My Journey to Become a Textbook Writer

Bishow Raj Joshi*

On the very first day of my teaching career at Shree Bhairab Secondary School, Lamjung where I was appointed as a teacher of English in 1999, I found a book written by Vishnu Singh Rai in the school’s bookshelf. When reading his profile on the cover page, I wished I had had my name as Mr. Rai on the cover page of a textbook. But I had another important responsibility of pursuing Masters Degree and achieving it before starting any other works.

So far I remember the day I found a notice: “call for sample lessons to select grade eight textbook writers” in Gorkhapatra, a national daily newspaper from where my life of writer began. After reading the notice, I contacted my several friends, prepared required documents together and submitted them to Curriculum Development Centre, Sanothimi, Bhaktapur within the notice period. Fortunately, our team was selected to work for Curriculum Development Centre. I still feel how much I was excited to be a part of writers’ team.

We were given a time period of fifteen days to gather necessary materials to develop a textbook. In such a short timeframe, we had to work out of limited sources in rush. As a beginning to develop the textbook framework, the team scheduled a meeting to review national education policy, curriculum and previous textbooks, and in the meeting, the team decided to organize contents into each language skill: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Technically we planned to present contents into three sections based on the framework: Engage yourself-Study-Activate yourself. In the meeting, we distributed tasks of collecting materials to each of us in the team and agreed to meet with assigned works the following week.

Immediately after three weeks of our book development journey, our team briefed our ongoing activities and preparation of the textbook to Curriculum Development Centre. We provided our preliminary drafts of some lessons to CDC. It led us to a meeting with subject committee members in CDC. The committee’s feedback helped us develop a draft of the book. Ultimately we were able to submit our book draft on the 45th day of our book writing journey. Then, we developed a task force including school teachers, collected their feedback and made some changes in the draft of the textbook. The further meeting with subject committee members provided valuable feedback to improve the draft and we included some images and diagrams with their suggestion.

When the final draft was produced as a textbook, it was sent to one hundred government schools for piloting the project. The pilot project provided significant feedbacks and then the comments collected from the school teachers were reviewed subsequently. The feedbacks helped rectify errors in the textbook. Then the textbook was published as a final version and distributed throughout the country.

Main structure of the book

We structured the materials under ESA (Engage -study-activate) lesson sequence in the textbook. Engage activities are presented as motivational activities, study activities as main texts, and activate activities as real-life activities. Reading texts in the textbook provide with opportunities for developing various reading skills such as skimming and scanning, and vocabulary development.  Practical activities set in the book provide the students with basic writing skills. Likewise, listening and speaking activities are entirely based on the communicative skills. We also expect that the students enhance grammatical competence through grammatical items presented in each unit. Some project works in the textbook drive teachers and students to field activities such as social events, environmental and community studies which may develop socialisation skills in the learners. Finally, to address the multiple intelligences of the students, fun activities are included in the textbook.

Personal experience in writing textbook

When I was selected and involved in the team of textbook writers, I got a load of priceless joys. Eventually, I started to dream to be a popular writer after being a part of a national level textbook. My dream to publish about my social, cultural and contexts were gradually happening to be actually concrete in real life. This opportunity reminded my teacher, Mr. Kalika Koirala, who encouraged me to study English and start teaching career. Since I became a member of writers’ team of the textbook, I have been popular among many people and my village has been recognised by many.

How I had thought in the beginning of starting to write the textbook did not go easily while gathering materials and working in the textbook. I thought 45 days would be enough for developing a draft of a textbook but actually, it was not. However, it was the allocated time for our team which was a pressure for everyone in the team. I have explained the major difficulties we faced when developing the book draft below:

Word choice: The guidelines for textbook writers had explicitly explained the maximum number of syllables in a word and the number of words in a sentence. We had to follow it strictly. This created problem while selecting the authentic reading texts. We had skipped many interesting texts due to the frequency of sentences consisting of more than twenty-two words and words consisting of many syllables. Therefore, there might not be more interesting reading texts in the book.

Framing the materials within the prescribed number of pages: As per the guidelines, we had to present all the materials within 176 pages. The areas to be addressed were really difficult to squeeze within the prescribed number of pages. To maintain it, we left many interesting texts. Therefore, we had to supply the book with short texts without the careful consideration of the interest of the students.

Searching for texts with prescribed language functions: There were particular language functions to be addressed in the textbook. While selecting the texts for different language functions and aspects, the texts had had at least some language exponents addressing the language functions prescribed in the curriculum. Finding such texts within a limited time was almost impossible. So we wrote some reading texts to address such problems.

Selecting the pictures and drawing in the textbook: When we submitted the draft copy within a given time frame, the textbook designer was handed over the document. The designer was assigned to supply the book with the pictures as per our description. We had no role in drawing pictures. Sometimes we changed the texts due to the lack of some pictures. In some cases, we changed the descriptions too. So we could not present the materials as we wished before.

However, being a textbook writer brought me both pleasure and pain. The pleasure relived the pain and generated more energy to be in the team of Grade 9 and 10 textbook writers.  The first writing experience not only strengthened my writing skills but also taught me what the writer should consider while writing a textbook.

* The author is a Lecturer at Sanothimi Campus, Tribuwan University, Nepal and a textbook writer of English textbooks for grade VIII, IX and X (CDC).

School Based Teacher Training: My Experience in the Khumbu Region

Ekraj Koirala (Siddhartha)

Ekraj Koirala (Siddhartha)

Background

I have been working in the mountainous regions for four years in the capacity of teacher trainer for REED (Rural Education and Environment Development Centre) Nepal. It is a national level non-governmental organization, primarily working in the field of teacher training in rural areas of the country for one and a half decade. The organization has been implementing whole school modality where all teachers gather at a venue. This year, I got an opportunity to coordinate a school-based teacher training program in Kharikhola of Solukhumbu district. This model is a new intervention of our organization and a new approach in Nepali context.  In this brief essay, I discuss the steps of implementation and my observations toward the training model.

At the initial phase, we had an intensive discussion among teacher trainers, representatives from Ministry of Education (MoE), and experts from other parts of the world. The discussion highlighted the needs to focus on students’ progress through training rather than teachers’ attractive presentation in a simulated environment. The training has been divided into three phases: pre-training, while-training and post-training stages.

Pre-training stage (Preparation)

This is a preparation phase. In the first place, we invited a meeting of the head teachers from 17 schools in Kharikhola area. It was a very good discussion over the basic principles, processes and preparation for the training. I found myself excited as the head teachers were positive toward this model.  Then, teachers from 17 schools were invited in three venues, the leader schools in the area. Therefore, the venues were the schools, not the teacher training centers nor were they resource centers. Teachers from two to three academic subjects attended at the assigned venues; other teachers continued teaching in their schools. In this regard, trainers worked with a small number of teachers at a time; it was all six times we worked in these three different venues. A teacher had to work at the venue for three days.

 While Training Phase (Operational)

This phase is more collaborative in nature and a real operational phase. Once the teachers attended at the venue, they had to be present in the Morning Prayer with students. Then, they worked with trainers to prepare lesson plans for presentation. The lesson plans were based on learning outcomes specified by the curriculum and followed in Continuous Assessment System (CAS). All the lesson plans were done in terms of identified and analyzed needs. While developing the lesson plan, there was a good discussion among teachers and trainers over learning outcomes, teaching strategies and activities.  The trainees also developed necessary teaching materials and set time for each activity of the lesson plan with the help of trainers and fellow trainees.  Then, the trainers and teachers in each subject group went to the real classroom. One of the teachers led the lesson in the classroom and rest of them including trainer observed the classroom teaching. In some cases, they assisted teacher and students in various activities. During observation, students’ involvement and learning were the key elements to be considered. No matter how efficient and excellent lesson delivery took place, the key part of observation was to diagnose the learning of students. Mostly, students’ eagerness in learning, their participation in different activities, creativity and engagement in all sorts of learning processes were the major elements of observation in relation with the objectives set in the lesson plan.

Post Training Phase (Reflection)

The third phase was the reflective one. We discussed over the delivered lesson. Firstly, the teacher, who led the lesson, shared his/her feeling on the lesson. Then, every trainee was invited to put their views over the lesson on the basis of observation checklists. If the lesson objectives were not fulfilled, the lesson needed to go for revision, re-plan and deliver next day. Again, the revision went in collaboration with facilitator and fellow participants in some cases. In other cases, participants needed to plan for new lesson.

Major Characteristics

I was involved in this training program in all phases. In my observation, I have found five major features:

Training in real situation: We organized most of the face-to-face training programs and practised teaching skills in artificial settings in previous years. This time the training was organized in a natural situation i.e. in the real classroom. Teachers and trainers got opportunity to work in schools with students.

Focus on students’ progress: How teachers presented lesson does matter little but what learning outcome was seen on students is a major focus of this school-based teacher training model.

Lesson plan: Trainees worked on lesson plans instead of session plans.

CollaborativeThe model is highly collaborative in nature as trainees received a lot of opportunities to work and collaborate with fellow trainees and trainers in different phases of the training.

Focus on local context: It is obvious that facilitators and participants work in a specific context in this training model so that it could be more effective and teaching skills are transferable. Sometimes, training received in a different context may not be applicable in other contexts.

Conclusion

The school-based teacher training model we implemented is definitely time consuming than previous face-to-face model.  It took twelve days to cover a six-day previous training model. However, the model provided an ample opportunity to teachers to improve their teaching. It is participatory and student-centred as it involved students within the framework. In addition, the training was more economic in terms of money we expended there than previous models. Therefore, school-based teacher training approach could be replicated in other contexts. However, further researches need to be carried out in its theoretical and practical aspects.

Mr. Koirala is an MA in English and an LLB from Tribhuvan University. He has been working in the capacity of a senior teacher trainer of English for REED Nepal. His area of interest also includes writing, theatre performance and art.

Project NIITE: Developing Better Teachers for Implementing EMI

Ishwor Kadel

Ishwor P. Kadel

English as a medium of instruction (EMI) has been a burning issue  in community schools in Nepal these days. Nepali language has been the medium of instruction for the academic subjects like mathematics, science, social studies and so on. Although English is said to be taught in the same language, it is also not found to be fully implemented. In this backdrop, some community schools in Nepal have initiated the practice of EMI for teaching-learning. To support and enhance EMI, NCED has  recently launched a project called National Initiative to Improve Teaching in English , known as Project NIITE. The project has made many teachers, academicians and administrators aware of implementing EMI in classrooms. Yet, some regard that content knowledge that students learn is more important than the medium of its delivery.

After the completion of secondary or higher secondary school education, students have to face colleges and universities in English medium. Those  students, who want to go abroad for further study need to  sit for English language tests  like IELTS, TOEFL, SAT and GRE. This is  when they realize the importance of English language and feel inferior  before their competitors. Students with higher academic scores also cannot meet the entry requirement in language tests and get deprived of international academic opportunities.  It is not the knowledge that stops them from such opportunities but the language.

On the other hand, students from English medium private schools find these tests easier in comparison to the students from  community schools. The textbooks of community schools do not go any changes and revisions for long, whereas they are  modified each year with up- to- date information in private schools.

The policy of the government has given freedom to schools to use either Nepali or English as a medium of instruction. Basically, private boarding schools practice EMI and government public schools use Nepali language. They use Nepali language to teach subjects like English, mathematics, science and social studies. They have limited resources and the teachers ignore their everyday tasks before, while and after they are in their classrooms. The students, though they learn English language from primary level cannot communicate in English and they do not easily comprehend the texts they use. The students and most of the teachers in primary level do not have good command over English language. But many public schools have started introducing English language as a medium of instruction. This has made EMI training to public school teachers a must.

The recently launched project i.e. Project NIITE by NCED  with support from British Council has a main objective to enable primary level teachers from all over the nation to use English as a medium of instruction. The EMI training also follows the same modality of TPD training of NCED except for its focus on developing English language proficiency to deliver classes in English language.

The developing craze for English language among students and parents brought most of the students from community schools to private boarding schools. The number of students in public schools has been decreasing gradually in Nepal. According to the latest data, 417 public schools were merged because of having less students than supposed to be. It has also shown the importance of English language and its craze  in a developing country like Nepal. It is because of this, most of the community schools not only  decided to shift the medium of instruction but also managed school uniform that look similar to English medium private schools. However, implementing EMI has not become comfortable for teachers and the students at once. Therefore, the government decided to run EMI training for primary level teachers as EMI begins from primary.

In Primary level, students cannot understand and use English properly. The teachers know English but they have not used it as a medium of instruction. As they have been using Nepali language, which has lowered  their confidence in using English language. The teachers are hesitant to communicate among themselves and in the classrooms. Now, EMI training supports primary school teachers to use English in a simple and clear way. It teaches them how to maximize students’ participation and minimize teachers talking time in class. EMI gives them skills to maximize students talking time and minimize teachers talking time. It helps them better understand that the role of a teacher in classroom is to demonstrate, give clear instructions and engage all  students through pair work, small group work or whole class activities. In my experience as a teacher trainer in Nawalparasi and Gulmi districts of Nepal, the EMI training was much favored by the primary level teachers and they looked very much excited after six-days training was over. From the third day onwards, they communicated among themselves in English and used English language to talk with the trainers. The trainee teachers learnt how to use English rhymes and language games in classroom. They learnt to make useful classroom materials and became eager to go to school and implement what they had learnt in the raining. In the last two days of the first phase of the EMI training, they were also involved in a short micro teaching. This micro teaching and the feedback from fellow teachers and the trainers made them confident in six days.

EMI training under Project NIITE  lasts at least for three years and a master trainer from NCED and one from British Council work together to train teachers effectively. This project has its own training manual having 12 main units and many sub units under them. EMI  covers all the subjects except Nepali. This training mainly focuses on how to give clear, short and simple instruction to the students in English. It focuses on learner-centered classroom where students take active participation in classroom activities. The training focuses on the use of English language as a means of communication between teacher and  students, and students and students. EMI focuses on the use of four skills in every class. After the completion of EMI training, the trained teachers can use English as a medium of instruction, plan their own lessons, prepare teaching materials, train other teachers and become more creative.

A good lesson plan with specific objectives, teaching materials, time management of a teacher in classroom, use of classroom language by teacher and students, and the use of language skills are the highlights of EMI training. In the same way, involvement of students in learning activities such as a pair work, small group and whole class work, feedback and error correction, better monitoring, building good rapport between students -students and students -teacher and reflection are also the contents of  EMI training. The main focus of the training is the use of  classroom language, language for instruction,  and evaluation. EMI also focuses on child friendly, anti- racist and gender equality in classroom.

The schools which are willing to shift their medium of instruction must provide EMI training to their teachers so that it equips them with skills to teach subjects like English, mathematics, social studies and science through EMI. This is a pilot project in Nepal aiming to provide training to seven thousand basic level teachers in the country within three years.

Some people think that it makes no difference whether schools use English or Nepali as a medium of instruction but what matters most is the transfer of content knowledge. This is is right but EMI is a demand of school teachers  in community schools to stop the huge transfer of  students to  private English medium schools. EMI is not against using mother language in classroom. It does not promote ‘only-English’ policy in classrooms. However, a teacher can use mother language to help students comprehend the texts and contexts.

Finally, under the project NIITE, EMI training is  aiming to make teaching-learning effective basically in primary level in Nepal. The increasing curiosity among teachers regarding EMI training, and their motivation and active participation during the first phase of training has made us optimistic of its upcoming success. It seems to me that, EMI will surely help community schools to minimize the gap noticed in education between private schools and community schools.

The author is Master Trainer (Project NIITE) British Council, Nepal.

Teacher Training: One of the Best Ways of Self-development

-Parista Rai

Since the day I joined M.Ed. ELT program, it was my dream to be an ELT trainer and fortunately for me, it came true recently. As a part of Teacher’s Development course, I conducted training sessions in Janakpur and Tanahun in July and although it was my first experience of delivering training, I gained tremendous knowledge and experience. I experienced that conducting a teacher training session is a very challenging job where a trainer has to manage everything for the sake of in-service teachers’ satisfaction. In this article, I am very glad to share my experience.

I had heard about ELT teachers’ training before getting enrolled in Kathmandu University but when I got an opportunity to be a part of the ELT program here, I learnt many things related to English language teaching, learning and training. I neither had experience of a trainer nor a trainee but once when I got a chance to attend an in-service teacher training delivered by our seniors, I got many ideas about the teacher training and started dreaming to be a trainer. And at the same time, I became more interested in teaching and learning English as a foreign language.

Continue reading »

Choutari Workshop: Photo Blog

Texts by Praveen, Photos by Umes

NeltaChoutari organized a workshop titled Behind Academic Publishing: Why, How and What at King’s College, Babar Mahal in Kathmandu on June 28, 2014.

choutari-workshop-01

Bal Krishna Sharma, a founder of NeltaChoutari and a Ph. D. scholar at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA, facilitated the one-day workshop, attended by over 30 emerging authors, especially English teachers and students from Kathmandu University and Tribhuvan University. Continue reading »

Nelta Conference Hetauda Phase – A short report

Narayan Prasad Tiwari

hetauda

The 19th International Conference of NELTA (Phase II) began on March 3, 2014 in Hetauda.

One of the key speakers, Prof Stephen Stoynoff (US) presented on the theme: Language Assessment and the path to Crystal Mountain. Using the metaphor of a trek through the Himalayan Mountains, the speaker considered the paradigm shift that has occurred in language assessment over the past few decades and its implications for EFL teachers. He emphasized psychometric and socio-cultural perspectives on assessment. Prof. Stoynoff further presented “Classroom based Language Assessment: Improving the Design and Use of Teacher Developed Assessments” during plenary session. He reviewed key trends in language assessment and their complications for teacher constructed assessments of second language ability.

Prof. Keith Morrow (UK) presented on “What does ‘authentic’ assessment mean? How do we do it?” His talked about genuineness and authenticity while focusing on assessment, testing observation, self assessment and individual growth over time. His plenary session proceeded with awareness and activity in ELT. The primary focus was on learners and teachers who need to strengthen awareness and what they could learn from it.

Prof. Z.N. Patil (India) mainly focused on assessment as an integral part of ELT through story telling techniques. He stressed on day to day assessment in teaching by citing some relevant examples of poems and dramas. In the presentation “Enriching Linguistic, Communicative and Pragmatic Competence through Literature”, he presented audio- visual text and interacted with the participants and gave specific procedures to be adopted in classroom activities.

Mr. Brenden Mcsharry (British Council) presented on “21st Century Learning Skills and Assessment: the Implication for Nepal” stressing on thinking skills, working skills, working tools and living skills. Besides, he focused on 21st century themes like global citizenship, human rights, intercultural awareness, equality and diverse, healthy living and peace studies.

Laxman Gnawali and his team of Kathmandu University presented “Pechha Kuchha Fun Show” to all the participants that ultimately focused on insightful learning with innovative ideas.

Apart from the key presenters, there were around thirty presentations from different ELT practitioners from nation and abroad as well for two days. Around 450 English teachers actively took participation in different concurrent session according to their field of interest.

narayan

Narayan Prasad Tiwari
NELTA
Hetauda branch

A Report on plenary “Do We Still Need Dictionaries?” by Dr. Elaine Higgleton

Suman Laudari

Do English teachers still need dictionaries, especially printed dictionaries? Because internet gives access to the online form of most of the monolingual and some bilingual dictionaries, do English teachers need to buy and ask students to buy dictionaries? Dictionaries are usually bulky and voluminous, so should we ask students not to buy them, but rather suggest them to use mobile or web dictionaries? This write-up will attempt to answer these questions in relation to the talk given by Dr. Elaine Higgleton, in the 19th International Conference, L.A. School, Hattiban, Lalitpur.

Laudari Article--Dr. Elaine Higgleton

Dr. Higgleton, who is one of the chief editors of Collins Advanced Learners’ Dictionary, focused on the importance of dictionary and significance of their use in this age of digital media. She started her talk presenting an account of how the buying of printed dictionaries has declined over the decade from around 250,000 to 35,000 copies annually. She attributes the reason to the easy availability of large free online dictionaries. Having talked about the history of dictionaries, in which she concluded that the notion of dictionary is always changing based on the perceived needs of the users and the intention of the compiler, she went on to say that the online dictionaries complement the print versions of them. Most of the online dictionaries, according to Dr. Higgleton, are traditional in form and are not user friendly. Hence, learners of English as a foreign language might find it very hard to use online dictionaries and make a sense out of them. Yet, on the other hand, millions of hits have been recorded by different online dictionaries web pages, and it is reported that people seem to be contented with what they get from those online dictionaries.

Moreover, learner’s dictionaries also provide free access to their online dictionaries. Most of these dictionaries do serve purpose as they can aid learners in their effort to learn spelling, hear spelling or check grammar. Nonetheless, Dr. Higgleton claimed we should encourage learners to buy dictionaries because most printed dictionaries offer “more bespoke and tailored content” for users having special needs. Secondly, printed dictionaries are user friendly given that we do not need to depend upon lights of internet connectivity to use them. Thirdly, they can be carried to the classroom and used as per the requirement. Also, she stressed that the lexis chain that the dictionaries provide can be useful in creating other vocabulary related activities. Next, the printed dictionaries can be used in creating grammar exercise to simple writing exercise. And, they also aid learners if they would like to score higher in English examination. Lastly, she added that bespoke and tailored designed traditional dictionaries address the specific content needs of learner most of which are driven by their context and L1.

In line with the arguments of Dr. Higgleton, I as a teacher and learner of English feel that dictionaries have a high significance in the successful learning of English. Reflecting back to my language learning experience, I can vividly remember that I used to have oxford dictionary placed near to my bed while I sat on my bed to read. I can recall noting down words, in class while teaching or while attending university classes, to find their meaning and the usage in the dictionary. I have used dictionaries for multiple purposes. I have used them to decide whether I should use one word over another; whether I should use a particular preposition or conjunction after the given words; to find out how a particular word is used in sentence.

One of my fond memories related to the use of dictionary goes back to the first year of my teaching career, when I bought a dictionary and a self-help grammar book to brush my English language with the first salary that I received. Obviously, dictionary alone does not help, but having one may aid language learning task. I used that dictionary for reasons mentioned above. Since then, I have bought multiple copies of dictionaries. I feel that buying dictionaries is an investment, which worth it.

Hence, I conclude that yes we still need dictionaries, and we should encourage our learners to buy printed dictionaries. We can do multiple, language related activities in class if all our learners bring their dictionaries. Further, we can also request the school/college administration to buy newer version of dictionaries. Because, language is dynamic and so are the needs of learners, the newer versions can address those needs.

—-

suman

Suman Laudari
Adjunct Faculty at Kathmandu University, School of Education
Lecturer at Ace Institute of Management, Baneshwor.

Language Testing and Assessment Workshop: A reflection

Ganesh Datt Bhatta

On February 23, 2014, I attended a one-day workshop on ‘Language Testing and Assessment’ conducted by NELTA in association with the American Embassy at Kathmandu University, School of Education. The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Stephen J. Stoynoff from Minnesota State University Mankato USA, one of the key note speakers for the 19th International Conference for NELTA.

stoynoff-1

It was a very lively session by Dr. Stoynoff as he presented on how learners who learn English as the second or third language struggle in learning the language in the classroom.  He shared an example of his own friend, Mr. Carlos who had immigrated to America from Nicaragua in 1950s. He belonged to a Spanish speaking community and was already 14 when he joined a school in Texas, US. It was difficult for him to learn and adjust in the classroom with his peers who were much younger by age and he did not know English either. As a result, he could not succeed in his sixth grade and he had to repeat the same grade. As English was not his first language, it was obviously difficult for him to understand what the teachers taught in English medium that followed “sink-or-swim” model.

Dr. Stoynoff asked all the trainees to find out the factors that influenced language development and reasons for Carlos’s failure in grade six. The discussion ended with findings of the factors like home environment, societal environment and individual factors of language learners influence the language development.  A learner learns language if the educational level of the family is higher. The families which give priority to learn different languages helps a child to values towards education is also important for the development in a learner. It was amazing to find that Carlos earned a PhD later, though he had tough time in school in the early years of migration. The turning point in his life was at his school where a teacher appreciated his work in Spanish. Those inspiring words from the teacher guided him to choose Spanish for his further education and he earned a PhD in the same area. Now he is regarded one of the important experts in the field of Second Language Learning and Teaching.

It can be inferred from the story of Carlos that a teacher can inspire students to pursue their career in proper field of education and the motivating environment of the family also contributes in effective learning of languages. The interaction of the factors like home environment, societal environment and individual factors of age, proficiency of the first language, attitudes towards the second language and access to the Second Language and culture affects the rate of second language development of the learners. The first session ended with one open topic to debate on the pros and cons of teaching other languages than first language at early age of learning.

The second session of the workshop focused on the current trends in the field of Language Testing and Assessment. Assessment is a process based activity to ensure that a learner is developing his/her learning that continues throughout the daily classroom activities. The trainees were divided in groups to make a student profile having some questions to check the background of students in academics performance and to design the learning environment on the bases of it to expect possible development in the pursuit of the course.

Dr. Stoynoff shared the current practices of Language Testing and Assessment in the USA and some other countries. The trainees were asked to make comparisons between the classroom tests and the standard tests (high stakes tests). The discussion gave us idea about the types of testing in classrooms and beyond classrooms in terms of their procedure of conduction.

stoynoff-3

Nepal has been following the decade-long practiced assessments and tests in all levels of education from nursery to university level for different purposes whereas the other countries have updated their testing mechanism to enhance the ability and strength of the learners. But there is no such standard test for Nepal to check the ability of Nepalese students. We came to realize that there is enough space for ELT practitioners and language experts for research in Nepal to design a standard test to check the ability of our students in Nepal vis-à-vis the students of other countries.

The one-day workshop was an eye opening program for the participants where we got to know the recent trends of language testing and assessment. I, on the behalf of all trainees would like to thank NELTA President Mr. Hemanta Raj Dahal and Ms. Sara Denne-Bolton, Regional English Language Officer (RELO) from Embassy of the USA for providing such an opportunity to discover our strengths as teachers of English language and find our students’ potentialities in learning second language comfortably.

Photos: Umes Shrestha

ganeshdatt

Ganesh Datt Bhatt
Life Member-NELTA Kanchanpur
HimalayanWhiteHouseInternationalCollege, Kathmandu
Email: yrsgdbhatt@gmail.com

 

Towards Multilingual Education in Nepal

Reflections on MLE Conference 2013

Praveen Kumar Yadav

We not only use language for daily communication; we also use language to express our identities and cultures and to represent our lifestyles and communities. So, as we all know, the loss of language is loss of both culture and identity of the community speaking the language. Because communities that lose their languages–and thereby their culture, identity, and pride–also lose their status and confidence in society, the process of language loss often leads to broader and adverse social consequences such as marginalization, poverty and poor health, social evils such as drug abuse, and so on. Hence, it is important to preserve languages in the world, especially the languages of the minority groups.

Those who are ignorant about the value of language diversity tend to believe that communities that adopt a more dominant/mainstream language “gain” new power and opportunity; they even go to the extent of arguing that linguistic minorities shed the burden of multiple languages when they leave behind their local languages. The truth about multilingualism, however, makes such understanding absurd. Language is the key to engagement and therefore to sustainable development. The World Bank Research Report titled “Assessing Aid: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why” (1998) showed that development initiatives that sought beneficiaries’ involvement achieved 68 percent success, while those that did not achieved a success rate of just 10 percent. Engaging with the beneficiaries needs the use of their local languages. Such a linguistic and cultural immersion with the target communities contributes to establish two-way communication for people’s meaningful participation and to adopt bottom up approaches in order to achieve sustainable results. Trying to supplant local languages with outside language (whether that is done for efficiency or in the name of “empowering” local communities) is like trying to make one’s neighborhood greener by cutting down existing trees and planting new ones–or worse.

Language is the key to inclusion and inclusion is a must for democracy. For instance, Nepal being a multiethnic and multilingual country will become a true democratic nation when it fully overcomes more than 250 years legacy of linguistic and cultural discrimination against indigenous and minority groups. It is only possible when children of minority groups are provided with the access to education in their mother tongues. Promoting multilingual education in the country–where minority language communities can build upon their local linguistic, cultural, and knowledge resources even as they learn new languages–is a roadmap for true democracy.

In particular, the promotion of local languages is the key to effective education. Education is a basic human right in international law, widely accepted by governments throughout the world, and language is a medium of instruction as well as a subject matter to achieve the basic human right of expression and self-realization.

MLE Conference in Bangkok

Insights like the above brought together hundreds of educators, linguists, government and civil society delegates and development workers from the Asia Pacific region and beyond at the fourth international conference on language and education recently convened by the consortium of organizations ‘Multilingual Education Working Group (MLE WG)’ in Bangkok, Thailand from Nov 6 to 8, 2013.

Representing a development activist and educationist from Nepal interested in MLE, I attended the conference on the theme ‘Multilingual Education for All in Asia and the Pacific: Policies, Practices and Processes’. The theme was very relevant as it provided a common platform to adopt a common understanding of MLE and its importance in Asian context. This conference did showcase promising practices so as to increase understanding of the importance of expanding access to effective MLE and strengthen the momentum for this issue in the AsiaPacific region. The event did not only determined the factors that enable effective, efficient and sustainable MLE by sharing challenges and lessons learned from current MLE practice but also identified recent policy developments in the Asia-Pacific region. The researches and papers presented in the conference revealed that the role of MLE network and collaboration with the governments, non-government organizations, universities and language association played a significant role in making the government formulate and revise education policies in respective countries and putting the MLE practice into action at schools.

Towards Multilingual Education in Nepal

The research studies and papers on policies and practices towards multilingual education in Nepal occupied a substantial space in the conference. Altogether eight different research studies and papers were presented by Nepalese MLE practitioners, academician and NGO activists. Director General Dr. Lava D. Awasthi from Department of Education, Nepal and profound linguist Prof. Dr. Yogendra Prasad Yadava from Tribhuvan University, Nepal talked on multilingual education in terms of policy manifestations and pedagogical practices in Nepal and MLE policies and practices in Nepal as an appraisal respectively. Both the papers showed the variations, challenges and gaps in MLE practices introduced by Government of Nepal as well as national and international agencies in the country.

Even though Nepal is a multilingual and multiethnic country with 123 languages and more than 103 ethnic communities, children in most ethnolinguistic communities are deprived of basic education in their respective mother tongues. Teaching in unfamiliar languages has hindered cognitive development in the children. Language not only helps promote equality and empowers people but also is a key factor for the social inclusion in ethno-linguistic communities. MTB-MLE is the most important mechanism for achieving the goal of education for all among minority communities. However, the policy adopted by the government is not conducive for such a purpose. Curriculum and textbooks as well as reading materials are not compatible to the socio-cultural setting of the communities. Making these arguments in her paper, Dr. Ambika Regmi from Tribhuvan University concluded her sharing claiming that only appropriate strategies can access to MTB-MLE be guaranteed in all ethno-linguistic communities of Nepal.

Reviewing the education policies addressing minority language use in basic education in Nepal, Pushker Kadel, director of Language Development Centre, an NGO shared the impact on the community, students and teachers of pilot MLE programs initiated by Department of Education in eight languages and MLE projects initiated by I/NGOs. Blending his own experience of MLE initiatives taken by local NGOs and the reported outcomes of the existing MLE projects, kadel made recommendations for effective MLE practices in Nepal.

MLE Practice: Case of Rajbanshi

Pamar Rajbansi from Nepali National Languages Preservation Institute

(NNLPI) an NGO and Kimiko Abe from Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) Nepal presented a case study of a multilingual education (MLE) program implemented in the Rajbanshi speaking areas of Jhapa and Morang in southeast Nepal. This case study showed how a quality MLE program can provide efficiency, effectiveness, and sustainability of education for students who speak non-dominant languages. The case study also illustrated that high quality program can persuade local governments of the value of providing education in the students’ strongest language, creating a sustainable policy and funding environment for MLE program. The three key factors that made the Rajbanshi program successful included community involvement as implementers of the program, child-friendly teaching methods and environment and capacity building and professional development support to the teachers.

Similarly, undertaking another case study of a Rajbanshi medium school in Jhapa of eastern Nepal, Surya Prasad Yadav from Tribhuvan University Nepal shared MLE practices in Nepal through his paper. The findings of his studies showed that children from Rajbanshi-medium school are more motivated towards education and are more regular in class attendance. Owing to the use of the mother tongue, the rate of their dropouts has decreased and there has been a reduction in the number of out-of-school children. Finally, he discussed the ways to address the challenges of MLE practices in that case and further claimed that such a case could be replica for other similar schools in the country.

MLE: A Case of Rana Tharu

The Rana Tharu language spoken by Rana Tharu community, indigenous inhabitants of Kailali and Kanchanpur districts from far western Nepal, is gradually being lost due to dominant language Nepali, which is only medium of instruction used in schools and literacy class. Children from such community face difficulties in education due to Nepali and English being the medium of government and private schools respectively.  Literary rate of the community is lower than that of Nepali-speaking communities. Presenting the above linguistic contexts, Prithivi Chaudhary from Transformation Nepal, an NGO shared another case of MLE practice from Rana Tharu Community, which showed a perspective on language development for the sustainable use of Rana Tharu in schools and literacy classes. The findings carried out from a linguistic survey utilizing participatory tools, informal interviews and observations conducted in Kailali and Kanchanpur in 2012 show that Rana Tharu community lacks access to education, particularly in the mother tongue and lags far behind other Nepali communities in awareness, development and technology.

MLE for Adult Literacy in Nepal: A Case of Lhomi

Literacy programs in rural Nepal are quite common, but practitioners often experience low literacy rates among these rural communities. One difficulty related to literacy programs in Nepal is that many people do not speak Nepali as their first language, but literacy programs are required to teach literacy in Nepali. However, the joint presentation by Yee-may Chan fromSIL Nepal and Chhejap Bhote fromNepal Lhomi Society (NELHOS), an NGO strongly argued that literacy programs are allowed to teach literacy in another language, as long as literacy in Nepali is included at some point. Their paper explained how the Lhomi Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) Adult Literacy program applied principles from MLE programs designed for children to literacy programs for adults. For instance, culturally appropriate mother tongue teaching materials relevant to the participants’ daily lives were created and used; teaching materials used in the classrooms moved from simple to complicated, from known to unknown; the participants’ mother tongue was the medium of instruction. The experience of the program showed that participants mastered basic literacy, numeracy skills, and simple mathematics within five months. Their experience further showed that after participants learned to read in Lhomi, they quickly learned to read Nepali (which uses a similar writing system). Some participants went even further, learning English, which uses a different writing system. The Lhomi program has demonstrated that best practices of language acquisition for children can be relevant for teaching adults as well, a finding that makes the local community, funding partners, and government authorities satisfied.

Alternative models of MTB-MLE for multilingual classrooms in Nepal

The language composition of the local communities in Nepal shows that most of the schools are linguistically diverse, with the presence of two or more languages. And, the mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB-MLE) program with a single mother tongue as medium of instruction fails to ensure equal access to quality education and linguistic rights for all students. Effective implementation of a MTB-MLE program depends on the appropriateness of the model in each school environment. Some innovative strategies have emerged in the multilingual classrooms from the continuous interaction between the principles of MTB-MLE and classroom language situations during the initial phase of program implementation. These strategies shared by Laxman Ghimire from Tribhuvan University, Nepal include development of multilingual textbooks, preparing multilingual teachers and allocation of school hours for each language in the classroom. His sharing added another insight that some other strategies were employed informally, such as policy negotiation and reformulation in the local context. Although these strategies have been emerged in the local context, it can be crucial for the development of an appropriate model of MTB-MLE in the linguistic and sociolinguistic context of Nepal.

Conclusion

Education acquired through mother tongue alongside other languages, which is termed as multilingual education (MLE), is stable, that it greatly bolsters children’s cognitive development, and that it prepares them to face the challenges of real life through education in much more effective ways.  The practice of MLE has shown that it is very useful for addressing global educational challenges like low participation and high dropout rates. The studies have already shown that use of mother tongue has powerful pedagogical and social justifications. Recognizing the profound importance of language for education and development, British Council has recently changed its position to English language teaching with a multilingual framework.

Nepal, where about ten dozen languages are spoken as mother tongue can serve both as opportunities, and by virtue of it being a developing nation with limited resources and sticky political problems, as challenges for the implementation of MLE. Despite of linguistic diversity, Nepali is the sole official language used as the medium of instruction in primary education throughout the country. However, there have been recent initiatives on multilingual education in Nepal’s primary and adult education. The MLE policy is enshrined in the various constitutional and legal provisions in Nepal in relation to MLE-related international laws and human rights obligations. Nepal has recently shifted the monolingual ideologies and established linkage between Nepal’s MLE policies, plans, programs, and interventions and their manifestations in schools. MLE piloting and local-level initiatives have significantly contributed to developing models for MLE expansion and mother tongue based pedagogies in different languages with the focus on creating indigenized materials, setting strategies and processes, and identifying good practices that have shown visible results in multilingual classroom settings.

In the context where community schools are shifting their medium to English from Nepali languages and guardian’s growing tendency of sending their children to English medium private schools, there are a lot of challenges of multilingual education in Nepal. However, the replica of best MLE practices along with local linguistic and cultural immersion, substantial awareness and advocacy at grassroots level and extensive MLE intervention for basic education and literacy class followed by proper joint monitoring by concerned GOs and I/NGOs could be the ways for effective MLE in Nepal.

Acknowledgements: I am grateful to Mahidol University, Thailand and Multilingual Education Working Group (MLE WG) for providing me the scholarship to attend the international conference in Bangkok. I am equally thankful to Plan Nepal for creating conducive environment to attend the event.

Creative Writing for Students and Teachers: Some Practical Ideas

 Alan Maley

UK

 

Writing creatively is a joyful component of learning a language in real life. Creativity, as creative writers have tasted, adds flavor to writing. Many more language teachers might have a rigid mindset because of having had to be bound to the framework provided by syllabi, textbooks, exams, etc. Anyway, they can be hopeful for the change they really wish by introducing at least some elements of creativity in their teaching.

 

There are a number of general points which will help make implementing creative writing activities more likely to succeed:

Try to establish a relaxed, non-judgmental atmosphere, where your students feel confident enough to let go and not to worry that their every move is being scrutinized for errors.

Ensure that the students’ work is ‘published’ in some way. This could be by simply keeping a large notice-board for displaying the students’ work. Other ways would include giving students a project for publishing work in a simple ring binder, or as part of a class magazine. Almost certainly, there will be students able and willing to set up a class website where work can be published. Performances, where students read or perform their work for other classes or even the whole school, are another way of making public what they have done.

Encourage students to discuss their work together in a frank but friendly manner. We get good ideas by bouncing them off other people. Help them establish an atmosphere where criticism is possible without causing offence.

Explain regularly how important accurate observation is, and encourage ‘noticing’ things. They also need to be encouraged to be curious and to follow up with ‘research’ – looking for more information, whether in books, on the Internet or by asking people.

Make it clear that what they do in the classroom is only the tip of the iceberg. To get real benefit from these activities, they need to do a lot of work outside class hours. Most of what we learn, we do not learn in class. You can capitalize on that fact.

Do the activities regularly in order to get the best effects. Maybe once a week is a sensible frequency. If you leave too long between sessions, you have to keep going back to square one. That is a waste of time and energy.

The following are simply a sample of some possible activities:

Hello/Goodbye poems

  1. Tell the class that they are going to write a poem. It will have only two lines, and each line will have just two words. The first line will start with ‘Hello’, the second with ‘Goodbye’.
  2. Give students one or two examples:

 

Hello sunshine,

Goodbye rain.

 

Hello smoking,

Goodbye health.

 

Hello paper,

Goodbye trees.

 

Then, ask if they can think of any new ones. Note them on the board.

  1. Ask students to work in pairs (or alone if they prefer), and try to come up with at least two new poems. Allow 10 minutes for this task.

 

  1. Ask for their examples and put them on the board. Ask students to give feedback on each other’s examples.

 

  1. Collect all the poems. Display them on the class notice-board or upload them onto the class/school website.

The activity is very simple yet it does require students to call on their vocabulary store and to think about words that have a mutual or reciprocal relationship of meanings (smoking/health etc.) If you prefer, this can be used as a short warm-up for other activities.

Stem poems

  1. Explain to students that they will be writing some lines that will fit together into a poem. Then, write up the stem you intend to use. For example: I wish I could…

Elaborate further by eliciting samples of completed sentences, as in these examples:

I wish I could have an ice cream.

 I wish I could speak French.

 I wish I could visit Australia.

 

Then, ask each student to write three sentences following the same pattern.

  1. After about 10 minutes, ask students to work in groups of four and to share their sentences. They should choose six sentences that they think are most interesting and then decide what order to put them in to form a 6-line poem. There is no need for the poems to rhyme but if they do, fine. Lastly, tell them to add one final line, which is: But I can’t.
  2. Ask groups to read their poems aloud to the class. Can they suggest any ways to improve the poems?
  3. Collect all the poems. Display them on the class noticeboard or upload them onto the class/school website.
  4. You can decide on other stems to use in subsequent classes. For example:

 

Loneliness is…

 I used to… but now…

 I love the way…

 Nobody knows…

 Who knows…?

 I don’t know why…

 

It would be a good idea to choose stems that give practice in language points you are working on with the class at that time.

Acrostics

An acrostic poem is based on a word written vertically. The letters then each form the first letter of a word, and all the words are related to the meaning of the original word. For example:

Docile

Obedient

Growling

 

  1. Explain what an acrostic is and write up one or two examples on the board. Then, ask them to write an acrostic based on their own name or the name of someone they know well. The words they choose should somehow describe the person. For example, Vuthy:

 

 V Very

 U Unlikely

 T To

 H Help

 Y You

  1. Collect all the poems. Display them on the class notice-board or upload them onto the class/school website.
  2. Ask students to write at least one more acrostic before the next class. This time, they can choose any word they like (it doesn’t have to be someone’s name). For example:

 

Lying

Everywhere –

Autumn

Falling.

 

Acrostics involve a kind of mental gymnastics that engages students in reactivating their vocabulary in an unusual way. Acrostics do not usually produce great poetry but they certainly exercise the linguistic imagination.

Acknowledgement: Some of the ideas were developed by Tan Bee Tin.

If you were …

  1. First you make copies of this outline:

If I were a fruit, I would be ….

 If I were a vegetable, I would be…

 If I were a tree, I would be…

 If I were a flower, I would be…

 If I were a fish, I would be…

 If I were a bird, I would be…

 If I were a book, I would be…

 If I were a song, I would be…

 If I were the weather, I would be…

 If I were a season, I would be…

 

Then distribute the sheets that you have prepared. Ask students to work individually for about 10 minutes, completing the outline of the poem with words they prefer. For example: If I were a fruit, I would be a grape.

  1. Let students share what they have written in groups of four. Then conduct a class discussion and go through the poems line-by-line, asking for examples of what they have written.

 

  1. Ask students to think of someone they like and to write the person’s name as the title of their poem. They then write a 12-line poem addressed to that person using the following format:

Line 1: describe the person as a kind of food.

Line 2: describe the person as weather

Line 3: describe the person as a tree

Line 4: describe the person as a time of day

Line 5: describe the person as some kind of transport

Line 6: describe the person as an article of clothing

Line 7: describe the person as part of a house

Line 8: describe the person as a flower

Line 9: describe the person as a kind of music/a sound

Line 10: describe the person as something to do with colour

Line 11: describe the person as an animal

The last line should be the same for everyone: ‘You are my friend’.

So, their poem would look something like this:

 

For Sharifa

You are mango ice-cream

You are a cool breeze on a hot day

You are a shady coconut palm

You are dawn

You are a sailing boat crossing the bay

You are my comfortable sandals

You are the sunny verandah

 You are jasmine

 You are a soft gamelan

 You are light blue

 You are a playful kitten

 You are my friend.

 

Metaphor poems

  1. Make copies of this list of words and phrases for use during the class:

Love an egg Hate a tooth brush Disappointment a vacuum cleaner Marriage a spoon Friendship a knife Hope a mirror Life a window Work a cup Time a banana

  1. Check that students know what a metaphor is – a form of direct comparison between two things. Give examples of metaphors in everyday life:

 

  • A blade of grass
  • A sharp frost
  • Spending time
  • Save time
  • Opening up a can of worms
  • She’s a snake in the grass
  • He clammed up
  • He shelled out
  • A wall of silence

In fact, everyday language is so full of metaphorical expressions that we hardly notice them. They have become an accepted way of speaking. Explain that poets make great use of metaphor to make their words more vivid and easier to visualise.

  1. Hand out the sheets. Tell students to write three metaphors by combining one item on the left with another on the right (students will have to join the words using ‘is’). They should not spend time thinking about the combinations. For example:
  • Life is a window.
  • Friendship is a knife.
  • Love is a vacuum cleaner.
  • Marriage is a banana
  • Hate is a mirror.

 

  1. Now, ask them to choose just one of their new metaphors. They should now write two more lines after the metaphor to explain what it means. For example:

Marriage is a banana:

 when you’ve eaten the fruit,

 only the skin is left.

 

 Hate is a mirror:

 it reflects back

 on the one who hates.

 

Tell students not to use ‘because’ as it is unnecessary, and to keep the lines short.

  1. Ask students to share their metaphor poems with the class. Students should then make an illustrated display of their work. Acknowledgement: This idea is adapted from Jane Spiro’s brilliant book, Creative Poetry Writing (OUP)

Now we can have a good start to enjoy learning some ‘real’ language.  Creative writing promotes self-motivation and makes language teaching and learning effortless. You are always curious to find out something and encounter new things and learn them willingly. How interesting this can be! Good luck and happy writing!

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