Translation as a technique; not a method in ELT: Bal Ram Adhikari

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Bal Ram Adhikari

Society of Translators Nepal has recently organized the first ever translation conference in Nepal. The conference served as a forum for translators, researchers, linguists and translation enthusiasts to share their knowledge, experiences and construct new knowledge. The conference also explored the issue of the use of translation in ELT. Although translation method has been severely criticized in ELT pedagogy, the latest approaches and methods entertain judicious use of translation. In this context, Choutari editor Jeevan Karki has spoken to Bal Ram Adhikari (Vice- president of the Society, Translator and Faculty, Department of English, TU) to explore more about translation, the conference and translation in ELT.

Q: Welcome to ELT Choutari! What are you doing these days?

Thank you for this sharing opportunity! Apart from writing essays in Nepali, I’m busy in different translation projects.  I’m giving the final touch to Nepali Anubad Sahitya-ko Itihas (History of Nepali Translation Literature), a research-based book to be published from Jagadamba Prakashan. A Grammar of Contemporary Nepali is ready for the press, which is going to be published from Nepal Academy. I’ve just finished the translation and editing of sixteen English short stories into Nepali. I’m also fine-tuning my previous research report Anubad Siddhanta (Translation Theories) for Nepal Academy.

Q: When you look back, how long is the history of translation in Nepal and what is the scope of translation in Nepal?

Let’s look at the first part of your question— History.  Nepalese translation has a short history with a long tradition. Tradition is what we do and history is the documentation of what we have done so far.

As a tradition, the translation activity in Nepal is as old as the languages like Nepali, Newari and Maithili. Translation has remained an integral part of this multilingual landscape. Documentation of this age-old activity has begun now. Translation in Nepal is believed to be more than 850 years old. However, the early translation was confined to such writings as royal inscriptions, and records of donations and deeds. To talk of literary translation, it is believed to have begun with the translation of Shakti Ballav Arjyal’s translation of Mahabharat Virat Parva in 1771 from Sanskrit. In my research, I have divided the duration of eight and a half century into four periods, namely the early period, the developmental period, the modern period and the contemporary age.

As to English-Nepali translation, it’s almost a century-old phenomenon. Nepali-English translation, on the other hand, has only crossed five decades. Shyam Das Vaisnav’s collection of poems Upahar is the first Nepali literary writing to be translated into English. Laxmi Prasad Devkota translated it under the Present in 1963.

Now, let’s turn to the second part of your question— its scope. Translation is growing as a widening gyre in Nepal. Academically, all Nepalese universities have recognized it as a distinct discipline. Literature, linguistics and language education departments have a separate course on translation in their master’s programmes. In practice, translation has been lifeblood of all forms of news media. Now the success or failure of our multilingual information marketplace depends largely on our ability to translate into and from the dominant languages like English. Similarly, publishing houses in Nepal are heavily relying on the translation business. Look at the books translated from English and Hindi floating in the book bazaar. Professionally, some daring bilinguals are coming to the front, who proudly call themselves translators. It indicates that translation in Nepal is moving in the direction of professionalism. There is also an organization of translators ‘Society of Translators Nepal’. Similarly, Nepal Academy has established a separate department of translation.

dsc01824Q: It sounds encouraging. Let’s relate this to the recent fervour created by the Society of Translators Nepal. Last month, the Society organized the first ever conference on translation in Nepal. What was the aim of it and how do you evaluate the conference?

The Society organized a two-day conference and a three-day exhibition of translated books. It was our effort to put our motto into action:  Sharing, Caring and Daring in Translation. That is to say, the aim of the conference was to create a platform where translators, translation researchers, theorists, and translation enthusiasts could come and share their experiences, practical insights and theoretical information. This is what happened in the conference. They came. They shared their experiences and insights. They cared each others’ views. They dared to admit their own limitations and weaknesses as translators.

Success! This conference has created academic and professional discourse on translation in Nepal. We translators are in a position to claim our academic and professional visibility. We had 18 paper presenters and more than 100 participants, including professors and university students. One of the goals was to bridge the gap between translation academicians and translation practitioners. I think we have been successful to some extent achieving this goal.

Q: What is the role of translation (process) in the language development of an individual?

It’s an issue under the perpetual debate. Translation is a bilingual process- a mental process which connects one language with the other. Such a connection can take place at different levels of languages ranging from words through sentences to discourse and pragmatics. Now let’s turn to the second part i.e. language development, which implies the growth of an individual’s verbal and syntactic repertoire, and their contextual use. The question is– how does translation contribute to an individual’s language development?

The role of translation in language learning is always positive! Sure enough! But the condition is its cautious handling. It should be used as a technique of teaching and learning a second language rather than as a method. In the past translation as a method was overused. As a result its impact on language development was negative.

The impact of translation on a person’s language development can be explicit as well as implicit. We can see its explicit impact on learning vocabulary. It is direct. The use of a bilingual word list to expand word power in the second language is pervasive. So is case in learning grammar structures. However, in the case of language skills, its role is not as dominant as in learning vocabulary and grammar. Its impact is implicit. Moreover, we should not confine translation only to word-to-word and sentence-to-sentence rendering. It’s also the mental transfer of first language awareness to second language learning. Mental translation is always at work in the mind of a second language learner. From our own experiences, we second language learners can tell how valuable translation has been in our overall language learning process.

The translator is in direct encounter with two languages at the same time. The translator enters not only into the mechanism of language but also experiences its inner spirit. From my own experience as a translator, I can say that it is probably the best way of developing language sensitivity and sensibility.

A communication crisis is another important factor that pushes our language ahead. During the work, translators find themselves in a communication crisis. The crisis is that they always struggle for words, expressions and structures while communicating the source writer’s message to the audience of a different language. They become untiring researchers in search of proper expressions. They are in the choiceless situation- they have no choice but to find out expressions in the target language to communicate with their readers. They often come face-to-face with their own ignorance i.e. limited knowledge of language. The very realization of ignorance forces them to read more, write more and contemplate more. This ultimately develops their language knowledge, and reading and writing skills both.    .

Q: What is the state of translation in second language pedagogy, ELT in particular?

Translation is a reality of the second language teaching. Translation is not something from outside that we are imposing on second language learners. In the context like ours where English is being learned as an additional language, we cannot skip translation. Our learning setting is bi-/multilingual; our students are aspiring bilinguals in English; English teachers are bilinguals; the goal of teaching English itself is to make our students bilingual in English. And translation, be it textual or mental, is a route along which our students and teachers shuttle back and forth between their mother tongue and English.  I think, to negate translation and advocate monolingual practice (i.e. English-only) is to negate all these bilingual realities.

Contemporary second language theories and practitioners are awakened to such realities. Most of the second language teaching approaches and methods have recognized the intrinsic value of translation in language teaching and learning.  However, by this I am not saying Grammar Translation Method has made its comeback to second language pedagogy. Here my focus is on translation as one of the several techniques of language teaching and learning.

Let’s name some of the teaching methods that candidly cherish translation as a teaching technique. Communicative Language Teaching is one of them. In the early 1970s, CLT gave space for the judicious use of the mother tongue in the second language classroom. Other contemporary methods, namely Task-based Language Teaching, Participatory Approach, and Content-based Instruction all have regarded translation as a technique that can be used in different stages of a lesson with the varying degrees of intensity for various purposes. It means the question is not whether to use translation or not but how to use translation for effective teaching.

At this point I am reminded of David Graddol’s book English Next. In the book Graddol has clearly stated that translation and interpretation are two dominant skills to be developed in users of Global English. Its implication is that translation is not only the means, it is also being one of the goals of English Language Education.

But I am disappointed to see how translation is perceived, treated and used in our context. English teachers, educators and trainers are still oblivious to the changing perspectives towards translation. In private schools translation is still a taboo as it was in the early and mid 20th century. They are practicing their ignorance. They are swayed by the fallacy that the use of the mother tongue and translation hamper the learning of English. On the other hand, in the public schools, translation is either overused or wrongly used.

I hope that English teachers trained in the contemporary language teaching methods will find respectful space for translation in the days to come and will use it in a balanced way.

dsc01814Q:  The quantity of translated books (both in English and Nepali) is increasing in Nepal. How is their quality?

It’s good to see the increasing number of translated books in the market. It’s not only the books, with the books is increasing the transfer of ideas and literary crafts across the languages. With the transfer is increasing cross-cultural awareness. Also with the growth of translation is expanding our publishing industry and translation is on the way to becoming a profession. However the worry is that quantity is waxing and quality is waning. Obviously, when there is a race for quantity, quality is often left behind. Most of the translations are poor in quality i.e. clumsy and stilted language, misinterpretation of the source text and its distorted presentation. But we should not forget that some translations are exemplary. I hope such translations will inspire the new translators.

Q: Whose role is it to ensure the quality of translated literature and other materials? What is the role of Society of Translators Nepal to improve their quality?

It’s the translator who becomes the target of criticism when the text fails to come up to certain standards. Undoubtedly, quality is subject to translator’s art and skills, sincerity and sensibility. It means the translator’s role is the key to good translation. However, there are a myriad of other factors at play in translation. First, we should understand that translation is not everyone’s cup of tea. There is a widespread misconception that any good bilingual can be a good translator. Translation is a distinct area of creative writing which calls for rigorous practice, study and training. Moreover, policy and investment of the publishing houses are of paramount importance. Most of the publishers offer a meagre amount to the translator. Even worse, they make no provision for editing. Likewise, the readers’ role also cannot be overlooked. Quality conscious readers can contribute to the publishing of good translations.

Society of Translators Nepal is not the organization to make a direct intervention in quality enhancement. All it can do and has been doing is raise awareness of translation through informal interactions, talks and seminars, and conferences. We invite translators to our talk programme to share their experiences. We have been organizing a seminar to mark the International Translation Day on 30th September. This year we organized the first national conference.

Q: What are the further plans of the Society?

Apart from the annual conference, the Society (http://translators.org.np/) is going to publish its first journal within a couple of months. We are midway through editing of A Bilingual Glossary of Terms. Similarly, we have planned to run some small-scale translation workshops.

Q: What do say to the budding translators and the translation enthusiasts?

First and foremost, we should understand that translation is a distinct field of study and practice. It has its own charms and challenges. No suggestion works unless we sit down and translate. When we start translating, our own experience will guide us. What I say is that those who do not love language should not come to this field. Fall in love with language; be the explorer of meanings; be ready to be an unsatiated leaner of language; be ready to fail and learn from your own failure.  Be a voracious reader and be an everyday writer. Be the part of the shangha of translators. Share your experiences and listen to others. Translate something every day.

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Throwing the Baby Out of the Bath Water: the Context of EMI in Nepal

Juliet Fry

Juliet Fry

 Juliet Fry is a national director of professional learning of secondary teachers’ of English language in New Zealand. She works for the Ministry of Education. Recently, she had been to Nepal in order to support a teachers’ training program in Khumbu region voluntarily. There is a practice of English Medium Instruction (EMI) for last six years. Our Choutari editor, Jeevan Karki, who is carrying out a research on English medium instruction (EMI) in Nepal, has managed to talk with her in relation to EMI in community schools of Nepal.

You have delivered English Medium training and interacted with teachers recently in Khumbu region. What’s your observation and evaluation on EMI in this region?

Well, I was encouraged by finding the high level of English, of may be one-third of the teachers. It was good to find that some of the teachers have a really very good English and would be capable of delivering the curriculum in English medium but I still have concerns about the fact that some of them are not really strong enough to deliver the curriculum really effectively in English medium.

So why do you think there is such a craze for English?

You know I’ve read quite a lot why there is such a craze. In my view it is because of the international opportunity and also the fact that private schools are delivering education in English and get high SLC score. So other schools (community schools) want to deliver education in English in order to retain students. There is also one benefit of English medium as it can keep the children in the region as they actually get to experience local culture, and they grow and learn with their home languages. Therefore, somewhere it is good that they are attracted to English language and stay in their own community. So they learn Sherpa at home and English at school. Then I’m worried about their Nepali language. So my concern is that they grow without having any language really strong.

What is the medium of the instruction in the sate-owned schools in New Zealand?

Well, I’ve been fortunate to work with the people who’ve come through the New Zealand education system in English medium. But the case of Maori is different. Their parents were also not allowed to speak Maori at schools, they had to speak English. Consequently, the generation lost Maori language. Now adults have decided to learn Maori language as a second language. On the other hand, the people who are now teachers, let’s say younger teachers, some of them learnt Maori as a second language and now they are working hard to bring out their children speak in Maori because in south island they’ve lost the native speakers of Maori language. All the adults have learnt Maori as the second language and their children are now at Maori medium schools.

Are there separate Maori medium schools?

Yes, there are separate Maori medium schools and so they are really working hard to regain the language which was nearly lost. And I’m worried that will happen here as well because the English is such a dominant language that it has the effect where after one or two generations the children most speak English and they won’t speak the home language.

How many local languages are there in New Zealand?

Only one, but there are different dialects. The south island dialect nearly died out and they are trying to regain but the other dialects are also fragile in all the areas. The language is quite endangered.

What is the official language in New Zealand?

Both Maori and English.

But in the context of Nepal, the official language is Nepali and we’ve got more than 100 other languages.

Yes. It’s quite different here. Nepali is lingua-franca, which is different from English as well. So it makes so complex because I can see that Nepali isn’t the native language of people in this region (Khumbu region). So, what I am trying to think as the solution is you can have multilingual education system which can really foster students’ learning in several languages.

What challenges do you see in implementing English medium instruction in the community schools in Nepal?

Well, one challenge is that not all people are fluent in English. Another challenge is that the measure of the success of schools seems to be SLC exam. That means quite a long time to actually know whether English Medium (EM) has been successful or not. It could be another challenge that you could be putting students in danger of not being successful without really knowing the result of EM until several years down the track. I think the process is too long leading the children vulnerable.

In the school system, what do you think is more important- the contents we are delivering or medium of language?

The purpose of education is not necessarily contents or language. Actually, language is means for gaining and I think obviously you need to have contents. But they are the part of developing curricula. Wonderful students would come out of the schools whims. So I think both contents and language are means for building strong students.

You said that in multilingual countries, the teachers also are not strong in English and children are from different linguistic background. In that context, what would be outcome of such practice?

Perhaps, the best thing is to have Nepali for the first few years, which is the lingua franca, the language that the most teachers would be competent in. Then to build with the teachers, who are competent in English to build from subject to English as they go through using the competency of other teachers in the schools like if the Mathematics teacher is not competent in English. Could they do Mathematics in Nepali and Social Studies in English? I don’t know if that would be possible. But I know in Europe at the moment that is one kind of idea of developing that you might do one subject in one language and other subject in the other language. Just for that you’ve the opportunity to develop academic language well that may be in one subject area.

What impacts could EMI bring in the children’s mother tongue or others language?

Another aspect I think is having a policy to incorporate useful mother tongue especially in early childhood situation, where you might have community members being involved in early childhood using those mother tongue languages. Similarly, it could be something that I’m thinking about New Zealand schools as well because we have many different students from different languages, who come as migrant to New Zealand. How do we support them within an English medium context and how do we really value their languages is very significant. I don’t think we do it very well. So here I’m talking about doing it better in Nepal and I don’t think we have got it well sorted in New Zealand. What I’m trying to put across is to demonstrate those languages are valued in classes, for instance, you can have students to write up their languages on the wall, so you can identify the existing languages in your class. Then you can positively say that they can discuss in their languages, come up with ideas and bring it back in English for discussion. It shows that you’re deliberately valuing those languages and allowing students to get success in those languages in the national assessment because that is the battle. The government has to try everything and I think there should be assessment, which allows students through many languages to do something, which might be giving the texts in different languages and answering in English or something. You can’t do everything but it’s something trying to value those languages inside the education system. And our curriculum by the principle talks about valuing the languages at the top level but it’s not clearly articulated in detail, so I think there is a bit of struggle.

English is a global language and there is a craze of English everywhere. If you have good English, you are saleable in global market. In this context, what about having one global language like English or something? Is it really necessary to have other languages, when you have one global language?

We’ve seen in New Zealand, some problems that come with colonization, where the people’s language and identity is disregarded. Some franchises have lack of power and also associated with loss of land and other things. So, it’s a complex issue that comes about possibly through colonization. However, Nepal is in a different situation, which has never been colonized. It means there is not loss of power that comes with the loss of language but then there is this kind of neo- colonization in a way that English has become a language of commerce. And are we selling ourselves or the power of our country to other countries? Like there is a big drive of going and having job in another country but what about building up Nepal itself? This whole globalization, workforce and everything, I’m not sure where it’s going! But are those people who go away to other countries to work then come back to Nepal? Is that the way the economy wants to build in long run or does it want to build in another way. English is obviously tied up with that the opportunity to work. And the important question is does Nepal want grow its economy by drawing income from other countries? Nepal is in between two growing world economy i.e. China and India. So is it better to learn Mandarin or Hindi in future?

The teachers in schools are very much convinced by the power of English and are practicing EM in community schools, what could be the role of organization working for professional development of teachers?

That’s a good question. I think it is important to deliver the teachers’ training in English so that their English reaches up to the level, where they will be able to deliver curriculum in English. I think, alongside the teachers’ training, there should be some researches on how are the students of year 3 and year 5 in English medium comparing with the students of same grades in Nepali medium schools? What is the level of students in this region comparing with the students in another region studying in Nepali medium? Is there equal level of students being able to articulate and understand ideas? That would one interesting thing to look at and I also think it would be interesting to look at the impact of two dominant languages Nepali or English language. Or if you are learning in English language, what’s happening to local languages? Are there any different impacts on local languages, when students learn in Nepali comparing with English?

What could be the better way of practicing EMI in the context of Nepal?

I still think that multi-lingual approach would be a better way because you have Nepal as a country and language is a part of identity. If you bring up a whole population without culturally located and linguistically connected then what will be the situation of children when they grow as adult like who haven’t got feet on the ground but you can still have roots in English. Therefore, in the early grades, there should be more than one language, where you have multi-lingual education. I think that would be wise. There is a phrase, “throwing the baby out of the bath water.” You don’t want to throw away all the learning and knowledge that teachers have in Nepali and respect English. So I think the wise way is to look at multi- lingual education.

Thank you so much for you valuable time, ideas and sharing experiences around the world!

It’s my pleasure!

Juliet has also taught in Auckland secondary schools-in several learning areas, as well as being an ESOL specialist and coordinator. She has also been an ESOL and Literacy advisor in the top half of the South Island for several years. She has had advisory roles with Ministry of Education.

Parents have rights to choose medium of instruction: Executive Director of NCED

Khagaraj Baral

Khagaraj Baral, Executive Director, NCED

National Centre for Educational Development (NCED) has been running National Initiative to Improve Teaching in English (NIITE) Project. For this special issue dedicated to EMI, Choutari editor Jeevan Karki has spoken to Khagraj Baral, Executive Director of NCED on EMI practice in Nepal. Here is the excerpt: 

What kind of project is it? And, why was the necessity of it felt? Could you please explain?

NIITE is a project to support our regular teachers’ professional development programmes. English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) was already in practice in our community schools before launching NIITE, whereas, it was launched two years back. There is a provision of conducting teachers’ training based on the needs of teachers in the School Sector Reform Plan (SSRP). The need of the most of teachers from community schools was skills to teach through EMI. It was because of the decrease in number of students in community schools in towns, would-be towns and district headquarters and the reason behind the shift of students to private boarding schools was the choice for EMI education. The next factor was the interest of parents to educate their children through EMI. Considering both the reasons, the School Management Committee (SMC) and teachers started working on teaching and learning through EMI. Then, we designed the training programmes as per the demand of teachers to get trained for delivering EMI based lessons. There is no pressure for schools to shift for EMI. Schools are free to use Nepali, English or both according to education act (2010), regulations and curriculum.

How many community schools are teaching through EMI and how many teachers are trained for EMI?

During last Fiscal Year, 7,500 teachers were trained from NCED. The training was provided to the teachers who were teaching subjects other than Nepali and English. Some schools are also managing the trainings on their own. The community schools from Daunne to Gaidakot in Nawalparasi district have conducted trainings with their own initiative. The schools that want to start EMI are not going to wait only for our support, instead our support seems to have been late than their initiation. Some schools have even recruited teachers for teaching through EMI in self-funding.

According to language policy, schools can use Nepali, English or both as a medium of instruction. Based on the policy, schools are adopting EMI even without qualified teachers and minimum resources. What kind of outcome this may bring in future? Doesn’t the government have to ensure the fulfillment of minimum requirements before implementing EMI?

Schools have adopted the medium of instruction as per the existing language policy. Are there qualified teachers and sufficient resources in the schools that use Nepali as a medium of instruction? If it is yes, there is also not satisfactory results. The medium of instruction does not solely improve the result. However, it has been observed that the results of the schools which have adopted EMI have been improving slowly. The result may not be satisfactory for few years but it will improve thereafter.

The SLC result of 2013/14 has shown that the schools that produced encouraging results were found to be adopting EMI, take an example of Kanti and Kalika schools of Butwal, Shanti school of Manigram. Similarly, schools of Biratnagar, Pokhara, Surkhet, Kathmandu, Bhaktpur, Lalitpur, Damak, and Hetauda have proved the same level of results. Why don’t you analyse the result of the community schools after adopting EMI in last ten years?

A lot of issues and controversies have been raised internationally in terms of shifting the medium of instruction (MoI). In order to systematize it, different countries have clearly set guidelines on age/level to start EMI, subjects to teach through EMI and so on. For instance, there is a provision of introducing EMI from the third year of primary level in China. What are the guidelines of teaching through EMI in Nepal?

The medium of instruction is determined by socio-economic, political and linguistic factors of the country and it is led by politics. As the politics is also based on democracy, the need and interest of people is strong. If there was an autocratic rule, only one language would have been recognized. If parents want to educate their children through EMI, the theories and principles of language become secondary. They lay-men do not care about the principles of language teaching. They want their children to get quality education of international standard. Secondly, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the authority is vested in the parents to choose the kind of education for their children. Talking about the case of China, although Chinese is the largest language in the world, they start EMI from the third year of primary level. Why is there a need for EMI in China as they have the most spoken language in the world? China is the leading economy in the world. It doesn’t need to depend on other countries. It doesn’t need to worry about foreign employment and it has excelled in technology. Despite all, it is also adopting EMI. The reality of our country is different. So, it we can’t compare with other countries.

In our context, the existing law and policy are sufficient. The important thing is to implement it honestly.

We are still not able to teach EFL/ESL effectively in our schools. In this context, don’t you think it is a hurry to start teaching other subjects in English medium?

You are right but the major question is how effective the Nepali medium classes are. We can never start if we wait to fix everything and then start. Attempts for changes have to be made. Schools have never been forced to shift for EMI. This shift has taken place in those schools which are interested to start and their infrastructure, teachers and SMC are ready for it. Nothing can stop those who are willing for change and those who want to remain as they are, there is easy policy for them too. You know that that institutional schools use EMI. Are there sufficient and qualified teachers for EMI? I’ve also found their teachers weak in both language and contents. Challenges are obvious during reformation. We need to move forward resolving the problems.

When children are taught and exposed to English language from very young age instead of teaching in their home language. Such products for instance, from private boarding schools, are found to be loving foreign language and culture rather than their own. Furthermore, the government is also promoting English language. In this context, what will be the effect in Nepali language and culture after introducing EMI at very young age?

The issue you raised is serious. However, it makes no difference. Have the products taught in Nepali medium protected and promoted their language and culture? Are they aware of their language and culture? Have they used their local or home language? Has the only use of Nepali or local language helped in the livelihood of people and in international competitions? And, have the ones taught through EMI gone against the languages and cultures of their country? Language is only a medium of learning. Although children are taught through EMI, they have spent more of their time at home. Have parents made their children aware of their language and culture? Every house has been promoting Hindi language watching Hindi movies, TV serials and cartoons on TV. Hasn’t it promoting the culture? Similarly, hasn’t the culture coming through English movies and cartoons? The education in schools has made the future leaders prosperous. The issue you raised is more serious for out of school scenario rather than schools.

What kind of programmes and modality does NCED have to produce qualified teachers for teaching through EMI?

NCED supports through trainings. Although we don’t have sufficient trainers, we provide training through our roaster trainers. We’ve prepared 150 trainers in cooperation with British Council in the last year and developed the package. I think now time has come to select teachers having basic communication skills in English in community schools. Like Public Service Commission, Teachers Service Commission also  need to test the English language skills of teachers. Talking about our programme, we now are going to design our modality in terms of needs of teachers including EMI training.

Choutari team would like to thank the Executive Director of NCED for his valuable time and insights into the practice of EMI. 

Reimagining education from a multilingual perspective: Policies/practices, realities and looking forward

Prem Phyak

Prem Phyak

EMI has been a hot topic for research and interaction locally and globally. Choutari Editor Jeevan Karki has spoken to Prem Phyak, a PhD scholar from the University of Hawaii, US on EMI. Mr. Phyak critically shares his opinions on practices and realities on EMI and suggests some ways forward for EMI practice in Nepal. Here it goes:

Nepalese public/community schools are switching the medium of instruction to English day by day and the government is also in the campaign of training the teachers for promoting EMI. Is EMI the need of time or an effect of linguistic hegemony?

This is a complex question; it requires a thorough observation of local context and an critical analysis of what language education research findings have shown. Let me try to be as specific as possible. First of all, it is not quite clear why English must be the medium of instruction from Grade 1. What’s the purpose of English as the medium of instruction (EMI) policy? Does this policy really help children access both linguistic and academic knowledge? To put it differently, what’s wrong with teaching content area subjects (e.g., Social Studies, Mathematics, and Science) in Nepali and/or any other languages that students understand better? Of course, the English language has an important space in global multilingualism particularly to access globally available socio-economic and educational resources. However, this taken-for-granted assumption does not work quite well in education (teaching-learning process) particularly in the context where children speak languages other than English outside classroom (For many children in Nepal, English is the third language and they do not need to use English in their everyday social interactions). Whether or not students have a better understanding of the content of teaching/curricula largely depends upon whether or not the language used as the medium of instruction in school is comprehensible to them. Studies from all over the world have shown that most low-achieving and drop-out students are taught in a language other than the language(s) they speak at home/community.

The basic principle of learning in the classroom is: if students don’t understand the language of instruction, they are not able to achieve the curricular goals. Most importantly, they are, directly and directly, excluded from the whole learning process; students are not able to invest themselves in performing cognitive skills such as comprehending, evaluating, analyzing, and critical/independent thinking. What we must know is that if we care about and would like to put education and children at the forefront, the imposition of any language as the medium of instruction (e.g., EMI) in which students cannot fully operate in the classroom leads to numerous social, psychological, and cognitive issues. Studies have further shown that if children are forced to learn in “an insufficiently or poorly developed second [/foreign language], the quality and quantity of what they learn from complex curriculum materials and produce in oral and written form may be relatively weak and impoverished” (Baker, 2011, p. 166).  It is basically wrong to force students, who have never learned and used English before they come to school, learn all the content area subjects in English (without any English language support)  from the first day in school. We should also know that learning in Nepali has already been a problem for many children.

I think the question is not whether “EMI is the need of time”; rather we must engage in analysis of whether EMI is an appropriate approach to ensure access and meaningful participation of all children in teaching-learning process in the classroom. The current de facto EMI policy is fundamentally flawed; it seriously lacks academic/educational justifications that are grounded in language education theories and best practices. It is quite surprising to see that public schools are switching from Nepali medium to EMI policy without examining its educational, social, and cognitive ramifications. I don’t quite understand the intention of the government as well; if we closely look at the Ministry of Education’s policies and plans such as Education for All, Millennium Development Goals, School Sector Reform Plan and National Curriculum Framework, it wants to promote multilingual education by considering children’s home/community languages a resource for an equitable and quality education. Through these policies, the government has shown its commitment to ensure access, equity, and quality education for all children. Thus, it is completely unethical for the Ministry of Education to divest from its commitment to multilingual education and invest just on EMI as a monolingual approach to medium of instruction policy. In this sense, we can say the current EMI policy seems more hegemonic, i.e. it is shaped by the global dominance of the English language but not by its educational/academic rationale in the multilingual context of Nepal. However, I would like to mention that any policy (be it Nepali-only or English-only) that promotes monolingualism in education is hegemonic for multilingual students.

In Nepal, do you think we are ready for switching the medium of instruction especially in public/community schools?

Whether we are ‘ready’ for an EMI policy is not what we must be debating about. Rather we must engage in critically examining whether EMI contributes to promote both access and quality in education.  Here, I would like to mention two things: first, we already have English as a ‘compulsory’ subject from Grade 1. From the first day in school, children must learn English, irrespective of their linguistic backgrounds (I learned English from Grade 4, but was never taught in EMI in school). My own observations and other studies show that public schools and teachers are facing a number of challenges to teach English-as-a-compulsory-subject from Grade 1.  How can we imagine that the EMI policy works in this existential reality?

Second language acquisition and bilingual education studies have revealed that when students are not fully functional in the languages taught/used in schools, they are not able to fully engage in cognitive activities and perform academic skills well. We must also be aware of the fact that strong academic skills and knowledge/concepts that students develop in one language is always transferable to learning a new language. This means that it is important to help children develop their academic, cognitive, and linguistic abilities in their home language/community language before they are taught any new language. We have already seen this issue in teaching English-as-a-compulsory-subject. Therefore, we should first engage in understanding and reimagining how to teach ‘compulsory English’ effectively. I think we must be happy if we are able to effectively execute the English-as-a-compulsory-subject policy.

Most importantly, we must not forget that each academic subject, grade, and level has specific objectives that the nation wants students to achieve. In other words, the nation expects students to learn specific content knowledge and skills by the end of a subject, grade and level. While talking with me, teachers (science, social studies, mathematics, and even English) have said that it is ‘impossible’ to achieve subject-, grade-, and level-wise objectives through EMI.  Let me share an anecdote. I was observing a Grade 2 science class; the topic of the lesson was the characteristics of living and non-living things. The teacher first asked students to open the science textbook (English translated version of the national textbook in Nepali) and wrote the topic on the board. He kept on reading the lines from the textbook and asked a series of questions to the students. What are living things? What do living things do? All the students were silent. I heard some students asking questions to each other in Nepali to check whether they understood what the teacher was teaching. The most difficult moment was when the teacher was unable to explain the meaning of the word ‘sensitivity’ [one of the characteristics of living things] and could not provide its actual meaning in Nepali to the students. Students remained frozen unless the teacher allowed them to talk in Nepali. As the students could not respond to the questions in English, the teacher himself wrote all the answers on the board and asked them to copy. There was no teacher-student communication at all, but very little student-student interaction in Nepali. The whole lesson was like an English language teaching class, rather than a science lesson. I have observed so many other Science and Social Studies lessons that end up being lessons on the “English language”. After each class observation, I asked Social Studies and Science teachers whether EMI is contributing to achieve the subject-, grade-, and level-wise goals of education. All teachers said “No” and preferred to teach these subjects in Nepali.

My point is that the language that is used as the medium of instruction in schools should not be detrimental to learning. I have seen that EMI is negatively affecting students’ academic skills (use of language for specific genre/communication, independent/collaborative learning, and critical thinking) and knowledge. What is most dangerous is that the de facto EMI policy has projected (quality) English language learning and teaching as synonymous to quality education, which is no other than a myth.

Which is the right level/age to introduce EMI in our education system? Why?

It depends upon whether or not students actually need EMI. The current EMI policy is very much top-down and based on very weak ‘commonsensical ideas’. What I am saying is that a language policy must embrace ‘on-the-ground’ language practices and realities and should be backed up by language education theories and findings; it should not be based on non-academic/education assumptions that a few people think might work well for all the children.

Talking of the right level to introduce EMI, we must be clear about some basic ideas about language and language ability. First, it is important to understand what language abilities are necessary in education. There are two general language abilities: conversational and cognitive academic language proficiency. Conversational proficiency is concerned with interpersonal communicative skills such as holding a conversation, introducing each other, talking with shopkeepers, and organizing meetings. On the other hand, cognitive academic language proficiency includes more complex language abilities needed to handle curriculum contents. It includes language abilities to engage in complex higher order thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, evaluation, hypothesizing, and generalizing in specific academic areas such as Social Studies, Mathematics, and Science.

Studies have shown that students take 2-4 years to acquire conversational language abilities while they take 6-8 years to develop cognitive academic language proficiency. This happens in very well planned educational policies with competent teachers, sufficient resources, and a continual support from the government. You know how badly our educational plans and policies are development without any comprehensive research. We must understand that conversational language abilities do not reflect cognitive academic abilities. In other words, we cannot judge students’ cognitive academic ability in terms of their fluency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in English. We must know whether students can cope with academic content areas through English. Considering the current failure rate in English (even in basic interpersonal skills), unplanned educational scenario, and an extremely limited understanding of language education in a multilingual context, I cannot exactly tell what level we should begin EMI. What I can say however is that introducing EMI without understanding existing conversational and cognitive academic language abilities of both students and teachers is detrimental to both access and quality in learning. A comprehensive plan based on an extensive research study must be developed, piloted, and examined what works and what does not. A non-negotiable principle we must keep in mind is: the language gap should not create educational/learning gap among students.

As Alan Davies, a famous applied linguist who has immensely contributed to the beginning of Nepal’s English language teaching, has recently argued, the expansion of English in Nepal (both as medium and subject) must not be guided by any ‘political motive’ (although it happened when he was leading a 1984 ELT Survey), rather it should be guided by an academic motive. In the 1984 ELT Survey and his 2009 article, Alan Davies has recommended that it is better to start English from Grade 8 so that students are well prepared to learn English and more resources (both teachers and other materialistic resources) can be concentrated on teaching better English. But as the secretary of the Ministry of Education and the representative from the royal palace rejected this academic idea, his survey team had to negotiate and agree on the Grade 4 start. But they have clearly mentioned that lowering English to Grade 1 is not academic sound and desirable. But as we seen now the Ministry of Education has already introduced English-as-a-compulsory-subject from Grade 1 and now promoting it as the medium of instruction.

If we to go for EMI, where should we start from- tertiary level to prepare teachers or from the school level?

I am not sure if I understood this question well. If you want me to comment on teacher preparation for EMI, I have to say two specific points. First, before we talk about teacher preparation we must be clear about the purpose of EMI. Most public schools are forced to introduce this policy because they want to increase the student number so that they get more teacher quotas from the government. They also want to compete with private schools. However, all these arguments are non-academic and very superficial that conceal real issues in public school management. Second, if we would like to discuss the issue of medium of instruction on the academic ground, we should seriously think about how we can prepare teachers to help children, who come from multilingual, multicultural and multiethnic backgrounds without having any exposure of the English language, learn curricular contents better.  Based on experiences from all over the world, universities develop language teacher education programs and courses to address issues that teachers face on-the-ground. However, we do not have a strong language teacher education program that prepares competent teachers who can better handle a multilingual class in Nepal.

Let me share two issues with regard to teacher preparation for EMI. First, the way this policy has been pushed without setting up a rigorous teacher education program that both educates and trains teachers on the issues of language education does not seem to be sustainable and realistic. A professional-development (PD) model of teacher training, a famous model of teacher training in Nepal, is not sufficient for the teachers who have to work with a new language education policy. Thus, it is important for the Ministry of Education to collaborate with the universities to develop a new language teacher education program to deal with the current language issues. Second, and most importantly, the new teacher education program must embrace a multilingual approach to language teacher education in which teachers explore various models and approaches to teach multilingual students multilingually. In other words, they should know the fact that a multilingual medium of instruction policy not only promotes learning multiple languages, including English, but also promotes strong academic content knowledge.  What I am saying here is that the ways in which teachers have been trained now simply promotes the monolingual ideology of ‘teach-in-English-for-English’.

Children in private boarding schools are taught in English medium and exposed to English language and culture since the first day of their admission. Similarly, all subjects expect Nepali are taught in English and public schools are literally copying the same practice. Do you think it is a good practice or there should be some limitation regarding the use of English language in schools?

Yes, you are right. Public schools are imitating what private schools have been doing in terms of the medium of instruction policy. As we know, private schools focus on English language teaching both as a subject and the medium of instruction. Let me mention two points: a) as private schools are profit-oriented institutes, they have been promoting the English medium of instruction policy as a principal feature of education even when the use of languages other than Nepali were banned in public schools. They taught English from Grade 1 even when the public schools were asked to teach English from Grade 4. Most private schools are located in urban cities and affordable only for high-middle class people; and b) private schools are considered ‘better schools’ because of their students’ higher pass percentage in School Leaving Certificate Exams (SLC), a gateway to higher education. Every year, private schools excel public schools in students’ passing rate in SLC. One of the major reasons for private schools’ success is the greater awareness of parents who send their kids to private schools. As these parents are already conscious about and can invest their time, money, and other resources in their kids’ education, most private school students receive proper guidance and resources (from both school and parents) that help them succeed in SLC. Contrary to this, most public school students, who live a rural agrarian life in lower-class families, do not have all these luxuries. And there are other political, educational, and managerial issues in public schools. Thus, many public school students are unsuccessful in SLC. This gap rooted in socio-economic class differences has eventually constructed a commonsensical assumption that private schools are better and their EMI policy is the only way to obtain quality education.

Public schools are following what private schools have been doing in terms of EMI policy. In various interactions (both formal and informal) with me, head teachers and District Education Officers hastily claim that they have to implement EMI because in this ‘adhunik jamana’ [modern age] English is necessary for ‘jagir, bidesh, and gunastariya shikshya” [job, abroad, and quality education]. However, they really don’t have answers to these questions: how EMI helps to achieve all these? Does it mean that students who are not taught in EMI do not get job and quality education?

Schools that practice English as medium of instruction are considered as better schools and are believed to provide quality education. Can EMI help promote quality education?

It’s unfortunate that EMI policy has been considered a panacea for educational issues in public schools. As described above, this policy does not seem to promote quality education in reality. Although it is hard to define what a quality education is, it is evident that the education that helps students develop independent, creative, and critical thinking/leaning skills; appreciate multiple perspectives while engaging in social interactions; and foster an increased awareness of both local and global sociopolitical issues is desirable for all children to succeed in the present world context. A quality education provides students with an opportunity to fully invest their cognitive abilities in making sense of the world where they live in. And a quality education eventually promotes both access and equity in education. What is most disturbing however is that schools are labeled ‘better schools’ or ‘worse schools’ based on whether or not they have implemented an EMI policy.  Such evaluative discourses, policies, and practices are a very narrow-view about schools and education and they reduce the meaning of education just to learn English.

Public schools feel a strong pressure to increase the number of students, as mentioned above, to get more teacher quotas. In my interactions with head teachers, teachers, parents, and policymakers, I have found that public schools have introduced EMI to ‘compete with private schools’. Most head teachers argue that the EMI policy is necessary to attract more students in public schools. However, it is evident that the absence of the EMI policy is not the only reason behind the low student enrollment in public schools. Increased migration of people from rural to urban areas, unplanned opening of private schools in both rural villages and urban towns, and decreasing population growth are some of the major reasons behind the issue. Most interestingly, although most public schools have ‘announced’ the EMI policy to attract students, they have not been able to successful to implement the policy. They have asked students to buy English textbooks, but eventually end up translating everything into Nepali. Some head teachers have said that the EMI policy did not even work in their schools so they have started teaching in Nepali. They further said the policy created a lot of confusion among students and teachers. I have seen that students could not answer test items in English unless teachers translated the test items into Nepali. Some teachers give test items before test and dictate their answers in advance.

The assumption that the EMI policy fixes all the issues in public schools is a very myopic view on public education. Public schools (and, of course, private schools as well) can provide a better education in any language and language practices that students understand better and feel comfortable to express themselves.

What is your suggestion regarding the use and practice of EMI in the schools in Nepal?

First, at the theoretical level we must be clear that forcing students to learn academic content knowledge and skills in the language which they have not fully development yet is detrimental to effective learning. Thus imposing English as the medium of instruction, in the guise of an abstract quality education and an imaginary or unrealistic job market, without having an in-depth understanding of language education theories and best practices and without analyzing its educational ramifications may not help students develop strong academic skills and knowledge. Second, there is a clear distinction between teaching English as a language and using it as the medium of instruction. But the current EMI policy and practices are focused more on helping students develop English language proficiency, but not on achieving curricular goals as specified by the Ministry of Education. Most schools and teachers are not teaching Social Studies, for example, but they are teaching the ‘English language’—vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling, sentence structure, and so on. This implies that the entire teaching-learning activities turn to be activities for ‘teaching English’ and schools eventually look like an “English language institute.”

Third, and most importantly, our policymakers must be aware that there are models and best practices in which both language and academic content can be taught using multiple languages simultaneously in the classroom. Recent studies have shown that a monolingual medium of instruction policy does not work well for multilingual students. Thus it is important to redefine the current language education policies and practices including teacher education and professional development programs from a new multilingual perspective.

Finally, as the Ministry of Education has already developed a multilingual education policy and shown its commitment to promote access and equity in education, it is not professionally and institutionally ethical for any organization to focus only on a monolingual approach to education, including teacher training. A multilingual approach to language education not only provides equal space to all languages, including English, but also promotes better language and academic content learning.  So it is the right time to redesign our teacher education programs, professional-development modules, and teacher training packages considering our local multilingual complexity and the role of English in it.

Work cited

Baker, C. (2011). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism (5th ed.). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Sharing Experiences Enhances Teaching and Learning: Bishnu Hari Timilsina

Nepalese ELT field has owned many dedicated trainers, supervisors, and teachers helping hundreds of thousands of students, growing professionally and helping others grow professionally. They have been serving the nation by teaching English and contributing through the institutions they have been involved in.

Associate Professor, TU Prithvi Narayan Campus Pokhara

Associate Professor, TU
Prithvi Narayan Campus Pokhara

One of such personalities is Mr. Bishnu Hari Timilsina, Associate Professor of English Education at Prithvi Narayan Campus Pokhara, a constituent campus of Tribhuvan University. He has been teaching English for more than three and a half decades. He also served as Secondary School Supervisor for about seven years before he began his teaching career at the university. Rajan Kumar Kandel, Choutari editor and coordinator for April Issue had an interview with him regarding his professional journey and experiences in the field of ELT.

Please go through the interview and leave comments on the issues raised. Your words may provide a sense of gratitude to the dedicated teachers who have devoted their whole lives in the field of English language teaching and encourage the novice and potential professionals.

Rajan: Welcome to the April issue of ELT Choutari, Sir! First of all, I would like to ask you to highlight your ELT journey and your experiences of teaching English from school to college level.

Mr. Timilsina: Thank you Rajan Jee and the Choutari team for inviting me to the interview of ELT Choutari to share my experiences in EFL classroom. I am very happy to express my ideas through your popular web magazine. I taught in secondary schools for about 15 years and I have been teaching in campus level for more than 20 years.

You are the founding Chair of NELTA Surkhet and could you please share with us about your recent involvement with NELTA and such other ELT related professional organizations?  

Yes, I was the founding chair of NELTA Surkhet in 1996. We tried our best to organize English teachers of Surkhet and develop them professionally during our tenure.  I’m the Life Member of NELTA, and involved in NELTA activities here in Pokhara. I’m not holding any leading role of NELTA recently.

How do you evaluate the condition of English language teaching in Nepal now and then?

Now, the ELT situation has improved in Nepal. New approaches, methods, and techniques of language teaching have been developed and practiced. We can see its reflection in Nepalese ELT as well. As a whole, it is not frustrating though we have to improve many things.

Do you think that teaching and learning English are still not encouraged very much in Nepal?

No. I don’t think so. However, there are places in Nepal where learners are not getting enough opportunities. Most of the schools in Nepal are still not informed of the new teaching methods because of many problems. They are not equipped with ELT resources including sufficient and trained English teachers. The situation should be improved.

How could an experienced English teacher contribute empowering novice ELT practitioners throughout the country?

Obviously, experienced English teachers can contribute empowering novice ELT practitioners by bringing them into exposure through such professional networks. We can do it by integrative and intrinsic motivation and strategic investment to the novice learners. We can just show them to the vast storehouse of knowledge for professional development. They do rest of the things themselves.

Choutari team has used approaches, platforms, and talents of its members and ELT experts in pursuing professional development of ELT practitioners. Do you think such volunteer initiatives can contribute cooperative learning and sharing among ELT professionals? 

Sure. Volunteer initiatives can contribute professional development and cooperative learning. We can share experiences and enhance our teaching and learning with the help of such platforms. ELT Choutari has contributed a lot to its readers to search the sources of knowledge and get acquainted with the activities, studies, and practices of the practitioners in the field.

What would you like to tell the readers of Choutari about how they can support this or similar volunteer initiative to develop oneself and let others develop professionally?

I think the learners should be active to develop their professionalism. They should initiate their journey of learning themselves. If we are doing something new, we should know what the other people are doing/saying on it. In this regard, Choutari can be a good platform on it.

Which Choutari article or interview that you have read in the past six years did you like most and why?

I like most of them as they had many interesting ideas and experiences. Mostly, I like those that have explored the current issues of ELT. So, I cannot be very much specific to select one or two. Many of them are useful to the ELT practitioners.

Please suggest any areas of professional conversation that Choutari is yet to pay attention to. 

In spite of the fact that it is difficult to prepare a matter that fits to all, we can provide creative, learners friendly and academic subject matter in it. Choutari can also include the materials that are equally helpful to the teachers teaching the beginners as well as the advanced learners.

Finally, would you like to convey any message to Choutari readers? 

Teaching and learning are give and take processes. So, give your experiences to Choutari and take some from it. Sharing experiences enhances both teaching and learning. Sharing is important in the field of English language teaching too. Platforms like Choutari can also be used for building rapport among the ELT practitioners experienced and novice, and home and abroad. It can build a professional network.

Interview with RELO Specialist, US Embassy, Nepal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Interview with BICC Teacher in China

Hu Xiao (Joseph is his English name) is one of the trainers of the workshop***.  He holds a master degree in Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages (MTCSOL). He has also been teaching in BICC for two years. He loves traveling and playing guitar. Here is the interview with Joseph on Chinese Language teaching. I hope you find it interesting and useful. 

What is the scope of Chinese language teaching and learning across the world? Why do you think foreigners should learn Chinese?

We hope that Chinese language teaching will be worldwide, just like French Alliance.

I think that China is a country with tons of people as well as opportunities, once you learn Chinese you’ll get the chance to communicate with one of the most potential nation.

As a language teacher, what problems and challenges do you face while teaching Chinese to the foreigners? And how do you overcome them?

The biggest problem or challenge i think is the teaching of Chinese characters. This is because foreign people are afraid of Chinese characters.

I think the Chinese teachers should not only teach the character itself, but also teach the background and the formation of characters. By that can let the students get interested in learning Chinese characters.

Does English language help you in teaching Chinese to foreigners? If yes, in what ways?

Definitely, especially in communicating with the beginners. We call English the “mediator”, but when a learner learns more and more, the use of English should be less and less.

Could you please share with us some phonetic difference between English and Chinese language?

For example, ‘j, q, and x’ in Chinese pinyin. In linguistics, we call them “the sound of tongue blade”, but in English we don’t have a sound like that. When the English-speakers start learning these 3 phonetics in Chinese, they find very hard to pronounce them.

Finally, would you like to convey some message to those interested in learning Chinese language?

We’d like to invite those who are interested in learning Chinese language to attend some Chinese language learning activities held by your country’s Confucius Institute. Because that is the place that you may directly feel the Chinese culture and language. Also if you are not that convenient in learning Chinese in class, you may choose the internet learning. Making more Chinese friends is also a good way to learn Chinese, because the Chinese people are always surround other countries’ people.

***

I have recently attended the ‘2015 China Workshop Program for Foreign Chinese Language Teachers’ at the campus of Beijing International Chinese College (BICC) in the Olympic Village in Beijing, Capital of China.

Over 30 teachers from Russia, Mongolia and Nepal participated in the China Workshop Program for Foreign Chinese Language Teachers, sponsored by Hanban. This workshop/training program is specifically designed to encourage foreign teachers to become Chinese language teachers and promote the Chinese language and Chinese culture outside China. The training course included 100 class hours, plus numerous sightseeing and cultural activities. The courses taught during the workshop were based on the needs of the Chinese language teachers; the main focus was on teaching the foreign participants the theory and methodology of teaching Chinese; and the application of modern educational technology in Chinese language teaching and cultural practices.

All the BICC trainers for this workshop are the full-time Chinese language teachers and guest professors from Beijing University, Beijing Language and Culture University, Beijing Normal University and Beijing Foreign Language University.

Here is the glimpse of the program in the video:

Interview with Program Manager of British Council Nepal

Ms Vaishali Pradhan is the Program Manager at British Council Nepal, working to improve English Language Teaching situation in the country. Here is an interview Choutari took with her.

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

Pradhan: These days English is no longer a language for the elite class. Students from all backgrounds want to learn the language. Parents aspire to see their children speak good English. It is because of this need that English Language teaching in schools has gained momentum over the past few years. Our education system has seen a systemic shift and so has the ELT situation in Nepal. Trained human resource, quality materials and assessment for me are the main challenges our schools face today. Figures from many of our project baselines have shown that majority of teachers continue to teach English in Nepali. Receptive skills like listening, speaking and reading are given less or no priority. Some of these teachers probably aren’t equipped with the right training while the others fail to take their learning into actual classroom teaching. Quality materials and assessment is also an area that needs attention. Good English language teaching requires materials that can make English learning fun. This then needs to be supplemented with an equally engaging assessment tool.

ELT Choutari: What are the key programmes that the British Council is implementing for improving ELT situation in Nepal? What has been most effective?

Pradhan: We currently have two large scale projects that focus on improving the teaching methodology of primary school teachers. English for Teaching: Teaching for English (ETTE+) is a British Council project that helps teachers of English language improve their language and teaching skills. ETTE+ is particularly designed for teachers who live in far-flung areas, and who have not yet benefited from training or development opportunities. English for Teaching: Teaching for English makes this possible by using a new flexible model of delivery that combines direct and indirect delivery of face-to-face, printed, electronic and on-line services. It helps school teachers improve their performance in the classroom by enhancing their access to materials, methods and opportunities for their professional training and development. We are currently this in Lamjung and Chitwan. The phase one results of this project was very promising – by the end of phase 1 we had 96% of teachers speaking in English in the classrooms compared to 76% during the baseline. We also had 88% students speaking in English with their teachers compared to 16% before the project intervention.

We recently signed an MoU with NCED to implement Project NIITE (National Initiative to Improve Teaching in English). This project is aimed at teachers working in an EMI (English as a medium of Instruction) setting. This project will be implemented from February 2015.

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

Pradhan: The British Council offers various opportunities for English teachers. We have scholarship opportunities like the Hornby Scholarship and Hornby Regional School. We have online and face-to-face training courses like LE Pathways, Master Series Workshops and Teach English Professional development courses. We also run the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) which is an internationally recognised English teaching qualification for people with little or no previous teaching experience. It is one of the most widely taken qualifications of its kind and it is essential for anyone hoping to work for a reputable English language teaching institution such as the British Council. Details of all these opportunities and resources can be accessed via our website or by clicking on the link below. 

http://www.britishcouncil.org.np/EnglishTeacherTrainingNepal

Teacher as a Reader

compiled by Santona Neupane

My learning accelerated as I learnt to read and more I read, more I understood, more I understood more I found my horizons expanding. As my horizon expanded, I realized that I could impart my knowledge and experience to others. My learning was aided by reading and I believe as I teach, my teaching will be aided by my reading. A teacher is first a reader than only a teacher. Here are the views of the two teachers and a learner on a teacher as a reader: 

Saroj Mandal:

Teachers help students to get knowledge for the fulfillment of their needs, desires, wishes etc. in their life. So, one can say they totally depend on their teachers. Students always learn from elders not because elders are always right but because they have more experiences of being wrong. Elders express their ideas, thoughts, opinions etc. through various literary forms. Among them one of the effective forms is print like newspapers, magazines, books, articles, poems, stories, essays, novels etc. More teachers will be in touch with these sources, they will have more practical and up to date knowledge which they can use in their profession. If teachers are good readers then not only can they recommend some reading materials to their students but they can also be mediator between students and the writers. Without teachers recommendation students may select inappropriate reading items which can demotivate them or lead them to a wrong paths. That’s why teacher needs to be a good reader as well.

Pabitra Gurung:

It was the color that attracted me
the amazing sounds
the heterogeneous meanings
that I was amused by

I was mistaken by the comics
blindfolded by the text
irritated by the comprehension
I hated and rejected because of exams

happy, encouraged, excited for the first class
struck by some new words I gasped
hurriedly looked into the dictionary
WHAT!!! I already knew it

continued the text, so many words,
already read but never had thought

now on more than 100th books,
teacher has a very less new word look
“you are confused, read the sentence
UNDERSTAND, don’t be amused”

Teachers know everything, yes they should and must,
no, teachers are human not gods,
I doubt,
if you are teaching then you should know,
or teach the level you can help them grow

I am a teacher and I am proud
I read because I have to make my knowledge sprout

Read then you understand your child,
Read then you love into the wild,
Read then there won’t be new words,
Read then you speak your guts,
Read then you will understand the world
Read then you will understand you

It’s better if you are reader then teacher
but when you are reader,
you won’t be a teacher,
you are facilitator or creator,
BUT
if you are teacher and reader,
you are satisfied and happiness transmit
you are knowledgeable and the learned one
whom all understand as the case already done

Jiwan Subedi:

He took out a notebook from his back pocket and dictated his lecture of the day. It did not take long for the class to decipher that the data he provided was ten years old. The notebook was in tatters. This was a lecture in the first week of my University. We stopped attending the Professor’s lectures. A decade back, he had switched into being a one-way organism that had stopped taking in and only gave out information and ideas. They said, he had become a Professor with promising credentials, and was then an embodiment of excellence. The person had changed when he stopped reading; the once-stellar brain received nothing to process and fell into disuse. 

How can effectiveness of In-Service Teacher Training be maximized?

invert me

JEEVAN KARKI

…..opportunities for in-service training are crucial to the long-term development of teachers as well as for the long- term success of the programs in which they work…”

–Richards (2005)

In-service teacher training (ISTT) is essential for teachers to enhance their professional skills and update themselves with the latest trends in pedagogy. In order to serve the purpose, government of Nepal formally established National Council for Educational Development (NCED) in 1993 under the Ministry of Education (MoE).

The NCED is an apex body responsible for human resource development in Education, especially in pedagogy. One of the major activities of NCED is to provide ISTT to in-service teachers in different phases for their professional development.

Every year, ISTT programs are conducted to in-service teachers across the country through NCED itself or Lead Resource Centers (LRC) and Resource Centers (RC) based in district levels. However, it is reportedly argued that the effectiveness and impact of such trainings in the classroom remains yet to be capitalized on. For this interactive article, I have made attempts to bring views and opinions of the concerned stakeholders including Dr Anjana Bhattarai, Head of English Education, Central Department of Tribhuvan University (TU), Dr Laxman Gnawali, Associate Professor at Kathmandu University (KU) School of Education, training expert from NCED, teacher educators, and Resource Persons and teachers.

They were asked:

“The government of Nepal offers in-service training to teachers but there is not much visible improvement in the pedagogy in classroom. What can be the causes behind it and how can the in-service teacher training be made highly effective and productive?

DR ANJANA BHATTARAI  | Head of English Education, Central Department, TU, Nepal

anjanabhattaraiIn my perspective one of the most important factors contributing for ineffective in-service teacher training is the attitude of teachers. Most teachers (not all because few are active and work hard) do not feel such training as an opportunity for their professional development, whereas they feel it as a chance to earn extra money. It is a tragedy that we are yet unable to make them feel the importance of it. Therefore, teachers need to change their attitude and apply the skills learnt in training in their classroom. I think a possible solution for this problem can be a good head teacher. If a head teacher has positive attitude towards training and encourages his teachers to apply new ideas in classroom, teachers cannot afford to be reluctant to transfer the skills in the classrooms.

Weak monitoring system is yet another factor for this problem. Despite having Resource Persons (RP) and supervisors, the government is unable to make monitoring effective. Classroom inspection and supervision are not taken seriously. The RPs do not observe classes minutely and offer constructive feedback to teachers, whereas they meet teachers (in some cases they meet in paper only), ask how they are doing and teachers obviously say they are doing wonderful. How can this ensure teachers are transferring the skills in their classes?

The next contributing factor is existence of impunity. We do not have strong and effective mechanism to reward those who are doing well and penalize irresponsible ones. This eventually discourages the teachers who are willing to do something.

I think there is some problem in our parents too. Parents need to visit schools, show their interests in the activities of school and raise question behind weak performance of their children.

To sum up, if we can change the attitude of teachers, make our monitoring system efficient, encourage parents to raise questions in schools and make provision of reward and punishment, the impact of training can be better than now.

Dr Laxman Gyanwali | Associate Professor (ELT) | School of Education Kathmandu University

 

nelta-conference-16A few classroom visits in Nepal can tell us how ineffective the impact of the government-run in-service training has been. When I ask my graduate students why such a wastage of resources, they say the training does not directly link to the real classrooms, ignores local contexts, and does not address trainees’ mental constructs,  their needs and expectations. I fully agree with them. However, for me the main culprits for the ineffective teacher training are the trainers. You may ask why.  No trainer has been trained to be a teacher trainer. Each of them has a degree on pedagogy not on andragogy. They do not have a faintest idea of adult learning. Because the trainers in the government system have a permanent position, they do not bother for their own development. And they pass on their attitude to the teachers who they train.

There is only one solution to rectify this situation. Let’s set requirements for the entry as well as for the promotion for teacher trainers. They need to have a degree on training and andragogy and they also need to undergo periodic CPD, just as the teachers do. For me, training is as effective as the trainer involved in it. 

Balram Adhikari | translator, and a lecturer at Mahendra Ratna Campus, Kathmandu

1924893_829718523720484_26654504_nThe in-service teachers should count themselves fortunate for getting the opportunity to learn and to teach at the same time.  Also, they should be gratitude to the concerned authority for providing them with such opportunity. However, it is a sad fact that take away from the training session is less and its translation into the actual classroom teaching is even lesser. There could be multitude of causes behind this ranging from training policy to classroom pedagogy. Since the limited space prevents me from digging depth into the issue, I point out two areas of training drawing on my own experience of teacher and teacher educator both. The first is attitudes. It is not uncommon to hear in the training the participant teachers saying, “It only works here in the training hall, not in our schools”.  Most participants have this ‘it doesn’t work’ attitude.  First, the training should aim at inculcating positive attitudes in teachers. Only the positive beginning can lead us to the positive ending. Here I am reminded of Thomas Friedman’s famous saying, “If it is not happening, it is because you are not doing it”. 

Second is the nature of training itself.  Training should be based on target demands needs. By its very nature, training implies equipping a specific group of teachers with specific skills, strategies, knowledge and resources to help them address specific problems in a specific teaching-learning context. That is, everything is specific in teacher training. Only specific training packages can address specific teaching-learning problems. The specificity in training calls for involvement the target teachers in framing the training package.

 Parshu Ram Tiwari | NCED Trainer of English

ParashuramNCED conducts many in-service teacher trainings out of them TPD is the nationwide training program. These trainings actually implemented by Educational Training Centres (ETC), LRCs and RCs under the guideline developed by NCED. Except TPD, other several training programs like CAS training, MLE training, MGML training, training for the teachers using English as MoI etc.

It is not fact that there is zero transfer of teacher training in classroom. Some teachers who are devoted to their profession have brought newness and innovations in their classrooms due to knowledge and skilled learned in training. However, effectiveness in classroom hasn’t been noticed as the training expects.

There are some inhibiting factors to the transfer of teacher training, which are as below:

  • Especially roaster trainers in RC level are not efficient to conduct training.
  • In ETCs and RCs, there are not well equipped training hall to use modern technology for delivering training.
  • Teachers demand general needs, not academic and pedagogical needs. Very few teachers demand technical needs but they are not addressed properly.
  • District education office puts the training program in low priority.
  • Teachers have no dedication, motivation and willingness to implement training skill and knowledge in the classroom and they are reluctant to change their traditional ways of teaching with modern ones.
  • Training has not been linked with teachers’ career path.
  • No provision of follow-up support mechanism
  • No support and encouragement from school (Head teacher and SMC) to teacher for implementing training in classroom.
  • No rewarding system to those teachers who teaches using methods and techniques learned in training.

Suggestions

  • Training needs to be conducted only in LRCs and ETCs.
  • Training program needs to be well monitored and supervised.
  • Incentive for teachers who complete training successfully and transfer it effectively in the classroom.
  • Training needs to be linked with the promotion and upgrading
  • Training centers need to be equipped with modern technology and resources.
  • Follow up and support mechanism need to be developed.
  • School must support the teachers to transfer training skill in classroom by providing resources and making the classroom environment conducive.
  • Teachers need to develop collaborative learning and sharing culture among teachers.

 Govinda Prasad Chaulagain | Resource Person, District Education OfficeSolukhumbu

GovindaAs a resource person, I see there are a couple of reasons why in-service teacher training is not helping to improve the pedagogy in classroom. First of all, the student-teacher ratio in some school is very high. In few schools there are up to 120 students in a single class! Therefore, it is quite challenging to make classroom interactive. When a teacher tries to do something new in group/peers classroom goes out of control and hence they return to old method. Besides, teachers also have to teach more than usual number of periods because of lack of teachers. Therefore, they are not encouraged to try something new because of more work load.

Lack of materials and resources is another problem. Schools do not have even basic things to develop teaching-learning materials. Similarly, in some schools, there are not even reference materials for teachers. So they are compelled to depend on textbooks fully. The textbooks are clutch, a survival kit and everything for them.

There is also problem with permanent teachers working for long. They are comparatively more inactive than temporary or contract teachers in terms of transferring skills in the classroom. Not only that sometimes, they manage to skip trainings too.

I think there is problem in the present Teachers Professional Development (TPD) modality for in-service teachers. There is a top-down approach in designing training package. The trainers design training package that does not correlate with the actual needs of teachers. On the other hand, teachers themselves also cannot spell out what are their actual needs and always talk about the same issues like large classroom, unavailability of resources and materials and so on.

Finally, to make our in-service training highly effective, we should not forget to address the issues raised above.

 Ashok Raj Khati  | Training Specialist at REED  Nepal, & adjunct faculty  at Gramin Aadharsha Multiple Campus, Kathmandu

AshokFirst of all, I am quite convinced that in-service teacher-training programs can never be ineffective because they definitely provide some visions and frames for teaching. A trained teacher approaches to the students with some sort of framework, philosophy and guidelines; he or she could deal with students even on the way or on a bus far better than untrained ones.

However, to what extent the effectiveness of a particular teacher-training program becomes visible inside the classroom is an important aspect. It is true that some teacher training programs are more effective than others. They are primarily so because of positive attitude and motivational orientation of participants and facilitators toward professional learning. There are always a few people who assume that their qualification and experience could be adequate to teach in a specific context. This tendency does not produce effective training outcomes.

In addition, if teachers’ socio-cultural contexts and interests are encapsulated in teacher training programs, they are likely to be more effective. In recent years, new trends in teacher training programs such as in-school support, collaborative approach, researching and conferencing have been proved successful in mitigating the specific challenges faced by teachers in Nepali contexts. Similar type of training modality for years creates monotony on the part of teachers and they find training as a form of ‘ritual’ in their career.

Bhupal Sin Bista | Faculty of English, Shree Phutung Higher Secondary School, Kathmandu

The government has envisioned the provision in-service teacher training for the community school teachers for the efficiency and efficacy of teaching methodology exploited while conducting classroom lessons. The considerable amount of national budget allocated in the education sector has been separated for this purpose. Every year such trainings are conducted in RCs, LRCs and educational training centers on need based. It should have resulted in the tremendous improvement in the educational sector of the nation by now but the reality is something beyond our imagination. That is to say, the in-service teacher training does not have tangible impact on the teacher’s educational pedagogy. There can be several factors behind it. Some of the factors that bring about this gap might subsume:

  • Lack of training needs assessment
  • Lack of expertise in training guidance
  • Lack of appropriateness of training content
  • Lack of instructional aids
  • Lack of persistent monitoring and supervision
  • Lack of stick and carrot approach
  • Lack of learning culture
  • Classroom dynamics
  • Physical facilities of the school
  • Classroom size
  • Lack of adjusting training with TPD, including career development

These are the crucial issues seen with regard to the transfer of teacher training inside the classroom teaching. To improve the existing scenario, such issues are to be addressed decently meeting the needs of the individual teacher and the school. Furthermore, teachers should be encouraged to do so with diminishing the digital divide via appropriate and feasible policy, strategy, guideline and programmes.

Sakun Joshi | Faculty of English, Shree Sitapaila Higher Secondary School, Sitapaila 

SakunEvery year, the government invests a good amount of budget to provide in-service and refresher training to in-service teacher aiming to increase educational quality of the nation. In spite of having such efforts, there is still not much visible improvement in the pedagogy in the classroom. Some prominent causes behind the present situation can be as follows:

  • Improper classroom size to perform different techniques in classroom.
  • The large number of pupil in the classroom is another problem, which makes difficulty to manage lesson and prepare sensible teaching aids and demonstrate them in classroom.
  • The administration of many community schools does not show interest towards innovative teaching and learning.
  • Sometimes teachers knowledge on the content is also a constrain to successful teaching learning
  • Lack of creativeness and professionalism among teachers due to insecurity of their job.
  • Lack of regular and continuous supervision from the monitoring body.

I think fulfillment of the following requirements can help bring improvement in the pedagogy in the classroom:   

  • Give proper concern towards the improvement of the physical condition of schools including availability of enough materials and references.
  • School administration should be enthusiastic towards bringing new technology in school.
  • Teachers should be given every opportunity to exercise their lesson as per their needs.
  • There should be provision of strict supervision following with reward and punishment to teachers.

The stakeholders highlighted on different causes and proposed ideas above to make ISST effective and productive. Here I urge our valued readers to please feel free to share if you have something to say on the issue. Please express your views in the comment box. 

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