Bal Krishna Sharma (PhD) is an associate professor of applied linguistics at English Department, College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, University of Idaho, US. He is interested in the role of English in multilingual contexts. He studies the dynamics of teaching, learning and use of English in order to examine the topics of language ideology, intercultural communication, identity and pedagogy. He has been studying the issues of culture, representation, and the economy of language from the perspectives of tourism workers in the Nepal’s tourism industry. Likewise, he investigates what English, other international and minority languages mean for a workplace where the commodification and representation of languages and cultures is a major driving force. He is also investigating language-related ideologies and identities of non-native English speaking faculty as U.S. universities in STEM fields.
So, in this post, Jeevan Karki has facilitated a conversation with him, which unfolds the global discourse in ELT, (second) language acquisition, English language teaching in multilingual contexts, critical language teaching, English language policy and practices in Nepal.
Feel free to comment, ask questions and share the conversation to continue the discourse. Here is the YouTube video for you:
Here is the list of questions covered in the conversation:
Q1: What are you busy at currently?
Q2: The global conversation in ELT is very critical towards ‘standard English’, while the goal of English language education in non-English speaking countries is to develop proficiency in standard English (either British English, American English or so on). So, have the critiques been too idealistic about it or the practitioners not aware of this conversation?
Q3: Ofelia Garcia (2017) says that “there is no second language acquisition in the traditional sense but children are acquiring languages together/in totality.” What does this mean to the field of SLA? What are the future directions of SLA?
Q4: In the short history of English language teaching, 50 years or less, what has Nepal gained from it and what has Nepal forgotten in this race?
Q5: And what should be the role of English in multilingual contexts like Nepal?
Q6: Parents and stakeholders don’t seem much concerned about preserving and promoting their own languages as much as they are concerned about immersing their children in the English language right from pre-school. Why does this happen? What can be done about it?
Garcia, O. (2017, June 7). Ofelia García – Translanguaging [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5l1CcrRrck0
English as a second language (ESL) first-year university students often face challenges with academic writing because of the linguistic, cultural, and instructional differences between the education system in the U.S. and their home countries (academic writing conventions in English and their first languages). This paper aims to present an ethnography of writing as a framework to familiarize the ESL first-year university students with the basics of academic writing, which directly speaks to the educational, social, and cultural contexts of U.S. higher education. The paper concludes that ESL students benefit immensely from using Grabe and Kaplan’s (1996) ethnography of writing as a framework to introduce academic writing in English to cope with their academic writing challenges.
Keywords: academic writing challenges; freshman ESL learners; ethnography of writing; U.S. higher education; linguistic, cultural, and instructional differences
My Tutoring and Teaching Academic Writing Experiences
I have gotten an opportunity to become an ESL educator for different aged students in different educational contexts. First, I have been an ESL teacher in Nepal. I have taught reading and writing to high school and undergraduate students. Second, I worked as a writing tutor at a regional level teaching university in the Midwestern region of the U.S. I tutored both domestic and ESL international undergraduate and graduate students. Third, I have been teaching reading, vocabulary, and writing courses in the Intensive English Language Program (IEP) at the Midwestern U.S. university for four years. Primarily, I follow a process-based approach (Zamel, 1983; White & Arndt, 1991) and the genre-based approach (Hyland, 2004; Swales, 1990; Tardy, 2008) to teach academic writing to my ESL students who come from diverse educational, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds. I guide my students by helping them explore resources, services, and contacts in and outside of the university. These learning resources are essential to alleviate their academic writing difficulties in the U.S. higher education context (Chauhan, 2021). Sharing experiences of ESL instructors’ academic journey, including coping strategies, is critical to improving their academic writing skills (Odena & Burgess, 2017). However, existing literature shows that academic writing in English is challenging for ESL students at both undergraduate and graduate levels (Chauhan, 2021) because they come from diverse social, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds (Duff & Anderson, 2015). The diversity of their backgrounds can also be an asset to acknowledge and utilize for enhancing their academic writing skills in English.
Nature and Scope of Academic Writing in Higher Education Context
Academic writing (AW) refers to the writing used in the college and university-level writing courses (Johnson, 2016). Additionally, AW has become the primary communication medium between scholars in academic subjects and disciplines in a higher education context (Greene & Lidinsky, 2015). AW is simple, clear, focused, and formal. It is also technical, objective, impersonal, concise, logical, and well-organized. An academic writer must meet genre-specific expectations and stylistic conventions (Ferris, 2018; Giltrow et al., 2014; Osmond, 2016; Starkey, 2015). AW is specific to context, task, purpose, and audience (Ferris, 2018; Grabe & Kaplan, 1996; Starkey, 2015). In parallel with these ideas, Gottlieb and Ernst-Slavit (2013) stated that“[t]he distinct purpose, audience, and context of communication result in clear differences in terms of language use in the selection of words, formality, sentence construction, and discourse patterns” (p. 2). AW is seen differently by scholars based on the features mentioned above. Osmond (2016) argued that AW projects writers’ in-depth knowledge, critical thinking skills, and analytical skills while studying different academic subjects within their disciplines and majors. It is also seen as an inquiry because writers can discover their values, beliefs, strengths, and areas to improve when they engage in the writing process (Starkey, 2015). Grabe and Kaplan (1996) recommended that each writer understands AW from the lens of an ethnographic approach. Echoing similar ideas, Ferris (2018) has summarized the features of successful academic writers and standards of writing used in academia.
Writers must have at least an adequate grasp of the content they are writing. They must understand the rhetorical situation, including the purpose of the writing and the knowledge and expectations of their audience of readers. They need to appreciate the constraints and boundaries accompanying genres, tasks, and text types. Further, writers need advanced control of the linguistic features (vocabulary, spelling, grammar, cohesive ties) and extra-linguistic features (punctuation, capitalization, formatting) appropriate for their text’s content, genre, and target audience. (p. 75)
Ethnography of Writing as a Framework to Introduce Academic Writing
As I mainly tutor and teach academic writing to freshmen ESL first-year university students, I am well acquainted with their writing challenges based on my teaching experience and research study. Current research study has also found that ESL undergraduate students faced many challenges with academic writing in the U.S. university context.
To illustrate, Chauhan (2021) concluded that ESL “undergraduate students experienced academic writing challenges [including] content (gathering information/ideas), organization, academic vocabulary, genre awareness, grammar and mechanics, and citing and referencing sources” (p. 148) because the standards and genre-specific expectations of AW in English are different from those of in ESL students’ L1s (Ferris, 2018; Giltrow et al., 2014; Osmond, 2016; Starkey, 2015).
To address the AW challenges of my ESL first-year university students, I employ Grabe and Kaplan’s (1996) ethnography of writing, which provides a theoretical framework to understand AW regarding its social and cultural contexts in U.S. higher education. Before creating any written text, all writers must ask this fundamental question: “who writes what to whom, for what purpose, why, when, where, and how?” (Cooper, 1979, as cited in Grabe & Kaplan, 1996, p. 203). They further stated that this framework considers academic writing as a combination of writer, reader, subject matter, and text as a writing triangle in which the writer persuades the readers in terms of logos (reason/text), pathos (credibility/writer), and ethos (values, beliefs/audience). Overall, the ethnography of writing is one of the best frameworks to introduce AW to the freshmen ESL students because this framework examines the text’s audience, the writer’s purpose, the genre required by the task, and the situation in which the wiring is used (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996).
Taxonomies of Ethnography of Writing
Grabe and Kaplan (1996) introduced eight types of taxonomies of ethnography of writing to discuss further how this framework operates in a broader academic context. Their framework is further explained together with how I employed this framework to teach writing to my ESL first-year students in a Midwestern U.S. university.
Grabe and Kaplan (1996) state that the first parameter of ethnography of writing is a taxonomy of who, i.e., writers. Knowing the writer and their background is critical to understanding writing well. It is essential to understand whether the individual is a beginning writer or a mature writer and whether the writer is a student who will be evaluated by their teachers or an independent scholarly writer who writes for an academic journal. This background information of the writer influences the audience for whom the writing is produced.
Considering this parameter, I often emphasize the writer’s role in my writing class. As an L2 writing instructor, I know that my students come from different first language (L1) backgrounds. The writing system in their L1s works differently from the writing system in English. I am aware that they are beginner writers in L2 and need more explicit instruction, support, and encouragement from me. I do understand that they are at the initial phase of creating their identity in L2 writing. In the meantime, I am also aware that their authorial voice is critical. So, I orient my students to use academic language and concrete words that embody meaning in the academic context (Bailey, 2018; Brun-Mercer & Zimmerman, 2015; Johnson, 2016), which ultimately helps the writers to make their voices strong. Also, I ask my students to use active structures to strengthen their authorial voice.
The second taxonomy of ethnography of writing is writes, which focuses on the linguistic nature of writing. This taxonomy of ethnography considers the entire process of text construction, its different linguistic parts, and their organization (thesis statement, topic statements, coherence, cohesion, word choice, reference, transition words (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996), sequencing information (Atkinson, 1991), and overall rhetorical arrangement of information (Bruthiaux, 1993). Overall, in the process of text construction, the writer considers audience, purpose, context, and the genre requirement (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996), discipline-specificity, and disciplinarity (Christiene & Maton, 2011; Flowerdew & Costley, 2016). There are two approaches that I use to teach writing: a process-based approach and a genre-based approach.
First, I follow a process-based approach (White & Arndt, 1991; Zamel,1983) to teach writing in my class. For example, selecting topics (they select topics themselves which they are passionate about writing), gathering required information, creating an outline, preparing the first draft, seeking feedback from peers, writing center tutors, and teachers, addressing feedback, editing, and finally submitting the final draft to the instructor for evaluation (Johnson, 2016; White & Arndt, 1991). Each step in this writing process is equally important for them because my students need to undergo various stages of the writing process to write essays. Also, they will receive points for an outline, first draft, and final draft separately.
Another approach that I employ to teach writing to my students in my class is the genre-based approach (Hyland, 2004; Swales, 1990; Tardy, 2008) because genre-based instruction enhances L2 students’ knowledge in four main areas, which include “formal knowledge of target genres’ features and conventions, the process knowledge of the methods used to produce, distribute, and consume these genres, rhetorical knowledge of target genres’ functions, characteristics, strategies, and subject matter knowledge of disciplinary content and skills” (Tardy, 2009, p. 21). By recognising the usefulness of a genre-based approach to writing, past research studies emphasized the responsibility of L2 educators to develop L2 students’ genre knowledge (Ferris & Hedgcock, 2013; Hyland, 2004; Tardy, 2008, 2009). Highlighting the importance of genre, Hyland (2004) stated “to fail to provide learners with what we know about how language works… denies them the means of both communicating effectively in writing and analyzing text critically” (p. 42). As the L2 students are not much acquainted with different types of genres, it is imperative to teach them genre knowledge explicitly. Also, they need to know that written texts are specific to each academic discipline, program, and major (Christie & Maton, 2011; Hyland, 2017).
Therefore, I provide a sample essay to my students, and they are engaged to analyze and identify all parts of the essay. They include an introduction (hook, background information, and thesis statement), three body paragraphs beginning with topic sentences, supporting details (explanations, reasons, examples, data, experiences, observations, etc.), and a conclusion that summarizes the main points of the essay and restates the thesis statement. In doing so, my students internalize all parts of the essay, which will help them to create their essays later. Ferris and Hedgcock (2013) and Tardy (2008) also stress that it is crucial to train beginner writers with skills that enable them to participate in intertextual systems.
The third taxonomy of ethnography of writing is what, i.e., the content or message. Grabe and Kaplan (1996) emphasize that this writing parameter should be described in terms of content, genre, and register. So, this taxonomy of writing seeks to answer these questions: to what extent does the writer need to have background knowledge (content) to create a particular text, what type of texts does the writer produce, and in which fields they are used? The what aspect of writing “must take into account the phenomenological world (a theory of world knowledge), a theory of genre, and some specification of register” (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996, p. 205). In other words, the writer’s background knowledge (schema theory) is crucial in this taxonomy of writing because it provides the writer with the knowledge of the genre and the techniques to organize academic discourse for a specific purpose (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996; Swales, 1990). So, it is critical for ESL writing instructors to allow their students to choose their topics to write.
In my writing class, I do not assign any essay topics to my students. Instead, I provide them with the freedom to choose their topics themselves because I want to promote social justice in my writing class. I also encourage them to choose a topic based on their background knowledge because it is difficult for them to write on a topic that is entirely new to them. For example, the student majoring in Finance ended up choosing a topic from their field, such as Three Ways to Make Money Legally in the U.S. However, the student who is specializing in Sports Management wrote Three Strategies to Improve Cricket. Unlike these two students, the next student who is majoring in Nursing decided to write on Three Benefits of Homemade Breakfast. Besides that, I also provide them with a sample essay to follow because I follow a genre-based approach to teaching writing. This approach allows them to be acquainted with the framework of a text used in the academic context. In doing so, they can write their essays on their topics by following sample essays given to them.
Another powerful taxonomy of writing is to whom, which refers to the audience. Grabe and Kaplan (1996) call it a theory of audience or readers because the audience is always at the center of creating a text. Also, the audience plays an essential role in the meaning-making of the text. The writer needs to ponder some of these questions regarding the audience. Are the readers known or unknown to the writer? If they are known, how close or distant are they? How much-shared knowledge exists between the readers and the writer in general? How much-shared knowledge exists between them on a particular topic. Grabe and Kaplan (1996) further state that the audience’s parameter influences the writer’s writing, including the number of persons who are expected to read the text, the extent to which the readers are known or unknown to the writer, the level of status (can be either higher, equal, or lower) between them, the extent of shared background knowledge between readers, and the extent of specific topical shared knowledge between readers and writers.
Building on Grabe and Kaplan’s (1996) framework, recent research studies also highlighted the role of the audience. Before the author writes any text, they need to consider their audience because the type of audience determines their writing (Swales & Feak, 2012). Similarly, Kirszner and Mandell (2015) argued that while writing any text, the audience should be kept in mind because they determine the purpose of the paper. While writing, academic writers envision a specific audience who share knowledge regarding a topic or issue they are writing about (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996; Singh & Lukkarila, 2017). Realizing the significance of to whom parameter, I often ask my students to decide their audience because it is critical for them to know who is going to read their essays. They know that two types of audience read their essays. They include their classmates and their instructor/s.
For What Purpose
As its name suggests, this taxonomy refers to the purpose of producing a text. Grabe and Kaplan (1996) state that every written text is created purposefully. They add that when the writer thinks of purpose, they need to ask these questions: to what extent is it possible to define purpose in a writing task? Are there single or multiple purposes in the task? How does purpose interact with genre and audience? As most writings are meant for audiences, they expect the purpose of the paper when they read them. Therefore, most writers mention their goal of writing to facilitate the readers to make better meaning of the text.
Before writing anything, the writer should be clear about the purpose of writing. Kirszner and Mandell (2015) argued that it is the purpose that limits the writer what to say and how to say it. According to Bailey (2015, 2018), there are three main reasons for writing: (i) to argue on a subject of common interest and give the writer’s view, (ii) to report on a piece of research study and create some type of new knowledge, and (iii) to synthesize research conducted by others on a topic. So, AW is unique because the writer shares inquiry-based knowledge to inform a particular academic community (Singh & Lukkarila, 2017). Considering this taxonomy, all writers need to know the purpose of the academic texts they are writing.
In keeping in mind this taxonomy, I mention to my students that each piece of writing has a certain purpose. My students mostly write five types of essays, and these are five-paragraph essays. For example, when they write a cause-and-effect essay, they show cause and effect relationship of a particular topic. However, when they write a descriptive essay, the purpose is to describe a place, person, object/thing, and process. Unlike these two essays, when my students write classification essays, the objective is to describe three main categories of a particular topic in an interesting way. For example, one of my students chose to write on Three Types of Roommates, whereas another student was interested to write on Three Types of Cell Phone Users.
According to Grabe and Kaplan (1996), the notion of why people write refers to underlying intentions or motives that may or may not be revealed by functional purpose. However, if the writer’s motive is apparent, it helps the readers comprehend the text better. Therefore, genre-based texts overtly express the writer’s motive to facilitate schema instantiation. So, the why component of writing depends on the paper’s audience, topic, and purpose.
In order to make sure my students maintain the why component in their writing, I encourage them to engage in peer review. When they participate in the peer review process in different phases of their writing, they are provided with opportunities to read their course mates essays. In doing so, they not only write on only their topics but also get an opportunity to read and offer feedback on their classmates’ essays. First, they are provided with a checklist (based on a rubric) and asked to give feedback focusing on higher-order concerns such as content/ideas, organization, and vocabulary because they play an important role to convey the writers’ message to their readers. Then, they also give their feedback concentrating on lower-order concerns such as grammar, mechanics, and formatting.
When and Where
According to Grabe and Kaplan (1996), this parameter refers to text creation’s time and place. This taxonomy of writing plays a more minor role than the rest of the taxonomies. However, its relevance depends on the type of text. For example, in official emails and letters, the date and place they are sent may be more critical for both the writer and receiver (reader).
In my writing class, when the parameter is crucial for my students because every writing assignment has a fixed deadline to complete and submit to me. The deadline is clearly mentioned in my writing course which every student is provided with both printed and digital copies of the course syllabus on the first day of the class each semester. Also, the deadline for each writing assignment is also mentioned on D2L (an online learning platform used in most U.S. universities and colleges). My students strictly follow the deadline to submit each writing assignment. If students are unable to submit their writing assignments due to any unexpected circumstances, they inform me via email and request an extension of the deadline. In that case, I extend the deadline depending on each student’s situation. In that case, I also provide additional time for individual conferencing with that student to support their writing development.
Although this is the final parameter of the writing’s ethnography, this is probably the most important because it examines how the text is created. Therefore, this parameter is also called “a theory of online writing production … or a theory of writing process” (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996, p. 213). Mainly, there are two things this parameter emphasizes. First, writing is a recursive process because the writing process stages, namely planning, drafting, revising, editing, and sharing, do not come in a neat linear sequence. Instead, the writers move backwards and forward several times to create a text (Hyland, 2003; Zamel, 1983). Next, the cognitive mechanism remains at the center of this parameter because it “provides [the writers with] the means for exploring notions such as audience, content, and writer intension from a composing perspective” (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996, p. 213).
This parameter is crucial for my students. For each writing assignment, they must go through all writing stages. They also know each stage has its significance in terms of learning and assessment. For example, they are aware that they cannot create a good outline without gathering sufficient information on a topic. Similarly, no good first draft can be written without a good outline. Without seeking and addressing feedback on the first draft, the final draft does not turn out to be perfect. My students understand this process; therefore, they love to follow all phases of the writing process because they receive separate points for outlines, first drafts, and final drafts.
To sum up, I have found that Grabe and Kaplan’s (1996) ethnography of writing is a useful framework to introduce AW to my ESL first-year university students. My students have developed an understanding of the basics of AW after I employed this approach. This framework has been very effective for me for two reasons. First, this framework promotes the teaching and learning of AW by asking the ESL students to analyze the writer’s process before composing any written text. As Paltridge (2017) stated, the students are asked: “to undertake any analysis of the context in which the text they are writing occurs and consider how the situation in which they are writing impacts upon what they write and how they write it” (p. 12). Second, this approach considers the intended audience, their background knowledge, values and understanding, conventions, genre awareness, and discipline-specificity and disciplinarity (Christie & Maton, 2011; Paltridge, 2017) because of people working in the academic community share “ideas, beliefs, values, goals, practices, conventions, and ways of creating and distributing knowledge” (Flowerdew & Costley, 2016, p. 11). Therefore, the ESL writing instructor’s responsibility is to train first-year university students to familiarize themselves with these elements when writing for academic purposes.
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Author’s Bio: Dr Padam Chauhan works as a Retention Specialist for the International Center and an ESL Instructor for the IEP at Minnesota State University (MNSU), Mankato, Minnesota, USA. Prior to that, Padam worked as a Writing Consultant for MNSU’s Writing Center. He has earned MEd in English Education from T.U., Nepal, MA in TESOL, and EdD from MNSU, Mankato. Before joining MNSU, Mankato, he taught ESL at the high school level and served as a high school (10+2) principal in Nepal. Padam voluntarily served NELTA Central Committee as its member, treasurer, and general secretary. Padam has presented at the NELTA, IATEFL, TESOL, AAAL, and TESL conferences in Nepal, the UK, the USA, and Canada. His current research interests include academic reading and writing, Writing Center tutoring pedagogy, and equitable access to English language education.
Pedagogy concerns the process of teaching and learning which differs from the way it was practiced under a method which primarily focused on the delivery of information from the teacher to the students (Richards & Renandya, 2002, p. 5). So pedagogy is the conception of the post-methods practices which focus on “the dynamic interplay between teachers, learners, and institutional materials during the process of teaching and learning” (Brown quoted in Richards & Renandya, 2002, p. 6). That means, teaching, in pedagogy, is “a courageous occupation’’ and “a journey of hope based upon a set of ideals” (Day, 2004, pp. 8-20). It is an integral part of learning as Lieberman and Miller(as cited in Day, 2004, p. 105) state, “Teaching and learning are interdependent, not separate functions.” So in the process of teaching and learning as an integrated process, teachers are “problem posers and problem solver; they are researchers; and they are intellectuals engaged in unraveling the learning process both for themselves and for the young people in their charge.” That is to say, teachers are learning themselves through the process of teaching because in pedagogy learning is “not consumption’’; it is “knowledge production,” and similarly, teaching is “not performance”; it is “facilitative leadership” (Lieberman & Miller as cited in Day, 2004, p. 105). Similarly, Kumaravadivelu (2001) has conceptualized pedagogy in a much broader sense which includes not only the educational aspects of teaching and learning but also the sociocultural aspect. In this regard, he posits: “I use the term pedagogy in a broad sense to include not only issues pertaining to classroom strategies, instructional materials, curricular objectives, and evaluation measures, but also a wide range of historical, political, and sociocultural experiences that directly or indirectly influence L2 education” (p. 538). This conception of pedagogy is so comprehensive that it gives ELT practice a broad outlook which needs consideration from both educational and socio-cultural perspectives. That is, pedagogy should not be restricted to classroom boundary; it should go beyond the classroom and consider every factor pertinent to teaching and learning process. In this regard, the dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna in the Gita captures the essence of pedagogy as the process of teaching and learning is situated in the wider socio-cultural, historical and political context.
Pedagogical Context in the Gita
When it comes to the pedagogy in the Gita, it is not that easier to understand as it has unique and multifaceted context. Being guided by the above theoretical discussion on pedagogy, the dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna in the Gita, can be claimed to be a pedagogical discourse. So Lord Krishna, as a teacher, has both roles as a problem poser and a problem solver (verses 18:63; 18:72, Prabhupada’s Version) and Arjuna, as a learner, has been involved in knowledge production (verse18.73) rather than in consumption of knowledge. Similarly, Lord Krishna is not simply performing his role as a teacher; he is rather taking the role of a facilitative leadership (verse 18:72). As the dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna took place in the battlefield before the commencement of the war, he took the leadership in guiding Arjuna in the war. All these constitute the institutional materials for pedagogy in the Gita. Thus, as pedagogy constitutes the dynamic interplay between teachers, learners, and institutional materials, we can observe the dynamic interplay between these dimensions of pedagogy in the pedagogy of the Gita.
More important, there are some studies and commentaries which identify Lord Krishna as a teacher and Arjuna as a learner. Regarding Lord Krishna’s role in the war, Radhakrishnan (2014, p. 33) identifies him as a teacher or guru as he guided Arjuna to the right path against “the forces of darkness, falsehood, limitation, and immortality which bar the way to the higher world.” As Arjuna was unwilling to take his responsibility in the battle (verse1:46), he takes refuge to higher self, Lord Krishna who is able to make him realize his duty (18:72). In this context, as teaching by Lord Krishna contains universal knowledge, Radhakrishnan (2014, p. 33) calls him ”the world teacher” or jagadguru. Similarly, Sargeant (2016, p. 2), in reviewing the role of Lord Krishna in the Gita, came to a conclusion that he is the Universal Guru who is teaching the lessons of universal significance. In the similar fashion, Dayananda (2014, p. 21) in his book, The Teaching of the Bhagavadgita, identifies Lord Krishna as a guru because, accepting Arjuna as his disciple, he has been able to teach him the practical lessons which have become most effective in solving his problems. With this background Prabhupada (1986, p. 21) also defines guru as ”the one who dispels the darkness of ignorance by the light of knowledge.” Thus, the broad conceptualization of pedagogy can be observed in the dynamic role of Lord Krishna as a teacher and Arjuna as a learner in the pedagogy of the Gita. Besides, the contents of the Gita further justifies how pedagogy should be able to incorporate historical, socio-cultural, political and academic aspects of educational project as deconstructive pedagogy (Kamali, 2021b).
Pedagogy of the Gita, Postmethod Pedagogy and Deconstruction: A Grand Confluence of Pedagogy
The pedagogy of the Gita can be compared with the postmethod pedagogy as advocated by Kumaravadivelu (2001) in his article entitled “Toward a Postmethod Pedagogy” because the methodology employed by Lord Krishna in teaching Arjuna contains many of his concepts. Accordingly, Lord Krishna’s pedagogy in the Gita can be compared with Derrida’s deconstruction as Lord Krishna deconstructed Arjuna’s psychology—he was not ready to lead the war in the beginning (verses 1:47) but in the end, after the instruction by Lord Krishna, he became ready to do his duty (18:73).Thus, as Derrida (1986, as cited in Higgs, 2002, p. 170) deconstructed the metaphysics of presence grounded on structuralism and gave way to deconstruction and poststructuralism/postmodernism, Kumaravadivelu (2001, p. 537), in the same vein, deconstructed the centralized practice of ‘method’ and opened up multiple possibilities in pedagogy. In this regard, he commends: “As a consequence of repeatedly articulated dissatisfaction with the limitations of the concept of method and the transmission model of teacher education, the L2 profession is faced with an imperative need to construct a postmethod pedagogy” (p. 537). In this way, deconstruction of methods gave birth to postmethod pedagogy as deconstruction of structuralism to poststructuralism and postmodernism in philosophy. As a result, deconstruction and postmethod pedagogy have become inseparable. Thus, both recommend practices as “an open-ended inquiry,” and “a work in progress” (Kumaravadivelu, 2001, p. 537). These features are equally pertinent in the pedagogy of the Gita as Lord Krishna has practiced the pedagogy as an open-ended inquiry and a work in progress because Arjuna is free to learn and make decision on his own and learning has been regarded as a process (verse 18:63).
Thus, method of teaching has been transformed into pedagogy as a post-method practice which is defined as a movement away from a preoccupation with generic teaching methods towards a more complex view of teaching which encompasses a multifaceted understanding of the teaching and learning process (Richards & Renandya, 2002). In this regard, Richard and Renandya (2002, p. 5) further argue that in the post-methods era attention has been shifted to teaching and learning process and the contribution of the individual teacher to pedagogy rather than the output of the process. In the same vein, Brown (as cited in Richard and Renandya, 2002, p. 6) defines pedagogy as a ”dynamic interplay between teachers, learners, and institutional materials during the process of teaching and learning. By this he has deconstructed the dominant role of teachers in pedagogy and considered the roles of multiple factors contributing to effective pedagogy; it is the same case with deconstruction as it never ends with fixity; the outcome of the deconstructive analysis is always the possibility of multiplicity— difference (Derrida as cited in Culler, 1982, p. 97)! Thus, deconstruction makes pedagogy is more process-oriented and inclusive of all factors conducive to post-method pedagogy which has been further developed into “deconstructive pedagogy” (Kamali, 2021b, p.73).
ELT Practices as Deconstructive Pedagogy: A Conclusive Remark
As a global phenomenon, ELT has divergent practices due to its variations and myriad contexts. No single approach, method and strategy seems to be overarching in present ELT practices. Thus, it is required that ELT practices be like deconstructive pedagogy and ELT practitioners play the roles of a deconstructionist teacher like Lord Krishna in the pedagogy of the Gita as follows (Kamali, 2021a, pp. 73-74): 1. A deconstructionist teacher practices pedagogy as deconstructive pedagogy founded on deconstruction; 2. A deconstructionist teacher can fully act as an autonomous practitioner; 3. A deconstructionist teacher can develop a reasonable degree of competence and confidence in performing pedagogy; 4.A deconstructionist teacher not only critically implements theories into practice but he/she also builds theories out of practices; 5. A deconstructionist teacher focuses on the interplay between theoretical and practical dimensions of pedagogy and lets it open to any possibilities to make the pedagogy more effective in context.
The author:Dr. Hari Chandra Kamali is an Associate Professor of English education at Far Western University, Nepal. He pursued his PhD from Nepal Sanskrit University. Dr. Kamali has published several articles and presented papers in different conferences at home and abroad.
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Teachers need to be in good health to teach in an innovative, inspiring, and meaningful way. During their pedagogical journey, they may experience a variety of emotions. These experiences and emotions have a major impact on their as well as students’ successful schooling. The happiness of teachers is linked to their work satisfaction, professional relationships, and personal lives. The main purpose of this article is to review past and current literature related to the issues of teachers’ wellbeing and its adverse effect on their pedagogical success.
My perception of wellbeing
As an English language teacher in a private school and college in Kathmandu, I spend a lot of time and energy not only in the classroom, but also outside of it, because the job requires a lot of preparation time for assignments, lectures, and lesson plans. So far my experience is concerned, teaching in a private school is one of the lowest-paying jobs available, with no retirement plans or job security. Almost all teachers work on a contract basis and a part-time basis. Further, the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the teachers’ predicament. On one hand, teachers’ paychecks have been cut in half, and have to devote even more time preparing for online lectures and implementing new technology for teaching. On the other hand, working from home has made teachers’ work-life balance even more difficult. As a result, I am experiencing a negative impact from this change in both my personal and professional life.
I feel deprived of one of the basic needs of day-to-day normal life due to a lack of personal and emotional contact with students, colleagues, and close ones for an extended period. Staying at home twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for months and months has been exhausting, stressful, boring, mentally unhealthy, and frustrating. As an ELT teacher, the unfolding situation has prompted an important question in my professional and emotional thinking. I am constantly wondering if I will be able to fulfill my professional obligations while also living my personal life to the fullest.
Based on a review of the literature on how pedagogical success and learning outcomes are affected, this research article is the result of my quest to understand teachers’ wellbeing and their negative and positive emotions. This question nags at the back of my mind whenever I reflect on my career as an ELT professional. I was curious about how teachers’ wellbeing affects their professional and personal goals. I was curious as to what teachers’ wellbeing entails, what factors contribute to it, and if there is anything that can be done to improve teachers’ wellbeing. What role can schools play in this endeavor? In line with these questions, this article vividly presents concepts of wellbeing and its components.
According to Mercer (2021), wellbeing, as a social construct, is considered not only for the individual but also for the entire ELT ecology. Although happiness, in general, is based on people’s perceptions, it is a deeply psychological construct that is difficult to define. According to one CESE (2014) report, teacher wellbeing is linked to the quality of their work and its impact on student outcomes. Mercer (2021) further argues that wellbeing is not void nonsense. It is deeply rooted in human existence within social communities and global ecology. Here, the term wellbeing does not denote an individual but the collective. So Mercer further states that ELT has got into this very intensely for understanding what wellbeing does mean for all the members of ELT community.
Wellbeing is synonymous with happiness and as Cann (2019) states ‘ life satisfaction’. There are two main theoretical perspectives on happiness: hedonic and eudemonic. The hedonic approach focuses on personal experience of happiness and an individual’s perception of balance between positive/negative emotions and their overall sense of life satisfaction (Diener et al., 1999; Mercer, 2020). The eudemonic perspective, on the other hand, is centered on self-actualization and the ability to derive a sense of purpose or meaning in life. Wellbeing brings pride and happiness, and happiness is more closely linked to effective teaching and learning in any educational institution (Cann, 2019). As a result, wellbeing appears to be one of the most important factors in pedagogical performance. Many studies have concluded that it is critical to promote teacher wellbeing to achieve better learning outcomes for students. Toraby and Modaresi (2018) suggest that when teachers are happy, they teach more creatively and their students achieve more (e.g. Caprara et al., 2006). Similarly, when students experience positive wellbeing in school and see positive behavior from teachers, they are more motivated and successful in their studies (e.g. Seligman et al., 2009). A positive relationship with coworkers to improve wellbeing is important for professional achievement and happy life.
Positive and negative emotions
The COVID- 19 pandemics have greatly disrupted the teaching and learning process (Sanusi, Olaleye & Dada, 2021), and it has created a lot of negative emotions among teachers and learners as infection numbers rise and is reported in news outlets and social media. Frenzel (2014) discussed negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, boredom, as well as positive emotions such as feelings of enjoyment and pride.
Dibbon (2004) has already brought the idea from his study that anxiety, anger, and boredom lead to the negativity of teachers’ wellbeing. Sanusi, Olaleye, and Dada (2021) describe the factors that create negative emotions such as “internet issues, including its cost, student’s participation rate, insufficient media instruction, lack of student’s preparation, and preference for face-to-face class”. The positive impact that COVID- 19 has brought is, among others, the learning of technology by the teachers to accomplish their tasks (Sanusiet et al., 2020). Positive emotions among teachers are likely to grow when they can adequately rely on their profession for sustenance and security.
Learning new skills and remaining consistent at work during the pandemic can provide an abundance of positive emotions. Teachers perceive their workplace as being stressful and anxiety-inducing and it exerts great pressure and stress on them (Salashour & Esmillie, 2021). One of the issues that must be addressed at the institutional level is the negative impact of negative teacher emotion (Toraby, 2018). Students’ performance may suffer as a result of negative emotions. Yoon (2002) researched student-teacher relationships in the classroom and concluded that students had a negative view towards their teachers as a result of the teacher’s stress and negative emotions. Such negative emotions are directly related to teacher burnout, which may reduce self-efficacy.
Burnout and self-efficacy
Learning without burden for students and teaching without burnout for teachers is essential for -the wellness of students and teachers. According to Maslach (2015, as cited in Safari, 2021), burnout is a psychological syndrome aroused from mental and emotional exhaustion that later develops as long-term emotional or interpersonal stressors. Also, long-term anxiety and stress may cause burnout. Some studies have also discussed the sources of burnout and have discussed briefly creating the issues (Safari, 2021; Maslach, 2015; Chang, 2009). It is pointed out that individual, organizational and transactional factors are the three main sources of burnout (Chang, 2009).
Individual factors include age, gender, ethnicity, educational background, and teaching experience. Traditionally, studies on education production function have focused on how teachers and their background characteristics influence student performance (Hanushek & Rivkin, 2010 et. al., Todd & Wolphin, 2003). Similarly, organizational factor denotes job satisfaction and workplace environment, which are linked to income, division of labor, classroom management, incentives, and the organization’s socioeconomic status.
Since self-efficacy is an important variable and can affect the rate and time of burnout, the relationship between self-efficacy and burnout is studied (Safari, 2021). The theory of social cognitive defines the term ‘self- efficacy’ as an individual’s faith in their capacity to be successful in certain conditions (Bandura, 2006).The theory defines that teachers’ self-efficacy is the belief in the ability to plan, organize, and implement different educational activities that are critical to achieving pedagogical goals. Implementation of the measures to control the level of burnout help to improving teachers’ mental, physical, and social wellbeing that supports to enhance their teaching effectiveness, interpersonal relationship and their job satisfaction (Safari, 2021). Hence, an effective teaching process plays a vital role in the performance and success of any institution.
Relation between wellbeing and pedagogical success
Teachers’ pedagogical success is primarily determined by their cognitive abilities as well as their academic and professional knowledge in the field (Toraby, 2018). Students prefer teachers who have both emotional literacy and professional literacy. Many studies have been conducted to investigate the cause and effect on the teachers’ wellbeing (Blazar& Kraft, 2017). The unpleasant emotions, which are experienced by the teachers such as tension, anxiety, frustration, anger, depression may result in dissatisfaction in their work (Kyriacou, 2009). Negative emotions in teachers have an impact on their wellbeing, which can lead to poor performance of the students. Therefore teachers need to focus on happiness since it can bring positivity and positive emotions that assist teachers in being content with their lives. In this way, many studies have concluded a moderate, positive correlation between teachers’ emotions and students’ views on teachers’ pedagogical success.
Teachers’ wellbeing is not only the matter of being satisfied but also has some dimensions for developing positive emotions that influence the success in teaching. Teachers’ psychological and sociological factors can influence their success and failure (Safari, 2021).Emotional exhaustion relates to the psychological problem whereas sociological factors here refer to the interpersonal relationships between teachers and their self-efficacy. So, control over the stressors helps to improve mental health issues, teaching techniques and skills, interpersonal relation that results to job satisfaction.
According to Cotton (2008), various dimensions such as quality education, classroom quality, classroom management, job satisfaction, language, teacher turnover, and self-efficacy affect teacher’s wellbeing. The success of teaching is, directly and indirectly, related to the beliefs that arise out of different theories in pedagogy. Positive emotions in teachers, according to studies, cause them to teach more creatively, and the learner(s) to achieve more. Toraby (2018) revealed that when students believe their teachers are enjoying their jobs, they learn more. Similarly, when students feel good in the classroom and during the learning process, they are more motivated and successful in their studies (Seligman et al, 2009). As a result, teachers’ wellbeing and positive emotions are critical factors in successful teaching and pedagogical success.
Teachers’ wellbeing amidst the pandemic
Mental health issues, stress, and anxiety are sweeping the world as a result of social isolation caused by COVID-19 led lockdown across the world for the last year. Due to massively increased coronavirus, schools and universities are some of the most severely affected areas in this regard. Teachers in remote and hybrid environments reported more challenges than those in solely face- to face instruction (Schwartz, 2020). While anxiety and stress among students due to online classes or even no classes are well reported, teacher’s wellbeing is not spared from the mental health pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to educators including disruption in the management of day-to-day teaching stuff and a rapid transition from in-person to remote learning (Porter, 2020). Seeing the current situation, teachers’ wellbeing is affected adversely from the following three sides.
Teachers are forced to teach online, if any, without direct human interaction. As human interaction is the most important social ingredient for social health, the deprived teachers are unable to manage their emotional needs by merely teaching from home and not being able to go to physical classes. Teachers are forced to reply on computer screens for professional work, information, communication, entertainment, and so on. This helps to deteriorate not just the mental health of teachers, but also their physical health.
On the second side, millions of teachers across the world are losing or on the verge of losing their job. As private schools are struggling to survive amidst almost zero revenue and constant costs, teachers have to face with ever-increasing job insecurity and financial catastrophe.
Finally, the pandemic can hit a teacher’s family anytime. With little access to the vaccine among teachers, they are already one of the most vulnerable groups in society after medical professionals. This threat of disease has also put a lot of stress on teachers.
All these three factors have made teachers’ jobs even more challenging. They are neither being able to fully deliver what they have been doing for years and intend to do for the rest of their lives nor are they being able to receive extra support and incentive for all the extra effort they have to invest to switch from physical to online mode.
Many studies have claimed that teacher’s wellbeing, emotions, and students learning outcomes are an integral part of pedagogical success. Positive feelings coincide with teachers’ professional success and that success determines the teachers’ wellbeing. So, the display of emotion is considered vital in teaching success. Literature suggests emphasizing both the teachers’ wellbeing and students’ achievements for pedagogical success. Teachers’ positive emotion leads to better students’ achievement and success in teaching.
The pandemic has brought additional challenges to teachers’ wellbeing and pedagogical success. Effective and natural connections between the teachers and learners have been broken. Thus, the virtual world is nowhere near enough to meet the emotional need of the teachers and students.
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Rejina KC is a Nepalese ELT teacher-researcher. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Kathmandu University, School of Education, Kathmandu. She has a master’s degree in English from Tribhuvan University and an MPhil degree in Interdisciplinary Education from Pokhara University. Her research interests include literature in language classroom, creative writing in EFL and teachers’ wellbeing and motivation. She has more than a decade-long experience as an ELT teacher from ECD to the University level. She is passionate about learning different methodology in ELT teaching for fostering language competence and skills in both teaching and learning English.
This paper aims to explore the techniques and tools used for assessing the English language learners in remote teaching-learning and to discuss the challenges and obstacles faced by the teachers while assessing the learners. Based on a collective study design, this paper presents a study on the assessment practices in remote teaching-learning. Data were collected from three English language teachers of basic education level using online interviews. The results showed that many English language teachers transitioned to remote teaching learning because of the COVID -19 pandemic and whether it is a face to face class or remote teaching-learning, assessment is an integral part of the teaching-learning to check the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the educational goals and standards of the lessons are being met. The assessments were taken more or less similar to the face-to-face mode via written or oral practices with the help of technologies and while assessing the learners, the teachers faced the Internet connection issues, investment of ample time for designing and organizing the assessment with the help of technologies. The teachers gained less support from the parents and students for conducting the effective assessment.
Keywords: Assessment, remote teaching-learning, techniques and tools, educational goals, integral
This study assessed the English language learners based on their mode of acquiring learning that is either through face-to-face or remote teaching-learning. Remote Teaching -Learning (RTL) offers teaching learning beyond the physical classrooms. It is the learning process where the teachers are separated from the learners in time and distance. According to Graham (2019), RTL is the practice of teaching a language interactively via videoconferencing. He further describes that it differs from telecollaboration which mainly focuses on enabling language teaching and learning to take place rather than on intercultural collaboration. In remote language teaching, both students and teachers interact through two-way communication technologies. Similarly, in Belz and Thorne’s (2006) view, RLT supports learners’ interaction with the teachers and peers, encourages them to have more dialogue, debate, and intercultural exchange. Remote teaching is also referred to as live online language teaching to refer to synchronous (i.e. in real-time) computer-mediated communication for language teaching (Swertz et al., 2007). In RLT, teachers focus on both pedagogy and technology to provide huge opportunities for effective learning and collaboration beyond the physical classroom. They involve approaches and techniques that are more connected with the technologies. Whereas, Whyte and Gijsen (2016) argue that there is an ample burden for the teachers to conduct the classes remotely than for regular face-to-face classes. Teachers are committed to helping the learners with these different ways of working and teaching them in the most effective way possible. Teachers require and prepare designed and written materials to take advantage of the teaching and learning context and delivery method (i.e. video conferencing). Therefore, remote teaching is an innovative way of bridging cultural and geographical distances and enables the teaching and learning of languages to students who would otherwise not have the opportunity.
At present, most English language teachers had to opt for remote learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many teachers had transition to remote learning with no advance notice or preparation earlier this year. Some are planning for remote learning in the fall when they return to school. It is important to remember that remote learning refers to a class that intends to meet face-to-face. The teachers have been practising to replicate remote learning as far as possible into the real face-to-face classes. It is not just enough with the engagement of teaching-learning activities. The learners should be assessed to check the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the educational goals and standards of the lessons are being met. The learners must be able to think critically, analyze, and make inferences. Hence, assessing them is the most challenging factor in RTL. Nitko and Broookhart (2013) opine that organizing assessment helps the teachers to collect the information about teaching-learning and well as the students’ performance to make the certain decision teaching. Assessment in English language teaching has been defined as “involving professional judgment based upon an image formed by the collection of information about student performance” (Stanley, 2019, p. 8). Similarly, Wolf (2020) states that assessments are a critical means of identifying learners and monitoring their achievements. Assessments also play a fundamental role in teaching and learning, since it helps to gather the important information about students’ needs, which helps teachers provide appropriate support and interpret their academic performance accurately. Assessment is one of the important aspects which is being treated as a teaching-learning process as well (Stiggins, 1991). Assessing learners is a very important and essential part of a teacher’s teaching (Nitko, 1996). It is an integrated process for determining the nature and extent of student’s learning and achievement (Linn & Gronland, 2005).
According to Stanley (2019), there are two types of assessment: formative and summative. Assessment can be formative when it is to improve learning and assessment is summative when it is for monitoring and certificating performance or achievement. During the year, formal and informal instances of the formative assessment provide information to Remote Teachers (RTs) and Classroom Teachers (CTs) about student learning so adjustments can be made to teaching.
Assessment is an important aspect of teaching-learning. It offers the teachers to go up to the next class and to figure out whether the students are included. It also helps to get the results of the teaching-learning activities. On the other hand, it makes the teachers ready to take a proficiency test and provide the students the grades.
This study sought to answer the following research questions:
How do English Language teachers assess students in remote teaching-learning?
What challenges do English language teachers face while assessing students in remote teaching-learning?
This is a qualitative study that used a collective case study design to explore the questions. According to Stake (1995), a case study is the study of the particularity and complexity of a single case, coming to understand its activity within important circumstances. It helps to collect the information in detail and understand the problem in-depth with its real-life context. The case study design is an important tool for exploring and describing a phenomenon in context while refining theory and identifying areas for more exploration (Yin, 2018). Data were collected from three English Language Teachers of Basic Education Level who were assessing students by using different techniques and tools and while assessing them in remote teaching-learning in one of the schools of Kathmandu Valley. The teachers were a diverse group in terms of their ethnicity, gender, and grade level experiences. I collected data, which included notes of observation and interaction during online classes and interview with synchronous tools like Zoom Cloud Meeting (5 times in total); written reflections for each teacher related to assigned articles, email and Facebook messages correspondence with pupils, and transcriptions of semi-formal small group interviews. I conducted two rounds of interviews individually with teachers and three rounds of interviews in a group. Each interview lasted approximately 40 minutes. I followed them twice a week. The data occurred in two phases. First, I divided the data sets for coding purposes. In this initial phase, I examined individual cases, techniques, and the tools used for assessing the students in remote teaching-learning. Comparing the responses, I coded and analyzed them into the four themes: Observations, Discussion, Feedback, and Self-assessment.
Next, I collectively asked the participants what challenges they were facing while assessing the students in the remote teaching-learning. The responses were kept under different themes in which the individual cases were combined and compared to create a collective case study. After collecting data by qualitative technique, the data were analyzed and interpreted qualitatively. The following sections represent the results obtained from data analysis.
Results and discussion
This study aimed to explore the techniques and tools adopted by English Language teachers for assessing students in remote teaching-learning and to find out the challenges English language teachers face while assessing students in remote teaching-learning. Therefore, the results gained via the interview data were put into two sub-sections: Assessment for learning techniques and Challenges.
Techniques and tools for assessing in remote teaching-learning
This section presents the data derived by observing the English Language Teaching (ELT) class to answer the first research question, exploring the techniques and tools adopted by English Language teachers for assessing students in remote teaching-learning.
Informal teacher observations: In remote teaching-learning, the teachers were found observing different things in their classes. They observed how well the students managed to focus when doing the tasks. Furthermore, how much time do the students need to do certain tasks? And whether the students were willing to volunteer or respond when called on. The teachers in the interview also added that they observed the students if they were prepared for the task or provide help.
Student-led observations: Teachers assessing English language learners using remote methods checked the students’ autonomy and responsibility in their learning. They were asked to follow the netiquettes as it was remote teaching. They were given responsibilities where they took attendance and gave their opinions on what was happening in the class. Furthermore, they were asked to provide the class report either to the class teacher or the subject teacher.
Teacher participants in the interview shared that they assessed the students in remote teaching-learning by giving different learning situations. They assessed through the discussions in the live classes. Discussions were done on the usages of techniques and digital tools by the teachers, about the language usage L1 or L2. In addition to this, the discussion where the students did share in a peer, small group, or the whole class was also assessed. Lastly, the assessment was made when the students were provided with options during controlled practice.
Students in remote teaching-learning were assessed based on the feedback given by them. Following things were taken into considerations when assessing the feedback given by them. Students were asked to give feedback when their peers participated or did any work. They would give feedback on their friends’ thinking process, presentation, content, gestures, etc. They were asked to provide positive and critical feedback which could motivate their friends to perform better and which would help to create a healthy atmosphere.
Self-assessment is another technique used by the teachers to assess English language students in remote teaching. They explained that they used active recall questions to check the students’ progress. The students were asked to do the self-assessments by preparing PowerPoint presentations, using digital tools to do their project works, encouraging them to write journals, blogs, etc. They were also asked to take objective tests with the help of google forms and other online platforms. Furthermore, they were asked to appear for the written subjective tests. Recording the voice or video on any academic topic was promoted which they had to send to the teachers. Finally, some teachers asked them to attend the class on time.
Challenges in assessing students in remote teaching-learning
This section presents the data derived by observing the ELT class to answer the second research question, exploring the challenges and the obstacles faced by the teachers assessing the learners in remote teaching-learning.
Students with the internet issues
The teachers have found that most of the learners had the Internet with low bandwidth. There were also the chances of power cuts and disconnection while taking the synchronous class. The teachers responded that because of low connectivity they had to turn off their camera and be connected with mobile data.
Students with not enough support
The teachers revealed that the students were getting less support from their parents and seniors regarding the use of laptops and digital tools while taking the classes. The children were also less supervised by the parents while taking the classes. There were more chances of getting distracted and being engaged in playing online games.
Widening gaps between students’ proficiency
The teachers explained that there was an individual difference in remote teaching-learning. All the students did not have the same digital literacy and level of competency. The children faced problems while submitting the assignments, communicating with the teachers, and handling the tools.
Difficulty in supporting individuals
It was very time-consuming for the teachers to prepare the lessons and spending more on screen. The teachers had to spend more time preparing PowerPoint presentations and giving feedback to the students because of the technical issues the teachers were unable to give the class and communicate with the learners properly.
The present study investigated the assessment techniques and tools used by the English language teachers for assessing the learning in the remote teaching-learning and the challenges and obstacles faced by the teachers while assessing them in the remote teaching-learning. Results of the study showed that assessment was an integral part of teaching-learning to check the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the learning goals were achieved or not. The teachers did the planning, implementing, and organizing of the lesson by using digital and printed materials to assess the learners. The teachers engaged the learners in the discussion in the remote learning, observation of the lesson, engaging them in the feedback and self-assessment. While following those techniques, the teachers also encountered challenges related to the technologies and with the students’ well-being.
About the author
Mr. Puskar Chaudhary is an MPhil practitioner at Kathmandu University. He works as a full-time faculty and coordinates with the Digital Literacies Programme at Triyog High School, Tokha, Kathmandu. He is also a life member of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) and International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL). His current interests include digital pedagogy, digital literacies programme, and teachers’ networking, and professional development.
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Can be cited as:
Chaudhary, P. (2021, May). Assessing English language learners in remote teaching-learning [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/assessing-english-language-learners-in-remote-teaching-learning/
English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) has become widespread due to globalization and the growing demand of developing nations, particularly in Nepalese public schools which are assumed as a symbol of quality education. This new trend of adopting EMI caught the attention of parents on the impact and changes in education. The study explores the perceptions of parents on the implementation of EMI in public schools through Bourdieu’s lens of the symbolic power of language theory. Based on an in-depth interview with three parents of Kanchanpur, the perceptions on the implementation of EMI in school education are explored. The data analysis reveals EMI is perceived as an investment for developing advanced English skills and an uplifting lifestyle. The result shows EMI is just a fashion and propaganda to increase the number of students. Despite the demand of parents in society, some public schools are switching to EMI without proper preparation. Also, EMI is the preference as a mantra of competition. Findings indicate that the public schools need to close their ears for howling mob i.e. EMI as synonyms of quality education without proper preparation and readiness because hunting needs loaded guns and hunting skills.
Keywords: EMI, fashion, social strata, competition
As English is an international language, its use in different areas of social science is growing rapidly all over the world. The use of English from business to education is rapidly increasing. The rapid use of English in different aspects of society is dominating other languages of the world. Further, the English language is becoming a global lingua franca that links critical turns such as globalization, global economy, transnational communication, education, and the Internet (Sah& Li, 2018). Since English is integrated into every aspect of life, it has become obligatory in order to uplift social, economic status in the globe. In this regard, Bourdieu (1993) states English has become one of the best sources of achieving power, linguistic capital, and access. We visualize the choice of English in different schools even in remote areas of the world. With this notion, non-native countries are adopting English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) though its implementation is great intimidation to the indigenous languages (House, 2014). Its effect is visible in the education sector where these countries are adopting EMI even from the basic level. As a result, English is practiced as an academic subject from the very beginning of formal education (Dearden, 2015), as people assume that EMI provides better socioeconomic mobility (Sah & Li, 2018). So, the hegemony of English is vividly felt in every aspect of social life including school education.
However, EMI is one of the prominent issues in the context of Nepal where private schools have already adopted and public schools have been mushrooming. EMI is taken as the prestige of school though schools are under-resourced (Gnawali, 2018) and lacking will power in real classrooms. Implementing EMI in such a situation has created problems in students learning achievement and creativity. In this regard, Sah and Li (2018) say implementing EMI without proper preparation resulted in negative outcomes: students neither achieve content knowledge nor English language skills. On the contrary, Evans, and Morrison (2016) state the graduates of EMI schools seem more confident in English ability, received superior examination grades, and able to adjust to diverse social contexts. As the entire world has been emphasizing the English language, countries like Nepal, India, Indonesia, and Ghana have been switching towards EMI without proper preparation.
In developing and non-English speaking countries EMI has different faces. As an instance, EMI in Indonesia is taken as a symbol of prestige and power where English Language teachers play an agentive role (Zacharias, 2013) for its promotion. In the same way in Taiwan, students agreed that English instruction helped them improve their English proficiency (Chang, 2010) though, in Pakistan, it was neglected to point its negative effects in mainstream education (Ahmed, 2011). According to Haider and Fang (2019), English is proving linguistic capital for elites although the lack of opportunities in general school leads to failure in professional life in Pakistan. On the other hand in China, Hu, Li,& Lei (2014) portrait EMI as a gatekeeper of access to English and other potential benefits. As English and its use in education have been increasing, many public schools are adopting it massively as a medium of instruction. To put it in a nutshell, in some countries EMI is a boon and for a few others, it’s a bane.
Similarly, parents send their children to private schools in urban areas because of their global status. They are willing to get and give education through EMI, even though they have low economic status. English is synonymously taken as a part of skills development (Erling, 2014) so all parents prefer to send their children to EMI implemented schools. Similarly, English is taken as a superior language and English-educated people are taken as highly prestigious in the society, therefore, parents are demanding EMI even in public schools though policies encourage mother tongue-based multilingual education (Phyak, 2016). This shows the gap between policy and practice. Similarly, implementing EMI created tension among parents having low economic status though they strongly prefer it. In this vain, Poudel (2019), says in the context of Nepal, English is the most influential language among upper and middle classes. It has created the strata in society as EMI educated are taken as superior and Non-EMI educated are as inferior.
However, most of the research on the EMI is primarily focused on teachers’ readiness, policy analysis, the effect of EMI, and students’ demands. The real perceptions of parents from the root level have not been well explored among scholars and policymakers in the context of Nepal. This study, therefore, aimed to explore the perception of parents’ on the implementation of EMI in public schools. It further tried to answer the question ‘how do parents narrate their experiences of sending their children to EMI implemented public school?’
Despite these useful studies, there is still a dearth of research investigating the perceptions of parents on the implementation of EMI in public schools. This study, therefore, aims to explore the perceptions of parents on the implementation of EMI in public schools. This study addresses the following question:
How do parents narrate their experiences of sending their children to EMI implemented public school?’
Reviewing Nepalese language planning and policy status
Language planning is an important process that enhances and reforms the entire linguistic situation of the country. It is also the national or international strategy to promote the selected language(s). Many ups and downs are found in the language planning of our country. Regarding this, Bist (2015) writes that the Nepal National Education Planning Commission (NNEPC) 1953 AD suggested that English needs to be started from grade four to Bachelor level as a compulsory subject. However, through its report in 1956, the commission recommended removing English from the Medium of instruction, which was in practice since the Rana regime.
Furthermore, the Education Act (1971) was amended by The Education and Sports Related Some Nepal Acts Amendment Act (2007) with the policy that the Nepali language or English language or both languages shall be the medium of instruction in a school in its section seven, subsection one. Similarly, in subsection two (a) it is included that the mother tongue may be the medium of instruction up to primary education, and in subsection two (d) we can find the policy of English language medium while teaching a compulsory subject of English. Therefore, this document of the Education Act permits public schools to use English as a medium of instruction while teaching any academic subjects in the schools (Education Act, 1971).
Multilingual Education Directive (2010) declares mother tongue to be the medium of instruction at the pre-primary level and basic level in class (1- 3) to teach all subjects except Nepali and English subjects, and mother tongue or the language of government officials to be medium of instruction at basic (classes 4- 5) level. The Constitution of Nepal (2015) includes the right of every Nepali community living in Nepal to get education in its mother tongue up to the secondary level, in Article No. 31, sub-article No.5 (Constitution of Nepal, 2015). Regarding other language planning documents, Phyak (2016) says 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.
Symbolic power of language
The symbolic power of language believes education is one of the most effective means of immortalization of the existing social pattern (Benbenishty et al., 2005). It further gives proper justification for the social inequalities and recognition of the cultural heritage. More specifically, Bourdieu (1977) highlighted the symbolic power of language which is the symbol of imposition. Symbolic power here is a power of constituting given through utterances, of making people see and believe, of confirming or transforming the vision of the world (Loader, 1997). Further, the language given legitimate status involves the claim to be heard, believed, and obeyed and that can exercise its effectiveness and effectiveness of the mechanism (Bourdieu, 1991).
In the context of Nepal, EMI is practiced as a means to gain power in society. In our own experience, a person having good command over English gains high prestige and reputation. As Bourdieu (1977) said that the powerful language imposes different ideologies, the practice is seen in the Nepalese schools by implementing EMI. Existing scenario presents EMI as the symbol of power which controls the social aspects from education to economy. Likewise, EMI has brought strata among the schools in the nation. Schools having EMI tend to be superior than the non-EMI schools. This division is clearly seen in our context. So, analyzing this power play of EMI, Symbolic Power of Language theory was found appropriate in our study.
The review helped us to get an overview of EMI policies in Nepal and it has also revealed the importance of multilingual education in the context of Nepal. As the study aimed to explore the implementation of the English language as a medium of instruction, this review created a base for analyzing the real context which later helped us to frame out our findings. Further, analyzing the present status of local languages and imposition of English from the previous studies created the proper gap and demand to explore more.
As the study aimed to explore subjective realities from the real field, it is qualitative in nature. The site of the study was Kanchanpur (one of the districts of Western Nepal) and three parents whose children study in EMI implemented public school were our participants. To explore their perception of EMI, we chose them purposely. To maintain balance on the existing contemporary strata of the society, we selected one participant from the lower class (Ramesh) level and other two from the middle-class level (Sampurna and Ram).
Ramesh was from a lower-class family, aged in his mid-thirties. He enrolled his children in a public school implementing EMI. He was an auto driver having five members in the family. He had two daughters and a son studying in the same school. Similarly, our second participant Ram was a middle-class man, aged in his mid-fifties. He had stayed in Malaysia for three years and had one daughter who studied in class nine. Earlier, he had enrolled his daughter in a public school where the Nepali medium of instruction was implemented. He did not pay any monthly fees there. After coming back from Malaysia, he preferred to enroll his daughter in a public school where EMI was practiced even by paying. And the third one was Sampurna, a middle-class man with four members in the family having two daughters. He was a farmer and his wife was a housewife. He enrolled both his daughters in public schools where EMI was practiced.
We collected data through in-depth interviews. Moreover, we interviewed them thrice and it was audio-recorded. The first interview created the opportunity for the follow-up interviews which ensured the contextual experiences. We conducted a second round of interviews only after the data from the first phase were categorized into different themes, and the analysis was underway. The frequent informal conversations made our data more lively and interesting. The interpretive paradigm was employed to explore parents’ perceptions of EMI. After that, we coded data using thematic chunks such as English as a fashion, EMI as a symbol of power, and English as a mantra of competition. We developed all those codes after a careful understanding of the collected data. The codes were further put into analytical memos, which depicted emerging themes. These themes were developed on the basis of the research question and objective. As every participant is value-led, we valued the participants’ views and had prolonged engagement during formal interviews and informal tea talks. For ethical issues, we took the consent of the participants and used pseudo names for privacy so that it won’t harm their personal and professional life.
Results and discussion
As this research aimed to explore the perception of parents on implementing EMI in public school, they take it as symbolic power, fashion, and weapon to compete. On the basis of perceptions of the parents their themes were made and discussed in this section.
Power Play of EMI
From the parents’ perspective in Nepal, English is taken as a symbol of power since English education is taken as highly prestigious in society. The success story of private schools has led to many Nepalese parents who preferred an English medium education for their children regardless of their socioeconomic status. In this regard our second participant Ram (pseudonym) shared:
When I was in Malaysia, I came to know the value of English in today’s world. I was thinking of sending my daughter to an elite institutional school but I realized that I could not handle it from an economic perspective. Later, I enrolled her in a public school where EMI is practiced. I am happy right now because my daughter is learning English. I know those people speak English, they get respect in society and they will get jobs very soon.
It is believed that English-educated people are more intelligent and wise in the community though English is not widely accepted in everyday communication. According to Bourdieu (1993) language regulates the power and prestige in society which is seen as practice. In the same line our third participants Sampurna added:
I could not study at the campus level, I had a dream to send my daughters to college for higher education. My friends share that English is very important, the upcoming generation won’t get any job without English. Then only I realized the value of English in each and every sector. Sometimes I spent time with my friends in the teashop, everyone used to talk about their daughters and sons. They feel proud of themselves for sending kids to more expensive schools where English is primarily focused. I also felt that without English, no one would get a job and opportunity in this century. So, I have sent my daughters to public schools where English is prioritized.
Analyzing both of the views above, the English language has a great impact and position in the world so he preferred to send his daughter to EMI School not only for content knowledge but also for the English language. Participants believed EMI is very important in school education, it has increased the number of students in public schools and they know the value of the English language. They believed that English promotes prestige in the community and EMI helps students to facilitate the learning of content and English skills (Sah, 2020). It has become such a well-adopted medium of instruction in higher education in Nepal. Despite having low economic status, people show keen interest to enroll their children in English medium school because they know that English is a powerful language. Likewise, looking at it from the symbolic power perspective, lower class, marginalized and disadvantaged groups of people try to uplift their status with the use of powerful language (Bourdieu, 1993) i.e. English in the Society.
This shows EMI in today’s demand in developing countries like Nepal. So, English is for economic development, social mobility, and participation in the global economy (Bruthiaux, 2002) as English has achieved global status. English is taken as a weapon in order to bring happiness to family and community and uplift the socio-economic status of the people.
Fashion in the market
EMI is growing as a kind of fashion. This fashion is linked to “cultural capital” in a globalized society where parents of public schools want to switch schools (Lareau & Horvat, 1999). As new fashion first attracts the attention of the people who are not in the habit of being changed i.e. lower-class people, the same group of people are more attracted to enroll their children in EMI schools. In this regard, Bourdieu (1997) states cultural capital consists of familiarity with the dominant culture in society and especially the ability to understand and use “educated” language, and here in the community English is accepted as an educated language. In this line Ramesh provoked:
I have never ever studied English in my life. Nowadays, we are bound to learn English. My daughter always forced me to send her to an English medium school. The prime reason was that her best friends study in English medium school. In my locality, no one studies in public schools where the Nepali medium is practiced. Those incidents compelled me to enroll her in an English medium school. And we are happy for EMI in public school.
In the same line, Ram the first participant put forwarded his view as:
I see everyone sending children to the boarding school with well-ironed dresses and ties. This really touches the heart and made me feel like sending children to boarding school. This is a new culture now. Everyone sends children to boarding school even if they don’t have food to eat. Except for English, there is not much change in education but also everybody’s wish.
Participants believed that English provides a better academic and professional career in national and international arenas. Similarly, people believe they are inferior if they don’t study or educate their children in English Medium.
This is because, to some extent, receiving English instruction at a younger age gives sound input and proficiency (Bahrani & Sim, 2012). Participants and children believed that switching to EMI responded to the demand of the present day and would not be dominated by other colleagues in the community. This demand and wish of English from the point of view of symbolic power theory, has been developing and promoting the status of lower and middle-class people. The representational practice of English in education helps in achieving power in society (Hall, 1997). It is how an exhibition constructs and persuades meaning through demonstrating a path through meaning. It is believed that everyone is running behind English because of its popularity.
Mantra of competition
Many public schools have been opting towards EMI to compete with the institutional schools as well as other public EMI schools. The reason behind this is that the number of students is also decreasing day by day. Participants opined that EMI is just for competition rather than collaboration and quality education. In this regard, Ram said:
I have earned a BA in English. After that, I could not get a chance to resume my study because of family problems. Nowadays, I have been engaging in small businesses. Currently, I see that many public schools are switching to EMI. I confidently say that it is a big issue in today’s school education system. In public school, some teachers cannot even read accurately, how can they teach students effectively? There is not any sort of training and enough teaching materials. I believe that this is just for increasing the number of students by showing advertisements for EMI.
In the perceptions of common people, public schools are switching to EMI only just for the sake of advertisement so that they could increase the number of students although the teachers’ readiness, training, and proficiency are in debate. They have a motto to compete with children in the international market with the English language. In the same way, Sampurna viewed, “ Students having good English can tackle problems in the modern age.” He further added, “We were not educated with English so we are facing so many challenges in the digital era. So I send my children to EMI school”. So, the symbolic power (Bourdieu, 1997) of EMI as a linguistic capital is to compete with institutional schools in national and international markets.
It is evident that some public schools are switching to EMI without enough preparation and infrastructure (Sah & Li, 2018). With the motto of competition, many public schools have been implementing EMI but the part of proper preparation and readiness is not properly studied. This resulted in fragmentation in the result. In this regard, Sah and Li (2018) further believed students developed neither content knowledge nor English language skills. This vividly presents the lack of proper preparation and ineffectiveness of EMI in public schools even spending a huge amount of economic and other efforts. Similarly, EMI created the strata among the students in terms of the economy and social status. In the name of English, there has been a stratum of educational division and injustice for the children who are from a lower socioeconomic status and are not able to get access to EMI (Kuchah, 2018). This brings conflict among different ethnic groups in the community. In this line, Sampurna added, “English is a fake myth it does provide quality education but only attract the attention”. Students willing to have education in EMI are compelled to face psychological effects due to poor economic background as education in EMI is expensive, though EMI was taken as a strategy to sell the tag of EMI education in the linguistic market (Bourdieu, 1977). In a nutshell, EMI is just a showcase to increase the students in school rather than providing quality education.
The study employing Bourdieu’s (1977) symbolic power of language theory looked at the perceptions of parents on the implementation of EMI in school education. As the data revealed parents idealised EMI as a symbol of power and linguistic capital to develop English skills through its real flavour is not achieved because of the lack of preparation and readiness. Switching to EMI without enough preparation and supervision, under-resourced conditions, and improper lead resulted in students’ low proficiency in both English and non-English subjects. On the other hand, it was found EMI in public schools is just propaganda to collect more students which creates a problem for lower and middle-class people as it is more expensive. As this study was limited to the perceptions of parents in a district, future research can be in unpacking the critical analysis of EMI practices and their effect on classroom and students’ achievements in different parts of the country.
About the authors
Mr. Dipak Prasad Mishra is a research Scholar at Kathmandu University, School of Education. Mr. Mishra is Head of the Department of English at Valley View English School. He is a Life Member of the Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA). Mr. Mishra is interested in learners’ autonomy and critical thinking.
Mr. Surendra Bhatt is an MPhil Scholar at Kathmandu University, School of Education. Currently, he is the head of the English Department at Charles Darwin Academy (Management College). Life Member of the Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA), Mr. Bhatt is an executive member of the Geo-linguistics Society of Nepal. Deputy Academic Director of ISTER Nepal, Mr. Bhatta keeps interests in teacher well-being and teacher professional development.
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Can be cited as:
Mishra, D.K. & Bhatt, S. (2021, May). English medium instruction in school education: Parents’ perspectives [Blog article). ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/english-medium-instruction-in-school-education-parents-perspectives/
This article attempts to explore how the local contents in ELT materials can be utilized to enhance patriotism among English language learners in Nepal. The purpose of this study was to explore how the local contents in ELT materials support to enhance patriotism. By employing a phenomenological design of qualitative research with purposive sampling, the three graduate level English language learners were interviewed to collect the information for this research. Collecting audio-recorded interviews, the information was coded, analyzed, and interpreted thematically linking the information with relevant theories and previous studies. The results of this study indicate that the local contents and the texts of Nepali English writers’ in ELT materials and English courses can contribute to enhance patriotism among Nepali English language learners. This study also signals that all the stakeholders of Nepal’s ELT such as curriculum planners, course designers, and textbook writers should maximise the contents from Nepali contexts and culture in ELT course in Nepal.
Keywords: Patriotism, Local contents, Nepal-based contents, and Nepali English learners
In this rapidly materialized era, education system of the country can play a major role to strengthen patriotic feelings in its citizens. In the context of Nepal, the local contents in ELT can contribute to orient students towards working for the welfare of their nation. Recently, the government of Nepal has released the actual map including the Nepali territories Kalapani, Lipulekh, and Limpiyadhura that lie in the east of the Mahakali River. This new map is included in our recently published school-level English textbooks which is highly appreciable. Similar initiatives and the contents from Nepali contexts and culture can contribute to enhancing patriotism among students in ELT classroom.
ELT in Nepal should go beyond the teaching of how to listen, speak, read, and write in English. ELT should include how to reform society, preserve our own culture, and enhance patriotism. Nussbaum (2013, p. 3) focused on “an education that cultivates the ability to see full and equal humanity in another person, perhaps one of humanity’s most difficult and fragile achievements.” ELT should primarily promote Nepal-based knowledge and culture. Giri (2015) asserts that English has become an indispensable part of life for the Nepali people in recent years. As English is introduced more and more early and widely, the contents in ELT materials should be carefully selected and graded to promote Nepali cultures and languages.
As far as my knowledge is concerned, there is scarcity of studies conducted in this area connecting patriotism with ELT in the context of Nepal. Therefore, perceiving this gap in the literature, I conducted this research so that it could help the major stakeholders especially English curriculum planners, English syllabus designers, and English textbook writers of Nepal to design curriculum and syllabuses to address this issue in the future.
Purpose of the study
The purpose of this study is to explore how the local contents in ELT can be utilized to strengthen patriotism in English language learners. This study specifically aims to explore the perceptions of Nepali English language learners on ELT in the light of patriotism.
This study aims to answer the following question:
What are the perceptions of Nepali English language learners on ELT and patriotism?
Taking constructivism as a philosophical standpoint for this study, I take Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory as a main theoretical base and ‘patriotism’ (Bar-Tal & Staub, 1997) as supportive theory.
Vygotsky advocates for socially constructed knowledge that can be obtained in society. In this sense, learning is considered a social process. Therefore, social phenomena and events have a significant role in learning a native or a foreign language. Learners live in their own societies; they have the feeling of intimacy with one another and they have deep love and respect for their society and geography. As Vygotsky considers learning as a social activity and the knowledge is socially constructed through interaction among the learners in social settings. Therefore, Vygotsky’s theory is widely popular in the sector of educational research which seems to be very useful in socially situated investigations of educational development and transformation (Marginson & Dang 2017). Furthermore, education should bring reformation in the mindset of learners to unite the nation in this rapidly globalized educational world.
According to Karsten (1908, p. 61), “For patriotism is not only a legitimate instinct of every healthy human being; it is the sacred duty of every citizen.” Kodelja (2019) highlighted that education and patriotism are closely connected to the learners. Therefore, patriotism can be taken as an indispensable part of the citizens’ life and this feeling is important and should be spread among the learners.
I conducted this research by using the phenomenological design of qualitative research. I collected the data required for this study using the unstructured interview technique from the Master’s level English language learners from Kailali district ranging from 25 to 30 years age. They were selected using the purposive sampling technique. They are mentioned as participant A, participant B, and participant C in this research. They were informed before, after, and during the research process about the aim of the research. Using two-step procedures, firstly, the information was collected, and secondly, it was analyzed by making different themes.
The information collection instrument consisted of background interviews and open-ended oral questions which were answered orally. The background interview covered the questions about their name, experiences, and present level of study. Mainly open-ended interviews were conducted by including research questions relevant to this study. The participants were asked to express their ideas and views on enhancing patriotism through ELT. Their views were audio recorded and transcribed.
Results and discussions
The results of the qualitative analysis are reported in three main themes: a) Patriotism as a backbone of Nepali ELT and learning, b) Patriotism as a lifeline of Nepali English language learners, and c) Patriotism as a guideline of Nepali ELT and learning.
Patriotism as a backbone of Nepali ELT and learning
When the researcher asked the question related to the connection of ELT and patriotism, participant A stated, “English is one of the foreign languages for Nepal. It is a language . . . for communication with foreigners. I hope we don’t forget our originality. For that the connection of patriotism with English language is essential.” Therefore, Nepal-based contents should be highly valued and included in both school-level and higher-level ELT materials. By including such contents in the materials, ELT classes can contribute to enhance love towards nation and its culture to the students. Saud (2020) stresses that the inclusion of local writings in academic courses will help to protect Nepali diverse cultures and the Nepali English literature will gain a new height. In fact, through the translation in English, we can showcase our culture and diversity globally.
Likewise, participant B expressed “In my view, without patriotism, the use of foreign language becomes meaningless. I don’t want to learn English to make my country a foreign land for me.” As participant B expresses ELT materials must include the local texts and foster the feelings of belongingness to the texts in the classroom. Therefore, English materials should prioritize patriotism in its contents, which can contribute to a dignified life of students in modern society.
Similarly, the participant C clearly stated “Where I was born and . . . where I stand determines patriotism. It is a backbone of English language teaching and learning and English should be taught and learned in this way. This is my understanding.” From the view of participant C, it is clear that patriotism should be the backbone of ELT materials and teaching- learning. Therefore, English can also be used as a tool to make Nepal known to the world. Saud (2020) states that ELT should be culturally sensitive and socially responsive valuing multicultural contexts. Eventually, patriotic contents help to strengthen any sort of solidarity for the welfare of the country and its people.
Patriotism as a lifeline of Nepali English language learners
Many Nepali learners are interested in English language learning due to its dominance in the whole world. However, many learners are leaving the country after learning English. Through the inclusion of patriotic contents, ELT materials can help to strengthen the students’ love towards the nation.
When the researcher asked another question regarding Nepal-based contents in English textbooks, participant A replied “In my opinion, the texts in English textbooks that we study are written by foreign writers. We should promote English texts written by Nepali writers. I think patriotism should be the lifeline for us.” Participant A reveals the status and representation of texts in our ELT materials and textbooks. In response to a similar question, the participant B opined:
In some English textbooks, I find some contents related to Nepal which we count on fingers. However, I think these are good signs of hope. Some of the Nepali English textbook writers prioritize Nepal-based content in English which is appreciable. I think so.
Participant B acknowledges the inclusion of local texts in ELT materials and is hopeful to increase in future. It certainly signals a ray of hope, but the proportion of the local texts, discourse and culture should increase in ELT materials. Saud (2020) states that a language reflects culture. However, different cultures can also be reflected in one language. Likewise, participant C expressed “The amount of local contents is very minimal. English writers of Nepal . . . attention, please. Without knowing Nepal, how do we promote patriotism?” Considering the opinion of participant C, patriotism can be promoted if the learners know Nepal and its cultures, and students get to know more about their country and culture, if they are exposed to more reading materials with local contents and cultures.
Furthermore, the participant A (being energetic) replied “If some lessons related to Nepal are included in the textbooks, it really helps to enhance patriotism in the learners. It’s essential.” From the view of this participant, it can be inferred that the lessons related to Nepal play a great role to enhance the patriotic feeling in Nepali learners of English. Similar is the opinion of the participant B, who stressed “We must learn Nepali contents and culture in English language classroom and live in Nepal being Nepali not only in the heart but also in mind.”
Likewise, the participant C replied, “If patriotic, cultural and social contents are included in the English textbook, learners become curious and show interest in English language learning.” The view of participant C also indicates the necessity of Nepali contents in English textbooks which helps to enhance not only patriotism but also facilitate learning English with ease. When the learners find the texts and contents from their local culture, it is easy for them to comprehend, as a result, their learning gets better.
Patriotism as a guideline of Nepali ELT and learning
Generally, common people believe that English is learned to go to a foreign country and earn money. It may be true to some extent, but it can also be learned to spread our history, culture, art, and knowledge in the different parts of the world.
In response to one of the researcher questions, the participant A says:
Let me talk about higher education. In English literature, many stories, poems, dramas, and novels written by foreigners are included in the course, but the texts created or written by Nepali writers are neglected . . . the textbook writers should include the creation of Nepali writers that represent patriotism. It can give Nepali flavor in English language teaching and learning.
We can take the gist from participant A’s view that Nepali texts should be included in English materials, which is the need of time. Therefore, the texts of Nepali writers’ should be given priority in English textbooks. Saud (2020) urges the material developers to value local culture and include more and more local contents and texts in the materials in future. In response to a similar question, participant B expressed “In my opinion, English should be used to strengthen our country. English language should be utilized to strengthen our relations with us and others. I think . . . patriotism is a guideline for English language teaching and learning in Nepal.” The intention of participant B is that English can strengthen our internal and international relations. For that, patriotism can be taken as a guideline to ELT and learning of Nepal. In this sense, English can strengthen our country.
Bhandari (2016) argues that teaching English in multilingual and multicultural contexts in Nepal can be considered as one of the major challenges in ELT. Teachers can play a significant role to minimise it as Giri (2020) advocates that English teachers can play an important role minimize the hegemonic influence of native speakers. The hegemonic mindset can also be changed if Nepali contents get space in the ELT of Nepal.
Answering a similar question, participant C stated “ELT in Nepal should be focused on Nepali contents and contexts. At least fifty percent contents must be related to Nepal and should be included in English courses.” In participant C’s opinion, it can be inferred that Nepali contents should be kept at the centre of the ELT and learning of Nepal. Furthermore, Giri (2020) clearly mentions an example of whether the lesson is about ‘pollution’, the materials used should be the ones that are written about their own cities. Therefore, Nepal-based content should be included in the ELT of Nepal to enhance patriotism among the learners.
In this post-method era of language teaching and learning, socio-cultural contents get focused to enhance patriotism through the ELT of Nepal. Kumaravadivelu (2001, p. 545) stresses that “post method pedagogy rejects the narrow view of language education that confines itself to the linguistic functional elements that obtain inside the classroom.” As ELT is an educational activity, relevant content should be added as per the necessity of the country.
The inclusion of local texts, discourse and contents in ELT materials can enhance patriotism by making learners aware of their nation and culture. Learning a foreign language is a right of learners, whereas being patriotic is a duty of a responsible citizen. The results show that Nepal-based contents should be prioritized for enhancing patriotism in Nepali learners in general and Nepali English language learners in particular. As the contents are significant rather than who has written the texts and where the texts have been written. However, it is also true that the texts produced in one’s context and culture are more comprehensible, readable, and learnable for the learners. Furthermore, the results of this study also indicate that the texts written by Nepali English authors should be included in school and university level English courses which help to strengthen patriotism to a greater extent.
The author: Mr. Bhan Singh Dhami is an M. Ed. fourth semester student of Kailali Multiple Campus, Dhangadhi, Kailali under Tribhuvan University of Nepal. He has been teaching since 2006 AD. Currently, he is a secondary level English teacher at Shree Khare Secondary School Gaurishankar RM -8, Dolakha. His areas of interest are academic writing, creative writing, English Language Teaching (ELT), learner autonomy, teacher identity and teacher professional development.
Karsten, G. E. (1908). Folklore and Patriotism. The journal of English and Germanic philology Vol. 7 (2), pp. 61-78 Published by: University of Illinois Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.com/stable/27699914.
Ward, S. J. A. (2017). Patriotism and Journalism. In: Sardoč, M. (ed.), Handbook of patriotism, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-30534-9_39-1
Can be cited as: Dhami, B. S. [2021, May]. Enhancing patriotism through English language teaching and learning in Nepal. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/enhancing-patriotism-through-the-local-contents-in-elt-materials/
In this piece of article, I have attempted to explore teachers’ perceptions regarding eye-contact; facial expressions (mimics) and gestures (body language) and their pedagogical implication based on the views collected from ten English teachers from five community schools of Kathmandu valley.
Teachers often complain about discipline, lack of attention and motivation, and many other challenges in large classes. In such classes, many of which lead to a communication breakdown between teachers and students or between students themselves. It is known that speech is only one of the forms of communication. Experts believe that most interpersonal communication takes place in a nonverbal mode. People’s faces disclose emotions and telegraph what matters to them (Santrock, 2001). Two aspects of non-verbal communication are the use of eyes and facial expressions; both of which are powerful tools to convey messages. Yet, most of our learners’ time in the classroom is spent with their eyes firmly fixed on books, whiteboard, projector, windows, or roaming randomly around the class. Ergin and Birol (2005) indicate that the real communication between people begins when they maintain eye contact, hence eye contact plays a crucial role in communication. If a person maintains eye contact with you, it indicates that the person is interested to start communication with you, while avoiding eye contact shows that the person is not interested or lacks the confidence to start the conversation.
While the use of eyes and facial expressions are reported to assist teachers in managing classrooms, direct eye contact with teachers in our context is considered disrespectful. According to Gower and Walters (1983), the main applications of eye contact in the classroom are to show that the teacher is taking notice of students who are talking; check that everyone is concentrating; indicate the students who want to communicate, and encourage contributions when one is trying to elicit ideas. A teacher can identify that students have something to say by looking at their eyes and face and teacher’s eye contact with students also helps to hold their attention and encourage them to listen to others talking (Snyder, 1998). The use of eyes, mimics, and gestures are also believed to help establish rapport with students. Rossman (1989) believes that the teacher’s body language and eye contact play an important role to set the climate of the classroom. A teacher who never looks at students in their eyes could be due to a lack of confidence, which gives students a sense of insecurity (Gower & Walters, 1983; Pollitt 2006).
Facial expression and eye contact reflect teachers’ confidence. Teachers need to be present in the classroom before learners and welcome them individually with a combination of eye contact and their names as they enter the room. Ledbury et al. (2004) report that eye contact is, fundamentally, time and effort saving even in a large class setting. Research reveals that teachers can save time and effort with specific messages delivered by eye and facial expressions like praises, encouragement, or disapproval. However, the role of non-verbal communication like eye contact, facial expression, and gestures in English language teaching-learning in a developing country like Nepal requires more intensive investigation. Therefore, I am interested in this area and have attempted to explore teachers’ perceptions of non-verbal communication and their implications in teaching-learning of English language.
Pedagogical practices in relation to non-verbal communication
Based on the qualitative research method associated with the interpretive paradigm, I collected the data from ten English teachers from five community schools of Kathmandu valley. The teachers were asked to share their experiences of non-verbal communication and its uses in their large classroom via email. They were given the freedom to report and reflect on any of the issues or incidents they find worthwhile or significant indicating why those moments were significant and critical to them. Information from the ‘critical moments reflection’ reports revealed two major categories based on the research questions as follows:
Teachers’ perceptions on eye contact
Five teachers stated that teachers’ eye contact is a source of motivation and coordination for the students towards the lesson making them feel important and confident as well. T4 states:
I think the relationship is crucial between teacher and student. The way we look at our students, their eyes seem serious towards the class, as they are found motivated towards our lesson, at that time I feel motivated and encouraged.
Similar to the perceptions of most other teachers, T4 reported that eye contact makes students feel important as when the teacher looks at students, they feel that the teacher is interested in them and cares for them. Moreover, eye contact for T4 helps to maintain concentration and boost the motivation of students. On the other hand, for T5, eye contact is a tool to manage the large class she says:
My class is sixty-three, so it is quite large, students make noise, that is very tedious to control, when I look at them, one by one, they remain silent to some extent, perhaps they are aware of my class.
T6 reports a similar experience, “As I find my class noisy, I feel stressed, and I use minimum eye contact for a while without talking to them, they also do not make noise, no matter the class is large.”
Their views are similar to the views of Gower & Walters (1983) as they believe that eye contact can be used to ensure that everyone is together in the lesson, to notice the student who is talking, and to encourage contributions, participation.
Likewise, the other five teachers reported that they perceive teachers’ eye contact as a means to maintain attention in the classroom, which is similar to the views of Gower and Walters (1983) and Snyder (1998) that eye contact is used to hold the attention and maintain focus in teaching-learning. T6 uses eye contact for a similar purpose as he mentions, “By looking at my students directly in their eyes, they pay attention to me and they listen to me, what I am saying in my class.” Similarly, T7 uses eye contact to increase motivation, maintain attention and most importantly to approve and disapprove of students’ behaviour as he says, “My eye contact is crucial for me and my class as it obtains the motivation of the students. This way students pay attention to the lesson. I acknowledge my student’s behavior that is posed in my classroom.” Eye contact also plays an important role in behaviour management of students. By simply fixing our eyes at students’ with an unhappy facial expression signals them to drop their behaviour, while soft eyes with a smile signals that the teacher is interested and wants them to continue what they are doing.
Moreover, it also can be a tool to assess students’ understanding of the lessons as a lack of understanding is displayed in students’ eyes in the form of restlessness or lack of confidence. T9 has a similar experience:
When we are confident, we feel easy to see our students face, otherwise, it is not easy to look at the students’ faces one by one. It is easy to evaluate our student’s situation, how they are presenting in the class.
Teachers’ perceptions on facial expression and gestures
The teachers mentioned that facial expression and gestures are the sources of motivation, enthusiasm, and confidence in learning, oneself, and others. T1 mentions:
Another thing that took my students’ attention is when my students speak, I always listen to them and show I am reacting by moving my body at least by one gesture. This makes my class motivated, encouraged, and enthusiastic. This gives us strong confidence to move on.
Signaling students with some non-verbal clues gives sufficient information about whether students are doing right or wrong and whether they should continue or drop the action. Such non-verbal clues are sometimes stronger than lectures. Teachers should be aware of their body language and the message it conveys because their body language can either encourages or discourages students in classroom engagement and participation as T3 notes that, “My students report me that my body language encourages them and they do not hesitate to talk to me. They say my body language is encouraging and they feel secure in their class.”
The teachers also reported that they perceived mimics and gestures as a source to maintain the attention and readiness of students to resume the teaching-learning activities. They reported that body language is very useful in managing students’ behaviour in a large classroom. Moreover, it also helps students to understand the discussion and lesson better. T10 uses various non-verbal clues to demonstrate and express the intended meaning during the discussion as he notes that, “By using various demonstrations and expressing the posture I make my class well managed.”
The participant teachers mostly perceived the non-verbal clues like eye contact as a source of motivation, concentration, enthusiasm, and a tool for gaining and maintaining attention during the teaching-learning processes. Although there are major similarities in the teachers’ perceptions of non-verbal communication like eye contact, mimics, and gestures, and using them in teaching-learning, some teachers perceive and use them differently. For instance, they use non-verbal clues not only to control the classroom but also to better elaborate the intended meaning of discussion and to encourage students in active participation in teaching-learning activities.
According to cognitive scientists, meaningful learning occurs if students’ attention is captured as information processing that begins with learners paying attention to the stimuli. Most of the students indicated how motivated they become as a result of the teacher’s eye contact, mimics, and gestures feeling comfortable, confident, and significant. Teachers’ non-verbal communication creates a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere for them, and this enables them to have self-confidence which also leads to increased participation and contributions to the lesson. When students participate in the lesson, they are more likely to ask questions which also increases their understanding of the topics. Teachers are recommended to be aware of the importance of nonverbal communication and use it in favor of learners to create a more motivating, comfortable, confident environment in class for better classroom management.
About the author: Binod Duwadi is an MPhil scholar (English Language Education Programme) at Kathmandu University. He is the Head of the English Department at Amar Jyoti Secondary School Kathmandu, Nepal.
Ergin, A. & Birol, C. (2005). EgitimadeLletisim. Ani Yayincilik. Ankara.
Gower, R. & Walters, S. (1983). Teaching practice handbook. Oxford. Heinemann.
Ledbury, R, et al, (2004). The importance of eye contact in the classroom. The Internet TESL Journal. X(8)
The coronavirus (i.e., COVID-19) crisis has brought unprecedented challenges in all the systems including education globally, and communities, particularly in the developing countries, are suffering the most as the public service systems in these countries are not well-planned. The coronavirus pandemic has been a portal that leads the world to reconfigure the future (Roy, 2020) largely different from the one we are/were living. The human sufferings are unprecedented, and of course not measurable either in terms of the economic, social, and psychological losses (both visible and invisible). There are tragic consequences everywhere, and the education sector is one of the most affected ones due to school closure, leaving millions of students from pre-school to the university at homes. The fundamental services of education have halted, with students without textbooks, face-to-face formal interactions, and detachment from their peers. This unexpected context has forced people to think about transformations for the future to enable the pedagogical contexts to recover from the losses, and to cope with the similar future challenging in education systems.
Although schools and universities have tried hard and the best to compensate the loss of schooling by adopting the online mode of instruction, both teachers and students’ limited access to internet facilities, particularly in the least developed countries (LDCs) such as Nepal has become a barrier to holistically shift the physical school to online teaching and learning. This scenario has further accentuated the discourse on equity, concerning the widening gap in terms of access to resources, learning opportunities, human resource management, and the effectiveness of the learning (if any). Similar to Ebola, AIDS, SARS, and Spanish Flu, this pandemic has taught us a lot about humanity, human attachments, health, and urgency of international cooperation. Against this backdrop, in this paper, I have presented my reflection, not necessarily based on strong empirical data, on the potential pathways that we MUST adopt to accelerate transformations in our education systems. By ‘our’, I mean Nepali society, however, my arguments would equally apply to other similar contexts waiting for reforms in their education systems.
The schools are closed for an indefinite time, and standardised tests are suspended. Discourses on educational standards and qualities are extended and enlarged due to the spread of coronavirus. Many people are living with the absence of their friends and families, while others are crammed in their families experiencing probably the longest moment of togetherness with family members. For many, the homes are transferred to online learning stations. The online meetings have covered the walls of Facebook and other social media pages. Perhaps it is the worst ever experience my generation people have had of such pandemic. However, it should also be taken as an opportunity and the right time for countries and relevant communities to unlearn, relearn and rebuild their educational systems to prepare for a better future.
The challenges in schooling
Despite the massive stimulus measures in response to the Covid-19 effects, the global economy is estimated to be hit by recession in 80 years (Guenette, 2020), the deepest since World War II (Al-Samarrai, Gangwar, & Priyal, 2020), and the financial distress will severely impact on the education sector. In other words, this pandemic is likely to impact on several key aspects of education, including financing, resource management, school expansion, and access to learning.
The pandemic crisis is likely to leave the education sector vulnerable in terms of infrastructure development including the endeavours to equip schools with technological innovations. In Nepal, the budget allocated for education is inadequate. In the fiscal year 2076/77 (2020/21 AD), the Government allocated 11.64% budget for the education sector (Ghimire, 2020, May 29), which is very less than the budget spent in countries with larger and established economies. Although here is a mere increase in the budget compared to the current fiscal year, two of the ambitious programmes:six-thousand volunteer teacher mobilisation and mid-day meal, will cover more than three quarters (6 billion) of the total increment of 8 billion rupees. It indicates that there will be a limited budget needed to embrace information and communication technology (ICT) in the educational sector.
Human resource development and management
The low-level budget allocations in the education sector, especially in higher education will have serious consequences in managing technical human resources, and technological innovations, due to budget shortages. It is making both short-term and long-term effects on human resources development on handling the technology integration in teaching and learning. Last month, I had a talk with a teacher of a primary school about the use of technology in teaching, and his immediate reaction was “We have a computer and a printer in our school, but we are unable to use them because we could not find a technician to repair them”. His exemplary experience informs us about the level of understanding of what technology in teaching is, and how computer technology is used in schools in remote Nepal. I had a short visit to one of the public campuses in Kathmandu Valley, and during a talk, the campus chief of the campus said, “Sir, we have managed IT on our campus”. I was thrilled and wanted to see how they have made the reform. He took me to one of the carpeted classrooms and showed some computers (seemingly unused for months) and said that it was the IT lab, where students could occasionally go to learn the computer.
These two instances, which I brought here from my own primary experience, tell us how people perceive the use of technology in teaching and learning. In none of the above cases, there was technology integration in pedagogy. They have understood that technology means having computers and using them occasionally for specific purposes such as showing how to open a word file, how to type, and how to print. The development of a broader framework for human resource development in a planned way is a greater challenge ahead.
School expansion and access
Insufficient budget for public education leads to the decline in education outcomes, and poorer education services, which ultimately impacts on parents’ affordability for their children’s education. In Nepal, usually, the households that largely rely on the remittances for education funding of their children and relatives will suffer a lot. It is predicted that expensive private school education will cause an increment in the enrollment in community schools and then pressurise the community schools to accommodate a large number of students. However, community schools at the current state without minimum ICT infrastructure and comfortable learning environment for those students coming from private schools will not be able to hold them and again private schools may take this advantage. Consequently, the social gap between the communities with high and low-income will be much wider than it is.
These challenges, along with many others, need to be addressed in time to meet the new demands of educating in the post-crisis period. I suggest some viable ways to begin the reform in education in Nepal.
In general, the current context requires us to understand and transform the overall schooling system in a completely different way, as the opportunities for learning have completely gone online. However, the majority of students and teachers, particularly in Nepal, are unable to access online learning for many reasons including the lack of ICT infrastructure, expensive mobile data, and limited or no digital literacy of teachers and students. Complaints have been raised regarding teachers’ efficiency in the use of the online learning management system (LMS) platforms. Teachers’ inability is not due to their negligence but due to their ill-prepared teacher education systems (programmes) that did not equip them with even the basics of integrating technology in pedagogy.
I remember when I was mentoring some students during their field experience in teaching three years ago that they were compelled to follow the lesson planning as par with the lesson plan booklets commercially prepared. This practice barred the students to prepare their lessons autonomously. One of the student teachers asked, “Sir, is it good for English students to follow the same pattern as Science students while preparing lesson plans using this booklet?”. I was speechless, as I knew that this system was not viable, and the student teachers were not even having their own space for altering the patterns of lesson preparation. All the student teachers were filling out the same lesson plan formats provided to them. This is just an example that how we are highly structured in our education systems, following the conventions developed decades ago, and not even asking students to think beyond the box. The main concern I wanted to raise here is that “How does the current strategy of educating and preparing teachers to meet with the growing challenges in learner autonomy, blended learning, and integration of technology in teaching and learning?”.
The crisis has prevailed a need for school transformation by enabling educators and teachers. However, the economic crisis hit by COVID-19 will be a great challenge particularly for developing countries like Nepal to even revive the pre-COVID-19 schools. School transformation is a multifaceted process, including teacher empowerment, readiness, and responsiveness. It is a high time to think about how the teachers can be better equipped to navigate the wounds surfaced in this dark time to reconstruct life anew for themselves and their children through the schooling process. The relevant government agencies can also think of benefitting from the outsourcing of the education services, especially in terms of managing the techno-friendly resources including technical assistance in LMSs design, teacher training, and material development. Although outsourcing of educational services sometimes understood as ‘businessification’ of schooling (Bates, Choi & Kim, 2019), it has been widely adopted as a ‘tested solution’ to many educational problems in many countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong SAR of China.
Enabling teacher agency
There needs a ‘transformation from within’ to meet the challenges generated by this global crisis and a shift from the traditional ‘banking model of education’ (Freire, 1970). Teachers should be prepared for fostering their self-reflexivity and responsibility in shaping their actions in their social contexts. Although teacher agency has been underestimated in the educational contexts of the countries with developing economies, it has been observed that teachers can make the change, provided that they are exposed to an all-enabling environment, both through institutional and professional support. Teachers as reflective practitioners and professional decision-makers (Borg, 2008), also as insiders of the learning process, should be encouraged to come up with their strategies to meet their contextualised learning requirements. The current crisis has also taught us that “the one-size-fits-all” type of blanket strategies, mostly drawn from the global-north contexts, are no longer relevant. In the case of Nepal, owing to its wider demographic diversities such as socio-economic status, language backgrounds, geographical situatedness and cultural orientations, the strategies formed at the federal level will be less likely to succeed requiring greater role of the local government in taking actions to put the policies into practices. In having so, more localised research-supported strategies for maximising teachers’ agentic actions are the must. Teachers are the forefront fighters whenever there is a learning crisis.
Enabling autonomous learning conditions
The transformations can emerge from our actions based on our ideologies and self-regulated efforts to prepare our learners for their life-long learning. The current centralised curriculum development and implementation process have been a problem-posing condition as it does not prepare the learners to be the innovators and self-regulators. The teachers and students are waiting for the state agencies to avail the textbooks for them to start the pedagogies. The curriculum needs to recognise and validate teacher and learner agency in shaping their localised learning environment. The COVID-19 has taught us about making the change from within, not necessarily waiting for some externally sourced interventions facilitating us to transform our professional rituals.
Therefore, it is essential to enable our teachers and students to create their autonomous learning conditions by:
Developing and providing them with the simplified digital learning programmes
Accelerating local governments’ engagement on developing learning materials at the micro-level
Streamlining non-governmental organisations towards facilitating the technical requirements, and
Supporting parents to educate (or facilitate the learning of) their children.
These strategies are rightly doable to manage and enable autonomous learning conditions at the grassroots level. However, at the same time, none (teachers, students, and parents) should be the victim of the circumstances like the current crisis. Teachers, students, parents, and the local level governmental and non-governmental agencies can be engaged in supporting the children to learn. It can be done by bringing all of them together with complementary roles in scaffolding design by enabling innovative learning environments. For instance, the development partners working in the education sectors can provide the local governments with emergency funding opportunities, and parents of each learner can support learning by engaging them in the family affairs, rituals, and daily chores.
Embracing technology: A blended mode of learning
Despite the well-articulated ICT enhancement policies of the government since the beginning of the 21st century in Nepal, the use of technology in teaching and learning contexts is still in its infancy, particularly in the public education system (Rana & Rana, 2020). However, it is also important that we should be able to grab the highest-level advantage out of the use of technology in teaching and learning, which is very much a core part of learning in this digital era. It should also be noted that technology alone is not a panacea for compensating all kinds of learning gaps, as it is just a tool or a medium to facilitate learning. Therefore, the best feasible way for all learning conditions is to develop a justifiable blend of face-to-face and online (virtual) learning. Although media particularly social media like Facebook and twitter are covered by discourses of the use of ICT that would do everything possible, I believe that it is just a good friend of humans and that human values the kids need now are best transferrable and learned through direct human contact and interaction in a comfortable zone. In our educating system, we should be able to ensure that technology is used to integrate the aspects of our indigeneity of knowledge, cultures, values, and worldviews. Moreover, it is essential to include local epistemologies, heterogeneity, the multiplicity of values, and pluralism to make everyone feel owned.
From the above discussion, I come to a holistic picture of the transformation required as presented in figure 1.
Figure 1 provides a holistic approach to innovations in schooling in such a way that teachers, parents, and the social institutions can actively engage with their agency in the learning conditions that teachers promote autonomy, indigenous pedagogies, and professional development opportunities. A culturally responsive environment that incorporates technology will lead to greater success in meeting our 21st-century learning needs.
This reflection reiterates that evidence-based policymaking for the transformation in Nepal’s education system is essential to prepare our students for a better future, in such a way that our schools remain the “places of mutual respect and a place for understanding human differences and opposing viewpoints” (Arnove, 1994, p. 211) along with their equal access to learning opportunities. We have to be able to institutionalise our indigenous pedagogies that enable our students to equally participate in the learning process. The adoption of technology in teaching and learning might also contribute to foster such inequalities differently, as technology has a double-edged effect. On the one hand, it has created an unequal learning opportunity, and on the other, it has been established as the only alternative mode of learning available during this crisis. All that requires a coherent policy framework that consistently facilitates and controls the local innovations with stronger visions and valuing on teachers. We have a lot to learn from Singapore, where “talk less, learn more” is the core principle of teaching (Hogan, 2014).
Mr Prem Prasad Poudel is currently a PhD scholar at The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. He has worked as a lecturer of English Education at Mahendra Ratna Campus, Tribhuvan University, Nepal for more than a decade. Mr Poudel is a well-established as a teacher educator, teacher trainer and material writer in the field of ELT in Nepal. He has presented papers and published articles in the renowned national and international journals such as Journal of NELTA and Current Issues in Language Planning, respectively. Previously, Mr Poudel also served as the secretary of the Central Executive Committee of NELTA.
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This study explored the English language teachers’ perceptions of digital literacies, and how and why these skills need to be integrated into English language instruction. Case study was the research method and the data were gathered through semi-structured interviews, from six non-native English language teachers who were in teaching different educational levels: basic education level and secondary education level. The results indicated that teachers were aware that they needed to become digitally literate by developing the collection of skills and mindsets about digital tools and technologies.
Keywords: English language teachers, Digital literacies, English language instruction, 21st-century skills, case study
In the 21st century, fast-evolving technologies have transformed everyday communication and literacy practices for many young children and teachers as they find themselves immersed in multiple digital media. The digital media have also offered tremendous benefits to all of us. They have provided the platforms that allow us to connect and collaborate by opening up opportunities to learn about new and important issues, and have empowered innovation in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. Moreover, it has transfigured the definition of literacy and is always changing, and now more than ever, the definition is shifting to include the ability to have contemporary skills that help to find, access and use information digitally (Nacy, 2017), which is extremely relevant in the lives of all adults, including English language learners (ELLs). Law et al. (2018) further conveyed that literacy is about the uses people make of it as a means of communication and expression, through a variety of media. Similarly, International Literacy Association (2018) states that literacy is the ability to understand, interpret, create, compute, and communicate using visual, audible, and digital materials across disciplines or variety of the context. Therefore, there is a shift in the meaning of literacy which is not limited to just being able to read and write. Today, digital tools have gone hand-in-hand with the growth of English and are changing the way in which we communicate. It’s the time that being digital literate by using digital tools and technologies is essential for teachers and students in the 21st century.
Regarding digital literacy, scholars have used various terms and definitions. Dudeney et al. (2013) stated digital literacy is the creation of any digital materials and sharing it online with having creative, cultural knowledge and social appropriacy skills. The European Commission (2006) stated digital competence is the competency which involves the confident and critical use of Information Society Technology (IST) for work, leisure and communication. In this regard, it is inevitable that today people should acquire digital media literacy as one of the major competencies, and the 21st-century teachers are challenged to integrate digital literacy in the teaching-learning process. The drastic technological and digitally enhanced teaching-learning change have consequences for the development of early literacy and the ways in which parents and educators are able to equip today’s young learners for getting knowledge digitally. It has attracted a lot of researchers, educators and practitioners to conduct various studies including the evaluation of students‟ digital literacy (Zhang & Zhu, 2016) as well as the use of digital tools in remotely or online (Hobbs, 2013; Park & Burford, 2013; Nowell, 2014; Young, 2008). Thus, digital literacy has become the part of learning in the present era for teachers, parents and students to conform to ourselves building a community of teaching digitally and using them in the time of emergency or during the time of the global pandemic. More specifically, Hatlevik and Christophersen (2013) define digital competence as the skill to use digital tools or technologies to gain, manage and evaluate information, create and share information by using digital tools. The success of digital literacy in classroom settings is often related to teachers‟ key role as a facilitator in the teaching-learning process. Young (2008) states that teachers, students, and overall technology use rely on how a teacher utilizes the technology in the classroom, so the lack of teacher competence becomes a major obstacle in technological device application in the teaching-learning process. In addition, Williams (2012) who studied perceptions of digital immigrant teachers toward their digital native students‟ use of social media showed that even though they had positive perceptions on social media use in terms of collaboration, teacher-student relations, and communication, at the same time they gave negative perception in terms of improperness of formal writing, interpersonal communication skill, and too much drama. In this regard, such drawbacks of social media can result in alterations of students‟ affective and cognitive behaviour. Besides, as for teachers, this negative perception might reduce their awareness of the primacy of technology in the classroom. Meanwhile, Eshet-Alkalai (2004) concludes that digital literacy is a large variety of complex cognitive, motor, sociological, and emotional skills that may be used as a measure of the quality of the students` work in a digital environment. Bachlin and Wild (2015) proposed three frameworks which are addressing the past, developing in the present, and broadening perspectives in the future that aimed at helping teacher trainees in developing the appropriate skills to apply technology in the classroom in an ever-changing digital environment. From this context, the teacher’s digital literacy is the ability to operate and use digital tools efficiently in the teaching and learning process. Siddike (2010) proposed that the digital competences which are foundation digital literacy competencies, basic digital competences, intermediate digital literacy competence, advanced digital literacy competence, technical digital competences, and digital literacy proficiency.
The essential elements of digital literacies
There are quite a lot of skills or things involved in digital literacies. It is not just to create the word document, technical skill is one thing but there are more difficult skills involved in it like cultural knowledge, social appropriacy, collaboration and redesigning etc. Therefore, several educationists or groups have given different frameworks or models of digital literacies: Dudeney et al. (2013), Belshaw (2014), European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens (DigComp) (2015), Digital Capability Framework (Jisc) (2016). DigComp (2015) frames digital literacies into five areas: information and data literacy, communication and collaboration, digital content creation, safety, and problem-solving. Whereas Digital Capability Framework (Jisc) (2016) opined that there are six major elements – information data and media literacies, digital creation, problem solving and innovation, ICT proficiency, digital learning and development, digital communication, collaboration and participation and digital identity and wellbeing. Belshaw’s (2014) digital literacy model has eight elements which are cognitive, constructive, communicative, civic, critical, creative, and confident and culture. These components are meaningful signify that it’s not only one skill that makes us digitally literate but needs to have those all skill sets. There are many digital literacy models or frameworks which all focus on having digital skills, helping people to develop attributes, skills and attitudes.
Although there is no single model or framework to measure the digital literacies, a framework of digital literacies created by Dudeney et al. ( 2013) was taken as the reference for the current study. This framework was designed to guide teachers of English and other languages in preparing their students to engage effectively with the communicative, collaborative and creative demands and opportunities of the 21st-century era, the framework was being used to inform a number of European language learning initiatives. It suggests a set of four overlapping skill sets corresponding to four main areas i.e. focus on language, information, connections or collaboration and (re-)design.
The first area focus on language which includes the following literacies:
texting literacy: the ability to read and gather information from the text and be able to communicate either synchronously or asynchronously taking part in real-time online text chat conversations
hypertext literacy: the ability to use the hyperlinks and navigate the information
multimodal literacy: the ability to understand images, text or different media for getting the information
technological literacy: knowledge about digital tools
code literacy: a basic understanding of coding for logical thinking and programming
The second area focus on information: fundamental skills that help us navigate the flood of digital information provided by the internet. These include:
search literacy’ (the ability to get information online),
tagging literacy (labelling or tagging online information),
information literacy (being able to evaluate sources information),
filtering literacy (knowing how to manage useful or useless information),
attention literacy (Being mindful when to switch off as well as on).
The third area focus on connection or collaboration includes the skills of:
personal literacy ( knowing how to manage our online identities, being aware of personal data)
network literacy ( being able to leverage information online and becoming a global citizen)
Participatory literacy (being able to involve in the professional group and being able to create and produce digital content)
Cultural/intercultural literacy (being able to communicate well with the group of people of other cultures)
The final area focus on (re) design consist primarily of:
critical literacy (being able to observe new trends with digital technologies, thinking on e-waste and digital tools)
remix literacy (being able to mix the information and making something new digitally)
As can be seen, the framework of digital literacies created by Dudeney et al. (2013) definitely makes us clear that digital literacies are essential skills that both English language teachers and students to need to acquire for full participation in the world beyond or inside the classroom. It does not only entail the safe and critical use of computers to obtain, evaluate, store, produce present and exchange information and to communicate and participate in collaborative online networks but well trained, digitally literate teachers can give schools a competitive edge by making learning relevant, motivating students and helping them develop valuable life skills alongside language skills.
The purpose of the study
The study explores models for thinking about digital literacies and examines beneﬁts and challenges associated with systematically addressing a selection of digital literacies in ELT settings. Finally, it reviews adaptable activities designed to help English Language Learners (ELLs) develop the 21st-century skills that will serve them in the classroom and beyond. Hence, the study investigated the English language teachers` perceptions of digital literacies and their practices of incorporating them in English language instructions. The first, technology usage is growing fast so that the English teachers should be aware of the technology changes and literate in the digital tools. The next, digital literacy is needed so that the technologies put in place can be maintained or adapted to be used effectively in EFL teaching. The last, it is an essential thing for the English teachers to provide the new digital tools in teaching and learning processes.
Significance of the study
By evaluating the English language teachers` perceptions of digital literacies and practices it can give some significance. The first, theoretically, the teachers need to know or clarify about the digital literacies and their digital literacy competences in order to support the teaching English in digital era. In addition, they would be aware of how and why these skills can be integrated into English language instruction. The second, practically, digital literacy is needed for English teacher in order to examine the benefits and challenges associated with systematically addressing a selection of digital literacies in ELT settings. The last, pedagogically, digital literacy competencies can help the English teacher to be more digitally literate in the digital teaching era. Besides that, English language teachers will be able to help their and English Language Learners (ELLs) develop the 21st-century skills that serve them in the classroom and beyond.
To find out a group of English language teachers’ perceptions upon digital literacies and implementation practices in the English language instructions, this qualitative study made use of multiple descriptive case study design, and collected data through semi-structured, one to one interviews. The interview questions were created collaboratively by the researcher to examine the issues under investigation.
The current study used purposeful sampling which is one of the sampling techniques commonly used in qualitative research (Palinkas et al., 2013). Having a very close tie to the research objectives, this type of sampling signifies a series of choices about whom, where, and how the research is done (Palys, 2008). Keeping this in mind, the group of teachers participating in the study was purposefully chosen since they were aware of digital literacies and incorporating them in the English language instructions in various ways. They were also motivated and open to communicate their experiences and opinions in a reflective manner. Therefore, it was thought that taking a snapshot of their perceptions regarding digital literacies and implementation practices might bring rich data. To preserve anonymity, the participants were assigned numbers from T1 to T6.
Table 1 Teacher characteristics
Level of teaching
As can been seen; only one of the six teachers was male, who had the advance digital skills or competency. Four of the teachers had basic digital skills competency whereas one of the teachers had just the general knowledge of digital skills. The teachers were teaching at different levels from Basic Education Level (BEL) to Secondary level and had been practicing digital literacies having varied years of experiences.
Data collection and analysis
As previously mentioned, the data were gathered through one-on-one, semi-structured interviews which were audio-recorded and supported by field notes. After the initial transcriptions, the researchers continuously and recursively worked on the transcriptions and looked for words and phrases reflecting emerging ideas about the teachers’ perceptions of digital literacies and implementation practices in the English language instruction. Keywords and phrases that seemed to refer to digital literacies and skills were also picked. The emergent themes which were thought to refer to the same broad idea were put into the same category and labelled.
Findings and discussion
This study aimed to find out six English language teachers’ perceptions of digital literacies and implementation practices in the English language instruction. Therefore, the findings gained via the interview data were put into two sub-sections; perceptions of digital literacies and perceptions of implementation practices of digital literacies in the English language instruction. The details pertaining to each section are presented and discussed below in Table no 2.
Perceptions of digital literacies
In the interviews, teachers were firstly asked to define what digital literacies are. The analysis of the data yielded different responses which were put under two main categories and presented in the table.
Table 2 Themes
Digital literacies perceptions
1. Having Digital Skills/ competences
2. Having additional digital Skills/competences
The Use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
Ability to use the internet access
Accessing videos on YouTube
Creating any digital contents and Sharing learning materials in the Internet
Communicating digital content
Creativity, Cultural knowledge, Social Appropriacy, Participate in internet or (sub) culture
As it demonstrated in the table, definitions for digital literacies were categorized having basic digital skills or competencies and having additional digital skills or competences. Digital literacies were perceived as the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), ability to use the internet access, accessing videos on YouTube, creating any digital contents and sharing learning materials in the internet, communicating digital content. The teachers were aware of using ICT to deliver the lesson in the English language classroom. They were also enabled to use the internet either to provide the teaching materials from the internet and share their own lesson through emails or online mode.
The second category of perceptions of digital literacies, having additional digital Skills/competences, included creativity, cultural knowledge, social appropriacy, participate in the internet or (sub) culture skills. They opined that they need to understand different online contents and how to interact appropriately in them. They had the skill that helped them to navigate the information from the internet or search effectively and tag them and evaluate them critically. They knew how to use technology to increase civic engagement and social action.
Perceptions of how and why to implement Digital Literacies in the English language instructions
Table 3 Reasons for implementing digital literacies
Digital literacies practices perceptions
1. Attending webinars and online classes
2. Learning basic and advanced computer courses
3. Connecting classroom teaching digitally
4. Collaborating with colleagues
Taking online courses –webinars, MOOCs from Cousera, Canva, British council, American Embassy
Learning MS – words , Excel, PowerPoint, HTML, And graphic designers, Internet connections
Using computer/laptop, projector to deliver the lessons
Engaging in email/video chat and social media for exchanging the information
Utilizing storytelling media to allow students to create and publish stories
Setting up a blog site/ Facebook Page or Edmodo or periodical post
Engaging students in discussions about the impact of mobile phones/technologies in the 21st century
Sharing knowledge and experience
Receiving peer feedback
As table no. 3 shows, the findings of the this questions yielded several responses which were categories as attending webinars and online classes, learning basic and advance computer courses, connecting classroom teaching digitally and collaborating with colleagues.
For the first category, the basic practices were taking online courses –webinars, Massive open online course (MOOCS) from different online learning platforms like Coursera, Canva, British council, American Embassy etc. Whereas, for the second category, learning basic and advanced computer courses, learning MS – words, Excel, PowerPoint, HTML, And graphic designers, Internet connections were the main perceptions. On the other, hands, for the third category, using computer/laptop, projector to deliver the lesson, engaging in email/video chat and social media for exchanging the information, utilizing storytelling media to allow students to create and publish stories, setting up a blog site/ Facebook Page or Edmodo or periodical post and engaging students in discussions about the impact of mobile phones/technologies in the 21st century were the basic practices. The last category was labelled as collaborating with colleagues which included sharing knowledge and experience and receiving peer feedback.
In sum, the finding shows that the teachers are aware of digital literacies in the 21st century so that they could make their learners digitally literate and they have been practicing in different ways to express their ideas in digital media not to just teach the core elements of the language but also the create the position globally.
This paper investigated a group of English Language Teachers to explore the perceptions of English language teachers on digital literacies and how and why they are incorporating them in the English language classroom. Being digitally literate helps teachers to present text in a very highly structured way and pace the introduction of new concepts and skills depending on the progress of the students. It also helps to provide aural feedback to the pupil in a timely fashion and work patiently for as long as the pupil is prepared to keep trying.
Digital technologies are impacting the lives and learning of teachers and the young children; and experiences of using digital resources can serve as the foundation for present and future development. It also explored the diversity of teachers’ and students’ literacy skills, practices and expertise across digital tools, technologies and media, in English language instructions. The results revealed that digital technologies have influenced English language teachers and digital teaching learning resources have transfigured not only teachers and but also students’ digital and multimodal literacy practices. The English language teachers who are digitally literate are able to help the students acquire not only the language skills needed for the academic achievements but also some digital skills that they inevitably also need in the 21st-century education. Therefore, the English Language teachers are being digitally literate by educating themselves and gaining digital skills and knowledge through massive of online classes, webinars, reproducing teaching materials digitally and sharing them with the learners and colleagues.
[Note: since you have come up to here reading it, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to it in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]
[To cite it: Chaudhary, P. (2020, April 20). Perceptions on digital literacies and implementation practices: Perspectives of English teachers. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/perceptions-on-digital-literacies-and-implementation-practices-a-perspective-of-english-language-teachers/]
The Author: Puskar Chaudhary is currently teaching and researching at Triyog High School where he also coordinates as Triyog Friend of Zoo (FOZ) Head with the collaboration of The National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC). He is pursuing MPhil in English Language Education from Kathmandu University. His professional memberships include NELTA, TESOL, Toastmasters International and IATEFL. He has taken professional and pedagogical training from online classes and MOOCS. His interest and research include teaching English to Young Learners, critical thinking skills and digital literacies.
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I have been teaching English for more than a decade in English medium schools in the far western region. During my teaching, I found some students actively participating in classroom activities, whereas others have a slow pace in their learning. Students are found to be enjoying the reading sections and listening to their teachers, while they fear to make mistakes in other skills, like listening and speaking (Bohara, 2016). They do writing exercises every day like copying and answering questions given in the textbook but they are not yet able to produce an original and coherent piece of writing. The present curriculum of school level (secondary) has set a goal of achieving the students’ ability to produce a variety of written texts through controlled (guided) to free writing, allocating 35% of weight on it.
English teachers, however, face several challenges to enhance the writing skills of students. I have collected the views of five English language teachers from the far western part of Nepal, especially the challenges they face while teaching writing to their students. I met two of them and telephoned the rest. Regarding challenges in developing writing, one of the teachers said:
I find difficulty in teaching writing skills than teaching other skills as my classroom is a multilingual one. I don’t understand their mother tongues except for Nepali but they take help of mother tongues to think first and express ideas on the papers. Students commonly commit errors in grammatical patterns and fail to use the punctuation marks.
The view of this teacher reveals the process the students undergo to come up with a writing piece in the English language. Likewise, it also shows how students commit errors in their writing due to the influence of their mother tongues. Another participant of my study shared his challenge this way:
My students understand the given questions but they are unable to write down the answers as they don’t have a sound vocabulary. They find difficulty in organizing sentences. They don’t use appropriate vocabulary. But I find that students can do better in guided writing and it’s easier to work because they make fewer mistakes on them.
Using appropriate vocabulary in writing answers of the questions and maintaining coherence in different pieces of writing is another challenge mentioned above. However, the teacher finds comfortable to work with students in guided writing practice than to move on a free writing (Tamang, 2018). One of the teachers from rural parts of the region said:
Mixed level of students’ English language proficiency is a challenge in my class. In the case of free writing, the students make more mistakes in terms of accuracy and organizing the ideas.
It shows that heterogeneous class is another challenge for teachers to enhance the writing skills. Likewise, a teacher teaching at English medium school explains her experiences this way:
The students can produce good paragraphs when they are provided with some clues-ideas to include in the paragraph, the sentence structures and vocabulary. Otherwise, their sentences are grammatically incorrect. They don’t even use the correct punctuation marks.
It indicates that the teachers need to provide a framework for writing a paragraph along with sentence structure and key vocabulary to use. Similar is the challenge of the following teacher, who uses the translation method to make things easier.
Students commit mistakes in spellings, sentence structure and organizing sentences. I find it easy to assign guided writing to the students. There is less exposure of the English language to students in my school. Therefore, I have to translate the written text into the Nepali language. Then it helps them to understand ideas and they can think of additional ideas to write.
Major Challenges Observed
Based on the views of the teachers, the following are the major challenges of the teachers
Lack of vocabulary: students lack sufficient vocabulary to compose their writing. In fact, the vocabulary is the prerequisite for any types of writing.
Incorrect grammatical pattern: use of the incorrect grammatical structure is another common challenge. One of the reasons behind this, as shared by the teachers, is the influence of their mother tongue.
Less exposure in English: In many of our teaching-learning contexts, students do not get enough exposure in the English language- in terms of listening, reading, writing or speaking.
Large multilevel classes: Having different levels of students in English language proficiency in a large English classroom is an another challenge for teachers’ resourcefulness.
Some Strategies to Overcome the Challenges
These teachers use different strategies to overcome the challenges in teaching writing. One of the teachers presents some samples of writing before students generate their own writing. While another teacher reported of discussing the topic and providing some clues to further elaborate them. It could help students to think about the pattern and organize ideas in the given piece of writing (Dewan, 2018). Likewise, another teacher brings some authentic pieces of writing to the classroom. He asserted, “I bring teaching materials like the brochure, invitation card, notices and so on to show them in the classroom. It helps them to be familiar with the authentic pieces of writing.” Similarly, the next teacher explains the pattern to be followed while writing essays and paragraphs and reward students for their good effort. Likewise, another teacher provides the framework of writing on the topic, guide them in organizing the sentences and use the correct grammatical pattern. He further said: “I tell them to use simpler and shorter sentences in writing. I even make my students go to the library so that they can read short stories and other forms of writing.” This practice maximizes their exposure in the English language. The teachers’ experiences and practice show that the guided-writing practices are helpful in the initial stages to develop writing in my context.
I believe that EFL learners need to pay attention in planning and organizing the ideas in before producing a piece of writing. Similarly, the writing should not be taught separately but should be integrated with other language skills. Developing writing skills in students is not an easy job in rural parts of the region. Therefore, more exposure in English, use of supplementary materials, presenting model writing, sufficient practices in vocabulary and sentence structures could help in the initial stages of writing practices.
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Dewan, S. (2017). High expectations, low product: Why is writing scary ghost among our students? NELTA ELT Forum, 2017.
Tamang, BL. (2018). Paragraph writing: A process-based model. Journal of NELTA, vol-22.
(Ms. Januka Bhatta teaches English at secondary level in Sainik Awasiya Mahavidyalaya, Teghari-Kailali.)
Dr Sharma is a scholar of Writing and Rhetoric who teaches at the State University of New York in Stony Brook. Recipient of the Nepal Vidya Bhusan (Nepal) and the Cross Award for Future Leaders of Higher Education (USA), Dr. Sharma in his research/publications and teaching focuses on academic writing (especially writing in the disciplines and graduate-level writing education), international education and students, and cross-cultural rhetoric and multilingual/translingual issues in writing. He writes a regular op-ed column in The Republica and writes about “language, literacy, and life” in his personal blog.
Our Choutari editor Jeevan Karki talked to Dr Shyam Sharma about writing education in Nepal, focusing on areas like beliefs and assumptions about writing, need of writing today, issues and challenges in our writing education, and some ways forward. This exclusive interview sheds light on writing in general and teaching writing in particular. We hope you will enjoy it! [Choutari Editors]
1. Whether children or the grown-ups, people are usually not ready to pick a pen/keyboard and start writing. Why are people scared of writing? Is writing a really painful and difficult task?
I am actually not sure I would frame the challenge as people being scared or hating to write, because research done in some countries has shown that people are writing a lot more today than they used to in the past. And that’s likely true in any country, including ours. We should instead ask who writes and who doesn’t, what kinds of writing people do, why they write and why they don’t (whether that is a question of liking or something else). That is, I wouldn’t worry about maybe just a few people not wanting/liking to write at all, or, perhaps, I would try to understand why not; that might have educational implications. In fact, I would go one step further and ask: Why should they? Maybe that’s where we can start a different kind of conversation, especially educational and pedagogical conversations.
That being said, there is such a thing as anxiety (and even fear) of writing, or writer’s block (though systematic teaching of writing seems to have made this largely a non-issue in recent decades), especially when it comes to doing certain types of writing. So, for example, I don’t think we can find a lot of people who are afraid or hate to write text messages to their friends and family. Most people like to do a variety of writing, or just do it (and not have fear or dislike of it). Maybe they struggle because of the screen size of mobile devices, the lack of input application for their language on any device, or the lack of spelling or other writing skills (especially if they’re afraid of being judged). Maybe they dislike having to write because they know that their writing is primarily meant to be judged, and judged negatively–such as when students who haven’t been taught social studies well wouldn’t want to write social studies exams. However, what I just mentioned are “factors” undermining writing, not a matter of dislike of “writing the message” itself, which, in that case, is the objective. And if the purpose and motivation is there, then the negative factors may disappear or diminish. This means that maybe we should as teachers focus on the factors that facilitate writing (trying to mitigate others that undermine writing). Also, finally, if “writing” means the process rather than getting something done (with or through writing), then, yes, there may be resistance or anxiety having to do with challenges related to the amount and types of skills needed for the process of writing, or for producing the desired text.
The educational question, then, is how can we as teachers teach and facilitate writing in ways that our students can develop the skills and confidence about the process of writing, can focus on the purpose of writing, and, indeed, on its joy sometimes? This will require us to break down the meaning of “writing” in ways that our students can focus on not just the act of writing, certain skills and tools they need to master, or the vague ideas and myths about writing. Instead, we should give them purposeful writing tasks (not just any writing tasks) and help them along the way. We should design tasks so that students either have or can discover what to say/write in the first place. We should stop teaching skills through drills and rules, unless we can do so within purposeful and inspiring contexts.
Writing–as in writing in exams, in timed situations, or when it seems to have no purpose other than to do it because you have to–can be painful. Our job as teachers is to make it more pleasant, or at least more purposeful and therefore more motivating, whenever it may not be so pleasant otherwise.
People (including students) are not just going to start “liking” writing — even if there is just one thing we can call writing. Most people already do and like and know how to write, and when we teach new kinds of writing, we can help them overcome any (possibly natural) anxiety by developing our own professional skills and knowledge about writing and writing pedagogy.
We can help students overcome any (possibly natural) anxiety by developing our own professional skills and knowledge about writing and writing pedagogy.
2. Writing is not a cup of tea for everyone and it is also believed that good writers are geniuses. To what extent do you believe this?
This extremely common assumption, honestly, is total nonsense–and I don’t say that to criticize the question, for, in fact, I am glad you asked it. The idea of writers as geniuses comes from literature and creative writing, and there too, it is a rather outdated idea. Modern writing education in many parts of the world is light years ahead of that kind of mythology, so I think it is time for us to do a lot more to ramp up and teach and write and research and publicize more up-to-date ideas about writing as in academic writing, day to day writing, professional communication, writing in social media, and so on. In the North American academic context where I now work, for instance, academic writing is taught by helping students analyze the context, audience, medium, and purpose (CAMP, as I tell my students) or by further using samples or peers’ work to critique and discuss how to write, so students can emulate how more experienced writers write (often learning how they too don’t always write perfectly). It is taught by taking students through the “process” (one of the god terms of modern writing studies), starting with reading or discussion, research or brainstorming, then pre-writing by outlining or mind mapping in a variety of ways, then drafting, then revising and peer reviewing, often rewriting parts of or the entire draft, then editing, and then proofreading. Teachers can teach component skills during the process, including how to read with writing as a purpose in mind, how to use necessary tools effectively, how to do research purposefully and reading strategically, how to turn off the internal editor while reviewing the overall draft, and so on and so forth. The ways in which we design the writing assignment or task makes a big difference, so this is another area where teachers must be educated or trained. I could go on, but here’s the point I’m trying to make: Some people have better aptitude for doing some things than others, and that is certainly true about writing, but the idea that good writers are geniuses is a dangerous mythology that educators need to give up and also teach their students by showing how it is not so.
I think it is time for us to do a lot more to ramp up and teach and write and research and publicize more up-to-date ideas about writing as in academic writing, day to day writing, professional communication, writing in social media, and so on.
3. You pointed out that the writing tasks are not appropriately designed and the teachers are yet to be trained to better facilitate their students in the writing process. In this context, what can we do locally to strengthen the teachers’ skills for teaching writing in the under-resourced context?
First, I think that administrators and leaders of colleges and schools must be trained/educated. This will help to create an environment and culture where the learning of writing is not seen as something that just “happens” when students know what to say/write. Of course, that’s a major component of writing, which is why just teaching writing skills outside of the context of subject/content doesn’t work well. But conventional beliefs and myths about writing like this–or the idea that you mentioned earlier, that good writing requires genius–must be countered at the institutional level. When training teachers, we can focus on particular purposes for which they would be interested in (or already need to) to teach students how to write better. One good place to start is exams; if teachers are provided training and resources for teaching their students how to score higher marks in the exam, then both students would have the incentive to spend time teaching and learning writing skills. Another purpose that might inspire teachers and students (and also institutions) to promote writing education would be professional communication, such as writing effective emails, crafting effective resumes, drafting and revising application letters and personal statements (or any high stakes writing), and using new media for communication (including social media). Teachers could also be provided a database of activities, assignments, assessment methods, and testing tools from which they can adopt and adapt the material for their classes; this may need to be presented with some illustration, such as through in-person or video training material, by experienced teachers/trainers. It takes a lot of time to change assumptions and habits about teaching and learning, and writing is one of the hardest things to integrate as an element of change.
The ways in which we design the writing assignment or task makes a big difference, so this is another area where teachers must be educated or trained.
4. Generally, our university graduates are not confident to compose a simple essay, application or reflection. What’s missing in our writing education? What’s going wrong in our teaching writing process?
Frankly, I don’t think we have a writing education that meets a fair standard yet. Yes, there are really talented instructors within English Education and English Studies departments who teach writing courses and writing skills. But the curriculum and especially the mode of assessment, faculty autonomy, institutional support, professional development opportunities for faculty, and a community of discourse and practice-sharing is limited–not to mention a robust scholarship that is produced by local scholars. Two years ago, in a brief talk that NELTA Central Office invited me to give, I shared a review of Writing Studies in Europe and North America, and highlighting our unique social and academic contexts, suggested that the discipline of ELT could embrace and advance the profession of teaching and researching writing. Other disciplines (English, Nepali, linguistics, journalism, rhetoric, or communication–in whatever form these exist) may also start more systematically and substantially advancing Writing Studies (with whatever name we give it locally). In fact, I strongly believe that it is important to dissociate writing skills and the study and teaching of writing with one language or another–meaning there should be an independent field of Writing Studies so it won’t be overshadowed by English or Nepali for that matter, although a balance of some kind would make sense–but we must also look at it pragmatically. ELT seems best positioned to advance teaching and scholarship of writing in Nepal, and it could help to advance multilingual/translingual writing and communication skills, as well as making writing pedagogy and scholarship adapted to our local realities. Without a strong disciplinary foundation, there won’t be sufficient production of new ideas through research, sharing of practice through professional events, promotion and advocacy of teaching and teachers of writing, and so on. It is time to advance this conversation on a broader, national scale.
Writing should be an independent field of Writing Studies.
5. Comparatively, the spoken skills are more dominant in our day to day life than these academic and professional writing. Why do we need to worry if everyone is not a good writer?
Well, writing serves distinct purposes–or, rather, a variety of purposes that are usually distinct from those that speaking serves. Fortunately or unfortunately, writing has become more and more important and necessary for more and more communicative functions in our lives, society, and professions–not to mention education. That is, everyone has to be a “good writer”–not in the sense of being a genius you mentioned earlier but in the sense being effective in communication using writing–in order to be successful academically and professionally. Information has exploded due to rapidly emerging technologies, not only in terms of its production but also sharing, retrieving, adapting, repurposing, and so on. And while a lot of information is being conveyed in images, sound, animation, and so on, writing continues to dominate and take more complex, often multidimensional forms. Its genres and functions are also rapidly increasing, making generic writing skills insufficient for all but the most basic purposes. This means that we need a lot of “writing education” in Nepal, an education that integrates full-fledged writing courses that are required of all students in schools and colleges, writing major for those who want to specialize at the undergraduate level, and writing degrees for those who want to develop more advanced professional skills or study it to advance the discipline and teach increasingly advanced courses in writing.
Without a strong disciplinary foundation, there won’t be sufficient production of new ideas through research, sharing of practice through professional events, promotion and advocacy of teaching and teachers of writing, and so on.
6. What are your suggestions for teachers to teach writing with ease in schools and colleges?
I would urge all colleagues, in any discipline (including in business and humanities and social and natural sciences) to learn how to integrate writing skills into their courses. That can enhance their students’ academic success and professional growth. To colleagues who are able to teach writing more explicitly and directly, such as within English Studies and English Language Education, I would urge them to study any scholarship (including essays on blogs like this) about writing pedagogy and research, find more to read from other countries, and continue to help advance writing education in any way they can. It seems to me that there is enough interest in the idea of systematically teaching writing that this could start taking the shape of a new discipline, or at least a rich new community of practice and scholarship. There is the tremendous opportunity for those who are paying attention, whether they be individual scholars and teachers or academic institutions.
I was grown in a hill district (Bajhang) of far western region. I completed my masters from Tribhuwan University. When I joined a TU affiliated campus in Bajhang, I had some different experiences in teaching English and working with students there. Students’ perspectives toward English language learning, their expectations and efforts made me rethink about my way of teaching and working with students. It made me further investigate the perceptions of ELT professionals and challenges they are facing in far-west region. In this blog post, I am presenting the voices of ELT professionals from this region. It is just a presentation of preliminary data for my paper in Kathmandu University.
I taught English in rural areas of far western Nepal for a decade. I think teacher is an only source of motivation for students to learn English in our context. In my case, the way I deal my students sometime motivate them and some other time demotivate. The experience of teaching English in this region, made me further investigate in the area of ELT. This piece primarily discloses the perspectives of English teachers in relation to prescribed English courses in B.Ed. level, common strategies teachers employ in the classroom and challenges they face while teaching English. I had a talk (not structured one) with five English teachers teaching in B.Ed. level in far western region – they were from Bajhang, Bajura, Kanchanpur, Achham and Dadeldhura. They were teaching English in different campuses under the affiliation of Tribhuvan University.
Now, I present the preliminary findings of my study on four major themes. I shall be analyzing the findings and share in future issues.
Gap in contents
I found that academic courses are de-contextualized in relation to contents and culture. In other words, it is found that the contents at bachelor level are de-contextualized with particular reference to the respect to society, culture, age and prior knowledge of learners. Hence, there is a gap between the local reality and the contents in the syllabus. In this regard, a participant put his voice this way:
The prescribed courses are not harmonized with the level of prior knowledge of students in bachelor level. Further, the prescribed books do not incorporate the culture of far western region, even if they were written by Nepali scholars.
Most of the academic contents were from other culture which does not appropriate the socio-cultural background of students in the far western region.
Increasing use of technology
I found that English teachers make of use of the internet, Google and several ELT Webpages. The trend is increasing in urban areas. A teacher mentioned that:
I use Facebook and make use of several ELT groups and pages. The discussions over these venues assist me to facilitate teaching of English and keep me up to date in the area. Similarly, webpages such as Learn and Teach English of British Council and other ELT resource sites are quite helpful for me. Certain mobile applications have also been supportive to me.
It shows that increasing use of technology has added advantages to teach English at tertiary level and the trend is growing in this region.
Teacher centered strategies
Except in a few cases, all participants agree that teachers basically follow lecture method, the conventional method of teaching English. A participant states that:
Without using translation method, the students do not understand the contents. They seem to be happy with translation in Nepali and local dialect. In the classroom of compulsory English (language subject), the number of students is large and teacher primarily depend on lecturing and GT method. In compulsory English classes, some students are from poor language background.
The study shows that in urban areas teachers are, to some extent, more resourceful and innovative than in rural areas. They also agree that students join the English stream with inadequate basic standard in English. However, a participant reports that he sometimes uses project work, group work and problem solving techniques while teaching English.
Use of L1
Next revealing phenomenon is that teachers and students use maximum Nepali and local languages in English classroom in this region. Another participant articulates this practice this way:
Without using local and Nepali language, students can understand nothing. During the lesson, Nepali is a medium of instruction. I often try to use English but students just listen to me, they don’t respond or interact. Then I have to immediately switch to L1.
Participation of students
It also shows that learners’ participation in classroom is very low. Most classrooms are heterogeneous in terms of socio-economic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds of students. Therefore, the one prescribed curriculum from the top does not capture their interests and different motivational orientations. Here is what a participant expresses:
Majority of students neither complete their assignments nor actively participate in classroom activities like pair work, group work, and dramatization. Most importantly, they tend to be highly absent in classes.
Therefore, the study shows that multi- level classroom, students’ irregularity and hesitation to speak English are few reasons to mention for the low participation of students in teaching-learning activities. Likewise, many classrooms do not have sufficient teaching materials which better facilitate language learning. The study also reveals that teachers mostly depend on the textbook. They do not have any internet access.
Teaching English language in non-native context is a challenge for several reasons. Most academic contents were from ‘the other’ culture which may not be suitable for the students in the context of far western region of Nepal. Teachers basically follow the same route, an easy job – lecturing in the classroom. Maximum use of Nepali and local languages can be observed on the part of both teachers and students. Classrooms are heterogeneous in terms of socio-economic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds of students. Students generally expect class notes from teachers and there is low participation of students in teaching learning processes of ELT in the classrooms. In the same way, classrooms are under-resourced, except a few classrooms in urban areas like Dhangadhi and Mahendranagar. However, increasing use of technology by teachers could be an additional advantage to teach English at this level in various ways. Preliminary findings show that the situation of English language teaching is not so encouraging in this part of country.
Mr. Bohara teaches English at Jaya Prithivi Multiple Campus, Bajhang. He is currently pursuing his MPhil in ELE from Kathmandu University.
In 2015, the global community of applied linguists lost one of the founding fathers and major theorists in Applied Linguistics/ELT, Professor Alan Davies. Since the inception of the field in 1957, Professor Davies continually contributed to various dimensions of Applied Linguistics such as language testing, language policy, English language teaching, sociolinguistics and second language learning through teaching, research, publications, seminars, and community service. He was a Professor Emeritus Professor Emeritus of Applied Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, UK (You can listen to his recent interview here).
However, many of us may not know that Professor Davies contributed to teaching, discourse, and policy regarding ELT and Applied Linguistics in Nepal. In the context of the sad demise of Professor Davies (in September 2015), I would like to dedicate this blog post to his legacy and share some of his major contributions to Nepali ELT and Applied Linguistics.
Known best for his theory of “native speaker” (see Davies, 2004, 2007, 2013) and principles/theories/ethics in language testing (e.g., Davies, 1997, 2003, 2008), Professor Davies have contributed to the inception, development and globalization of Nepali ELT/Applied Linguistics by discussing Nepal’s case in most of his popular publications that deal with language policy and politics, English language teaching, and local-global tensions.
Introduction of Applied Linguistics/ELT in Nepal
Many of us may not know that Professor Davies was Head of Central Department of English at Tribhuvan University. In 1969, with British Council’s support, Professor Davies joined the Central Department of English as Head. In his two-year stay, he introduced and taught linguistics and applied linguistics courses for MA students. The courses were deigned to train college teachers on how to teach English effectively. Reflecting on the courses, K. P. Malla, one of the reverent linguists in Nepal, says “Personally for me and many of my colleagues it was the first exposure to linguistics, particularly to Applied Linguistics” (Malla, 1976, p. 8).
He was Chair of the Board of English Studies in 1971. He reformed the existing English language syllabuses and introduced General English course for both the Intermediate and Bachelor levels in 1971. The new syllabus which Malla (1976) calls ‘Davies syllabus’ provided students with an exposure of contemporary spoken and written English and recognized the use of local English by including local newspaper reports and excerpts in the course.
In the early 1970s, Professor Davies, in collaboration with British Council developed in-service training courses for secondary school teachers. The courses focused on both English language development and teaching methods. Most importantly, a new school level English syllabus was developed. He also designed an experimental English language test items for School Leaving Certificates exams. He was the first keynote speaker for Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association [NELTA] in 1993. The NELTA conference was the first event that gathered teachers for academic discussions in ELT in Nepal.
The ELT Survey: Insights into ELT policy reforms
In 1983, when the public education was not yet well planned, Professor Davies was requested by the Ministry of Education and British Council to lead a team of experts to carry out an ELT Survey of Nepal. Two other British scholars, Alan McLean and Eric Glendenning, and three Nepali counterparts, Arun Pradhan, Niraj Kumari Bajracharya, and Jai Raj Awasthi, were involved in the project. The survey team was asked to: (a) observe and describe the status of English language teaching in schools; (b) analyze aim, content, format and the process of textbook development and other reference materials; (d) describe the English language examination system and its connection with ELT practices in schools; (f) assess English language proficiency of both teachers and students and analyze factors contributing to good and poor performance; (h) explore English language teaching methods; and (i) provide recommendations for policy reforms.
The major findings of the study are: a) the level of teachers’’ pedagogical expertise was not adequate due to lack of training and transfer of training into classes; b) the textbooks were appropriate and adequate for the local situation; however, they were not used effectively for the classroom purpose and needed editing and proof-reading; c) the SLC exams did not test students’ English language skills but they meant to test students’ memory of the content knowledge; d) the English language proficiency of both teachers and students was inadequate to fulfill the course objectives; e) the non-communicative techniques such as grammar-translation, rote-learning, choral repetition, gap-filling, and lectures were major techniques of teaching English; and f) the in-service teacher training provisions were not adequate to help teachers teach English effectively. Due to space limitation, I cannot discuss all the findings and issues identified by the survey team. However, I would like to highlight some major policy recommendations, which I think are still relevant to English language education policy reforms in Nepal.
First, the survey team clearly points out that there is no optimal age for learning a second/foreign language. Studies in second language learning show that adults can learn as good second or foreign language as, indeed better than, young children. Building on this research base and considering the low status of English, the survey team recommends to start English late—at Grade 8. Doing so, as the survey team recommends, helps the Ministry of Education invest more resources into three years of teaching English. Until 2003, English was taught from Grade 4. This means that the resources were spread over 7 years (Grade 4-10) in teaching English for school education. Most importantly, the survey team claims that “as much English is learned in 7 years by Grade 10 would be learned in 3 years (see Davies, Glendenning, & McLean, 1984, p. 6).
The survey findings show that starting English at Grade 4 resulted in students’ “repeated failure and loss of motivation to learn [English]. It also leads to a drain on English for school resources” (Davies et al., p. 6). The survey team contends that “extending the period of language learning may sound superficially sensible but in circumstances where so much of the teachers’ own English (and their teaching of English) is poor the problem would be compounded by three more years repeated failure” (Davies et al., 1984, p. 6). The survey team has clearly mentioned that lowering age for learning ESL/EFL is not a good idea to help all children achieve a better education.
English and nationalism
Professor Davies critically examines the space of English in education in the face of strong linguistic nationalism. When he was actively involved in research and teaching in Nepal, the national education policies and practices were guided Nepali-only policy for the nation-building purpose. The teaching and learning of language other than Nepali was discouraged. However, English was still taught and used as a medium of instruction in a British ‘aided’ public school and a Jesuit school. Moreover, rich families sent their children to different parts of India for English education.
While Nepali medium policy was promoted by the state in the guise of nationalism, English medium education was still available for high-middle class elites. Professor Davies is critical about the social divide implicated in the contemporary Nepali-English divide (see Davies, 1970, Davies et al., 1984). Critically analyzing the data that show a huge gap in English language of students and teachers from a British ‘aided’ English medium school in Kathmandu and the public schools outside Kathmandu (see Davies et al., 1984), Professor Davies contends that aid agencies should pay attention to what works best for the majority, especially for the poor, not just for the benefit of a few elites. To address this issue, Professor Davies have suggested that it is better to provide school level education in Nepali, a common national language, and focus on teaching English as a ‘specialist subject’ from the intermediate level.
However, the recommendations of the survey team did not receive any attention in educational policies. The English craze never went away. Professor Davies reflects on the ELT survey data in his 2009 paper in which he strongly argues that Nepal’s English language policy is not shaped by educational motive, but by political motive. In other words, learning English does not actually mean to develop English language proficiency, not even to participate in the process of learning it in many contexts. As Professor Davies argues, lowering the age for teaching English in Nepal is highly shaped by the symbolic value (social prestige) attached to English due to the Nepali-English divide in education for the sake of nationalism.
Professor Davies’ contributions are informed by his critical awareness of Nepal’s contemporary sociolinguistic and sociopolitical situations. He consistently argues that ELT policy in Nepal should be grounded on second language research and focused on what is appropriate for all children.
Professor Davies’ contributions to Nepal are very special and his ideas provide significant insights into creation of an educationally-grounded, locally appropriate, and equitable ELT policy. In the context that English is already taught from Grade 1 and gradually becoming a de facto medium of instruction in public schools, Professor Davies’ contributions make even more sense. His contributions do not just tell the history of Nepal’s ELT, but suggest what the present and the future of Nepali ELT should be. While we are rushing to introduce English from the early grades, Professor Davies’ studies remind us to critically think about the following questions:
Are the current policies and practices based on any educational research? What second language research studies inform them?
Why is there a huge gap between the policy (desired expectations) and on-the-ground practices?
What happens if we start teaching English after students develop strong literacy and academic skills in their first language, Nepali or bilingualism?
Who benefit from and who are represented in the current policy?
Do in-service English language teacher training programs actually help to improve the early English policy?
If studies on second language learning show no significant role of age in learning a second or a foreign language, why should we rush to introduce English from the early grades?
Does the current English medium of instruction policy in the early grades support students to achieve the national and curricular goals of each subject (e.g. Science, Social Studies, Mathematics) as specified by the government? Does this policy promote interactive and critical pedagogies?
These questions do not have definitive answers; however, they are important to consider in creation, implementation, and evaluation of ELT policy. Answering these questions require us to engage in the exploration of the locally-situated ELT issues and academically grounded debates that focus on both theories and pedagogies of equitable ELT policy. Teacher development, material writing, assessment, and classroom pedagogies all should have an educational base. Our engagement to answer above questions actually pays a true tribute to Professor Alan Davies from the community of Nepali ELT practitioners and applied linguists.
The author: Prem Phyak is currently a PhD candidate at department of second language studies, University of Hawaii in the USA.
Davies, A. (1970). The pedigree of nations. Ramjham, 6(3), 26-33.
Davies, A. (1997). Introduction: The limits of ethics in language testing.Language Testing, 14(3), 235-241.
Davies, A. (2003). Three heresies of language testing research. Language Testing, 20(4), 355-368.
Davies, A. (2004). The native speaker in applied linguistics. In A. Davies, & C. Elder (eds.), The handbook of applied linguistics (pp.431-450). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
Davies, A. (2007). An introduction to applied linguistics: From practice to theory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Davies, A. (2008). Assessing academic English: Testing English proficiency 1950-89—The IELTSsolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Davies, A. (2009). Professional advice vs political imperatives. In J. C. Alderson (Ed.), The Politicsof language education: Individuals and institutions (pp. 45–63). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Davies, A. (2013). Native speakers and native users: Loss and gain. Cambridge: Cambridge \ University Press.
Davies, A., Glendenning, E., & McLean, A. (1984). Survey of English language teaching in Nepal. Report presented to the His Majesty’s Government Ministry of Education and Culture,Kathmandu.
Malla, K. P. (1976). English language teaching in Tribhuvan University. Vasudha,16 (1), 1-19.
During the past year, I came across a lot of news items (including some based on scientific studies) about the benefits of multilingualism. There was so much on this issue that I sometimes wondered if the scientific and sociological studies were essentially a part of rather political responses to the ongoing redistribution of economic and geopolitical power around the world (especially in relation to the global status of the US vis-a-vis other countries like China, India, and the rest of BRICK nations). Perhaps immigration, increased global connections (virtually and otherwise), and development in other areas are contributing to it. In any case, the range of research, arguments, and perspectives on the subject was quite rich and diverse, with some reports going as far as saying that multilingualism may delay severe mental disorders in old age to others indicating that it is simply business-smart for companies to make their websites more multilingual. Living in the US, a society where monolingual policies and assumptions are (understandably) prevalent in most walks of life, I was pleased to see the emerging appreciation of multilingualism because I think this will only have positive outcomes on local and global levels.
However, every time I read the news about this issue, I was sad. I was sad that, back home in Nepal, where learning and using multiple languages is a fundamental reality of life and society, formal education is increasingly adopting the mind-boggling “subtractive” approach in relation to multilingualism (excluding/destroying some languages to improve others), in the name of education, economic opportunity, and globalization. Instead of focusing on the real challenges of education, schools and parents and experts alike are buying into the idea that simply switching to English-Only medium of instruction for all subjects and at all levels will magically improve education — when, in our special context, the opposite is far more true. Let me return to this concern after sharing a quick summary of the new studies and reports mentioned above. I will conclude by sharing some fun activities for the classroom, just so I don’t spread too many sadness bugs to you as a reader.
If you have the time and can browse through the annotated bibliography linked to this page on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, this site provides the most exhaustive list of studies documenting the benefits of being multilingual. Since even the annotations are rather overwhelming in amount, here is a brief list if you don’t have too much time. The studies show that proficiency in multiple languages:
supports academic success by helping individuals use critical language awareness and sensitivity to nuances of meaning, read and understand texts better for any purpose, perform better in standardized tests/exams, reinforce the learning of new languages required in school especially through two-way immersion, fine-tune the ability to hear and pay attention, better hypothesize in learning science, bolsters success in higher education in general;
enhances cognitive ability by helping individuals use more divergent thinking, go higher on the level of critical thinking, draw on different perspectives and think outside the box, employ greater cognitive flexibility, think better non-verbally, acquire greater metalinguistic awareness and creativity, utilize an improved working memory, deploy “more advanced processing of verbal material, more discriminating perceptual distinctions, more propensity to search for structure in perceptual situations, and more capacity to reorganize their perceptions in response to feedback,” offset age-related loss of memory and even diseases, use an apparently increased IQ;
improves interpersonal, social, economic, and professional opportunities for individuals by helping them boost their social skills and confidence, connect them to more people and increasing their opportunities to learn and grow, strengthen emotional and personal relationships with others who may feel strongly about linguistic and cultural bonds, give them unique skills and abilities, allow them to travel and work more successfully.
For anyone interested to learn even more about the benefits of multilingualism, here is another compilation of news, issues, and debates on a university website. Some of the sources include an article titled “Bilinguals are Smarter” on New York Times, a Wired Magazine article about bilinguals making more rational and less biased decisions, and a Ted talk by Patricia Ryan, a long time English teacher in the Middle East, who points out a number of problems, including the problem of gatekeeping in the name of educational quality. A fun-to-read article in The Huffington Post includes these benefits: better understanding cultural references, better navigate the social and professional worlds, better notice things that are lost in translation, feel better connected to one’s heritage/family and history, have deeper conversations with people across borders, make self-expression multidimensional as if one can use multiple personalities as needed.
As I indicated above, the more I read news and reports about the benefits of multilingualism, the more I wondered if, back home, educators and policy makers, schools and parents will begin to change the increasingly dominating discourse and practice of English-Only instruction. Where are we on the issue of multilingualism and what, if anything, will make us change direction? Are well-informed educators doomed to passively watch the simplemindedness of those who create and implement wrong-headed language policy (or rather don’t do anything, because they seem to have no clue) forever? What can we do if we are teachers in English-only medium schools? Should those of us who have started discussing multilingualism be worried about offending our colleagues in private schools who have a stake in English medium education, fellow parents who may misunderstand what we mean, and the people whose business depends on the mythology of “English medium = quality education”? What about those of us who are studying or working abroad (especially in an English speaking country)? Frankly, I think it is intellectually and socially irresponsible to be silent on this subject. But I could be unrealistic. The facts in favor of promoting multilingualism through education are crystal clear, but power and politics much more complicated.
Of course, English is everything its proponents say it is, and it does most of what they say. The problem is with “only” English in a society where most teachers and learners do not use it outside school, where few teachers speak it fluently and few students can master nuance even after being forced to use it for ten or fifteen years, and where there is insufficient resource to implement what schools have doggedly tried and most of them have miserably failed for decades. Contradictory as it may sound, except in a handful of good private schools in a handful of cities, English education itself will dramatically improve if teachers and students are first allowed to teach fluently and learn effectively — not to mention education in all other subjects. Now, why are Nepali-medium schools not “automatically” better? The answer is: they would be much worse (as they are going to be) by replacing Nepali and local language as the medium of all instruction. When English is imposed on teachers who can’t speak well and students who don’t have the opportunity to develop the competence needed, anyone can predict the results. English proficiency as an educational objective is absolutely necessary and we must do whatever we can to improve it; we owe it to our children to teach this “global” language. English language as an “only” medium for all subjects in our particular context at this time is a “snake oil.” What we need is freedom to use what works best at different levels of education, types of schools, subjects and teachers and students and so on. What we need is a general recognition that proficiency in English and quality education are two completely different things and we should expose the myths and lies on which the monolingual moves are based.
I am reminded of a book titled Buying into Englishin which the author, Catherine Prendergast, illustrates the failed promise of English in Slovakia. What made a positive difference for those who could benefit from English was not the language itself but instead their privilege or achievement in economic, social, political, and other forms. Nepal’s case may be unique in some ways, but the same dynamics apply. If students coming out of our private schools are more successful in higher education and the professions, it is because they had the privilege of schools with better resources, better teachers, richer and/or more educated parents, homes and communities with more favorable environments, networks of educated and resourceful family members, etc, etc, etc. For these reasons, I find it absurd when our educators ignore the big picture, disregard shocking numbers of failure (including failures due to English medium), and continue to sell or support the logically broken idea that English medium in itself will improve education. One should be ashamed to promote an educational situation based on and perpetuating shocking inequalities in education. English medium is a “false cause” of success before it starts becoming a real one for the minority; for the rest of the nation, when this medium is made mandatory, it makes teaching less fluent and learning less effective, and it undermines success and opportunity instead of enhancing them. Thus, for educators themselves to use the “success stories” of a minority when the majority does not have all the other privileges that go along with English medium is disingenuous, if not dishonest.
Yes, if all the other conditions of education described above are better, English can add to the ultimate outcome. But even then—and let me go one step further than I have before—students will benefit if they are taught in more languages than one, if they are fluent in more languages than one, if they can access knowledge and connect to people and think by using and . . . . Just think about adding all of the benefits of multilingualism that I summarized above to the previous sentence! That is the power of multilingualism when compared to monolingual education. That is what would happen if our private schools (and public ones that are adopting the same mythology) were to let teachers use multiple languages in the classroom. Future generations of students would be able to communicate complex and diverse ideas in more than one language, improving their learning and increasing opportunities in different walks of life and for a lifetime!
Now, as I promised at the outset, just to move away from the shock and disgust about our systematic destruction of multilingualism (because too many of us have somehow bought into, help advance, or tolerate this amazing, grand lie that using “English Only” improves education), let me share a few fun activities and conversations you can use in your classroom.
Ask students to translate the word “beauty” into Nepali (and/or other languages they speak). In the case of Nepali, hoping the English-only madness hasn’t completely destroyed this language among all students in class, someone will say “sundar.” Ask students if that word is associated with females or males in Nepali. The answer, in Nepali, is male, right? In English, it is typically used to describe females, with the adjective “beautiful.” What is “beautiful” in Nepali? “Sundari?” Probably not! Well, yeah, some students will say. Then ask the class to translate the word “sundari” back into English, or imagine what image“beautiful” conjures up in their minds. Again, if at least some of them have a good sense of the connotations in Nepali, they might say things like “nakkali” or someone “who tries hard to look pretty.” In any case, the connotations in Nepali are not positive—unlike in English, generally speaking. Guess what, if any of your students are good in Nepali, they will also tell you that “sundari” means a female monkey. And so the conversation will continue, just using one key word and two languages, showing you the beauty and power of multilingualism. Good luck with the rest of the conversation, whichever way you want to wrap it up.
Let us take another case of hard-to-translate words in different languages. Here is one of the many websites that provide lists of such words from languages spoken around the world. Take any number of these words to class (or pull them up and show the accompanying images on the screen if that is possible), and then ask students to write words from their home or other languages that they don’t think have accurate translation in English. This activity will also help your students refine their translingual skills, taking one more step in the direction of achieving many of the benefits of multilingualism described above. What does a word and especially its connotations say about the society (context, culture, lifestyle), about changes over time, about worldviews, etc? What are the personal, social, and professional benefits of continuously developing vocabulary, range of syntax and idiom, and sociolinguistic competency in more than one language?
To keep this post short, let me sign off with a link to a blog post that I wrote for a professional group named Transnational Writing here in the US. In this two-part essay, I have discussed some of the practical/classroom strategies and activities for engaging students in translingual communication (a hot button topic here in the US these days).
I look forward to reading your thoughts and ideas in the comments.
The author: Dr. Sharma is currently working in the capacity of an assistant professor of writing and rhetoric at Stony Brook University, New York in the USA
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.
Baker, C. (2011). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism (5th ed.). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
It is often assumed that a target language can be best taught in the target language. This assumption basically developed from the Direct Method, which emphasized that translation and use of the learners’ language is detrimental to the learning of the target language. This ideology influenced the succeeding methodologies in the field of English language teaching and teaching of other second languages. In the audio-lingual method also, teaching and use of the learners’ first language was considered a detrimental factor in the success of language learning. This ideology and practice is best suited in contexts where learners are almost fully competent in the target language. However, this case is very rare because if the learners are already competent in the target language, why should they bother to sit in the second language classroom? Learning in the second language, for example in English, may provide more exposure to the learners since they may be able to receive more hours of English. However, lack of adequate proficiency in that language is likely to severely affect their general learning as well as their learning of content subjects such as mathematics and social studies. When the learners do not grasp what the teacher is teaching in the classroom, she does not only abstain from important information being taught, she also feels left out, excluded and discriminated. Research literature from around the world shows evidence for that.
The concern regarding the use of English as a medium of instruction has drawn a considerable attention from both teachers and policy makers in the context of Nepal. While the “English-medium” private schools have long been bragging the English-only policy and practice in their schools, teachers have always been agentive in resisting this ideology, making varied use of learner’s language. I was an English teacher in a private school in Chitwan for about five years from 1996-2001, and while teaching English, I consciously made use of Nepali in various degrees. Teaching English, only in English benefitted only those who had developed a considerable degree of proficiency in English; those with little knowledge of English suffered a lot.
Translingual pedagogy: some cases
The concern regarding the benefits and drawbacks of English-only policy is not a Nepal-specific issue. In order to address the complexities of bilingual and multilingual schools and societies, researchers and teachers have recently shown an increased interest in using a translingual pedagogy. Translingual pedagogy or translingualism largely refers to a conscious and dynamic use of two or more languages in a language classroom. In such contexts, the teacher is competent in using both languages. Professor Ofelia Garcia is well known for elaborating this concept in bilingual classrooms in the US. In a thought-provoking post that she wrote a while ago for Choutari, she mentions:
Translanguaging in education can be defined as a process by which students and teachers engage in complex discursive practices that include ALL the language practicesof students in order to develop new language practices and sustain old ones, communicate and appropriate knowledge, and give voice to new sociopolitical realities by interrogating linguistic inequality (Garcia, 2013, https://neltachoutari.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/translanguaging-to-teach-english-in-nepal/).
Two other researchers, Adrian Blackledge and Angela Creese, from the UK have also shown compelling evidence of using two languages concurrently in a second language classroom. They write:
We also find examples of the need for both languages, for the drawing across languages, for the additional value and resource that bilingualism brings to identity performance, lesson accomplishment, and participant confidence (Creese and Blackledge, 2010: 112).
Such evidences suggest that learners benefit largely by being taught in two languages.
Translingual practices in an ESP classroom
I have long been interested in the use of English in non-formal and informal educational contexts in Nepal. One of my previous studies investigated how learners of English in Nepal navigate information technologies such as Facebook in order to enact and practice their bilingual identities. Recently, I have been researching on the teaching, learning and use of English and other foreign languages in Nepal’s tourism industry. As a case in point, Travellers’ World (pseudonym) in Thamel, Kathmandu, offers English courses for porters and trekking guides two times a year – in monsoon and in winter- each lasting for about a month. I was in the monsoon class for a month in 2013, observing the class, taking notes, recording classroom interactions and interviewing the teachers and the students. As a noticeable finding relevant to the present essay, I here provide two examples which at times show contradictory practices.
Point 1: Travellers’ World has a policy to hire “native” English speaking volunteer tourists who tend to be from English speaking countries such as Australia, the UK and the US. I was in a class taught by a volunteer teacher from the UK. She hardly spoke any Nepali. The students, as you might guess, had only basic language and literacy schools, and their English competence was notably poor. Here, I reproduce my observation notes and a piece of classroom dialogue below.
The teacher was teaching how to write a CV. She first briefly explained what CV is and what it is used for. She wrote Curriculum Vitae on the board and asked the students if they knew it before. A few nodded. One student mentioned that CV means bio-data. The teacher acknowledged the student’s response and distributed a one-page handout that contained a template for writing a CV. She then divided the class into three groups. The students seemed confused, looking at each other and at the teacher, speaking unclearly in Nepali. The following interaction occurred meantime:
T: What are you writing in your CV? (addressing to one a student)
S: (pause) I am writing…
T: Okay. You need to write your education background.
T: You can write about a famous person. Write about a famous person’s CV.
T: Oh yeah. Write Barack Obama’s CV for the presidential post? For example you are Barack Obama and you want to apply for the post of President. How do you like the idea?
S: Good good. (laughs)
(pause for a while)
T: What about you (to another student). (pause) Do you like sports?
S: Oh, I write David Beckham. I like football.
Most of the students did not have their education beyond the School Leaving Certificate (SLC, equivalent to Grade 10). Some of them were school dropouts, who did not continue their formal education after grade 5. At first, writing a CV that asked for their university education obviously created a problem for them. Rather than helping students to prepare a CV that included their own information, the teacher assigned a more daunting task of writing the American President’s CV. Another student perhaps thought only the famous people in the world have their CVs and he proposed writing a famous British soccer player’s CV. CV for them meant biography. The students encountered more problems later when they had to write their previous work experience for the posts they were supposed to be applying for. Second, because the students could not grasp the teacher’s English, they could hardly make sense of what she was saying. Since the teacher did not speak any Nepali, there was no way that the students ask her to translate words or explain the meaning of the English words in the language they could understand. Even if she explained them the meaning, it was in English, which often lead the students to more challenging cognitive tasks. Often, students would look at each other talking with their eyes or gestures. Their silent talks were in Nepali, and they apparently were looking for meanings and definitions in Nepali. Those who were sitting by me would ask me ‘Nepalima ke bhnacha, sir?’ (What do you say in Nepali, sir?). I would happily volunteer to help them out by telling them in their language. At the same time, however, I feared that teacher would not like my intervention since I was permitted only to “observe” her class, not to make any interventions. Had the teacher known some level of Nepali, the students would have benefitted significantly. My point of giving the example above is that both the students and the teacher should be able to understand each other and the task being implemented in the classroom. There were problems with English-only instruction: students were lost and often solicited my responses.
Point 2: Students’ practices were reasonably translingual. Their conversations among themselves were in Nepali. They tried to speak to the teacher in English, but at times would insert Nepali words (which, as you know, did not make sense to the teacher). Their class notes reflected their translingual competence. Given below is an example of class notes by one of the students named Chhatra.
Chhatra’s note was produced during a group work. The students were asked to report their activities in the past simple tense. Chhatra took notes using the past tense before he reported his activities to his group members and to the teacher. His notes show the characteristics of what they recognize as broken English. Chhatra told me that his writing represents English words as he hears them. First few lines are in Nepali with occasional translation into English and vice versa. His literacy skill in Nepali also shows characteristics that do not conform to the standard Nepali writing. For example, the word उभएचा (ubhaecha) in the second line should be उभएचर (ubhaechar) in standard Nepali, and the word डेफे (defe) in the third line should be डाँफे (danphe) if we follow the standard writing system in Nepali. Similarly, Chattra’s English writing shows orthographic peculiarities in its use: he uses ‘treek’ for ‘trek’, ‘languse’ for ‘language’, ‘contuse’ for ‘continuous’, ‘averyd’ for ‘everyday’, ‘staday’ for ‘Saturday’ and ‘vigited’ for ‘visited’.
To take the point further, Chhatra shows his complex translingual skills. Although the language of instruction of his class is English-only, he appropriates that with his “non-standard” English skills, combined with various degrees of proficiency in Nepali. This shows that students look for and benefit from combining varied linguistic and literacy resources at their disposal.
Societies are being more multilingual today. Students come from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. If teachers can wisely use bilingual resources, students will benefit more. Teachers in Nepal have been doing this although schools may have various policies regarding the use of English in classrooms. To conclude, while it at first seems that students get more exposure of learning if they get more hours of English talk in their class (in ideal cases where all students equally understand English and the concepts being taught in that language), systematic and dynamic use of English and Nepali (or another local language) will have more positive learning experiences and outcomes.
Creese, A. and Blackledge, A. 2010. Translanguaging in the Bilingual Classroom: A Pedagogy for Learning and Teaching? The Modern Language Journal, 94, 102-115.
Can be cited as:
Sah, P.K. (2015, August). English medium instruction (EMI) in Nepalese education: potential or problem? [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Retrieved from<http://eltchoutari.com/2015/08/english-medium-instruction-emi-in-nepalese-educationpotential-or-problem/>.
Many non-native English speaking countries have taken on English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) owing to the growing need for developing communicative competence in English that may fulfill the increasing demand for English language in order for socioeconomic and sociopolitical development . The rise of English as a global lingua franca seems to be further forcing non-native speakers to learn English and many countries are trying to drastically overhaul their education system in favour of English in order to meet the challenge of global integration. The rapid change to EMI in developing countries, for example Ghana and Rwanda, unprepared for such a vast change is causing havoc in some educational systems. EMI, therefore, has become a much-hyped issue today and it attracts a wide range of studies globally.
Nepal, one of the developing countries, that has not yet been able to sustain a single educational policy with full effects is now implementing EMI education in public schools. The decision of introducing this huge change is made with no proper plans; however, some mere studies are on track. It has been evident that some countries, such as Ghana, Turkey and Rwanda, have failed to continue EMI education because of the lack of educational infrastructure, teachers’ proficiency in English, proper teacher education programmes, and in-service professional development (Tylor, 2010). If we have a close look at the present Nepalese situations, the Ministry of Education (MOE) does not seem to be well prepared to meet the basic requirements for the successful implementation of EMI. Questions would thereby arise as to why the MOE has opted for EMI education over Mother-tongue based multilingual education.
EMI policy has also benefited many contexts, namely India, Pakistan and Spain, with suitable outcomes. They, however, used appropriate plans and principles (Marsh, 2006). Some countries initially failed to receive the set objectives and further developed plans that could lead to a successful implementation of EMI education. One of such contexts is a Ghanaian context where they introduced ‘bilingual transitional literacy programme’ and ‘Bridge to English’ in order to build up suitable situations for the implementation of EMI education.
EMI is therefore an interesting topic to discuss and is consequently receiving a huge attention from language policy researchers. This article draws on global issues in terms of the adaptation of EMI education. It also attempts to discuss whether EMI is a radical need for Nepalese education, or it may pose further problems. The issues related to possible effects of EMI in Nepalese public schools are further accounted for with some recommendations for a successful execution of EMI.
Do we need EMI education?
The switch to English medium education is a subject of considerable debate internationally because it impacts the acquisition of young people’s national language and the future development of the national language itself. Nepal is a home of 123 indigenous languages, and unfortunately a large number of these languages are dying. It was 1990 when the constitution outlined the provision for mother-tongue education in primary level, following of which Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) produced textbooks in 18 different local languages. This had showed some possibilities for promoting local languages and creating more opportunities for cognitive development in children through L1, on the other hand. There is evidence that some countries rejected EMI policy in order to protect home language such as Bangladesh, Israel, Senegal and Venezuela (Dearden, 2014). Moreover, SLA studies show that learners benefit from using their home language in education especially in early grade years. Thus, would it be advisable to protect home languages and ensure children’s effective learning through L1 instruction? Multilingual education, in addition, was launched in 2007 and studies claimed it to be effective in terms of language and content learning. However, with the termination of Finnish Government’s technical assistance, the programme could not sustain. This thereby questions why the concerned authority did not choose to continue multilingual education with their own sources of funding and resources rather than seeking to implement new programmes, namely EMI.
The MOE is implementing EMI policy to ensure quality education in public schools and increase the number of students by considering Nepalese parents’ perception of having of their children’s better future. Sultan (2012) drew on national examinations in Indonesia that children from English medium schools outperformed, which can also reflect Nepalese situation, and they proactively involved in learning English. Paulsrud (2014), in the similar vein, revealed from a Swedish context that the EMI learners were more motivated and confident academically. It is a common perception among Nepalese people that children will have better future prospects if they have English medium schooling (Aryal, 2013). A similar context was also realized in Pakistan (Khan, 2013). There is no doubt that EMI is associated with socio-economic realities that English is largely needed for global employment and higher studies. The need for English can thereby not be ignored; however, questions arise whether English medium education enhances quality education and performs a pathway out of poverty in developing countries like Nepal.
Wagle (2015) argues that if about 150 Nepali medium schools could outperform in School Leaving Examination (SLC), the medium of instruction may not be responsible for poor quality education in public schools. The MOE can advisably look at other aspects such as quality teachers, teaching materials and resources, curriculum and syllabus, and school management.
There may not be much harm to go for EMI education provided that the MOE can ensure the availability of qualified and proficient English speaking teachers, in-service professional development courses, teaching materials and resources, technical support to schools, and proper plans and principles. If teachers do not have high level proficiency in English and a lack of suitable materials, general education can be detrimentally affected. Poor educational quality will adversely affect all national indicators including health, social wellbeing and economic performance. Such a scenario would be a tragedy in Nepal, one of the developing countries in the world, and suffering the after effects of a catastrophic earthquake. It can hence be suggested to teach English merely as a subject rather than implementing a bad EMI.
What if EMI is preferred?
The implementation of EMI education can be welcomed if the MOE intends to bridge the gap between private and public schools in terms of ensuring quality education and addressing the perception that English is needed for better future prospects. This may increase the number of students in public schools and provide with an opportunity for children from lower economic status to be educated in English medium- so called a ‘standard education’. However, it is primarily important for the MOE to develop plans for successful implementation of EMI. It is equally necessary for them to identify the conditions that can lead to success. The attention of the MOE, concerned teachers and institutions should be drawn to the following issues:
Inquiry from the existing EMI situations
Before EMI is executed in schools, there requires inquiries to be focused on collecting information on different facets of EMI, for example potential challenges, effects , attitudes towards EMI, from the schools that have already adopted EMI. The information can be from the policy level to implementation level.
Programmes in conjunction to EMI
The unplanned change in educational policy is likely to receive a number of unforeseen problems, and it may lead to failure. It is thus necessary to develop small scale programmes in relation to EMI. For example, a ‘Bridge to English’ programme can be developed that would help learners and teachers enhance the communicative competence in English. A type of complementary education programmes can be taken on in order to boost EMI education.
Teachers’ proficiency in English:
It is, by no means, a good idea to implement EMI unless the teachers are competent users of English language since exposing children to erroneous form of English would develop inaccurate and inappropriate English language proficiency. This would even develop frustration among children that they do not understand the medium of instruction, and eventually do not stay in schools (Cummings, 2009). This is, however, going to be a huge challenge for the MOE to ensure all the teachers have the level of competence in English language. To meet this challenge, the MOE has started intensive training for teachers from primary schools across the county (Kantipur, 2015). It is aimed that the teachers will be provided with ten-day training for all subjects, and one month training for general English. This seems to me near to impossible to develop English language proficiency and content teaching skills with these short periods of trainings. There would also be questions in the quality and ability of teacher trainers. It is suspected whether the MOE has teacher trainers who are experienced with EMI teaching principles and practices, or they are the means to read out handouts developed in other contexts. Primarily, it is of high importance to develop a set of well qualified teacher trainers, who have native level of proficiency in English language. It would also be unwise if they are recruited without a formal certification in the domain and a level of scores in English language proficiency tests such as IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE.
Developing appropriate instruction materials
Availability of appropriate teaching resources further plays a determining role whether EMI would be successfully implemented. Tamtom et al (2012), in a comparative study of the implementation of EMI, found the lack of appropriate instructional materials as a prominent barrier to the success of EMI in almost all contexts. Hence, the concerned authority needs to develop instructional materials for both learners and teachers keeping the unique Nepalese context in loop. This may have concern about the variety of English that the curriculum is based on, and whether it would be a partial or total immersion into EMI. By the variety of English, I refer to the issue of World Englishes- whether the curriculum focuses on a local variety or inner circle variety. Moreover, a decision needs to be made over the type of EMI immersion it required to be used in curriculum.
Can we also think of ‘translanguaging’ and ‘plurilingual’?
Translanguaging is an approach to bilingual education that facilitates accessing different linguistics features of autonomous languages in order to maximize communication competence. In other words, learners receive input in one language and produce output in other language. For example, a learner reads a story in English and summarizes it in Nepali. It is argued that it facilities a deeper understanding of the subjects taught since if a learner can understand contents in one language and discuses it in other language, it requires a deep metal mechanism.
In Nepalese context, we experience students from Nepali medium schools often face difficulties to express the content in English although they have good knowledge on the topic because they are exposed to two different individual languages rather than mixing the two languages in a single lesson. Recently I met an Indian lady who was taught in English from her primary level. She hardly got any opportunity to learn and mediate her knowledge in Hindi, her mother tongue. Consequently, she struggles to communicate in Hindi, and therefore faces challenges to communicate with her own people who share Hindi as a common language. Translanguaging therefore can be an effective approach to content teaching and learning in Nepalese context where learners can develop Nepali and English language concurrently. However, looking at the linguistic background of Nepalese classrooms, we can find students who already know two or more languages, for example Newari and Nepali, before they start receiving instruction in English. In addition, there is another group that has an L1 such as Bhojpuri, Maithali, Gurung and Awadhi, and Nepali as an L2 that they start learning in schools along with English as a third language. Literally, the majority of Nepalese classrooms are multilingual. In this case, I doubt whether translanguaging can a better option; this can a subject of further research. Nevertheless, ‘plurilingual’- a condition in which a learner who has competence in more than one languages can switch between the languages- can be another effective approach in Nepalese context as the majority of learners are bilinguals. This does not only help learners develop their overall learning but also preserves and promotes other indigenous languages.
With the increasing demand of English language for global integration, the choice of schooling children in English has been given a major priority in developing countries including Nepal. And, in fact, we cannot ignore the need for English as a global lingua franca. However, there are very limited success stories of EMI, and the successful countries evidently based the policy on appropriate educational principles. The ad hoc implementations are very likely to be counterproductive. The overall goal of EMI is to help children acquire English language that enable them to cope up with globalization. However, a concern remains as what if other languages will replace English in future, for example Mandarin (Chinese) or French, as China is growing as the most hegemonic country in global corporate world that is obliging even English people to learn Mandarin. Moreover, a total adaptation of EMI will keep children deprived of their local languages making them lost citizens of the word that they do not have linguistic identification. Therefore, would it not be a good idea to adopt or develop an educational policy that can account for developing English language and local languages simultaneously? Translanguaging and plurilingualism are one of the other options that Nepal can opt for instead of implementing EMI on an ad hoc.
Khan, H. I. (2013) An investigation of two universities’ postgraduate students and their teachers’ perceptions of policy and practice of English medium of instruction in Pakistan universities. Unpublished thesis PhD, The University of Glasgow.
Marsh, D. (2006) English as medium of instruction in the new global linguistic order: Global characteristics, local consequence, METSMaC, 2006
Paulsrud, B. Y. (2014) English medium instruction in Sweden: Perspectives and practices in two upper secondary schools. Stockholm: Stockholm University
Tamtam, A. G., Gallagher, F., Olabi, A.G., and Naher, S. (2012) A comparative study of the implementation of EMI in Europe, Asia and Africa, ELSEVIER, 27 (2012), pp. 1417-1425.
Taylor, S. K. (2010) MLE policy and practice in Nepal: identifying the glitches and making it work. In K. Heugh, & T. Skutnabb-Kangas (Eds.), Multilingual education works: From the periphery to the centre (pp. 204-223). New Delhi: Orient Black Swan.
The Choutari team has initiated a new ‘photography project’. The aim of the project is to promote the use of photography/pictures in EFL teaching. In this project, the Choutari team members share with the larger ELT community a variety of photos they take in different times and places. We do not create our own stories out of these pictures, rather we leave it open for multiple uses (e.g., essay writing, story writing/telling, critical pedagogy, group work, participatory research)as per the need of EFL teachers . In acknowledging the importance of photos/pictures in EFL teaching, this project is influenced by the “Critical Photography Theory” (Wells, 2015) and the “Critical Art Pedagogy” (Cary, 2011). We encourage our fellow colleagues all over the world to use these pictures (of course, acknowledgement is appreciated) for the classroom purposes and participate in the discussion on various issues concerning the use of photography in EFL teaching.
To begin, we share the photos taken by Prem Phyak, our past editor, in different locations and times in Nepal.
Teaching and learning English has been a matter of an invisible ghost among the teachers and learners in most of the government aided community schools of Nepal. On the other hand, English has been a matter of identity and pride of private boarding schools of Nepal. Since English has been a key to the attraction of parents in the private boarding schools. It is also claimed that quality in education is also achieved through English medium education. On the basis of such hearsay most of the parents are highly motivated to admit their children in the English medium boarding schools pursuing quality education. Because of English medium education in private boarding schools nearby, the flow of students seems to be increased in those schools. Consequently, it has reduced the number of students in government aided community schools. Realizing the fact, some of the government aided community schools of Nepal have started English medium instruction in order to compete with privately owned boarding schools in terms of student number and learning achievement.
It is really a matter of quest that whether English medium education is a cause of access and quality in education or not. It is also a matter of curiosity that whether English medium education can ensure the access of the students from the linguistic minority groups and sustain their high learning achievement or not. Does English mean quality? Does English medium Education really equate with quality education? Are private boarding schools really English medium schools? Are private schools really providing quality education? Can government aided community schools also provide English medium education? Is it reasonable and justifiable to provide English medium education from the basic level? Is it possible to transform Nepali medium government funded community schools into English medium? Will there be a large number of students and high learning achievement in the community schools where the number of students are said to be decreasing due to the medium of instruction if there is provision of English medium of education? There are so many such issues related to English medium education and the issue of access and quality in education.
To me, English is amazing thing when I got first exposure in one of the government funded primary schools of my village of mid-western hilly part of Nepal for the first time after upgrading in grade four. As I remember the first class of my English period, the teacher appeared suddenly in the classroom and said ‘Good morning students’. We were unknown about what our teacher really said and what should we reply. Then he said in Nepali language say ‘Good morning teacher’ when the teacher enters into the classroom in English period. Then our first class of English period started with the very good morning. After that, our teachers asked us to turn the first page of English textbook in our hand but we did not know what was written there because none of us were English alphabet literate. They were very odd and difficult to copy for us. We started our journey of learning English alphabets first with capital letters and then with small letters and then learned the spelling of ‘Good’, ‘Morning’, ‘Sir’, etc. The teacher wrote the spelling of ‘Good’ means ‘ramro’ ‘Morning’ means ‘bihan’, ‘Sir’ means ‘guru’. The holistic meaning of ‘gurulaai bihanko namaste’. I was really confused about the individual word meaning of the word and how the phrase ‘Good morning sir’ meant so. I thought English is not easy and straight as our teacher translated and interpreted the text.
The journey of learning English as the compulsory subject in each grade continued as a matter of undesirable burden with frightening ghost in each examination with uncertain guessing marks up to SLC examination. I was really the don in English among my classmates because I obtained high score in English than others from the hillside school of Dailekh. I was skilful enough to obtain marks in the examination because I could memorize and digest the answers of the questions and vomit on the examination papers which made me the don in English among other competitors.
Fortunately, I crossed the Lohore stream of SLC and my journey of learning English climbed up towards the Saatsalli straight uphill about three hours continuous on foot walk and reached to Surkhet valley within a whole day walking from 5 am to 10 pm. After crossing the small entrance creek of Surkhet Campus (Education) I appeared as a valid student of English Education of Tribhuvan University. My god! English classed ended there without using a single word in Nepali on that very first day of my college life. English teachers spoke only English during their whole periods. I was amazed of their English and their nonstop speaking in English. I was nearly hopeless at English and my donship stepped down on the spot. The English medium in English period among English students was hundred percent English. I crossed the Bheri river of PCL too and the journey of learning English migrated from Surkhet valley to Kathmandu valley towards the gate of Mahendra Ratna Campus, Tahchal, Kathmandu. I thought it is the place where English is taught and learnt. English was English there too. Much more English! Again, I migrated towards Kirtipur where Gurus of Guru Jees were there who could speak English not only in class but also outside the classroom and everywhere. English was teasing me and I was just wondering the glory of English upon my fate.
After that I started my new journey of teaching English. I started teaching English from primary level to university level and from private boarding school to government aided community schools. What I have realized while teaching English as the medium of education in private English medium schools where other subjects are also taught in English is that there is a craze and compulsion for learning and sharing in English not only of the students but also of the teachers. On the other hand, English is taught as the subject in government funded public schools where students just take as the burden in learning and the phobia of being failed always hunt them. Teaching learning activities are found to be dominated by Nepali langauge even in the English class too. The students want to learn the content of the text in English and teachers also want to teach the content of the text simplifying and supplying support from their mother tongue. English has been taught as a subject rather than a language.
My journey of learning and teaching English, described in a couple of paragraph above, clearly displays a huge gap between teaching English at schools and at the universities. The context now may have changed or modified a little, but English alone has not even been taught in English medium, especially in school level. In such context, hoe logical does it seem to imagine English medium instruction in schools? The question has to be raised not only in terms of the difficulties faced by the students but also the potential challenges that (non-English) teachers have to face in using fluent and comprehensible English to their students when many of them are not proficient in English. Taking English medium instruction and quality education synonymously leads to hundreds of such challenges.
Mother tongue education versus English medium education
Language not only helps to promote equality and empower its users but also is a key factor for the social inclusion in multilingual communities. The children with mother tongues other than Nepali cannot compete with Nepali-speaking children who have acquired it as their mother tongue in our context. Naturally, they feel inferior, isolated, or incompetent and are forced to remain as a disadvantaged group in our school situation. Many studies have already revealed that teaching in mother tongue in the early grades enhances children’s ability to learn better than in second or foreign languages. It has also been reported that if children are taught in languages which are different from their home language, they drop-out from school, have low learning achievement, and repeat classes.
Unaware of the fact that mother tongue education means teaching of and through the mother tongue and providing children with cognitive and linguistic benefits, parents think that it means simply teaching the children their mother tongue, which they can learn in their own home, and thus it is a waste of time to send their children to such schools. They want their children to learn languages which can get them a job and access to higher education. They think that education in the mother tongue will not help them attain their goal but would rather restrict their children to a limited area. They have rather a positive attitude about Nepali, the official language of the country and English the international language and lingua franca accepted globally.
These days, most of the government schools have started teaching in the English medium and made it a rule that students should come to school in the assigned dress with a tie around their neck and a bag on their back in order to compete with English boarding schools to attract students for enrolment. These schools give priority to those who want to learn English rather than to those who want to learn the mother tongue as an optional subject. It naturally makes the mother tongue learners feel humiliated. As a result, they opt for English instead of their mother tongue.
As Nepali and English have grown more dominant in Nepali societies they have started to replace other languages. Despite increasingly overwhelming evidence of the value and benefits of early education in mother-tongue, few countries invest in it. Designing policies to incorporate these findings should be central to addressing the low quality of education in the developing world. It also goes to the heart of making education more inclusive and ensuring the right to education for all. Our education system favours using national or ‘global’ languages instead of mother-tongue teaching. This needs to be brought under discussion.
The issue of English medium education is also related with the issue of mother tongue based multilingual education as the linguistic right to get education in their mother tongues. The linguists and educationists claim that the access and quality in education is only possible if the education is provided in the mother tongue of the learners in the multilingual speech communities. It is reported from many studies and researches that access of linguistic minority groups learners can be ensured in education and they can achieve high learning achievement through mother tongue based multilingual education. Nepal is a multilingual country where the multilingual education is piloted in some of the pilot schools of Nepal expecting to increase the access and quality in education especially of the linguistic minority community schools. Similarly, there are a few of the pilot districts projected as the English medium education as well with the aim of achieving the quality in education. The medium, either mother tongue medium education or English medium education ensures the access and quality in education is really one of the major issues in education circle among the educationist.