ICT/Digital Technology in Ghana

 

dr-kofi-ayebi-arthur

Dr Kofi Ayebi-Arthur

Globalisation and rapid technological advancement have created a new economy, which is driven by knowledge. In this regard, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has become undoubtedly the critical enabler of a knowledge-based economy for many nations. It is acknowledged that for Ghana to make any appreciable progress in its socio-economic development efforts, substantial resources will need to be directed at improving educational delivery.  The key role that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can play in widening access to and improving the quality of education at all levels in Ghana continues to be recognised as a key priority area. Essential elements include literacy education, facilitating education delivery and training at all levels, opening opportunities for content creation and open sharing to expand knowledge resources.

For many years, the Government of Ghana has been a signatory to a number of reports, policies and initiatives (international, regional, national and sector). The policies have a  bearing on ICT use within the education sector and have also broadly emphasised the role of education and training in achieving the wider development goals and agenda of the country. The country, therefore,  is implementing an  ICT  in  Education  Policy as a guide to which  ICTs can be exploited under the guidance of the Ministry of Education and its sector stakeholders, in an efficient and coordinated effort to support the education sector’s own goals and operations. As well as, within the framework of the national development agenda, the Ministry of Education has implemented a number of policy and programme interventions that aimed at increasing access and equity and improving the quality of education. That includes, such as the integration of ICT in education to facilitate effective teaching, learning and management through the provision of computer labs, the internet and network connectivity to schools, the supply of laptops to teachers and students, and capacity development of teachers.

The Ghana ICT for Accelerated Development (ICT4AD) Policy has one of the aims to transform the educational system to provide the necessary educational and training services, an environment capable of producing the right types of skills and human resources required for developing and driving Ghana’s information, and knowledge-based economy and society. Thus, the Government of Ghana is committed to a comprehensive programme of rapid development, utilisation and exploitation of ICTs within the educational system from primary school upwards. A strategy implemented as the introduction of computers into all primary, secondary, vocational and technical schools as a result of the educational reforms in 2007. The ICT4AD also seeks to promote electronic distance education, training and virtual learning systems to complement and supplement face-to-face campus-based educational and training systems.

The latest Education Reform 2007 highlights ICTs as an important cross-cutting issue in the sector and seeks to address this through several strategies. The policy initially aims to equip all educational institutions with computer equipment and ICT tools in a prioritised manner and then to implement ICT programmes at the pre-tertiary level in a phased approach. The strategy makes the schools already possessing 15 adequate laboratories and teachers as a base to gradually expand to other schools when ICT equipment and teachers become available.  For this, the policy priorities adequately resourcing computer science and  IT  departments in public tertiary institutions to enable them to produce skilled human capital to meet the requirements of the industry. Within these reforms, it is also expected that the introduction of ICT into schools should cover the teaching of ICT skills to all students, preparing students for the ICT professions and enhancing teaching and learning through ICTs.

ICT & COMPUTER SCIENCE IN SCHOOLS

To facilitate the sustenance of ICT and to create a critical mass of interest in the subject as an important subject in Ghana’s education curriculum, the treatment of ICT at all levels of the school system is of prime significance. To this end, the following policy prescription was proposed under this framework:

  1. a) A subject labelled, as Information & Communication Technology (ICT) shall become a primary subject to be taught from basic to senior high schools in the country. The content of this course shall range from basic appreciation, and hands-on experience from the primary schools to computer literacy and applications use at the senior high school level.
  2. b) For those learners desirous of pursuing further studies at the tertiary level or in specialised professional schools, an elective “Information & Communication Technology” course shall be offered at the Senior High Schools.
  3. c) The content of the ICT general courses at all levels and the Information & Communication Technology course at the Senior High School shall be determined by the Curriculum Research and Development Division, in collaboration with the requisite accreditation bodies including the Universities and Polytechnics to ensure acceptability and admission at the requisite
  4. d) The reclassification of the ICT as core and elective subjects would also need to be discussed with the West African Examinations Council for a suitable timetable to be planned for the conduct of the first examination within an agreed timeframe.
  5. e) There must be a strong teacher development programme instituted to create the mass of professionals to handle the programme. Granted that the ICT field is a high yield area. Teacher retention is expected to be a major challenge because of the generic value of such skills and the high level of expected turnover and migration. It might be especially in the private sector and industry unless specific retention incentives are planned and programmed for those teachers who would be recruited or trained to teach the subjects mainly elective.

ICT has become an important medium for communication and work in a variety of areas. Knowledge of ICT has, therefore, become a prerequisite for learning in schools in the current world. The syllabus for ICT in the primary education (PRIMARY 1 – 6) is designed to predispose primary school students to basic skills in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) so as for building the foundation for further learning in the subject as they move into second cycle education and beyond. The syllabus covers basic topics in ICT and offers hands-on activities and keyboarding skills to build the required ICT foundation. The teaching syllabus for introductory ICT (Junior High School) is designed to provide basic skills in Information and Communication Technology syllabus covers basic topics in ICT and offers hands-on activities that will help students acquire basic skills in ICT. The syllabus is designed to help the pupil learn basic ICT literacy, develop interest and use ICT in learning other subjects, use the Internet effectively for information, follow basic ethics in the use of ICT and acquire keyboarding skills. The syllabus for Information and Communication Technology (CORE) is designed to provide basic skills in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Senior High School (SHS) students. It is expected that the knowledge and skills gained in this course will help students use ICT in almost all their courses at school. The syllabus covers selected basic topics in ICT which offer hands-on activities to help students acquire the required ICT skills for the job market and social interaction in the global village. The students will also apply the skills in solving everyday problems in their academic and social life. The teaching syllabus for Information and Communication Technology (ELECTIVE) is designed to provide advanced skills in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Senior High School (SHS) students. This syllabus has been planned at a higher content level than the ICT content at the Core ICT level. This has been done to equip students with the necessary knowledge and skills for the job market and for pursuing further ICT course.

To give meaning and effect to the stated desire of the Ministry and the Ghana Education Service, Ghana becomes a solid member of the community of nations that have embraced ICT as an integral resource in its educational system. The Ministry shall invest in the effort to ensure that attitudinal deficiencies and non-progressive handling of the ICT phenomenon by persons in authority who (in reality) have no understanding of the subject are highly discouraged. School leaders, teachers, learners and parents alike must be groomed to appreciate the contemporary surge in ICT usage and applications and appropriately groomed to harness the power of ICT for the better and positive advancement of education in Ghana rather than put impediments via uninformed or ill-thought-out regulations. Ghana cannot be a country that claims or intends to compete on an equal footing with others (even if it is a small measure of handicap) if its response strategies to ICT issues end up ultimately creating chasms in knowledge to the detriment of the country.  The teaching of ICT in Ghanaian schools has come to stay, and examinations in the subject are examined at the Basic Education Certificate Examination and at the West African Senior School Certificate Examination.

 Bibliography

Ghana for ICT Accelerated Development (ICTAD) policy June 2003

Ministry of Education ICT IN EDUCATION POLICY, August 2015

 The author: Kofi Ayebi-Arthur is a PhD in e-learning and Digital Technologies. He is a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science Education and Head of Department of Mathematics and ICT Education at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. He teaches both undergraduate and postgraduate courses and supervises undergraduate and postgraduate students’ project work and thesis.

ICT in Bangladesh: A potential tool to promote language education

s-m-akramul-kabir

S M Akramul Kabir

ICT (Information and Communication Technology) is basically an overarching term for all communication technologies that encompasses the internet, web 2.0 tools, wireless networks such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, mobile phones, broadcast devices, and satellite communications. The National information and communication technology (ICT) policy-2009 of Bangladesh affirms ICT as a mandatory means to develop the country economically and socially (Ministry of science and information and communication technology of Bangladesh [MOSICTBD], 2009). The National Education Policy 2010 of Bangladesh also recommended ICT based education for its secondary, higher secondary, and tertiary education to make a uniform platform and to minimise the gap between rural, suburban, and urban students.

The inception of ICT-based education system in Bangladesh will not only hone classroom teaching and learning activities but also will make teaching and learning process happen beyond the classroom, especially, English language learning.  Power and Shrestha (2010) stated that “there is an inter-relationship between English language literacies and ICT literacies” (p.4). To facilitate this process, laptops and multimedia projectors have been subsidised by the present government to 20,500 public and private educational institutions ranging from high school to tertiary level under the project named EFA (Education for all) (Chandan,2014) and all other institutions are in the queue to be subsidised. Eventually, by the end of the year 2021, under the project named “Vision 2021”, the government of Bangladesh has taken the agenda to integrate ICT into all its educational institutes. Among all other foci, the prime objective of the implementation of ICT through this project is to facilitate the teaching and learning process to increase the efficiency of both teachers and learners in the country (Khan, Hasan, & Clement, 2012).

As far as the language teaching and learning are concerned in Bangladesh, integration of ICT can transform dynamism in language education as it has the capacity to improve teachers’ work-design and to increase the engagement of learners and teachers in the learning process by generating a collaborative learning environment. It can facilitate language learning not only in the classroom but also beyond the classroom. It can provide learners with the freedom of place, situation, and time for their learning. Moreover, an ICT-based education system will ensure Bangladesh to face the challenges of this century by equipping its citizen with technical skills for relevant qualifications as well as English language skills for communication competence.

In this connection, to ameliorate its language education through integrating ICTs, the government of Bangladesh has been carrying out a nine-year (2008-1017) project named as English in Action (EIA) funded jointly by UKAID and the government. The primary aims of this project are to make the existing Communicative method efficient for language learning and to improve teaching qualities in the classroom by developing teachers’ pedagogical capacity through the usage of mobile technologies. The government also formulated school-based professional development training for both primary and secondary language teachers using ICTs. According to Shohel and Banks (2010), this sort of training contributed to both communicative English learning and teachers’ professional improvement. English language teachers were provided with media players, preloaded with video and audio language learning resources, along with battery- powered speakers for the use in a classroom. The authors claim that “materials on the iPod touch, especially audios and videos, are impacting on teachers’ personal and professional development” (Shohel & Banks, 2010, p. 5489).

Although the advancement of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has challenged the traditional notion of teaching and learning process, the use of ICTs does not automatically guarantee to ensure quality language teaching and to improve students’ language learning. Bangladesh has both technical and pedagogical challenges to implementing ICT in the language classroom. Although the government is supplying all the technical equipment such as computer, Overhead projectors, and the related accessories, there are still some technical problems that are yet to be addressed to expedite the teaching and learning process through ICT integration. The technical issues include insufficient trouble-shooters for the academic institutions across the country, lack of high-speed internet connection, and frequent power cut problem in rural and suburban areas. The pedagogical challenges in teaching and learning process of language are also significant in number. Firstly, there is a scarcity of teacher-educators with proper pedagogical as well as technological knowledge in the country to train and create tech-savvy teachers for primary, secondary, higher secondary, and tertiary language education. This problem leads to the insufficient influx of technically-sound language teachers to teach the English language with technology in the classroom. Consequently, most of the English teachers in Bangladesh have neither sufficient training on the pedagogy of language (Ali & Walker, 2014) nor training on technology for the teaching of English. However, there are some teachers interested in integrating ICT into their language teaching. It is apparent that they are not attuned to different theoretical frameworks of teaching with technologies, such as SAMR Model or TPACK model to interweave the three essential sources of knowledge – technology, pedagogy and content to an active environment.

Therefore, to get the maximum output of the ICT in the language classroom, Bangladesh has to address both these above mentioned technical and pedagogical issues simultaneously. If the country can sort out these problems, the synergistic effect of ICT and English education will promote its learners to deal with social, economic, and linguistic challenges both at home and abroad where English is a barrier to achieving something.

References

Ali, Md. Maksud & Walker, Ann L. (2014). ‘Bogged down’ ELT in Bangladesh: Problems and policy. English Today, 30 (2), 33-38.

Chandan, Md. S. K. (2014, March 28). A New Bangladesh. The daily Star. Retrieved from http://www.thedailystar.net/a-new-bangladesh-17482.

Khan, Md. S. H., Hasan, M., & Clement, C. K. (2012). Barriers to the introduction of ICT into Education in developing countries: the example of Bangladesh. International Journal of Instruction, 5 (2), 61- 80.

Ministry of science and information and communication technology, Bangladesh. (2009). The National information and communication technology (ICT) policy-2009. Retrieved from http://www.btrc.gov.bd on 03 January, 2016.

Power, T. & Shrestha, P. (2010). Mobile technologies for (English) language learning: An exploration in the context of Bangladesh, presented at IADIS International Conference: mobile learning 2010, 19-21 March, Porto, Portugal. Retrieved from http://oro.open.ac.uk/20800/1/IADIS_Conference_Mobile_Language_Learning_Power_&_Shrestha_2010.pdf

Shohel, M. M. C. & Banks, F. (2010). Teachers’ professional development through the English in Action secondary teaching and learning programme in Bangladesh: Experience from the UCEP schools. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2, 5483–5494.

The author: Mr. S M Akramul Kabir is an Assistant Professor of English, Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, Ministry of Education in Bangladesh. He is also a PhD Candidate in the College of Education, Health and Human Development, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

My Experience Using Digital Technology in Primary School

ambadatta-joshi

Ambadatta Joshi

Along with the new rising sun, there are new developments in science and technology. More than that in the sector of education, digital technology is being the focus for all the schools. All the students and guardians are attracted toward the school where there is the use of digital technology.

While telling my experience of learning basic letters of English and Nepali, I learned to read and write on ‘Dhulauto’ (a small wooden board with spread dust on it used to write with a little stick, erase and rewrite). My teacher used to catch my hand and get me to write the basic letters on the board. Gradually, I used ‘Kamero’ (made of white mud and water) and then ‘Khari’ (soft white stone) to write on pati (a wooden board). Gradually, I came to use ink that was developed by fermenting locally available particular tree leaves in boiling water and filtering with a piece of cotton cloth. The pen was made of Nigalo (a particular type of bamboo found in the hills and mountains). For writing, I used to use Nepali paper locally made because my father used to develop it at home out of a kind of bush plant to write horoscope of people. Nowadays, these pens and paper are not utilised in the schools.

Those days, students were quite afraid of English teacher with no reason. They used to be rather happy when the English teacher was absent. In English lessons, we used to write the pronunciation of all the words under the line in Nepali so that we could ready easily and correctly. This was the situation and feeling toward English language and English teacher when I was a student in a primary school.

Nowadays, where there is the use of digital technology in English period, it is entirely different than those days. In my own school, OLE Nepal has provided 42 XO-laptops (E-pati) for the students that we use to teach English as well as other subjects. The lessons and activities those are available in E-pati are designed to obtain class-wise and subject-wise goals of education. There are audio-visual materials that help teachers and students in teaching and learning activities.

We have e-library (local server) that contains over six thousand digital books in Nepali and English. Those reference books help the children as well as teachers gain extra knowledge about various local and global activities. Even the high school and campus near the school take advantage of this school e-library. This has developed good habits of reading in the children.

Nowadays, the teachers feel abnormal without digital technology in their teaching and learning in our school. I can say that the schools which have got this technology are lucky. In my case, this has brought a huge difference in teaching English. The technology has cultivated energy in my profession. This has provided more opportunities for the children to practise their lessons and given relief for me in the classroom. When the children have some problems, I facilitate them in their activities. Since we got this technology, this has decreased the burden of gathering several teaching materials and saved teachers’ time as it contains several audio-visual materials for teaching and learning. The animated pictures in e-paath (an application that includes course books) have decreased my unnecessary lecture in the classroom. Various videos about wild animals, the universe, internal body parts, baby growth, development of plan out of the seed, etc. have made classroom teaching and learning very effective. Use of the technology has developed a mind of both the children and the teachers. This has become very supportive in engaging the students in the absence of a teacher in the school.

The technology in the school has gradually made the guardians feel ownership of the school’s property. Their positive response toward the change in teaching and learning with the new technology has made the teachers more responsible. They feel pride that their children are learning with new technology which they had never seen before three years. The digital technology has encouraged them to further develop the school.

The use of new technology has increased the number of students and decreased the drop-outs from the school. The children learn singing, dancing, playing games and other activities by watching videos on the devices. They freely select various digital books like poetry, stories, etc. for reading or drawing pictures. The most important aspect the technology has developed in the children is learning interest.

I wish all other schools will get this technology to bring change in their teaching and learning activities. Otherwise, this will increase digital divide between the schools and children. In the end, the teachers should be well-trained to use such digital technology in their instructional activities to improve teaching and learning and to achieve educational goals.

The author: Ambadatta Joshi teaches at Shree Kalika Primary School, Sunkuda, Bajhang

ICT in English Language Teaching and Learning: South-East Asia

In this blog piece, Upendra Ghimire from Nepal discusses on the some practical ideas of using mobile in English language learning whereas Thinh Le from Vietnam shares his teaching experiences in using technology from blended learning to fully online.

Mobile in English language learning

Upendra Ghimire

The new millennium has come up with various scientific inventions and technological developments. As soon as the 21st century began, the world experienced the rapid evolution of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the maximum use of those technologies in business, education and other fields. The various information technologies such as computer, tablet, mobile, television and other smart devices have been fundamental things in academic, business and personal life of growing generation people. More than just the digital devices, web 2.0 technologies have shifted the way of communicating information with each other from one part of the world to another. Nepal is also one of the fast-developing countries in ICTs. Among different smart devices, the mobile phone is the most portable digital device readily available for reasonable prices in Nepal. The early August 2016 record shows that 95 percent of the total population of the country have telecommunication access. The number of internet subscribers crossed 50.11 percent of the total population. Mobiles have gradual influence in English language development in Nepal. The use of English language to access and record the information on the devices has continuous influence in English language development in Nepal. Thus, the mobile can be a potential digital device to teach and learn English. In this article, I am trying to suggest some advantages of mobile in English language learning.

Mobile assisted language learning (MALL): There are several pedagogical reasons of considering the mobile in second language classroom. Kukulska-Hulme and Traxler (2005) elucidate why smart mobiles are comparatively more useful devices to learn the English language. They explain that these smart devices are relatively cheap in price and increasingly powerful to support teaching and learning the English language.

Nowadays the children are familiar with various types of smart mobiles. They use the devices, play with them and enjoy playing with different apps on the devices. The technology has provided them with an opportunity of learning several things beyond the classroom teaching and learning.

Some practical ideas to use mobile phones:

  1. Pronunciation practice: Pronunciation is the beauty of speaking and one of the aspects of language. Therefore, we focus on this aspect of language in language teaching classroom to develop communicative competency. The smart features of mobile can be supportive to develop pronunciation skills of English language. The learners can record their voice, listen to their record and native speaker’s voice, and practise consistently to improve their pronunciation. The English language learners can use English dictionary app to practice vocabulary, open YouTube to watch English language videos and practice English speaking. Besides, the students can watch television channels such as BBC, CNN and more on their mobile sets to improve English pronunciation.
  2. Capturing class notes by using the mobile camera: The learners can use mobiles to capture the pictures and record the audio-visual materials. These features can support English language learners to develop their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.
  3. Downloading Materials: Smart mobiles can work like computers to download digital files, save web information and read them in flexible time. For instance, mobile with internet access provides an opportunity for downloading e-books, journals, software, games and useful apps for learning English.
  4. Using note features: Note application on smart mobiles can be helpful to write various notes of meetings, classroom lecture, textbook or personal interaction.
  5. Using mobile games to develop critical thinking skills: Various mobile games such as crossword puzzle, Scrabble, hanging man, vocabulary and so on can support the English language learners to improve their English with entertainment.

Problems encountered by ELT practitioners while using mobile:

  • Lack of internet access
  • Privacy issue
  • Noisy classroom
  • Monitoring individual students
  • Requirement of highly-skilled teachers

Conclusion

Mobile as a portable smart device can support English language learners to improve their English and the teachers to involve students in language practice. It is a relatively cheap and powerful digital tool useful to practice the English language in the classroom as well as personal life. However, it requires the teachers to have high-level skills to purposefully use in classroom teaching.

Reference

Kukulskal- Hulme, A, & J. Traxler eds.2005. Mobile Learning : A hand book for educators and trainers. London: Routledge.

 Introduction to Digital Tools for Teaching and Learning Online

thinh-le

Thinh Le

In this entry, some digital tools are introduced first. Then I will share my teaching experiences in using technology from blended learning to fully online.

There are a variety of digital tools that you can use to teach English. Here are some digital tools that I have experienced and found them quite convenient and effective to use.  First, it is important to set up a learning management system where you can stimulate your students’ interactions with you and their peers. This can be closed Facebook group or Edmodo. Then questions relating to your post can motivate students’ interaction online. If you want to make videos explaining the lesson, PowerPoint can be a useful tool because it is very easy to use and you can have good quality videos. After that, these videos should be uploaded to the learning management systems with guided questions for students to watch and do their work before the online interaction. To have online interactions with students, Zoom and Skype can be very useful tools for you. Both of them allow group call in which you can have interactions with many students at the same time. Besides, you can share your screen while you are calling your students, so you can explain the lessons easily. It enables you to do all kinds of teaching. For collaborative writing, I think Google Docs is magnificent. Just create a link to a Gmail account and let your students join in the game page so that they can write together under your supervisions and their peers.

I would like to share my experiences about using technology from blended learning to fully online class. I used to teach a group of students in Vietnam. They are hard-working, active and highly motived to learn English for communication.  They were in grade 10 and lived in the remote area where there was no linguistic environment outside the classroom. Besides, it was really hard for them to find a good language centre to study English. In addition, high school teachers in Vietnam mainly focused on grammar. Therefore, these students were unable to communicate after 8 years learning English at school. They wished to learn English for communication, so I opened tutorial classes for them. However, we did not have enough time in the class, so I decided to set up a closed Facebook group to give them some extensive practices especially listening and speaking. I used all authentic materials from YouTube or British Council Broadcast to upload on the closed Facebook group and designed some tasks for them to do online. When one student uploaded his/her work in the group, other students started commenting, which created many discussions and stimulated their critical thinking. In the class, I gave them feedback about the homework they did. That saved us a lot of time in the class, so we could have more discussions in the class. Unfortunately, I had to go to New Zealand to do my PhD, and I could not help them anymore. However, they still wished me to help them improve English. That motivates me to carry out fully online teaching.

Here are my experiences in teaching online classes. My students and I have great online discussions. I set up a group of students on Edmodo by inviting them through emails. Then I post the tasks which can be written, audio, video posts. I can create these materials, or I sometimes use authentic materials online. More importantly, I create activities with the tasks so that my students can do when they watch the videos or read the post. The tasks can be multiple choice questions, open-ended questions, or free writing. Through Edmodo, I just set up a deadline so that my students know when they have to finish their tasks. For multiple questions, Edmodo even marks my students’ work, and I can see the results easily. To engage more students to have more discussions online, I ask my students to comment on at least two other people’s posts. Therefore, after the post, it is really interesting with all asynchronous discussions online. During the online meeting with my students, I can give them some feedback and have more conversations with them via Skype. If I have my students’ works, I usually put them on Google Docs and give them feedback so that all my students can see them carefully. Please try all these digital tools for your teaching and share your experiences.

The authors:

Upendra Ghimire teaches English at Gramin Adarsha Multiple campus, Nepaltar, Kathamndu.

Thinh Le is a lecturer of English at Vietnam Banking Academy, Phu Yen Branch, Vietnam and he is also a PhD Candidate in College of Education, Health and Human Development, University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

The Seven Years Journey of ELT Choutari: Reflections

As ELT Choutari enters into eighth year, Choutari editor Ashok Raj Khati has talked to Dr. Balkrishna Sharma, Narendra Singh Dhami, Praveen Kumar Yadav and Dr. Shyam Sharma, to reflect back its seven years journey. They have  put their voices in light with the contribution of ELT Choutari to local and global ELT discourses too.

Dr. Bal Krishna Sharma, a founding member of Choutari

13173997_10209640185584950_7635820056705789107_nI would like to comment mainly on two points when reflecting back the Choutari’s seven years. First, Choutari has been able to groom a new generation of scholars capable of writing on topics they have read about in others contexts or learned in their university classrooms. We did not have a stronger tradition of academic writing in TESOL and applied linguistics in the context of Nepal in the past. The Journal of NELTA was there, but young Nepali scholars did not consider themselves qualified enough to write for the journal. I had a similar view when I completed my M. Ed. In 2003. There still is a popular assumption that only experienced ‘scholars’ write for the journal, and the younger scholars are positioned in the receiving end of the journal readership. Since the starting of this webzine, this assumption has been questioned, renegotiated and redefined. I can see a whole lot of new scholars turning themselves into academic writers with greater confidence, refined skills, and thoughtful pedagogical tips. Second, the traditional mode of printing and publication in Nepal reached only to a small group of readers, usually with a long time gap. Consider, for example, the NELTA journal we have. It includes a collection of homegrown scholarship, but we have to wait for one year to read about ten or so articles. Webzine like the ELT Choutari has again challenged the tradition, expanding its reach to a wider audience, with a large number of readable articles. This again has promoted a new generation of writers and readers, who necessarily are not the university professors.

Regarding the contribution of Choutari, I was reading the latest issue of Choutari before I wrote this paragraph. This issue largely reflects how Choutari has been able to address both local and global concerns in the field of ELT. Lal Bahadur Bohara, for example, brings voices of English teachers from the far-western region. I was intrigued by Lal Bahadur’s observation that teachers in the region do not only question the Western decontextualized cultural content in English lessons, they also question the so called ‘localized’ content in textbooks and contents written and produced by Nepali writers. This article reminds me of an onion metaphor used in language policy research, highlighting that language policy is like an onion reconciled in several layers, processes and levels. So is the issue of culture: it operates in multiple levels, and national dominant cultures may not serve as a local culture in all the contexts. Lal Bahadur’s blog post is one representative examples from Choutari with regard to how Nepali young scholars have tried to raise and redefine the ‘local’ in language teaching, questioning and challenging some dominant traditions in our field.

Another article from the same issue that connects the local with the global is by Sujit Wasti. Sujit aptly uses the metaphor of McDonaldization by sociologist George Ritzer to take account of the impact of globalization on the local, including language and the environment. This was fascinating for me because ELT has not paid much attention to the discourses and concerns of the environment in pedagogical contexts. It makes sense to address the concerns of climate change and environmental degradation, which are equally local and global, in our policies and practices.

When the local voices and issues are narrated and circulated to a global audience through the internet on ELT topics that matter to people around the world (e.g. critical pedagogy, teaching tips, ELT humor, literacy, and many more), this is as an evidence that Choutari is both local and global.

Narendra Singh Dhami, teacher at Khimti Project school, Kirne, Dolkha

I have been reading the Choutari Khurak since its first issue published in 2009. I found that the blog posts are very useful resources for me and my fellow teachers. As its name suggests, it offers different tastes and colours on teaching strategies and activities as well as theoretical insights for professional development.

We have formed a group of five teachers in our school to discuss on the posts of each new issue of ELT Choutari. We often save the published articles from the website and discuss on each post among us. We also apply the best strategies and current trends of ELT approaches mentioned in our real classroom teaching situation. Some articles are truly inspirational, some are insightful to new teaching strategies and some are really research based too. The Choutari teaches us on how to grow  professionally in the remote parts of the country. And, of course, Choutari has broadened the horizon of ELT discourses in such remote area where it is quite difficult to get textbooks in time. The varieties of posts in each issue of Choutari always reenergize me to improve my teaching practices. I shall be much glad to read some posts on child psychology and motivational stories in the days to come. I am so grateful to the editorial board for providing me an opportunity to reflect on ELT Choutari.

Praveen Kumar Yadav, an editor of Choutari

As ELT Choutari enters into 8th year, we would like to thank our valued contributors and readers for their continued support. The ELT journey without their support was never possible to accomplish seven years. The ELT Choutari today has won acclaim for its commitment to contributing to discourses focused on various issues related to English Language Teaching and Education.

Generally speaking, the past causes the present, and so the future. Looking into the origin of Choutari, the web magazine was started as a wiki collaborative project in January 2009 to supplement the ELT conversations that have been going on for many years within the mailing list of NELTA. In order to make accessible to such ELT conversation by the rest of the ELT community outside NELTA (here’s what one member wrote in the original “about” page), ELT Choutari was initiated.

First initiated by Ghanashyam Sharma (Shyam), who was accompanied by Bal Krishna Sharma and Prem Bahadur Phyak, this networking initiative had six core moderators (Sajan Kumar Karn, Kamal Poudel, and Hem Raj Kafle joined later) from 2009-2012. Then, this initiative is being continued by a team of young ELT practitioners and scholars. They believe that we can develop very useful and probably most relevant intellectual/professional resources for the Nepalese ELT community and those interested through a discussion forum like this.

So far, more than 500 posts has been published by ELT Choutari, followed by more than 1000 comments over the past seven years. Our journey over the past seven years did not remain smooth. Our journey began with challenges, continued with the same and they exist even today. For instance, in the beginning of our journey we embraced challenges when internet and blogging was much exposed in Nepal and ELT community. Even today, challenges are ahead as we look for ELT enthusiasts to come and joins us for the mission.

Amid challenges, we chose to remain optimist to see them as the opportunity for us, just like Winston S. Churchill’s saying, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” We are driven by our courage and willingness to change. We never pretend that nothing has happened or we are not ready to move ahead.

Dr. Shyam Sharma, a founding member of Choutari

I think Choutari has made unique contributions to Nepali ELT discourse. The community had a great journal, and we also had an active listserv; but we wanted to provide colleagues a place to share ideas that was more public/open and interactive, where especially younger colleagues could contribute their ideas and experiences and run conversations. Many scholars who chose to run this blogzine also had the opportunity to practice publication and leadership skills while serving the profession. This publication has slowed down a little bit, but I am confident that new scholars will take the baton forward. In fact, I also hope that more venues like this will emerge and make new kinds of contributions to the field of ELT in Nepal.

The few colleagues who started this journey would have never imagined that hundreds of scholars, including scholars from around the world, would contribute to this venue–nor that new local voices would join and develop like they did. Thinking about how we started the initial conversation (by putting some of our email conversations in the more open platform of a wiki) is just humbling. The first set of editors (Prem Phyak, Bal Krishna Sharma, and me) took a few important steps in the journey, but we never imagined the many new areas that new colleagues would go on to cover, new ideas they would implement. Just the number of posts and comments and the generation of ELT scholars at home who have participated in the conversation through Choutari is truly inspiring.

As a reader, I urge other readers to read and share the good work here, to contribute as writers, and to consider leading the venue. And I thank the colleagues who are running it today and tomorrow.  ​

Peripheral Classrooms: Reflections of English Teachers in Nepal

In community schools, teaching and learning of English has always been taken as a ‘difficult’ task. Teachers and students confess that it is a difficult subject to teach and learn respectively.  As a teacher, do we reflect on our own classes? Do we ask ourselves how are our classes going? Reflection upon our own classrooms certainly assists us to improve our pedagogical practices.

In this connection, our Choutari editor, Ashok Raj Khati has asked to five English teachers to reflect on their own English classrooms from different regions of Nepal. In the context of English language teaching, they briefly express their ideas in relation to resources, participation of students, use of English and L1, their best practices in English classroom and challenges they face.The five secondary level English teachers are: Babu Ram Basnet (Solukhumbu) Chandra Singh Dhami (Ramechhap), Kamal Raj Basyal (Palpa),  Durga Prasad Pandey (Dang) and Khagendra Nath ‘Biyogi’ (Bajhang).

562665_685671534783323_943408360_nBabu Ram Basnet                                                     Mahendrodaya Secondary School, Salyan, Solukhumbu

Teaching English is not always a fun but it is a very tough job in this part of country. We do not have enough resources, like the internet and other supportive materials, to facilitate English language teaching. Therefore, students do not get enough and authentic exposure in English. I have to read out listening text myself as we do not receive cassettes in time. There are 65 students in grade 10, which is a large classroom in our context. In the same way, the large classrooms are a barrier to many participatory activities. There are many activities to be done and performed by students such as drama, simulation, games and role plays. I am not able to do all these in such a large class which ultimately affect their learning achievement.

Students come from different socio- cultural and economic backgrounds, they usually speak in Nepali language among them. They are generally good in writing but hesitate to speak in English. They have fear to lose face among their friends if they commit any mistakes. So that, I am not satisfied with their fluency in English. To some extent, I am applying traditional method while teaching English. It is often challenging to correct their home assignments in a class of 45 minutes. I use group and peer correction technique several times. I conduct class test in regular interval to know how they are doing. The most challenging part of my teaching is developing speaking skill on the part of students.

15174624_1208623562564901_1405021138_nChandra Singh Dhami                                                       Manthali Higher Secondary School, Manthali, Ramechhap

My classroom in tenth and ninth grades are large, which contains the students with mixed ability. Likewise, students come from diverse socio-cultural and linguistic backgrounds. We have a ‘media’ hall equipped with different facilities such as internet, speakers, tape recorder, dictionary and projector. I often make them watch movies, biographies of poets, popular TV show and show activities related to English language learning. For instance, while teaching English sounds, I often download native speakers’ accent for them to practice. I regularly conduct unit and monthly test. It provides me timely feedback on the areas to improve. We have cassette players, charts and other daily use materials. Students sometimes prepare charts in different lessons.

Majority of students try to speak in English in the classroom. I often use group work and drilling. I make them write in group as a process writing. Students also speak in Nepali language particularly when they do not understand reading texts. I encourage them to speak in English even outside the classroom. Students also take part in speech and debate competitions. I use shorter expression. Even if, students have positive motivational orientation towards English, I am still not satisfied with the progress. Many students do not have same pace in learning English and it can’t be. However, the challenge for me is to cope the students with different levels of English language proficiency.

15239253_735504923267147_1974166001_nKamal Raj Basyal                                                                 Krishna secondary school, Peepaldada-Jheskang, Palpa

There are 56 students at grade 10 in my school which accommodates 29 girls, 26 students from Magar community and 5 from Dalits. Three language use can be observed there in the classroom – Magar, Nepali and English. They are from low income and mostly from middle class families. Their socio-cultural background is not much trouble for me while teaching English as they have positive motivational orientation toward learning English. Likewise, we have whiteboards, electricity, audio-tape/cassette players and necessary charts in English in the classroom. But, we do not have the internet facility in school.

I have found that my students are active in different learning activities in English class where I try my best to use English only and inspire them to use it. I believe it maximizes exposure in English. Next I have generated weekly discussion on certain topics related to the course. In regular interval, I conduct several contests like debate, spelling and quiz in English. Regarding teaching technique, I generally use group and pair work and role plays to facilitate English language learning. I also encourage them to go to library and read books. Therefore, teaching English has always been a fun for me. I am satisfied with their progress. I specially enjoy teaching grammar and vocabularies. However, I often find myself challenged while teaching listening and free writing. So I need to be well prepared to deal with listening and writing activities.

1931541_925213197563390_775367134454601593_nDurga Prasad Pandeya                                               Padmodaya Public Model Secondary School, Ghorahi, Dang

I work in a government funded school having the classes from grade 1 to 12. It has around 87 classes and 5, 000 students. Generally, the student- teacher ratio is one to 50-78 students. Therefore, we teach in large classes. We have irregular internet access and the multimedia projector is only in the audio visual room and students have very less access to them. We also have a smart board but there is no skilled man power to operate it but white boards are available in each room. Teachers make charts and posters for the upper classes and use printed charts the lower/primary classes.

When I reflect on my English classes, my students work very happily in pair and groups particularly to practice speaking skills and some project based tasks. Many of them are found excited and interested to work in group or pair but a few are found reluctant to do all these activities and they prefer individual tasks. I instruct them both in English and Nepali languages. I particularly need to use Nepali as they understand me and are unable to respond in English. They are also not encouraged to converse in English. Another challenge of teaching English is being unable to create English speaking environment in school, which is the result of the low exposure of English in lower classes. It eventually affects their performance in upper classes.

11178286_1427707574212674_9151478527758031773_nKhagendra Nath ‘Biyogi’                                                   Bhairab Higher Secondary School, Jhota, Bajhang

I as an English teacher in this rural area, find myself encouraged in the recent years. Although the classroom is large, we have some minimum resources to facilitate English language class such as tape recorders, computers and other necessary materials. They are taken to computer room to play various language games. Similarly, I make use of laptop and the internet in the classroom. Students prepare charts of CVs, wild life reserve, language functions and so on inside the classroom. There are many different charts in schools, student make use of them in English class in different ways. Many of them use Nepali language inside the classroom. However, I inspire them to speak English. Every day, I ask them a question (as a part of general knowledge), related to English and they enjoy it very much. (For instance, how many words can you make from the word ‘examination’?). I also conduct quiz, debate and speech competition. Regarding the participation of students, they normally work in group and pair. Students are always invited to the front of the classroom to work or present the task assigned. Few students also feel shy to do so.

In the same way, I am selective on using methods and techniques in my ELT classes. Most importantly, I reflect back on my classroom activities to figure out what is working and what is not. Students are found improving the skills of English language these days. It might be the result of increased exposure of English through technology and social media. Another important activity that I do is to visit students’ parents (nearby school) once a week. I talk to them about their children’s progress. While talking with them, I figure out four types of students – outstanding, excellent, good/average and low achiever. The most challenging task for me is to teach and work with the low achievers. Some of them cannot read and write properly. Therefore, it is always challenging to find the strategies to support them.

Choutari team sincerely acknowledge teachers who shared their valuable reflections in this interactive article. They have particularly highlighted the diverse pedagogical practices and issues while teaching English in peripheral parts of Nepal. Now, we request you to feel free to share your thoughts and reflections after reading these reflections here.

Are we at the Verge of Collapse?

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Sujit Wasti

In this blog post, I attempt to examine the role of globalization in relation to the economy, language and natural environment.

Civilized man was nearly always able to become master of his environment temporarily. His chief troubles came from his delusions that his temporary mastership was permanent. He thought of himself as “master of the world, while fully failing to understand the laws of nature. Tom Dale and Vernon Gill Carter has mentioned in ‘Topsoil and Civilization’ – man whether civilized or savage, is a child of nature- he is not the master of nature. He must conform his actions to certain natural laws if he is to maintain his dominance over his environment. When he tries to circumvent the laws of nature, he usually destroys the natural environment that sustains him. And when his environment deteriorates rapidly, his civilization declines.

With this backdrop, I first attempt to examine the globalization with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) based economic growth in the light of its aberrations and practical consequences. Let me begin with an example. We are trying to purify the Bagmati River in Kathmandu which was once a natural source of water for people dwelling in this valley. Over the years, population swelled in multifold along with the drive for urbanization, with the capital and technology – the drivers of globalization. Then water shortages ensued. Now, we are trying to turn the natural course of Melamchi River in order to fulfill the need of drinking water in Kathmandu. I have three unanswered questions in this process – first, isn’t it something like robbing Paul to pay Peter? Second, do we know the long-term impact of changing natural course of a river? Third, Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL) is the water distributing company in Kathmandu. Is it profitable for it to take care of the drinking need of other species in the valley because the river accessible to them is completely destroyed by human beings? If we extend the above example in international context we get the clear picture of what globalization is.

The present economic model is the more we consume, the more it helps to increase the GDP.   Cyclical consumption model is threatened by its negative impacts in the society such as resource depletion, water and air pollution, and destruction of natural habitat. At the one hand, this economic model has completely overlooked the impacts on other species (other than human beings) and natural environment around us. On the other hand, this model ends up storing or developing weapons of mass destruction as the result of so-called economic success because we are obsessed with power. Furthermore, the growing inequality created by the competitive model of business has no human face (Economic Development for general people is not only for the owners-inequalities produced by current economic model). For instance, the unemployment generated by automation which contributes to continuous wastages of natural resources. Throughout the human history we have never been out of war and natural calamities aggravated by human beings. I wonder why this so-called intelligent specie is always the source of destruction and I think we are at the tipping point once again.

The second example I am citing here shows the flip side of specialization. Nepal Government is developing a few eastern districts as a bucket area for the cultivation of cardamom. The farmers are being lured to planting cardamom replacing their regular food products in those remote areas. They have cash from sales of high value crops, but they have to depend on transportation (one of the main sources of globalization) of foods from other areas for their regular diet. It shows the flip side of specialization as there are two problems associated with specialization of agriculture sectors. The first is the issue of food security as it destroys the local food chain and the second is the value gap created by the change of consumption pattern as they have no local food. Further, the consumption of products of multinationals is normally known as increasing living standards or modernization.

When we turn into language and culture, MCDonaldization and mass productions are replacing local cultures and languages leading to acute poverty because the most local businesses depend on local culture. The rhetoric behind skill gap is clearly intended to further destroy the local and traditional businesses. The English speaking local students are being turned into international labor completely ignoring their need and contributions to the development of local society. English as a foreign language should be taught in the schools and colleges but, is it necessary to replace the native languages from schools in the name of English medium only? This one-sided language domination is clearly a long –term burden to the western societies because sooner or later they would realize that these half-caste (new breeds having desire to live in two worlds i.e. Anglicized vs. localized) English speaking generation cannot get jobs in western societies in the name of globalization.

The theoretical impossibility of globalization lies in its illogic that we have to create a global market. That means every country has power or right over the resources of the whole planet in order to supply stuffs all over the world. For example, As Nepal is known as a suitable tourist spot she has to build infrastructures to accommodate tourists of the whole world by being competitive. However the question that remains unanswered is – how much is adequate?

The whole concept of state welfare function is built on false premises which started after the French Revolution with enlightenment or rational thinking as means of modernization. But it ignored the relationship between human being and the natural environment and led people to believe that man can be independent of the plants and food or the nature. Diamond Jared in his book ‘Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed’ mentioned that the climate change is not a new phenomenon and lists out the eight factors (deforestation and habitat destruction, soil problems, water management, overhunting, overfishing, effects of introduced species on native, overpopulation, and increased per-capita impact of people) that led to the collapse of past societies. He further added four other factors (anthropogenic climate change, buildup of toxins, energy shortages, and full human use of earth’s photosynthetic capacity) which may contribute to the collapse of present and future societies. All factors are the roots of destruction of natural environment.

We have had enough experiences that the apogee of highly industrialized state is to start decaying. We have observed the pre-eminent symptoms of collapsing civilization. None of the governments has choices to take unpopular decisions such as developing its own economic systems or to choose only those technologies which are sustainable considering its local economic, social and cultural environment. Climate change and inequalities are major concerns of almost all countries but we have not been able to address it in its entirety.

Mr. Wasti  works for Rural Education and Environment Development Center (REED Nepal), Pulchock Lalitpur in the capacity of the finance manager.

Teacher, Teacher Education and ELT: Changing with the Time

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Dear Choutari readers,

In the midst of long silence because of technical and other issues, we are back with the special issue of ELT Choutari. This is the second issue of this year which focuses on several aspects of ELT. Before listing out the blog entries of this issue, let me reflect on my experience and observation on some aspects of ELT.

I am fortunate to observe hundreds of English lessons in the past two years in rural parts of Nepal. My experience of working with teachers in schools and training venues in diverse topography and culture in Nepal has shown that many teachers are still facing challenges in lesson delivery process. ‘Fresh’ university graduates who have ‘successfully’ completed pre-service teacher education program have been unable to deliver English lesson really effectively though having authorized license to teach.

Then where is the problem? In my opinion, the problem lies in the way we perceive a language, our profession (ELT) and the meaning of language teaching. The problem lies on how we make sense of a language to be taught as a course, the language to be used as a medium of instruction and the content to be taught (if it should be).

Every human being makes sense of the world differently. They obviously have their own ideas, concepts and perceptions towards overall meaning of language teaching. In this light, I have similar observations as Rebecca Reymann, a contributor of this issue has, in many parts of the country. We as teachers are investing our effort in memorization. I agree with her in a way ‘language is a beautiful tool for expression’. It has to be taught in a context differently in different grades but not through memorization. Every child is unique and he/she does not get success in language learning through the same route. The children have their own perspectives toward the language, language learning process and the world. In the same way, they have their own ability to grasp language.

So far we talk about ELT as a teaching profession, many of us might have different explanations for this choice. Samita Magar, another contributor, decided to pick ELT simply because she is influenced by her teacher when she was in school. She finds this profession more creative and respectable than others. It shows that the identity of English teacher is perceived differently by different people. In the past, to some extent teachers had an uniform identity. They were considered priests, the messenger of Gods and the personalities with high morale. In the east, this sort of identity is still in existence to some extent. However, the overall observation of English teachers’ identity has been changing with time. It is witnessed at present that there is no uniform opinions and beliefs why a person chooses ELT as a profession.

Likewise, as the time has changed in the way we teach children, the way teacher educators and trainers facilitate training sessions has been changing. The focus has been shifted to the achievements of the students along with the teacher learning. Ekraj Koirala, a teacher trainer, recently experienced a better way through school based teacher training modality in Nepal. Teachers have different expectations and challenges in their own contexts. In this regard, the same cascade model may not be appropriate in all cases.

At the same time, the approaches of teacher education in universities and academic institutions have been changed. Distance and open learning system have been introduced by several universities to prepare teachers. Similarly, private schools have different requirements for recruiting teachers and government has its own. Kiran Thapa, a scholar from Kathmandu University, discusses issue of certification and licensing of English teachers in Nepal. She highlights the significance of certification and licensing to maintain minimum standards and add quality in education.

Another changing dimension in public education is the shift towards English medium instruction from Nepali. Choutari editor Jeevan Karki has spoken with Juliet Fry, a teacher educator, who emphasized the continuity of multilingual approach in Nepal. She has strongly articulated her voice over the significance of Nepali, English and other local languages to generate economy, and to preserve the identity and culture of Nepal, which calls for a balanced approach and multilingual education.

Similarly, there has been a great shift in testing system.  From this year, the government has introduced letter grading system to assess SLC graduates and different forms of letter grading system was already in practice in school education. With reference to testing of English language, Shyam Sharma in a blog piece, states that monolingual tests don’t predict overall academic performance by multilingual students.

To sum up, the perceptions and practices in teaching profession, teacher education and ELT pedagogy have been changing with time. Here is the list of posts in this issue:

  1. School Based Teachers Training: My Experience in Khumbu Region- Ekraj Koirala (Siddhartha)
  2. Why I Chose ELT as a Profession: Samita Magar
  3. Certification and Licensing of English Teachers in Nepal: Kiran Thapa
  4. Throwing the Baby Out of the Bath Water: the Context of EMI in Nepal- Juliet Fry
  5. Multilingual Testing in Monolingual Regimes: Dr. Shyam Sharma
  6. Language Teaching is not Memorization: Rebecca Raymann

On behalf of ELT Choutari Team, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all team members, contributors and reviewers of this issue. As the commitment to our valued readers, we are investing our effort to release ELT Choutari as quarterly publication. At this hour, two new members have joined our team to continue this professional legacy of local and global ELT discourse through this platform. Juliet Fry, a national director of professional learning of secondary teachers’ of English language in New Zealand will be supporting us in the capacity of the guest editor. Likewise, Karna Rana, a PhD candidate from University of Canterbury New Zealand will be contributing Choutari in the capacity of editor.

Special thanks to Jeevan Karki, Karna Rana and KP Ghimire for their support to bring out this issue. Hope you will enjoy the readings. We will be grateful for your ideas and comments on the blog posts.

Ashok-photo

Ashok Raj Khati Editor of the Issue

Why I Chose ELT as a Profession?

Samita Magar

Samita Magar

This brief blog piece speaks my personal experience as an English language teacher. The reflective journal mainly tries to disseminate why I have chosen teaching profession and how someone can be benefited by being a teacher. Besides, there are significant positions of a teacher in the society that encourages growing generation to choose teaching profession. 

Introduction

When I was a high school student, most of the students were satisfied with the teaching of an English teacher. He ever suggested the students reading more than prescribed textbooks. His inspiration led them to be curious and enthusiastic learners. I was one of them wishing to be such a respected teacher. His positive attitude encouraged the students to prepare well and participate every curricular activity. His gentle personality could be easily observed on his smiles at the success of his students. His friendly and cooperative manner provided a space to share our feelings and problems that led us to achieve our success. I believe that his intellect and passion made me choose his profession in my life.

However, the statistics shows that majority of recent school graduates choose science and business studies to go to medical field, technical field and business field. In my case, I have seen my future in teaching profession. I believe that teaching profession is considered as prestigious as other professions. Ayers (1994) stated that teaching is more than transmitting skills; it is living act and involves preference and value, obligation and choice, trust and care, commitment and justification.

This reflects my social values, ethics, responsibilities and determination. I believe that these features pulled me in teaching profession. In my perspective, the good teachers listen to their students, care their daily activities, desires, wishes, interests and problems. The responsible teachers always perform their duties well. Their consistent care for students produces various professionals. In this regard, teaching profession can be considered as the base of all other professions.

I choose this profession mainly because of three reasons: 1) respected profession 2) highly creative 3) role model

Respected profession

The great philosopher, Aristotle has stated that “those, who educate children well, are to be honored than those who produce them”. The case of Helen Keller for instance. She is a famous writer because of her teacher. The credit goes to her teachers than to her parents. Teachers encourage, guide and teach students to learn the beautiful art of living a life. In the east, Guru is the God. There is a verse in Sanskrit ‘Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru Maheshwor’. It says that teacher is an incarnation of God. A teacher affects eternity. He or she can never tell where his influence stops.  So it is the reality in the sense that what a teacher writes on the board of students’ life stays lifelong in their memory. One of my school experience also reveals the same dignity of a teacher. When I was a third grade student, all the people in my village used to greet teachers, consult them for information and invite them on all kinds of occasions. They used to be lawyer in our village in need. The respect they used to get inspired me to think about being a teacher.

Highly Creative

Information and communication technologies have shifted the teaching and learning ways in this world. These technologies have provided wider range of learning opportunities for the learners. The learners have access to unlimited information in this digital age that assures creativity in their learning. On the other hand, the virtual environment has generated more opportunities as well as challenges for the teachers. Teachers need to be informed of daily information, and be prepared to tackle the challenges and to survive into the classroom. It is worth quoting Lewis that the task of modern teacher is not to cut down the jungles, but to irrigate deserts. Thus what I believe that teaching is creative profession. Great teachers mentor, stimulate, provoke, engage the students through several creations inside and outside the classroom.

Role Model

Teachers in the east has always been model for the growing generation. For instance, my English teacher in school was my inspirer, motivator or director who ever stood a figure for me. However, the students in this fast growing world may have different perceptions toward teacher. It is because of the changing roles of teachers as the facilitator, guide and manager. Towne (2012) stated that a good teacher is like a candle; it consumes itself to light the way for others. Similarly, Dey (2013) suggested that the teachers to become models for their learners, so that they can develop into disciplined, hardworking and successful person.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, teaching profession is full of respect, responsibilities, creativity and also challenges. Whatsoever, this profession is socially prestigious because of its leadership nature among other professions. They are found to have a high level of autonomy as a lifelong learner.  This made me think about being a teacher when I was in school.

Samita Magar teaches English at Omega international higher secondary school in Lalitpur. She is pursuing her masters in ELT from School of education, Kathmandu University.

References

Dey, S.K. (2013). Teaching of English. India: Dorling Kindersley.

Towne, D. (2012). Home thoughts. Mustafa Kemal (Atatuk Trans.) Home thoughts. (originally published in 1991).

Language Teaching is not Memorization

Rebecca Reymann

Rebecca Reymann

‘Hello, how are you?’ ‘I am fine, thank you, and how about you?’ The expected mechanical response that I usually get when greeting the children of rural Nepal. The memorized responses of students as taught by teachers. Adult says X, child responds with Y. Check plus.

As teachers, do we recognize the importance of the way that we are teaching language? Is this mechanical question and answer pattern the way that we will be able to communicate love? Is this the way of communication needed to let go of prejudice and bias that are deeply engrained by years and years of tradition? Are we solely teaching mechanical repetition? Or are we teaching the most beautiful tool for expression?

These questions need to be reexamined. Teachers, ask yourselves: what is the practicality of my teaching? When we ask students how they are doing, do we really want to know how they are? Or are we simply satisfied to hear the textbook response that they have memorized in classroom?

I am currently teaching English at an English medium school in the lower Solukhumbu district of Nepal. As an American who was trained as a teacher in the United States, studied in New Zealand, and has spent the last three years traveling, I have formed my own biases and perspective regarding education. However, I can say with great confidence that I believe that we are all striving toward the same overall goal; to better ourselves in some way. One way that we can achieve this goal is through the gift of language.

Language is the freedom to express how we feel. The freedom to share what we experience from moment to moment. The ability to communicate and understand others. This ability to communicate is what makes us such a unique species. But we need to use this communication in an effective and realistic manner. We need to let go of the old school style of textbook teaching and evolve with the times to give our children the ability to communicate in a real world setting. We cannot continue limiting them solely to their ability of properly filling in blanks and matching words with the correct definitions, while we look over their shoulder with a red pen.

We are human beings, not robots. We learn by doing. Why do we forget this when we walk into a classroom? ‘Okay kids, please open up to lesson two and finish activity three from yesterday.’ Is this exciting? No, in fact, it is absolutely dreadful.  So why go on with this mundane style of teaching? One external reason is the parents. The parents are the real challenge, not the children.

The majority of these parents do not speak English, nor do many of them have any formal education at all. They want better for their children than what they had, so they have provided the gift of education- what an opportunity! Little do these parents know- they are the main obstacle standing in the way of the very opportunities that they are trying to provide. The parents are only worried about the tangibles. Does my child have homework? What grade did they get? Are they in the grade level that suites their age? The parents are stuck in the past, even if the teachers are looking toward the future. They question the teachers blindly, pushing their child helplessly into places that they should not be pushed. For example, I have a grade 6 student who should be studying in grade 1 (just one case of many). She is eager to learn English, but cannot understand the language of this strange Western woman standing at the front of her classroom. In the initial weeks, she would even be brought to tears out of complete frustration. When I ask why such a situation has become reality, the answer is- the parents.

How can a tree grow when a seed has not yet been planted? How can a 13-year-old write an essay, when she cannot even respond beyond ‘Hello, how are you?’ The parents are having the final say in their children’s English education, when they themselves do not even speak the language. The child leaves school, goes home, and justifies their English education to their non-English speaking parents by the homework that they have completed in front of them. Does this make any sense?

We cannot let this habitual cycle continue. The teachers are the people who spend the time with the students, the teachers are the people who speak the language, and the teachers are the people who know what is in the child’s best interest. As teachers, it is our responsibility to ensure that no child is left behind. This can be done only with confidence and perseverance. The current reality is that there is a distinct separation between the parents and the teachers, and the parents are winning. This is only creating a long trail of students suffocating somewhere in the trail of dust that their fellow students leave behind. This is unfair. We must merge this gap immediately. Parents need to be willing to trust the teachers and let them make decisions about what is best for the child. Parents and teachers need to collaborate. The child needs to be put first.

So as teachers, we are the internal challenge- our own worst enemies in some cases. We have created our own major roadblocks along the way. Because of the old school style of teaching, we now have serious obstacles in cultivating genuine learning.

What students truly need is practicality and life skills. One of the most critical life skills of the 21st century is indeed communication. As teachers, it is our job to give students this tool by changing our teaching to a kinesthetic style. Make learning fun, memorable, and cognitive. Stop taking ourselves so seriously with box ticking, textbooks, and red pens. What about games and creativity? What about getting outside of the classroom into a real life setting? Let’s give the kids the freedom to learn in a sustainable way that will allow them to express through the gift of English language, opening nothing but doors for in the future.

At the start of each class we can give children two minutes to practice their conversational skills, building upon what is discussed each day. What about rather than textbook blank filling, we have them write letters to the United States or Australia? What about making them a tour guide, where they get to pick an area of significance and give the class a tour in English? What about engaging their senses- writing it all down in English, and then sharing. What do you see? What do you feel? What do you smell? What do you taste? What do you hear? Let the children express their own personal experiences, which are all so incredibly unique. This is why we use language. This is practicality. If we spend a year teaching like this, not only will students be much more interested in learning, but will also be able to confidently communicate with people from all around the world.

As teachers, we must value the students and understand them as human beings so that we can teach them in a way that resonates. Value the child’s experiences and opinions. Let them share. Put the child first. What is their experience like at home? What is their family background- caste, religion, occupation? Do they have to go home to milk the buffalo and work in the field after school? Are their parents abroad? What sort of support are they getting outside of the classroom? The responsibilities of most of these children at home are extensive. This will absolutely play a role in the child’s interest, attention span, and attendance at school. We must tend to the child with great care and compassion before they can possibly blossom.

Once we know the child we need to assess their prior knowledge. What do they already know? What sort of foundation do we have to build on? It doesn’t make any sense to teach sentence structure when a child doesn’t know the letters of the alphabet. It is our responsibility to bridge the gap between understanding and misunderstanding. We do this by giving the child connectors, one step at a time, meticulously building on their foundation of previous knowledge- not leaving any piece behind.

Next, what does the child WANT to learn? What does the child care about? What are they interested in? How can I relate this material to their prior knowledge AND interests? Usually we do this by allowing them to talk about themselves. In English- tell me about your family, where you are from, what you do in your free time, what do you like to eat, what sports do you play, what do you want to be when you grow up? Once we show the students that we are interested in them, they then become interested in the material that we have to teach.

Teaching is an exchange. We must show the child that we genuinely care in order to gain their interest. Allow them to express by asking them questions, not repress by preaching at them with meaningless information. Language is communication- communication is a two way street. We cannot forget the importance of the child’s role in this process. Allow them to free themselves through expression right from the beginning. This gives them confidence to build on. Value their ideas. Listen. Value the communication with them, inside and outside of the classroom.

Language is the power to express. It is not memorization. Sure, we cannot let the parents limit our creativity. But before we even think about the parents, we need to reevaluate ourselves as teachers, and give significant value to the young people that we are teaching. We need to stop setting our own limitations to the endless creativity and empowerment found within education of the English language. In order for students to think outside of the box, we as teachers must first get out of the boxes that we have created for ourselves. It is time to free our children through changing with the times.

Rebecca Reymann is a 26-year-old traveler from Baltimore, Maryland in the United States. Her background is in Education and Tourism Management. She has spent the last three months teaching English in the lower Solukhumbu district of Nepal. Rebecca plans to continue pursuing work in the outdoors, education, and healing practices between America and Nepal. 

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