From ‘schooled pedagogy’ to ‘pedagogy of disaster’: The role of EFL teachers in the super-difficult circumstance of post-disaster Nepal

Prem Phyak

Prem Phyak

Introduction

The memory of taking classes in a temporary shelter made up of bamboo and tin after the 1988 earthquake is still vivid in my memory. The two-story building of my school on the slope of the mountain village in eastern Nepal was very badly shaken by the earthquake. We could not take classes in the old building. The villagers, teachers, and students worked very hard for many days to build a temporary shelter and run classes. I still remember that in the shelter we used to read aloud “Hello Sita, Hello Ram. Knock, Knock. Knock, Knock” to let our teachers know that we are engaged in doing our tasks. Many times, we could not take classes due to rain and storm. I don’t quite remember how our teachers helped us recover from dreadful experience from the disaster, but the Friday cultural programs and the outdoor activities including field trips were part of fun activities. I wish I had a camera or a cell phone to take the pictures of classes in the shelter during that time. Nobody in the village had these devices then. The situation now has changed a lot. The villagers have cellphones to take pictures and upload them on Facebook to share with wider audience about the updates from the village. We have seen the “social media power” during and post-disaster stage of the April 25 earthquake.

The 7.8 magnitude (April 25, 2015), followed by hundreds of aftershocks including the 7.4 magnitude (May 12, 2015)– took  more than 9,000 people’s lives  and destroyed more than 510,762 homes. Various news reports show that more than 25,000 classrooms of 8,000 schools have to be rebuilt. BCC estimates that more than 90% of schools are destroyed in the hardest-hit districts such as Sindhupalchok, Dolakha, Gorkha, Rasuwa, and Ramechhap. The government estimates the costs of $7 billion, a third of the country’s gross domestic product, to rebuild the damaged physical infrastructures. However, what is missing from the discussion is how to help about two million children who are directly affected by the disaster. While the school dropout has been a thorny issue even before the earthquake, this disaster might further contribute to the increase the dropout rate. UNICEF estimates that more than 1.2 million Nepali children (5-16 years old) are out of school and warns that thousands of children may not join school if appropriate measures are not developed in the post-earthquake stage. Since many children from rural villages have to be relocated in other safe places, they may not find a conducive environment and support to go to school and fully participate in educational activities.

In this blog post, I present the preliminary findings of an ongoing survey research on the role of EFL teachers in the “super-difficult circumstance” of the post-disaster Nepal.  I am using the term “super-difficult circumstance” to embrace the multitude of issues connected with the recent earthquake. I argue that this disaster is not just an earthquake but the convergence of other cascading disasters such as landslides, flooding, and food shortage that directly impacts on children’s educational activities. Moreover, the super-difficult circumstance not only includes lack of physical infrastructures (e.g., school buildings, furniture), but also, and most importantly, complex socio-cultural, economic and political ecology that affect smooth operation of educational activities in the post-disaster situation of Nepal.

The language of disaster: What should EFL teachers know?

Disaster, which affects our daily lives, society, and economy, has never been the focus of English language teaching. Due to the disciplinary boundary, disaster has often been taught as a content of science, geography/social studies, and environmental/population studies. However, the global occurrences of disasters (e.g., hurricane, typhoon, earthquake, flooding, drought, and glacial lake outburst) is increasingly affecting our lives. The world has already experienced numerous disasters in which millions of people died. The Tōhoku Earthquake/Tsunami (2011, Japan), East Africa Drought (2011, East Africa), Haiti Earthquake (2010, Haiti), Pakistan Earthquake (2005, Pakistan), Hurricane Katrina (2005, USA), and Indian Ocean Earthquake (2004, Indonesia), among others, have already taught us so many lessons about disaster management and humanitarian assistance. Should EFL teachers be aware of such disasters and their impacts? How can they contribute to responding to such disasters through teaching?

Of course, EFL teachers should be aware of various types of disasters and help their students become more resilient to cope with traumatic experiences from disasters. The first thing that EFL teachers can do is to incorporate and help students understand various disaster-related concepts in their lessons. The integration of the disaster-related topics definitely enriches vocabulary and the content level awareness of students.

“Disaster” is not easy to define. It literally refers to a sudden event or calamity that causes physical destruction and human suffering. Although there is a debate on the meaning of the term “disaster”, the near consensus definition is: a situation or event, which overwhelms local capacity, necessitating a request to national or international level for external assistance [The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED)]. Other terms such as “catastrophe” and “calamity” are also used to describe disaster. Two important points we should be aware of are: a) disaster can be used as a cover term which includes all kinds of incidents or events that cause human sufferings; b)  as Enrico Quarantelli, a famous scholar of the  sociology of disaster, argues, disasters are not always “natural” but  a “social phenomenon”. Quarantelli and his colleagues argue that disasters are deeply rooted in the social structure; the location of the people, their sociopolitical and economic status, and the type of governance. Although EFL teachers may not contribute to the technical aspect of disaster, they can be instrumental in addressing social issues surrounding disaster.

The recent “Nepal earthquake” has revealed a number of sociocultural issues that EFL teachers can discuss in the classroom to help their students develop “critical language awareness.” In the previous issue of Choutari, Charlotte Benham analyzes various lessons that EFL teachers can learn from the recent disaster. She argues that EFL teachers can learn how some people are unequally affected by the recent disaster and engage their students in a critical analysis of social inequalities as seen in the relief and recovery operations. A number of scholars from other disciplines (such as anthropology, political science, sociology, education, and economics) have highlighted the need for a social justice approach in the “relief”, “rehabilitation”, “recovery”, and “rebuilding” stage of disaster. In the same issue of Choutari, Rojita Adhikari, Neha Shah, Anuradha Sharma, Chetan K Timilsina and Jeevan Karki present on-the-ground experiences and lessons learned from the disaster. EFL teachers can learn many important lessons from their stories. They all highlight the role of teachers as a “change agent” and a “resilient actor” in the post-disaster Nepal.

On a positive note, the recent earthquake has given us rich corpus of language that EFL teachers can use in the classroom. Local, national, and international newspapers have paid a due attention to the Nepal earthquake and documented it in different forms (text, audio, image, and video). Teachers can easily access these materials and use in the classroom. Some key vocabulary words that are used in newspapers include: magnitude, rubble, reeling, avalanche, aftershocks, tremor, epicenter, victims, donors, mitigation, rebuilding, temporary shelter, relocation, resistance, settlements, perish, assurance, high-rise building, trigger, death toll, rescue, emergency, charity, trauma, jolt, shocking, resume, tent, makeshift, ravage, woe, grapple, volunteer, soaring, wipe out, desperate, devastating, injured, limp back , decease, massive, strike, drone, chopper etc. Teachers can use these words in their lessons in multiple ways. Other words/phrases that promote students’ critical thinking include: poverty, corruption, caste-system, untouchability, social exclusion, unequal distribution, poor, rich, urban, rural, overhead costs, rotten rice, discrimination, leftover, (lack of)access to power, NGO-graphy etc. These words/phrases can be used as a base for critical language awareness in EFL classes. However, this requires teachers to transgress “the schooled pedagogy”–the scripted pedagogy adopted in school curricula–and be aware of sociocultural issues connected with the disaster. This “pedagogy of disaster” is collectively built on the life experiences of students, teachers, and communities.

The preliminary findings of the survey

I am receiving encouraging responses from the EFL teachers; out of 100, 25 EFL teachers have already responded to the survey. As an ongoing research the final results of this survey will be shared in the future issues of Choutari. In what follows, I present the preliminary findings.

Trauma and the super-difficult circumstance: All the respondent-teachers have gone through traumatic experiences in the post-earthquake stage. Although there was no any human casualty in their own and immediate relatives’ family, these teachers had “a very traumatic experience” as they were trembled by “the series of main shocks and aftershocks”. One teacher recounts that “all my family members were worried, nervous, confused and restless” while another teacher says he is so much terrified and could not find any “strategy to be free.” Four respondent-teachers have lost their houses and twelve teachers’ school buildings are destroyed. They have to prepare temporary shelters to run classes. Three teachers reveal that they are “financially affected” as they are jobless due to their workplace closure for one and a half months. All the respondent-teachers spent their nights in a tent for 15-25 days. The 65.5 per cent of teachers say that the earthquake has destroyed their schools/colleges/universities that cannot be used for educational activities. Twenty-eight percent of them mention that they are deeply affected by the “loss of their students”. Three teachers report that some students “have not come back” as they lost their houses. One university teacher mentions that they are running their classes in a private college in Kathmandu as the building of their university cannot be used for educational activities. Some major issues reported by the EFL teachers are as follows:

  • Less individual attention, no focus on teaching, and traumatic feelings all the time.

All students are not present in class. They have gone to Terai in their relatives home fearing the frequent aftershocks. Students are not in complete mood of learning, in a way they have lost enthusiasm in learning after the quake.

No readiness for learning. Still aftershocks are trembling them so they feel insecure at school as buildings have cracks somewhere.

  • Students fear of another quake.

Students are not comfortable in the class. School buildings have cracks so they are frightened.

Even the sound of the vehicles make them feel earthquake tremor. They do not dare to sit even in the tent.

Not all but some of them are still afraid of earthquake. For example, they are reluctant to go to their previous classroom on the third floor of the building.

Yes, they are afraid. They try to stay out of the enclosed area. They have completely forgotten their assignments and deadlines.

  • Student cannot concentrate on their subject matter while teaching (they always relate the example or substance of teaching with earthquake).

Many of my students have cracked buildings in their village and their parents and relatives are in very difficult situation. So, students are frustrated and they are not able to concentrate on their study. It’s been very difficult for them to follow the normal time table. They are still restless and worried. In addition to this, there are cracks in the college building and students feel insecure to attend class in rooms which are located in the upper level.

They feel a bit better now as they would like to continue their study after the quake but they still have a fear that earthquake might come again. The Facebook rumor of big earthquake coming has affected their psychology.

The role of EFL teachers in the recovery

The respondent-teachers have contributed to providing relief materials to the earthquake survivors in many ways. They have raised funds, collected food, provided drinking water, participated in rescue operations, distributed medicine, and made shelters for the survivors. These teachers have played very critical role to help their students recover from the deep traumatic experiences from the disaster. Some of the major activities these teachers have done in their classes are as follows:

Counseling: Most of the respondent-teachers have provided counselling services to their students after the reopening of their schools. One teacher says “we have talked to our students and suggested that they should not be worried”.  Another teachers reveals that “we have tried to look and act normal.” These teachers have shared with their students the information about the disaster and how they can remain alert. Some of the teachers have also helped to build temporary learning centers where their students feel safer to learn before they go to school. These teachers have also helped their students buy books, stationery, bags, and uniforms.

Sharing experiences: The majority of the respondent-teachers encouraged students to share their personal experiences in class.  One teacher recounts “I started the class with sharing about the experience. Also asked the students to share how they helped the more unfortunate members of the community.” These teachers also engaged students in making plans to respond to the future disaster. For example, one of the teachers says:

 We all shared our stories together in the beginning, and I talked about the Psychological First Aid (PFA) on the first day of the class. We also talked about how we helped other people in trouble and how we should be helping them in the future. I told them that disasters like earthquake are natural and they come without any alert and we need to face them.

Another teacher shares:

I have started the class narrating my story of survival in the earthquake. The theme or topic of that day’s class was “I survived & I have a story to tell”. I first told them my story and asked them to share their stories of survival. Though the students felt hesitant to share their story, I facilitated them and gave them freedom to use any language and to use any format of storytelling, which they find convenient. As a result, the class became so interesting later. The next days, I have started teaching them with flexible time without sticking to the time schedule of a session. I am not teaching them seriously like I did before the earthquake. The flexible lesson and methods as per their convenience are used in the class so that they will not feel any burden in their mind while teaching. These days, I have stopped giving serious assignments, e.g. in written form but just reading assignment. I chose more interactive sessions which I believe can help them recover from the shock.

Fun activities: Some respondent-teachers are also doing various fun activities with the students. One teacher, for example, has shared her “muktak and gajal” with the class to help students forget the deep shock and sense of fear. Another teacher does not like the idea of sharing personal stories. He believes that it is necessary to “divert their mind to other topics [by] involving them in various creative, fun and entertaining activities such as painting, music, dance and funny quizzes including games.” Some of the respondent-teachers have also used songs, jokes, and newspaper readings as part of classroom activities.

Integrating disaster-related topics in EFL lessons

The respondent-teachers did not include the disaster-related topics in their lessons in the past. But they have started incorporating them after the recent earthquakes. While responding to the question of whether or not he includes the disaster-related topics in his lessons, one of the respondent-teachers asserts that:

Not much in the past but now I do include the disaster-related topics in my lesson. Yesterday, I was teaching them Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) and we discussed at quite length how we can engage the students in discussion to rebuild Nepal. My students came up with some wonderful activities that can be used in high school English class.

Likewise, another teacher says that “I frequently show them movies and videos for taking precautions about the quake.” Some of the respondent-teachers have already started engaging students in developing plans for staying safe in the future disasters. For example, one respondent has already “asked the students to draw pictures of the scene they have seen in and around their homes; to tell me stories they have; to tell me how they felt during and after the quake; to draw pictures on how they can stay safe etc.” These teachers are also engaging students in critical thinking activities and make them aware of how the disaster has affected some people unequally. For example, one of the respondent-teachers ask his students to discuss how the people in Tundikhel [temporary shelters] are living; how they manage food every day; and what they do during rainy days. At the same time, these teachers are also aware of the fact that the repetition of the disaster-related stories might keep students thinking about the devastation. For example, a teacher argues that “I do not want to continue …talking about disaster [as it] will further affect the students. One of students told me that she did not like to hear more about the earthquake as she has already been fed up of listening about it through family, media and friends.”

Conclusions

The preliminary findings of the survey show two critical points. First, it shows that  EFL teachers in the Nepal’s post-disaster situation are, going beyond the “schooled pedagogy”, focusing on the “pedagogy of disaster’ which includes multiple activities inside and outside of the classroom. By participating in rescue, relief, and recovery activities, the EFL teachers have redefined their role as a “change agent” and demonstrated profound agency to the rebuilding of the country. Second, the EFL teachers have shown their critical awareness about the issues associated with the disaster. As one of the teachers argues, the earthquake survivors should not be treated as “beggars” rather they should be considered as a source of knowledge. The storytelling activities alongside counseling and the integration of disaster-related topics in EFL lessons are important classroom strategies for teachers to help students cope with the traumatic experience from the disaster. Following Arjun Appadurai, a famous sociocultural anthropologist and a major theorist in globalization studies, I reiterate that it is important for EFL teachers to engage students to “document” the stories and experiences from Nepal’s earthquake and share them with the global ELT community. This process will not only help EFL teachers develop teaching materials and an archive of knowledge, but also raises students’ critical awareness about society, culture and education.

 

[Acknowledgement: I would like to thank all the teachers who responded to the survey.]

May Special Editorial: Re-envisioning ELT/Choutari in the Aftermath of Great Earthquake

Dear Readers and Contributors,

We apologize for the hiatus in May — as you know, the entire nation was stunned by the major earthquakes that took the lives of thousands and affected those of millions of others in Nepal.

As we start gathering and rebuilding hope, energy, and enthusiasm as educators and citizens, and as members of the profession across national borders, we realize the need to ask new questions. Our questions must be situated in the new context of rebuilding the nation, as well as reforming education.

English Language Teaching (ELT) has always been a means for achieving social goals, and not an end. This is the time to think about what that end, that purpose of ELT and of education at large is. This is the time to reconnect ELT and education at large with challenges, changes, and opportunities in life and society. This is the time to embrace new ideas and perspectives, methods and technologies, people and cultures.

ELT is a means to prepare students for society, professions, and successful lives. We must now reframe the teaching of English language and literature (and all the knowledge and people that they connect to) within the vision of a new Nepal. A Nepal that rises from the rubble. A Nepal that took a disaster and turned into a new journey.

At times, it feels as if work that like this only serves to reinforce the inequity in the society, that it best serves the already privileged. Those of us who run this blog are teachers and scholars mostly living in cities; we use technological platforms that are not available for the majority; and we focus on a foreign language that, for many, is only taught and learned to pass exams (which are deeply discouraging and can drive many away from future careers in learning altogether). This feels like we are driving little scooters around a few cities in a country where doing so will only reach a quarter of the population; half of the nation is only reachable by buses and tractors, and the other quarter is unreached by any vehicle so far. Who are we doing all this for? Are fellow teachers across the country able to join conversations like this, conversations that are framed on the terms of those whom they cannot relate to? How far can technologies go in engaging teachers in vastly different contexts and situations across the country? And, most significantly, what is the new vision for the relatively few connected scholars/teachers after the national crisis, this rising from the dust? How can we leave behind our old modes of thinking and develop new visions, new alliances, new strategies?

ELT is one of our links to the rest of the world. It is also a link between many disciplines in our education. And it is a link between education and many professions in the world. English as a lingua franca links our young generations to bodies of knowledge and other nations/cultures, and to professions like diplomacy and development, business and journalism in the broader/global context. But English has also created bottlenecks in opportunities, hope, and confidence for generations of communities that are already disenfranchised in other ways.

So, especially in the aftermath of this national disaster, how can we expand the scope of opportunities above while disrupting the bottlenecks? How can we pause to think about the many ugly realities of inequality, marginalization, and irresponsibility of the privileged that the disaster has exposed–and how can we start using education (including ELT) to start addressing the problems and building on the opportunities?

At a more practical level, because Nepal is prone to different types of disasters (including earthquake, floods, and landslide, which take thousands of lives every year), how can we re-envision ELT curricula, pedagogy, and resources in order to help prevent damage of infrastructure and loss of life in the future. It is not enough to stand akimbo and say that these are issues that the engineers will take care for the society. No doubt, we cannot prevent them; but the community must be aware of three R’s of disasters — readiness, response and recovery — before, during, and after natural calamities.    In this sense, everyone can and should be partner-engineers of social vision, of thinking and communicating new ideas, of forging a new future.

Incidentally, it was saturday when schools and colleges were closed when the first earthquake jolted the nation. Even the second earthquake occurred during daytime at a time closure of educational institutes were already announced in the aftermath of the disaster. Otherwise, casualties, especially students and teachers might have been worse. It is high time for teachers, practitioners and education experts, including ELT communities, to contribute to raise awareness among children and youths in schools and colleges about disaster management. Education is the most effective means to disseminate such knowledge and skills in the community.

We hope to raise broader issues of education in the days to come. We invite you to contribute your blog posts to this venue, encouraging you to write about a broader range of issues, including classroom practice and the emerging issues of the day. During the month, please consider joining ongoing conversations on our Facebook page.

Let us envision rebuilding our society, and education an ELT can be important tools. You can be an important agent. Let us rise from the dust and leave a legacy of resourcefulness and resilience for future generations.

Thank you.

Praveen Kumar  Yadav and ELT Choutari Team

(with contributions from former editor Shyam Sharma)

Interview with RELO Specialist, US Embassy, Nepal

Bishwa Gautam  is Regional English Language Program Specialist working for the U.S. Embassy based in Kathmandu, Nepal and responsible for Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives. In the following interview with Praveen Kumar Yadav, one of Choutari editors, Gautam shares about ELT situation, its prospects and challenges in Nepal, ELT programs implemented by the US Embassy’s Regional English Language Office (RELO) and finally various opportunities provided by the office for Engllish language teachers and learners. We hope our valued readers would find the interview very useful and interesting to read.

How do you assess the current situation of English Language Teaching in Nepal? What are the prospects and challenges? 

The situation of English Language Teaching in Nepal has two scenarios; one urban, the other rural. In the urban cities, ELT is progressing satisfactorily, but in small cities and rural areas there are many issues. The issues are the (un)availability of well-educated, trained, and motivated teachers, the lack of teacher mentors,  limited  or no English teaching and learning resources, and unmotivated students because English is rated as the number one difficult subject. This lack of teaching-learning resources and materials development means fewer people want to become English teachers which only makes the situation worse. Moreover, the market of English language is huge. English language skill is necessary for further studies, business, job, technological and tourism affairs as well as for daily activities. Therefore, everybody wants to learn English. This gives English language teaching situation a very prosperous and challenging opportunity.

What are the key programs that the US Embassy’s RELO is implementing for improving ELT situation in Nepal? What has been most effective?

The Regional English Language Office (RELO), U.S. Embassy, has been supporting English language teacher development programs since __ through programs like  the English Language Specialist and English Language Fellow programs, which bring American English Language Teaching experts to provide teacher training and give advice and support to educational institutions for the improvement of English teaching in Nepal.  Other programs such as  E-Teacher Scholarship, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), and the Shaping the Way We Teach Webinar Series give teachers the opportunity learn practical knowledge and skills for their professional development. The United States Government’s Department of State’s after school English Access Microscholarship Program (Access) for economically disadvantaged, bright, adolescents in  eight districts of Nepal is also managed by the RELO office and currently implemented by NELTA.  Not only are the Access students having impressive results in their formal education and developing leadership roles, but also their teachers are benefiting from periodic trainings from RELO and amazingly are becoming teacher trainers in their locality.  The RELO also supports professional exchange sponsoring Nepalese English language teachers to participate in various National and International conferences in the region as well as the annual Teachers to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) conference in the U.S. Finally,  English language teaching materials and resources, as well as materials development and support are other equally popular programs of the RELO.  The most effective interventions by the RELO office is the training of English teachers. The Public Affairs Office at the U.S. Embassy, Kathmandu, also assists in English language programs such as the English By Radio program which reached 60 districts and training programs at the American Corners to enable teachers to access and use materials from the American English website.

Through this interview, we would like to inform teachers, researchers, and professional leaders in the field of ELT about the opportunities that RELO provides. Please list or describe some of the opportunities and resources that you have for them.

The RELO shares its opportunities widely via its webpage http://nepal.usembassy.gov/relo.html . We have a number of online opportunities which require regular access to computers and Internet. In the coming year, the call for application announcement of the E-Teacher Scholarship program, where participants take a  10-week long U.S. university course online, will be in June/July 2015. This is a highly competitive program for a limited number of slots.  Interested English language teachers should submit completed applications. The participants should be able to give 10-15 hours in a week and should have basic technology skills. In contrast, webinars which are in series of 6 different one and a half hour sessions are open to all and can be group viewing if people don’t have computers and Internet. Webinar 15 dates are January 14, January 28, February 11, February 25, March 11, and March 25 and Webinar 16 dates are April 22, May 6, May 20, June 3, June 17, and July 1.  MOOCs are shorter and easier than the E-Teacher courses, open to all and groups can get together to give each other study support. The dates of Shaping the Way We Teach English MOOC course 1 are Jan. 05 and Apr. 06, 2015 and the dates of course 2 are Feb. 09 and May 11, 2015. However participants should register themselves one week prior to the course start date. Institutions or organizations who wish to apply to get an English Language Specialist or Fellow and individuals who wish to apply for exchange programs can submit applications to RELOKathmandu@state.gov at any time.  English language teachers and learners can access, download and use a variety of materials such as games, activities, audio books, reading material and articles about teaching from our American English site www.americanenglish.state.gov . Moreover, we also provide hard copies of English Teaching Forum which comes out four times a year or it can be read online at the American English website.

Please visit the Regional English Language Office, U.S. Embassy Kathmandu’s web page http://nepal.usembassy.gov/relo.html  and the US Embassy Kathmandu Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/nepal.usembassy  to check for updates and opportunities.

 

Interview with Program Manager of British Council Nepal

Ms Vaishali Pradhan is the Program Manager at British Council Nepal, working to improve English Language Teaching situation in the country. Here is an interview Choutari took with her.

ELT Choutari: How do you assess the current situation of English Language Teaching in Nepal? What are the prospects and challenges?

Pradhan: These days English is no longer a language for the elite class. Students from all backgrounds want to learn the language. Parents aspire to see their children speak good English. It is because of this need that English Language teaching in schools has gained momentum over the past few years. Our education system has seen a systemic shift and so has the ELT situation in Nepal. Trained human resource, quality materials and assessment for me are the main challenges our schools face today. Figures from many of our project baselines have shown that majority of teachers continue to teach English in Nepali. Receptive skills like listening, speaking and reading are given less or no priority. Some of these teachers probably aren’t equipped with the right training while the others fail to take their learning into actual classroom teaching. Quality materials and assessment is also an area that needs attention. Good English language teaching requires materials that can make English learning fun. This then needs to be supplemented with an equally engaging assessment tool.

ELT Choutari: What are the key programmes that the British Council is implementing for improving ELT situation in Nepal? What has been most effective?

Pradhan: We currently have two large scale projects that focus on improving the teaching methodology of primary school teachers. English for Teaching: Teaching for English (ETTE+) is a British Council project that helps teachers of English language improve their language and teaching skills. ETTE+ is particularly designed for teachers who live in far-flung areas, and who have not yet benefited from training or development opportunities. English for Teaching: Teaching for English makes this possible by using a new flexible model of delivery that combines direct and indirect delivery of face-to-face, printed, electronic and on-line services. It helps school teachers improve their performance in the classroom by enhancing their access to materials, methods and opportunities for their professional training and development. We are currently this in Lamjung and Chitwan. The phase one results of this project was very promising – by the end of phase 1 we had 96% of teachers speaking in English in the classrooms compared to 76% during the baseline. We also had 88% students speaking in English with their teachers compared to 16% before the project intervention.

We recently signed an MoU with NCED to implement Project NIITE (National Initiative to Improve Teaching in English). This project is aimed at teachers working in an EMI (English as a medium of Instruction) setting. This project will be implemented from February 2015.

ELT Choutari: Through this interview, we would like to inform teachers, researchers, and professional leaders in the field of ELT about the kinds of opportunities you have. Please list or describe some of the opportunities and resources that you have for them.

Pradhan: The British Council offers various opportunities for English teachers. We have scholarship opportunities like the Hornby Scholarship and Hornby Regional School. We have online and face-to-face training courses like LE Pathways, Master Series Workshops and Teach English Professional development courses. We also run the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) which is an internationally recognised English teaching qualification for people with little or no previous teaching experience. It is one of the most widely taken qualifications of its kind and it is essential for anyone hoping to work for a reputable English language teaching institution such as the British Council. Details of all these opportunities and resources can be accessed via our website or by clicking on the link below. 

http://www.britishcouncil.org.np/EnglishTeacherTrainingNepal

Hiding the Gold Coins: A Reflection on Choutari Writing Workshop by Hem Raj Kafle

umes

UMES SHRESTHA

He is tall. Very tall compared to my height. He looks into the world through a pair of slightly shaded glasses. Those glasses probably let him filter all the negativity around him and help him see a vision – a vision of a teacher, a writer and a mentor. He speaks gently and seldom smiles. He stands in the middle of the class and with his words; paints an exciting picture of characters, themes and conflicts; and walks us through the colorful fields full of metaphors, similes and hyperboles.

 He is one of those rare teachers who writes a lot. His blog is a testimony of his prolific writing habit. Even his facebook statuses, usually very short poems, reflect his creativity. Then, it makes me wonder. May be creativity is a verb, not a noun. One has to constantly work at it. It’s just my perception. His creativity could be as natural as breathing.

I had met him back in 2012. He taught me Fiction in my M.Ed. ELT first semester and since then I have had a renewed interest in reading, interpreting and analyzing literature. I started becoming passionate but critical of the texts I came across. In addition to that, he has inspired me to write down my own fictional works.

Naturally, I was pretty excited about the workshop. I had always wanted to be in his classes one more time and the workshop was it. Even though the focus of the workshop was “Academic Writing”, I knew he would have his own twist on it, with a few pinch of strange concepts sprinkled around here and there.

So he started the workshop by asserting that writing is not an isolated activity, but it is an activity integrated with reading, listening and speaking. “The key word is perform. Writing is a performance, it is an action of hands as well as an action of minds,” he added. And most importantly, he continued, “Performance doesn’t mean a writer’s activity alone… it is about a reader’s action also”. This made so much sense that it immediately struck a chord with me. A writer has to let readers perform too. Otherwise, what’s the point in writing at the first place? An effective writer thus leaves enough clues here and there in the text for the readers to come up with their own knowledge.

Hem Kafle Workshop

Writing is a performance because the writer has to make sure that his/her ‘authorial presence’ and credibility are visible in every word and every sentence of the text. Moreover, a writer has to make sure there are implicit and explicit moments of communication with the reader. He/she has to constantly facilitate the reader towards understanding and creating new perceptions. Similarly, a writer has to represent his/her community and contribute towards adding new knowledge and scholarship. Therefore, writing is not merely scribbling texts on a sheet of paper, it is a performance that involves both the writer and the reader.

 Next, he talked about some of the common attributes every writer exhibit in some ways. For instance, the ‘writer’s block’ which he also labeled as the ‘blinking cursor syndrome’ for those who keep staring at the computer screen searching for words to start with. Similarly, every writer has the irresistible urge to tell the background or the whole story. Next, most of the writers can’t decide on the choice of diction – whether to use big or small stock of words, or on the choice of sentence – short sentences or longer sentences.

And to come to the main focus of the workshop, he talked about the process of creating an argument in academic writing and substantiating one’s stance. He gave an instance of Stephen Toulmin’s elements of a proper argument: claim, ground, warrant, backing, rebuttal, qualifier and final claim. A good paragraph is a combination of all or some of the above elements. The concept of ‘rebuttal’ is quite interesting. Apparently, acknowledging opposing views and giving them a small space in one’s argument adds more strength to one’s argument.

At the end, he gave us eleven tips on how to improve one’s writing. I am reflecting on these points from my perspective.

  1. Write aloud.
    It helps shape the quality of writing.
  2. Speak – record – transcribe – Edit
    This is very useful when one is facing the imminent ‘writer’s block’.
  3. Toulmin uncle really works!
  4. Three is enough.
    Three examples, three explanations, three stories.
  5. Keep the big below you.
    This is quite interesting. Start a paragraph with your own sentence and end it with your own. Keep the citations and ‘big’ personalities underneath your first statement. Don’t ever start your paragraph with a citation because this just weakens your stance.
  6. Kill the subordinates.
    If your main info goes to the subordinate clause, rewrite the sentence. Bring your info to the front.
  7. Passive is lousy.
    I also hate sentences in passive voice. I always try to write everything in active voice.
  8. Let the verb stand high.
    Let the verb ‘speak’, rather than ‘be’.
  9. Do not repeat a word if there’s a replacement.
  10. Hear me between the lines
    Make your presence felt. Don’t let the reader forget about the writer.
  11. Dump me if I let you go!
    Challenge: I will not bore my reader. I will not break my reader’s heart, effort, money, etc.

After attending this workshop, I now feel the urge to go back to all my writings and scrutinize them strand by strand – to find my ‘authorial presence’ in them. I had never thought about this aspect of writing – that the author has to be present in the text. Similarly, I am going to try speak-record-transcribe method whenever I feel stuck in the rot. I will also make sure none of my paragraphs start with a citation but with my own sentence. In addition, I will use these techniques in presentations and in writing scripts for speaking as well.

Writing has always been an elusive grape for me. I feel like I am always getting ‘there’ but never near enough. I always go back to my texts, interact with them and revise them. That singer from Rolling Stones is probably right. I can’t get no satisfaction out of my writing. But just like Hem sir once said during his class, “A text is always in the making”. May be it’s not about getting ‘there’ and being satisfied after all. It is a process… a continuum… a journey. And our job as a writer is just to enjoy the ride.

The author, one of editors with Choutari, is a teacher, writer, & blogger.

Critical Thinking for Good Citizenry: Prof. Kedar Bhakta Mathema

Undoubtedly, we all agree that critical thinking is one of the life skills in the 21st century. However, there are debates and discussions on how this very skill should be included in education system so that students, from the very beginning of their schooling, learn this skill subconsciously and become rationale citizens. Also, there are controversies whether or not we can promote this skill in second or foreign language teaching and learning, for example, learning English in the context of Nepal. With a view to shedding lights on these issues,  Lal Bahadur Rana, ELT Choutari coordinator for October issue, had a chit-chat with Prof.  Kedar Bhakta Mathema, who is the forerunner of introducing the concept of critical thinking in Nepalese academia. Here is the excerpt : 

Lal: Welcome to the October Issue of ELT Choutari. This special issue, we have focused on how critical thinking can be used in ELT. As the forerunner for the implementation of critical thinking in the context of Nepal, could you please tell us the how you conceived of it?

kedar-sir_20140321091819Mathema: Well, thank you very much. It’s my pleasure to be interviewed for the special issue. Critical thinking is something important in an education system. I think for the past several years, since beginning, I would say, we have been putting emphasis on lower level of thinking such as recollection of facts. We never encouraged students to think independently and creatively. Similarly, we never encouraged students to synthesize or analyze anything. As far as English teaching is concerned, I remember my days at the university while teaching to the student in the faculty of education, I used to bring extracts from the newspapers such as Herald Tribune and New York Times and teach those texts to the students. Although these texts were very difficult for the learners, I would make them read. At first, very general questions such as What is the text all about?  were asked.  Later on, I would ask them difficult questions in the second, third, fourth or fifth reading, especially implied questions. When I was the Vice-chancellor of Tribhuvan University, I came to realize that our education system right form schools to university focused lower level of thinking. Then I thought of introducing critical thinking in the university. But, unfortunately, I somehow could not introduce there.

Lal: You said that you tried to implement critical thinking pedagogy at TU. What factors caused you to try to implement at T. U.; not to other institutions? Continue reading »

ELT Chat with Nepali Mentors on Mentoring

Praveen Kumar Yadav, team coordinator for ELT Choutari, had a chit-chat with successful Nepali ELT mentors, Ganga Ram Gautam, Reader in English Education at Tribhuvan University and Dr Laxman Gnawali, Associate Professor at Kathmandu University School of Education, who are not only involved in English Language Teaching, but they has also been mentoring ELT practitioners over one and a half decade. This chat with the ELT mentors and experts delves into the tradition, practice cultural variations, and existing perception and attitude toward mentoring with reference to their own mentoring experience. Please enjoy this insightful conversation with these experts.

Choutari: Could you please briefly talk about mentorship culture in Nepalese context? How do students and teachers in Nepal perceive mentoring?

Gautam:

Gautam, Ganga - Nepal (2) (1)

Ganga Ram Gautam, Reader in ELT Tribhuvan University, Nepal

 

Mentorship is not a new concept in Nepal. Mentorship was an excellent way of building capacity of a person in the Gurukul education system and it continued for a long time in the tradition. Similarly, helping the young ones by the senior was in-built in our cultural system and the metaphor that we often used for mentorship is पन्थेदाउने which means training the novice person by engaging them in the work under the supervision of the seniors.

Currently, the western education system gave it a new name and it is being discussed in the education discourse. Informally, mentoring is there but at the formal level, it is not very widely used.
Gnawali: 

Laxman Gnawali, PhD                                            Associate Professor (ELT)                          Kathmandu University  School of Education

Laxman Gnawali, PhD, Associate Professor (ELT) Kathmandu University School of Education

Nepalese society had a tradition of mentoring model of education and training until the modern schooling system started for the public in the 1950s. Whether it was about the skills of family occupation and family crafts or the art of war, the experienced ones used to pass down the skills to the young generation by way of mentoring. Take for example a daughter learning to weave paddy straw mat or a tailor’s a children learning to stitch clothes or a priest’s son learning to perform rituals or a young prince learning the tactics of rule. In all cases, the knowledge transfer took place in the mentoring model. Later, the modern schooling system introduced mass education and the mentoring was no longer practicable for most trades. The teaching and learning now embraced cascade model.

From my interactions with the teachers and students, I have gathered that mentoring is not a common practice in the formal education. Though the traditional skills transfer still continues in the mentoring model, stakeholders of the mainstream education are happy to see the cascade model of knowledge transfer function. Ironically, teacher education in which mentoring model would make a difference follows a straight cascade model except in a very few cases.

Choutari: Kindly share with Choutari readers any of your mentoring experience (as a mentee) that you think has added values to your life.

Continue reading »

You are, therefore I am

Reciprocity, metamorphosis, mentorship and beyond         

Sajan Kumar

‘I think, therefore I am’, declared Descartes. And I thought the same; I taught the same. You thought, therefore you were. They thought, therefore they were. Nevertheless I have been very inconsistent and unpredictable a man throughout. As time grew, I began to feel entrapped and suffocated; I could not continue to dwell in the same box and I flew away. Afterwards, I disassociated myself from Descartes and many more like him. I had been solid all along; I was liquid now. Snow must melt someday.

joint pic

Sajan Kumar                   Dr Govinda Raj Bhattarai

The story goes like this in brief. With Descartes and his ‘cogito, ergo sum’, it was thinking that ensured my existence in the world I dwelled and played my part in. I existed only because I thought. Anybody existed because they thought. Thinking was the basis for any relationship that I was in, that I wanted to be in. Everything else felt petty; everybody else felt mediocre. I had been a body all along and I was a mind now. Of the three metamorphoses that Nietzsche in his magnum opus ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra, designate of the spirit, hopefully it was one: the camel had turned into a lion. Naturally, the lion felt euphoric about the accomplishment after struggles. However, the lion still lived in an enclosure for his world was private and compartmentalized. Like a chariot horse; he could neither see left nor right but merely straight. Descartes solipsism had led him into such a cage where he saw, heard, felt, touched and smelt with mind alone. Not only that he contemplated with mind but he meditated and mediated with mind/s alone. Perhaps, he had unknowingly obliterated that he possessed a beautiful body too and the body housed a self too. His disillusionment came to an end only when he was stuck on the middle floor and out of blue regained memory of where he came from and also visualized where he was destined for.

Continue reading »