ELT at Tertiary level: Perspectives from Far-West Nepal

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Lal Bahadur Bohara

Background

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.

Introduction

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.

Conclusions

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.

Local contributions of a global applied linguist: A tribute to Professor Alan Davies

Prem Phyak

 Prem  Phyak

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.

Conclusion

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:

  1. Are the current policies and practices based on any educational research? What second language research studies inform them?
  2. Why is there a huge gap between the policy (desired expectations) and on-the-ground practices?
  3. What happens if we start teaching English after students develop strong literacy and academic skills in their first language, Nepali or bilingualism?
  4. Who benefit from and who are represented in the current policy?
  5. Do in-service English language teacher training programs actually help to improve the early English policy?
  6. 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?
  7. 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.

References 

Davies, A. (1970). The pedigree of nations. Ramjham, 6(3), 26-33.

Davies, A. (1997). Introduction: The limits of ethics in language testing.Language Testing14(3), 235-241.

Davies, A. (2003). Three heresies of language testing research. Language Testing20(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.

Beauty and Power of Multilingualism

Shyam Sharma

Shyam Sharma

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 English in 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

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

Prem Phyak

Prem Phyak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work cited

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

Why English-only ideology and practice

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Bal Krishna Sharma

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 practices of 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.

S: (pause)

T: You can write about a famous person. Write about a famous person’s CV.

S: Okay.

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.

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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.

Final words

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.

Works Cited

Creese, A. and Blackledge, A. 2010. Translanguaging in the Bilingual Classroom: A Pedagogy for Learning and Teaching? The Modern Language Journal, 94, 102-115.

Garcia, O. 2013. Translanguaging to teach English in Nepal. Retrieved on July 23, 2015 from https://neltachoutari.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/translanguaging-to-teach-english-in-nepal/

The author, a founder of ELT Choutari, is a Ph. D. scholar at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA.

English Medium Instruction (EMI) in Nepalese Education:Potential or Problem?

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/>.

Introduction

Pramod Kumar Sah

Pramod Kumar Sah

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.

Conclusion

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.

References

Aryal, M. (2013) Nepal scores low on quality education. Global Issue. [blog] 09 July. Available at:  <http://www.globalissues.org/news/2013/07/09/17013> [Accessed 22 February 2015].

Cummins, J. (2009) Transformative multiliteracies pedagogy: School-based strategies for closing the achievement gap. Multiple Voices, 11(2), pp. 1-19.

Dearden, J. (2014) English as a medium of instruction- a growing global phenomenon, Department of Education, University of Oxford.

Kantipur, (2015) Government plans teacher training for English medium classes, ekantipur.com, [online] 30 Jan. Available at: <http://www.ekantipur.com/2015/01/30/national/govt-plans-teacher-training-for-english-medium-classes/401034.html> [Accessed 16 February 2015].

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

Sultan, S. (2012) ACTA International TESOL Conference, Victoria University. Available at:<http://www.tesol.org.au/files/files/224_Sultan_ACTA_TESOL_CONF_2012.pdf > [Accessed 19 February 2015].

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.

Wagle, M. P. (2015) Incorrect English or correct Nepali?, Kantipur, [online]. Available at:  <http://www.ekantipur.com/np/2070/10/22/full-story/383691.html#sthash.ys92vFIZ.gbpl> [Accessed 12 February 2015]. 


The author is one of the editors of ELT Choutari. He holds an MA TESOL with Applied Linguistics from the University of Central Lancashire, UK and M. Ed ELT from Tribhuvan University, Nepal.

‘The photography project’: Pictures in EFL teaching

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.

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English Medium Education: Hearsay and Reality

Chair, NELTA Surkhet Lecturer, Mid-Western University Surkhet, Nepal

Bishnu Kumar Khadka Chair, NELTA Surkhet
Lecturer, Mid-Western University Surkhet, Nepal

The context

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.

My experience

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.

Conclusion

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.

World Teachers’ Day 2014: Investing in Teachers

praveen

PRAVEEN KUMAR YADAV

On October 5, we celebrated World Teachers’ Day with the theme “Invest in the future, invest in teachers!” Since long, it has been observed in the academia that teachers and education policymakers are at loggerheads. But it is high time for both to come together and start a discourse in order to confront the issues they are currently dealing with. Teaching has undergone drastic change over the last few years, as the old procedures and methods used in teaching are no more applicable in the new contexts.

This is the digital era of technology. Today the challenge facing the teachers is to bring latest technologies to the classroom. If the teachers, who claim themselves educated, are not able to use technologies and fail to integrate them for pedagogical purpose, they are to be taken as illiterates. Lots of technological tools can be used for educational purpose but lack of competence and knowhow about those tools can make teachers outdated. As children of our times are exposed to latest technologies, teachers must go a step ahead.

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Photo: Republica, (I originally published the article in Republica National Daily.

Today’s children and adults have diverse learning needs driven by new contexts. Hence, in facilitating their learning needs teachers require skills, knowledge and support. Therefore, investment in teachers is a must as it will have direct bearing on future of children they teach.

Needless to say, deficiency in teachers undermines quality education of a country. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 1.4 million teachers are missing in classrooms and they are needed to achieve universal primary education (UPE) by 2015. The UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) and the Education for All Global Monitoring Report (EFA GMR) on October 6 jointly released a paper stating that countries will need to recruit more than 4 million more teachers to achieve UPE by the deadline. To replace teachers leaving the profession, 2.6 million would be needed while filling new positions. The remaining 1.6 million is a must as well. There should be no more than 40 pupils per teacher. The paper also claims that at least 27 million teachers should be recruited even if the deadline is extended to 2030.

Another challenge facing us is the lack of qualified and trained teachers. Thus achieving quality education has been a far-fetched dream for many countries.

As the 2015 deadline of Millennium Development Goals (MDG) is nearing it is high time to shape new development agenda for which investment in teachers should be a priority. World Teachers’ Day this year was themed with the same notion.

Realizing the urgency for investing in educators, heads of different UN agencies have issued a joint statement this year. The agency chiefs say that an education system is only as good as its teachers, calling for more rigorous training, better conditions for employment, quality-based teacher recruitment, thoughtful deployment and attracting new teachers and talents, especially young people and women from under-represented communities. “Innovative, inclusive and results-focused teaching is crucial for 2015 and beyond,” the statement reads.

Likewise, Global Thematic Consultation on Education in the Post-2015 Development Agenda states good conditions of employment including appropriate contracts and salaries, prospects for career progression and promotion, good work environment based on creating school contexts that are conducive to teaching, high-quality pre-and in-service training for teachers based on respect for human rights and the principles of inclusive education, and effective management, including teacher recruitment and deployment as essential conditions for supporting teachers’ effectiveness.

Teachers require support in enabling themselves to become professionals through their involvement in various trainings, workshops and conferences, journal writing and research publications. They can also develop professionalism by getting associated with professional forums of teachers, which often organize professional enhancement programs for their members.

Such associations not only help strengthen their professional capacity but also influence policymakers to reform policies for teachers’ welfare. Policymakers need to engage with both teachers and the teachers’ unions to devise policies in their favor for ensuring future of children and learners.

The author, one of Choutari editors, is communication coordinator at college, & also with Republica

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

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JEEVAN KARKI

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

–Richards (2005)

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

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

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

They were asked:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 Parshu Ram Tiwari | NCED Trainer of English

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

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

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

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

Suggestions

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

 Govinda Prasad Chaulagain | Resource Person, District Education OfficeSolukhumbu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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