A Teacher’s Practice and Perception on English Language Textbook of Secondary Level

Prem Prasai

As I take the trip down memory lane, I vividly behold vistas of years I spent on the teaching career. It’s been more than a decade and a half since I embarked on a journey of teaching in a private school in Jhapa. I was in my late teens when I entered a class as a novice teacher. I have been currently teaching English at the secondary level in a renowned school in Lalitpur for more than a decade.

In this course of teaching, I have used many textbooks of different publications as ELT materials. In this context, this write-up draws on my personal experiences of teaching English to secondary level students in an institutional school and shed some light on the textbook(s) I am using as ELT materials. However, I will focus more on different facets of the government prescribed textbooks while making passing reference to additional books prescribed by the school.

Textbooks and additional materials I’ve been using

In my school, there is a combination of government prescribed textbook, i.e. English and additional books prescribed by the school. The additional books include Tales from Shakespeare (Shakespeare’s plays in story form), Intermediate English Grammar and Friday Afternoon and Composition for class nine. Pride and Prejudice replaces Tales from Shakespeare for class ten.

The additional books have been prescribed to expose students with more engaging reading materials to cater to the needs of reading longer pieces of literature. In the additional section, Murphy’s grammar book is a good resource for students to learn grammar independent of or some guidance from the teacher. Friday Afternoon and Composition offers reading texts for comprehension and composition writing skills.

The government prescribed textbooks for secondary level have recently been updated and revised not only in line with the change in the broader socio-political spectrum in the country and in its implications but also with changing principles of English language teaching and learning in the recent years. The content coverage is more comprehensive and contains more variety of topics and activities compared to the past textbooks.

Books selection in schools and necessity of additional materials

As far as the selection of textbooks in my school is concerned, there is no option in case of government prescribed textbooks as they are mandatory throughout the country. However, there is hardly any binding framework followed for selecting additional textbooks. The selection of books primarily depends on the intent of the school authority than the informed choice and recommendation of concerned subject teachers.

Talking about the necessity of additional materials, I think they are not so necessary because the government textbook itself demands more time if we do the set activities and extended activities properly. Furthermore, I think some room should be given to the teachers to explore and bring the resources as per the objectives and the needs of students rather than prescribing. For example, in place of using the prescribed storybook, the teachers can collect or download the relevant story to their students and work on that. But when the books are prescribed, they are under pressure to finish that and hence there is no room for them to use their creativity. Nevertheless, the prescribed additional textbooks are useful for the novice and lazy teachers as they don’t have to spend time searching and collecting something appropriate for their learners.

Students’ perception of English Textbooks and materials

Perception of students towards a particular subject and its teaching material plays a significant role in the effective implementation of the curriculum. Students of institutional schools tend to pay less heed to English subject as they think they are the students of “boarding schools”. Besides, they are influenced by the grades of their seniors in English in the board examinations such as SEE which tend to be far higher than the scores of community schools. This mentality results in a lax attitude in students. Further, it piles pressure on the language teachers to make their lessons interesting and engaging.

The government textbooks match the level of students in institutional schools as they have a comparatively good base of the English language. The recently revised textbook of grade nine and ten are more enjoyed by students because the content is relevant and appropriate for them. Like, there are texts and activities on, one of the favourite foods of students “mo: mo:” Likewise, in the writing section, sample resources are given to students, which helps them to draw the frame of writing. Thus making the activity inductive. Similarly, there are also project works as the extended activities for students, which helps them to explore their learning themselves.  However, some students do not fare well as they concentrate less on English as they think it is easier to get through English compared with other subjects.

Analysis of Government English textbook

As regards the organization of the exercises in the government prescribed textbook English for class ten, each unit is organized under one dominant functional aspect in English language learning. For example, unit one is entitled Giving, Withholding and Reporting Permission. Each unit blends all four language skills. Reading Section is introduced after warm-up exercises on the pertinent issue or theme to be raised in the text. These pre-reading activities are called Engage Yourself and Study Time. The reading is followed by various exercises such as Vocabulary in Use, Question/ Answer, True or False Statements, etc. Each unit contains a section entitled Grammar which employs a three-step approach to a grammar topic. The first step introduces the grammar topic and gets students interested in the topic. The second step focuses on the core area with example and problems, and the last step integrates the grammar item with either speaking or writing exercise. Listening and Speaking Sections follow the same steps. Writing Section begins with a sample writing text, presents the major writing task to the students before relating the writing task to their possible real-life situations. Every unit provides an opportunity for students to do creative work under Project Work Section. Finally, the unit concludes with a relevant fun activity or exercise under Fun Corner.

Overall, some strengths of the exercises include the following of inductive teaching and learning approach, presenting simple to complex ideas, beginning with pre-reading and writing steps, and going beyond the text to explore and relate in real life situations. However, each unit is heavily loaded with exercises, slowing the progression of the course if conducted as per the spirit of the exercises.  An endeavor has been made to make the book a complete whole in itself by integrating different aspects of learning English. For example, major reading texts including some good pieces of poetry, short stories, real and context-specific interviews. The interviews with Nepalese doctors Imran Ansari and Rajan Poudel on Bird Flu and Typhoid Fever respectively help students to relate learning to their life. Besides, the textbooks include many practical writing topics such as making posters, drafting an invitation, writing the notice of condolence and congratulation, composing emails, preparing a CV, writing a job application and a letter to the editor, designing an advertisement, preparing leaflets and pamphlets etc. Moreover, it also exposes students to the idea that intelligible pronunciation is a must in spoken English and to achieve this end, class nine English book introduces the basic sounds and their phonemic symbols to the students. An extended glossary at the back of the book is also of a help for students. Major readings and writing part are received well by the students in institutional schools.

One of the challenges using the English textbook is to be able to do the justice to all the activities as per the spirit and demand as there are plenty of activities and exercises to do. Similarly the timely availability of the audio material poses another challenge. Moreover, there are some grammatical lapses which may confuse students. For example, while reporting a question the reporting verb “told” has been used in question no. 2.(f): Navaraj told Saraswati……. . Another blunder creeps in the following short question (2. i. g) where the preposition “to” is not required before the object Tom:  What did the angel tell to Tom (p. 147)?

There is no denying the fact that the content of the book is culturally appropriate as it encompasses the texts drawing on culturally relevant and context specific texts. This is expected to foster a sense of mutual respect and tolerance in students and the appreciation of the good in everything. Though the content coverage ranges from local to global issues and texts, more interesting and stimulating texts could have been incorporated.

Available teachers’ resources and capacity building to implement curriculum

For the effective implementation of the textbook, Teacher’s Guide Book plays an important role. However, it is not available yet though I checked on the official website of the Curriculum Development Center and its mobile application. A couple of months ago, I got the opportunity to be familiar with the revised curriculum in a session organized by PABSON, Lalitpur in coordination with the subject expert from CDC, Bhaktapur. More workshops are yet to receive.

However, I am aware of the curriculum set by CDC. This awareness helps me to choose from many options available to achieve the learning competencies in my students. However, candidly speaking, always designing learning activities keeping in mind the set curriculum is a herculean task.

Conclusion

As the textbook is an essential resource to carry out the effective implementation of the curriculum set for a particular level, due care should be taken to make it a good teaching-learning material. The aim of the textbook should not merely be the transmission of knowledge. It should rather equip students with a repertoire of skills for acquiring and building knowledge and instill in them a positive attitude as well as the love for lifelong learning. A textbook should enable students to learn how to make use of different ways of learning. It should also provide an appropriate amount of culturally appropriate and interesting texts. An authentic textbook provides students with opportunities for developing diverse skills of learning according to their interests, needs, and abilities.

On the other hand, teachers also should not merely depend on the textbooks but should adapt them as per the level, interests, and needs of students.

Mr. Prasai is an MA in English Literature from TU. Currently an M Phil scholar in English at KU. He is an English Faculty at Public Youth Campus and GEMS School, Lalitpur.  

We’re Still Toddlers in Designing Materials for University Level: Bal Ram Adhikari

Bal Ram Adhikari is a Lecturer of English Education at Tribhuvan University. Mr. Adhikari is a translator, editor, poet, and essayist. He is involved in designing ELT courses and course-books for universities. He is an editor of NELTA Journal (2015-2016) and a country editor of SAARC Poems (2012 & 2013). Our Choutari editor Jeevan Karki has managed to talk with him on the course development process in higher education, trends, his observations on the available courses and his experiences as a whole.

1. What was your expectation as a university student about the curriculum & materials and how it turned up as a contributor to courses and course books for higher education? Can you share your experiences?

As a university student, I belong to the generation of the 2050s. This generation of students of English education was exposed to English mainly as a system. Our exposure to English was mainly confined to pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. Our obsession was with accuracy in pronunciation and grammar. We rarely experienced English as discourse, art, and ideology. With these components of English, the courses also offered methods and techniques to open up linguistic resources to the students. What we were studying was the abstraction about English rather than actually experiencing the language as a whole. As a student I wanted to read English; I wanted to write; I wanted to speak. There was no any reading-based course for English students save one compulsory literature course in B. Ed. and the elective in M. Ed. Our English reading was scanty so was writing. The courses were encumbered with definitions, phonetic symbols, phonological and grammatical analysis on the one hand and methods and techniques of transferring them to the classroom on the other. Such division and analysis have their own merits but they mar aesthetics of language and its generative power. Consequently, we suffered from deprivation of content, for content we needed exposure to authentic texts in English. I would read the texts prescribed for the Humanities of English in order to supply myself with necessary nutrients of English. I wanted to see English at work.

I started my teaching career at University in the early 2060s. Our professors had felt the necessity of introducing content-based courses apart from giving continuity to the courses on linguistics, applied linguistics and pedagogy. It was the year 2012, I got a chance to work in the team of Prof. Dr. Jai Raj Awasthi in his capacity as the chairperson of Subject Committee. Prof. Govinda Raj Bhattarai had a crucial role in framing out these courses and selecting the texts for them. Since then I have contributed to different courses and course books.

2. What’s the process of designing and developing course books at the university level?

I can only talk about the reading courses and course books I am involved in. For such courses, authentic texts are selected from diverse disciplines and geographical locations. Mostly the texts are prescribed from books, magazines, and newspapers. For the convenience of students and teachers, such texts, which are widely scattered across disciplines, geographies, and sources, are to be compiled and accompanied by appropriate reading and writing tasks. Rather than writing, this is the process of compiling and editing the text and developing the tasks in congruence with the course objectives and levels of students. To my knowledge, there are no specific guidelines as such for developing course books in our university. Nor is there any workshop, seminar, and orientation for this. Normally, the course of study itself serves as the guidelines for compilers, editors and task developers. It means we are mostly guided by our own experience as students and teachers of English, the theoretical knowledge we have garnered over the years, our intuition that might tell what fits and what doesn’t in our context, and our interaction with the teachers who handle such courses.

3. What new trends do you experience in the process of designing courses and materials in the university?

Current global ELT trends have some bearing on our university courses and materials. The global trends such as content-based instruction, technology-based/-supported instruction, inter-disciplinarity, context-sensitive and context-responsive pedagogy, and blending of the global and the local have begun to appear in our courses too with varying degrees of intensity. There is a growing trend in valuing the role of content for the balanced development of English. We are slowly getting out of our age-long obsession with formal components of ‘container’ i.e. teaching English primarily as a system. What is being prioritized in the courses is the content that fills in the container. Lately, Department of English Education has adopted a content-based approach to teaching reading and writing for academic purposes. Similarly, the content-based courses are open to global and local experiences and expertise. If you go through the courses such as General English, Expanding Horizons, and Interdisciplinary Readings there you can see the presence of creative and academic writings by Nepali writers too. We are on the way to claim with pride that we are not only the consumer of knowledge/information but also its producer. This, in the long run, will dilute native speaker hegemony in our English courses. We are not only ‘downloading’ global texts but also ‘uploading’ our local texts for our courses. This will strike a balance between globalization and localization and might result in glocalized version of English education.

Another emerging trend is the inclination towards strategy-based instruction. The guiding assumption is that to teach is to equip trainee teachers with different strategies so that they can learn in their own way and continue their learning even in the absence of the instructor. This will contribute to learner autonomy. Technology-based/-supported instruction is also making its way into the courses. Recently, the B. Ed. curriculum has included a course on technology and ELT. I should also mention here the revival of translation and the space it has gained in English curricula. ELT curricula of Tribhuvan University, Far Western University, and Mid-Western University have prescribed a separate course on translation theory and practice. It means translation has come back to second language pedagogy after a long banishment. Now the courses have realized it as a reality of ESL/EFL contexts. In the pedagogical framework of World English, for instance, David Graddol identifies translation as one of the skills needed on the part of teachers. Translation has also played a key role in engaging students in (re)generating Nepali texts in English.

As to designing materials, we should accept that we are still toddlers. Not many courses contain the materials developed by our university teachers. The general tendency is to prescribe books published by multinational publishers and articles published in international and national journals.

4. How do you evaluate the available English language curriculum and materials for higher education?

My observation on the courses and materials will be primarily holistic, experiential and impressionistic. I will also draw on some empirical information from my own research work. Overall, the English curricula of Faculty of Education have outgrown the yard of linguistics, their parental discipline. With the inclusion of the courses like Expanding Horizons in English, Critical Readings in English, Mass Communication, Translation Studies, Literature for Language Development to name but a few, the curricula of B. Ed. and M. Ed. are being more interdisciplinary. There is a growing realization among course designers that apart from linguistics and applied linguistics, the neighboring disciplines such as literature, critical thinking, mass communication, and science and technology have much to offer to the English language curriculum. The curricula rate is high in terms of knowledge and skill components they impart to trainee teachers. By and large the curricula aim at exposing trainee teachers to a) subject matter (knowledge about language in general and the English language in particular), b) pedagogical content and skills (knowledge about how to teach and skills of translating knowledge into practice), c) general and academic communicative competence in English d) experiential knowledge of professional action (actual act of teaching) e) knowledge and skills in carrying our research,  and f) subsidiary skills for teachers (translation and mass communication).

Integration of knowledge and skill components is one of the strengths of the courses.  As to organization, the curricula have adopted a mixed-approach of syllabus designing i.e. process and product approach and analytic and synthetic.

I sense that our curricula rate low in terms of the curriculum development process. Theories and principles of curriculum development say that we should make informed-decision about all aspects ranging from policy to classroom pedagogy and assessment scheme. Our curricula are not firmly based on the information collected from research. Its consequence is the disparity between course objectives and students’ expectations as well as classroom reality. It means we are heavily inclined to and probably satisfied with the top-down approach.

In the year 2012, I carried out a research funded by the University Grants to find out student teachers’ views on the grammar course offered to them. They viewed that the course and reading materials both were silent about the reality of our ELT context and it was theoretically loaded. These two major findings of this course can be generalized to other course and materials too. All courses are prone to such weakness where there is lack of needs analysis. In the absence of needs analysis and the analysis of the situations, courses and materials might fail to achieve ecological validity. The courses are ecologically valid when they take into account of contextual factors and underscore their roles while setting goals and objectives, and selecting materials, and designing assessment schemes and tasks.

There is the poor transfer of knowledge into skills, owing to lack of adequate space for action and reflection in the everyday teaching-learning process. The curricula are yet to adopt a model that calls for theory followed by action and reflection. In the absence of action-cum-reflection, the theoretical knowledge imparted to students will only remain information. As you know, information is important but not sufficient for transformation. The English curriculum has recently included a course on technology at Bachelor’s level. However, my impression of the overall courses is that the course designers still think that technology in education is a luxury, not a necessity.

Even from the cursory survey of the prescribed course materials, you can sense that there pervasive dominance of global reading materials. Few courses contain the materials embedded in the Nepalese context that address our issues. That is, our English curricula have to respect and capitalize on our own professional experience and expertise. This is necessary to actualize principles of post-method pedagogy that advocate particularity, practicality, and possibility.

Nonetheless, the course designers seem to be aware of this fact and they have worked in this direction. Some of the courses, for example, have allocated a separate block for Nepali writings under the headings such as “Reading our Own Context”. The initiative like is praiseworthy and commendable.  But the problem is the lack of sufficient English texts by Nepali writers. We need more and more creative and issue-based academic as well as nonacademic writings related to the Nepalese context.  Such writings should emanate from diverse areas such as education, literature, culture, science and technology, and entertainment, to name but a few. Given the proliferation of English texts by Nepali writers, we will have sufficient texts from which we can select those appropriate for our students. At present, we are resorting to Nepali literary texts in English translation to fulfill the demand such texts. However, translation might supply creative writings, not the academic and issue-based.

You might raise a question. Why are we lagging behind in quantity and quality of English writing? The problem lies with our courses in higher education. The space they allocate for generation of ideas and creative expression is scanty. Apart from pedagogy, the courses should also teach the students how to appropriate English to express their general views and creative urge through this language. To this end, we should shift from mechanistic framework of teaching methodology to what Prof. Bhattarai in 2015 NELTA Conference said “Teaching of English as Art”. To this, I add, the teaching of English as Art and Ideology.

5. We develop and prescribe the curriculum and course book/textbook for university students but in the other part of the world universities develop curriculum & materials in collaboration with students? This is of course high sounding. But can we not start including students (to some extent) in the process of making the decision about what they would like to study?

In principle, collaboration with such key players as students, teachers, and administrators is integral to curriculum development and course books writing. Students are obviously the most important of all. They are key agents. All materials and human resources outlined in the curriculum are geared towards linguistic, psychological and content needs of students. Collaboration is instrumental in diagnosing their needs, expectations, and limitations. Based on the diagnosis we can design effective pedagogical intervention and realistic mode of assessment. We know that students are active agents in shaping teaching-learning process as well as the learning outcome. Very often, experiences they bring into the learning community and expectations they have from the courses are key to their success. Moreover, by collaborating with them, we can generate relevant teaching materials from themselves. In our context, the irony is that we ‘prescribe’ knowledge and skills to our students in the package of courses and course books without consulting them, let alone collaboration. Whenever the issue of collaboration, or say consultation at the very least, with students and teachers crop up, it’s dismissed something as ‘high sounding’, ‘impractical’ or ‘ideal’. Sure enough, something is high sounding so long as it is confined to ‘words’ not extended to ‘work’; it is ‘impractical’, so long as we do not put into practice; it is ideal so long as we lack the willpower to actualize it.

As to “can we not start including students” (to some extent)? Sure, we can. For this, first we need to shift from product-based approach to the process-based to designing courses and course materials. Second, we need to train teachers for collaboration with their students. It’s the teachers, not a small group of curriculum developers and course designers, who are in everyday interaction with students. Moreover, we should change our views that teachers are not ‘implementation agents’ nor are students ‘mere consumers’ of what is prescribed to them. The outcome of teacher-students collaboration can be shared with the curriculum developers, course designers and material compilers/editors/writers in seminars and workshops. For the fruitful outcome, I envisage two levels of collaboration: collaboration between teachers and students, and collaboration between teachers and curriculum developers.

6. What challenges do you see in designing English courses for the higher level?

For want of research, it would be difficult to pinpoint the challenges. ELT in Nepal is in a state of flux. English is gradually taking in Nepalese culture and losing its traditional status of a foreign language. However, it is not a second language either. It means we need to rethink the status of English in relation to other languages and its role in our context.  ELT has morphed into the most rapidly spreading educational and academic enterprise. With this has cropped up a myriad of challenges at all levels of curriculum development and course designing. Drawing on my own experience, I see the following as some of the challenges: redefining the goal of teaching English, striking balance between forces of globalization and ethos of localization, extending the range of English use respecting students’ first languages, incorporating local practices and expertise, making the courses diagnosis-based, practice-oriented and reducing the disparity between course objectives and classroom reality, and creating sensible space for technology in the courses.

It’s high time that we redefined the goal of teaching English in the multilingual communities like ours and its role and position in relation to other languages. We should clearly define in the policy the type of communicative competence (apart from the professional competence) we aim to develop in the prospective teachers. Now the time has come to shift from the monolingual notion of communicative competence to what Cook calls “multivalence??”

How to incorporate technologies is being a pertinent challenge. No need to reiterate that presence and dominance of the internet technology is pervasive in all walks of our life. With the entry of WIFI-connected mobile phones into the classroom, there is the influx of information. With this, each student is carrying a learning resource in his/her pocket beyond imagination. Gone are the days when the students had to rely on the scanty notes and hands-outs given by the teacher. I mean, resources and information are flooding in our classrooms. Thanks to technologies but, there is lack of knowledge and skills for their exploitation to support teaching, to enhance learning and to maximize the outcome. Let’s take M. Ed. English curriculum as an example here. Even a cursory glance at the courses reveals a fact that few of them have made scanty reference to online resources. I sense that the internet, which lies at the heart of our everyday life, still lies at the fringe of the courses. The sooner our courses embrace technology-enhanced and –supported learning the better the result.

Related to the global spread of and easy access to technologies, particularly the internet, is the tension between forces of globalization and ethos of localization. The courses cannot prioritize one at the expense of the other. See the tension. On the one hand, we want to produce English students/teachers who are not only globally aware but also can sell their knowledge and skills in the global market. To this end, our courses need to expose them to global issues, methodology, and materials. On the other hand, we are advocating national, ethnic and even geographical identities in the medium (English), the message (content) and methodology. We wish to see our own geographical colors in English, and we are claiming ‘our own variety’ of English called ‘Nelglish’. Looking for the balance between these two forces is likened to treading a tightrope.

More to ELT: Two Books on Language Education and Communication

Balkrishna Sharma*

In our last conversation, Praveen asked me to offer some recommendations for some recent “good” books on ELT for our English teachers in Nepal. I, promptly, but hesitatingly said ‘yes’. I was hesitant mainly for two reasons: reflecting on what I read last year, it was hard for me to remember the names of the books I read; I found that my teaching and research is largely shaped by journals articles in applied linguistics these days. Second, on topics of ELT- and this was mainly due to the reason that English education has been historically equated with ELT, which again is largely confined to teaching methodologies, four-skills, and evaluation.

However, my interest in recent years again has to do with larger social and political forces that shape language education and language teaching, e.g. politics, culture, society, policy and so on. Developing knowledge and awareness on these broader issues is as important as, and sometimes, more important than, the practical skills that teachers need in teaching English. Language teaching is more than ‘language’ teaching; it encompasses larger socio-political-cultural issues that impact teachers’ and students’ lives.

From my hard-to-remember book list, here are two texts that are tremendously useful for our English teachers in Nepal. If you tell the whole narrative of what you think is a good movie to your friend, chances are that your friend may not want to watch the movie anymore because s/he knows the plot and the characters already. Applying the same logic, if I give you a run-down of everything in the books, I may kill your interest to read the books. Therefore, I am giving only a few words on what aspects of the texts have impressed me.

1. Engaged Language Policy and Practice

Year of publication: 2017

Authors: Kathryn Davis and Prem Phyak

Year of publication: 2017

This book situates language policy and practice as a form of social activism and transformation. Rather than conceptualizing language policy as a form of government document or a constitutional manifesto, the authors conceptualize it as enacted by various social members in different levels. English language teachers and learners, for examples, are agentive individuals who have the power and awareness to resist dominant ideologies and practices, and bring about social changes through multilingual practices. The authors argue that an engaged approach to policy and practice pays attention to raising individuals’ “awareness of the conditions of their own oppression” (p. 30). By reading the books, language teachers have a chance to learn and critically think about some broader issues of multilingualism, language ideology, neoliberalism/capitalism, critical language awareness, and critical pedagogy. And these are the issues that impact language teachers’ lives, directly or indirectly.

2. Exploring Intercultural Communication: Language in Action

Author: Zhu Hua

Year of Publication: 2014

This book addresses concerns of contemporary globalization, diversity, and the intercultural nature of communication today. With the rapid flows of peoples, cultures and media across national borders, many social settings have become linguistically and culturally diverse. As people from such diverse backgrounds meet face-to-face or in online contexts, their meeting becomes a site for an intercultural encounter where they negotiate meanings, social identities, and power relations. The field of language education in particular is impacted by this diversity in a number of ways. For example, second language teacher education courses inevitably must deal with new notions of culture as well as which cultures to teach and how to teach them. Language professionals in particular should seriously reconsider how the issues of culture are represented in teaching materials and addressed in classroom practices. Keeping this in mind, the book approaches the notion of intercultural communication primarily as a communicative practice. The chapters present theoretical concepts and empirical cases of intercultural communication from a wide range of social contexts such as family, workplace, business, and education. This then naturally leads English teachers to ask questions about the role of culture in language teaching. Questions such as these are of paramount importance: how to teach culture in second language classrooms, how cultures of the self and others are represented in teaching materials such as textbooks, and how they are addressed in classroom practices, and how intercultural learning is assessed by second language teachers.

[Announcement] First Annual ELT& Applied Linguistics Conference 2018

Department of English Education, Tribhuvan University (TU), Nepal calls for abstracts for its 1st Annual ELT and Applied Linguistics Conference. Acknowledging teachers as key actors for educational reforms, this conference aims at providing teachers, teacher educators, researchers and students with a space for engaging in critical discussions on a wide range of issues in ELT and Applied Linguistics.

The theme of this year’s conference is Teachers as Change Actors: Learning from Teaching, Research and Collaboration.

Researchers, teachers, and students are invited for the proposals for panels, workshops, individual presentations/talks and posters. For details, click here.

Language Practices and Food for Thought for Language Policy Makers

Gyanendra Kumar Yadav

Gyanendra Kumar Yadav

The debates over the use of mother tongue and English as medium of instructions in the schools of Nepal have often led to the question whether the discussion on the status of English is considered while making policies in this regard. This blog post mainly attempts at exploring the issues related to language policy and English language teaching (ELT) in Nepal.

I divide this blog into three different sections. The first section deals with my

own experience of leaning different languages as a multilingual speaker. In the second section, I draw on the insights from making language policy before I conclude with a proposal of three languages policy as used in developing countries for an option of language policy in Nepal.

My Journey of Multilingual Speaker

I was born and brought up in a rural village of Terai region of Nepal. It is a monolingual community of Maithili speakers. When I reflect on my journey as a multilingual speaker, I find that I have never realized the need of learning language until I got enrolled in school. By then, I had already acquired my mother tongue without being aware of it. Then, I realized that my mother tongue was not sufficient to pursue formal education since Nepali was the medium of instruction (MOI) in the school. Consequently, I learnt Nepali language throughout schooling. Besides being the MOI, Nepali is a compulsory subject which is prescribed in the school curriculum with a view to develop knowledge and skills in Nepali language among the students. Yet, I admit that I have not been able to develop my proficiency in Nepali language despite a decade of learning language.

On the other hand, my nephew and niece were taken by maternal uncle at Hetauda in Makwanpur district for their schooling. Unlike my home town, Hetauda is a community of Nepali speakers. Just after a couple of years, they became fluent speakers of Nepali. They speak Nepali better than me even though both of my school and college taught me Nepali. Their accent is similar that of native speakers. I have a kind of Maithilized accent while speaking Nepali while they have developed mastery over it.

As far as my journey of learning English language is concerned, it appears to be more difficult than learning Nepali. In fact, I started learning English when I was a fourth grader. There was a limited exposure and practice in English classroom. Even as a school graduate, I was unable to express myself in English. I could not write a couple of paragraphs effectively. Later, after I decided to pursue English language as major subject at intermediate level, I worked hard to improve my English language proficiency. Despite the hard work, I failed to secure good score. Nevertheless, it boosted my confidence and I started teaching English in an English medium private school. The experience of teaching English proved to be significant in enhancing speaking skill in English.

Reflecting on the experience of learning language

Reflecting on the experience of language learning would be worthwhile for further discussion. As a student of Second Language Acquisition (SLA), I find these reflections quite useful in terms of learning language or to ignite the discussion.

First, the exposure and opportunity to practice plays a key role in learning a language. My nephew and niece got sufficient language exposure and opportunity to practice the language in and outside classroom. They got authentic language exposure from native-speakers of Nepali, whereas I got limited exposure and most often from non-native speakers of Nepali in formal settings.

Next, the duration of formal instruction does not matter most in language learning. Although I spent longer duration in learning Nepali language, I could not get mastery over it. However, my nephew and niece became proficient speakers within a short period of time. The third important factor in learning language is the need to speak target language. In case of learning Nepali, I, as someone from a monolingual Maithili speaking community, did not feel the need of using it outside classroom throughout my school and college level.

Finally, acculturation equally seems to be the most important factor in learning a language. My nephew and niece were benefited in learning Nepali since they lived in the target language community and have adopted the target culture.

Language Policy and ELT

For a multilingual country, making language policy has always become a debatable issue, and Nepal cannot remain apart. It is more than a linguistic discourse since it is also associated with culture and identity. In that sense, language becomes a political issue. A single or monolingual language policy may have significant impact on many of the indigenous languages. That is to say, an appropriate language policy can determine the fate of 123 languages spoken in the country. Hence, there must be a comprehensive language policy that can preserve local languages, respect national language and incorporate English as a global language.

Before discussing on a possible language policy in Nepal, looking into four different aspects of ELT — status of English in Nepal, English as medium of instruction, the level to introduce English language and indigenous languages, culture and identity will be noteworthy.

1. Status of English in Nepal

The status of English seems to have influence on language policy. Sometimes, English is taken as a library language, generally used for academic purpose (Poudel, 2016) but other times, English is claimed to have multi faces as it serves multiple functions like instrumental, regulative, interpersonal and creative (Giri, 2014). This shows that there is lack of consensus on whether English is used as a second or foreign language in Nepal.

Furthermore, it also leads to the further question where Nepal lies in ‘Three Concentric Circles of Asian English: The Inner Circle, The Outer Circle, and The Expanding Circle’ (Kachru, 2006). Can we claim for own variety of the English, often termed as Nengish instead of trying to fit in the above category? As he suggests, the pluralistic nature of English might bring numerous possibilities in our context. Thus, it is necessary to decide the status of English and make English language policy and implement it accordingly. For instance, if we limit English for academic purpose, the present notional-functional syllabus used at school level may not work. Instead, we need to bring reading and writing skills in the light.

2. English as a Medium of Instruction

When we look at the language policy at regional level, it is found that English is used as the medium of instruction in non-language classes across school levels in four Asian nations (Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Sri Lanka) where English is used a second language (Choi & Lee, 2008). It can be noticed that English is used as the MOI only in those countries where English is spoken as a second language. However, it cannot be taken as second language in Nepal. Arguably, it would not be justifiable to use English as MOI in the schools of Nepal. This can be used in the tertiary level but not right from primary level.

3. Appropriate level to Introduce English Language Teaching 

In neighboring countries, there are differences in the level/grade of introducing English language teaching. English is taught from grade one in most of these countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the UAE, Taipei in Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand. Similarly, Korea and China begin teaching English from grade three, Israel from grade four, Iran and Vietnam from six, and Japan and Indonesia from grade seven (Choi & Lee, 2008).

In Nepal, English in now taught from first grade (even in pre-school) in community schools and from kindergarten in private schools. The decision to use English from grade one lacks any substantive researches. Interestingly, many argue that a handful of non- academic people made the decision based on their own judgments. This suggests that the issue of appropriate level of introducing English language teaching needs to be explored, analyzed and discussed as a part of ELT research.

4. Indigenous Languages Culture and Identity

The growing demand of English has significant impact on indigenous languages. Philipson (1992) considers global English as a medium of linguistic imperialism stating that the spread of English is one of the many factors contributing to the tragic loss of indigenous languages around the world. Nepal cannot be an exception. Many of the languages here are found being extinct or not given due attention to preserve it due to the dominance of English language. This, furthermore, has also effect on the local culture and identity. Speakers of such languages find loss of identity and recognition. Thus, there is a growing concern to give due respect to local culture and indigenous languages. This can be done by bringing such a language policy that can balance the role of international, national and local languages in multi-lingual community like ours.

Possible Language Policy in Nepal

From the discussion above, it seems to be clear that making language policy is a serious and delicate issue as it is also related to culture and identity of the language speakers. Hence, it would be better to look at the language policy of multilingual countries. From a close study, we can find that mostly the developing countries across the world seem to have used three languages policy. Regarding this, Keeves and Darmawan (2007) state that it is necessary for young people to learn at least three languages, namely their mother tongue (L1), the national language (NL), and a foreign language (FL), that is rapidly becoming English in non-English speaking countries. In case of Nepal, the policy includes mother tongues, like Maithili, Newari, Bhojpuri, etc. as L1, Nepali, as the NL and English as an FL. This would give students from developing countries like ours an opportunity to obtain the benefits of globalization and engagement in trade.

Yet, challenges ahead are to implement such a policy since there are 123 languages in the country. The effective implementation of this policy needs proper curriculum design and preparation of teaching materials and trained language teachers.

About the Author  

Gyanendra Kumar Yadav is a lecturer of English at a community college in Lalitpur. Recently, he is pursuing his M. Phil in English Language Education from Kathmandu University School of Education. He is also a life member of NELTA (Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association) and has presented papers in NELTA conferences. His areas of interest include teaching English through literature and teachers’ professional development, and critical pedagogy. 

References

Choi, Y. H., & Lee, H. W. (2008). Current trends and issues in English language education in Asia. The Journal of AsiaTEFL5(2), 1-34.

Giri, R. A. (2014). Changing faces of English: why English is not a foreign in Nepal. Journal of World Languages1(3), 192-209. 

Kachru, Y., & Nelson, C. L. (2006). World Englishes in Asian Contexts. Hong Kong

University Press.

Keeves, J. P., & Darmawan, I. (2007). Issues in Language Learning. International Education Journal8(2), 16-26.

Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic Imperialism. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Poudel, T. (2016). English in Nepal from colonial legacy to professionalism. ELT Chaoutari.

retrieved from http://eltchoutari.com/2016/01/english-in-nepal-from-colonial-legacy-to

professionalism/

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.  ​

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