Welcome to the June Issue of ELT Choutari: Language Planning and Policy

Language Plan & Policy

Editorial

English teachers should initiate discussion on rationales of English medium of instruction

It is common to experience different issues in teaching-learning process in educational institutions, which is not desirable but inevitable. Most of the problems can be solved through an effective communication and discussion among the team.

One of the key issues in our educational institution now is the appropriate use and practice of language/s both as a medium of instruction and access of children’s mother tongue in teaching learning. Before addressing the issue of mother tongue based multilingual education, there has arisen another key issue in teaching learning, which is the increasing use of English as a medium of instruction in our multicultural and multilingual classes. And the interesting thing is the practice of English medium instruction is merely guided by a statement in policy, which states that “the medium of instruction at school level can be Nepali, English or both. However, Mother tongue can be used up to basic level and the same language should be used for a language subject.” There is no any other policy guidelines to systematise this practice. Schools are imitating each others and the practice is increasing. In this backdrop, the communities, local governing bodies and teachers as local executives should also play an important role to make a wise decision on the language practice in the educational setting. An initiation from a teacher also can make a big difference. Therefore, teachers, especially English teachers should initiate effective communication and discussion among the team to avoid the situation from getting worse because they know more about English language and its limitation.

In the context of Nepal, the increasing shift to the English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) seems to be guided by two major factors. First, to stop the transfer of students to private boarding school and increase students in community school. Second, the belief that the English language proficiency of students can be enhanced by teaching all subjects in English medium.

There are several other factors behind the distrust of parents towards community schools, resulting the decrease in number of students. Merely introducing English medium instruction does not solve the problems but its impacts can further deteriorate the condition of school. On the other hand, schools and parents believe that the teaching all academic subjects in English can improve the language proficiency of students. But are schools only English language teaching centres? Or they have roles to deliver the academic contents effectively to students as set by curriculum. Can the existing teachers deliver the contents effectively in the new language? Are students ready for that? Most importantly, is it necessary to deliver all academic contents in English language from primary level? What is the rationale behind it? What do the researches suggest?

We, therefore, need to consider several important questions before making the decisions of language shift in schools. It is very important decision, which can affect the future of children and society but schools are taking it very lightly.

As an English teacher, we can do something to rethink and review this practice. Firstly, we ourselves should be clear that language is just a medium to deliver the information, knowledge and skills. Therefore, the medium of instruction should be the language in which both the students and teachers feel comfortable. It has been huge challenge even for teachers of English to teach English effectively around the nation and how can other teachers teach academic subjects (well packed with contents) effectively to students? Therefore, let’s teach English language subject effectively first. If only English language is taught effectively, students can achieve a level of conversational English. In the name of EMI, actually parents are asking for a workable conversational English, which is possible through effective teaching of the English language. It is not necessary to make such a big shift to attain this purpose. As an English teacher, if we only can clarify these illusions in our school management and school family, it could avoid the random practice and decisions regarding the medium of instruction.

And presenting you the June issue for you, we have tired to re/start the discussion on the language planning, policy and language practices. This issue is packaged with language planning and policy, language in education, professional development and general thoughts on education. The following lines will guide you to select the writing in the area of your interest:

In the first post, Kumar Narayan Shrestha talks about language planning and policy, and its process, and also reviews the language planning and policy of Nepal.

Similarly, Gyanendra Kumar Yadav explores the actual language practice and the issues related to language policy and English language teaching (ELT) in Nepal.

Likewise, a PhD scholar Karna Rana, shares the global need of multilingual citizens and rationales for education in children’s mother tongue.

In an exclusive interview, Dr. Prem Phyak shares his insights on the effective approach to language planning and policy analyzing the flaws in the existing language planning and policy. Similarly, he also shares the possible approach in language in education and multi-lingualism and evaluates ELT in Nepal.

In another post, to present you a different taste, Dr. Shyam Sharma urges us to reframe our perspectives and look the realities through positive lens and encourages everyone to take action from their level for language policy and quality education for all.

In the last but the not the least post, Shikha Gurung shares how teachers can continue their professional development through the three dimensional act of reflection, research and networking.

Here is the complete list of the posts in this issue:

  1. Language Planning in Nepal: A Bird’s Eye View: by Kumar Narayan Shrestha
  2. Language Practices and Food for Thought for Language Policy Makers: by Gyanendra Kumar Yadav
  3. So What, If Not Mother Tongue?: by Karna Rana
  4. Language Planning and Policy Should Embrace Inclusive and Co-learning Practices: Dr. Phyak: by Prem Phyak
  5. Beyond Beating Dead Horses: by Shyam Sharma
  6. A Three Dimensional Approach to Professional Development of English Language Teachers in Nepal: by Shikha Gurung

Finally, I would like to thank Karna Rana for his rigorous support in reading and editing. Likewise, I am thankful to Ashok Raj Khati and Praveen Kumar Yadav for their support to release this issue. Similarly, special thank goes to all the contributors of the issue.

Read, comment, share and write your own practices and send to us at 2elt.choutari@gmail.com

Happy reading!

Jeevan Karki the Editor of the issue

Jeevan Karki
the Editor of the issue

Avenues of Mobile Phones in ELT-Practices of Remote Schools in Nepal

Jeevan Karki- head shot

Jeevan Karki

Access to mobile phones are quite common in Nepal at the moment. It is even more common for teachers- both in the towns and remote areas. According to the Management Information system (MIS) report of Nepal Telecommunications Authority (mid-April, 2015), 90.4 percent of total population in the country have access to mobile service. Mobile phones are basically used for communication. Besides communication, it is used for taking photos and videos, listening to radio and music, watching videos even TVs, doing calculation, recording audios, flash light, playing games, surfing internet and even used as a mirror! This device has replaced some of other devices because of its multi-functional uses.

The use of mobile phone is widely discussed in classroom teaching learning in literature. Along with the advancement of technology, the features available in the mobile phones have assisted in teaching learning in classroom. The device seems to be an integral part of our lives. People can avoid their food but cannot avoid the mobile phone in the present context! The device is assisting both teachers and students in many ways in teaching learning. On the other hand, some people believe that mobile phones should not be allowed in the classroom both for teachers and students. They argue that it distracts them from teaching learning. As we cannot avoid it in our day to day lives now, we also need to look for creative ways of using it in schools. We can use it appropriately in schools and show students the proper use of the device and encourage them to use it appropriately and properly.

In the subsequent topic I discuss the use of mobile phones in ELT classroom with reference to the teachers’ practice of mobile phones in the remote schools of Solukhumbu.

Discussions

Solukhumbu is located in Northern part of Nepal, which is in the geographically challenging landscape. Roadways are difficult here. So is the case of communication. There is no proper access of telephone in some places of the district. However, teachers use mobile phones not only for communication but also in teaching learning in the classrooms. In a training for English teachers in Solukhumbu, I talked with teachers on how they have been using mobile phones in English classes. One of the teachers, D. L. Shah (pseudonym) said:

We use mobile phones for dictionary, songs, teaching chants through audio visuals and teaching listening.

It shows that the teachers can use the mobile phones both for themselves and students. They use the device for teaching language through songs and chants. The authentic audio and the language used in them is good exposure for children to learn language. Likewise, the video facility makes presentation of chants and songs even more special for children. On the other hand, teachers use it for teaching listening, which is one of the effective use of the device. Mobile phone is very easy device for teaching listening. Listening can be done in two different ways. First, we can store the authentic listening materials in the device, design some tasks and use the audio. Likewise, if such audios are not possible, we can also record the audio ourselves or by the help of our colleagues or even students and use in the class. This can bring variety in the classes. While interacting with primary level teachers, it is found that they generally skip or do the least, the listening activities in the textbook or while the curriculum gives more emphasis on listening in this level. Curriculum has allocated 40% of total activities of class one in listening, 35% in class two, 30% in class three, 25% in class four and five. Use of mobile phones can bridge this gap. Not only for students, the device is also serving as a resource bank for teachers’ professional development. Like, Shah uses the device for dictionary. Teachers can install dictionary in their smart phones (even in simple phones) and use it for searching the meaning of word, pronunciation, spelling, parts of speech, synonyms/antonyms and the use of the words. Talking about the use of it as a resource bank another teacher, Arjun Thapa said:

We use it to see teaching resources like curriculum and teachers guide in PDF form and also play games with children on the phones for entertainment.

It further explores another avenue of the use of mobile phones. The device can also help them to collect the resources, store and use whenever required. The resources like curriculum, teachers guide and books are available free of cost through curriculum development centre Nepal (there is even apps for smartphones). This saves both their money and time. It shows the device is proved to be equally useful for reading too. On the other hand, if there is access to internet, we can have the abundant knowledge in our fingertip and the mobile phone has made it even easier to access. Some of the useful site for teachers can be Wikipedia, teaching channel, British Council etc. Likewise, as Thapa mentioned, the device can also be used for entertainment with students. Not merely entertainment, there are apps that give both teachers and children education and entertainment. Badal Basnet, a young teacher added this very benefit as follows:

We can teach grammar using mobile phones e.g. grammar apps to practice on different topics, show the pictures for vocabulary.

Basnet focuses on use of the device in teaching grammar and vocabulary. There are several English grammar apps, which are useful for both teachers and students. For even junior students, we can use the grammar apps to design the language presentation and practice activities. If the number of student is less, we can even use the apps to practice the language items in groups. Another very important use of this device as stated by Basnet is the use of pictures to present vocabulary. Pictures are very useful to present vocabulary, which is especially useful for the beginners. We can use the camera of the device to click the pictures of animals, birds, persons, things, fruit, vegetables, plants and so on and use them to teach vocabulary. In the same way, there are pictorial apps to teach vocabulary. Adding another technique of teaching vocabulary using the device another teacher, Jitendra KC said:

We can record the sounds of animals and play for teaching vocabulary. Likewise, it can also be used to take photos of objects, animals and person, and generate talks.

Opening another avenue KC shared how we can record the sounds of animals available in his surrounding and use in teaching vocabulary. One of the most used features of the mobile phones these days is the camera and hence it is very common to have real life photos in our device. KC thought of using them to generate talks. Photos are very useful for teaching speaking. We can show a photo to students and generate simple to high level discourse. Photos can be used to practice wh and yes/no questions. Teachers can show a photo and encourage students to ask questions like, where did you take the photo? Who/what are/is in the photo? Did you take it in Tihar? Etc. In the same way, the same photo can be used to generate conversation of students. Students can talk about the photo with each other. On the other hand, the same photo can be used for teaching writing- a wide range of writing skills from words to paragraphs. After having the talks and conversation about the photo, we can now ask student to write few words or sentence or small paragraph about the same. In fact, the device can assist us to provide input for students to generate outputs. It also can help to minimize the use of other resources.

Conclusion

Mobile phone is a new digital resource and material. It contains variety of resources and yet handy to use. We can use this device to teach all four skills and the aspects like grammar and vocabulary in ELT. Not only in ELT, this device can be used in teaching other subjects too. It is useful both for teachers and students- especially senior students. Although there can be some threats of using mobiles, there are multiple advantages of using this device in classroom teaching learning. In fact, using mobile phone in classroom teaching learning is an opportunity for new generations to teach the proper and appropriate use of the device.

Jeevan Karki is an editor with ELT Choutari.

Welcome to the latest Issue of Choutari: Professional Development through Self- reflection

reflective-thinking

Dear valued readers,

The process of teaching learning does not finish after delivering a lesson or course, whereas the learning point for a teacher and teacher educator starts after that. In the cyclical process of teaching learning, teachers need to make a self inquiry at the end of the class or day and look forward to refine their practices. We as a teacher need to look back and ask ourselves, what went well in our class and what didn’t. Why a particular thing worked and why the other thing didn’t, and what could have been done. This process of self- inquiry and critical thinking is termed as reflection.

Reflection is a powerful tool for our professional development. Templer, 2004, as cited in Harmer (2007) states that reflection is like ‘holding up mirrors to our own practice’, which make us more conscious what is beneath the surface. In other words, it is being critical and reflective to our own practice, which eventually refines our skills as a teacher and helps us understand the process of teaching- learning better.The process of teaching and learning begins with planning, followed by implementation or action and further followed by reflection. The reflection gives us input in the planning for the next cycle. The cycle of teaching learning process becomes incomplete without practice of reflection. If we do not reflect into our practice, we stop learning and eventually stop growing because we fail to realize what is not working and we tend to continue the wrong process or practice. Richards (1990) considers reflection a major component of teachers’ development. He urges that self-inquiry and critical thinking can help teachers move from a level, where they may be guided largely by impulse, intuition, or routine, to a level where their actions are guided by reflection and critical thinking. Reflection develops the practice of self- inquiry and critical thinking in us. Therefore, our actions are less likely to be guided only by a sudden desire and routine, whereas they will be more rationale.

Pre-service or in- service training or workshop is one way of our professional development but in the continuous journey of professional development, the best of all is the self- inquiry through reflection. In the words of Confucius, it is the best way to learn. In his three methods of learning he places reflection at first stating,

“The first, by reflection, which is the noblest;

second, by imitation, which is the easiest, and

third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

Therefore, being reflective to our own action not only helps us understand the process better but also refines our professional skills and expertise.

The inception of ELT Choutari is also the outcome of the reflective thinking. Likewise, most of the writings on the magazine are based on the reflection. We strongly believe that this practice should continue, which helps develop the culture of reflection. Therefore, we request our readers to reflect on their actions and write about their thoughts. We will give them space at Choutari.

This issue is also a full package of reflection. Karna Rana reflects on his route to learning English language. He believes that English has been given much more importance than required, which results our weaker competence in content knowledge and life skills. Therefore, we should not finish our valuable time only worrying about a language.

Society of Translators Nepal recently organized the first ever conference in Nepal. In this context, Choutari editor Jeevan Karki has talked to Bal Ram Adhikari (Vice- president of the Society, Translator and Faculty, Department of English, TU). The talk not only reflects back to the conference but also explores deeply the relation of translation in ELT pedagogy.

To encourage the teachers to reflect on their practices, our Choutari editor, Ashok Raj Khati has asked five teachers from East to West to express their views in the context of English language teaching. In this interactive post, they reflect on their practices in relation to resources, participation of students, use of English and L1, their best practices in English classroom and challenges they face.

In the series of the reflective thinking and writing, we present another very special and powerful reflection of Sujit Wasti. In the truly unique and thought provoking post, he brings together nature, society, and education in a unique way.

In another post, Lal Bahadur Bohora (who is pursuing his M. Phil in ELE from Kathmandu University) shares his preliminary findings of a research on the area of teachers’ perspectives on the prescribed English syllabus of Tribhuvan University and pedagogical practices at tertiary level in far west region.

Finally, to continue with the Photography Project, the Choutari editor Jeevan Karki shares the photos he clicked during his visits around the country on the theme of ‘People at Work’. This is the third Photography Project at Choutari.

Here is the list of the posts in this issue:

  1. Children Taught Me English Language: Karna Bahadur Rana
  2. Translation should be Used as a Technique not a Method in ELT: Bal Ram Adhikari
  3. Peripheral Classrooms: Reflection of English Teachers in Nepal: Ashok Raj Khati
  4. Are We at the Verge of Collapse?: Sujit Wasti
  5. ELT at tertiary level: perspectives from far west Nepal: Lal Bahadur Bohara
  6. Photography Project III: People at Work: Jeevan Karki

Lastly, I extend my special thanks to Ashok Raj Khati for his continuous support to materialize this issue. Similarly, I would like to thank Shyam Sharma for his support and encouragement in the publication of this issue.

Enjoy reading with reflection and share your thoughts in the comment boxes.

Jeevan Karki- head shot

Jeevan Karki  Editor of the Issue

References:

Richards, J.C. (1990). The Language Teaching Matrix. UK. Cambridge University press.

Harmer, J. (2007). The Practice of English Language Teaching. UK: Pearson.

Photography Project III: People at work

It is the third post of its kind, which aims to promote the use of photos in ELT. The photos can serve the multiple uses in our classes such as writing (paragraph/essay writing, story writing etc.), speaking (conversation, describing photos etc.) and other kinds of group/ peer works. In this project III, we share the photos of Choutari editor Jeevan Karki taken during his visits in different parts of the country.

Man carrying loads

People in Development: People in Solukhumbu carry the materials for development themselves as their no road access in majority of the areas. © Jeevan Karki

Vendors selling

Hope after destruction: Vendors selling the goods besides the debris of the destruction caused by the earthquake at Kathmandu Durbar Square. © Jeevan Karki

Children at fun

We Can: A child washes his clothes at a tap, while the next watches curiously. © Jeevan Karki

People at work

Man Made Road: People making a motor road through the hills of Solukhumbu with the help of local tools only. No excavators or other heavy equipment was used to construct the 10 KM long road. © Jeevan Karki

Differently abled at work

I’ve the third eye: A visually impaired teacher teaching children using Braille Books in a school in Solukhumbu. © Jeevan Karki

Development in Basket: A doko basket being used to transport the huge poles for electricity transmission lines in the rural hills of Solukhumbu. © Jeevan Karki

Give me your hand

Lend me your hand please: A young man helping an aged trekker to cover the way in the hills of Solukhumbu © Jeevan Karki