadvantaged, bright, adolescents in  eight districts of Nepal is also managed by the RELO office and currently implemented by NELTA.  Not only are the Access students having impressive results in their formal education and developing leadership roles, but also their teachers are benefiting from periodic trainings from RELO and amazingly are becoming teacher trainers in their locality.  The RELO also supports professional exchange sponsoring Nepalese English language teachers to participate in various National and International conferences in the region as well as the annual Teachers to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) conference in the U.S. Finally,  English language teaching materials and resources, as well as materials development and support are other equally popular programs of the RELO.  The most effective interventions by the RELO office is the training of English teachers. The Public Affairs Office at the U.S. Embassy, Kathmandu, also assists in English language programs such as the English By Radio program which reached 60 districts and training programs at the American Corners to enable teachers to access and use materials from the American English website.

Through this interview, we would like to inform teachers, researchers, and professional leaders in the field of ELT about the opportunities that RELO provides. Please list or describe some of the opportunities and resources that you have for them.

The RELO shares its opportunities widely via its webpage http://nepal.usembassy.gov/relo.html . We have a number of online opportunities which require regular access to computers and Internet. In the coming year, the call for application announcement of the E-Teacher Scholarship program, where participants take a  10-week long U.S. university course online, will be in June/July 2015. This is a highly competitive program for a limited number of slots.  Interested English language teachers should submit completed applications. The participants should be able to give 10-15 hours in a week and should have basic technology skills. In contrast, webinars which are in series of 6 different one and a half hour sessions are open to all and can be group viewing if people don’t have computers and Internet. Webinar 15 dates are January 14, January 28, February 11, February 25, March 11, and March 25 and Webinar 16 dates are April 22, May 6, May 20, June 3, June 17, and July 1.  MOOCs are shorter and easier than the E-Teacher courses, open to all and groups can get together to give each other study support. The dates of Shaping the Way We Teach English MOOC course 1 are Jan. 05 and Apr. 06, 2015 and the dates of course 2 are Feb. 09 and May 11, 2015. However participants should register themselves one week prior to the course start date. Institutions or organizations who wish to apply to get an English Language Specialist or Fellow and individuals who wish to apply for exchange programs can submit applications to RELOKathmandu@state.gov at any time.  English language teachers and learners can access, download and use a variety of materials such as games, activities, audio books, reading material and articles about teaching from our American English site www.americanenglish.state.gov . Moreover, we also provide hard copies of English Teaching Forum which comes out four times a year or it can be read online at the American English website.

Please visit the Regional English Language Office, U.S. Embassy Kathmandu’s web page http://nepal.usembassy.gov/relo.html  and the US Embassy Kathmandu Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/nepal.usembassy  to check for updates and opportunities.

 

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