Category Archives: Native Perspective

Roles of nonverbal communication in large ELT classrooms

Binod Duwadi, MPhil Scholar

In this piece of article, I have attempted to explore teachers’ perceptions regarding eye-contact; facial expressions (mimics) and gestures (body language) and their pedagogical implication based on the views collected from ten English teachers from five community schools of Kathmandu valley.

Introduction

Teachers often complain about discipline, lack of attention and motivation, and many other challenges in large classes. In such classes, many of which lead to a communication breakdown between teachers and students or between students themselves. It is known that speech is only one of the forms of communication. Experts believe that most interpersonal communication takes place in a nonverbal mode. People’s faces disclose emotions and telegraph what matters to them (Santrock, 2001). Two aspects of non-verbal communication are the use of eyes and facial expressions; both of which are powerful tools to convey messages. Yet, most of our learners’ time in the classroom is spent with their eyes firmly fixed on books, whiteboard, projector, windows, or roaming randomly around the class. Ergin and Birol (2005) indicate that the real communication between people begins when they maintain eye contact, hence eye contact plays a crucial role in communication. If a person maintains eye contact with you, it indicates that the person is interested to start communication with you, while avoiding eye contact shows that the person is not interested or lacks the confidence to start the conversation.

While the use of eyes and facial expressions are reported to assist teachers in managing classrooms, direct eye contact with teachers in our context is considered disrespectful. According to Gower and Walters (1983), the main applications of eye contact in the classroom are to show that the teacher is taking notice of students who are talking; check that everyone is concentrating; indicate the students who want to communicate, and encourage contributions when one is trying to elicit ideas. A teacher can identify that students have something to say by looking at their eyes and face and teacher’s eye contact with students also helps to hold their attention and encourage them to listen to others talking (Snyder, 1998). The use of eyes, mimics, and gestures are also believed to help establish rapport with students. Rossman (1989) believes that the teacher’s body language and eye contact play an important role to set the climate of the classroom. A teacher who never looks at students in their eyes could be due to a lack of confidence, which gives students a sense of insecurity (Gower & Walters, 1983; Pollitt 2006).

Facial expression and eye contact reflect teachers’ confidence. Teachers need to be present in the classroom before learners and welcome them individually with a combination of eye contact and their names as they enter the room. Ledbury et al. (2004) report that eye contact is, fundamentally, time and effort saving even in a large class setting. Research reveals that teachers can save time and effort with specific messages delivered by eye and facial expressions like praises, encouragement, or disapproval. However, the role of non-verbal communication like eye contact, facial expression, and gestures in English language teaching-learning in a developing country like Nepal requires more intensive investigation. Therefore, I am interested in this area and have attempted to explore teachers’ perceptions of non-verbal communication and their implications in teaching-learning of English language.

Pedagogical practices in relation to non-verbal communication

Based on the qualitative research method associated with the interpretive paradigm, I collected the data from ten English teachers from five community schools of Kathmandu valley. The teachers were asked to share their experiences of non-verbal communication and its uses in their large classroom via email. They were given the freedom to report and reflect on any of the issues or incidents they find worthwhile or significant indicating why those moments were significant and critical to them. Information from the ‘critical moments reflection’ reports revealed two major categories based on the research questions as follows:

Teachers’ perceptions on eye contact

Five teachers stated that teachers’ eye contact is a source of motivation and coordination for the students towards the lesson making them feel important and confident as well. T4 states:

I think the relationship is crucial between teacher and student. The way we look at our students, their eyes seem serious towards the class, as they are found motivated towards our lesson, at that time I feel motivated and encouraged.

Similar to the perceptions of most other teachers, T4 reported that eye contact makes students feel important as when the teacher looks at students, they feel that the teacher is interested in them and cares for them. Moreover, eye contact for T4 helps to maintain concentration and boost the motivation of students. On the other hand, for T5, eye contact is a tool to manage the large class she says:

My class is sixty-three, so it is quite large, students make noise, that is very tedious to control, when I look at them, one by one, they remain silent to some extent, perhaps they are aware of my class.

T6 reports a similar experience, “As I find my class noisy, I feel stressed, and I use minimum eye contact for a while without talking to them, they also do not make noise, no matter the class is large.”

Their views are similar to the views of Gower & Walters (1983) as they believe that eye contact can be used to ensure that everyone is together in the lesson, to notice the student who is talking, and to encourage contributions, participation.

Likewise, the other five teachers reported that they perceive teachers’ eye contact as a means to maintain attention in the classroom, which is similar to the views of Gower and Walters (1983) and Snyder (1998) that eye contact is used to hold the attention and maintain focus in teaching-learning. T6 uses eye contact for a similar purpose as he mentions, “By looking at my students directly in their eyes, they pay attention to me and they listen to me, what I am saying in my class.” Similarly, T7 uses eye contact to increase motivation, maintain attention and most importantly to approve and disapprove of students’ behaviour as he says, “My eye contact is crucial for me and my class as it obtains the motivation of the students. This way students pay attention to the lesson. I acknowledge my student’s behavior that is posed in my classroom.” Eye contact also plays an important role in behaviour management of students. By simply fixing our eyes at students’ with an unhappy facial expression signals them to drop their behaviour, while soft eyes with a smile signals that the teacher is interested and wants them to continue what they are doing.

Moreover, it also can be a tool to assess students’ understanding of the lessons as a lack of understanding is displayed in students’ eyes in the form of restlessness or lack of confidence. T9 has a similar experience:

When we are confident, we feel easy to see our students face, otherwise, it is not easy to look at the students’ faces one by one. It is easy to evaluate our student’s situation, how they are presenting in the class.

Teachers’ perceptions on facial expression and gestures

The teachers mentioned that facial expression and gestures are the sources of motivation, enthusiasm, and confidence in learning, oneself, and others. T1 mentions:

Another thing that took my students’ attention is when my students speak, I always listen to them and show I am reacting by moving my body at least by one gesture. This makes my class motivated, encouraged, and enthusiastic. This gives us strong confidence to move on.

Signaling students with some non-verbal clues gives sufficient information about whether students are doing right or wrong and whether they should continue or drop the action. Such non-verbal clues are sometimes stronger than lectures. Teachers should be aware of their body language and the message it conveys because their body language can either encourages or discourages students in classroom engagement and participation as T3 notes that, “My students report me that my body language encourages them and they do not hesitate to talk to me. They say my body language is encouraging and they feel secure in their class.”

The teachers also reported that they perceived mimics and gestures as a source to maintain the attention and readiness of students to resume the teaching-learning activities. They reported that body language is very useful in managing students’ behaviour in a large classroom. Moreover, it also helps students to understand the discussion and lesson better. T10 uses various non-verbal clues to demonstrate and express the intended meaning during the discussion as he notes that, “By using various demonstrations and expressing the posture I make my class well managed.”

Conclusion

The participant teachers mostly perceived the non-verbal clues like eye contact as a source of motivation, concentration, enthusiasm, and a tool for gaining and maintaining attention during the teaching-learning processes. Although there are major similarities in the teachers’ perceptions of non-verbal communication like eye contact, mimics, and gestures, and using them in teaching-learning, some teachers perceive and use them differently. For instance, they use non-verbal clues not only to control the classroom but also to better elaborate the intended meaning of discussion and to encourage students in active participation in teaching-learning activities.

According to cognitive scientists, meaningful learning occurs if students’ attention is captured as information processing that begins with learners paying attention to the stimuli. Most of the students indicated how motivated they become as a result of the teacher’s eye contact, mimics, and gestures feeling comfortable, confident, and significant. Teachers’ non-verbal communication creates a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere for them, and this enables them to have self-confidence which also leads to increased participation and contributions to the lesson. When students participate in the lesson, they are more likely to ask questions which also increases their understanding of the topics. Teachers are recommended to be aware of the importance of nonverbal communication and use it in favor of learners to create a more motivating, comfortable, confident environment in class for better classroom management.

About the author: Binod Duwadi is an MPhil scholar (English Language Education Programme) at Kathmandu University. He is the Head of the English Department at Amar Jyoti Secondary School Kathmandu, Nepal.

 

References

Ergin, A. & Birol, C. (2005). EgitimadeLletisim. Ani Yayincilik. Ankara.

Gower, R. & Walters, S. (1983). Teaching practice handbook. Oxford. Heinemann.

Ledbury, R, et al, (2004). The importance of eye contact in the classroom. The Internet TESL Journal. X(8)

Pollitt, L. (2006). Classroom management. TESOL course articles. Retrieved from http://www.tesolcourse.com

Rossman, R.L. (1989). Tips: Discipline in the music classroom. Reston. VA. MENC.

Santrock, J. (2001). Educational psychology. New York: McGraw Hill.

Snyder, D. (1998). Classroom Management for Student teachers. Music Educators Journals. 37-40.

Cite as: Duwadi, B. (2020). Roles of nonverbal communication in large ELT classrooms. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/10/roles-of-nonverbal-communication-in-large-elt-classrooms/

Developing Students’ Writing Skill: Teachers’ Views from Far West

Background

Januka Bhatta

I have been teaching English for more than a decade in English medium schools in the far western region. During my teaching, I found some students actively participating in classroom activities, whereas others have a slow pace in their learning. Students are found to be enjoying the reading sections and listening to their teachers, while they fear to make mistakes in other skills, like listening and speaking (Bohara, 2016). They do writing exercises every day like copying and answering questions given in the textbook but they are not yet able to produce an original and coherent piece of writing. The present curriculum of school level (secondary) has set a goal of achieving the students’ ability to produce a variety of written texts through controlled (guided) to free writing, allocating 35% of weight on it.

Challenges

English teachers, however, face several challenges to enhance the writing skills of students. I have collected the views of five English language teachers from the far western part of Nepal, especially the challenges they face while teaching writing to their students. I met two of them and telephoned the rest. Regarding challenges in developing writing, one of the teachers said:

I find difficulty in teaching writing skills than teaching other skills as my classroom is a multilingual one. I don’t understand their mother tongues except for Nepali but they take help of mother tongues to think first and express ideas on the papers. Students commonly commit errors in grammatical patterns and fail to use the punctuation marks.

The view of this teacher reveals the process the students undergo to come up with a writing piece in the English language. Likewise, it also shows how students commit errors in their writing due to the influence of their mother tongues. Another participant of my study shared his challenge this way:

My students understand the given questions but they are unable to write down the answers as they don’t have a sound vocabulary. They find difficulty in organizing sentences. They don’t use appropriate vocabulary. But I find that students can do better in guided writing and it’s easier to work because they make fewer mistakes on them.

Using appropriate vocabulary in writing answers of the questions and maintaining coherence in different pieces of writing is another challenge mentioned above. However, the teacher finds comfortable to work with students in guided writing practice than to move on a free writing (Tamang, 2018). One of the teachers from rural parts of the region said:

Mixed level of students’ English language proficiency is a challenge in my class. In the case of free writing, the students make more mistakes in terms of accuracy and organizing the ideas.

It shows that heterogeneous class is another challenge for teachers to enhance the writing skills. Likewise, a teacher teaching at English medium school explains her experiences this way:

The students can produce good paragraphs when they are provided with some clues-ideas to include in the paragraph, the sentence structures and vocabulary. Otherwise, their sentences are grammatically incorrect. They don’t even use the correct punctuation marks.

It indicates that the teachers need to provide a framework for writing a paragraph along with sentence structure and key vocabulary to use. Similar is the challenge of the following teacher, who uses the translation method to make things easier.

Students commit mistakes in spellings, sentence structure and organizing sentences. I find it easy to assign guided writing to the students. There is less exposure of the English language to students in my school. Therefore, I have to translate the written text into the Nepali language. Then it helps them to understand ideas and they can think of additional ideas to write.

Major Challenges Observed

Based on the views of the teachers, the following are the major challenges of the teachers

  1. Lack of vocabulary: students lack sufficient vocabulary to compose their writing. In fact, the vocabulary is the prerequisite for any types of writing.
  2. Incorrect grammatical pattern: use of the incorrect grammatical structure is another common challenge. One of the reasons behind this, as shared by the teachers, is the influence of their mother tongue.
  3. Less exposure in English: In many of our teaching-learning contexts, students do not get enough exposure in the English language- in terms of listening, reading, writing or speaking.
  4. Large multilevel classes:  Having different levels of students in English language proficiency in a large English classroom is an another challenge for teachers’ resourcefulness.

Some Strategies to Overcome the Challenges

These teachers use different strategies to overcome the challenges in teaching writing. One of the teachers presents some samples of writing before students generate their own writing. While another teacher reported of discussing the topic and providing some clues to further elaborate them. It could help students to think about the pattern and organize ideas in the given piece of writing (Dewan, 2018). Likewise, another teacher brings some authentic pieces of writing to the classroom. He asserted, “I bring teaching materials like the brochure, invitation card, notices and so on to show them in the classroom. It helps them to be familiar with the authentic pieces of writing.” Similarly, the next teacher explains the pattern to be followed while writing essays and paragraphs and reward students for their good effort. Likewise, another teacher provides the framework of writing on the topic, guide them in organizing the sentences and use the correct grammatical pattern. He further said: “I tell them to use simpler and shorter sentences in writing. I even make my students go to the library so that they can read short stories and other forms of writing.” This practice maximizes their exposure in the English language. The teachers’ experiences and practice show that the guided-writing practices are helpful in the initial stages to develop writing in my context.

Conclusion

I believe that EFL learners need to pay attention in planning and organizing the ideas in before producing a piece of writing. Similarly, the writing should not be taught separately but should be integrated with other language skills. Developing writing skills in students is not an easy job in rural parts of the region. Therefore, more exposure in English, use of supplementary materials, presenting model writing, sufficient practices in vocabulary and sentence structures could help in the initial stages of writing practices.

References:

Bohara, L.B. (2016). ELT at tertiary level: Perspectives from far west Nepal. ELT Choutari, December Issue, 2016.

Dewan, S. (2017). High expectations, low product: Why is writing scary ghost among our students? NELTA ELT Forum, 2017.

Tamang, BL. (2018). Paragraph writing: A process-based model. Journal of NELTA, vol-22.

 (Ms. Januka Bhatta teaches English at secondary level in Sainik Awasiya Mahavidyalaya, Teghari-Kailali.)

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.

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.

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

invert me
JEEVAN KARKI

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

–Richards (2005)

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

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

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

They were asked:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 Parshu Ram Tiwari | NCED Trainer of English

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

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

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

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

Suggestions

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

 Govinda Prasad Chaulagain | Resource Person, District Education OfficeSolukhumbu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building a Community: What We Value [reblogged-from-EdConteXts]

Praveen K Yadav, Umes Shrestha, and Uttam Gaulee

The world is getting far more connected, but not all connections are the same. Nor do connections automatically achieve the social, professional, and other purposes that the Internet is often credited for by those who have full and unhindered access to it. So, building a professional community, developing resources for it, and engaging its members from the ground up takes a lot of time, courage, and collaboration by one or more members who can stick to it through ups and downs, excitement and frustration.

In this blog post, we’d like to share the story of how we, a group of English language teachers in Nepal gradually built an online professional development community by the name of ELT Choutari. In a sense, this post is a detailed answer to the question that was asked by a colleague who commented on a story that one of us (Praveen) wrote for EdConteXts in June: what do we value as measures of success of/in our network?

ELT Choutari is probably the first English Language Teaching (ELT) blog-zine of its kind in South Asia. To read more, click here on the post originally published on the EdConteXts recently.
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praveenumesuttam

Need of Evolution: Continuing the Discourse-to-Practice for Local ELT Practices in Nepal

Pramod Kumar Sah

In countries where English is used as a second or a foreign language, teachers have already started grounding their ELT practices on their locally available resources as well as locally viable methods and approaches of teaching English as a lingua franca language. In Nepal, where English is used as a foreign language, it is evidently urgent that we develop our own ELT practices. In a post written last month’s issue In their highly thought-provoking essay, “Shifting Focus: Building ELT Practices and Scholarship from the Ground Up”  Prem Phyak, Bal Krishna Sharma and Shyam Sharma have presented a broad and powerful proposal for a reinvention of Nepalese ELT from the ground up. This blog entry takes Phyak, Sharma, and Sharma’s ideas one step further by situating them in the context of classroom, textbooks, and such other specifics of ELT practice in Nepal today.

Methodology: Prescription or Formation?

Allow me to first briefly describe my stance on ELT/EFL/ TESOL methodology in Nepalese context today. As Phyak, Sharma and Sharma have indicated in their recent article, I strongly believe that there is an urgent need of realizing own potential in language teaching, rather than seeking for solutions to the different classroom problems from in the ideas and experiences from contexts unlike our own. In this post, I intend to add that the “formation” of ELT methods and resources from the ground up may never happen unless our teachers, as the ultimate practitioners, do not see how they can practically do so. I would like to add some more specifics ways to achieve the goal to the many concrete examples and practical suggestions that the authors have provided in their post.

Since the advent of language learning as an academic discipline, there have been gradual shifts in language teaching methodology from Grammar Translation, to Audiolingualism, and those applied in more recent and well known Communicative Language Teaching. However, ELT practitioners have put forward an array of opinions, arguments and concerns over the issue that which of the suggested methodologies works best in language teaching. But, a variety of factors, such as official language policies, the role of L2 in a distinct speech community, learners’ need and their linguistic background, cultural and economical state of the institutions, teachers’ background, students’ previous linguistic competence, etc. affect the selection of methodology – this is why a single methodology was not effective enough to quench the thirst of language learning of all the time and circumstances.

For me, the most relevant experience is that a method should no longer be a prescription made from a linguist; rather it should be a pattern of activities made by a distinct language teacher accounting for his/her classroom scenario. Moreover, all the methods are best for their corresponding situations, as Prabhu (1990, p.161) states ‘…..different methods are best for different teaching contexts; that all methods are partially true or valid; and that the notion of good and bad methods is itself misguided’. In the meantime, it is very significant for a language teacher to remain aware  of scientific principles of language learning or acquisition, they are more importantly free to make their own personal methodology based on their distinct context, which Prabhu (1990) calls as teachers’ ‘sense of plausibility’. It is also worth suggesting that a language teacher needs to choose various activities or techniques from a certain method, not because of the faith in the underlying method but because that is suitable in their own unique contexts.

Thus, I assume, it’s high time we should start framing our own method that can best fit in our unique classroom rather than following sets of prescriptions.

Need of Teachers’ Authority for Syllabus Design

The reason I focus on teacher-driven syllabus is again based on so-called ‘teacher sense of plausibility’. I have been motivated to develop my own personal teaching methodology for my unique class, that requires me to set my own syllabus rather than following syllabus set somewhere else. Put it other way, considering learners’ need, cultural background, age group, etc., teaches should be authorized to frame his syllabus against marketed textbooks. Furthermore, prescription of a methodology, syllabus, course, materials, activities, techniques, and an assessment procedure does not support the views, such as every class is unique. The teachers should be authorized to make decision on aforementioned aspects of teaching.

A Dark Practice and Ways out

There are a few dark practices in Nepalese ELT that seem to be in high need of evolution, out of which  Teaching a subject vs. language skills is one.

Teaching English is merely a subject to pass in the examination in our concern, rather than developing our students’ language skills. It might be my overgeneralization but this as a consequence of my teaching experience and observation in some leading educational establishments in Nepal. We rely on ‘a’ textbook and we teach them page-by-page and finally, test them if they have comprehended what mentioned in the textbook. But, in fact it works for no good. Using textbooks is necessary, but what seems irrelevant is just to interpret what are printed on textbook pages. The situation not only exists in school teaching but has been the same in university level; for example, the General English for B. Ed. under Tribhuvan University has recommended three textbooks; (a) New Generation in English, that is a collection of exciting and helpful reading texts including some literary pieces written in Nepali contexts- but, what we do is to render the meaning of the texts in Nepali with near comprehension (that helps for nothing) rather than getting out students to read them extensively to develop reading skills and intensively to do the tasks set; (b) Exploring Grammar in context, indeed a good textbook that is based on Hallidayan approach and contains grammar for written and spoken discourse – in this concern as well, we just try to teach them rules of grammar, practice only the exercises and prepare them for examination instead of having them explore meaning of the grammatical items for natural communication; and (c) Academic vocabulary, at this point, we just teach them the meaning of words in isolation and the students hardly keep those in their head – the best thing we can do is to teach them ‘lexical chunks’ in contexts with the help of ‘corpus’ grounding our teaching on Michel Lewis ‘Lexical Approach’, so the students will be able to make use of those vocabulary in their real academic writing. Additionally, this gap is the consequence of our examination system, especially question pattern that contains questions from the textbook exercises itself without a word alteration, normally.  The textbooks are to be used as reference, rather than a subject to have students’ mastery over. Teaching English means teaching language skills that help students expose themselves in English speech community. Moreover, as Phyak, Sharma and Sharma show, there is an urgent need to realize our own potential and bring our local resources to support our students develop their language skills rather than grounding our teaching on mere textbooks.

Making Our Own Ground

Firstly, as Phyak, Sharma and Sharma emphasize, our focus has to be on practice instead of discussing the problems; teaches should build confidence in themselves and use approaches and resources that are readily available to them.

Secondly, where there are potential teachers equipped with the knowledge of different paradigms in our society, we should no longer be reading literature and theory developed in different contexts somewhere else in the world with an aim of implementing those theories and methods in our classrooms—even though ideas from anywhere are good for expanding our knowledge. Instead, we must frame a plot of our own stories, to shape our own educational future.

Thirdly, to develop and implement any approaches, methods, and syllabus, we need to figure out what we can do even within the material and technological limitations in our classroom. Thus, instead of being demotivated, we can attempt to let the things go with what available to us in a best way. In Phyak, Sharma and Sharma’s words, we have to shift our belief from what we do not have to what we can do well and with what we do have.

Conclusion

To say in a nutshell, since English is no longer the only language of English, we have freedom to teach and learn it in ways that fit our needs and interests, and it is high time we stopped searching for methods originated in some other situations. It is time that we explore and understand our own teaching scenarios in order to form whatever methods and whatever blends of methods we find good for us. For this to happen, it is necessary to authorize our teachers and allow them to develop their own syllabi and their own materials, however impossible or difficult it may seem at first. Without more independence for our teachers, it may never be easier for teachers to teach language skills, instead of textbooks. And if we are to move beyond complaining about what we do not have and what we cannot do, we must start using readily available resources as well as use available opportunities for teaching language as it is used in life and work, instead of just whatever the textbooks includes. 

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Pramod Kumar Sah is an M. Ed. in English from Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He is currently pursuing his MA in TESOL with Applied Linguistics at University of Central Lancashire, UK. 

Shifting Focus: Building ELT Practices and Scholarship from the Ground Up

Prem Phyak, Bal Krishna Sharma and Shyam Sharma

The subject of this post is our shared recognition that there is a tremendous need for Nepalese ELT practitioners to build on what we already have and what we already do, rather than focusing on what we lack and what we don’t do well. We highlight the importance for teachers to understand/appreciate their great potentials to do things innovatively, creatively, and transformatively. We organize this post in three interconnected discussions about the need for shifting the focus of our local ELT conversations and scholarship.

From Focusing on Problem to Focusing on Practice

Academic and professional discourses on ELT in our context tend to be too focused on  problems and failures. At workshops and conferences, as well in theses produced by our university students, a lot of attention is paid to a more or less fixed set of problems such as large classes, lack of resources, lack of teacher training and proficiency, and so on and on. These discourses often end with a set of recommendations, which again are quite predictable, such as: “teachers should be trained,” “the government should provide more resources,” “classes should be smaller,” and so on.

What is left out from such discourses is how English teachers in Nepal work under constraints and are still able to teach very effectively. Seemingly small examples sometimes do a great job. We remember our secondary school days when our English class consisted of more than 50 students—which is too large by most ELT standards. Our English teachers used to move around the class, make frequent eye contact with us, call names and ask simple questions such as “what did we study yesterday?” “can you see my writing from the back?” etc. We felt great when the teacher called us by name, cared whether we heard her from the back, and valued our contribution; we did our best even while sitting at the back end of a large classroom. We know that even such simple classroom management and motivation strategies can help us overcome many of the seemingly insurmountable challenges of teaching our large-class contexts (Hayes, 1997).

However, in our ELT conversations/scholarship, we seem to regard even the highly effective strategies used in our classrooms too trivial to discuss, too inauthentic to theorize. We lack the confidence to talk about our own and our fellow teachers’ successful teaching practices as the basis of our professional conversations. We rather seek answers to our challenges in the big books, fancy theories, and the occasional trainers who might show us how to fix our problems.

In some ways, our ELT conversations are already rich and substantive, so it is a matter of valuing better our everyday practices. We need to start and promote much more practice-based conversations where we can share how to tackle our challenges and teach effectively in ways that fit our needs. Doing this will help us overcome the particularly crippling hesitation that we have toward developing new knowledge out of our own experiences [See, for example, Jeevan Karki’s post on developing students’ creativity].

Of course, there is no need to try to replace conventional methods/practices with whole new sets. But it is necessary to prevent the limited number of “god words” of mainstream ELT discourse from making us believe that what they tell us is incomparably superior and more authentic than anything we know and do in our particular contexts, anything that comes out of our own daily practices and ground realities.

When we think about scholarship/theory about ELT methods, strategies, and practices (including specific classroom activities), we should go beyond thinking in terminologies that we read in textbooks during our college and university days. Communicative or content-based approach should enter our conversations, but they shouldn’t become the only frame of reference in all our conversations. We should not hesitate to go beyond the big words and into our practices, with whatever words fit our needs, inventing our own terminology where fit.

From Reading Theory to Telling Stories and Sharing Our Experiences

Another major way in which we could shift our focus from what we don’t do into what we could and should do–and what we already do–is to recognize the significance of our ELT conversations based on our ground realities as *material for genuine “scholarship.” That is, our hesitation to produce ELT scholarship/knowledge–which seems even more debilitating than that of sharing and valuing our teaching practices–needs to be overcome as well.

We have an abundance of knowledge that are embedded in our everyday life and socio-cultural practices; we also have creative language teaching and learning practices shaped by our multilingual, multicultural, and multiethnic realities which can motivate students to speak, read and write English. If we think about it, the kinds of stories of hardships that English teachers are facing in rural villages of Nepal can be a foundation of powerful ELT discourse for us and even for fellow teachers around the world. [For example, see Ahok Khati’s discussion on how English teachers in Nepal construct their identities drawing on local values and knowledge].

Our teachers do not just know how to deal with textbooks and teach English grammar; they are usually larger-than-life figures who have tremendous impact on social issues, great respect from the community for their ability to resolve conflicts in society, and an understanding of social values and ethics. Their success as teachers comes much less from ELT theories and methods they have learned from textbooks than it does from their immersion in society; it comes from their knowledge/understanding of the community and students, their status and role in society, and their prestige and identity.

The same is true about their students: many of them may not even have a single pen and notebook, enough food to eat and clothes to wear, and parental guidance/understanding of their education. But the students complete the other half of our success stories through the sheer power of their sincerity, motivation, and hard work. This makes us ask: how can we capture such larger, deeper issues in ELT pedagogical theories and conversations of our own?

This means that we must situate our ELT discourses in our local contexts, our understanding of the environment, occupations, cultural practices, social harmony and cooperation, and so on (Wallace, 2002). Only when we develop practices/methods that recognize the realities of our and our students’ lives can we truly encourage them to read, write, speak, listen, and learn meaningfully. It is important to focus on helping them develop their ability to talk about their own culture, community and knowledge first. For example, if our students can read, write, and discuss local society and culture, politics and policies, family life and community issues, environment and occupations–at the level that they are interested and able to engage–then they will learn language quite effectively. More importantly, they can also use these phenomena as a source of ideas, metaphors, perspectives, and professional conversations in the future [Also see Bal Krishna Sharma and Prem Phyak’s entry on critical literacy in the local context].

Very often, we focus on how much our students lack “English language proficiency.” But if we look closer, we can easily realize that whenever they communicate about issues of their own lives and societies, their competency instantly shoots up–even as their accent lingers, their syntax remains shaky as they grow up. Indeed, this is true of our teachers’ own language proficiency and scholarly conversation as well. When the contents of our teaching/learning are our own life-stories and social realities, we automatically sound much more competent and capable–for if we do not know what we want to read/write and speak about, our proficiency in language itself will remain to be of little significance [You can refer to Shyam Sharma’s blog post on local linguistic practices as a further reference].

From What We Don’t Have to What We Do (Well)

One question that we often hear from teachers in various workshops and conferences in Nepal is what method they should use for solving this or that problem of teaching English. Too often, we seem to assume that there must be a recognized method for fixing every problem, a method that is more advanced and powerful than anything that we can develop/improvise ourselves. For example, when students do not speak up in class, we reach for “communicative techniques” like group work and pair work, but we are far less likely to recognize that we’ve already been using other strategies that would work as well.

Suppose that a teacher has developed the following strategy to promote speaking: she walks into her class with fifty pieces of paper (one each for all students) with five pieces containing the word “lucky.” Then she lets her students find out who is lucky, asking them to either prepare and speak during the same class or come prepared for the next class. Also suppose that this speaking activity involves simply summarizing an essay or retelling a story. Now, does this activity fit into any theory or method? Let us say that it doesn’t. Will the teacher feel confident talking about it as a “teaching strategy” in an ELT conversation? Probably not. The first activity could be seen as “putting students on the spot” and the second one may be considered as “regurgitating textbook content” within conventional ELT methods/practices.

Unless we as teachers are confident that different local cultures and contexts validate, as well as necessitate, different pedagogies, we may not find our local practices worth even talking about. When we build that confidence, we will shift the current field of ELT in Nepal from worrying about finding the established method in mainstream ELT discourse toward building and appreciating our own practices that work best in our own context.

More broadly, in our professional conversations, we should legitimize and build on what we already do, rather than focus on what is lacking. Often, this is only a matter of looking at our own work a little differently. Imagine a conference where a bunch of us as ELT scholars have gathered to discuss the theme of “ELT in the multilingual/multicultural context of Nepal.” Then imagine that we take turns at the microphone to lament the lack of “policy” about multiculturalism and multilingualism in Nepal. Say that no one challenges the assumption that “policy” doesn’t (or shouldn’t) only mean what is written on paper, formally adopted by some authority, implemented in a top-down manner, etc. Also suppose that the expert invited from abroad makes a great PowerPoint presentation, highlighting some good theories and perspectives but not really touching on multilingual and multicultural social realities like we have in Nepal.

Now, think about it this way. What is it–if it is not “policy”–that teachers in some schools punish (often corporally) their students when they speak their home languages? What is it when our district education officers quietly, informally encourage community schools under their supervision to switch to English medium in order to retain students and save the schools? What about the whole society’s understanding that English medium is a good enough reason to determine quality of schools? None of the above are formal and recognized, governmental or institutionally implemented policies. But they are “policies”. Some are tantamount to institutional policies, others are socially established practices and expectations, and yet others are individual preferences. The lack of explicitly formal, documented, and top down policies doesn’t mean that there are no policies at all.

So, the scholars in our imaginary conference could be talking about a lot of things instead of repeating that there are “no policies.” Simply adopting an established, mainstream definition and theory of the key terms can deflect our focus from the real situation and turn reality itself into a gigantic blind spot instead of being the subject matter!  Hence, a lot could be done by adopting the right perspectives.

Conclusion: Building Critical Mass

In this brief post, we have argued for adopting a bottom-up approach not only for promoting our students’ English language abilities but also for enhancing teachers’ own confidence in their practices and, from those practices, local scholarship. Teachers should not be passive recipients of knowledge about grand theories; rather, they should be “change agents” (Kumaravadivelu, 2003).

We are not thinking about “where to start” because our point is that we already have thousands of starting points: we just need to recognize and validate them. More and more of our colleagues across the country need to just come forward and share their ideas. There are an increasing number of ways for doing so: increased numbers of workshops and training events; local, regional, and national conferences; professional events abroad; opportunities to start local and national newsletters and magazines using alternative modes of publication like blogs and wikis; promoting personal blogs and podcasts that teachers may already be doing; and so on.  This process, we believe, will help the community of Nepalese English teachers build a critical mass to transform ELT profession from the ground up.

As the current Choutari  team completes their first year and rekindles its energy (including additional, enthusiastic members), we are ever more hopeful that this venue will help our professional conversations shift its focus from gazing at failures and lacks to building on our successes and resourcefulness.

As always, please join the conversation!

References

Hayes, D. (1997). Helping teachers to cope with large classes. ELT Journal51(2), 106-116.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2003). Beyond methods: Macrostrategies for language teaching. Yale University Press.

Wallace, C. (2002). Local literacies and global literacy. In Globalization and language teaching (pp. 111-124). Routledge.

Easier said than done …

… but if worse comes to worst, just hang in there!

Umes Shrestha, Lecturer, blogger and a podcaster

Right on the outset, let me state that I am taking a very controversial stance here. Because many supporters of World Englishes believe that for second language learners of English, gaining native like competence of English is a myth. It’s not possible, and, in essence, it’s not necessary. Let’s face it, they also tell you that the‘coded-down’ version of English (or the English as Lingua Franca) is the only way forward because English will eventually lose its standard-ness.

Fine by me but here’s my stance. If a learner wants to speak (or write) English better, he/she has to try and learn how the native speakers of English use the language in real life context. In addition to acquiring the sense of vocabulary, structure, forms and semantics, the learner also has to develop the pragmatic fluency in English. (I am not talking about American accent or British accent or any such accent, though.) Therefore, I strongly believe that only by learning and acquiring unique characteristics and nuances of English language will the learners become more competent and proficient in it.

Some of the areas of such nuances in a language are the use of figurative expressions (idiomatic expressions, phrases, proverbs, etc). Similar to our own Nepali language, English language is also very rich in such figurative expressions. Using these expressions (let’s say: idioms) add color and imagination in speech and in writing. This obviously holds true for all the language. Nepali language would most certainly be pretty bland if it didn’t have any figurative expressions. So, by mastering the use of English idioms, one’s English can become more natural and less awkward, more articulated and less dull. Learners and users of English will be able to produce and interact in English at a different creative level.

Normally, we don’t find any trace of this concept in standard textbooks because the curriculum and syllabus are usually ‘water-downed’ for general learners of English. Just flip through Our English books for Class 9 and 10. Why there’s no focus on this aspect of English is quite beyond me. English magazines, newspapers, stories, TV shows, movies are however full of figurative expressions. Imagine the shock and dismay when learners discover the real English used in real contexts, when they find that the English in real life can be quite different than the English in textbooks. Hence there are always chances that students and learners know English language but do not know how to use and understand English language competently and fluently.

And even when students use or try to understand the meaning of idioms, they try to translate them word-for-word at a very literal level. But translating the idioms into one’s mother tongue will only compound the problem. Figurative expressions are unique properties of a language and when translated into another language, they usually lose their true essence and purpose.

For instance, let’s consider the sentence with a very common idiom:

Sentence 1: He insulted me and I lost my temper.

In Nepali the literal meaning of ‘to lose’ is ‘haraaunu’.

Sentence 2: I lost my money. (maile paisa haraaye)
Sentence 3: I lost my book yesterday. (maile hijo kitab haraaye)

These two sentences 2 and 3 make sense even when translated into Nepali. But. If a Nepali learner of English translates the Sentence 1 in the similar vein, he/she will only come up with confused and even nonsensical meaning. This is the reason why the figurative expressions are difficult to learn, acquire and eventually master.

Similarly, the following sentences can be difficult for Nepali learners to understand and to use in their real contexts because, again, translation doesn’t help.

Sentence 4:      I can’t stand Science class because it is way over my head.
Sentence 5:      You don’t stand a chance of getting good score in Science because it is
way over your head.

And, here are some real instances from my classroom.
Me:                 Alright students, let’s wrap up today’s lesson.
Student:           (with a confused face) Sir, wrap ta gift lai garne hoina?
Sir, we only wrap gifts, don’t we?

Me:                 Guys and girls, keep it down.
Student:           What to keep down?

Thus, unless a learner ‘develops a knack’ for figurative expressions through practice and enough exposure, it will be difficult for him/her to develop English language competency.

Moreover, using figurative expressions adds ‘fun’ to the English language. It’s thrilling and it’s entertaining. Many a times, it’s defamiliarizing. (Here’s the buzzword!). And it goes without saying that ‘enjoying the language’ is one of the most essential requirements to learning and acquiring a second language. We can also call this fun element an ‘intrinsic motivation’ or ‘internal drive’ to get better and to prosper in the language one is learning.

So, I request my fellow English language teachers to incorporate figurative expressions in their teaching as per their discretion. We all know… we will have to put in a little extra effort because it may not be in the textbooks. But don’t give it a second thought. Implement it. You’ll enjoy it. The students will enjoy it.

I hope you will just give it a shot!
Great!

Some links:

Devil’s Advocate vs Vicki Hollett on ELF
http://chiasuanchong.com/2012/03/04/devils-advocate-vs-vicki-hollett-on-elf/

Chia Suan Chong speaks about English as a Lingua Franca
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oB6traNccQQ

Developing creative- linguistic abilities through classroom poetry

 Dinesh Kumar Thapa, Lalitpur

 

“Poetry and hums aren’t things which you get; they’re things which get you.  And all you can do is go where they can find you.”-Winnie.

Classroom poems are funny and full of variety. They make a class really lively and motivating. Poetry can be oral or written, or both. They can be read aloud for developing oral- pronunciation ability, or they can be written to develop creative- linguistic abilities in English. Poems demand a lot of expressive ability on the part of the learners, so they engage the learners for the creation of meaning. Besides, using poetry in the class allows the children to express in the ‘little English’ they have developed in the beginning years of learning. It develops confidence in the learners for producing English and motivates them to learn more English. Poems are interesting for all, and even more interesting for the little kids.

For the purpose of this article, I have used the term poetry to encompass all English teaching activities which involve musical quality, which are aesthetic and expressive, and which do not demand rigid grammar rules to carry them out. Activities such as rhymes, songs, riddles, musical compositions, jingles, etc. have been included under classroom poetry here. The teacher here does not need to worry about such concepts as the theme, form, metaphor or the criticism of poetry, as they are not such academic poems for critical study. Rather, for us, poems are simply a tool of developing English in the learners! The activities suggested here are appropriate for junior/ primary level students, yet they can equally be employed in the higher levels with modifications.

1.     Naming poems: This technique involves creation of a poem out of the names of the students with some additional details for the name.

Laxaman is always late and Geeta is great,
Hari becomes hungry, but Rabin becomes red.

The list goes on for each student. Here, the initial sound of the first name has been matched with the corresponding initial sound of the adjective that tells something about the person.

2.     Event- making poems: Here, learners create a poem based on the theme of an event, e.g. making a party, celebrating the school day, organizing a cultural show, etc. Each line in the poem will be telling who will be involved in the event in what way.)

Making a Party
This is Bina with a big banana,
This is Suman with some soup,
This is Rabina with red raspberry,
And this is Kanchhi with a clean cup.

Each upcoming line here includes the necessary preparation to be done for the event including each student’s roles. Here, the initial sound of the name has been repeated with the corresponding initial sound of the adjective and the noun that tell about the event.

3.     Attribute poem: It is a technique which involves creation of a poem using common adjectives and nouns in a pattern of rhyme.

My Family
My mummy is thirty- nine
But she is very fine.
My dad is good,
But he has a sad mood.
My puppy is nice,
But it eats much rice.

The lines continue until all/ most family members are included through with appropriate attribute words. Here, common nouns and adjectives have been used in patterns, both in structure and rhyme; the use of conjunction, ‘but’ shows a contradiction in meaning.

4.     Chain poem: It is a technique to create a poem expressing as much as possible on a single topic, possibly adding something on each upcoming line.

Wai Wai Noodles
Wai Wai,
Wai Wai is delicious,
Wai Wai is delicious, marvelous,
Wai Wai is delicious, marvelous, satisfying,
Wai Wai is delicious, marvelous, satisfying, so tasty,
Sweet Wai Wai for all.

Here, more and more words have been added to tell different feelings about the topic.

5.     Narrative poem: In this technique, a poem is created for telling a story, a past experience, a journey or an event.

Lagankhel Trip
I was going to Lagankhel,
And I was carrying my favourite bag,
My little, brown beautiful bag,
My father had recently bought for school,
And it was the rainy time,
I was looking my head downs and ups,
Into the tall houses and big shops,
And I slipped on the banana cover,
Very painful, I felt so bored,
Because me and my new bag got splashed in the muddy road.

The lines go on until the complete story is narrated. Here, more and more past experiences and feelings are added to the initial beat.

7. Instructional Poems: for creating a poem using instructional lines, students here think of diverse ethical/ moral codes of conduct and write either positive or negative statements with expression of results intermittently. 

Mind Your Manners
Don’t drum on the table,
Don’t play with your food;
Don’t talk while you’re chewing;
Because it’s terribly rude!

Don’t litter the room,
And don’t slam the screen door.
Don’t throw dirty laundry;
Because it’s making mom angry more!
Don’t fight with your young sister,
And don’t pull the cat’s tail;
Don’t pelt stones on the street,
It might be more dangerous than a nail!

8.     Metaphorical poems: in this technique, the teacher and the learners work together to brain- storm ideas and create a poem using poetic devices like metaphor and simile.

[Theme: My Country; associated adjectives: small, famous, peaceful, amazing, historic, etc. Other nouns associated to the descriptive words, as for the adjective ‘small’- doll, fingers in the hand, etc.; for ‘famous’-  our president, Meri Bassai Serial, Pele, etc.]

My country is small
Like the doll in the bag and the fingers on my palm;
My country is peaceful,
More silent than the market and school.
My country is amazing,
With so varied cultures, languages and mountains.
My country is so beautiful,
I must feel proud and grateful.

Here words (especially noun words) related about a theme are collected first; then adjective words are associated to each initial noun words, and further extensions are made until students’ vocabulary permits. Then the associated words are stated in sentences attempting a higher order of imagination.

9.     Bio- poem: Employing this technique involves creating a poem using biographical information of persons/ places using WH- question probes, real or metaphorical.

[Topic:  Nepal; Some words that describe the place: beautiful, peaceful and romantic

What it has? Who loves? Who gives? Who feels? Who wants? Who fears? Etc.].

Nepal
Beautiful, peaceful and romantic;
Has a lot of mountains, lakes and rivers;
Who loves the varied races, cultures and people;
Who gives education, peace, security and progress;
Who wants us all to grow and to learn the best to live happily;
Who fears war, insecurity and national challenge;
My motherland Nepal.

 Here the teacher arranges for a brainstorm using different WH- bio probes in order to include most salient pieces of information as they are needed for a biographical understanding of a place/ person or thing. After having adequate information, lines are composed in line with the probes.

10.  Other techniques

We can also use jingles, rhymes, mimes and other expressive techniques. We can also ask the students to tune the poems with the local rhythm, like folk song- tune, pop- tune, etc. and to perform to the whole class individually or in groups.

Some thoughts about teaching English in Nepal

The English language is the most important international language in this century. These days, English is not only the language of Britons and Americans; rather it has become a world language. It is now the language of international trade, business and diplomacy, language of higher education, wider cultural understanding and more job opportunities. Recognizing the very importance, the public and the Government have also given due consideration in the promotion of English in Nepal. Expenditure on teaching English is also huge for developing courses, materials, assessment and so on. Besides these, every workplaces and classrooms are also ripe with the talks of learning English. Today’s parents also demand at least communicational literacy in English for the children. Also, many Nepali medium community schools have started teaching through the medium of English at different levels. Besides, the charm of English medium school is quite obvious for us. But, despite all these assets, the result of our children is not so encouraging. The exam results and different assessment studies show that the proficiency of learners’ English in Nepal is not on par with the expectation; be it in the primary or tertiary grades.

The low level of student achievement, however, is the result of multiple factors. The teacher alone is not and cannot be made responsible for such. It is true that our children come from difficult backgrounds; parental level of conscious is low. We also may not have audio- visual support in the classroom. Besides, we are also not well trained in teaching English. These are our realities. However, we cannot get free from our responsibility; neither can we skip from the problems. So it is wiser to search for the bright side of the dark cloud. At least our parents have believed in us and have sent their children to us; at least we have the physical presence of the child, so we become teacher. If there would be no children, whom would we be teaching to? So, it is upon us, specifically the English teachers, and all teachers in general, to realize the aspiration of the parents and the students. Our sincere efforts and dedication are the only solution for the time being, as we cannot expect a drastic change overnight. Our small initiatives will definitely result into the improvement of English teaching scenario. The future of the innocent ones is in our hands, is not it English language teachers!

[I was inspired for writing this piece by the Asian English Teachers Creative Writing Group Seminar held in Nepal in 2009, especially from the presentation by Mr. Lekhanath Pathak and Ms. Maya Rai.]

SLC, ELT, and Our Place in the Big Picture

Shyam Sharma*

When School Leaving Certificate (SLC) results were published earlier this month, quite a few of my friends and family members posted happy messages such as the following on Facebook: “Congratulations to our nephew ___ for securing 8* percent!!!” But whenever I come across such messages, I am reminded how privileged these friends and families are (including my own family). I am reminded of one person in particular whose SLC-related story I can never forget.

I have told Ramlal Sunar’s story on this blog before (please see comment section) so I won’t repeat it, but to recap what it is about, this young man was one of the “jhamte” candidates for the SLC who sought my help because he and the other young men and women in a village in Gulmi had been failing in English, some of them for many years. I had only completed my IA at the time but for them my private school background made me look like a savior. But tragically, Ramlal and most of the other students failed again even after my three or so months of tutoring. I probably helped them improve their English a little, but that was not what they wanted.

Until that experience, I had always believed that everyone who “studies hard” (like I did) would be academically successful. But now I began to think what happens when a whole education system lacks grounding in the local reality of students’ life and society. I could see that the young people were not failing because they were stupid. They were failing because the SLC did NOT test the intelligence, skills, knowledge-bases, and value systems that constituted and had value in the students’ LOCAL social, economic, cultural, and occupational lives. And the students would fail SLC if they failed any course.

Nepalese educators, especially those in fields related to English studies or English language, are often good at talking about postcolonialism, hegemony, and so on. But few of them seem to realize the irony of how they are perhaps most actively (though it may not be consciously/deliberately) involved in the gradual destruction of what used to be at least a slightly more organic system of public education, one that was delivered in the local language, one that encouraged a more locally based curriculum and pedagogy. That is, when Nepalese intellectuals leave Ramlals behind in their villages, they also seem to leave their responsibility to think in terms of the nation as a whole, a nation where Ramals are much more representative of the broader reality than those whose names we see on Facebook.

When I met Ramlal many years later, he didn’t even want to talk to me very much, because by this time I was already in my master’s degree, teaching at a big private school, with all kinds of gaps ever widening between him and me.

But this year’s SLC results reminded me of Ramlal again because I thought again how  those of us who have the voice and venues for raising public awareness about the numbers are also not very interested in talking about the national challenge in the first place. Just give it a try even as the furies about SLC results are still flying high, and someone is likely to ask you, “So, what are you going to do about it?”

The pendulum of failed percentage wildly swung back into the 60s again this year, after a small relief since 2004. As the media highlighted the numbers for a short period of time, among the regulars 58.43% students failed; among the exempted, a shocking 93.24% failed. That was a total of 343230 (yes, 3.4 lakh!) regular students and 98911 (yes, one lakh!) reappearing students whose friends and family didn’t get to post happy Facebook updates—or whatever equivalent social networking they use. That was a total of almost four and a half lakh students’ careers being sacrificed in an absurd national drama that we call education.

For a few days, people talked, and then they forgot. In fact, even when the discussions were visible on the interwebs, few educators seemed to share any ideas, assessments, soul searching, and solutions to this national crisis. The community of educators that I am closest to, English teachers, seemed less bothered by the situation than others within and without the education sector.

I try to think about why many people aren’t even surprised. It’s possible that they are being more optimistic, looking at the full half of the glass while I focus on the empty half. However, a glass that is almost 60% and more than 93% empty is a little too empty. And because we are talking about people rather than water or wine, it is too painful to even talk about it. It is also painful because this involves a society—its teachers, its policy-makers, its city-dwellers who don’t have to send their children to where the majority of parents do—that seems to have inured itself to the tragedy of closing the doors to the majority of children, a society where those whose voices have most impact are mostly quiet and smug because it doesn’t affect them directly. There are exceptions, but those people are hard to find.

Where does it all go so wrong with our education? News reports post-SLC indicated that “government spending on education increased from 27 billion rupees in 2006-07 to 63.91 billion rupees in 2012-13.” There was actually a silver lining—if you call this a silver lining (I call it a sign of disaster for the nation at large)—that the pass percentage at private schools has been above 80 in the past decade. But students in public schools, from which between two thirds and four fifths of students take the SLC, the pass percentage has been in the 30s, often below that. According to Teach for Nepal,

[I]f 100 students enroll for grade one, by the end of grade ten only 15% will have remained in the school system. The future prospects for these children are severely diminished. . . . of the students who fail their SLC, 90% fail in the core subjects such as Mathematics, English and Science.

Hard data is difficult to find (I would appreciate if someone could please add in the comments section below), but the subject taught by most of us on this blog, English, is evidently the lock on the “iron gate” of academic and professional careers in Nepal.

It is not easy at all to assess the situation with public versus private education. As serious researchers have often pointed out, because families tend to focus just on their children, the public tends to overlook the very definition of education–that it is most importantly a matter of social good. Most people do know that the current educational situation is creating a new “caste” system where those who attend the more expensive private schools have an unfair advantage over those who did not from the get go. But in the rush toward giving own children better chances than their neighbors they don’t pause to think that even in the most economically advanced nations, public schooling is guaranteed and even the richest people send their children to public schools. Added to that are the dynamics of power and resources, which in matter of about two decades have turned education in Nepal largely into a commodity in the market. Needless to say, English has increased opportunities for a few already privileged communities to participate in the global march of personal progress, but “English education” has also played a much more significant role in having a functional education (albeit one that needed much improvement) replaced with a myth about both language learning and about education at large.

But public education did not weaken just due to the lack of social responsibility that it needs. Social forces are dangerously aligned in one direction. For instance, there are forces such as these: the self-fulfilling myth that cost equals quality, English equals the promise of successful careers, and  private schooling equals prestige in society. Consequently, more educated, more motivated, better paid, better travelled and experienced people mostly gravitate to the private side; even those who theoretically oppose the destruction of education as a social good send their own children to private schools, and parents who have to send their children to public schools are literally ashamed. In fact, even among the most informed and educated people in our society, there is the myth of “English” education. Most people don’t even pause to think that in reality, there is just good education, which can be provided by any school, including the likes of Samata School–where students who pay only a hundred rupees a month were more successful in SLC this year than those in most of the lakh-rupees-a-year schools (Samata’s quality education had nothing to do with the medium but everything to do with a reality-based vision for the learner, the community, and the society at large). For a more critical/careful comparison of private and public schools, see the section starting at page 30 in the dissertation by Amrit Thapa, a Nepali researcher at Columbia University.

As Amrit Thapa shows by citing Tooley and Dixon’s findings, “private schooling as a solution to failing public schools in developing countries is not as straightforward” (p. 83). It is not just that it is ludicrous to not think about the overwhelming majority of parents who cannot afford the cost of private schooling; the very foundation and culture of private schools as they are today makes it unlikely that this sector will rise above the business model and become an organic part of the social structure that serves the need of the ordinary families. Whether we like this reality or not, private schools are usually run by individuals or groups who do not involve parents and community in governance, who treat teachers and students autocratically (See Thapa, linked above, p. 31), and who have little or no interest in long term visions of education for social good. This is not to say that we should dislike private schools altogether. In fact, we should expect private schools to be focused on profit motives and to contribute to education as a social good while trying to make profit, not as a primary objective. But that is why we can’t expect this mechanism to address the overall need of the nation given the economic status of the majority. The society and its serious educators and policy makers must think about how to make the private sector better align with the broader goals of education for social good.

So, where does a better understanding of the complexities leave us as English teachers most of whom have made our careers, or are making it, in the private sector? What do “we” have to do with the public schools when most of us teach in private schools where 80% pass the SLC, which looks fine? (No, actually, even the failure of 20% is not fine, but let’s leave that aside for the moment). As colleagues in this forum have also tried to articulate (e.g., here’s a discussion on a post that I wrote back in 2009 when we had just started Choutari; other editors have written in this tenor since the beginning), we can be more than just English teachers; we can be citizens, scholars, human beings who think about the nation and world at large. We as members of a professional organization, and as scholars who have spread around the world but try to contribute to research, scholarship, and professional development at home, are not doing fine. Because the big picture is our picture as well, it is time that we start confronting the deplorable overall state of education in our country–at least in our discussions. Why?—-because we have greater opportunities to write, to conduct and publish research, to start public conversations. 

Shocking majorities of Ramlals are still failing across the country, and talking and writing is essentially what we do, right? Talk is how we start getting ourselves and other to think and act. Next time, when someone asks us what we are going to do about it by just talking about the tragedy, let us say, “Talk. Do you want to join?” 

—————-

* Dr. Shyam Sharma is an assistant professor of rhetoric and writing at Stony Brook University, State University of New York. A former lecturer of the Central Department of English, Tribhuvan University, he teaches and studies writing in the disciplines, the intersection of culture with literacy and technology, multilingualism, and academic transition of students from different backgrounds.

Let’s Leave English as English

Resham Bahadur Bista
bista.resham@yahoo.com

I joined my college and started to study English without knowing the real purpose of studying English. I was enchanted towards English because of its charming in my school. There was always the scarcity of the teachers of English in the school. The people who used to speak English were supposed to be great and unique in the context of the village. Many people of my village want to make their children prefect in English. Because of the latent influence of English in my immature psychology, I started to study English. With the passage of time, basically I knew that we get pleasure reading English and to be extra-ordinary in the society.

Now my realization is quite different about the influence of English. I think we waste our half of lives reading the bulky English books about European and American lives, arts, cultures, philosophies and the English language. Most of the students are enrolled in English department for the study of English in our universities. The Nepali language, arts, cultures, literature etc. seem to be ignored in our universities because there are very few students to study these subjects. We all are enchanted towards English to seek jobs, name and fame. We are lured towards it with a hope of being consumed in the international market. English has been taken as a subject to minimize the distance between the local and the global in the contemporary world. It brings the people of world close together, creates the global village as a contact language. It is an international language, spoken all over the world, and a medium of developing the bilateral and multilateral relationships among the countries of the world today.

These are the basic widespread assumptions of the English language which we share in our classrooms. After completion of my masters’ degree, I started to teach in schools and colleges and shared such assumptions of English that I had got in my studies. I am pursuing my career by teaching the English language, literature, culture, history and sociology of Europe and America. Our issues of classroom are the issues of dense technologically advanced society of Europe and America which may not match in our society. Now questions are raise in my monotonous mind influenced by English: Is our mind not colonized by the English language? Are we wasting our time and efforts by reading those bulky books of English which are intend to colonize our mind and body? Are we independent as the legacy of colonized mind? These unanswered questions always haunt my parasitic mind. Frankly telling, we are parasitized by the hidden agenda of westernization and Americanization.

Everyone knows that literature is the mirror of the society and should serve the society because human consciousness is always determined by the political, social and cultural phenomena of a society. But what the western literary texts teach us is that non-western people are vulgar, lusty, spiritual and uncivilized whereas westerns are calm, civilized and superior. They labeled us as uncivilized by creating dichotomy between the East and the West. Although we people always worship to westerners and imitate their life-styles and behaviors, we have forgotten our own socio-economic values and the smell of maternal soil but we only dream of Europe and America. What is our own academic uniqueness? European and American are in our schools and universities with disguised forms; we are coloring their notions in our ground and adopting them in the name of being enlightened.

Most of our universities have prescribed the English curriculum as designed by the west in the name of meeting the international standard. Bulky books of art, philosophy, literature, pedagogy and theory and teaching methodology developed and designed by the westerners are taught in our schools universities. To some extent, all these may not necessarily be suitable in our contexts. The ideas given in their books can not correspond to our local realities. What is the utility of those theories, philosophies, teaching methods, and techniques developed by westerns in our contexts, where almost half of the population is either illiterate or semi-literate? Why does our government not make any strategies to make them literate and cope up with the problematic situations of our context? What is the use of these different Isms to us who do not have even a nice pair of cloths to put on?

Such a condition of English has exploited our freedom and virginity. It does not lead us to freedom, prosperity, and liberty. Instead it corrupts our body and soul. We are absurd puppets dancing with the tunes of others. After 1950s, the formal colonization of the West was stagnated by the third world countries and the movements taken place in different epochs of history. Then the notion of imperialism starts to spread in the world in disguised forms to spread its knowledge, culture, and manner in the developing and undeveloped countries. It comes in the East to learn and support us in different sectors. They are imposing colonialists’ discourses through the English language. The influence of English upon the colonized people was started from the time of formal colonization. In this regard, Tyson mentions, “that so many people formally colonized by Britain speak English, write in English, use English in their schools and universities, and conduct government business in English, in addition to the local languages they may use at home, is an indication of the residual effect of colonial domination on their cultures. In fact, the dynamic psychological and social interplay between what ex-colonial populations considers their native, indigenous, pre-colonial culture and the British culture that was on them constitutes a large portion…”(p.419).

Tyson says that the influence of English was started during the time of British colonization period. Colonized people started to speak English because of the colonizers’ influence. So English does not depict our own identity. The long history of English in the non-western world is influenced by colonizers. Now the English of our classroom is also an indirect and latent form of colonization. So, let us be aware of this fact and not support imperialistic tendency. As we all know that the truth and facts of life are not solved by studying the Westerners’ arts, literature, and philosophy. There are no more rubbers than the Western hegemonic books and tendency.

In such situation what should be done? Do we avoid the English or not in the context of non-western? In Nepal, it is very difficult to adopt the English absolutely because Nepal is very rich in diverse culture and language. There are many languages communities in Nepal like Tharu, Kirat, Newari and Maitili, etc. There is a danger of elimination of Nepali and indigenous languages unless the proper policies and their effective implementations. On the other hand, the craze of English is expanding day by day because of the hegemony of westernization. So, non-westerners are in the ambivalence position about the adopting the English.

In Nepal English was once the language of elites and rulers but now it has reached the access of mass from urban cities to remote village. It has become the indicator of civilized, educated and qualified persons in the context of our country. Whether rich or poor each class has tested the fruit of English. Now people of third world cannot separate from English because it has hallucination to them. America produces the coca cola and sends it in third world, people of third world start to drink it. They are habituated with its taste. Now, they have forgotten the taste of MOHI (local drink made by curt which is replaced by coca-cola). In the same way English in our context is in the form of coca-cola, which is replacing our indigenous languages.

In Nepal, thousands of English academic institutions are mushrooming day by day treating their areas as an ‘English speaking zones’. Nepalese literary texts; poems, essays, fictions etc. have also been written in English. Likewise, mass media- FM radios, newspapers and online editions have accelerated towards the use of English. A number of journals, books and periodicals are produced in English. The professional organizations such as NELTA, GAN have been enhancing the use of English in Nepal. Even in government funded schools children start to study English right from the grade one. Many such schools are shifting their medium of instruction from Nepali to English. The middle and high class families of Nepal prefer to send their children in English medium schools to government funded schools, not because the public schools do not have good infrastructure, teaching staff, environment etc., but because of the medium of instruction. Whether or not we like the spread of English, it is spreading with its leaps and bounds all over the world.

The use of English has also created some questions. What types of English Nepal should adopt either American or British? Does Nepal develop the Nenglish? If we adopt American or British English certainly it will kill the local dialects and harm for indigenous lives and culture. Nenglish in Nepal is not possible to exercise because of the limited resources and small population. So in this situation English is not adopted as its American and British form in the context of Nepal. It is essential to advocate local varieties of English, because a language cannot be taught without properly knowing the account of socio-economic and cultural system of certain places. In one of the training sessions of NELTA, a professor from the west is taking a class about how to teach color to the deaf child. He pointed out that it is necessary to explain the activities of wedding ceremony to tell about the white color to the deaf child. But it is not suitable for the people of Hindu community because Hindu people wear red dress in the wedding ceremony. So the socio-cultural and geopolitical conditions should be considered for the excepted outcome of using English.

There are different varieties of English because of which the teacher also gets confused. An event of my life, I went to a school to apply for the post of a +2 level English teacher with my resume. I handed my resume to the principal and said, “This is my resume, sir”. He winced on his face as soon as he had a glimpse on it. He told to me, “You do not know how to write bio-data and I provide you a sample of it”. Our conversation broke down and I returned home from there feeling embarrassed. I had formed it in American format so he did not like it. It should be developed in British format for him. Recently my 10 years nephew, Anil, was angry and blamed me for that because I had recommended him to write color, center and sox instead of colour, centre and sock respectively. His English teacher crossed those words in red due to the incorrect spelling. I tried my best to convince him about the variation of English words but he never believes me. Now he never comes to learn English with me thinking that my English is faulty. There are variations of words in British and American English like cab or taxi, center or centre, organization or organisation, underground or subway, gas or petrol, fall or autumn, candy or sweets, cookies or biscuits, movies or film etc. If we ask questions to the professors of English about the difference between British, American, New Zealand and Australian English, they say that there is no difference in the use of those words. But when a student writes program instead of programme, do we accept? So, to my knowledge and understanding, English is itself a contradictory and deconstructive means because of its nature and variations. It is the symbol of western hegemony as mentioned by the Antonio Gramsci. So let’s leave English as English.

From the Conference to the Classroom

We had asked the participants of the 18th international conference of NELTA – Could you please share with Choutari one thing that you are taking away from the conference into your classroom? 

In the response, we have received the following views, which have been presented below:

I bring the passion of ELT young fellows from this conference to my classroom as they are so curious to learn something and I am fortunate that I have the moment to share my learning. During my stay, I am feeling that NELTA people are so much sensitive about systems and about English teachers but they should collaborate with the new sense of young ELT fellows and go ahead who are far from the valley and struggling with their contexts and contents together.

– Ms. Kate Miller, UK, NELTA  Member

I learnt the ways to tackle with the large class in the plenary hosted by Dr. Richard Smith in the conference. Upon retuning to my school, I am sure I can effectively manage my classroom and make my teaching better than before.

– Madan Kafle, NELTA Sindhuli

I found that ELT [practitioners] sharing latest information is applicable in real classroom. It was great opportunity to know about ELT situation of other countries and share the existing situation of Nepal. The resources shared would be so essential to develop language competency. Besides, I have learnt different ELT methodologies the presenters presented and their application into classroom.

                         – Hom Raj Khadka, NELTA  Banke

I enjoyed the class of Ms. Christine Stone in the 18th International conference of NELTA as I found it so useful especially for teaching primary level students. Despite of her ageing, she was proactive facilitating the session with support of her co-presenters. Her sessions were indeed impressive to me.

– Dor Bikram Thapa, NELTA Sindhuli

I liked the way Ms. Kate Miller engaged the participants in interaction in her presentation. She talked about early childhood education. I liked her simplicity dealing with the learners, which I am going to apply with my students and her techniques in the classroom.

– Dipendra Lal Karn, NELTA Janakpur

The session entitled Teaching Writing in Large Classes: Models, Rubrics, and Peer Review facilitated by William Wolf from Bangladesh during the conference upgraded me to teach writing skills in the classroom in a different way.

–Krishna Lal Sharma, NELTA Nawalaparasi

When I entered into the auditorium, I found the executive members and volunteers busy managing the event with their efforts they could. I was totally upset because nobody talked to me but soon my attentions drew to Dr. Richard Smith’s talk during the plenary session. Dr. Smith’s views about controlling the large ELT classroom were no doubt appreciative but I was puzzled whether the techniques he suggested will be applicable in the context of Nepal or if yes, to what extent. I wanted to raise this question but I could not ask.

–Keshab Dutta Bhatt, NELTA, Kailali

I found a new trend of presentation in Pecha Kucha Fun which had been performed by a team of Students from Kathmandu University led by Associate Prof. Laxman Gnawali. Although it was interesting in the audiences’ views, I could not learn any contents but it was helpful for entertaining the students of ELT with ELT humors. I learnt that several pictures can be used to motivate the learners on the contents.

– Dinesh Kumar Yadav, NELTA Janakpur

I learnt a good lesson from the special session facilitated by Mr. Fife MacDuff and Mr. Bishwa R. Gautam about applying the techniques and ways for ELT Graduate Studies and Assistantships from American Universities.

 – AP Bhattarai, NELTA Life Member, Kathmandu

I am impressed by the lecture given by Mr. Richard Smith, which was about the new trends and the mobilization of ELT in the current global situation. But I was sad because I did not find any advisors who used to be our celebrity and the stars in NELTA.

 – Gopal Prasad Basyal, NELTA Palpa

 I wished I could attend some presentation focusing on the role of the ICT in the ELT classroom. My wish was fulfilled when I participated the session of Dr. Kalyan from India. He shared with us different ways and ideas how ICT tools can be integrated for effective ELT classroom.

 – Ms. Shyama Tamang, NELTA Nuwakot

 I attended the concurrent session of Ms. Monalisa Khan from Bangladesh. She shared us about the challenges while teaching EFL writing at the tertiary level. The content was interesting to me and more interesting were the ways she presented her paper. I learned some measures that will help me overcome those challenges in my classroom.

 – Dipesh Kumar Sah, Siraha

If  you have participated in the conference and you wish to include your views to the list  or share your response to the above-mentioned question with the larger ELT community home and abroad, please add your response as a comment.

Nepalese Youth Icon Rana’s Love for Change: Teach Children Free of Charge

Apar Poudel

Amid the forest and alluring natural beauty, there stands Maya Universe Academy, a child-friendly school for the children from the poor and marginalized community in Tanahun District of Nepal. It is a model school which offers the children with international standard education free of charge.  A youth icon Manjil Rana, who envisions establishing such schools over the country based on experiential learning, has started from his own village.

Let’s watch the video on YouTube, where Rana shares how he started his project of founding Maya Universe Academy.

Rana in his early twenties started his dream project Maya Universe Academy, a free school, in his village in Udhin Dhunga of Tanahu District two years ago. Now he has scaled up the project establishing two more schools as its branches in the remote villages of Syanja and Makwanpur districts too.

Before he started this school, Rana completed his high school from St Xavier’s School in Kathmandu and then University education in India and the United States of America. In the present context of the youths flying abroad for foreign employment and studies, Rana stands as the symbol, who models the youths to inspire to take a welfare initiative and initiate the campaign for a common cause in their community that can make a difference in the Nepalese society.

The curriculum of the Academy meets the international standards. It is practical and based on experiential learning. The effectiveness of the curriculum is reflected in day-to-day life of the kids as they use not only Nepali but also English for communication.

Rana’s initiative has received support from many helping hands and volunteers. It runs with the minimum fund collected from the volunteers from abroad. In addition, the guardians’ voluntary service, and school’s own agriculture and farming have also contributed to covering the expenses.

As a part of community development service, foreign volunteers from different nations are cooperating with the school management by teaching the children. Every month the Academy arranges some volunteers and cooperates with the local teachers for effective teaching-learning.

An American volunteer Aayean says, “I am highly inspired by the school and having great time here. I believe that students are having fun in learning practically and these are the precious days for me too.”

The Academy has its own rules and regulations that have shaped its uniqueness. The best part of the school is reflected in the students’ uniform i.e. Nepali daura and surwal with dhaka cap for boys and skirt and cholo for girls. It can be one of the indications that our children can learn English without losing their cultural roots.

As mentioned earlier, the students do not have to pay any fees for their study. Instead, their guardians should volunteer in the activities of the Academy. It can be farming and construction or even preparing breakfast and lunch for the teachers and staff. The Academy has raised the hope among the guardians. They are happy to have such an ideal school in their community.

“It’s a joy to have such a school in our village. I feel lucky to see my kids learning English happily.” says a guardian Machindar Dulal. Another guardian Mahendra Adhikari shares his views, “School is really a gift for the people of the poor community, who are marginalized and deprived of quality education”.

The support from the local community has added new enthusiasm to the Academy. The regular meetings and gatherings work out and entrust the responsibilities of guardians for the welfare of the school.

Apart from the educational initiative, the school has also initiated in social transformation through various activities. As a part of social initiative it has been working for the production, promotion and marketing of local products. Rana has come up with the idea of promoting local products along with their production and marketing. For example, he has cooperated with the guardians in producing the orange jam in the village and to sell it in the cities. For this initiation he has trained a team with the skill of producing jam. This has really inspired the locals, who were unaware of such potential of the markets and products.

He is determined to translate his vision into reality. However, he sees people’s mindset and lack of communication among themselves as a major challenge. He feels that passion is the driving force we youths should carry and move ahead that surely leads to success. He has  a dream of educating the kids from rural parts of Nepal so that they can explore and compete for the global opportunities. Obviously it is English that gives them competence and confidence to embark on the journey from the local to global.

This school is an exemplary one for other schools in Nepal, especially the private ones which increase their fees year by year to provide education to the children in the name of English. Besides, it establishes a friendly relationship among the students-teachers through good communication and interaction.

It’s an inspiring step that can surely bring about change in the education system of Nepal along with social development.  Only the thing is that the society should be positive and supportive to help the visionaries put their thought into action. Rana argues that his initiation can bring about change in the education system of Nepal within 20 years. As a promising and aspiring youth, he believes that the schools like this should be set up throughout the nation.

If you want to learn more about the school, click on http://www.mayauniverseacademy.org/

 Mr. Poudel is the manager at Radio Bani Network in Kathmandu and teaching English to higher secondary and bachelor’s level students.

Teach English, Speak English, Why? The Importance of Conversations on Choutari

Dr. Shyam Sharma
Stony Brook University, New York

Choutari is now in the hands of a brilliant new group of NELTA scholars, and I am excited about that. The old and new teams who were working together for a while in order to make this conversation under the shade of this forum even better had to go through a somewhat difficult time during the month of January—it’s a story that may be worth telling someday, perhaps years from now, and it’s a good one—but we also had a wonderful opportunity to further realize the tremendous value of promoting professional conversation in this great community. With the talent and enthusiasm of the new team, I am sure that we are going to see in the years to come great strides in the work of welcoming, encouraging, urging, prodding us to give back in the form of ideas and inspiration to our society. This work of building our scholarship from the ground up is extremely important to us as educators in a struggling nation right now and it will be, for different reasons, for generations to come.

Among the reasons we started this blog, one was to make our professional conversations serve as useful resource by making them open and accessible. And that’s what I want to write about in this reflection today.

Since I promised the editor of this month, my friend Bal Ram Adhikari, that I would contribute an entry for the issue, I’ve been trying to write about something that has kept me professionally “awake,” so to say, since I started teaching in a primary school in Butwal almost 20 years ago, something that I continued to ask for the next 12 years in grade schools and eventually at TU and then when I decided to switch from English to Writing Studies. And that something is a whole range of questions, which used to often discourage me while I taught at home: Why am I teaching what I am teaching? Does teaching grammar help students learn language? Why are we asking students to speak in English only? The teaching of literature seems to contribute to students’ personal development quite a bit, but how far does it contribute to their social and professional lives and the society at large? Why do we do little more than giving lecture in the name of “covering” the content of the course and helping students prepare for the exam—and what if there are better ways to achieve these same goals and also make education more worthwhile? What do we mean by “English education”?

When we started Choutari, I was happy because this platform allowed us to ask questions like the above as part of a broader professional conversation among hundreds of other scholars and teachers who may have similar questions, different perspectives, better answers. In this post, I want to build on a recent conversation that took place (and at the time of this writing is still ongoing) inside NELTA’s Yahoo mailing list that many of us are subscribed to. I responded briefly there, as it fit that medium, and I want to explore the issue further here, from broader educational, professional, and social perspectives. I request you, dear colleagues, to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

A fellow NELTA member, Umesh Shrestha, asked in the mailing list recently whether we, as English teachers, should communicate in English beyond the classroom and school (because, the writer seemed to imply, we don’t practice what we preach). This was a very thought-provoking question (and among other colleagues, Suman Laudari has responded with some great ideas on the list). Let me get into the relaxing mood of choutari and share some thoughts—for the beauty and fresh air of early spring is returning to the hillsides and I am truly excited by the arrival of a whole group of gaunles under the shady tree.

The question of whether we, even teachers of English, should speak English everywhere, as well as require our students to do so in school and encourage to do so outside is not new. And I happen to have strong views not only about whether even our students (forget about us) must be required to speak English at all times in school (if not beyond it!) but also about whether we should use English as a medium of instruction and for what purposes, if at all.

Let me take a step back and ask a more basic question: “Why” is it that English is the increasingly dominant, increasingly popular, increasingly unquestioned medium of instruction in Nepal? Is there a straightforward “ELT” answer to this question? Does the use of English as “the” medium of instruction raise the standard of our education overall? Does it make classroom teaching and classroom learning more effective?

First, if the answer to questions like the above is more of a “no” than “yes,” then should we make it our professional lives’ priority to make the answer “yes”? Or, should we instead pause and think why the answer is “no”? That is, if using English rather than Nepali and/or other languages of instruction—at least in certain subjects, grade levels, regions, etc—does not have an “ELT” answer (which I presume it doesn’t), then why are we insisting that “English Only” must be the medium of instruction? If imposing English as the only medium of instruction does not raise the standard of our students’ education, then how have we come to embrace the delusion (sorry, but that’s what I think it largely is) that English “is” education (as in the phrase “English education”)? Is there, in the world of reality, such a thing as “English” education (one that is of a different order of intellectual significance than education acquired “in”? another language?)– or have we just created a feel good phrase to describe “English language education/learning” by dropping the key word in the middle?

To stay on the yes/no questions above, I would readily say NO, there is absolutely no doubt that IF requiring only English as the medium of instruction, communication, and jus being in school had ZERO SIDE EFFECTS, then the benefits are so many, so significant, so long term, so attractive… that we wouldn’t need to have this conversation. I would whole-heartedly support the use of English as the “only” medium in/throughout school. I’m not joking about this, but IF our students were to come out of high school speaking fluent English while ALSO writing effectively (whether that’s in English or not, please note), demonstrating critical thinking skills at par with their peers in other nations, being able to pursue and generate new ideas on their own, excelling in math and science and technology, etc, and IF the “medium” of English was a significant reason for our students’ elevated standards in all the above areas, then NO we would not have this conversation either. We would just call the adoption of English as the “only” medium of instruction as a straightforward, non-political, purely pedagogical decision. But that’s not the case. We know for fact—and we have been in denial for a few decades now—that the English medium that we have imposed in the name of improving the “quality” of education has VISIBLY affected the effectiveness of just too many teachers’ teaching, thereby their students’ learning, the teaching and learning of math and science and social studies and economics and environmental studies and agriculture and you name it. The English medium is certainly justified for teaching the English language—although even in this case, I have a hard time understanding why we teach it for 12-16 years and our students’ English is not as good as the Nepali proficiency of my Christian missionary friend who has been in Nepal for less than a year. Yes, our students’ English proficiency—and indeed our own as English teachers—may be too low. And it is for us as teachers (plus scholars) to develop solutions by having serious curricular, pedagogical, and educational discussions. But our good intentions to solve a problem don’t justify just “any” means. For instance, it would be terribly absurd for us as English teachers to tell our colleagues teaching social studies and math and physics and chemistry and their students who are solving algebra problems or playing khopi or eating samosa in the canteen that they must use English because— oh, wait, I forgot what I was about to say! English, you know, English, and like English education. Like globalized world. Opportunities. The internet. Facebook…. Okay, I can’t think anymore. Let me do something different. Let me tell you a story.

I have a nonnative English speaking (Chinese) student named Bao in my “intermediate college writing” class (here at the State University of New York). During the first class meeting in a one month long intensive writing workshop, while I was describing one of the assignments, a “rhetorical analysis” of a text that students would choose, Bao raised his hand, with his face looking like he was terrified of something, and said: “Professor, I don’t have the ‘professionalism’ to criticize the author’s writing style….” Bao’s English language “speaking” proficiency was so low that I couldn’t help thinking how many of the international students (15 out of 20, from 6 different countries, with different extents of exposure to “native” English speaking communities) were going to pass. Bao’s case was particularly striking: he not only struggled to express himself in English, as a student who had just come from a sociocultural background that doesn’t value “challenging” or even “analyzing” the ideas and expressions of established writers and scholars, he was saying that he neither could nor would like to “criticize” how a scholarly article was written. I gave a short answer and invited Bao to my office for further discussion. During the first discussion I realized that Bao was “confusing” his low proficiency in English with his lack of “knowledge” about what “rhetorical analysis” means; so I gave him a text (an excerpt from Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech), a sample rhetorical analysis that he and I found online, and a long list of questions with which I broke down the assignment (as supplement to the assignment description). Long story short, the rhetorical analysis that Bao wrote within the first week of class (before the class moved to another project) was in many ways better than the writing of most other students in class, including the native English speaking students (some of whom, by the way, implemented what they had already learned in high school and turned in their papers, and their papers showed little new learning). One of the things that Bao had done was to copy, adapt, and echo the rhetorical analysis “moves” made by other writers in the many samples that he had gone on to find: he deliberately avoided looking at rhetorical analyses of the text he was analyzing so he was not plagiarizing. When he submitted the finalized analysis, I had to start by asking whether and to what extent someone else had helped him write the paper and/or he had copied from another writer’s analysis of the same text. He had not, as I found out that he had done what I just described.

So, it was not because Bao mastered the “medium” (indeed, it was “in spite of” the medium that still lagged significantly) but because he was engaged with ideas (a highly thought-provoking text), because he had an unyielding commitment, because he learned how to learn, because of his commitment and motivation that Bao was able to do what seemed so impossible. Even as he imitated and echoed and adapted and ventriloquized sentence structures and phrases and worlds from the samples that he gathered from all kinds of sources, Bao learned a whole new “discourse,” indeed a new language, in his incredible one-week long learning journey, thereby tremendously improving his overall English language skills (including skills for critical thinking, analytical reading, and composition). When I read Bao’s final draft, I questioned some of the conventional teaching wisdom that only rare situations like this make me ask, only situations like this can so beautifully blow up in the air.

Reading the question about how great it might be if we too were speaking English all the time, I was almost depressed to think about the state of our education—I mean about the learning part, the part where the nature and content of education matters, the part where our students are being prepared (or not) to become intellectually and professional capable of navigating (and indeed competing in) the complex, connected, global world that they live in and need to be even better prepared for.

Let us (of course) develop practical solutions for practical problems. But let us do so without being so naive as to think that we can be more effective at doing so by eschewing the larger context of education–motivation, rationale, fairness, etc–in the name of being practical. Let us not allow the politics of denial (or the claim that one is not being political in order to stay above the discussion when the issue is politically significant) to justify an active forgetting and overlooking of the larger purpose of teaching English, or social studies or science for that matter. It is only within the larger social context that our problem-solving of any ELT issues—the questions we ask, the answers we seek—will make sense.

And to connect that to what I was saying about the importance of joining and promoting such conversations like this in choutaris like this, I have the same old, humble request for you. Dear colleague, after you read a post, or two, maybe all, please do not forget to add a line, or two, or many lines, sharing your idea, experience, feedback… as encouragement to the writers and good example for other readers.

Nelta Choutari’s Four Year Journey

NELTA Choutari: Looking back and moving forward

Bal Krishna Sharma and Prem Phyak

1. A brief history

“Over the course of the last few months, Bal, Prem, and I have been talking about a random but very significant set of issues via email (copying among the three of us). I am beginning to wonder if we should redirect that time and energy into something more productive, more shared, and more beneficial for a larger community. As Prem and I talked on Skype this afternoon, we should archive and share these discussions through blogging (I created this blog after our talk), through a wiki (I set up since that email also), a discussion list (way to go), or anything better than email–email is not designed for collaboration, for Pete’s sake!”

The above excerpt is what Shyam wrote on the very first issue of the NELTAChoutari in January 2009. Prem was in London, Shyam was in Kentucky, and Bal was in the middle of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii. Before we gave birth to the Choutari, three of us used to exchange chains of emails looking for ways to get reconnected to our beloved Nepalese ELT community even if we were physically disconnected. Nelta Choutari was an outcome of that motivation and interest toward taking our ideas outside of our personal spaces (email) to a “choutari” (for those who don’t know this Nepali word, it’s the platform under/along with a tree, in or on the way to a village). In due course, three colleagues, Sajan Kumar Karn, Hem Raj Kafle, and Kamal Poudel joined the forum as moderators and connected Chouatri to the ELT community across the country back home; with their extensive experiences working with NELTA and its branches, affiliation with universities in Kathmandu and beyond, and added knowledge and skills in the field, the new colleagues helped take Choutari to its next level.

Choutari was also the product of increasing interaction between ELT and technology. But as we witnessed how technology was largely redefining ELT and professional networking across the world–through such affordances as online discussions, professional email listservs, Facebook updates and comments, online teaching and training, and so on–we also realized that technologies such as blogging were not penetrating very deep in Nepal, partly due to the lack of widespread access to the web and partly due to the academic systems that do not encourage individual teachers and schools toward educational innovation through ICTs. However, we were driven by the idea that we cannot wait until the house catches fire for the Nepalese ELT community to start talking about technology in ELT and education. So, we paid some attention to the subject of technology itself as well as using it as a vehicle of our discussions of all kinds of issues in the village yard.

More broadly, the main objective to establish the Choutari was to provide a professional space in which ELT practitioners across Nepal could learn by exchanging what we know and generate new knowledge from the bottom up. We wanted to promote local ELT scholarship through critical academic discussions; as some of our earliest posts (which we started publishing as monthly issues and called Choutari a “blog-zine”) indicate, we were interested in injected critical discussions on issues like critical pedagogy, the politics of language and ideologies undergirding language policies, the place of ELT in the bigger picture of education, democratization and decentralization of scholarship, and so on. One of our most passionate interests has been to let our colleagues at the grassroots level speak up as teacher-scholars through this forum.

In our attempt to bring out the voices of teacher-scholars across Nepal, we have tried to publish oral interviews, branch updates, success stories, personal teaching anecdotes, and even classroom humor from colleagues from NELTA branches. Not all the “columns” we tried were successful, but we believe we have excelled in publishing issues with a good variety of materials. We have spent hours and days discussing what kinds of posts and publications would cater to the needs and interests of our readers. Thanks to Skype, we have conducted several conference calls, argued for the best possible alternatives, constructively criticized each other’s ideas, and eventually formed consensus.

Choutari has come a long way and there certainly have been a few good challenges along the way. Often we would come up with brilliant ideas and try to implement them but some things didn’t go as well as we hoped. Our contributors, as well as we the coordinators, are very busy, and so participation has often been a challenge. For example, out of ten potential contributors we communicated to, seven would respond and five of them would promise to contribute a piece by the end of the month. When sent a second or third email, some of them either would not respond or would postpone their contribution for the following month. One or two of them would send the entry.

However, we always remained confident and enthusiastic and we are grateful to many colleagues who continued to contribute entries and comments. We are particularly grateful to a few wonderful and regular contributors who promptly responded to our requests, and sent the entries by the deadline. They were instrumental in keeping this blog alive. We also owe special thanks to a few NELTA leaders like Ganga Gautam who contributed content (including this interview) and provided great encouragement during and after his presidency. Our colleague Kamal Poudel joined us as a liaison of NELTA; with him on board, we began to conceptualize the idea of NELTA networking, a larger framework that would consist of blogging (Choutari), microblogging (Twitter), social networking (Facebook), content creation (wiki for branches), and so on. We have also tried to connect Choutari to the larger world of ELT conversations. For example, by blogging for the IATEFL conference in Glasgow in 2011, Choutari became an IATEFL registered online blogger; this kind of international networking is another area for further exploration for the growth of Choutari and other professional networking platforms in Nepalese ELT.

We believe that Choutari serves an important but a specific purpose (of being a space for discussing ELT issues); but we have always viewed this work not only an independent but well-aligned project that is meant to help fulfill NELTA’s central mission of promoting scholarship and professionalism. Furthermore, as indicated above, we have also viewed Choutari as a part of a potentially much larger substance-based professional networking initiative that can help NELTA fulfill its key missions. We have discussed the larger project extensively and it remains a great potential; as we hand over one successful part of that larger mission to a new group of ELT professionals, we are willing to further engage in that larger discussion with the new colleagues, NELTA leaders, and/or any other volunteer colleagues within the organization. We may not be able to dedicate as much time as we have the past four years but we remain as passionate as ever for contributing new ideas and helping to enhance Nepal’s ELT–its scholarship, professionalization, as well as its pedagogy–as much as we can.

2. Themes we discussed
Local literacy and critical pedagogy: One of the major themes that emerged out of the posts in the Choutari was local epistemology/literacy/pedagogy. We not only discussed what critical pedagogy  and local epistemology means in theory (see 2011, January Issue) but also presented some practical ideas based on teachers’ experiences, oral history project and interviews. Most importantly, we tried to generate critical ideas from the bottom-up while being aware of global ELT theories and practices. Critiquing on how the taken-for-granted globalized ideology of ELT may not be helpful in promoting diverse local epistemologies, Phyak (January, 2011) says that:

What I am saying is our full dependence on global methods, norms and textbooks in ELT may not help to promote and sustain our identities and treasure of local knowledge.  What I am saying is that we have wonderful ELT practices that we are not able to share with the people from other parts of the world which we need to do urgently.

Reflecting on his own dilemma created by the tensions between global and local and theory and practice, M. Kafle (November, 2012), S. Adhikari (August, 2012); Regmi (4/2011) and Limbu (March, 2012), deconstruct the notion of top-down literacy and pedagogical practices in English language teaching. While M. Kafle argues that we should critically look at whether or not the way we teach should foster  ‘semiotic process’ and ‘creative languaging’, focusing on the intelligibility, S. Adhikari argues that any varieties (not only British or American) which help us establish communication ‘emancipate us from western centred linguistic imperialism’.  Viewing from the perspective of global and local divide thanks to digital advancement, Limbu calls for teachers’ agency and collegiality to deconstruct dominant globalized pedagogical practice and look for opportunities that foster democratic pedagogies in which both local and global can go together. In this regard, quite related to H. Kafle’s (October, 2012) call for ‘interdisciplinarity’, Bhattarai and Yadav (November, 2012) and Sharma and Phyak (August, 2012) have worked with teachers on how different social issues like gender, poverty, child labor, human rights, and pollution can be brought into the classroom and help children find  a creative space for capitalizing both local and global literacy practices.

Teachers’ professional development: We received an encouraging number of posts on teachers’ professional development ranging from classroom practices to strengthening teachers’ associations. While M. Adhikari (January, 2012) suggests ways to deal with mixed ability classes, Ray (2012) critically unravels the tension between teachers’ motive for the monetary gain and professional development. In the similar fashion, Shrestha (September, 2012) and Panta (September, 2012) contend that present teacher training programs in Nepal lack both expertise and atmosphere for their implementation. Suggesting that observation servers as an important tool for teacher development, KC (October, 2012) and Bhusal (October, 2011) present various ways for engaging teachers in effective classroom observation practices while Budha (October, 2011) focuses on the role of reflective practice in teacher development. Other posts (not mentioned here, due to space limitation ) deal with designing tasks, organizing communicative activities, lesson planning, teaching writing and conference reflections. Together, these posts have provided ideas for the bottom-up and critical perspective on teacher development.

Teachers’ narrative: This is the most popular theme in our webzine. Teachers’ personal narratives (e.g., Bashyal, 10/2012; Dahal, 10/2012; Gautam, 7/2011; Khati & Shrestha 10/2012; Rijal, 11/2012; Neupane, 8/2012; Wagley, 3/2011) have provided an important impetus to make the webzine one of the most popular blogs in Nepalese ELT communities. By including the interviews of teachers (initiated by Heml Kafle) working at the different levels of education, we have tried to bridge the gap between the notions of language-teaching-as-it-is-perceived and language-teaching-as-it-is-practiced. We are able to draw on creative writing works (e.g., Dewan, 3/2012) to help students use English in creative ways (please search Andrew Wright’s post in Chouatri). The key issues that emerge from teacher’s narratives are: (a) to what extent we are able to utilize our own literacy practices?; (b) to what degree we are able to address student needs and contextual challenges?; and (c) can we teacher narratives’ be base for promoting local ELT scholarships?. We think that future discussion should go in this line. We see that teachers’ narratives about teaching, learning and attending conferences and workshops may provide an important avenue for looking at what is possible to apply in our own context.

Teacher training:  We also received a significant numbers of posts on teacher training and workshop report. Ranging from Tanahun (e.g., Pandey, 3/2012; Nidhi, 9/2012) to Rautahat to Ramechhap we were able to cover branch updates and their activities. These updates not only tell us about what is happening in different branches, but also contribute to generate discussions on teacher training, classroom practices and organizing conferences. However, we are not able to report on whether or not the training programs NELTA has conducted have been translated into practice. We think that this is one of the key areas we should explore in future.

3. Responses from the readers

The most important part of the Choutari is its readership. We are really encouraged with the increasing number of readers/subscribers of the webzine from home and beyond. The responses from our readers not only generate the critical discussions among the ELT scholars but also form strong sense of the ELT community of practice. We are happy to know that students from Kathmandu and Tribhuvan universities are finding the webzine very useful sources of information. The posts and responses from KU and TU students have shown the academic impacts of the webzine.  Through readers’ responses like the one given below, we tried to promote academic culture among the NELTA colleagues:

 

Kate Miller says:

June 6, 2010 at 11:02 pm

I completely agree with Leknath on the importance of programmes like SQC to encourage linguistic formulation of ideas, in an age appropriate way. Circle time can start with KG children, in a simple story and discussion, with both topics and language being extended according to developmental level. (Refer to work of developmental psychologists Piaget and Vygotsky.) In UK, we are encouraging both creative and critical thinking programmes. Some are based on the work of Reuven Feuerstein who developed content-free thinking programmes, one is called Philosophy for Children, P4C, based on the work of Matthew Lipman. Some people were outraged at the idea of children ‘doing’ philosophy, but it is simply a structured way of unpicking an issue at the level the children are at at the time and extending both their thinking and their language. How can we be expected to develop our own language, let alone a foreign language, without widening concepts.

(Kate Miller’s response to Lekhnath Sharma Pathak’s post of the Students’ Quality Circle)

Lekhnath Pathak says:

May 29, 2011 at 5:55 pm

I am deeply grateful to the readers and colleagues in this choutari. The write up that was posted over a year back is still drawing interest. This shows there is something in SQC. In fact, SQC is a complete package which includes all the issues like critical thinking, teamwork, developing language skills etc. which are quite common themes in ELT and other fields of academia. Officers Department of Education, Ministry of Education,GoN are also getting interested in this. The best thing is it canbe practiced in a well resourced school and quite underresourced school or college as well. Language is also not a barrier.You can do it in any language be it English or Nepali or even in any mother tongue.You just have to learn the systematic problem solving approach, tools and techniques that we teach and then you can adopt it to your own situation. ….

(A part of Mr. Pathak’s response to the readers)

In addition to these themes, we have also included expert’s interviews in which Professor Jai Raj Awasthi, Professor Govinda Raj Bhattarai, Professor Tirth Raj Khaniya, Professor Chandreshwar Mishra and Dr. Vishnu Singh Rai have shared their opinions about recent developments in ELT, language testing, language-literature-creative-writing. We also have teaching tips and classroom humors (though we do not have many) which can be useful for making classroom teaching effective.

4. Future directions

With this anniversary issue, we have handed over our legacy to a new vibrant team of  young professionals, both fresh and seasoned, who have a strong commitment to collaborate with fellow ELT professionals, solicit contributions from practitioners from the grassroots level as well as publicize it as a global academic forum reaching out to hundreds of readers worldwide. The strongest aspect of the new team has to be able to work with the teachers in NELTA branches and bring their professional voices to the public. Teaching experiences and pedagogical practices are valued more when they are shared, replicated and experimented by the fellow practitioners. Thanks to multiple blogs and wiki applications! Those teachers who, for some reasons, cannot contribute their posts in writing can send their oral anecdotes and narratives to the editors who can easily upload them online.

Four key words we want to emphasize and pass on to the new team are: sustainability, collaboration, variety, and coverage. NELTA Choutari should not die, nor should it be weakened in the future. Since we believe in democratic academic culture, we strongly believe in the principle of systematic entry into and exit from this forum although we did not start with any formal constitution. Although there is no such formal rules in this forum, we are guided with academic multiculturalism in which we enjoy working with different conflicting views, reflect each other’s perspectives, and think of grooming new colleagues, who could lead the webzine in future. Thank you to all new team members who accepted to take this challenging academic responsibility further. In this four years, six of us spent our valuable time and had a very productive experience, learning from each other and from the readers. The new team that starts at the dawn of new year can continue the legacy that are worth continuing, amend the tradition for a good cause and prepare next generation of who will replace them when time comes. Second, there is a lot to be done regarding collaboration. Our attempt and success to get the IATEFL blogger registration was one example. We also believe that Choutari can and should collaborate with local ELT branches, other organizations that have ELT as part of their mission, and other international ELT forums. It will be an appreciative task to invite contributions from writers from around the world; to ask them to share their experiences and anecdotes; and to encourage them to respond to the posts we share. When NELTA members travel to other professional venues such as IATEFL, TESOL, and other regional and local conferences, it is important to highlight what we have achieved so far from this forum. Third, we believe that readers always want varieties. Varieties can be in the themes or they can be in the modalities such as visual, oral, animations, images, and so on. Multimodality is something we tried but were not able to present as expected. Pictures of classrooms, videos of good teaching practices, and audio of teacher narratives, for example, are some of the wonderful examples in creating diversity in publication. Four, our subscribers should be in rise. Since technology and the internet has hit almost every regions of the country, local teachers should be aware of the fact that their fellow teachers have a professional khurak to share so that they do not always have to depend on international/foreign practitioners and writers. In addition, getting the Choutari entries to offline in printed format such as in the form of newsletters or small-scale journals would expand its horizon of coverage. This has already been started by our colleagues such as Sajan Kumar Karn and Dinesh Thapa. We always have to remember that we are doing everything for our fellow readers/teachers and they are the center of this project.

We wish successful collaboration among the new team to publish Choutari. Thank you once again for accepting our proposal to take the legacy we have initiated ahead. Please let us know how we can be of your help. We also urge the rest of NELTA community and readers beyond this organization to please continue to contribute to this wonderful venue in any way you can. We did it for fun and we are convinced that it was absolutely worth our time and energy and we can assure you that if you can spare the time and energy to join this conversation, you will find it satisfying as well!

Thank you very much!

We can … without corporal punishment

Atmaram Bhattarai & Praveen Kumar Yadav
Plan Nepal Sindhuli/Rautahat

Abstract

Cruel and humiliating forms of psychological punishment, gender-based violence and bullying remain a daily reality for millions of children in schools. Such different sorts of violence adversely affect quality education and create fearful learning environment violating the rights of children to learn in a safe school environment. The short article attempts to look back to the history of corporal punishment, moves further with the consequences and reasons for such punishments and finally concludes with alternative ways to create learn without fear environment. Overall, it appeals all the stakeholders to join hands to contribute Learn without Fear campaign launched globally with an aim to end violence against children in all schools.

Scenario of Corporal Punishment in Nepal

Corporal punishment in school has become a preferred measurable tool for making children disciplined. 57.77% of school going children in the world is potentially risk of receiving school corporal punishment. A study done by Plan Nepal in different 7 districts in 2011 shows that 39.34% of children realized punished corporally by the teachers. They also mentioned that 5.34% of total school droppers are because of the corporal punishment.

The above data makes some of us cringe while it is common for some.  No doubt, we were compelled to grow up in fearful learning environment in Nepalese context. The Learn with Fear concept or method has become a culture in teaching learning activities. We need to remove the culture with our collective efforts. The present article starts with some historical background of punishment given to the learners, goes ahead with the causes behind punishing the students followed by its effects and concludes with some alternative ways of teaching.

A look at the history

Our education system from traditional age is largely influenced by our religious books such as Vedas, Purans, Manusmriti, etc. According to Tulsikrit Ramayan, Ayodhyakand, one of Hindu religious books “भय बिनु प्रिति नहोई” (which means that there can be no love or motivation that leads to success without punishment/fear). But gone are the days when there was Gurukul Education and the teacher who was known as guru used to be powerful. Today, the traditional education has shifted to new generation and the power is misused by so called gurus. As a result, children are victimized due to excessive power exercised by the teachers.

In the Western world, such punishment was used for minor judicial and educational misconducts in the past. It was the most popular form of punishment until English philosopher John Locke stirred up some controversy with his paper, Some Thoughts Concerning Education around the late 1700s. In this paper, Locke explicitly criticised the manner in which corporal punishment was central to education. But it was as early as the 18th century that European countries banned corporal punishment; for example, Poland banned all forms of CP in 1783. Gradually, the practice of corporal punishment declined through 20th century globally to some extent. However, it is sad to note that corporal punishment is still prevalent in our schools of Nepal.

Why teachers beat the students in Nepal

Corporal punishment is given to the students in the following conditions or for the causes mentioned here:

  • When the students fail to submit their homework
  • When they make a noise in class room
  • Debate with the teacher in class room
  • When learners are found fighting with each other
  • If they come to school with no uniform
  • Lose / forget to bring copy, books and other stationeries
  • Cheat and hide others’ copy, book, pencil, etc
  • When they sleep in the classroom or show misconduct
  • When they are unable to answer correctly
  • If they receive poor marks in exam
  • When they leave some classes and run away
  • If a student is absent or does not attend the school regularly
  • If students speak unpleasant words
  • When they come to school late
  • They fail to pay school fee in time

What types of Corporal punishment is given in Nepalese Schools

  • Scolding, verbal abuse
  • Making the students sit in a discomfort position
  • Locking them in toilet/other room
  • Slapping a child by his/her own classmate
  • Making them stand for long time at side of the door, corner of room, on bench and ground
  • Pulling hairs and cheek
  • Twisting the ears
  • Hitting with the objects on any part of the body (like duster over the head)
  • Throwing some objects at child
  • Discrimination of equal participation because of caste group or gender
  • Hitting with stick on palm, back, head, legs, etc.
  • Preventing students from entering the classroom for a while
  • Squeezing a pen/pencil between the fingers
  • Pinching, Hanging, kicking
  • Making them lean against a tree and tying up with the rope
  • Threatening
  • Making the students run around the school premises or playground many times

What results when the teachers beat students (Consequences of Corporal Punishment)

  • Intellectual loss
  • Increased delinquency
  • School drop outs of children
  • Mentally / physically disabled
  • Nurture violence behavior
  • Lower self esteem / lose confidence/humiliation
  • Training for children to use physical violence
  • Liable to instill hostility
  • Rage without reducing undesired behavior
  • Associate with negative outcome
  • It does not only hamper the individual development but also disturbs/ruins the social harmony
  • Suicide /Death

Why corporal punishment is not the solution

Extensive research shows that corporal punishment does not achieve the desired end – a culture of learning and discipline in the classroom. Instead, violence begets violence. Children exposed to violence in their homes and at school tend to use violence to solve problems, both as children and adults. Key research findings show that corporal punishment:

  • Some learners blow their own horn about being beaten as something to be proud of, as a badge of bravery or success.
  • Undermines a caring relationship between learner and educator, which is critical for the development of all learners, particularly those with behavioural difficulties.
  • Undermines the self-esteem and confidence of children who have learning or behavioural problems and/or difficult home circumstances and contributes to negative feelings about school.
  • Does not build a culture of human rights, tolerance and respect.
  • Does not stop bad behaviour of difficult children. Instead, these children are punished over and over again for the same offenses.
  • Does not nurture self-discipline in children. Instead, it provokes aggression and feelings of revenge and leads to anti-social behaviour.
  • Does not make children feel responsible for their own actions. They worry about being caught, not about their personal responsibilities. This undermines the growth of self-discipline in children.
  • Takes children s focus away from the wrongdoing committed to the act of beating itself.

Why ban corporal punishment

Nepal is a one of the signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which compels it to pass laws and take social, educational and administrative measures to protect the child from all forms of physical and mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse.

By the result, banning corporal punishment is responded in School Sector Reform Program (SSRP-2009-14). The SSRP states that no child shall be subjected to physical punishment in any form in the school. Teacher and school found guilty of practicing corporal punishment shall both be subject to disciplinary actions that may include suspension of teacher’s grade and an official warning to the School Management Committee (SMC).

Similarly, Education Rule (sixth addendum), 2059 has added ‘no students should be physically and mentally violated’ under the teacher’s code of conduct. At the mean time, the ministry of education has approved a policy named ‘Policy Provision for Banning Corporal Punishment in Schools- 2011’.

Ministry of Education in the collaboration with the Department of Education, National Centre of Educational Development, Plan Nepal, Save the children and UNICEF launched Learn without Fear (LWF) Campaign in Nepal on 21st November 2008.  It is a campaign for preventing all forms of violence against children in schools. This includes corporal punishment, sexual abuse, neglect, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and bullying in schools.

So What?

CP crates fear among children. Where there is fear, there is no effective learning and the children can not construct their knowledge. The teacher should adopt alternative ways of CP. If teachers are to have a positive culture of learning and teaching in their schools, the learning environment must be safe, orderly and conducive to learning. There should be close relationship among teacher and children. The children should be loved and affected.

There are also those teachers who believe that corporal punishment is wrong, but they don’t always know what to use instead of physical force or the threat of it to maintain discipline and a culture of learning in the classroom. Discipline is a part of the daily life of students and teachers, but it is not a simple issue; it demands a great deal of time, creativity, commitment and resources.

A classroom climate based on mutual respect within which learners feel safe and affirmed will decrease the need for disciplinary action. By implementing a proactive approach, teachers can put things in place, which will safeguard the culture of learning, and teaching in their classrooms. Simple things like preparing for lessons; exercising self-discipline; having extension work available; ensuring that teaching and learning happen consistently; ensuring that learners are stimulated; establishing class rules with the students; making a space for time out or a conflict resolution corner; affirming students; building positive relationships with children; preparing and implementing job chart are all strategies which will set the stage for a positive learning environment and can significantly reduce problems with discipline in the classroom.

Similarly, the other alternatives ways of CP for a positive culture of learning and teaching are:

  • Providing disciplinary actions for misconduct inside the classroom: Carried out by class teacher; Verbal warnings; Community service; Additional work which is constructive and which possibly relates to the misconduct; Small menial tasks like tidying up the classroom; Detention in which learners use their time constructively but within the confines of the classroom i.e. they cannot participate in extra-mural activities or go home.
  • Adopting a whole school approach and making sure that the classroom discipline reflects the school’s policies.
  • Establishing class rules by the learners in the participatory way; be serious and consistent for implementing class rules.
  • Building a relationship of trust in which learners feel respected, understood and recognized for who they are.
  • Managing the learning process and the learning environment enthusiastically and professionally.
  • Being inclusive by using materials, pictures, language, music, posters, magazines and so on that reflect the diversity of the class so that no children feels left out or that his or her identity is not valued.
  • Giving students the opportunity to succeed.
  • Allowing children to take responsibility.
  • Giving attention seekers what they want.
  • Adopting strategies for behavioural modification like setting expectations, positive reinforcement, consistent consequences, presenting role model, etc.
  • Preparing and implementing code of conduct in school

Conclusion 

We observe that ‘pounding an animal is cruel; pounding an adult is crime and against human behaviour whereas pounding a child is a corrective measure for their proper adjustment into the social and cultural norms that the children need to respect’. Sometimes, punishing a child is considered the ‘right’ of parents or teachers. Teachers who are unmotivated and poorly trained are more likely to resort to punitive and physically violent methods of control, but this is not always the case for all teachers. But, globally, the practice of corporal punishment in school is being rejected and promoted alternative non violent discipline method to facilitate children’s behaviour and learning activities. A total of 106 states of the world have already legally banned the practice of CP in schools and care institutions. Similarly, 24 countries of the globe have legally banned corporal punishment at home either. In a society like ours with a long history of violence and abuse of child rights, it is not easy to make the transition to peace, tolerance and respect for human rights at a pace. Schools have a vital role to play in this process of transformation by nurturing these fundamental values in children.

 Our Appeal to NELTA

Most of the English teachers of school level in Nepal are known and blamed as cruel teachers as they mostly punish children in the purpose of making them success. Most of them (mostly of lower grades) are not aware that English is not learnt with corporal punishment. English can be taught using love and affection to the children in the communicative way using the above alternatives. Therefore, it is our humble request to NELTA to adopt Learn without Campaign within the network to wash the blame of cruelty pasted on the forehead of English Teachers in Nepal.

What we can do is to prepare some posters for promoting ‘learn without fear campaign’ in collaboration with ministry of Education, Department of Education, Save The Children, Plan Nepal and UNICEF and disseminate among the teachers all over the country through our branches existed in more than 35 districts. This will prove a milestone to make the campaign a grand success.

References

Education Rule (sixth addendum), 2059

Learn Without Fear Campaign Plan (October 2008-2011), a core document

Policy Provision for Banning Corporal Punishment in Schools, 2011

School Sector Reform Program (SSRP), 2009-2015

Teaching without punishment, a training manual to teachers, NCED, 2063

http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/pages/pdfs/SchoolsBriefing.pdf

Almost Every Sentence Has a Tense!!!


 

Madhu Neupane

Tribhuvan University

 

Even after spending 12 long years of my time in ELT, I am still puzzled why ‘tense’ always makes our students tensed. Even students in higher level encounter difficulty in distinguishing between simple past and past perfect not only in terms of structure but also in terms of their meanings and use. Despite our rigorous efforts, students keep on committing errors while using tense. Additionally, they seem to have developed an impression that grammar is merely for the sake of grammar and it has nothing do with the skills of language such as reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Ask students the rules for tense, most of them can easily mention since they have parroted the Nepalised mathematics like formula of each tense. Simple present tense is: Subject+V1/V5+Object and so on for others. Provide them with a sentence and ask them to transform it into twelve tenses, most of them can effortlessly do that.  Provide them with a sentence and ask to change the sentence as indicated in the bracket, they can still do that. Is there anything that they cannot do then with tense? Lots of things! Indeed!! They cannot appropriately use the tenses that they have learnt. They cannot solve the question if it asks them to put verbs in correct form in a given context. One of my students once asked me, “Ma’am, if we are asked to put verbs in correct form (that is tense), are we given the name of the tense that we need to use?” I said, “Usually not”. Then she said, “How can we know then which tense is to be used?” Then I said, “If you know tense, then you know which tense is to be used in which situation”. I do not know whether my answer satisfied the student or not but it did not convice me. This incident let me to think of the ways of making ‘tense’ less tense to my students.

My inference was that this situation might have arisen maybe because of the ways that we adopt to teach grammar. We teach grammar as separate book or separate subject, that is, in isolation from other language skills and ask questions in the same way which, in some cases, seem to be really meaningless in themselves. This frustrated me and I started a text based approach for teaching tense. I asked the students to bring “New Generation English” (one of the books prescribed for B. Ed. First Year) while I was teaching ‘tense’. Then I asked students to read a chapter “Once I Was Lost” at home and underline all the verbs there in the text, notice which tense has been used there, and find out the reasons behind it as far as possible. I asked them to refer to any English grammar book they had to study about tense. I asked them it did not matter if the book explained the rule in Nepali prescribed for any level irrespective of their level if the book has something to say about the tense. Next day students came by underlining the text and brought whatever grammar books were available to them. From this I found that some of them had difficulty even in recognizing verbs. I asked the students to find out the different forms of the verb they had underlined because my target was to make them understand the use of tense in real context and the use of tense is not possible without knowing the proper forms of the verbs for which they had to refer to different texts on grammar. It gave me a sense of satisfaction that the students did not feel that they were talking about tense in class; they were busy in doing things.

It gave them a sense of achievement as well. I asked them the reasons behind the use of any specific tense based on their self study. When they had finished, I started explaining why a particular tense was used in a particular context.  I wanted to make them feel that almost every sentence has a tense. With help of the chapter “Once I was Lost” I taught them simple past, past continuous, past perfect and past perfect continuous.

I selected the chapter “College Teachers” and “Drawing Natural World” to teach simple present tense. I went through the same procedure as mentioned and the students realized that the texts use simple present predominantly since they talk about things that are usually true (that is a sense of timelesslness) because what the writer talks in the text is arguably true. There are three types of teachers in schools and colleges at present, there were such teachers in the past and there will be such teacher in the days to come as well. The same thing is true with drawing natural world as well. The student’s facial expression, their desire to learn by taking their responsibility for their own learning during the process made me realize that text based approach to teaching grammar was more effective than teaching grammar in isolation.

Though the grammar book prescribed for B. Ed. first year is named “Exploring Grammar in Contexts”, it provides short contexts detached from English cultures thereby making the text difficult to interpret in many cases. Anyway it is better than the books which aim to teach grammar devoid of context. But I am in favor of larger context with the use of grammar points we want to develop in learners.

In this regard the textbooks of class nine and ten (I know them better because I taught them) seem to be better. Every grammatical item to be taught has been used there in context. It may be difficult to present each and every grammatical point in context. At the same time the coverage of the course might be low. But having observed the condition of students, I want to say that grammar should be made contextual. Maybe we can only choose certain grammatical points that we consider to be useful for our learners.

The advantage of the grammar books that we have prescribed in M.ED and B. Ed level is that we can introduce the learners with a lot of grammatical items even in the short span of time. This is, I think, a good technique for raising the consciousness of learners regarding grammatical points in question but these do not seem to develop language proficiency of the learners to the extent we assume. Presenting grammatical items without context makes the students suck grammatical items dry thereby reducing their real effect. Other alternative model might be presenting grammatical points with the help of text and making students use grammar books that we are using nowadays as reference books which they can consult if they have any problems with any grammatical points in the text.

In conclusion I want to say that if we are to teach grammar we need to modify the approach that we are practicing now. A point of departure might be text based approach to teaching grammar. The steps in a text based grammar lesson are presented below:

Steps in a Text Based Grammar Lesson

 

Steps

 

Aims

 

Students read (or listen to) the text that contains the target grammar. To check students’ understanding of the context that the target grammar comes from.
Students highlight the target grammar in the text. To focus students on the grammar that is to be clarified
Students check the meaning of the target grammar. To ensure students understand concepts    associated with the grammar (e.g. time       reference, intention etc.) and the way it is    used in native speaker language.
Students check the form of the target grammar. To ensure students understand the     component parts of the grammar and how it is put together.
The teacher highlights the pronunciation of the target grammar (if it is typically used for oral communication). To give very controlled oral practice of    phonological features of the grammar.
The teacher provides controlled to freer practice of the target grammar. To provide opportunities for the students  to use the new language in a variety of contexts.

Consulted

 

http://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/download/ng/file/group-4/n2460-esol-teaching-skills-taskbook-unit-4-e—teaching-grammar-2—grammar-from-texts.pdf

 

Examining Examinations


Pavan Kumar Sah

Treasurer, NELTA Siraha

Email: pavan.sah99@gmail.com

Exams have long been an inevitable phenomenon in schools, colleges and universalities. We assume that exams have the power of enhancing learning. Unfortunately, most exams in Nepal, particularly SLC exams have been most infamous due to slack administrability. In this write-up, however, I take into account of a different cause of notoriety in SLC exams and that is attitudes of people towards it.

S.L.C. (School Leaving Certificate) examination also known as the iron gate of school level education has concluded in the month of Chaitra.  We all know that SLC exams have ever been as famous as infamous. It has been crucial because until now it has been an evaluation system at the final level of schooling but it has been infamous due to rampant cheating. Comparatively the examination system seems to be improving gradually the authorities have claimed. The concerned authorities say that they have paid due attention on the examination this year. The Chief District Officers (CDO), District Education Officers (DEO), Resource Persons (RPs) and other responsible authorities say that they have realized that SLC exam needs to be improved and have therefore have taken steps to do so.

However, upon scrutiny, the exams have not improved to the extent they should have. This year also we witnessed the cases of cheating, fake students appearing in exams, invigilators involved in helping students cheat, brawls between policemen and guardians. At many places it has been found that if students were not able to cheat in the exams or if they were held for cheating, or if they were put in police custody, both the parents and students became upset and approached various people in post and power for help, showed agitation, shouted slogans against the superintendents and invigilators that they be allowed for cheating. We also found many fake candidates appearing in the exams in place of others, even constituent assembly members at some centers.

Students’ preparation for exams can often be questioned. Many times, students do not seem to have prepared properly and have depended on cheats. Their level of study is seen so low that many of them have copied whatever they have been given. Let me share an incident that happened this Chaitra in SLC exam:

One of the guardians happened to be the fake invigilator to help his daughter (candidate) in the exam. He had a number of papers in his pocket including cheats for his candidate. While the Chief District Officer (CDO) came to supervise the exam, he became frightened and hurriedly and unknowingly gave the paper related to court. When the candidate came home and when her father asked her if she copied the same paper, she said ‘yes’ from beginning to end.

This reveals the level of our students.

The most distressing fact is that guardians themselves have been found involved in helping students cheat in exams. It is very sad that they have not been aware of the implications of such cheating in the lives of their children ultimately. Many guardians approach invigilators and policemen and request them to help their students with the unfair means in the exams. They call their relatives, particularly those who have already passed SLC exams to help the candidates during the examinations periods as if they are preparing for celebrating some festivals. If their relatives don’t come to help, they do not hesitate to break relationship. They call some people to prepare cheats and others to take cheat to the candidates. They gather at the examination centers as they have come to watch fair.  They want their children to cheat and secure good marks in the examinations. They think nothing except their children’s success in examinations. In some parts of the country, they think if their candidates pass the SLC exam, their guardians will have to give fewer dowries in their daughters’ marriage and will get good husbands. Their sons will also get good dowry and good family. They can go to foreign country to earn money. It is very pathetic that guardians have taken exam and education synonymously. They merely want their students to get through the exams and obtain higher scores at any cost and that’s it. It is truly very pitiable that many of Nepalese guardians are not aware of what education is and what exam is.

I would like to ask a few questions. How justifiable it is for parents or guardians to approach for cheating? If so, will their students be capable for higher studies even if they can get through the SLC exams? What worth human resources will we have tomorrow? What can we expect from them for the development of the community and nation? I realize that we ourselves are responsible for spoiling our land by producing only certificate holder manpower.

Multilingualism in/and Nepalese Education

Shailaja Jha

We all know that Nepal is an extremely multilingual society. But what is the status of multilingualism in educational context of Nepal? In this essay, I describe multilingualism and the spread of English in Nepal. I also discuss multilingualism as a means for creating social harmony as well as enhancing teaching and learning in general. I conclude by highlighting the role of teachers in promoting multilingualism.

Most of the Nepalese people are multilinguals, and many people don’t even have a clear order of first and second languages. For example, my home language is Maithili but, interestingly enough, I cannot speak it very well. Instead, I have learned Newari in addition to the mainstream language Nepali. This means that we are such a multilingual society that some of us even get confused as to which language is our “home” or “heritage” language.  In fact, most of the world’s population speaks more than one language but most of the population in western cultures is monolingual in one of the “major” languages in spite of being exposed to other languages mainly in the school context. So, multilingualism is the norm rather than exception of human societies, except that educational and political institutions try to create artificial situations where one or a few languages are given systematic privilege without realizing that suppressing language diversity is counterproductive as well as insensitive.

“There are almost no territories [in the world] in which only one languages is used by the citizenry” (Cenoz & Genesee 1998). In South Africa eleven languages are given a constitutional recognition as official ones; in India, this number is twenty-two! When people are left to their own linguistic devices, especially in the urban environments which are increasingly the norm of life in this country, their speech behavior is characterized by fluidity, interconnection, multi component code switching and easy transcendence of notional linguistic boundaries. This is true particularly of informal domains.

Also, if we look at the issue of multilingualism in societies like Nepal, South Africa, and India, we will see that there is no single and simple definition of multilingualism. Multilingualism can be rigidly defined as being native-like in two or more languages, but it can also be loosely defined as being less than native-like but still able to communicate in two or more languages. Multilingual speakers have acquired and maintained at least one language during childhood, the so-called first language (L1). First languages (sometimes also referred to as mother tongue) are acquired without formal education, by mechanisms heavily disputed. Children acquiring two first languages since birth are called simultaneous bilinguals. Even in the case of simultaneous bilinguals one language usually dominates over the other. This kind of bilingualism is most likely to occur when a child is raised by bilingual parents in a predominantly monolingual environment. It can also occur when the parents are monolingual but have raised their child or children in two different countries.

Many people believe that Nepali language has always been the majority language of Nepal; in reality, Nepali was called Khaskura spoken by a group of people that was probably no larger than other groups like Magar, Tamang, Sherpa, or Limbu today. Nepali (Khaskura) evolved from the language spoken by a group that became politically powerful in the last two centuries, and in fact it also spread far and wide into Bhutan, India and Myanmar. Nepali language is also the official language of the state of Sikkim in India. At present, almost half of the total population of Nepal speaks Nepali; the other half of the population speaks almost a hundred different languages. If you think about it, Nepal is not only home to more language families than all of Europe combined, but also has more distinct and individual languages in one country than the whole of the European community (Yadava, 2003). However, there is the lack of study and discussion of endangered minority languages and the possible reasons of their status of being endangered for the integrated development of the country. Negligence of Government on Language policy towards poor, rural ethno-linguistic communities, and overemphasis on one language policy considering Nepali as the official language and as the medium of creating national identity and homogenization also can be pointed out major influential reasons for disregarding minority ethnic and indigenous languages. The state policy of the government takes endangerment and extinction of minority language as the matter of mere ‘language shift’ whereas the members from the ethnic and indigenous community might take it seriously as the matter of as Skutnabb-Kangas (2000) states as ‘linguistic genocide’. Some linguists diplomatically point towards political and ideological perspective in regard to the matter of endangerment, extinction of minority languages.

The newest and most important dynamics in Nepali multilingualism is the entry of English as a medium of education and a language of business, diplomacy, and cross-cultural communication. On the one hand, everyone knows the benefits of multilingualism: they would like to teach their children not only English but also other languages. But on the other hand, it is difficult for the next generation to develop the same level of language proficiency for academic and professional communication, for higher learning and sharing of complex ideas if they only use their local languages for basic communication and use English only for educational, professional, and intellectual purposes.

Educators understand that multilingualism helps to facilitate access to curriculum and to learning in school. It also improves communication between different linguistic groups. Multilingualism provides children with ability to share in a wide range of intercultural experiences such as literature, entertainment, religion, and other interests. Children can become fluent in more than one language and for many people throughout the world multilingualism is very common. The level of fluency depends on factors such as the language programme children follow in school and the extent of parental support. The ability to speak the mother tongue as well as the national language and an international language creates a much wider range of life choices for individuals but can also achieve national unity. There is no scientific evidence that learning more than one language is intellectually damaging. Children who have a good understanding of how different languages function are more likely to have good analytical skills and are often more effective communicators.  Therefore, there is no doubt that multilingualism is a positive social and personal resource.

As teachers of language and literacy, we also know that there is no evidence to show that multilingual societies are more disadvantages than monolingual countries. Social disadvantage is caused by factors other than language. It is important educationally that children learn in their mother tongues in the early years of schooling. Our Government also make policy regarding this.

However, the forces of globalization, prevailing myths about the power of English (as if it is a magical potion that will create jobs and opportunities and intellectual progress on its own) make it very difficult for societies to develop educational systems based on their understanding of multilingualism. Due to the globalization of English, parents and teachers are attracted towards giving education to the students in English medium right from the very beginning. They wrongly believe that students will be able to better succeed in the competitive world if they have English proficiency. In reality, it is knowledge and skills that students most need. A lot of research regarding multilingualism shows that supporting children’s first language will enhance the acquisition of the second and third language. Similarly, there is a link between multilingualism and creativity. Multilingualism broadens access to information and offers alternative ways of organizing thoughts. But unfortunately, these realities get lost in the maze of myths about the magic of English.

Just consider the work of a businessperson; most business people need to travel around the world, communicate with people who speak different languages. It is very clear that if your students can speak multiple languages they will be much better business people who can not only sell better but will also create and maintain goodwill with a lot more people in the future. Or consider your students who may become diplomats, administrators and managers of multinational corporations or the United Nations, writers and journalists. There is no profession that I can think of where our students will not do better if they are multilingual. But remember, it will not be enough for them to “know” how to conduct basic communication in all the other languages except English. Only if we allow, encourage, and facilitate the use of multiple languages at higher levels of education can our students be efficient multilinguals in their future careers.

Many educators wrongly believe that promoting multilingualism is costly, impractical, or difficult. The reality is that such assumptions are simply wrong. Promoting multilingualism need not cost anything: you can just encourage your students to use and develop different languages by asking them to express their ideas in different languages in the classroom (maybe as long as everyone understands). Similarly, there is nothing impractical about equally respecting and promoting different languages that your students speak; instead, the opposite should be seen as unprofessional, unethical, and shameful for educated people and educators. Finally, multilingualism is becoming a profitable business in many areas. Think about a student who is able to translate documents. Realizing the importance of multilingualism, nowadays many software companies are developing multilingual interfaces, multilingual applications for translation, multilingual communicative mechanisms, etc.

Yet another problem with educators is that they believe that they are not qualified to teach or promote multilingualism. While it may be true that you are not “qualified” to teach different languages, there is no reason why you should not promote and encourage multiple languages among your students. And, there is absolutely no reason why you should suppress students’ languages. Just think about it: you have no right to do that in the first place.

Yes, politicians try to divide the society along linguistic lines. But as educators we can help our students speak the languages of different ethnic groups and thereby help them become cross-cultural citizens and promoters of cultural harmony. For this we need to realize that we are very rich in culture and its aspects, we need to utilize our culture to create peace and harmony among the people of Nepal not for fighting with each other in the name of culture and language.

As teachers of language in a rich multilingual country, it is our duty to facilitate multicultural education among our students. Trust me, if we do so we will not betray our students’ need to learn more English. If our students continue to learn new ideas, if they grow up as citizens of the world who understand and respect different cultures and their languages, in the long run, their English will be better.  We need to prepare students for the real world and the real world is multicultural and multilingual. At the very least, we need to draw on students’ linguistic and cultural experiences and knowledge, allow them to utilize those resources, and never try to suppress them—whether intentionally or not. Teacher in multicultural classrooms should be open to their students and put forth the effort needed to know their students inside or outside the classroom. Evaluating cultural diversity, teachers should build multicultural programs, show appreciation of differences, avoid stereotypes, acknowledge differences in children and discover the diversity within the classroom. If we think about it, respect and promotion of multilingualism could be the basis for a new kind of thinking among the future leaders and citizens of this country—different from the monolingual presumptions that lie at the heart of violence, protest, strike, kidnap, rape, robbery and mass brutality in our time.

References

Crystal, D. (2003). Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. Blackwell publishing.

The Interim Constitution of Nepal. (2007). Part 3, Article 17)

Phayak, P. (2009). MA in Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Institute of Education, University of London.

Yadav ,Y.P. (2007). Linguistic Diversity in Nepal Perspective on language policy, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Kansakar, T. R.  (1996). Multilingualism. Nepal, Kathmandu.

Subedi, D.P (2010).  Multi cultural classroom issues in the Nepalese context, Journal of Education and Research Nepal, Kathmandu.

Koirala B.N. (2010). Opportunities for multi lingual Education in Nepal,  Journal of Education and Research, Nepal, Kathmandu.