Nelta’s History

Birth of NELTA

NELTA was born in the British Council Nepal in 1992 when its first meeting was held in the British Council Office. I remember the day when Mr. David Pottinger, then Assistant Director of the British Council wrote the minutes of the first meeting on a plain sheet of paper and all the members who attended the meeting promised to keep this association away from all the organisational ills including politics and favouritism. It was, thus, established as a non-government, non-political, non-profit making, professional association with the aims of improving ELT situation. The need to improve the teaching and learning of the English language, thereby keeping abreast of new development in ELT, lay the foundation of NELTA. The other members present in the meeting were Mr. Jai Raj Awasthi (currently the professor of English Education), Dr. Tirth Raj Khaniya (currently the professor of English Education), Mr. Ram Ashish Giri, Mr. Ratna Bahadur Bajracharya, Principal of Anandhakuti Vidyapith, Mrs. Meera Shrestha and myself. The meeting assigned Mr. Awasthi to draft NELTA constitution and an committee was formed. This is the first milestone that NELTA set in its journey.

The justifications to its birth were many. To recall some of them are listed below:

  • The mjority of English teachers in Nepal were untrained and no EFL qualifications were/are required to become an English teacher. Thus, some kind of initiation to familiarise them with the ELT pedagogy was a must.
  • All the teachers’ associations that exist in Nepal were affiliated to political parties and functioning as trade unions. But NELTA was established exclusively for professional development of English language teachers.
  • Teachers could hardly participate in the professional development activities during that time because of lack of professional organizations.
  • The ever-increasing demand of English grew higher and higher due to the expansion of business and tourism sectors with the restoration of democracy in the country.
  • The Ministry of Education was in the verge of revising the ELT syllabus in school level. The shift from Structural teaching to Communicative teaching demanded massive teacher training orientation which the government could not do alone.

(Mr. Gautam, one of the founding members of NELTA, is now its Senior Vice-President. If you would like to read the full article published in NELTA journal, please click here. Note that the dates and details in this article are not current, but the article is relevant and interesting from a historical point of view.)

A snapshot from Choutari history

Originally written by Shyam Sharma on a joint blog namedKnowledgeMaking–contributed Bal and Prem also–before we began the NeltaChoutari blog, which replaced three people talking with a web magazine and public discussion forum. (post date changed here)

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“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 knowledgemaking.pbwiki 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! Here is how each of those technologies would help us preserve good conversation for our own and other people’s advantage.

  • Blog: a blog, like this one, will allow us to archive our discussions by date and also allows us to tag them by subject areas so we can both browse and search. I am serious when I suggest that what we are talking about is real serious “knowledge,” and I believe there’s much advantage in at least the three of us sharing/brainstorming ideas like those that we’ve been for some time. Having a common blog will allow us to freely write back and forth, generate ideas for long term and short term project, and not worry about manually archive them.
  • Wiki: Our Choutari wiki is public, so I set up a private one knowledgemaking.pbwiki for us to set up a schedule (that’s best for collaborative edititing, project schedule, automatic update notification, etc, and we’re already familiar). For all the good things, wiki demands that we archive things manually, so let us use both wiki and blog to do what they can do.
  • Discussion list: It’s still high-end technology (one that I had on my site went corrupt with a million spams, so I got rid of it). Advantages include designed for interaction, automatic archiving, visual organization of response, and a lot of built-in convenience for discussing in particular. I will update on this; you guys do the same.

On a more important note, lately we’ve also been talking about oral projects. Coming from an oral culture, we do better than westerners with oral interaction, oral materials, especially in Nepalese (Trust me, if we don’t require people to say it all in English, they’d say more substantial things). So, by using a schedule on wiki that we all can edit, let us set up something like once a month 3-way call on Skype among the 3 of us, talk based on specific agenda (communicated by email in advance; or negotiated before going on record), with one of us moderating the interaction, and record the talk and edit it.”

Classroom Humor (NeltaChoutari Jan 09)

AS MANY ANSWERS AS THERE ARE STUDENTS

Teacher: Sarita, make a sentence that starts with an “I”.
Sarita: I is the…
Teacher: Stop! Never put ‘is’ after an ‘I’. Always put ‘am’ after an ‘I’.
Sarita: OK. I am the ninth letter of the alphabet.
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INNATE HONESTY OF TEACHERS?

Ramesh and Rajan were arguing when the teacher entered the room.
Teacher: Why are you arguing?
Ramesh: We found a hundred rupee note and decided to give it to whoever tells the biggest lie.
Teacher: You should be ashamed of yourselves. When I was your age I didn’t even know what a lie was.
The boys gave the money to the teacher.

CRITICAL PEDAGOGY AND ELT

Introduction to January 2009 Issue of Nelta Choutari

Critical Pedagogy is a term that refers to a whole range of educational theories that emphasize the need for the learner to be critically conscious about the process, purpose, and relevance of learning. Many of the key concepts of critical pedagogy are derived from a few major educational philosophers like Paulo Friere, John Dewey, and Lev Vygotsky. In this column, we are presenting a reading from the famous book Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Freire in which he critiqued traditional systems of education as mainly an act of ‘banking’ or depositing of information by teachers into the heads of students as passive learners. As a more progressive, humanitarian, and democratic alternative, Freire proposed the idea of what he called the ‘problem-posing’ model of education, a process that involves learners in the understanding, application, and production of knowledge as it matters to their lives, situations, and needs.  Critical pedagogy is an educational approach that attempts to help students question and challenge existing social structures of inequality and domination, beliefs and practices to overcome problems and achieve intellectual and spiritual as well social and economic empowerment and emancipation. In his book Empowering Education, author Ira Shor defines critical pedagogy as “habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional clichés, received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse” (129). Some scholars argue that this concept evolved out of Paulo Friere’s philosophy of education; but there were other scholars before Friere who had laid much groundwork for the development of critical pedagogy. John Dewey (1859 – 1952), who is often considered the founder of ‘progressive’ and also ‘constructive’ education, had developed many ideas that helped define and shape modern pragmatic, student-centered, and experience-based pedagogies. Lev Vygotsky (1896 – 1934), a Russian psychologist whose work is often credited as the key source of constructivist theory of education, had contributed the idea that learners learn best from interacting with other learners and in real social situations instead of teachers’ lectured input. The common constructivist practices of collaborative learning, peer mentoring, group work, and peer review all draw on this idea that students can learn through meaningful interactions with their peers, rather than solely with the teacher. Critical pedagogy, in short, is the pedagogy of socially directed and intellectually conscious education.

Freire’s Ideas (intro to reading)

Freire: Banking Model of Education

Paulo Friere’s book Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a book that most of us have either read or read about and one that has sold almost 6 lakh copies and Freire is one of the most famous educational philosophers of the twentieth century. The part of the book that is being introduced here is where Friere discusses the ‘banking’ model of education, or the traditional approach in teaching where teachers “deposit” facts and ideas into the students’ minds, instead of involving them in actively generating their own ideas, helping them make knowledge relevant and productive in their own real lives.

Friere suggests here that the banking model of education is usually used by, or works in favor of, the rulers/oppressors of the society; teachers in such systems may teach without even realizing how they are being used by the oppressive system. By simply banking given ideas as knowledge in their students, they help the system ‘brainwash’ young people into believing in the status quo, into accepting the patterns of inequality and injustice as ‘natural’ and ideal, and into disciplining them in the name of education so the system can always benefit from the established values, stability, culture, etc.

The alternative approach to education that Friere suggests here is what he calls the ‘problem-posing’ approach. To simplify, this approach involves the teacher presenting problems of real life before students, including perhaps the problems of traditional education, so students can think about those problems for themselves and in relation to the reality of their lives, and learn through solving real problems. By helping students see that education is creating knowledge that matters to the learner, that knowledge is a ‘process of inquiry’, and that they “educate the teacher” in the process of creating knowledge, a true teacher can transform the system of education and the society in favor of the learner instead of molding them to fit in and ’succeed’ in the system.

This quick introduction to the reading already sounds ineffectual…. please enjoy Friere himself, now available online (at this site). If you wish to read more, almost the entire book is now available online here.

The 27th Letter of the English Alphabet

Teacher’s Anecdote (Nelta Choutari Jan 09)

It was the very first week of my teaching at Pinewood English School in Butwal, about 15 years ago. I had just given classwork to my Nursery class and was going around to see how individual students were doing. One little boy, named Ankit, called me: “Sir, here come na.” (he had been a ‘boarder’ for a year, so he already had an impressive range of pidgin English expressions to communicate with). ‘This what?’ he asked, showing me a strange drawing on his notebook that looked like the letter G with three arms added to the right side! I said, “I don’t know.” He looked in my eyes, smiled, and then said, “Tell na!” With me sitting there realizing the difficulty of the situation, Ankit repeated his question for a while, along with strong gestures and the sweet voice of a four year old, “Umm, tell na, sir”! I finally ventured an answer, “That’s nothing”.

Ankit looked at me, smiled very brightly and with a visible sense of gratitude, and said, “E, nothing”! Then he went on to draw the same shape once again, and showed me: “Look, sir, this nothing”!

To this day, I remember Ankit and the 27th alphabetical letter in English that he invented and forced me to name. That has been the most unforgettable moment of respect for the kind of creativity that kids like Ankit demonstrate, which I am often afraid I have inadvertently stifled for 15 years. ‘Am I banking or am I not?’ is a serious question.

–Ghanashyam Sharma

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