Welcome to the Ninth Anniversary Issue of ELT Choutari, with Special Coverage of ELT Curriculum and Materials in Nepal

Growing older and giving back better

We are delighted to present the ninth anniversary issue of ELT Choutari. This is a legacy of work and inspiration of scholars at home and abroad for sustaining a forum and building new knowledge on relevant issues in ELT and on education more broadly. In 2017, we were able to publish two strong issues on ICT in education and language planning and policy. While we have published less often recently, we remain inspired to present high-quality scholarship through this venue. We are committed to regularising the publication of Choutari and we encourage our readers to share their work.

As we celebrate the ninth anniversary of “Nepal’s first digital ELT magazine,” this issue covers the subject of “ELT Curriculum and Materials in Nepal: Process, Quality, and Learnability”.

The curriculum is an area that needs the attention of scholars and policy-makers alike. Curriculum Development Centre (CDC), Nepal states that only the materials produced by it are textbook, whereas the materials published by private publication are called additional reading or reference materials. Students of private schools around the country are reading these additional reading/reference materials as the textbooks except for district and regional level exams in class eight and ten respectively. Big private publishers supply a large amount of such additional reading materials to schools around the country and those materials have their own characteristics. The additional reading materials available in the market do not show that their quality is controlled (or the national benchmark set) by the CDC, which is one of its primary roles.

Private publishers seem to believe that if their materials are thicker and heavier, they are better. Therefore, they include more material, in fancier format, for better ‘branding’, loading more materials beyond the expectations of the curriculum and levels of students. As a result, the current curriculum (unfortunately defined narrowly as textbooks) puts almost cruel and educationally absurd pressure on young students. Most of our teachers and parents strictly stick to the materials, rarely adapting the materials but instead just trying to “finish” the book by the end of the term (as their schools and parents also want them to do). It rarely matters whether the material is good, if it is relevant to course objective, or if it is appropriate and learnable to the students–not to mention how the approach undermines the ingenuity of the teacher.

Students are judged on the basis of how much of the material–however bad–they can ‘master’ through memory, rather than by understanding and using meaningfully. It is saddening to see the absolute power of developers, public officials, and school administrators, most of whom are both uninformed and uninterested in issues like this–while they love to lead the education sector. Who has time to think about boring issues like this, right? The intellectual development of students, meaningfulness of curriculum from social perspectives, role, and the ability of educators in the classroom is ignored. What really matters is whatever glitters!

On the other hand, textbooks published by the government are far from ideal. They may have been strictly based on the curriculum of the government and appropriate to the average students but does their content address the needs of students with different levels and types of abilities? Likewise, is there variety in activities? Are the lessons attractive and engaging for them? Do they try to tap into the teacher’s own ideas and ingenuity? Do the materials published especially by private publication undergo quality control? Are writers and developers sufficiently knowledgeable about curriculum and pedagogy, about benchmarks and reality on the ground, or even the subject matter? Are others involved in the publication process–such as illustrators and graphic designers–trained and qualified? What is the role of the national body of curriculum and textbook CDC to produce such manpower? Are our learners reading truly appropriate and learnable curricular materials? Or have we given in to the whims of the market and fashion as a nation?

Thus, curriculum–in both narrow and broad senses of the term–is an important issue that needs a lot more attention in our scholarship. It is in this context that this issue of Choutari focuses on ELT curriculum and materials in Nepal. Our writers and hopefully readers are also involved in this discourse, and we hope to generate more conversations around this topic in the future.

In the first post, Prem Prasai shares A teacher’s practice and perception on English language textbook of secondary level based on his day to day experience as a textbook user.

In the second post, Bishow Raj Joshi shares his journey from a teacher to English language textbook writer including the process, achievements, and challenges of developing textbooks.

Likewise, in an interview, Bal Ram Adhikari shares his experiences of a higher level course developer including the process, trends in course development, his observation on the available courses, prospects, and challenges of course development.

Similarly, in another post, Ramesh Ghimire, a Curriculum Officer at Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) shares his observations on the ELT textbooks in the market and the process and policy of CDC.

On the other hand, Bal Krishna Sharma in another post sheds light on the two ‘tremendously useful’ books the English teachers.

The next post is a survey on students reading habits on the non-textbooks translated by Praveen Kumar Yadav based on the survey conducted by Research and Analytics. It explores the interests of students in the non- textbooks, their reading habit, the role of teachers and parents to promote reading non-textbooks, the popular genre among students etc.

In the quest of offering you something innovative and engaging, we have stepped up to offer you an audio-visual interview. In the interview, Dr. Vishnu S. Rai shares his journey of developing textbook, the inception of the functional curriculum in ELT in Nepal, the quality and learnability of the available textbooks and materials in the market, and the future of ELT curriculum and materials.

Last not the least, we have an announcement made by Dr Prem Phyak for our readers about the first ever annual ELT and Applied Linguistics Conference, organized by Department of English Education, Tribhuvan University Nepal.

Likewise, it gives us the joy to share you that ELT Choutari has launched its own YouTube Channel ELT Choutari- YouTube  in order to share the audio-visual resources and thus expanding the horizon of ELT Choutari. We are very hopeful that you will subscribe our channel and stay updated.

Please check the list of the eight posts in this issue:

  1. A Teacher’s Practice and Perception on English Language Textbook of Secondary Level: Prem Prasai
  2. My Journey to Become a Textbook Writer: Bishow Raj Joshi
  3. We’re Still Toddlers in Designing Materials for University Level: Bal Ram Adhikari
  4. Parents & Students Have no Choice in Materials Selection: Ramesh Ghimire
  5. More to ELT: Two Books on Language Education and Communication: Bal Krishna Sharma
  6. [SURVEY] Reading Habit: Do our students read the books outside the textbooks?,translated by Praveen Kumar Yadav
  7. (VIDEO) Dr Vishnu S. Rai in Conversation with Dr. Prem Phyak on ELT Textbook and Materials Writing in Nepal
  8. [Announcement] First Annual ELT & Applied Linguistics Conference 2018, Prem Phyak

I would like to say thanks to all the founders of ELT Choutari and the past editors; we’re building on the legacy you’ve passed on to us. I am very grateful to Dr. Shyam Sharma for help with editing, to Praveen Kumar Yadav for support with materializing this issue, and to fellow Choutari editors (Karna Bahadur Rana and Ashok Raj Khati) for their contributions and leadership.

Please remember to leave a comment on what you read, share anything you like with your network, and to consider contributing your own writing in the future.

Thank you.

Jeevan Karki
Lead Editor, ELT Choutari, New Year Issue, 2018

Interview with Ramesh Ghimire on Govt’s Process of Textbook/Materials Writing and Approval

Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) is an academic unit under the Ministry of Education, Government of Nepal. The main aim of the CDC is to develop curricula, textbooks along with other instructional materials for school education in order to achieve the national goals of education. Since this issue is focused on textbook writing and material development, we have Ramesh Ghimire, Curriculum Officer to talk about the CDC’s process of ELT materials development, policy, and quality of ELT textbooks and additional materials available in the market.

Below is the excerpt of Choutari Editor Jeevan Karki‘s conversation with Curriculum Officer Ghimire.

Ramesh ji, welcome to the Special Issue of Choutari. Could you please explain our readers about the difference between ELT textbook and materials developed by the government and private sector from government publication and private?

Thank you Jeevan sir. Let me first declare that the views I am sharing here are my personal. However, they do not represent those of the Curriculum Development Centre, where I am employed.

One must understand that the materials developed by private publications are called additional reading materials or reference materials. They are not the textbooks. But, those materials developed by the CDC are called textbooks. However, the CDC approves the materials developed by the private publications.

Both the CDC and the private publication follows the curriculum of the government in order to produce the materials. However, there is a great variation among the publications in terms of the quality of the materials. We can compare the ELT textbook and reference materials published by the government publication (CDC-produced materials) and private publication on several grounds. 

First, the difficulty level of the materials from the private publication is relatively higher or in some cases even lower than those of the government produced materials.

Second, the materials from government publication are developed following a due process like the task force-teacher workshop-subject committee-coordination-committee-final approval. But the materials from the private publications do not undergo this process. Even though they claim that they have underwent the similar process, there is no mechanism to monitor it.

Third, unlike the materials produced by private publication, the CDC-produced materials are piloted before their actual use. The CDC-produced materials are disseminated all over the country and the teachers are oriented before they use them. In the contrary, this is not the case with the materials developed by private publications.

In terms of contextualization of the content and consideration of inclusive principles, CDC-produced materials are far better than those produced by private publications.

There is the involvement of both the government and the private sectors in the distribution process of CDC-produced materials. On the other hand, the materials from private publications are distributed in the selected areas only. It is often heard that the school decides the materials but the teachers, parents and the students have no choice in the selection of those materials. Similarly, the materials from the private publications are content-loaded and therefore they can be relatively difficult. In terms of cultural appropriateness and teaching-learning approach, I feel that CDC-produced materials are better than those developed by private publications.

However, in terms of peripheral features like the design, layout, paper quality and so on, the materials from private publications are better. Unlike the CDC produced materials, the materials from private publications are colourful and their price is higher. Recently, the government has also started printing out colourful textbooks and materials especially for the basic level (up to grade 5).

You mention that the private publishers should follow the government curriculum of government while developing their books and materials. Is there any way or process to ensure their materials developed by private sector are based on the national curriculum?

The private sector must follow the curriculum of the government. If their materials are not consistent with the curriculum, CDC does not approve them. The private publications require the CDC’s approval before they bring the materials in the market. This means that there is a systematic process of material approval. They cannot have their own curriculum to develop the materials. The sole authority for developing curricula of school level in Nepal with CDC.

Even if the materials approved by the CDC through its so-called ‘approval process’, the contents included in the materials developed by private publishers   are stretched beyond the prescribed curriculum. Sometimes, those materials are too difficult to level of children and they lack appropriateness. To be honest, such textbooks are merely creating pressure on students, how does CDC deal with it?  

Yes, I admit that the materials produced by private sectors are loaded with more contents, which are not necessary and go beyond the curriculum. This is what I have already mentioned while answering your first question. It is really a good question but is challenging for the CDC to deal with.

When it comes to the approval process, we in the CDC have a rigorous discussion and debate on the content of such materials. In the CDC, we have two schools of thought. One thought is that the contents of such materials should  exactly be in line with the curriculum. Another school of thought is that their content can, to some extent, be beyond the curriculum since these are only additional reading materials.

Now coming to your question regarding the the role of CDC in dealing with the issue, the CDC tries its best to make the private publications “adjust” the contents of their materials in line with the level of curriculum. The CDC can check the contents strictly before providing them the approval.

Private schools are also using the imported ELT materials. It is heard that such books neither follows our curriculum nor the publishers have any approval from the government. Who is responsible for supervising the quality, appropriateness and applicability of such books? How do these materials get approved?

The CDC has also approved the materials developed by different international publishers or publications. The CDC also supervises the materials in terms of quality, cost, appropriateness and applicability of the materials.

The CDC approval is mandatory to disseminate materials in schools. Therefore, no one can take any curricular materials in school level without the prior-approval of the CDC. The existing Education rules, 2059 (2002), Rule no. 35 has made a clear provision regarding the use of additional reading and teaching materials and textbooks. The one who goes against it shall be punished according to the law.

One of the main functions of the CDC is to conduct research on curricula and textbooks. What kind of research does it conduct? Can you share with our readers about some of the recent researches?

The CDC conducts research on the areas of school curricula, textbooks and other curricular materials and the status of their implementation. Last year, we conducted a research on “The Present Situation of Curriculum Implementation” focusing on the curricula of the basic level.

Schools around the world and few private schools even in Nepal develop their own syllabus and course/text books for their students as per their context. How long might it take Nepal to start this new dimension in schools?

There is a practice of developing curriculum by the schools in Nepal. Up to grade 8, schools can develop a local curriculum (as a local subject) of 100 marks and in the basic level (up to grade 5) 20 percent content can be developed at the local level in 3 subjects: social studies, creative arts and physical education. Now in the changed context of federalism in the country, the provincial and local governments may take initiatives in the development and management of local curricula.

Finally, as we are heading towards the implementation of federalism, how would the CDC function in the changed governance model?

I think the role of the CDC will be certainly different in federalism. Its role will be primarily to maintain national standards of the school curricula, to make policy related to school curricula and curricular materials, to develop capacity of the people at various levels and to provide technical assistance in the areas of curriculum and curricular materials as required.