ELT Choutari is pleased to present the second quarterly issue (April-June) of 2021. This issue has covered a wide range of areas of applied linguistics, classroom pedagogy, ELT practices, and writing tips for teachers. This issue consists of six blog posts having diverse issues from mini research to reflective notes.
Due to the spread of the new variant of COVID-19, our country is back to lockdown. With this teaching-learning is going to suffer again, which will result a ‘learning crisis’ for a majority of students around the country who have limited Internet access and lack of digital facilities. The virtual mode of delivery may not be productive and long-lasting to mitigate the possible learning crisis unless we access digital devices (gadgets and smartphones) and broadband internet access with teachers, students, and their parents. And the role of teachers is equally important to be technocratic and pedagogically creative to enhancing students’ potentials in the virtual mode. Besides, the parents are to be capacitated to facilitate the learning of their children.
We know it’s not easy but we need to do something to keep the learning going. Therefore, teachers and parents are expected to play a pivotal role in engaging students in alternative ways to create learning opportunities for students. The parents must identify the available alternatives of learning like TV, radio, social media, virtual classes, etc. Likewise, schools and teachers should support them to explore the right alternatives in their context. Then they can encourage, support, observe and monitor the engagement of their children and manage necessary stuff to the extent possible. The teachers, on the other hand, can engage students in different activities in two ways; synchronously and asynchronously. They can also facilitate their students via different learning platforms such as Schoology, Edmodo, Easy Class, Google Classroom, and they can also use digital apps and tools such as online quiz using quizizz, Kahoot, ProProfs, Mentimeter, etc. to engage them in their learning wherever possible. Meanwhile, they also should support to develop contents to be delivered via radio or TVs.
During this emergency, teachers need to be more resourceful and innovative to keep the learning going. One way to be so is to keep themselves abreast of the ideas, alternatives, and ways out to deliver education during the emergency. A couple of months back, we had published particularly the pandemic issue and post-pandemic issues, which could be resourceful for you in many different ways. So, we recommend you go through them. Most importantly, we encourage you to reflect and write the challenges, alternatives, good practices, and striking moments during teaching-learning in the emergency and send to us for future submission.
In the first post, Arjun Basnet analyzes the processes of identity construction among students in the EFL classroom. He further discloses the various forms of identity construction such as discourse identity, social identity, affinity identity, L1 identity, and institution identity through positioning, becoming, and being. He argues students create their identity through the process of opportunity and achieve native-like English competence via YouTube and English songs.
Mr. Puskar Chaudhary, in the second post, investigates the assessment techniques and tools used by the English language teachers for assessing learning in the remote teaching-learning context. He states that assessment is an integral part of teaching-learning to examine the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the learning goals have been achieved.
Similarly, in the third blog post, Prakash Bhattarai shares his ideas about factors affecting effective English teaching-learning. He further highlights that the materials and methods teachers use in the language classroom should be contextual and culture-sensitive because the prescribed methods and materials developed by other experts may not work in all contexts. He further notes teachers should use the tasks that make learners active and creative to create an environment for learner autonomy and collaborative learning.
Likewise, in the fourth article Dipak Prasad Mishra and Surendra Bhatt explore the perceptions of parents on the implementation of English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) in public schools through Bourdieu’s lens of the symbolic power of language theory. They further highlight the relevancy and appropriateness of EMI in the Nepali context. They argue that EMI has been taken as a symbol of power and linguistic capital to develop English skills in unpacking critical analysis and its practices.
Similarly, in the fifth blog post, Bhan Singh Dhami explores how the local contents and texts in English materials can be utilized to enhance patriotism among English language learners of Nepal. He further claims the use of local content, culture, and discourse in materials can strengthen patriotism and strongly urges the stakeholders to maximise them in the materials and courses.
Finally, in the sixth blog post, Jeevan Karki, one of the editors of Choutari reflects on his nearly decade-long experiences of writing, reviewing, and editing journey and encourages teachers that they can write and publish. With some practical tips, he offers the first-time and new teachers practical ideas on choosing the appropriate contents/issues to write, and the writing style and processes to follow.
We hope the current issue will be another resourceful package for classroom pedagogy, practices, and developing writing habits. We are grateful to all the contributors for their enthusiasm to bring innovative ideas, reflective practices, and pedagogy-enhanced teaching-learning activities and collaboration to continue the voyage of reading, writing, and supporting each other. Moreover, We highly appreciate the efforts of the reviewers during the process of a rigorous review of the manuscripts. More specifically, We would like to thank the entire team of ELT Choutari in general and Mohan Singh Saud (the co-editor of the issue), Jeevan Karki, Babita Chapagain, Sagar Poudel, Karuna Nepal, Ekraj Koirala, Nani Babu Ghimire, Dr. Karna Rana, Ashok Raj Khati,Jnanu Raj Paudel, and Rajendra Joshi in particular to materialise this issue.
Finally, if you enjoy reading the blog pieces, please feel free to share in and around your academic circle, and of course, drop your comments in the boxes below. Likewise, please write about your experiences, reflections, experiments, reviews, or any other scholarly articles for our future publications. You can reach us at email@example.com .
Thanking you once again for your continued readership, professional support, and volunteering enthusiasm to work with us collaboratively!
As an English professional teaching in English medium private secondary schools in Kathmandu valley, I found many students having different abilities, skills, attitudes, and behaviours. Among many students, I marked Aaravi as the School Prefect (the School Head Girl) who is good at speech. She was amiable among her friends. Prayush, the next student, is a nimble person always good at writing. He often bagged one or the other title including prizes in essay/poetry writing competition. Likewise, Chetan, the other student, seems to be confident in an oratory competition. The title ‘the Best Speaker’ would be of his own. At the same time, I remembered Anurodh and Aradhana, the other students who would neither do assigned work nor would speak English in the class in spite of having strict rules of speaking English in English Medium School. Actually, they were not dull, rather were slow learners. They constructed distinct identities like Aaravi ‘the School Prefect’, Prayush ‘a good writer’, Chetan ‘the best speaker’, and Anurodh and Aradhana ‘the slow learners’ despite the same teaching approaches adopted in the EFL class. Looking at all the students having different identities, I thought that students’ identity is ‘an issue’ (MacLure, 1993) found in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) class while participating in different EFL activities (Pavlenko & Lantolf, 2000). Student identity is shaped with a reference to the classroom environment where they are situated through various classroom interactions, conversations, behaviours, and actions. In this context, I situated Aaravi, Praysh, and Chetan as subconsciously legitimate members (Wenger, 1998) and Anurodh and Aradhana as incompetent members in the class (Toohey, 2000) because the first three situated their learning and later two failed to ‘situate’ according to the context.
This write-up discusses the identity construction of students in English medium secondary schools arguing the ideas of Block (2007) who says that the students have second language identities. My arguments in this article are largely informed to acknowledge how the student identities are constructed in second language learning in English Medium Secondary schools in Nepal.
Understanding student identity
Student identity is a fundamental issue that originated from the interest in the student’s subjective experience of being a self. Student identity is how the students understand their relationship to the world, how that relationship is constructed across time and space, and how they understand possibilities for the future (Norton, 2013). The identity of a student is constructed both in the formal and informal experience of becoming a student as a part of a worldwide community of professionals with shared goals, values, discourses, and practices. The students construct their identities understanding themselves, their actions, and their minds based on time and space by negotiating experience, community membership, nexus of multi-membership, and the relationship between local and global. They generate identity based on their works, social discourses, their grades, communicative power, narratives, etc., and form their existence in the class. Their mutual engagement in the classroom offers the possibilities for more personalized interaction which constructs student identity.
In the process of identity construction, language learners negotiate their sense of self in the learning process and contribute to their meaning-making process in second language learning. It is understood as a purely social construct of ‘being’ co-constructed by ‘self’ and ‘others’ to explore how they see their life based on interactional practices. According to Block (2007), student identity is an encompassing process of being active participants in their community of practice and showing their relationship among the members constitutive of and constituted by the learning environment. Shields (2015) says that the students in EFL class interlace between local culture and society and find their new existence into ‘being’. He argues that new experiences of learning English as a second/foreign language shapes individual learners and other students to construct learner identity. The students construct their identity perceiving themselves as an agency, classroom as their learning community, and learning as their mastering tool. The students do not autonomously construct their identities in a social, cultural, and political vacuum; rather socio-cultural and socio-political discourses. While participating in the class, the English learners construct multiple identities either by being a member of groups or having certain roles or being the unique biological entities that they are, and so on.
The identities of students that I have discussed in this paper are based on the analysis of narratives from seven students from English medium secondary school, anonymized as Andeela, Bishal, Deepak, Sulav, Sanjeev, Supriya, and Utsukta. The participants were the students studying in class IX and X in English medium schools. Only four English medium schools having more than 1000 students were chosen from Kathmandu and Lalitpur districts. To generate the data, I had in-depth interviews with each participant. I also had informal conversations with the participants. All the interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed in the meaning-making process. In addition, I also took field notes of events and activities that the participants took part in.
Students’ identity construction
The participants in this study reported that the students constructed their identity through the process of positioning, opportunity, and transformation. Within these three themes, the students were found constructing discourse identity, affinity identity, social identity, L1 identity, authored identity, being and becoming, student identity, and inner circle identity in the Nepalese EFL context. The students constructed their identities from their subjective experience as the learners and their extrinsic forces are the source of raw materials (Falsafi, 2010).
Positioning in students’ identity
On the basis of attitudes they possessed, behaviours they performed, actions they did, and conversations held among the friends and the teachers, the students ascribed different positions in the classroom. Sulav’s narratives gave me insight that the students construct discourse identity in the EFL classroom. This identity is constructed through the pattern of thinking, speaking, behaving, and interacting (Miller & Marsh, 2003, as cited in Clarke, 2008) with him as Sulav says:
I improved my English from sixth grade when one of my friends suggested me that I should listen to English songs, native speakers’ voice and watch English movies from YouTube. I did so and started reading novels, prose, and fiction which gradually improved my English.
I situated meaning from his discourse as a tool of inquiry (Gee, 2005) to understand his discourse positioning as a native-like fellow. Such a discourse identity was developed through English songs, listening to native speaker’s voices, and reading books. Social identity was constructed through the social position established by the students based on classroom norms, cultures, interactions, and conversations. Supriya’s expression ‘I actively take part in classroom interaction with the teacher and students’ reflected her classroom participation in the classroom context because the class was her social community of practice from where they learned trajectories of learning among the teachers and students actively participating in the classroom conversation. They constructed identity by participating in interaction actively in the social identification process involved the use of classroom resources to construct her identity. Utsukta’s claim of speaking compulsory English in the class was a claimed processor (Wenger, 1998) which gave a certain experience of participation, interaction, and communication in the classroom. Her social stance ‘the way of being in the world’ revealed her classroom world.
Sulav’s appointment as the School Head Boy, Spriya’s the School Prefect, Utskta’s the Vice-Prefect were their institution identity (Gee, 2001) proposed by their Principal considering their command over the English language. The institution empowered them to construct institution identity looking at his language propensity as Sulav recalls that ‘Principal sir chose me as the ‘School Head Boy’ thinking that my English is good.’ Andeela showed her smooth relationship with her dialogical process at both moments of expression, listening, and speaking and revealed her authored identity. Some of the students were found constructing affinity identity based on affinity group that varies on the basis of their interests, demands, age factors, and nature. This type of identity is revealed when the students perform certain types of actions in the classroom or school premises. The expression of Bishal ‘ …I always sit with Rashik and Ayush’ showed that Rashik and Ayush were his affinity members whose allegiance set him primarily a common endeavour or practice and secondarily to other students of the class in terms of shared culture or traits they possess. The affinity relation was not limited only to close circle within limited friends; it was limited to a large space with students having common cultures and norms. For instance, Sulav had a good relation with other students. Therefore, affinity identity is a focus on distinctive social practices that create and sustain group affiliation, rather than on institutions or discourse or dialogue directly. Some other students in the classroom were found constructing L1 identity; might always talking in Nepali as a crude identity marker (Block, 2007) despite strict school rules. The main reason for speaking their mother tongue was to be open up among the friends. This happened not because of lack of English proficiency but because of his L1 identity as a deep abiding pride.
Opportunity in students’ identity
Students’ equal participation in learning is an opportunity to the students of English medium secondary schools and their joint engagement in having interaction is supplementary. The statement of Supriya, Sulav, and Bishal ‘…the slow learner is given more priority in class’ revealed how the students in the class got an optimum chance of participation and how EFL teachers managed time for their students. Such opportunities provided to the students in the classroom helped them construct ‘Becoming’ and ‘Being’. The identity of the students was not found “static and one dimensional, but multiple and changing” (Norton & Toohey, 2002, p.116) when I saw hierarchical learning from their junior classes, Utsukta revealed:
I’m from Gulmi. My parents took me to Kathmandu from there and enrolled in Himalaya Higher Secondary school where I studied up to class five. In class six, I was enrolled in this school. My English is now good, yeah… good, better than others. I can speak English fluently and express my feeling better… My English teacher is supportive and he encourages me to do better in English. When I was in sixth grade, one of my friends suggested that I should listen to English songs and watch English films and so did I. I found English films and movies really original, and they helped my English in pronunciation, grammar structures, and vocabularies.
In the above excerpt, Utsukta constructed her identity as ‘becoming’. Her present condition as ‘a better learner’ is her ‘being’ or existence. Enrolling in that school and practicing English through English films and songs were her ‘becoming’.
Transformation in students’ identity
The students’ narratives clearly showed that they crossed a long gap to recognize the sense of who they were in course of time. I found the change in all my participants; especially Sulav, Supriya, Utsukta, and Deepak whose identity was changed in secondary education. Sulav’s identity as a native-like fellow, Supriya’s nimble social worker, and Utsukata’s obsessive orator was not transformed overnight, rather took a process of transformation in language capability and thinking power. Even after coming from a rural area, Deepak got mastery in the English language as a symbol of transformation to accomplish his dream of gaining an inner circle identity (Kachru, 1983). Deepak’s interpretation I am trying to make my English better to develop British-like competence was very powerful to me to construct students’ inner circle identity constructing in English medium schools in Nepal. I found that they were constructing such an identity from their complex participative experience and their overall behaviours (Wenger, 1998) to get a native-like orientation in their linguistic performance. All my participants narrated that they were trying to make native-like English. This clearly showed distinction between ‘us and them’ division with ‘inner, outer’ and expanding circle’ (Kachru, 1983) and central and periphery (Philipson, 1992). Deepak wanted to be in ‘inner circle’ (powerful Western countries where English language as a native language) from the peripheral dichotomy (Underdeveloped country where English is a second or foreign language) looking at the possibility that ‘centre’ has high stakes in maintaining his operation as he interpreted:
I want to do my higher study from Britain as Andrew suggested because of the excessive use of technology used in language learning. I need very good English, therefore, I am now practicing day and night to make my English native-like.
The excerpt above clearly illustrates Deepak’s interest in constructing inner circle identity by going to the UK, the powerful western country where English is their native language.
In this brief article, I have discussed the different processes of identity construction of students who were studying in English medium schools in Nepal. Through their lived stories, I found that the students were constructing their discourse identity, social identity, affinity identity, L1 identity, and institution identity through positioning, becoming and being and student as identified through the process of opportunity and inner circle identity by making their native-like English learning from native speaker’s voice from YouTube and English songs through transformation. The students’ perspectives as discussed in this paper show that student identity is constructed in English as a foreign/second language classroom through their active engagement. The identities were not found going parallel because the identities constructed in one field infused their identities in other fields. I found that the students are holistic social agents who have the power to construct different identities in the classroom. They actively take part in certain practices, construct identities, negotiate the meaning of their actions and take control over their learning in pursuit of their goals of learning English for which they require an extended amount of time, effort, and commitment.
About the author
Mr. Arjun Basnet is an M.Ed., M.A., and MPhil in ELE from Kathmandu University. Mr. Basnet is a teacher, teacher-educator, and freelance researcher. Mr. Basnet works as a full-time faculty at Bijeshwori Gyan Mandir Sainik Mahavidyalaya, Bijeshwori, Kathmandu. Currently, Mr. Basnet serves as a Visiting Faculty at Kathmandu University, School of Education. He is also a Life member of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA). Mr. Basnet is interested in reading, writing, and research works.
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Can be cited as:
Basnet, A. (2021, May). Identity construction of the Nepalese EFL students. [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/identity-construction-of-the-nepali-efl-students/
This paper aims to explore the techniques and tools used for assessing the English language learners in remote teaching-learning and to discuss the challenges and obstacles faced by the teachers while assessing the learners. Based on a collective study design, this paper presents a study on the assessment practices in remote teaching-learning. Data were collected from three English language teachers of basic education level using online interviews. The results showed that many English language teachers transitioned to remote teaching learning because of the COVID -19 pandemic and whether it is a face to face class or remote teaching-learning, assessment is an integral part of the teaching-learning to check the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the educational goals and standards of the lessons are being met. The assessments were taken more or less similar to the face-to-face mode via written or oral practices with the help of technologies and while assessing the learners, the teachers faced the Internet connection issues, investment of ample time for designing and organizing the assessment with the help of technologies. The teachers gained less support from the parents and students for conducting the effective assessment.
Keywords: Assessment, remote teaching-learning, techniques and tools, educational goals, integral
This study assessed the English language learners based on their mode of acquiring learning that is either through face-to-face or remote teaching-learning. Remote Teaching -Learning (RTL) offers teaching learning beyond the physical classrooms. It is the learning process where the teachers are separated from the learners in time and distance. According to Graham (2019), RTL is the practice of teaching a language interactively via videoconferencing. He further describes that it differs from telecollaboration which mainly focuses on enabling language teaching and learning to take place rather than on intercultural collaboration. In remote language teaching, both students and teachers interact through two-way communication technologies. Similarly, in Belz and Thorne’s (2006) view, RLT supports learners’ interaction with the teachers and peers, encourages them to have more dialogue, debate, and intercultural exchange. Remote teaching is also referred to as live online language teaching to refer to synchronous (i.e. in real-time) computer-mediated communication for language teaching (Swertz et al., 2007). In RLT, teachers focus on both pedagogy and technology to provide huge opportunities for effective learning and collaboration beyond the physical classroom. They involve approaches and techniques that are more connected with the technologies. Whereas, Whyte and Gijsen (2016) argue that there is an ample burden for the teachers to conduct the classes remotely than for regular face-to-face classes. Teachers are committed to helping the learners with these different ways of working and teaching them in the most effective way possible. Teachers require and prepare designed and written materials to take advantage of the teaching and learning context and delivery method (i.e. video conferencing). Therefore, remote teaching is an innovative way of bridging cultural and geographical distances and enables the teaching and learning of languages to students who would otherwise not have the opportunity.
At present, most English language teachers had to opt for remote learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many teachers had transition to remote learning with no advance notice or preparation earlier this year. Some are planning for remote learning in the fall when they return to school. It is important to remember that remote learning refers to a class that intends to meet face-to-face. The teachers have been practising to replicate remote learning as far as possible into the real face-to-face classes. It is not just enough with the engagement of teaching-learning activities. The learners should be assessed to check the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the educational goals and standards of the lessons are being met. The learners must be able to think critically, analyze, and make inferences. Hence, assessing them is the most challenging factor in RTL. Nitko and Broookhart (2013) opine that organizing assessment helps the teachers to collect the information about teaching-learning and well as the students’ performance to make the certain decision teaching. Assessment in English language teaching has been defined as “involving professional judgment based upon an image formed by the collection of information about student performance” (Stanley, 2019, p. 8). Similarly, Wolf (2020) states that assessments are a critical means of identifying learners and monitoring their achievements. Assessments also play a fundamental role in teaching and learning, since it helps to gather the important information about students’ needs, which helps teachers provide appropriate support and interpret their academic performance accurately. Assessment is one of the important aspects which is being treated as a teaching-learning process as well (Stiggins, 1991). Assessing learners is a very important and essential part of a teacher’s teaching (Nitko, 1996). It is an integrated process for determining the nature and extent of student’s learning and achievement (Linn & Gronland, 2005).
According to Stanley (2019), there are two types of assessment: formative and summative. Assessment can be formative when it is to improve learning and assessment is summative when it is for monitoring and certificating performance or achievement. During the year, formal and informal instances of the formative assessment provide information to Remote Teachers (RTs) and Classroom Teachers (CTs) about student learning so adjustments can be made to teaching.
Assessment is an important aspect of teaching-learning. It offers the teachers to go up to the next class and to figure out whether the students are included. It also helps to get the results of the teaching-learning activities. On the other hand, it makes the teachers ready to take a proficiency test and provide the students the grades.
This study sought to answer the following research questions:
How do English Language teachers assess students in remote teaching-learning?
What challenges do English language teachers face while assessing students in remote teaching-learning?
This is a qualitative study that used a collective case study design to explore the questions. According to Stake (1995), a case study is the study of the particularity and complexity of a single case, coming to understand its activity within important circumstances. It helps to collect the information in detail and understand the problem in-depth with its real-life context. The case study design is an important tool for exploring and describing a phenomenon in context while refining theory and identifying areas for more exploration (Yin, 2018). Data were collected from three English Language Teachers of Basic Education Level who were assessing students by using different techniques and tools and while assessing them in remote teaching-learning in one of the schools of Kathmandu Valley. The teachers were a diverse group in terms of their ethnicity, gender, and grade level experiences. I collected data, which included notes of observation and interaction during online classes and interview with synchronous tools like Zoom Cloud Meeting (5 times in total); written reflections for each teacher related to assigned articles, email and Facebook messages correspondence with pupils, and transcriptions of semi-formal small group interviews. I conducted two rounds of interviews individually with teachers and three rounds of interviews in a group. Each interview lasted approximately 40 minutes. I followed them twice a week. The data occurred in two phases. First, I divided the data sets for coding purposes. In this initial phase, I examined individual cases, techniques, and the tools used for assessing the students in remote teaching-learning. Comparing the responses, I coded and analyzed them into the four themes: Observations, Discussion, Feedback, and Self-assessment.
Next, I collectively asked the participants what challenges they were facing while assessing the students in the remote teaching-learning. The responses were kept under different themes in which the individual cases were combined and compared to create a collective case study. After collecting data by qualitative technique, the data were analyzed and interpreted qualitatively. The following sections represent the results obtained from data analysis.
Results and discussion
This study aimed to explore the techniques and tools adopted by English Language teachers for assessing students in remote teaching-learning and to find out the challenges English language teachers face while assessing students in remote teaching-learning. Therefore, the results gained via the interview data were put into two sub-sections: Assessment for learning techniques and Challenges.
Techniques and tools for assessing in remote teaching-learning
This section presents the data derived by observing the English Language Teaching (ELT) class to answer the first research question, exploring the techniques and tools adopted by English Language teachers for assessing students in remote teaching-learning.
Informal teacher observations: In remote teaching-learning, the teachers were found observing different things in their classes. They observed how well the students managed to focus when doing the tasks. Furthermore, how much time do the students need to do certain tasks? And whether the students were willing to volunteer or respond when called on. The teachers in the interview also added that they observed the students if they were prepared for the task or provide help.
Student-led observations: Teachers assessing English language learners using remote methods checked the students’ autonomy and responsibility in their learning. They were asked to follow the netiquettes as it was remote teaching. They were given responsibilities where they took attendance and gave their opinions on what was happening in the class. Furthermore, they were asked to provide the class report either to the class teacher or the subject teacher.
Teacher participants in the interview shared that they assessed the students in remote teaching-learning by giving different learning situations. They assessed through the discussions in the live classes. Discussions were done on the usages of techniques and digital tools by the teachers, about the language usage L1 or L2. In addition to this, the discussion where the students did share in a peer, small group, or the whole class was also assessed. Lastly, the assessment was made when the students were provided with options during controlled practice.
Students in remote teaching-learning were assessed based on the feedback given by them. Following things were taken into considerations when assessing the feedback given by them. Students were asked to give feedback when their peers participated or did any work. They would give feedback on their friends’ thinking process, presentation, content, gestures, etc. They were asked to provide positive and critical feedback which could motivate their friends to perform better and which would help to create a healthy atmosphere.
Self-assessment is another technique used by the teachers to assess English language students in remote teaching. They explained that they used active recall questions to check the students’ progress. The students were asked to do the self-assessments by preparing PowerPoint presentations, using digital tools to do their project works, encouraging them to write journals, blogs, etc. They were also asked to take objective tests with the help of google forms and other online platforms. Furthermore, they were asked to appear for the written subjective tests. Recording the voice or video on any academic topic was promoted which they had to send to the teachers. Finally, some teachers asked them to attend the class on time.
Challenges in assessing students in remote teaching-learning
This section presents the data derived by observing the ELT class to answer the second research question, exploring the challenges and the obstacles faced by the teachers assessing the learners in remote teaching-learning.
Students with the internet issues
The teachers have found that most of the learners had the Internet with low bandwidth. There were also the chances of power cuts and disconnection while taking the synchronous class. The teachers responded that because of low connectivity they had to turn off their camera and be connected with mobile data.
Students with not enough support
The teachers revealed that the students were getting less support from their parents and seniors regarding the use of laptops and digital tools while taking the classes. The children were also less supervised by the parents while taking the classes. There were more chances of getting distracted and being engaged in playing online games.
Widening gaps between students’ proficiency
The teachers explained that there was an individual difference in remote teaching-learning. All the students did not have the same digital literacy and level of competency. The children faced problems while submitting the assignments, communicating with the teachers, and handling the tools.
Difficulty in supporting individuals
It was very time-consuming for the teachers to prepare the lessons and spending more on screen. The teachers had to spend more time preparing PowerPoint presentations and giving feedback to the students because of the technical issues the teachers were unable to give the class and communicate with the learners properly.
The present study investigated the assessment techniques and tools used by the English language teachers for assessing the learning in the remote teaching-learning and the challenges and obstacles faced by the teachers while assessing them in the remote teaching-learning. Results of the study showed that assessment was an integral part of teaching-learning to check the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the learning goals were achieved or not. The teachers did the planning, implementing, and organizing of the lesson by using digital and printed materials to assess the learners. The teachers engaged the learners in the discussion in the remote learning, observation of the lesson, engaging them in the feedback and self-assessment. While following those techniques, the teachers also encountered challenges related to the technologies and with the students’ well-being.
About the author
Mr. Puskar Chaudhary is an MPhil practitioner at Kathmandu University. He works as a full-time faculty and coordinates with the Digital Literacies Programme at Triyog High School, Tokha, Kathmandu. He is also a life member of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) and International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL). His current interests include digital pedagogy, digital literacies programme, and teachers’ networking, and professional development.
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Can be cited as:
Chaudhary, P. (2021, May). Assessing English language learners in remote teaching-learning [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/assessing-english-language-learners-in-remote-teaching-learning/
Due to the widespread use of English language throughout the globe, teaching and learning English language has got really surprising importance. This has raised a number of questions related to effective English language teaching. In this scenario, with the help of the author’s own experience in teaching English language for more than a decade, this article elaborates different factors that are responsible for effective English language teaching. Teachers, methods and techniques, teaching materials, and learners themselves are such factors that are responsible for effective English language teaching.
English has been developed as a global language due to globalization in recent decades. It is the language of international trade, tourism, education, and diplomacy. Similarly, it has been developed as an international lingua franca. It is being a must to learn and speak English language to be one of the members of this globalized world. Due to the growing spread and need for the English language throughout the world, there is an amazing trend in learning English language. This amazing trend in learning English language for different purposes has resulted in the teaching of English language widely. Many institutions and language schools are active to teach the English language throughout the world.
In order to make learners achieve the goal of learning English language, the learners should be taught English language effectively. No doubt, effective English language teaching makes effective learning but there arise genuine questions i.e., what is effective English language teaching and what makes it effective? Defining effective teaching is difficult since it is a complex and multidimensional process that means different things to different people (Bell, 2005). Though it’s difficult to define, we can simply define ‘effective’ as being successful in producing a desired or intended outcome. Effective teaching involves the ability to provide instruction that helps the students to develop different knowledge, skills, and understandings intended by curriculum objectives and students learn irrespective of their characteristics (Acheson & Gall 2003, as cited in Uygun, 2013).
Effective English language teaching makes learners learn English language with ease. It means to say that learners become able to communicate in English language effectively within a short period of time. Students demonstrate an understanding of meanings rather than just simply memorizing facts in an effective English language teaching classroom (Ghimire, 2019).
Factors making English language teaching effective
After defining effective teaching in general and effective English language teaching in particular, there is still an unanswered question i.e., what makes teaching effective? There are a number of factors that make English language teaching effectively. In order to make it effective, there is a direct and/or indirect hand of all the stakeholders involved in English language teaching. Teachers, students, parents, institutions, and administrators are the stakeholders to name a few.
My experience of being an English language learner for ages and English language teacher for a decade reveals that different factors play a pivotal role in effective English language teaching. As per my experience, a teacher’s personality, knowledge (content and pedagogical), and learners’ activation, motivation, and readiness are prerequisites for effective teaching. Moreover, teacher’s knowledge of technology and being updated with the recent trends in English language teaching are must for effective teaching in this era. In this section, I have explained four factors i.e. teacher, methods and techniques, teaching materials, and learners.
There is a pivotal role of teachers for effective English language teaching. For effective English language teaching, English language teacher/instructor needs to be effective. An effective teacher is the one who possesses different components like content knowledge, general pedagogical knowledge, curriculum knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, knowledge of learners and their characteristics, knowledge of educational ends, purposes, and values, and knowledge of educational contexts (Clark & Walsh, 2002 as cited in Uygun, 2013). This shows teachers should have content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and socio-affective skills. To put it another way, an effective teacher is the one who has good command over the subject matter, good knowledge of the methods and techniques for the effective delivery, and good rapport with the students. Similarly, an effective and dynamic teacher should be enthusiastic, creative, tolerant, patient, kind, sensible, open-minded, optimistic, and flexible, and have a good sense of humour, positive attitudes toward new ideas, and some other personal characteristics (Ghimire, 2019).
Having content and pedagogical knowledge and some other personal characteristics as mentioned above is not sufficient for effective teaching in this era. Since this is the era of science and technology, it has a great deal of impact on teaching as in other sectors. Information and communication technology (ICT) has impacted each and every aspect of human life from which education sector in general and teaching-learning activities, in particular, cannot be an exception. Defining ICT Hafifah (2019, p. 21) states, “…ICT is defined as the activities of using technologies, such as; computer, internet, and other telecommunications media… to communicate, create and disseminate, store and manage information” and ICT in education means teaching and learning by the use of different ICT devices. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are being used in education to support students to learn more effectively by providing teachers with access to a wide range of new pedagogy (Dhital, 2018). Due to the use of ICTs in education, it has changed a number of factors like pedagogy, student-teacher relationship, the concept of literacy, and students’ learning achievement. Students and teachers who were only exposed to the traditional way of teaching-learning activities have shifted their way of teaching and learning. It helps students compete in this global market. ICT in education enhances learning, provides students with a new set of skills, facilitates and improves the training of teachers, and minimizes costs associated with the delivery of traditional instruction (UNESCO, 2014). Therefore, teachers should have the technological knowledge for effective language teaching. He/ She should be ICT literate along with the ability to use and incorporate ICT in language teaching. The teacher needs to be updated with the technological knowledge since it is always in a state of flux more so than content and pedagogical knowledge (Harris, Mishra & Koehler, 2009). In a nutshell, the teacher of this era should be ICT literate first and updated with the changing trends in ICT so that effective language teaching can take place.
Similarly, English language teachers should have a good command of English language. It does not mean that teachers should be native speakers of English. Even a non-native speaker who is good at English can be an effective English language teacher. The teacher should know the students (level, background, interest, need) and have a good rapport with them. The knowledge and command of the target language, ability to organize and clarify the contents, arouse and sustain interest and motivation among students, and fairness and availability to students are the desirable features of an effective second language teacher (Uygun, 2013). Moreover, an effective English language teacher should be clear and enthusiastic in teaching, provide learners with phonological, grammatical, lexical, pragmatic, and sociocultural knowledge.
Methods and techniques
Teaching methods and techniques used in language classrooms play a vital role in effective English language teaching. A method is often regarded as the heart of teaching-learning activities. It is the overall plan for the orderly presentation of language material. Different methods can be used for effective teaching. Since the methods which work best in one context may not be effective in the next context, a teacher should use methods that are context and culture-sensitive. It means the teacher should use the methods and techniques being based on the context where he/she is teaching. In this line, Kumaravadivelu (2001) writes; “Language pedagogy to be relevant must be sensitive to a particular group of teachers teaching a particular group of learners pursuing a particular set of goals within a particular institutional context embedded in a particular sociocultural milieu (p. 538)”. For this, teachers should use self-generated methods which best fit their context. Action research and reflective practice help teachers generate such methods. Teachers need to be autonomous, dynamic, reflective, and intuitive. In a nutshell, teachers should practise what they theorize and theorize what they practice (Kumaravadivelu, 2001).
For effective English language teaching, the teaching materials teachers use in language classrooms also play a vital role. Since the materials used in English language classroom make teaching lively and effective, teachers rely on different materials to support their teaching and their students’ learning. The teaching material, let it be commercially produced or self-made should address the needs, levels, and interests of the students. The materials used in language classrooms should be content and context-sensitive. They should stimulate interaction and be generative in terms of language, encourage learners to develop learning skills and strategies, allow for a focus on form as well as function, offer opportunities for integrated language use, be authentic, link to each other to develop a progression of skills, understandings, and language items, be attractive and have appropriate instructions and be flexible (Howard & Major, 2004).
Like other factors, a learner is also one of the factors that make teaching effective. Learners should be active and creative to carry out the activities conducted both in and outside the classroom. An active and creative learner is related to a successful learner who sets and accomplishes his or her own goals (Karen, 2001). According to Zamani and Ahangari (2016), “Good teaching is clearly important to raising student achievement, if teacher is not aware of the learner’s expectation and needs related to the course, it will have negative outcomes regarding the students’ performance” (p. 70). So, for effective teaching, a teacher should make the students active and creative. Making learners active and creative means engaging them with materials to work collaboratively with their friends making themselves responsible in the classroom activities. A teacher should provide such tasks which promote learner autonomy on one hand and collaborative learning on the other.
Being based on the above ideas, it can be concluded that there is not a single factor that makes English language teaching effective. The first and foremost requirement for effective English language teaching is an effective teacher. Teachers should possess content, pedagogical and technological knowledge, and socio-affective skills to make teaching effective. Secondly, the materials and methods the teacher uses in the language classroom should be context and culture-sensitive because the prescribed methods and materials developed by other experts may not work properly in all the contexts. For this, the teacher should develop their methods and materials that best fit their contexts with the help of action research and reflective practice. Finally, the learners should be active and creative for effective teaching and learning. For this, a teacher should use the tasks which foster learner autonomy and collaborative learning.
About the author
Prakash Bhattarai is pursuing his M.Phil. in English Education at the Graduate School of Education, Tribhuvan University. He has a decade-plus experience in teaching English language from primary to university level. Currently, he has been teaching at Kirtipur Secondary School, Kathmandu. To his credit, he has published a few academic articles in national and international journals. His professional interest includes ELT, Language planning and policy and English and multilingualism.
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Can be cited as:
Bhattarai, P. [2021, May]. What makes English language teaching effective? ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/what-makes-english-language-teaching-effective/
English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) has become widespread due to globalization and the growing demand of developing nations, particularly in Nepalese public schools which are assumed as a symbol of quality education. This new trend of adopting EMI caught the attention of parents on the impact and changes in education. The study explores the perceptions of parents on the implementation of EMI in public schools through Bourdieu’s lens of the symbolic power of language theory. Based on an in-depth interview with three parents of Kanchanpur, the perceptions on the implementation of EMI in school education are explored. The data analysis reveals EMI is perceived as an investment for developing advanced English skills and an uplifting lifestyle. The result shows EMI is just a fashion and propaganda to increase the number of students. Despite the demand of parents in society, some public schools are switching to EMI without proper preparation. Also, EMI is the preference as a mantra of competition. Findings indicate that the public schools need to close their ears for howling mob i.e. EMI as synonyms of quality education without proper preparation and readiness because hunting needs loaded guns and hunting skills.
Keywords: EMI, fashion, social strata, competition
As English is an international language, its use in different areas of social science is growing rapidly all over the world. The use of English from business to education is rapidly increasing. The rapid use of English in different aspects of society is dominating other languages of the world. Further, the English language is becoming a global lingua franca that links critical turns such as globalization, global economy, transnational communication, education, and the Internet (Sah& Li, 2018). Since English is integrated into every aspect of life, it has become obligatory in order to uplift social, economic status in the globe. In this regard, Bourdieu (1993) states English has become one of the best sources of achieving power, linguistic capital, and access. We visualize the choice of English in different schools even in remote areas of the world. With this notion, non-native countries are adopting English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) though its implementation is great intimidation to the indigenous languages (House, 2014). Its effect is visible in the education sector where these countries are adopting EMI even from the basic level. As a result, English is practiced as an academic subject from the very beginning of formal education (Dearden, 2015), as people assume that EMI provides better socioeconomic mobility (Sah & Li, 2018). So, the hegemony of English is vividly felt in every aspect of social life including school education.
However, EMI is one of the prominent issues in the context of Nepal where private schools have already adopted and public schools have been mushrooming. EMI is taken as the prestige of school though schools are under-resourced (Gnawali, 2018) and lacking will power in real classrooms. Implementing EMI in such a situation has created problems in students learning achievement and creativity. In this regard, Sah and Li (2018) say implementing EMI without proper preparation resulted in negative outcomes: students neither achieve content knowledge nor English language skills. On the contrary, Evans, and Morrison (2016) state the graduates of EMI schools seem more confident in English ability, received superior examination grades, and able to adjust to diverse social contexts. As the entire world has been emphasizing the English language, countries like Nepal, India, Indonesia, and Ghana have been switching towards EMI without proper preparation.
In developing and non-English speaking countries EMI has different faces. As an instance, EMI in Indonesia is taken as a symbol of prestige and power where English Language teachers play an agentive role (Zacharias, 2013) for its promotion. In the same way in Taiwan, students agreed that English instruction helped them improve their English proficiency (Chang, 2010) though, in Pakistan, it was neglected to point its negative effects in mainstream education (Ahmed, 2011). According to Haider and Fang (2019), English is proving linguistic capital for elites although the lack of opportunities in general school leads to failure in professional life in Pakistan. On the other hand in China, Hu, Li,& Lei (2014) portrait EMI as a gatekeeper of access to English and other potential benefits. As English and its use in education have been increasing, many public schools are adopting it massively as a medium of instruction. To put it in a nutshell, in some countries EMI is a boon and for a few others, it’s a bane.
Similarly, parents send their children to private schools in urban areas because of their global status. They are willing to get and give education through EMI, even though they have low economic status. English is synonymously taken as a part of skills development (Erling, 2014) so all parents prefer to send their children to EMI implemented schools. Similarly, English is taken as a superior language and English-educated people are taken as highly prestigious in the society, therefore, parents are demanding EMI even in public schools though policies encourage mother tongue-based multilingual education (Phyak, 2016). This shows the gap between policy and practice. Similarly, implementing EMI created tension among parents having low economic status though they strongly prefer it. In this vain, Poudel (2019), says in the context of Nepal, English is the most influential language among upper and middle classes. It has created the strata in society as EMI educated are taken as superior and Non-EMI educated are as inferior.
However, most of the research on the EMI is primarily focused on teachers’ readiness, policy analysis, the effect of EMI, and students’ demands. The real perceptions of parents from the root level have not been well explored among scholars and policymakers in the context of Nepal. This study, therefore, aimed to explore the perception of parents’ on the implementation of EMI in public schools. It further tried to answer the question ‘how do parents narrate their experiences of sending their children to EMI implemented public school?’
Despite these useful studies, there is still a dearth of research investigating the perceptions of parents on the implementation of EMI in public schools. This study, therefore, aims to explore the perceptions of parents on the implementation of EMI in public schools. This study addresses the following question:
How do parents narrate their experiences of sending their children to EMI implemented public school?’
Reviewing Nepalese language planning and policy status
Language planning is an important process that enhances and reforms the entire linguistic situation of the country. It is also the national or international strategy to promote the selected language(s). Many ups and downs are found in the language planning of our country. Regarding this, Bist (2015) writes that the Nepal National Education Planning Commission (NNEPC) 1953 AD suggested that English needs to be started from grade four to Bachelor level as a compulsory subject. However, through its report in 1956, the commission recommended removing English from the Medium of instruction, which was in practice since the Rana regime.
Furthermore, the Education Act (1971) was amended by The Education and Sports Related Some Nepal Acts Amendment Act (2007) with the policy that the Nepali language or English language or both languages shall be the medium of instruction in a school in its section seven, subsection one. Similarly, in subsection two (a) it is included that the mother tongue may be the medium of instruction up to primary education, and in subsection two (d) we can find the policy of English language medium while teaching a compulsory subject of English. Therefore, this document of the Education Act permits public schools to use English as a medium of instruction while teaching any academic subjects in the schools (Education Act, 1971).
Multilingual Education Directive (2010) declares mother tongue to be the medium of instruction at the pre-primary level and basic level in class (1- 3) to teach all subjects except Nepali and English subjects, and mother tongue or the language of government officials to be medium of instruction at basic (classes 4- 5) level. The Constitution of Nepal (2015) includes the right of every Nepali community living in Nepal to get education in its mother tongue up to the secondary level, in Article No. 31, sub-article No.5 (Constitution of Nepal, 2015). Regarding other language planning documents, Phyak (2016) says if we closely look at the Ministry of Education’s policies and plans such as Education for All, Millennium Development Goals, School Sector Reform Plan, and National Curriculum Framework, it wants to promote multilingual education by considering children’s home/community languages a resource for an equitable and quality education.
Symbolic power of language
The symbolic power of language believes education is one of the most effective means of immortalization of the existing social pattern (Benbenishty et al., 2005). It further gives proper justification for the social inequalities and recognition of the cultural heritage. More specifically, Bourdieu (1977) highlighted the symbolic power of language which is the symbol of imposition. Symbolic power here is a power of constituting given through utterances, of making people see and believe, of confirming or transforming the vision of the world (Loader, 1997). Further, the language given legitimate status involves the claim to be heard, believed, and obeyed and that can exercise its effectiveness and effectiveness of the mechanism (Bourdieu, 1991).
In the context of Nepal, EMI is practiced as a means to gain power in society. In our own experience, a person having good command over English gains high prestige and reputation. As Bourdieu (1977) said that the powerful language imposes different ideologies, the practice is seen in the Nepalese schools by implementing EMI. Existing scenario presents EMI as the symbol of power which controls the social aspects from education to economy. Likewise, EMI has brought strata among the schools in the nation. Schools having EMI tend to be superior than the non-EMI schools. This division is clearly seen in our context. So, analyzing this power play of EMI, Symbolic Power of Language theory was found appropriate in our study.
The review helped us to get an overview of EMI policies in Nepal and it has also revealed the importance of multilingual education in the context of Nepal. As the study aimed to explore the implementation of the English language as a medium of instruction, this review created a base for analyzing the real context which later helped us to frame out our findings. Further, analyzing the present status of local languages and imposition of English from the previous studies created the proper gap and demand to explore more.
As the study aimed to explore subjective realities from the real field, it is qualitative in nature. The site of the study was Kanchanpur (one of the districts of Western Nepal) and three parents whose children study in EMI implemented public school were our participants. To explore their perception of EMI, we chose them purposely. To maintain balance on the existing contemporary strata of the society, we selected one participant from the lower class (Ramesh) level and other two from the middle-class level (Sampurna and Ram).
Ramesh was from a lower-class family, aged in his mid-thirties. He enrolled his children in a public school implementing EMI. He was an auto driver having five members in the family. He had two daughters and a son studying in the same school. Similarly, our second participant Ram was a middle-class man, aged in his mid-fifties. He had stayed in Malaysia for three years and had one daughter who studied in class nine. Earlier, he had enrolled his daughter in a public school where the Nepali medium of instruction was implemented. He did not pay any monthly fees there. After coming back from Malaysia, he preferred to enroll his daughter in a public school where EMI was practiced even by paying. And the third one was Sampurna, a middle-class man with four members in the family having two daughters. He was a farmer and his wife was a housewife. He enrolled both his daughters in public schools where EMI was practiced.
We collected data through in-depth interviews. Moreover, we interviewed them thrice and it was audio-recorded. The first interview created the opportunity for the follow-up interviews which ensured the contextual experiences. We conducted a second round of interviews only after the data from the first phase were categorized into different themes, and the analysis was underway. The frequent informal conversations made our data more lively and interesting. The interpretive paradigm was employed to explore parents’ perceptions of EMI. After that, we coded data using thematic chunks such as English as a fashion, EMI as a symbol of power, and English as a mantra of competition. We developed all those codes after a careful understanding of the collected data. The codes were further put into analytical memos, which depicted emerging themes. These themes were developed on the basis of the research question and objective. As every participant is value-led, we valued the participants’ views and had prolonged engagement during formal interviews and informal tea talks. For ethical issues, we took the consent of the participants and used pseudo names for privacy so that it won’t harm their personal and professional life.
Results and discussion
As this research aimed to explore the perception of parents on implementing EMI in public school, they take it as symbolic power, fashion, and weapon to compete. On the basis of perceptions of the parents their themes were made and discussed in this section.
Power Play of EMI
From the parents’ perspective in Nepal, English is taken as a symbol of power since English education is taken as highly prestigious in society. The success story of private schools has led to many Nepalese parents who preferred an English medium education for their children regardless of their socioeconomic status. In this regard our second participant Ram (pseudonym) shared:
When I was in Malaysia, I came to know the value of English in today’s world. I was thinking of sending my daughter to an elite institutional school but I realized that I could not handle it from an economic perspective. Later, I enrolled her in a public school where EMI is practiced. I am happy right now because my daughter is learning English. I know those people speak English, they get respect in society and they will get jobs very soon.
It is believed that English-educated people are more intelligent and wise in the community though English is not widely accepted in everyday communication. According to Bourdieu (1993) language regulates the power and prestige in society which is seen as practice. In the same line our third participants Sampurna added:
I could not study at the campus level, I had a dream to send my daughters to college for higher education. My friends share that English is very important, the upcoming generation won’t get any job without English. Then only I realized the value of English in each and every sector. Sometimes I spent time with my friends in the teashop, everyone used to talk about their daughters and sons. They feel proud of themselves for sending kids to more expensive schools where English is primarily focused. I also felt that without English, no one would get a job and opportunity in this century. So, I have sent my daughters to public schools where English is prioritized.
Analyzing both of the views above, the English language has a great impact and position in the world so he preferred to send his daughter to EMI School not only for content knowledge but also for the English language. Participants believed EMI is very important in school education, it has increased the number of students in public schools and they know the value of the English language. They believed that English promotes prestige in the community and EMI helps students to facilitate the learning of content and English skills (Sah, 2020). It has become such a well-adopted medium of instruction in higher education in Nepal. Despite having low economic status, people show keen interest to enroll their children in English medium school because they know that English is a powerful language. Likewise, looking at it from the symbolic power perspective, lower class, marginalized and disadvantaged groups of people try to uplift their status with the use of powerful language (Bourdieu, 1993) i.e. English in the Society.
This shows EMI in today’s demand in developing countries like Nepal. So, English is for economic development, social mobility, and participation in the global economy (Bruthiaux, 2002) as English has achieved global status. English is taken as a weapon in order to bring happiness to family and community and uplift the socio-economic status of the people.
Fashion in the market
EMI is growing as a kind of fashion. This fashion is linked to “cultural capital” in a globalized society where parents of public schools want to switch schools (Lareau & Horvat, 1999). As new fashion first attracts the attention of the people who are not in the habit of being changed i.e. lower-class people, the same group of people are more attracted to enroll their children in EMI schools. In this regard, Bourdieu (1997) states cultural capital consists of familiarity with the dominant culture in society and especially the ability to understand and use “educated” language, and here in the community English is accepted as an educated language. In this line Ramesh provoked:
I have never ever studied English in my life. Nowadays, we are bound to learn English. My daughter always forced me to send her to an English medium school. The prime reason was that her best friends study in English medium school. In my locality, no one studies in public schools where the Nepali medium is practiced. Those incidents compelled me to enroll her in an English medium school. And we are happy for EMI in public school.
In the same line, Ram the first participant put forwarded his view as:
I see everyone sending children to the boarding school with well-ironed dresses and ties. This really touches the heart and made me feel like sending children to boarding school. This is a new culture now. Everyone sends children to boarding school even if they don’t have food to eat. Except for English, there is not much change in education but also everybody’s wish.
Participants believed that English provides a better academic and professional career in national and international arenas. Similarly, people believe they are inferior if they don’t study or educate their children in English Medium.
This is because, to some extent, receiving English instruction at a younger age gives sound input and proficiency (Bahrani & Sim, 2012). Participants and children believed that switching to EMI responded to the demand of the present day and would not be dominated by other colleagues in the community. This demand and wish of English from the point of view of symbolic power theory, has been developing and promoting the status of lower and middle-class people. The representational practice of English in education helps in achieving power in society (Hall, 1997). It is how an exhibition constructs and persuades meaning through demonstrating a path through meaning. It is believed that everyone is running behind English because of its popularity.
Mantra of competition
Many public schools have been opting towards EMI to compete with the institutional schools as well as other public EMI schools. The reason behind this is that the number of students is also decreasing day by day. Participants opined that EMI is just for competition rather than collaboration and quality education. In this regard, Ram said:
I have earned a BA in English. After that, I could not get a chance to resume my study because of family problems. Nowadays, I have been engaging in small businesses. Currently, I see that many public schools are switching to EMI. I confidently say that it is a big issue in today’s school education system. In public school, some teachers cannot even read accurately, how can they teach students effectively? There is not any sort of training and enough teaching materials. I believe that this is just for increasing the number of students by showing advertisements for EMI.
In the perceptions of common people, public schools are switching to EMI only just for the sake of advertisement so that they could increase the number of students although the teachers’ readiness, training, and proficiency are in debate. They have a motto to compete with children in the international market with the English language. In the same way, Sampurna viewed, “ Students having good English can tackle problems in the modern age.” He further added, “We were not educated with English so we are facing so many challenges in the digital era. So I send my children to EMI school”. So, the symbolic power (Bourdieu, 1997) of EMI as a linguistic capital is to compete with institutional schools in national and international markets.
It is evident that some public schools are switching to EMI without enough preparation and infrastructure (Sah & Li, 2018). With the motto of competition, many public schools have been implementing EMI but the part of proper preparation and readiness is not properly studied. This resulted in fragmentation in the result. In this regard, Sah and Li (2018) further believed students developed neither content knowledge nor English language skills. This vividly presents the lack of proper preparation and ineffectiveness of EMI in public schools even spending a huge amount of economic and other efforts. Similarly, EMI created the strata among the students in terms of the economy and social status. In the name of English, there has been a stratum of educational division and injustice for the children who are from a lower socioeconomic status and are not able to get access to EMI (Kuchah, 2018). This brings conflict among different ethnic groups in the community. In this line, Sampurna added, “English is a fake myth it does provide quality education but only attract the attention”. Students willing to have education in EMI are compelled to face psychological effects due to poor economic background as education in EMI is expensive, though EMI was taken as a strategy to sell the tag of EMI education in the linguistic market (Bourdieu, 1977). In a nutshell, EMI is just a showcase to increase the students in school rather than providing quality education.
The study employing Bourdieu’s (1977) symbolic power of language theory looked at the perceptions of parents on the implementation of EMI in school education. As the data revealed parents idealised EMI as a symbol of power and linguistic capital to develop English skills through its real flavour is not achieved because of the lack of preparation and readiness. Switching to EMI without enough preparation and supervision, under-resourced conditions, and improper lead resulted in students’ low proficiency in both English and non-English subjects. On the other hand, it was found EMI in public schools is just propaganda to collect more students which creates a problem for lower and middle-class people as it is more expensive. As this study was limited to the perceptions of parents in a district, future research can be in unpacking the critical analysis of EMI practices and their effect on classroom and students’ achievements in different parts of the country.
About the authors
Mr. Dipak Prasad Mishra is a research Scholar at Kathmandu University, School of Education. Mr. Mishra is Head of the Department of English at Valley View English School. He is a Life Member of the Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA). Mr. Mishra is interested in learners’ autonomy and critical thinking.
Mr. Surendra Bhatt is an MPhil Scholar at Kathmandu University, School of Education. Currently, he is the head of the English Department at Charles Darwin Academy (Management College). Life Member of the Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA), Mr. Bhatt is an executive member of the Geo-linguistics Society of Nepal. Deputy Academic Director of ISTER Nepal, Mr. Bhatta keeps interests in teacher well-being and teacher professional development.
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Can be cited as:
Mishra, D.K. & Bhatt, S. (2021, May). English medium instruction in school education: Parents’ perspectives [Blog article). ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/english-medium-instruction-in-school-education-parents-perspectives/
This article attempts to explore how the local contents in ELT materials can be utilized to enhance patriotism among English language learners in Nepal. The purpose of this study was to explore how the local contents in ELT materials support to enhance patriotism. By employing a phenomenological design of qualitative research with purposive sampling, the three graduate level English language learners were interviewed to collect the information for this research. Collecting audio-recorded interviews, the information was coded, analyzed, and interpreted thematically linking the information with relevant theories and previous studies. The results of this study indicate that the local contents and the texts of Nepali English writers’ in ELT materials and English courses can contribute to enhance patriotism among Nepali English language learners. This study also signals that all the stakeholders of Nepal’s ELT such as curriculum planners, course designers, and textbook writers should maximise the contents from Nepali contexts and culture in ELT course in Nepal.
Keywords: Patriotism, Local contents, Nepal-based contents, and Nepali English learners
In this rapidly materialized era, education system of the country can play a major role to strengthen patriotic feelings in its citizens. In the context of Nepal, the local contents in ELT can contribute to orient students towards working for the welfare of their nation. Recently, the government of Nepal has released the actual map including the Nepali territories Kalapani, Lipulekh, and Limpiyadhura that lie in the east of the Mahakali River. This new map is included in our recently published school-level English textbooks which is highly appreciable. Similar initiatives and the contents from Nepali contexts and culture can contribute to enhancing patriotism among students in ELT classroom.
ELT in Nepal should go beyond the teaching of how to listen, speak, read, and write in English. ELT should include how to reform society, preserve our own culture, and enhance patriotism. Nussbaum (2013, p. 3) focused on “an education that cultivates the ability to see full and equal humanity in another person, perhaps one of humanity’s most difficult and fragile achievements.” ELT should primarily promote Nepal-based knowledge and culture. Giri (2015) asserts that English has become an indispensable part of life for the Nepali people in recent years. As English is introduced more and more early and widely, the contents in ELT materials should be carefully selected and graded to promote Nepali cultures and languages.
As far as my knowledge is concerned, there is scarcity of studies conducted in this area connecting patriotism with ELT in the context of Nepal. Therefore, perceiving this gap in the literature, I conducted this research so that it could help the major stakeholders especially English curriculum planners, English syllabus designers, and English textbook writers of Nepal to design curriculum and syllabuses to address this issue in the future.
Purpose of the study
The purpose of this study is to explore how the local contents in ELT can be utilized to strengthen patriotism in English language learners. This study specifically aims to explore the perceptions of Nepali English language learners on ELT in the light of patriotism.
This study aims to answer the following question:
What are the perceptions of Nepali English language learners on ELT and patriotism?
Taking constructivism as a philosophical standpoint for this study, I take Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory as a main theoretical base and ‘patriotism’ (Bar-Tal & Staub, 1997) as supportive theory.
Vygotsky advocates for socially constructed knowledge that can be obtained in society. In this sense, learning is considered a social process. Therefore, social phenomena and events have a significant role in learning a native or a foreign language. Learners live in their own societies; they have the feeling of intimacy with one another and they have deep love and respect for their society and geography. As Vygotsky considers learning as a social activity and the knowledge is socially constructed through interaction among the learners in social settings. Therefore, Vygotsky’s theory is widely popular in the sector of educational research which seems to be very useful in socially situated investigations of educational development and transformation (Marginson & Dang 2017). Furthermore, education should bring reformation in the mindset of learners to unite the nation in this rapidly globalized educational world.
According to Karsten (1908, p. 61), “For patriotism is not only a legitimate instinct of every healthy human being; it is the sacred duty of every citizen.” Kodelja (2019) highlighted that education and patriotism are closely connected to the learners. Therefore, patriotism can be taken as an indispensable part of the citizens’ life and this feeling is important and should be spread among the learners.
I conducted this research by using the phenomenological design of qualitative research. I collected the data required for this study using the unstructured interview technique from the Master’s level English language learners from Kailali district ranging from 25 to 30 years age. They were selected using the purposive sampling technique. They are mentioned as participant A, participant B, and participant C in this research. They were informed before, after, and during the research process about the aim of the research. Using two-step procedures, firstly, the information was collected, and secondly, it was analyzed by making different themes.
The information collection instrument consisted of background interviews and open-ended oral questions which were answered orally. The background interview covered the questions about their name, experiences, and present level of study. Mainly open-ended interviews were conducted by including research questions relevant to this study. The participants were asked to express their ideas and views on enhancing patriotism through ELT. Their views were audio recorded and transcribed.
Results and discussions
The results of the qualitative analysis are reported in three main themes: a) Patriotism as a backbone of Nepali ELT and learning, b) Patriotism as a lifeline of Nepali English language learners, and c) Patriotism as a guideline of Nepali ELT and learning.
Patriotism as a backbone of Nepali ELT and learning
When the researcher asked the question related to the connection of ELT and patriotism, participant A stated, “English is one of the foreign languages for Nepal. It is a language . . . for communication with foreigners. I hope we don’t forget our originality. For that the connection of patriotism with English language is essential.” Therefore, Nepal-based contents should be highly valued and included in both school-level and higher-level ELT materials. By including such contents in the materials, ELT classes can contribute to enhance love towards nation and its culture to the students. Saud (2020) stresses that the inclusion of local writings in academic courses will help to protect Nepali diverse cultures and the Nepali English literature will gain a new height. In fact, through the translation in English, we can showcase our culture and diversity globally.
Likewise, participant B expressed “In my view, without patriotism, the use of foreign language becomes meaningless. I don’t want to learn English to make my country a foreign land for me.” As participant B expresses ELT materials must include the local texts and foster the feelings of belongingness to the texts in the classroom. Therefore, English materials should prioritize patriotism in its contents, which can contribute to a dignified life of students in modern society.
Similarly, the participant C clearly stated “Where I was born and . . . where I stand determines patriotism. It is a backbone of English language teaching and learning and English should be taught and learned in this way. This is my understanding.” From the view of participant C, it is clear that patriotism should be the backbone of ELT materials and teaching- learning. Therefore, English can also be used as a tool to make Nepal known to the world. Saud (2020) states that ELT should be culturally sensitive and socially responsive valuing multicultural contexts. Eventually, patriotic contents help to strengthen any sort of solidarity for the welfare of the country and its people.
Patriotism as a lifeline of Nepali English language learners
Many Nepali learners are interested in English language learning due to its dominance in the whole world. However, many learners are leaving the country after learning English. Through the inclusion of patriotic contents, ELT materials can help to strengthen the students’ love towards the nation.
When the researcher asked another question regarding Nepal-based contents in English textbooks, participant A replied “In my opinion, the texts in English textbooks that we study are written by foreign writers. We should promote English texts written by Nepali writers. I think patriotism should be the lifeline for us.” Participant A reveals the status and representation of texts in our ELT materials and textbooks. In response to a similar question, the participant B opined:
In some English textbooks, I find some contents related to Nepal which we count on fingers. However, I think these are good signs of hope. Some of the Nepali English textbook writers prioritize Nepal-based content in English which is appreciable. I think so.
Participant B acknowledges the inclusion of local texts in ELT materials and is hopeful to increase in future. It certainly signals a ray of hope, but the proportion of the local texts, discourse and culture should increase in ELT materials. Saud (2020) states that a language reflects culture. However, different cultures can also be reflected in one language. Likewise, participant C expressed “The amount of local contents is very minimal. English writers of Nepal . . . attention, please. Without knowing Nepal, how do we promote patriotism?” Considering the opinion of participant C, patriotism can be promoted if the learners know Nepal and its cultures, and students get to know more about their country and culture, if they are exposed to more reading materials with local contents and cultures.
Furthermore, the participant A (being energetic) replied “If some lessons related to Nepal are included in the textbooks, it really helps to enhance patriotism in the learners. It’s essential.” From the view of this participant, it can be inferred that the lessons related to Nepal play a great role to enhance the patriotic feeling in Nepali learners of English. Similar is the opinion of the participant B, who stressed “We must learn Nepali contents and culture in English language classroom and live in Nepal being Nepali not only in the heart but also in mind.”
Likewise, the participant C replied, “If patriotic, cultural and social contents are included in the English textbook, learners become curious and show interest in English language learning.” The view of participant C also indicates the necessity of Nepali contents in English textbooks which helps to enhance not only patriotism but also facilitate learning English with ease. When the learners find the texts and contents from their local culture, it is easy for them to comprehend, as a result, their learning gets better.
Patriotism as a guideline of Nepali ELT and learning
Generally, common people believe that English is learned to go to a foreign country and earn money. It may be true to some extent, but it can also be learned to spread our history, culture, art, and knowledge in the different parts of the world.
In response to one of the researcher questions, the participant A says:
Let me talk about higher education. In English literature, many stories, poems, dramas, and novels written by foreigners are included in the course, but the texts created or written by Nepali writers are neglected . . . the textbook writers should include the creation of Nepali writers that represent patriotism. It can give Nepali flavor in English language teaching and learning.
We can take the gist from participant A’s view that Nepali texts should be included in English materials, which is the need of time. Therefore, the texts of Nepali writers’ should be given priority in English textbooks. Saud (2020) urges the material developers to value local culture and include more and more local contents and texts in the materials in future. In response to a similar question, participant B expressed “In my opinion, English should be used to strengthen our country. English language should be utilized to strengthen our relations with us and others. I think . . . patriotism is a guideline for English language teaching and learning in Nepal.” The intention of participant B is that English can strengthen our internal and international relations. For that, patriotism can be taken as a guideline to ELT and learning of Nepal. In this sense, English can strengthen our country.
Bhandari (2016) argues that teaching English in multilingual and multicultural contexts in Nepal can be considered as one of the major challenges in ELT. Teachers can play a significant role to minimise it as Giri (2020) advocates that English teachers can play an important role minimize the hegemonic influence of native speakers. The hegemonic mindset can also be changed if Nepali contents get space in the ELT of Nepal.
Answering a similar question, participant C stated “ELT in Nepal should be focused on Nepali contents and contexts. At least fifty percent contents must be related to Nepal and should be included in English courses.” In participant C’s opinion, it can be inferred that Nepali contents should be kept at the centre of the ELT and learning of Nepal. Furthermore, Giri (2020) clearly mentions an example of whether the lesson is about ‘pollution’, the materials used should be the ones that are written about their own cities. Therefore, Nepal-based content should be included in the ELT of Nepal to enhance patriotism among the learners.
In this post-method era of language teaching and learning, socio-cultural contents get focused to enhance patriotism through the ELT of Nepal. Kumaravadivelu (2001, p. 545) stresses that “post method pedagogy rejects the narrow view of language education that confines itself to the linguistic functional elements that obtain inside the classroom.” As ELT is an educational activity, relevant content should be added as per the necessity of the country.
The inclusion of local texts, discourse and contents in ELT materials can enhance patriotism by making learners aware of their nation and culture. Learning a foreign language is a right of learners, whereas being patriotic is a duty of a responsible citizen. The results show that Nepal-based contents should be prioritized for enhancing patriotism in Nepali learners in general and Nepali English language learners in particular. As the contents are significant rather than who has written the texts and where the texts have been written. However, it is also true that the texts produced in one’s context and culture are more comprehensible, readable, and learnable for the learners. Furthermore, the results of this study also indicate that the texts written by Nepali English authors should be included in school and university level English courses which help to strengthen patriotism to a greater extent.
The author: Mr. Bhan Singh Dhami is an M. Ed. fourth semester student of Kailali Multiple Campus, Dhangadhi, Kailali under Tribhuvan University of Nepal. He has been teaching since 2006 AD. Currently, he is a secondary level English teacher at Shree Khare Secondary School Gaurishankar RM -8, Dolakha. His areas of interest are academic writing, creative writing, English Language Teaching (ELT), learner autonomy, teacher identity and teacher professional development.
Karsten, G. E. (1908). Folklore and Patriotism. The journal of English and Germanic philology Vol. 7 (2), pp. 61-78 Published by: University of Illinois Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.com/stable/27699914.
Ward, S. J. A. (2017). Patriotism and Journalism. In: Sardoč, M. (ed.), Handbook of patriotism, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-30534-9_39-1
Can be cited as: Dhami, B. S. [2021, May]. Enhancing patriotism through English language teaching and learning in Nepal. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/enhancing-patriotism-through-the-local-contents-in-elt-materials/
In my past nine years of association with ELT Choutari as a reviewer and editor, I reviewed and edited hundreds of manuscripts, and communicated with dozens of teachers to encourage them to write. Based on this experience, I argue that teachers are undoubtedly the right professionals to write and publish and every teacher (including schoolteachers) can do so.
ELT Choutari generally gives space to new and first-time authors, hence it encourages teachers and teacher educators to share their experiences through writing. While exploring the potential teachers to write and publish, I have come across different types of teachers. When I approach them, initially most of them show interest, gradually some of them drop with some excuses and a few of them try, nonetheless. Interestingly those who give it a try, majority of them produce publishable write-up when they are guided through a series of writing processes.
I would like to recall a case of a particular teacher here. He is a schoolteacher of English language having rich experiences of teaching English to speakers of other languages from a variety of backgrounds. He used to show interest in writing and publishing on ELT Choutari. Once I personally approached him and discussed the possible issues and areas to write following the call for articles. He was all set to go. The next week, when I followed up, he responded that he was going to start soon. Later, when I followed up, he said he had just begun writing something and would finish by the next week. The next week was the deadline but he didn’t respond. I told him that we could give a few days more if he wished to finish but he quit stating he would contribute in a future issue.
In the next issue, with multiple follow-ups and reinforcement, he submitted a write-up on teaching vocabulary. It was a well-organised write-up in about 2000 words. However, there were two major issues with it- structure and content. Structurally, it was heavily influenced by the format of research-based journal paper as he included even an abstract section for a blog piece. Talking about the contents, he went on giving an introduction to teaching vocabulary and explaining different methods and techniques of teaching vocabulary, which was followed by a few tips of his own. When I anlyased it, the majority of the content in it was merely the reproduction of what was already available. So, where is the voice of the author? He was only explaining and summarizing other’s ideas, which is readily available on Google.
Then I realised why teachers like him are anxious about writing and publication in Nepal. Instead of narrating his own real practices and experiences of teaching vocabulary, he went on explaining and summarizing others’ ideas, which can be challenging for first-time authors for two reasons. First, the ideas of others should be well reproduced and paraphrased to avoid plagiarism. Second, such a write-up is less likely to be published because it is commonly available on the Web. If I were him, I would compose the write-up on my first-hand experiences of trying out different methods and techniques. Sometimes teachers also devise their own techniques or strategies to fit in their context. Capturing the same experiences and practices would be fantastic content to write about as it would be easier to write one’s experiences, which would have enough space for the author’s voice.
Most of the Nepali English teachers are anxious about writing and publication and consider that it is not their cup of tea. One of the major reasons behind it is the lack of a culture of reflection and journaling. They have decades of teaching experience and they even teach their students how to write a good paragraph or an essay but paradoxically, they are unable to produce reflective writing themselves. They teach different language skills using multiple methods (including some local methods), but they rarely reflect upon their practices. Like, what’s working and what’s not working? What’s going good and what’s not? Which methods or strategies should I continue and which to drop? This culture of reflection and making notes would also develop writing habits and boost their confidence. However, they are simply following the teaching-learning principles and practices of their gurus, where there was rarely any scope of reflection and writing. Therefore, the present generation of teachers must break this tradition and should start the culture of reflection and documentation, which would enable them to write and publish with ease.
What to write and what not ?
There is a popular saying, which goes, “cut the coat according to the size of your cloth.” The same is true in the case of writing too. So rather than choosing a heavy topic or summarising others’ ideas, the easy way is to write what you do, see, face, or experience in your everyday classroom. Therefore, it is better to choose the issue or topic, in which you feel comfortable to write. In the above case, for example, the teacher could have focused on the challenges he was facing while teaching vocabulary and strategies he used to overcome the challenges. Or he could also have highlighted the methods and strategies, which were the best working in his context. Similarly, he could also have critically examined the popular teaching methods and strategies and their applicability in his context.
Writing issues and topics are right in your classroom, all you need is to reflect on your own practices and classroom phenomena. Please remember that classroom is a lab from where very powerful theories and practices have been developed. Therefore, the easy way of reflection is to ask questions like below to yourself:
Why am I doing what am I doing?
Why am I using this method instead of another?
What if I try this over that?
Is this method facilitating the learning of my students? If yes, why? If no, again why?
Which methods and techniques do my students enjoy and learn from the most?
Why don’t my students sometimes learn the way I want them to learn? What’s wrong with my process?
How to write?
First, we should remove the illusion that all writing and publication must be research-based and formal. Please remember, publishing papers in the journals could be your goal but initially, you can start with something as simple as a reflective narrative or a blog, which don’t necessarily require any research frame or literature review. Take this blog for instance. Is there any research frame or literature review in it? No, I’m just reflecting on my experiences, and adding my voice to it. So, you can also simply write about the good practices in your classroom, challenges, or striking moments in your professional life.
The simple way to write powerful writing is to choose simple but meaningful and relevant issues from our everyday practice and narrate it in a captivating way like the way you narrate something orally to someone. Choosing the right issue and narrating in the form of a story is one of the easiest ways of writing, which any teacher can do. Voice your ideas instead of summarizing others’ ideas. If your story is engaging and relevant, readers will read and enjoy it. I also started my writing journey with narrative reflections. For instance, see HERE.
Narrative reflections and blogs are the stepping stones in one’s writing journey. Our experiences serve as content in such writing and narration works as the writing style. And there is nothing right or wrong about the narration technique. Narrating is way easier than writing some formal academic composition. Reflective narrative and blogs are informal in styles, juicy to read and yet they can raise important issues. For instance here is one by Karna Rana , another here by Alban S. Holyoke, and here is another by Yashoda Bam. Once you are confident and comfortable on writing them, then you can gradually move towards other scholarly writing and research papers.
Writing can be as easy as narrating an interesting event to our friends and family. Therefore, choosing interesting practices, challenges, striking events, or observations from your classroom and putting them in the form of a story would produce a good write-up. Moreover, reading related literature also provides ideas and confidence in writing, so read a few blogs and guidelines HERE before starting your own. Write and show it to your colleague, who cares for writing. Hear his/her feedback, review, and finalise.
Dear teachers, writing and publication on the blogs and web magazine like ETL Choutari is not as hard as you think. Therefore, before wrapping up this piece, I would like to note the following:
Teachers have rich experiences and issues to write about. So why not to write?
Reading and writing are part of the teaching profession, so, let’s make it our professional practice.
If teachers don’t write, how can they expect their students to write?
Writing helps us to better understand and to be better understood.
You definitely have some good practices and success stories and if you document them, others will benefit, and you will develop a writing habit.
Now looking forward to reading your reflective narrative and blogs on future issues.
[Note: since you have come up to here reading it, please share your feeling, feedback, or any question related to it in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]
Can be cited as: Karki, J. (2021, April 20). Dear teachers, you can write and publish. [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/dear-teachers-you-can-write-and-publish/
The Author: Jeevan Karki is a freelance teacher trainer, researcher, and writer. He serves as an expert in designing materials and developing training for the literacy program at Room to Read. He has authored several op-eds and blogs including some national and international journal articles. He is also an editor of ELT Choutari and the Editor-in-Chief at MercoCreation.
Blogs are the stepping stones for one’s writing journey
It gives us immense pleasure to release our twelfth-anniversary issue and the first quarterly issue (January- March) of 2021.
The 12 years of academic journey to promote and enhance local scholarship has produced 12 resourceful volumes, 98 issues, and more than 600 blog posts, articles, and interviews, and more than thousands of comments, questions, and interaction from our readers. Most importantly, the literature on Choutari is increasingly being cited around the world.
Reflecting on the contributions of ELT Choutari, what stands out most to us is its contribution to groom and encourage the young, emerging, and first-time authors to publish their blogs, which is a great way of building a robust local scholarship. Looking at the issues of the past three years, it was found that ELT Choutari has published the blogs of 42.46% of such authors. In a recent survey, out of some suggestions, one respondent expressed, “encourage young writers to get involved in preparing scholarly writeups.” Looking at the publication trends on ELT Choutari, we can proudly say that ‘yes we are encouraging and grooming young writers’. And we would like to grow the quantity and quality of their write-ups in the years to come despite the fact that it is often challenging to push forward the new authors to draft their first write-up. Although it often challenging to make them write, we are confident that their rich experiences, practices, and native perspectives would definitely contribute to the scholarly conversation to advance their profession.
We believe that blogs are the first step to start the writing journey of young, emerging, and first-time authors. When I look back to my own writing journey, it goes back to my first blog published on ELT Choutari. Starting as a blogger, I gradually learned the writing and publication process, which eventually boosted my confidence to publish op-eds and research papers in national and international journals. Therefore, blogs are a great way to begin one’s writing journey as they are informal, personal, and based on the lived experiences, which are interesting to read and easier to develop than writing a research paper. The young and first-time authors on ELT Choutari have also started blogs based on their lived experiences, which are as simple as how they learned the English language, challenges and best practices of teaching, reflective narratives of preparing their thesis, or reflections on the events they attended. Therefore, if anyone wishes to write and publish but not sure what to write and how to write, we strongly suggest to start with a blog.
Writing and publishing is also a great tool for one’s professional development. Anyone wishing to write goes through a serious literature review, which definitely expands their professional horizons. Moreover, writing requires deep and critical thinking, reasoning, evaluating, and reflecting, which brings more clarity on our thoughts and professional actions. Our survey shows that the majority of our readers are teachers, who have both painful and joyful experiences and such experiences are very fertile to start their blogs and eventually contribute to their own professional development.
Presenting you the anniversary issue, we are excited to offer you the five diversified blogs and papers including one bonus blog! In the first scholarly article titled Teacher identity and the new forms of governmentality in higher education in Nepal, Raj Kumar Baral & Prem Phyak explore the crisis of teachers’ academic identity amidst the highly politicized system of university through the powerful narratives.
Similarly, Ashok Raj Khati on his post Understanding thesis writing as a socio- cultural practice in the university than a ‘ritual’ shares his scholarly perspective on the burning issue of ‘research and thesis writing’ in our university system with very engaging anecdotes and claims that graduate research should be advanced through the socio- cultural perspective rather than only treating as the cognitive activity.
On the other hand, in his research paper English teachers’ perspectives on classroom interaction: A phenomenological study, Bhim Lal Bhandari shares his findings on the practices and perspectives of English teachers on classroom interaction between teachers-to-students and students-to-students for effective language learning.
Likewise, Samita Magar on her blog, Two good practices of teaching vocabulary: reflection of a teacher presents two practical and replicable good practices of teaching vocabulary to English Language Learners (ELL) based on her action research.
Presenting you a different taste, Karuna Nepal on her blog Exploring the readers’ response and reflections shares some interesting responses and reflections of the Choutari readers based on the findings of a fresh survey, which ranges from the purposes and motivation of our readers for navigating our magazine to their expectations and feedforward.
Lastly, as an editor’s choice, we offer you a blog on Assessment for learning: 4 tips for teachers, which offers four practical ways of using assessment for learning (not only for assessment for the sake of assessment). One of the reasons behind sharing this blog is to meet the expectation of our readers wishing to blogs offering tips on teaching-learning, which was suggested to us through the survey. Hope you will enjoy it.
Here is the list of posts for your further exploration:
While releasing this issue, we take the pleasure of welcoming and introducing Karuna Nepal (MPhil) and Sagar Poudel (MPhil) to our editorial team. Having a strong background of teaching English from schools to universities, both have published blogs, research papers, and have presented papers on conferences extensively. Likewise, they are associated with ELT Choutari as reviewers for the last one year.
Now, I would like to thank all the contributors of this issue. Likewise, I would like to offer special thanks to Karuna Nepal, the co-editor, for her rigorous support during the process of reviewing and editing the articles. Likewise, sincere thanks to Ganesh Bastola, Karna Rana, Nanibabu Ghimire, Ashok Raj Khati, Ekaraj Koirala, Sagar Paudel for reading and reviewing the blogs rigorously. In addition, Praveen Kumar Yadav deserves special thanks for giving Choutari a new theme and design.
On the occasion of our 12th anniversary, the current editorial team would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all our founding members, past editors, contributors, well-wishers and most importantly our readers.
Finally, we request you to drop your comments for the blog posts and papers you read, share them in your network, and consider writing your own blog post for our upcoming April- June issue.
The purpose of this article is to discuss the identity construction of teachers in higher education in Nepal, particularly in Tribhuvan University (TU). The article is based on our research on the narratives of teachers working in TU. We focus on how teacher identities are shaped by the existing broader socio-political context and the hierarchical structural arrangement of the university. Our arguments in this article are informed largely by the sociocultural perspective of teacher identity. This perspective considers teacher identity as a phenomenon which evolves in interactions with external and internal factors sharing their assumptions, positionings and sense of belongings. We are particularly interested in unravelling the professional trajectories of junior faculty members, known as lectures, working in TU. Due to space limitation, we are unable to include complete narratives, but we have tried to cover the most striking experiences that the teachers have shared with us during our in-depth interviews.
Understanding Teacher Identity
Teacher identity remains as one of the major aspects of teaching professional development (e.g., De Costa and Norton, 2017). How teachers define their own selves and how their selves are defined by others play a critical role in shaping their professional identities. Understanding teacher identity is important for two reasons: a) it helps us identify the state of teachers’ job satisfaction and their commitment to the profession; and b) the knowledge of teacher identity construction provides a framework to understand the institutional culture that shapes teachers’ professional trajectories. Teacher identity is not a fixed entity; rather it is a dynamic and evolving experience that involves complex interactions between both internal and external factors.
Thomas and Beauchamp (2007) argue that professional identity stands at the core of the profession and thereby provides the framework for teachers in the construction of their own ideas of “how to be” and “how to act” as a teacher (p. 230). The importance of identity is also highlighted by Palmer (2007) who notes that a strong sense of identity is the trait common to all good teachers. As he argues, our teaching experiences reveal who we are and that “teaching holds a mirror to the soul” (p. 3), adding that we cannot know our students until we know ourselves. In our teaching, continues Palmer, “We teach who we are” (p. 2). De Costa and Norton (2017) argue that both individual and psychological factors shape the self-image and other-image of particular teachers. For them, teacher identity is shaped by institutional cultures, structures, and values.
The identities of teachers we have discussed in this paper are based on the analysis of narratives from six teachers from TU, who are anonymized as Teacher A, B, C, D, E and F. The participants are mostly the lecturers who are at the bottom of the professional hierarchy, according to the university’s rule. In order to collect the data, we had in-depth interviews with each participant. We also had informal conversations with the participants. All the interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed for the purpose of analysis. In addition, we also took field notes of events and activities that the participants took part in. In the remainder of the paper, we discuss major identity-related data under two different themes.
New culture and new identity
The participants in this study reported that ‘a new culture’ has emerged in the universities in Nepal. The new culture the teachers describe is the ‘bhaagbandaa’ (share) culture. One of the teachers (Teacher A), for example, said that ‘accept or not we have ‘bhaagbandaa’ in our university’. He explains that bhaagbandaa has been ‘the core system in TU […] is run by bhaagbandaa […] all officials are appointed on the basis of their affiliation to the political parties.” He argues that “if the appointments are made on the basis of party politics, then academic identity is not important here [university].” In the case of Tribhuvan University, the faculty members are divided into different groups such as ‘Democrat Teachers’ and “Progressive Teachers’. The democrat teachers’ group is the sister organization of Nepali Congress while progressive teachers’ group is affiliated to Nepal Communist Party. These teachers’ groups have organizations at the national and local campus level. As Teacher A shares, these groups have membership of their respective political party and follow what their party leaders ask to do. Teacher D reveals the reason behind university teachers being a member of a political party and unionized as party members. She shares that “teachers become a cadre to get niyukti (appointment) in different positions such as campus chief, Dean, directors, rectors, registrar, VC.” She reveals that “appointments in academic positions are shared among the teachers who belong to the party groups.”
The new culture of governance in the university has seriously affected the teachers’ professional identity. As Teacher C tells, university teachers are now “recognized by their affiliation to the party groups, but not by their academic work.” What is more interesting is that the teachers who lead the party-based organizations are considered ‘powerful’ and ‘hartaakartaa’ (decisive/influential), as Teacher C says, in the university. He further says that the teachers who lead the party groups ‘seek their bhaag (share) in each appointment of the university’. Consequently, the identity of the teachers who would like to remain independent from partisan politics remain invisible. The story shared by Teacher D reflects this situation: I was asked to be open and support one group of the teachers. They told me that they would help me for the appointments as well. It’s not easy to remain far from the political groups. These groups are key actors in the university. They recommend the names of the teachers for the academic appointments. Different groups of teachers negotiate and decide the share of the position.
The teachers agree that this kind of new culture has been very powerful in the functioning of TU. As Teacher D argues, “teachers who have good academic background are hardly appointed in academic positions if they don’t have political affiliation.” This view is supported by Teacher F’s reflections that “academic identity is important, but it is less important now. Teachers’ political affiliation seems to be more decisive.” These views indicate that a new culture of bhaagbandaa, on the basis of partisan politics, has positioned the academic identity of teachers invisible and unrecognized. More importantly, this culture has promoted new identities of teachers recognized as ‘pragatisheel’ (progressive) or ‘prajaataantrik’(democratic) rather than experts in their field of inquiry. Our discussions with the teachers also show that the new culture has affected the governmentality of the university system.
New form of governmentality and teacher identity
The new culture as mentioned above has created a new form of governmentality in the university system. The teachers in the discussions said that most appointments, including part-time teachers and non-teaching staff, are done on the basis of political bhaagbandaa. Teacher E said “every decision is made on the basis of bhaagbandaa, mostly directly and sometimes indirectly. You know if campus chiefs or other authorities make decisions without consulting political groups, they cannot implement their decisions.” For Teacher E, “due to political bhaagbandaa, the authorities cannot work independently.” One of the major issues that the teachers have highlighted is how they are ‘forced’ to become a member of one specific group. Teacher B, for example, tells that he had participated in programs organized by one of the groups because he did not like to be ‘an odd person’ in his campus. After attending such programs, he now feels that “he has other colleagues to support him if he faces any problem in the university.’’
According to the participants’ views in this study, the new form of governmentality, created by the bhaagbandaa culture, forces teachers to join politically affiliated teachers’ groups. For example, Teacher D shares that the teachers with strong academic, research and teaching background are rarely appointed in decision-making positions. She claims that this situation has hindered “innovative academic and other professional activities” in the university. As decision-making positions are filled with ‘bhaagbandaa’, the appointees become ‘loyal’ to their groups, but not the institution. In many cases, such appointees are ‘under control’ of their ‘factions’, and they hardly make policies and implement innovative ideas. This situation reproduces the status quo and contributes to creating an ‘unfriendly environment’ for academic activities.
The new governmentality has affected the early career teachers (lecturers) in many ways. For example, Teacher B asserts that ‘we are not free to say something because we do not know much about politics in the university’. He finds “lack of academic activities in his campus” and argues that “most discussions among university teachers are about national politics and political leaders.” As a junior faculty, he feels that the new culture has ‘divided the university teachers according to the partisan politics. This environment, as Teacher F claims, has invisibilized the academic and professional identity of teachers. As space for collective and collaborative academic activities is rare, junior faculty members do not have much opportunities to build their professional identity. In fact, Teacher F argues that the existing environment is demotivating for him. Although he can work independently, he says that “if you and I start a work together but we belong to different factions, at some point, the factions will discourage us. Why are you helping that person of another faction? They say I should work with our own members. This is never motivating. This will take us nowhere.”
The above discussion shows that in the new form of governmentality, university teachers are expected to become a member of political groups. Since most activities, including opportunities for professional development, are decided by the teachers’ factions, the identity of teachers who are not active members of such groups remain invisible.
In this brief article, we have discussed how teachers’ professional and academic identities are shaped by the political culture, bhaagbandaa politics, in Nepal. We understand that the arguments discussed here are based on the views from six teachers only, but the issues discussed here reflect how a new form of governmentality has been formed and how it has created a sense of uncertainty regarding professional development of the junior faculty members. The teachers’ perspectives as discussed in this paper show that teacher identity, most professional identity, of Nepali university teachers is heavily affected by the divisive political culture based on partisan politics.
Raj Kumar Baral is a lecturer at central department of English at Tribhuvan University Nepal. Dr. Prem Phyak currently teaches at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
De Costa, P. I. and Norton, B. (2017) Introduction: Identity, transdisciplinarity, and the good language teacher. The Modern Language Journal, 101, 3-14.
Palmer, P. (2007). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life (10th ed.). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.
Thomas, L., & Beauchamp, C. (2007). Learning to live well as teachers in a changing world: Insights into developing a professional identity in teacher education. The Journal of Educational Thought, 41(3), 229-243.
Can be cited as:
Baral, R. K, & Phyak, P. (2021, January). Teacher identity and the new forms of governmentality in higher education in Nepal [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/01/teacher-identity-and-the-new-forms-of-governmentality-in-higher-education-in-nepal/
[Note: since you have come up to here reading the whole piece, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to this post in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]
Developing academic writing is an essential skill for the students in higher education to achieve academic success and to demonstrate that achievement. My experience as a university student shows that learning in higher education involves adapting to entirely the new ways of knowing –new ways of understanding, interpreting, and organising knowledge –which mainly requires an ability to write well in a purely academic style. Furthermore, students’ academic abilities in higher education are usually evaluated through several writing-related course assignments, research, review papers, and publications. Therefore, academic writing needs the greatest attention in higher education in all contexts.
The purpose of this blog piece is to discuss the thesis writing practices in Nepali universities in light of two theoretical orientations: the traditional autonomous model and the socio-cultural model. As theoretically guided by social perspectives of academic writing, I relate some thesis writing anecdotes from Nepali universities along with my own writing experience to discuss the thesis writing practices and support the main argument of the write-up. My central argument is that thesis writing as a requirement to receive a degree at any cost is based on the traditional autonomous model which considers the process of writing as a highly mental and cognitive activity. As this model seems to be incapable of capturing the context in which the writing takes place, the socio-cultural theoretical orientation offering a more culturally sensitive view of academic writing practices has been increasingly gaining recognizable space in Nepali academia.
Thesis writing practice
Let me begin the discussion with a story. A year ago, one of the ‘back paper’ students (a student who attempted the board examination more than one time) of master’s level came to my residence and requested me to provide a topic for his thesis writing. He told his stories that he was not able to pass the papers in time that would qualify him for writing a thesis. Finally, in two attempts (after two years), he was able to meet the requirements to start the thesis writing process. As he was a high school teacher of English in the western part of Nepal, he further shared that he did not have enough time to go through the overall processes of thesis writing. I could guess that he wanted to complete his thesis writing in any case as early as possible. I offered him some of my ideas on different topics of interest related to ELT (English language teaching). To my surprise, he proposed me to write a proposal for him and he would pay for it. I did not respond to his unethical proposal for a moment. After some time, I persuaded him that I could assist him to review his proposal if he, at least, could prepare a draft. Since then, he went out of my contact. Later, I learned that he hired somebody to work for him.
This is a story of a thesis writer who perceives that a thesis should be submitted at any case and cost as it has been four years to accomplish the master’s degree. The student was entirely unfamiliar with the preliminary research activities such as sources of research topics and proposal writing. Karn (2009) states that one of his students (a student from a Nepali university) seemed to have assumed that thesis can be submitted in any manner, and he did not seem to pay any heed that there is a proper style of writing and the theses should adhere and abide by the standards set by the Department. In a similar line, Neupane Bastola (2020) explores that students’ focus was on the completion of a thesis rather than learning. Her research participants in the study –ten supervisors, complained that their students were interested only in the completion of their thesis to such an extent that thesis writing was just ‘a ritual for the majority’ (p. 10). The above anecdote also signifies the reasons behind some unethical conduct such as having a thesis written and plagiarism. Most importantly, the context clearly indicates that writing a thesis has merely been a requirement to receive the degree for many students, rather than learning research and academic writing skills.
In my experience, as another side of analysis, thesis writing issue is also deeply rooted in our teaching of writing skill from the school level. Students were never taught writing as a process-based activity. The teachers in schools and universities teach about writing not writing itself. For instance, students are made to memorise what a paragraph means rather than making them write a paragraph on different topics. In schools, teachers generally write paragraphs, letters, and essays on the board and students just copy them. They even memorise those notes including essays for the examination. Furthermore, there are ‘ready-made’ paragraphs, letters, job applications, and essays in the markets; the “Bazaar notes”. In a way, these notes make the teachers’ lives go easy. In the university, many students strive to create original pieces of writing. To meet the date for assignment submission, students ‘copy and paste’ in rush. They do not receive enough opportunity to practice writing in the classrooms. Interestingly, it has also been observed that the teachers and university faculties who have never produced a single piece of original writing in their career grade the students’ papers for their creativity and originality in writing (Khati, 2018).
Let me share another story. A professor had a nasty dispute with a student during his second semester in a university class for some reasons. Their professional relationship collapsed thereafter. Coincidentally, the same professor was assigned as the thesis supervisor to the student at the end. Then the student brought a student union leader and threatened the professor and pressurized him to award marks for the thesis as per his (student’s) wish. When the professor tried to persuade him about the thesis writing process, he attempted a physical attack on him with the help of his friends. The student blamed that the professor was not his nomination as a supervisor instead the professor was blamed to take revenge of the past and managed the formal process of appointing himself as a supervisor in the department. Finally, the case grew bigger and bigger among students and professors, and the issue, of course, an academic one was eventually politicalized.
The story is an extreme example of unethical conduct in the university, and it can be analysed from different angles. On the one hand, many students come to the phase of thesis writing with no prior experience of writing anything except in the examination. They do not make themselves well prepared and creative enough to begin the thesis writing process. In this connection, Bhattarai (2009) also observes that students neither examine the research problem critically nor do they defend it satisfactorily. She further mentions that if the thesis supervisor tries to convince them about the right track of the thesis writing process, they feel that they are unnecessarily harassed.
On the other hand, the story also demands the supervisors’ awareness of their expected supervisory roles. Tiwari (2019) seems to be very critical of the roles of the thesis supervisor and raised some ethical concerns on the role of thesis guide in the way they were not professionally supportive to students to enhance the collaborative process of writing of the thesis. He further articulated that all his participants in the research voice came in a way that their supervisors were not cooperative and professional in supporting students’ thesis writing. For instance, delayed response to students’ writing is a major complaint among students. In a similar vein, Sharma, (2017) also points out that thesis supervisors need to consider and be familiar with the expectations of thesis candidates. The scenario evidently depicts that thesis writing is taken as the locus of all master’s level programs. It further stresses that university departments need to take the necessary steps to change this scenario in terms of the theoretical orientation of the thesis writing process, reconsidering the rationale of making students write theses at any cost and practicalities of thesis writing.
Writing as an autonomous cognitive activity
In my observation, the problem mainly lies in the theoretical model of implementing the courses of thesis writing. Traditionally, thesis writing has been taken as a highly mental and cognitive activity, an isolated writing activity of the student which is context-independent. Universities conduct mass orientation of students in a single venue regarding the thesis writing guidelines or procedures irrespective of their socio-cultural backgrounds, level of experiences, diverse disciplines, and areas of interest. Students are oriented as a homogeneous group of people in which student’s writing is based on relatively homogeneous norms, values, and cultural practices. Homogeneous here refers to the uniform and universal writing norms and practices. Furthermore, they are given ‘good’ or ‘bad’ types of feedback in terms of the language they use in their writing. Students do not have many empowering experiences as a one-way socialization process of writing takes place. It is because the traditional model focuses on a set of learnable universal skills for writing a thesis that is separate from the discipline and institutional contexts that considers academic or thesis writing as a predefined set of rules that student writers need to adapt to. Lea and Street (1998) criticise this deficit model which represents student writing as somewhat reductionist meaning, it is dependent on a set of transferable skills, and language proficiency rather than critical thinking.
This ‘one size fits all’ model, therefore, is incapable of taking account of culturally sensitive views of academic writing practices as they vary from one context to another. It further ignores that students’ writing in higher education is ideological in nature. In our context, universities’ departments execute the ‘processes’ of academic writing and thesis writing entirely from a traditional perspective in the way over-reliance on the ‘product’ based model has made it more difficult for students to attain and accomplish the work.
Writing as a socio-cultural practice
Thesis writing, however, is not considered an easy task in all academic contexts even outside Nepal. The experiences –pains and pleasure –of students vary in different contexts. Let me share you two excerpts from two success stories (reflections) of thesis writing in a Nepali university T. Rai (2018) shares her experiences this way:
“During this journey of writing a thesis I experienced most suffering and stressful time, I feel like that a woman suffered during in labour pain. It was in the sense that I had no option escaping from it because I spent about a year preparing this thesis and face several problems, challenges, dilemmas, and fear from the early days of preparing proposal to facing thesis viva. These several painful moments during the process however made me strong and led towards its successful completion”.
She compares the thesis writing pain with the labour pain that a woman suffers. It shows the real struggle of a thesis writer from the early days of writing thesis to defending thesis viva at the end. She gets satisfied after going through several stages of thesis writing during that whole year. Likewise, M. Rai (2018) told her story in this way:
“No doubt writing a thesis is a hard work. But it becomes harder for students like me who have a limited idea about a subject that I am going to study. My study was always focused on ‘how to pass’ the exam. I rarely voyaged beyond the prescribed books and rarely generalised the things in life that I have studied. I always had due respect to my teachers and their PowerPoint slides and I became successful to note and rote them. I was like a ‘broiler kukhura’ (poultry chicken, not free range), who merely depends on others. Since I started writing my Master’s thesis, I realised the real sense of reading and writing.”
She brings a powerful message in her reflection as an indication to shift the traditional approach of lecturing, rote learning and receiving the degree. She made an important point that she was just fascinated by the teachers’ presentations, obeyed them all the time, and made some notes for the examination during two years of her regular study. However, she realized the real sense of reading and writing that begins only after she started the thesis writing process. It indicates that writing a thesis brings varieties of activities and writing practices on the part of students.
These two thesis writers describe the stories on how a thesis writer in the university experiences writing in an early stage, how they struggle or become a part of different reading, writing activities and other academic practices to accomplish the work. While going through the whole stories of two thesis writers, it provides a sense of academic writing as the process of socialization in an academic community. Here, socialization refers to a locally situated process by which a university student from various linguistic and cultural backgrounds becomes socialized into a new academic community, such as a university department. The process involves the thesis writers’ engagement in various academic activities in their communities of practice. Therefore, academic writing in higher education needs to be taken as a social practice, not simply a technical and learnable language skill rather it is always embedded in socially constructed epistemological principles (Street, 2015). Street earlier in 1984, viewing literacy as a plural concept, coined the term ideological and the other is autonomous which is seen as a unitary concept without reference to contexts.
Under the socio-cultural framework, master’s level students as novice researchers and writers gradually learn to access university culture, understand disciplinary discourses, and engage themselves in different academic writing activities in their academic communities. They learn to write from others as an outcome of academic socialization such as discussing their writing drafts with their supervisors, sharing research and writing ideas with peers and upper-grade students, seeking language help from doctoral students and preparing papers for conference presentations. During their engagement in several writing activities, they negotiate with their own life experiences and worldviews or diverse ideologies. Here, the writing is not viewed as a text production activity; but a range of practices centering around the writing act, including reading sources, teachers’ guidelines and comments, advice and guidance from peers as well as teachers, and their own reflections on and observations of their learning experiences (Fujioka, 2007). The final output –the thesis –is the product of negotiation and renegotiation of different disciplinary and institutional ideologies. In the end, the learning from the thesis writing journey changes the thesis writer’s identity and he or she possibly becomes an entirely different person.
To sum up, many thesis writers in Nepal, if not all, view thesis writing as a ‘ritual’ activity. Against this backdrop, the universities’ departments should come up with an appropriate and effective package of thesis writing with theoretical and practical clarity and make the students understand the value of thesis writing –a learning experience, an opportunity to enhance their academic writing skills and a process-based academic practice –in the university. Thus, changing the view of a one-way assimilation into a relatively stable academic community with fixed rules and conventions (Morita, 2004) to the collaborative writing practice which takes account of socio-cultural aspects of the writing is really important at present. This viewpoint considers academic writing as a social-cultural practice and involves several collaborative activities of writing among teachers, supervisors, department heads, peers, upper-grade students, conference organizers, and even publishers. It promotes participatory and engaging academic practices of students in writing in an academic community which, to a greater extent, helps to eliminate unethical conduct during the thesis writing stage in higher education in Nepal.
The author: Ashok Raj Khati is a PhD student at Graduate School of Education, Tribhuvan University Nepal. Mr. Khati is currently working as the principal at the Sainik Awasiya Mahavidyalaya Kailali, located in far western Terai of Nepal. His areas of interest include developing writing skill in general and academic writing in particular.
Bhattarai, A. (2009). The first activity in research. Journal of NELTA, 14(1), 21-25.
Fujioka, M. (2007). Academic writing development as a socialization process: Implications for EAP education in Japan. PASAA, 40, 11-27.
Karn, S.K. (2009). Give me an easy topic, please: My experience of supervising theses. Journal of NELTA, 14(1), 63-70.
Khati, A. R. (2018, July). The third quarterly issue of ELT Choutari: Special coverage on writing education. [Editorial]. ELT CHOUTARI, 10(80). Available at: http://eltchoutari. com/2018/07/welcome-to-the-third-quarterly-issue-of-elt-choutari-special-coverage-on-writing-education-vol-10-issue-88/
Lea, M., & Street, B. (1998). Student writing and faculty feedback in higher education: An academic literacies approach. Studies in Higher Education, 23(2),157-172.
Morita, N. (2004). Negotiating participation and identity in second language academic communities. TESOL Quarterly, 38, 573-603.
Neupane Bastola, M. (2020). Engagement and challenges in supervisory feedback: Supervisors’ and students’ perceptions. RELC Journal, 1–15.
Rai, M. (2018). Thesis writing: a hard nut to crack (a student’s experience). In ELT Choutari. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2018/04/thesiswriting- a-hard-nut-to-crack-a-students-experience.
Rai, T. (2018). Thesis writing: a next step in learning. In ELT Choutari. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2018/04/thesis-writing-a-hard-nut-to-crack-astudents- experience.
Sharma, U. (2017). The role of supervisor and student for completing a thesis. Tribhuvan University Journal, 31(1-2), 223-238.
Street, B. (1984). Literacy in theory and practice. CUP: Cambridge.
Street, B. V. (2015). Academic writing: Theory and practice. Journal of Educational Issues, 1(2), 110-116.
Tiwari, H. P. (2019). Writing thesis in English education: Challenges faced by students. Journal of NELTA Gandaki (JoNG), 1, 45-52.
Can be cited as:
Khati, A. R. (2021, January). Understanding thesis writing as a socio-cultural practice in the university than a ‘ritual’ [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com /2021/01/understanding-thesis-writing-as-a-socio-cultural-practice-in-the-university-than-a-ritual/
[Note: since you have come up to here reading the whole piece, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to this post in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]
Classroom interaction is a crucial tool to involve learners in the learning process and enhance their learning efficiency. This study aimed at exploring English teachers’ perspectives on classroom interaction in learning English language. To achieve the purpose, this study adopted phenomenological qualitative research design and involved four secondary level English teachers purposively to collect their perceived experiences. Information was gathered using semi-structured interviews and informal discussions. The theoretical framework carried out by this study was Social Constructivism of Vygostky. The result showed that the English language teachers had positive perceptions towards classroom interaction as it engaged students in communicative activities and facilitated them to learn more effectively and naturally than learning on their own. Moreover, the teachers experienced that classroom interaction promotes learners’ autonomy, confidence, cooperation, a friendly learning atmosphere and the critical thinking abilities. This study also concluded that the English language teachers should go beyond methods for successful, effective, and research-based teaching and learning.
Classroom interaction is two-way communication which facilitates learners to make meaningful and comprehensible input and output. In this regard, Brown (2000) explains, “interaction is the collaborative exchange of thoughts, feelings, or ideas between two or more people, resulting in a reciprocal effect on each other” (p. 165). Involving learners in interactions through group works and project works, teachers can increase opportunity of enhancing learning English. However, this sort of interaction and discourse in most classrooms is a one-way communication from teachers to students (Hurst et al. 2013). Such practices create students to remain passive and get limited opportunity for interaction and learning. In fact, meaningful interaction is the heart of communication and an effective way of learning language (Brown, 2001). Therefore, language learning is the result of meaningful interaction with students in the target language. When students interact with each other, they use simplified forms of language. Consequently, it makes easy for them to understand the original texts. In addition, it increases their competency, autonomy and promotes the rate of Second Language (L2) acquisition and ensures the route of L2 interlanguage development. Therefore, it is important for the learners to provide interactional input for communicative effectiveness and corrective feedback and recast (Hedge, 2008). Thus, through interaction a language learner can get more opportunity to use language.
In order to get experience in English communication, the learners require regular interaction using the target language as it is the heart of communication (Brown, 2001). It is worthy to explore classroom interaction in learning English as it is significant for the teacher to build interactive and communicative teaching-learning activities involving learners. In this line, Jones (2007) states, “when students are working together in English, they talk more, share their ideas, learn from each other, get involved more, feel more secure and less anxious, and enjoy using English to communicate” (as cited in Sari, 2018, p. 47). Reflecting on my own teaching-learning, I feel that one cannot do everything individually however; the effort of a group makes everything possible. In this regard, Rivers (1987) claims that interaction plays a significant role in the language classroom as it increases students’ language store. Moreover, it contributes to the ongoing discourse of language teaching as the study promotes a shift from teacher-fronted teaching to a student-centered teaching.
Interaction motivates students for their active engagement and participation in teaching-learning process. Therefore, the study about classroom interaction is considerably important and worthy to investigate and analyse. Without being engaged in communicative activities, we cannot expect learners to be competent language users. Gass (1997) and Long (1996) state that interaction provides learners with opportunities to receive comprehensible input and feedback (as cited in Muho & Kuran, 2014). Interactive classes encourage students to take more responsibility for their own learning. However, only little attention has been paid to interaction in language classrooms and there has been only limited study on interaction between student to student and student to teacher in the context of Nepal. Therefore, it is an agenda to be addressed in my research.
To address the purpose, this study has aimed to investigate the following question:
How do the English language teachers perceive the classroom interaction in learning English language?
This section deals with the review of pertinent literature on classroom interactions. In doing so, at first, the previous studies on classroom interactions have been reviewed followed by theoretical background and policy perspective on classroom interaction. Based on the reviews of the previous studies, I present the research gap that has been identified.
Classroom interactions and its significance on English language learning (ELL)
Classroom interaction assists learners to be critical thinkers so as they get more opportunity to use language. It makes communication meaningful and encourages learners to comprehend and internalize not only linguistic features of language but also social, cultural, pragmatic discourse and other extra linguistic features of language. The learner-centered techniques or interaction patterns such as group work, pair work, open-ended questions, collaboration, full class interaction (Ur, 2008) and involve learners in the target language interaction. Interaction helps them be active participants in their own learning process. Thus, interaction is considered as one of the major requirements to enhance the logical capacity of the students. Moreover, interaction is an effective strategy in teaching and learning English as students get opportunity to practice the target language.
Effective interaction can increase the students’ participation and their language performance in the classroom. It encourages them to work independently in the learning process. When students are engaged in direct classroom activities, they can learn better. The students who are active in classroom interaction can share and transmit the information and learn better. Meanwhile, those who are passive in the classroom will have less opportunity to learn language. Therefore, the quality of teaching and learning process in the classroom is mainly determined by how actively the teacher and students interact with each other. In this regard, Brown (2000) explains “interaction is the collaborative exchange of thoughts, feelings, or ideas between two or more people, resulting in a reciprocal effect on each other” (p. 165). Thus, interaction occurs when two people give and receive messages in a communicative process.
Beside this, Jones (2007) stated learners share their ideas and learn from each other while working together. They get more involved, feel more secured and less anxious, and enjoy using language. A teacher requires designing tasks, project, group work, pair work etc. for promoting the interactions and other decision making activities (as cited in Nisa, 2014). Doing a significant amount of pair work and group work, receiving authentic language input in real-world contexts, the learners produce meaningful language. Such communicative classroom tasks prepare them for actual language use (Brown, 2007), which supports to minimize teacher’s talk.
The study conducted by Hussain and Bakhsh (2011) investigated the effects of classroom interaction on students’ academic achievement at secondary level . The study showed a positive effect of the classroom interaction on students’ achievement as the experimental group performed significantly better than the control group on the post-test. It indicated interactive learning actively engaged students in the learning process with various interactive activities in the classrooms.
In the same way, Pujiastuti (2013) examined interaction analysis focusing on the investigation of the verbal classroom interaction, types of teacher talk, implications of teacher talk on students’ motivation, student talk and teacher’s roles in classroom interaction. The study indicated the need for the increased students’ talk to learn English. Another study of Sundari et al. (2017) revealed that teachers applied at least three types of interactional patterns in English as Foreign Language (EFL) classroom such as teacher- whole class interaction, teacher-fronted student interaction and student-student interaction which assisted students to communicate their ideas and feelings to each other to improve their language.
Likewise, Sari (2018) examined classroom interaction in English language class in Indonesia and explored that learner-centered activity such as group work which forces students to talk to each other spontaneously; ask each other questions; and respond in a natural way. They learnt English from engaging in activities. Hence, it is important for the teacher to build interactive and communicative teaching-learning activities involving more students in interaction.
The aforementioned literature review showed the significance of classroom interaction for learning English language in foreign contexts in general. However, the classroom interaction in foreign contexts and community schools in Nepali contexts are not identical. Therefore, it is important to explore the phenomenon from Nepali perspectives. Moreover, as far as my knowledge, the previous studies have not explored the classroom interactions applying phenomenology design in Nepali context. Therefore, this study is different from others so that it could fulfill the existing research gap in classroom interaction in ELL at secondary level community schools.
As a theoretical basis for my study, I adopted social constructivism learning theory developed by Vygotsky in 1978. This theory believes that learners construct knowledge individually based on their prior experience and new information. In this context, Jonassen (1991) asserted the basic belief of constructivism is that knowledge is actively constructed by learners rather than transmitted by the teacher; learners are active knowledge constructors rather than passive information receivers (as cited in Wang, 2008). I also believe learning is an active process that involves learners in learning by means of social interaction. Similarly, Vygotsky (1978) points out teachers, learners and peers must interact in order to share ideas and experiences to solve the problems. Learners learn language through the process of sharing and interaction that helps them learn together. Therefore, this theory is in favour of social interaction for better learning. Liaw (2004) states that social constructivists, however, argue knowledge is the outcome of collaborative construction in a socio‐cultural context mediated by discourse. Learning is fostered through interactive processes of information sharing, negotiation and discussion (as cited in Wang, 2008). This theory focuses on social interaction for learning language. Process-related awareness is crucial in the constructivist classroom along with learning awareness, language awareness and intercultural awareness. Holistic language experience is the soul of this theory in the language classes, which depends on a content-oriented, authentic and complex learning environment (Aljohani, 2017). So, individualization of learning and autonomy of learners is essential in the constructivist classroom.
Policy perspectives on classroom interaction
National Curriculum Framework (2007) and (new curriculum frame 2019) of Nepal has given special value to the promotion of teaching learning in the classroom by employing research-oriented and interactive approaches. It clearly states that the main objective of language learning is to develop language ability for lively participation in day to day social life. However, only few teachers activate their students and promote interactive learning in English classrooms as they have not realized the value of classroom interaction for effective teaching and learning activities.
The present study adopted qualitative method. Qualitative research places emphasis upon exploring and understanding “the meaning individuals or groups ascribe to a social or human problem” (Creswell, 2011, p. 45). Within the phenomenological design, four trained English teachers from two community secondary schools of Rupandehi, Nepal were purposively selected for their lived experiences on classroom interactions. The research site was chosen because of easy access and the availability of the trained teachers in conducting classroom interactions. Out of four participants, three were males and only one was female. These participants were selected purposively based on two factors: whether they use classroom interaction in teaching and learning English; and their intention to participate in the study. The teachers were chosen only from secondary level because it is regarded as the level to give more interaction in the English language learning process. This also involves identifying and selecting individuals or groups of individuals that are especially knowledgeable about or experienced with a phenomenon of interest (Creswll & Clark, 2011).
Furthermore, this study adopted phenomenology as the research design because it is associated with lived experiences of an individual. In the process of information collections, phenomenology helped the researcher to capture and explore perspectives of teachers in classroom interactions. With the semi-structured interviews method, the teachers were involved as the participants to express their lived experiences in classroom interactions in ELL. The average length of the interview was about 40 minutes. Taking consent from them, the researcher recorded their experiences/views and later transcribed on Microsoft word processing. Then, the information were organized and categorized into different themes to generate the meaning followed by interpretation and analysis of the themes. During the information gathering, the researcher protected participants’ right to privacy, confidentiality and used their pseudonyms while analyzing.
Results and Discussions
This section presents findings gathered from the interviews on classroom interaction in ELL. First, the perceived experiences of teachers were presented then subsequent discussions were made against the findings.
Teachers’ perspectives on classroom interaction
Teachers’ perspective on classroom interaction included their perceptions, beliefs or understanding for the use of interaction for effective teaching and learning process. It deals with how English teachers perceive classroom interaction from their perspectives. The researcher asked how they interact with the learners and make them interact with their friends. In this regard, Suman responded, “I involve my students in interactive activities such as group work, debate, role play etc. so that they can share ideas with me and with their friends. As a facilitator, I support them on how to do the task”. His lived experience reveals that interactive activities encourage students to enjoy learning as the class is student-centered.
In this vein, Prem shared, “In my understanding, interaction is question-answer between teacher and students. It is a student centered technique which maximizes student talking time”. Perm’s response mainly highlights question-answer between the teacher and students, and the positive perceptions of the participants on interaction as it activates students in the class in different tasks, discussions and interactions. Regarding this, Nunan (1990) asserts, “learners learn more by reducing teacher taking time” (p. 21). A similar perception of classroom interaction can be inferred from the response expressed by Manju who explained, “classroom interaction includes all classroom activities such as pair work and group work which make learning student-centered as teacher is one of the participants in communicative activities”. Manju’s perception in classroom interaction reveals the meaning that pair/group work-based learning promotes the speaking time of each learner and assists them to interact and work independently (Harmer, 2001). Thus, interaction increases learner autonomy.
Similarly, Shiva responded, “in the classroom, I speak less and provide more time to the students with different tasks”. This response mainly highlights his positive perception as it activates and engages students in interactions with different tasks. Manju and Shiva’s views are in harmony with “social constructivism which emphasizes the role of interaction in knowledge construction. Social constructivists believe knowledge is socially constructed through collaboration” (Sardareh & Saad, 2012, p. 346). Therefore, I believe classroom interaction is highly beneficial to provide opportunities to the learners to engage in learning language naturally.
From the above explanations it is clear that classroom interaction-based teaching is the demand of the day that benefits and facilitates learners in understanding the subject matter. The participants revealed their positive perceptions of classroom interaction as explained by Rohmah (2017) who claims it is important for the teacher to build interactive and communicative teaching-learning activities involving more learners in interaction. His view is in harmony with the assumption of constructivism also.
Learning English through interaction
Interaction in the classroom plays a significant role in acquiring and learning the target language. It helps students learn more by communicating with their peers. When students are involved in interaction, they are expected to get more language exposure. Regarding this, Rivers (1987) asserts that “through interaction, students can increase their language store as they listen to or read authentic linguistic materials, or even the output of their fellow students in discussions, joint problem-solving tasks, or dialogue journals’’ (as cited in Nisa, 2014, p. 125). Interaction increases students’ input and output in the target language. Regarding this, Prem stated, “in my view, interaction increases students’ competency and enhances appropriate skills for communication. Through speaking activities, they can construct knowledge”. His experience reveals that students become confident and competent when they get more exposure. Thus, they construct knowledge through interaction. This is supported by Luk and Lin (2007) who claim that interactions in language classrooms are important social activities for students through which they not only construct knowledge, but also build confidence and identity as competent language users (as cited in Thapa & Lin, 2013). So, language teachers have to involve learners in social activities. His view is similar to Ellis (1990) who persistently advocates that the interaction is meaning-focused and carried out to facilitate the exchange of information and prevent communication breakdowns. Regarding this, Manju insisted, “I usually engage my students in group work, pair work, debate, language games, question answer etc. These activities enhance learning English as they decrease and minimize their anxieties”.
The above opinion of Manju illustrates how group work, pair work, debate, language games, question answers etc. assist the learners to increase classroom interaction and support to learn language. This idea is closer to Gillies (2006) who pointed out that free group discussion can help the learners to be clear of ideas. Moreover, co- operation in a group also contributes to a pleasing and encouraging environment to the learners and decreases their anxieties by facilitating them to self-learn and share information. This is supported by Ketch (2005) who asserts “conversation helps individuals make sense of their world. It helps them build empathy, understanding, respect for different opinions and ownership of the learning process” (p. 8).
Prem and Manju’s views are in harmony with Thapa and Lin (2013) who explain that in language classroom, interaction is an essential social activity for students through which they not only construct knowledge, but also build confidence and identity as competent language users (as cited in Nisa, 2014, p. 125). Therefore, orienting the students to interact with their teacher and fellow friends supports to build their knowledge as well as their confidence. Likewise, Naimat (2011) states, “interaction, for students, will strengthen the relationship, either among them or with their teachers since it gives them the chance to learn from each other and get feedback on their performance” (as cited in Nisa, 2014, p. 125). The idea is similar to constructivism as Vygotsky (1978) claims learning is the result of interaction between peers through collaboration.
Teacher as a facilitator
The success of classroom learning depends on the classroom environment and students’ active involvement. The teacher gives priority to student interaction in the classroom environment. As a facilitator, he or she facilitates learners to learn in course of teaching. Regarding the role of teacher in classroom interaction, Shiva emphasized, “As a facilitator, I facilitate my students to speak. I organize class hours; admire them and try to create a climate in which they can express their views spontaneously”. His lived experience shows that he manages class hours for their interaction creating a conducive climate in which they can express their views spontaneously. In this regard, Prem shared, “I plan lessons and give freedom to organize different interactive activities by giving guidelines and dividing them into groups for communication”. He organizes different classroom activities by dividing the students into groups then he facilitates them in the communication process. The above illustrations are supported by Glasersfeld (1989) who states that social constructivism emphasizes learners’ active participation in learning.
The above evidence also indicates that teachers facilitate the communication process among all the participants in the classroom with various interactive activities by providing prompts to do the tasks. The finding of the participant is in harmony with Wallace, et.al (2004) who assert that frequent collaboration gives chances to students in communicating meaningful ideas with one another and being active learners (as cited in Sari, 2018). Teachers play the prominent role and control the moves of lessons, manage who to talk, when to talk and how much to talk, and they also become students’ speaking partners and language models. Li (2006) states that when teachers create a safe and non-threatening learning atmosphere, students feel comfortable, participate and develop confidence then they learn and accomplish proficiency (as cited in Hurst et al. 2013). Thus, they make learning easier for them with a clear way to find the solution.
Maximizing student interaction in ELT class
In order to maximize student interaction in ELT class, the teacher should establish a friendly and relaxed learning environment. Routman (2005) asserts “students learn more when they are able to talk to one another and be actively involved” (as cited in Hurst et al. 2013, p. 207). In short, social interaction is vital to the learning process.
If there is a trust and supportive rapport among the learners and the learners to teacher, then there is a better opportunity for useful interaction. In this regard, Suman asserted, “I make pairs and small groups to maximize interaction. I ask questions on the topic and allow them time to listen, think, process their answer and speak”. It is therefore, learners get opportunities of using language with one another through communicative activities in class. Since interaction is at the heart of the social constructivist theory of learning, learners construct knowledge through interaction with others. Manju stated her lived experiences “Increasing student talking time and managing seating arrangements properly, I allow the whole class to be involved in pair work for speaking. In addition, I encourage interaction between them rather than only between me and them”. She claims that she encourages student- student interaction in the class through pair work. The expression of Manju clearly shows that interaction engages all the students in speaking English. The view expressed by her is supported by social constructivism that requires students to actively participate in their learning process and reflect on their own learning (Vygotsky, 1978).
Thus, Manju and Suman stress on interaction using pair and group works in English language teaching and learning. In this regard, Wallace et.al (2004) claim that frequent collaboration provides opportunities to the students in communicating meaningful ideas with one another and being active learners (as cited in Sari, 2018). They reported that when they engage their learners in interaction in English language teaching and learning, they find the students learning in collaboration, rather than depending on the textbooks. Likewise, Rohmah’s (2017) study explored that learner-centered activity such as group work forces students to talk to each other spontaneously; ask each other questions; and respond in a natural way. He concludes that it is important for the teacher to build interactive and communicative teaching-learning activities involving more students in interaction. In this line, Nunan (1990) claims, “Learners learn more by reducing teacher taking time” (p. 21). By minimizing teacher talks, it provides opportunities to the learners to work independently; they engage themselves in pairs, or in small groups. Similarly, constructivists also claim that interaction is a learner-centered activity in which there is high involvement of students.
Students’ participation in learning English through interaction
Teaching and learning does not take place in a vacuum but students learn language through interaction. Language teaching and learning need group work so that they can exchange their ideas. In this regard, Confucius asserted, “tell me I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand”. When the learners take part in communicative activities actively, they construct meaning through the process of interaction. In classroom interaction, the learners can have verbal practices, non-verbal practices, pedagogical practices and personal practices. Teacher’s talk, teacher’s questions, error correction, student responses and students’ questions are verbal practices.
In this regard, Prem inserted, “When students are asked to do the task in small groups in small classes, they engage actively; share ideas to each other and learn English”. This statement indicates that tasks in small groups or in small classes engage learners actively so that they can share ideas to each other. In this context, Louis (2006, p.1) asserts, “when learners participate in their own learning, taking an active part in making decisions, they might feel a sense of ownership and commitment to the process and learning becomes meaningful” (as cited in Breaute, 2016). The creative cognitive engagement of the learners inside and outside the classroom supports them to engage in learning English collaboratively. In this vein, Suman insisted:
By putting the students into pairs or small groups, I engage them in interaction. I encourage and facilitate them to express and share their own ideas, opinions and feelings with their peers. I establish a climate of cooperation in a friendly atmosphere.
The above illustration demonstrates that without active involvement of students in language learning, they cannot learn language naturally. Language learning will not be effective without allowing enough time for students to respond to the teacher. His view is supported by Scriverner (2005) who asserts that the teacher has to maximize the interactional activities in the classroom by setting friendly and relaxed learning environments as well as allow enough thinking and speaking time and turn to the students.
Shiva shared, “when my students of mix-ability work cooperatively, they solve the problem”. Working cooperatively helps learners develop important social skills. Learners with varied social backgrounds, intellectual skills, and physical capabilities work together to learn the subject matter, solve problems, and accomplish tasks (Adaba, 2017). They learn to accept the value of individual differences. A sound relationship needs to be established on the basis of mutual respect between the teacher and the learners. In this regard, Prem viewed, “my students enjoy working together sharing ideas to each other. They generate ideas in the process of interacting. They bring the solution doing the task collaboratively”. The extract above portrays the idea that teacher’s friendly behaviour supports their learners to learn more. The teacher claims that modified interaction provides them comprehensible input. This view is supported by Brown (2007) who stated that interaction is the basis of L2 learning, through which learners are engaged both in enhancing their own communicative abilities and in socially, constructing their identities through collaboration and negotiation.
Prem further added, “I believe students learn better through interaction with their friends and teachers. Interaction helps them improve critical thinking skills and use other students as well as teacher’s comments on their work to enhance their learning”. He believes when he involves students in communicative activities, they learn better from interaction and improve critical thinking skills. His view is supported by Routman (2005) who asserts “students learn more when they are able to talk to one another and be actively involved” (as cited in Hurst, et al. 2013, p. 207).
Social constructivism also emphasizes the role of interaction and knowledge sharing in an individual’s understanding and knowledge construction. “Social constructivists believe knowledge is socially constructed through collaboration” (Sardareh & Saad, 2012, p. 346). A variety of interactional patterns in language classrooms may affect the language learning process as well as the development of language proficiency.
The study explores that English language teachers have positive perspectives on classroom interaction. The activities of classroom interaction like pair work, group work, and problem-solving exercises promote learners’ autonomy and confidence in learning, maximizing exposure to English language since they are the tools for comprehensive input. Moreover, the teachers experienced that classroom interaction promotes cooperation, a friendly learning atmosphere, and the critical thinking abilities of the students. The student-centered interactive activities keep the learners always active and enable them to learn effectively and successfully at their own pace. These findings of this study imply that the teachers are still in favour of communicative language teaching rather than context-sensitive techniques and methods of language teaching and learning in the present post-method era. The teachers’ preferences on communicative approach based interactive activities cannot fully value the learners’ differences and discovery-based learning. A gap is seen between teachers’ perspectives and the global trend of English language teaching and learning. In this sense, this study concludes that English language teachers should go beyond methods for successful, effective, and research-based teaching and learning. The learners should be engaged in context and individuals’ suit and sufficient exposure and activities to English language for making them able to compete in the global market.
Though this study contributes to an understanding of English teachers’ perspectives on interactive learning and also opens a space of discussion on method or post-method in the context of English language teaching in Nepal, it has some limitations in its scope and methodology. Since it is a small scale phenomenological qualitative research investigating English teachers’ perspectives on classroom interaction, its findings may have limited applicability. Therefore, a large-scale study incorporating all stakeholders such as teachers, students and guardians needs to be carried out covering a greater area and huge population. The future researchers can conduct research using classroom observation technique and focused group discussion to uncover a detailed and more comprehensive picture of teachers’ and students’ perspectives on classroom interaction. Nonetheless, this study has indicated the need of teachers’ awareness towards post-method pedagogy in English language teaching to cope with the global challenges rather than only preferring communicative approach based classroom activities.
The Author: Bhim Lal Bhandari is a reader in English Education at TU in Butwal Multiple Campus, Rupandehi. Currently, he is pursuing MPhil in ELE at Kathmandu University. He is also a life member of NELTA, and has published about a dozen research articles in national and international journals. He has also presented papers in national and international conferences and webinars. His areas of interests include SLA, teacher education and ELT methodology.
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Can be cited as:
Bhandari, B. L. (2021, January). English teachers’ perspectives on classroom interaction: A phenomenological study [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com /2021/01/english-teachers-perspectives-on-classroom-interaction-a-phenomenological-study/
This blog post presents the two good practices of teaching English vocabulary for primary level students based on my action research “enriching vocabulary of the primary level English language learners”. Among several intervention techniques used in the research, I shall discuss key two techniques including my personal reflection as a student and teacher.
My experience of learning and teaching English vocabulary
Reflecting back on my own learning process, we had to learn the meaning of difficult English words by rote in our native language (i.e. Nepali). We were taught English vocabulary through the Grammar Translation Method in isolation. As a result, we were not able to use them in our day-to-day life though we learned the words. I could read the words but could never speak in English by the time I completed the school level education. Now, I think that students’ language learning is shaped by the exposure they receive in the target language in and out of the classroom. Forget about using the English language outside the classroom, we rarely heard our teachers speaking in English, so I only knew words but was unable to use them in real communication.
I was destined to be an English teacher but before I started teaching, I had doubts whether I could teach English in English medium schools having schooled with such a background. I had a feeling that the students taught in English medium could communicate effectively in English. I even had a thought that the students studying in English medium schools in the capital city (Kathmandu) might be far better than the students from peripheral parts of Nepal. I had doubts that I would not be able to communicate effectively with them and handle the classes in English medium school if I had the opportunity. This feeling continued for years when I was teaching in my hometown. Later, I started teaching in a school in Kathmandu city, I explored that the reality was different than what I had thought.
In my classes, I gradually found most of my students were Englishizing the Nepali verbs. For instance, if they had to say ‘I forgot to do’ they were using ‘I birsing (Nepali equivalent for forgetting). If I asked them to speak in English, they would use the suffix ‘ing’ at the end of Nepali verbs to form English sentences. This phenomenon occurred repeatedly in my classroom. Then I felt that it was happening because of the low command over vocabulary and lack of continuous practice.
On the other hand, they used to listen to me with patience but often failed to answer the questions I asked and they would ask me to translate words into Nepali. Very often they used to stop me and ask the meaning of vocabulary and I used to get surprised when they were not able to comprehend and communicate in English even in the fifth grade. Similarly, while writing a paragraph, they often used to count the words more than five times. I realized that it was the result of having less exposure in English and having a very limited repertoire of English vocabulary, like the situation I went through in my student life.
The situation demanded some investigation and intervention to improve their vocabulary. Therefore, I prepared a list of the ‘most frequently used 2000 words’ and told them to tick the words they knew. From my initial inquiry, 50 percent of them knew around 1000 words (50%), while a few of them were familiar with 1500 words. As a teacher of English, this finding encouraged me to support my students to enrich their vocabulary at least up to the level of 2000 words. So, they could communicate in English more fluently and express their ideas better than earlier. Finally, I decided to carry out an action research on teaching vocabulary. I used several interventions and I would like to share two of the effective techniques in the rest of my blog.
1. Sharing one word each day technique
This was one of the intervention techniques based on everyday practice. There are many other techniques for teaching vocabulary items but I chose ‘sharing one word every day’. It is because I believe that if the learners cannot use the learned words to express themselves effectively, they have not achieved mastery over the words and the real learning starts when they can assist their peers in vocabulary.
In this technique, firstly, the students were assigned to choose one word from the lesson discussed in the classroom. They could consult the dictionary and keep the record in the diary every day. The record included the dictionary meaning of the word and contextual meanings, word class and its usage. Then they could share their words in the class with their classmates and support them in using the words in daily communication. It was really difficult to manage time to let every student share their words personally in the whole class. Therefore, they worked with peers first and later five students got an opportunity to share what they learned after the pair work. Similarly, it was equally difficult to follow them up regarding the use of the words in daily communication and observe their improvement. However, I managed to continue the same activity every day. As a result, they demonstrated increased confidence in their communication, especially in their verbal communication.
2. Speakers’ club technique
I wanted to see my students using the learned words confidently in their day-to-day conversation and overall communication. So I formed a speakers’ club, where they could have speaking practice. I made them practice freely without worrying about accuracy. I gave them topics which were discussed in the previous classes so that they could feel comfortable to speak. The familiar and simple topics encouraged them to speak. When they were familiar with the format of speaking, I provided them a word as a theme to speak. They had to speak on the topic and also remember the theme and use the words related to the theme. However, it took time to get them to understand the theme, its related vocabulary and the way of presentation. So I gave them a demonstration on a topic, which helped them a lot to understand it well. Despite having challenges at first, this intervention remained so effective. As a result, they enriched the use of their vocabulary level and it also gave a good impression to the students of other classes as well and they were invited as speakers in the club. Therefore, forming a speakers’ club even in lower grades was not difficult for me. Since I succeeded in that activity, I proposed to the school administration to include it in the co-curricular activity every Friday which was a great accomplishment for me and my students. With the continuous support and encouragement, gradually my students were ready to deliver impromptu speeches. I always provided them with positive feedback and supported them by showing the better ways to improve. Finally, with the permission of the school administration, we were able to include a short speech session in the assembly every day.
To sum up, vocabulary represents one of the important aspects of learning a language and learning the language remains incomplete without mastery over vocabulary. Robust vocabulary enables a learner to communicate fluently and effectively. Thus, empowering the learners to master vocabulary should be one of crucial tasks language teachers, and several strategies and techniques can be used to do so. Therefore, I shared two of the techniques I tried with my students and would love to hear your ideas, tips and techniques of teaching vocabulary in the comment section below.
The author: Samita Magar is an emerging writer. She currently works as a secondary level English language teacher at Manthali secondary school, Ramechhap. Ms. Magar has completed Masters in ELT from Kathmandu University. She is a life member of NELTA and she has presented her papers in the international conference of NELTA.
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Can be cited as:
Magar, S. (2021, January). Two good practices of teaching vocabulary: Reflection of a teacher [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/01/two-good-practices-of-teaching-vocabulary-reflection-of-a-teacher/
ELT Choutari, initiated in January 2009, is Nepal’s first collaborative and most-read digital ELT magazine which contributes to the ELT discourse in particular and education in general. Initiated by ELT pioneers and enthusiasts, it has been serving as a virtual forum to connect ELT professionals and engage them in critical discussion on the diversified issues of ELT. Most importantly, it has been a great platform for the young, emerging and passionate scholars to share their voices, stories, and native perspectives. In addition, it has also generated theoretical discussions, multiple perspectives on different ELT issues, and scholarly debates from the established experts from home and abroad. Likewise, it brings academics, policy-makers, teachers, and students together to supplement scholarly discourse on ELT and more. This forum has also been a huge resource bank for researchers and ELT practitioners for the last 12 years.
In this context, with the purpose of understanding the views, preferences, and expectations of our readers, authors, and well-wishers, we conducted a digital survey. For this, a google form was used with both close-ended and open-ended questions, and data were elicited through it. 79 responses were obtained altogether. The options given for close-ended questions were mutually inclusive where a participant could choose more than one option. Among the respondents, 77.2% were teachers, 25.3% were trainers, 24.1% were research students, 21.5% were researchers and 15.2 % were graduate students.
Analysis and discussion
In this section, the elicited data are presented and discussed under four subsequent themes: preferred contents of the respondents, the motivation behind reading our contents, expectations of our readers, and feedback and suggestions.
Preferred contents of the respondents
In order to explore the preferences of our readers, we asked them to choose the types of articles they prefer reading on ELT Choutari. Here, they could choose more than one option. The following pictorial representation illustrates the data in an explicit way.
Through the responses, it was revealed that three-fourth of our readers (i.e. 75.9%) preferred reading articles related to teaching tips. Since the majority of the navigators (i.e. 77.2%) were teachers, it was obvious that teaching tips are mostly sought for. Following this were the readers who liked reading research papers i.e. 59.5%. The third preference was given to scholarly ideas with a personal touch i.e. 44.3%. Similarly, 41.8% readers read ELT Choutari for reflective blogs, 31.6% read for theoretical discussion. And finally, 1.3% of the readers read interviews. So, it shows that ELT Choutari should offer articles and blogs related to teaching tips, research papers, and scholarly writing with a personal touch and reflective narrative. Moreover, interviews were also preferred by a few respondents, which was chosen under the ‘others’ options. Had there been a separate option for ‘interview’, it would have been the preference of more.
Motivation behind reading our contents
Our second intention was to explore the motivation of the readers behind reading our contents. Thus, we inquired the respondents about the reasons for reading the articles and resources on ELT Choutari. The following diagram represents the data elicited under this heading.
The given figure reveals that most of the readers (i.e. 70.9%) have a general purpose of enriching their knowledge and updating themselves. The second reason for reading the resources on ELT Choutari is for preparing classroom lessons/topics and 53. 2% of our readers are guided by this motivation. Similarly, 32.9% of our readers are the researchers who navigate our resources for reviewing the related literature for their research. Following them are the students comprising 16.5% of the respondents who take support from this forum while preparing their assignment. Additionally, a few readers (i.e. 1.3%) read our articles to be familiar with recent perspectives.
The expectation of our readers
To explore the expectations of our readers regarding the types of content they would like to read in the future, an open-ended question was asked. In this line, it was found that the expectations of the majority of readers range from theoretical discussion to practical tips, for instance, classroom management, classroom interaction, teaching literature, reflections on classroom practices, and ELT tips. This indicates that the articles on ELT Choutari have been meeting the expectations of the majority of the readers. Besides this, there are some expectations regarding the innovative topics in the field of teaching-learning such as critical pedagogy, teaching English in a multilingual society, post-method pedagogy, eco-pedagogy, ICT in education, etc. The respondents further expected the articles to cover more research-based contents which would supplement them with the proven facts and generalizable ideas. Moreover, personal anecdotes and reflections should also be given due emphasis.
Feedback and suggestions
For obtaining feedback and suggestions for improvement, an open-ended question was asked with our readers. After analyzing their suggestions it was revealed that most of the respondents were satisfied with the contents of our magazine since they have suggested the continuation of the same. However, some of them wished for more updated content capturing the latest trends in the field and more articles based on the research. Similarly, some of the readers have suggested widening the readership so that more people would be benefitted. There are some respondents who have also suggested us to follow the standard procedures of review so as to maintain the standard of peer-reviewed journals.
Although the readers seem to be satisfied with the contents on ELT Choutari, there is a need to accommodate itself with the flow of the time. Valuing the suggestions from the readers, attention should be given to readers’ expectations for research-based articles, practical teaching tips, and more scholarly discussion and discourse on critical issues like multilingualism, critical pedagogy, justice in ELT, authenticity, and creativity in ELT. Similarly, it is recommended to train and orient young and emerging authors time-to-time to develop original and relevant content with excellent presentation. Moreover, it is often criticized ELT Choutari for enjoying only a limited readership despite having excellent contents and resources. Therefore, effort and attention should be oriented towards maximising our readership and impact. Finally, to generate more generalizable ideas, it is recommended to launch more surveys in the future to reach more readers.
The author: Karuna Nepal is an English faculty at Innovative Sunshine College. She also teaches at Shree Krishna Secondary School. She has completed her M.Phil. in English from Pokhara University. Her areas of interest include translation, philosophy, and literature.
[Note: since you have come up to here reading the whole piece, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to this post in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]
Can be cited as:
Nepal, K. (2021, January). Exploring the readers’ response and reflections [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/01/exploring-the-readers-response-and-reflections/
ELT in Nepal: Rethinking authenticity, creativity, and localization
English has long been dominant in the Asian educational landscape, stemming from an instrumental ideology of envisioning upward socioeconomic mobilities. In a country like Nepal where most citizens are looking for their better future, learning English skills is associated with “hopes” and “desires,” also allowing the development of uncritical narratives of the roles and status of English. While we can’t ignore the importance of English for various purposes as well as creating equal opportunities for ALL children to learn English, we must also be critical of the influences the uncritical recommendations and practices of English can have on local language ecology. For example, while the State is struggling to effectively implement mother-tongue-based multilingual education and there is a decline in appreciation for the use of mother-tongue in education (both because of elite narratives created at the macro-level), stressing the role of English in education as a medium of instruction or even asking for its legalization in other social domains is not only wrong but harmful. One must be very careful in defining the role and status of English in Nepal.
This, however, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t teach English but disrupt the perception of, for example, “We can’t survive without English.” There are people surviving without English in Nepal and beyond. Nevertheless, there is no wrong in teaching English as an additional language. The more languages children learn, the more creative and critical they become. So, teaching English as a foreign language in Nepal is an important part of the K-12 curriculum but we need to re-envision it from the “local” viewpoints to create a safe and comfortable space for Nepali multilingual and multiethnic children. ELT teachers and practitioners need to reflect on ELT practices that create injustice and inequalities for various social groups, often originating from dominant language ideologies and mechanisms.
In this special issue, we have tried to address the issues of “authenticity”, “creativity”, and “localization” in ELT practices. We sought contributions to the teaching and learning of English, highlighting authenticity in ELT, which refers to a sense of ownership of teaching/learning materials and cognitive and social activities in ELT classrooms: for example, whose texts, whose varieties of English, whose culture and knowledge we consider as valid. ELT practitioners and learners also employ creativity in incorporating meaningful texts for a realistic world, that is, what strategies (e.g., translation, codemixing/codeswitching, translanguaging) we use to make our teaching/learning processes more accessible to our students. Meanwhile, we need to (re)think if and to what extent we localize our teaching/learning activities for sustainable and linguistic, and culturally responsive practices. We hoped to together challenge the hegemonic ELT practices in Nepal, warranting more linguistic human rights and linguistic and cultural identities.
In this issue, we have included four blog posts and one exclusive interview. In the first post, Umesh Saud critically analyzes a recently published English language textbook of Grade 11, with special attention to the types of texts that are included and the ideologies embedded in the process of selecting those texts. He argues that avoiding/minimizing local and indigenous culture, contexts, and texts in ELT textbooks is the result of the prevalence of the traditional westernized ideology and advocates the promotion of Nepali culture through the inclusion of indigenous texts in the textbooks.
In the interview, Dr. Ram Ashish Giri dives deep into the status of English in Nepal and its future, policies, and practices of English language teaching in multilingual Nepal, ‘authenticity’ in ELT, ‘localization’ in ELT materials, and the roles of English teachers and practitioners.
Similarly, in the second blog post, In the third article, Mohan Singh Saud (also the author of the grade 11 textbook) shares his ideas of rethinking authenticity concerning ELT texts and materials in the changing world and shares his experiences of the politics of undermining the textbook author’s agencies during the text selection.
Likewise, in the fourth article Binod Duwadi shares teachers’ perceptions of non-verbal communication like eye contact, facial expressions, and gestures and their pedagogical implication based on the views collected from English teachers.
Finally, in the fifth blog post, Gyanu Dahal reflects on the situations of teaching English before and during COVID-19, indicating how the classroom culture has been changed due to this emergency and the challenges teachers and students faced to cope with this situation. Reflecting on her own experiences, she suggests some tips for effective virtual lessons and needs for teachers to be equipped with skills and traits for online teaching.
Here is the list of blog posts and interview of this issue:
Now, I would like to thank the entire team of ELT Choutari in general and Mohand Singh Saud (the associate editor of this issue), Jeevan Karki, Ganesh Bastola, Babita Chapagain in particular for their rigorous effort in reviewing and editing the blog pieces. Similarly, I am thankful to all the team of reviewers for their reviews and recommendations for publications. I’m equally thankful to all contributors to this issue and special thanks go to Dr. Ram Ashsish Giri for his exclusive interview.
Finally, if you enjoy reading the articles, please feel free to share in your circle, and of course, drop your comments in the boxes below. Likewise, please write about your experiences, reflections, case studies, reviews, or any other scholarly pieces for our future publications and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wish you a happy Tihar and Chhat festivals!
Pramod Sah, Ph.D. Candidate & Killam Scholar
Guest editor of the issue
(Department of Language & Literacy Education, Faculty of Education, The University of British Columbia, Canada)
In the context of Nepal, there are a large number of schools using English as the medium of instruction and most of them are private schools that prescribe English textbooks from foreign publications, mainly Cambridge and Oxford University Press. This has led to a situation where many of our school children consider foreign culture and even languages as more valid in comparison to their native culture and languages. And in many cases, children cannot write and speak in their native languages properly. The craze for English is so strong that young learners normally neither fully identify themselves with the foreign culture nor they appreciate their cultural values. It is partly because such prescribed textbooks make them alien to their socio-cultural settings.
After nearly two decades, the curriculum for Grades XI and XII compulsory English was finally upgraded. Since the 10+2 curriculum was first introduced, the country has witnessed a sea-change in terms of cultural awareness, political awareness, social values, and other fundamental aspects of human life. The development of the new curriculum and the textbooks was expected to reflect such critical changes. This article seeks to examine how well the new compulsory English textbook of Grade XI designed by Nepal’s Curriculum Development Centre, caters to the needs of today’s generation and accommodates the changes vis-a-vis the national interest of promoting the native culture. Further, I have shown whether or not the contents included in the textbook are in line with the spirit of the 2019 National Curriculum Framework (NCF).
Representation of texts in the textbook and their critical analysis
The Grade XI textbook has been divided into two sections — Language Development and Literature Studies. Under the first section, i.e. Language Development, there are 20 units with themes ranging from humanity, ecology, history to science and technology. The relevance of the literary texts kept under each thematic units can be a matter of discussion but the way various kinds of activities have been incorporated in the section is of course praiseworthy. The Literature Studies section is divided into four units. Literary texts under this section have been categorized into four literary genres — short stories, poems, essays, and one-act plays respectively. The course designers have seemingly tried to make this section more inclusive and diverse so that students can enjoy a variety of literary works. However, the rationale behind the selection of these predominantly foreign canonical literary texts and the selection criteria for those texts call into critical deliberations for Nepali educationists.
The new textbook has seven short stories, five poems, five essays, and three one-act plays. Among the short stories, The Oval Portrait by American writer Edgar Allan Poe, God Sees the Truthbut Waits by Russian Writer Leo Tolstoy, The Wish by British writer Roald Dahl, Civil Peace by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, Two Little Soldiers by French writer Guy de Maupassant, An Astrologer’s Day by RK Narayan, an Indian writer, have been included in the textbook. One cannot deny the greatness of these literary writers and their timeless works, but when we talk about teaching culture through language we expect the short stories of Nepali writers’ writing in English too if we have to sensitize today’s generation to the cultural and other issues of the Nepali society. Although texts have been adopted from multiple contexts, including India and Nigeria, which are non-Western countries, more numbers of Nepali texts would be beneficial and culturally reflective.
Likewise, in the poetry section, of the five poems, one is by Nepali Poet Vishnu Rai and others are by Robert Burns, a Scottish, William Shakespeare, an English poet, E.E Cumming, an American, Tran MongTu, a Vietnamese. It is true that these writers’ works are timeless and have universal appeal, but it is never a good idea to ignore the work of Nepali poets who have tremendously depicted the pains and sufferings of Nepali citizens in their literary works. Vishnu Rai’s poetry has been included, but the poem Corona Says may lose significance by the time these textbooks reach the students—it’s not reflective of Nepal’s linguistic, cultural, and social context although it portrays a current picture of the COVID-19-induced crisis. It can also appeal to stop the mindless activities of humans but doesn’t represent the unique Nepali culture. The poem All the World’s a Stage by William Shakespeare already features in the textbook of Grade X optional English. It is now beyond one’s understanding of what urgent need the textbook designers might have felt while choosing this poem. It could also mean that the author did not consider building cohesion across grade levels.
The third section has five essays (one is a speech by Steve Jobs). Most of these essays are of American writers except for the one by a British-Indian writer. Much can be debated about the relevance of these essays for Nepali students. In this section too, Nepali writers have got no space. The last section contains three one-act plays. One of the three plays is Refund which is so popular that there would be hardly any school which has not staged this play on different occasions. More importantly, today’s teenagers are more attracted to reading fiction. Instead of three plays, one play and one novel by a Nepali writer could have been included in this section. But quite obviously, the course designers have utterly failed to address this issue. And it should also be noted that the first section of the textbook — Language Development — does have both literary and non-literary texts. Except for one interview with social entrepreneur Mahabir Pun, there is nothing that represents the Nepali columnists and writers who write in English, and the issues faced by Nepali youths in particular and Nepali people in general. The preface of the textbook further states that an attempt has also been made to incorporate the emerging needs of the learners. But the way, literary texts have been selected, it seems that neither the cultural issues nor the students’ interest have been taken into consideration. While selecting literary texts, one should accord top priority to the interest of the target group, but the literary works have been selected as per the literary taste of a few individuals involved in designing the syllabus and the textbook.
This tendency to look down upon the local writers who strive to take the Nepali literature in the international arena, on the one hand, is counterproductive for protecting national identity and diverse cultures of the country and, on the other, discourages them to write further in languages such as English. Many promising Nepali writers are writing in English but this kind of apathetic and indifferent attitude towards them and their literary creations might render a severe blow to the growth and expansion of Nepali Literature.
Nepali writings in English emerged as early as the 1950s with Laxmi Prasad Devkota being the pioneer of the first generation of Nepali literary writers in English. Many followed Devkota in the coming decades such as Mani Dixit, Tek Bahadur Karki, Abhi Subedi, Ramesh Shrestha, Padma Prasad Devkota, DB Gurung, Laxmi Devi Rajbhandari, Deepak S. Rana, Kesar Lall, Dhruba K Deep, Yuyutsu RD Sharma, and M L Karmacharya. Many of them could not come to the limelight mainly due to lack of good readership in the country and also because of policymakers and educationalist’s personal prejudice. Yet, many of them are still actively contributing to the Nepali literature in English. Towards the turn of the 20th century, Samrat Upadhyay, Manjushree Thapa, Sheeba Shah, and Sushma Joshi emerged as the new names in the field of Nepali literature. These literary figures got recognition across the world. These writers have, to a larger extent, helped to promote Nepali literature in the global arena, but these writers not getting any space in the English course books for Nepali students to read is very unfortunate and exposes the indifference of those involved in designing the textbook.
The decision to change the textbooks for Grades XI and XII was appreciated by teachers and other stakeholders. They were expecting that the textbooks would introduce something new that could cater to the needs of the present generation. But the way literary texts have been chosen for the course, it seems that course designers are still motivated by the ideology of Westernized knowledge and the fact that a good representation of English has to be measured only through British and American canons. The textbook writers have yet again followed in the colonial footsteps of their predecessors and repeated the same mistakes.
A language is the reflection of culture and tradition. Thus, it is obvious that when we learn a second language, we do learn about the culture embedded therein. In recent years, we have seen how cultural awareness and identity issues have taken the entire world by storm, including in Nepal. Even teaching of other languages in schools is seen as linguistic encroachment, mainly when they don’t draw on the local. The belief that the English language is a must for academic and professional success has been challenged and subverted to some extent. People have become aware of the cultural encroachment transpiring through language. As a result, English is often claimed to have multiple varieties own by local speakers. A variety of English languages have been widely accepted and given recognition too. Efforts are afoot to teach local and foreign cultures through second languages in recent years. While teaching second languages through literature, it is imperative to see the cultural aspects as well. But such a serious concern has been completely ignored, which is very unfortunate, and to some extent against the spirit of the curriculum and the NCF. The preface of the new textbook states that “the National Curriculum Framework advocates for the promotion of skill-oriented, life skill-based, employment-driven, and value-based school education. It envisions developing the human capital dedicated to the nation, nationality, national integrity, and Nepali specialty” (DoE, 2020, preface). By largely ignoring the works of native writers, one cannot think of producing human resources with Nepali specialty. I do not claim that the only way of promoting nationality and national integrity is through the inclusion of native writers’ literary creations, but it will certainly be the first step towards this end.
I, personally, believe that many students in the country now have better linguistic competency in English than Nepali, or any other native languages for that matter, especially in urban areas. They prefer reading literary texts written in English. This shows that they are also the victim of the poor mentality that Nepali writers cannot write better in English.
Finally, it is high time the policymakers and course and textbook designers need to take took the issue of language and culture seriously. Talking about cultural encroachment through language and linguistic chauvinism is not enough. The incumbent government is hell-bent on introducing a clean-feed policy for the foreign television channels broadcasted in the country. And the government is defending the new policy stating that the clean-feed policy will help stop cultural encroachment done through various advertisements created in languages other than Nepali. If television advertising in foreign languages is considered cultural encroachment, what about the literary texts that are completely based on foreign contexts and cultures? If we cannot promote Nepali literature through Nepali languages, why cannot we promote Nepali literature by translating them into the languages, such as English, spoken by more people across the world? So, let’s begin this movement first with our academic courses, especially such courses which are compulsory for all students. The inclusion of local writings in academic courses will not only help protect Nepali diverse cultures but also take the Nepali literature to a new height and help produce more affluent Nepali writers in English.
About the author: Umesh Singh Saud is the Head of the English Department at DAV Sushil Kedia Vishwa Bharati School, Kathmandu. He is also a sub-editor at ‘The Himalayan Times’ national English daily.
Department of Education (DoE). The national curriculum framework. Kathmandu: Government of Nepal.
Saud, M. S. (2020). English (Grade 11). Sanothimi, Bhaktapur: Curriculum Development Centre.
Cite as: Saud, U. (2020). Undermining of “local” in new English textbook for Grade XI. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/10/undermining-of-local-in-new-english-textbook-for-grade-xi/
Ram A. Giri, PhD, academic staff at Monash University, English Language Centre, Melbourne, teaches and researches issues related to ELICOS courses, TESOL, language testing, and language (education) policy. In his extensive career spreading over Nepal and Australia, he has published in international journals, written book chapters, and published edited books. He is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of NELTA and sub-editor of TESL-EJ.
Our Choutari editor, Jeevan Karki has spoken with Dr. Giri about the status of English in Nepal and the extent to be used, policies, and practice of English language teaching to avoid educational inequalities in multilingual Nepal. Moreover, the interview has also explored the concept of ‘authenticity’ in ELT, pros, and cons of adopting the foreign textbooks and other instructional materials including the ideas of localizing English language teaching, and the roles of English teachers and practitioners to balance the influence of English in our teaching-learning practices. Now, here is the exclusive interview for you.
1) In Nepal, English has already received a considerable space in the school and university curriculum as a compulsory language subject and, more recently, as a medium of instruction starting from as early as grade one. So, to what extent do you think English is required in our education system? How do you see the status of English in Nepal in the current sociopolitical situation?
There are two parts to this question: why and to extent, English is required in our (education) system, and its status in the current socio-political system. Both of these should be looked at in their proper contexts. I will address the second part first because I think that it is the prelude for the first part.
Status of English in the current socio-political situation: As the readers of ELT Choutari may be aware, the label of ‘English as a foreign language’ and ‘English as the most important international language’ in Nepal was unceremoniously attached to it in the 1950s and endorsed in successive educational plans by the then so-called experts of education. Although the reports and articles published in the 1960s have challenged this labelling as unrealistic and inappropriate, I am not going to delve into the argument here because the label, for me, is unimportant. What is important is how people saw the status of English then and how they see it now.
I might add here that English was the language in- and of-education prior to 1951, and 44 percent of the population who participated in the first-ever national survey on education was in favour of keeping English as a medium of instruction in the planned school education. That was about 70 years ago. Let’s briefly outline what has changed in Nepal in the last 70 years.
The literacy rate in Nepal has changed: In 1951-52, the literacy rate was around 4 percent and only 1 percent of school-age children attended school. According to some internet reports, the literacy rate in 2020 is around 90 percent and 76 percent of children are enrolled. The children who attended school since then would have some literacy in English. So, we can safely claim that the literacy rate in English has also changed/improved.
There has been a change in the people’s attitude towards the language: People no longer see it as a subject they must study to get a degree. They see it as an essential graduate attribute which prepares them for being a functional citizen in the globalized world today.
There has been a change in how people use English. It is a second or an alternate language for a significant number of people in the country. There are many educational and economic domains where English is used as the primary language. Similarly, in many social domains, it is an alternate language. People do not simply use it to gain social prestige, they use to express themselves better.
There has been a change in the source and means of knowledge. Knowledge bases and knowledge sources have become multidisciplinary and multiple norm-referenced. In the globalized context, knowledge is sourced through the internet and the primary means of accessing it is English, the language of the internet. The Nepali users of English do not worry about what variety of English they are taught or whether it is multi-norm referenced.
There has been a change in why people learn English today. The target of ELE in the past was to access knowledge from the print media. Now it is learned to access educational, employment, and better life opportunities globally. The purpose of learning English today is more realistic, practical, and locally appropriate.
There has been a change in how people learn English. The conventional methods are no longer the only methods of learning English. More and more students and teachers work together today to negotiate what they need/want to learn and how they want to learn it.
Given these changes, we need to re-assess the label which is unfairly attached to it for so long. In other words, its status in the Nepalese context must be reassessed in the light of the current practices and situated appropriately in the national life and educational curricula. Let’s now turn to the second part of the question, the question of its requirement.
The requirement of English in our (education) system: You may have noticed, I have put the word ‘education’ in the parenthesis, and that is on purpose. I think it is relevant first to see why English is required in the national system before we can understand its place in education because the education system of any country is subservient to its national system. The national system dictates what type of education the country should adopt and how it should deliver it.
The requirement of English in Nepal has already been determined. The Federal Government of Nepal, for example, has been using it as a second language. It has become the language of education at all levels. Many provincial governments have committed, they have even signed a treaty to use it as the third language under the three-language formula. So, the socio-politics of Nepal has dictated its requirement and space through its directives for how it should be used in national life including education. What it has not done is that it has not formulated a policy consistent with its directives.
Considering the varying situations and uses of English, Nepal needs to re-assess the roles English plays in the lives of its people. More importantly, it needs to re-assess its status because the Nepalese users of English are not being served well in the existing provisions. Therefore, a new national framework for its status, roles, uses, and space in education needs to be constructed which recognises the different types of English literacy situations. A new approach to its education, recognizing its multiple needs, therefore, should be developed in order to serve the Nepalese population better.
2) You mentioned that English is an alternate language in many social domains for a significant number of people in Nepal, hence its status should be reassessed. But if you see the figures of the Central Bureau of Statistics (national body of government), there is only 0.007% (2032) speakers of English as a mother tongue, while we do not have any statistics of the proficient speakers of English yet. So, isn’t it too early to claim it? Could you elaborate?
As you may be aware, a sizeable section of the Nepalese population is monolingual native speakers of Nepali. The only other language for many of them, particularly those who are educated, they use outside their home/ community is English. In many economic and education domains, such as tourism and (private and higher) education, it is an alternative language. Now some people use the term ESL (English as a second language) or even ELF (English as a lingua franca) to refer to the situation. For me, these terms connote differently. The term ESL, for example, focuses more on the learning/teaching aspect of the language rather than its use. Similarly, ELF is a means of inter-community or intra-national communication. By using the term, English as an alternative language (not to confuse it with English as an additional language), I refer to the myriads of situations in which people use English to participate and respond to when their native language does not serve them best.
In order to be effective, creative, and confident communicators in such situations, such users negotiate their English by appropriating proficiency in terms of accuracy and fluency, communicative skills, and language repertoire for different types of participants, and purpose of the interaction.
Now let’s turn to the data you have quoted in your question. First of all, it is old data reported on the 2011 (2012) census. Secondly, the reported population is the native speakers of English. And finally, the concept of English as an alternative language does not include native speakers of English but those who alternate their native language with English. And as I mentioned above, there is a sizeable section of the Nepalese population who already do that.
3) Historically, English has always been said as the language of elites and elites are believed to have appropriated English for their benefits. While English still functions as a second/third/fourth language for the majority of multilingual children in Nepal. So, there appears to class-based injustice and inequalities in English language teaching. In your views, what measures can be taken in the policies and practice of English language teaching to avoid such inequalities?
As is widely reported, English was imported and has been used in Nepal for ideological reasons, which helped the elites to establish a linguistic edge over the caste/class-based divisions in the Nepalese society. An example of the primacy of English is evident in the fact that English was made compulsory in education even before Nepali (the official/national language) was (Nepali was introduced as a compulsory subject in school only in 1951; whereas English had been compulsory and the medium of instruction since the beginning of school education in Nepal). In addition, English language education (ELE) initially restricted to the elites has also helped establish a form of neo-colonialism in Nepal. The language became a yardstick for employment and educational and occupational opportunities which were made available exclusively to the English-speaking elites. This has been the basis of social injustice and social inequalities. But things have changed now. With the new generation of English users, a new school of thought has emerged that sees English as neutral, democratic, and, more importantly, liberating.
This new line of thinking is based on three perspectives. First and foremost, it suggests that Nepal’s identity in the new context should be redefined with English as an official language in it. They believe that that English in Nepal is no longer an elite language, nor is it tied to any caste or class. Rather it has become everybody’s language and therefore is one of the local languages. The second perspective is that as English is used in more and more domains by more and more people, it should be given official status to remove the confusion and uncertainties surrounding it. Finally, the third perspective contends that it must be appropriately situated in the Nepalese language landscape on the principles of language ecology and linguistic co-existence. So, the answers to what measures can be taken in the policies and practices to avoid such inequalities are in the three perspectives presented above. However, I will reiterate them here again.
In order to address inequalities, the following measures can be taken:
There is a great deal of confusion and uncertainties around what space Nepal should accord to English language education because the government lacks a clear and consistent ELE policy. In order to avoid these, the government should legislate it giving it an official status. Please note, it has already officialized it in its directives.
Legislating it should give ELE an official regulating body something like ‘The National Institute of English Language Teaching’ whose job can be to regulate the distribution of human and materials resources and monitor an effective practice of ELE throughout Nepal.
The official status will also place emphasis on addressing the issue of scarcity of trained and qualified English teachers in rural Nepal,
It will ensure equitable access to quality ELT for all, especially the disadvantaged sections of the population, and finally
An equitable and consistent policy will address the disproportionate distribution of ELT facilities and resources.
4) English, when promoted as the official language due to political imperative, has become the only dominant language in the educational landscape and administrative use limiting the growth and scope of other local languages for example in Rwanda and Cameroon. Research globally shows that students perform better in their local/mother tongues and the government of Nepal in its constitution and policy documents has also warranted and prioritized the use of local languages. So, why do you propose English to be the official language in multilingual Nepal which is not even the official language at the federal level in the USA ?
Legislating English, ambitious and problematic though it may sound, is not as problematic and chaotic as if we work out what to do, why to do it, and how to do it. First, we need to change our attitude towards the language and its legislation. People may see the problem in the very word of ‘officialising’. Let’s look at some of the ways the term ‘official language’ can be viewed. One view can see English – an official language as one of the languages that are accepted by the government of Nepal, which is taught in schools and colleges and is used as an alternative language in certain domains such as information and communication, official document, education, tourism, national and international companies, diplomacy and so on. Secondly, English could be given a special legal status, which could be used within the specified domains for communicational and transactional purposes. One other way of viewing it could be to legislate ‘official multilingualism’ where the government recognises multiple official languages with English among them. Under this system, all official languages are situated in the national space based on the principle of co-existence.
Furthermore, I am not suggesting that it should be legislated ‘overnight’. That could be disastrous. What we should commence doing is to prepare ourselves. We as a country should be prepared for this first. In order to be prepared, we need to initiate a conversation first with grassroots users or end-users of the language. We need to engineer the right attitude in the stakeholders. We need to develop the right strategies and adequate infrastructure. Above, all we need to situate English appropriately in the language landscape of Nepal. All of these processes are time-consuming processes, but if we want to do it in ten years’ time, we have to start the conversation now. Now whether or not it will become dominant will depend on how we situate it in our linguistic landscape. English is dominating our linguistic landscape now. As we have seen lately, it is replacing Nepali in several socio-economic domains. Not legislating will not stop its domination.
5) School-level English language curriculum of Nepal considers English as the most prominent means of international communication, language for global mobilities, and a means for academic success. What’s your perspective on this common belief?
The three aspects mentioned in the question sound great. It captures what may be called ‘the extrinsic view’ of English in Nepal. However, as it is evident, it fails to capture the local sentiments towards the language. It does not recognize the fact that English has already taken a significant position in the life of the Nepalese people. In other words, it lacks an intrinsic perspective on English.
6) In a country like Nepal, there is a tendency to adopt textbooks and other instructional materials developed elsewhere, mainly in the Western countries, and there is a lack of local reflections in such materials. What are the positives and negatives of this practice?
Using commercially marketed textbooks and instructional materials is a double-edged sword. By this, I mean that it has some pros as well as some cons. In my personal opinion, they do more harm than good. Let me explain this further. First of all, I will take up the pros. The marketed materials, especially those published by the western presses, are prepared by a highly trained team of experts and go through rigorous processes of reviews. In other words, the texts and exercises have been tried and tested on English language principles and organised and paced appropriately for a particular age-group of students. Therefore, the quality of such text materials and exercises can be assured. Such textbooks are visually attractive in that they contain colourful pictures, drawings, and charts. In addition, the accompanying workbooks, CDs, audios, and videos are of high quality. They work as a source of an appropriate model and input especially for those teachers who have learned English as a foreign language themselves. Such textbooks often come with comprehensively prepared teachers’ books (teachers’ manuals) which provides step-by-step guidance and support to teachers.
Now I look into the cons.
Such textbooks are prepared for a particular group of children, for a particular set of aims, on a particular approach, and with a particular context in mind. If such textbooks are appropriate for a particular group of children, there is no certainty that they will work for the children in Nepal. The Nepali learners of English may have a different route or pace of learning English. Their needs, objectives, and therefore, their interest in learning English are likely to be different. Such textbooks and instructional materials are prepared on the publishers’ prescribed approaches and their chosen context. These approaches and contexts are usually different from those of the approaches and contexts adapted in Nepal. Most important of all, they may be culturally insensitive. In other words, such materials are not culturally authentic. So, they do not help achieve the aims with which teaching English in Nepal. On the other hand, if the materials do not match the students’ pace and level, they can create demotivation or frustrations in them.
7) In the case of the Nepali English language teaching context, how do you define “authenticity” in both preparing and delivering lessons? What could be some ways to incorporate such authenticity in classrooms?
The term ‘authenticity’ is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. In the Nepali English language teaching context, authenticity in language lessons may be defined as lessons that are prepared and delivered in order to meet the learning targets of the students in the social contexts they learn English in and to fulfil their prospective needs. Now, this definition may sound a bit simplistic, but I tend to think that it is not. I will explain it with the help of three expressions, i.e., the authenticity of ELT practices should be passed on three principles: feed-up, feed on, and feedforward. Firstly, the lessons teachers prepare and deliver should be based on appropriate learning principles and designed to meet the current targets of the learners. The teachers and learners both need to understand what they are doing during the lessons, what materials they are going to use, why they are going to use such materials, and in what ways they are going to help achieve their learning goals. In other words, they should feed up in unpacking the learning targets and the curricular elements associated with them. Secondly, the materials and methods need to be grounded in the reality of learner needs and contexts. In other words, the preparation and delivery of lessons should be fed on the reality of the contexts in which the students learn and use English. For example, if the lesson is about ‘giving and receiving telephone messages’, the materials teachers use should be ‘actual’ conversations grounded in actual contexts in which students are likely to give and receive messages, e.g., giving and receiving messages about assignments, requesting and receiving messages about examinations, giving and receiving personal details at a bank, and so on. Similarly, if the lesson is about ‘pollution’, the materials used should be the ones that are written about their own cities published in the local newspapers or magazines, or broadcast on local radio or telecast on local TVs. Finally, the lessons should be designed in such a way that the language elements that they learn should feedforward to their future needs and activities on the related topic. Authentic materials, thus, have intrinsic educational value. It keeps them informed about what is happening in the context they live in.
8) Could you please also share your ideas about localizing English language teaching, also in terms of linguistically and culturally responsive teaching?
In Nepal, we have had no engaged discussions or conversations on the issue of how English language teaching can be localised despite the fact that the teaching and learning of English are now increasingly intricately intertwined with a wide variety of local cultures, including regional and national cultures. I am aware that some institutions/universities of Nepal, particularly those in the west, are planning to develop locally appropriated text materials for their localised teaching practices.
For linguistically and culturally responsive teaching, the text materials, and their teaching practices need to include four cultural dimensions: (1) the aesthetic dimension (local art and literature); (2) the sociological dimension (local customs and practices); (3) the semantic dimension, the manner in which a culture’s conceptual system is embodied in the language (local English); and (4) the pragmatic dimension, which pertains to linguistic and paralinguistic rules and skills that guide speakers to appropriate use of rhetorical styles for communication purposes (local use).
9) What should be the role of English teachers and practitioners to minimize the hegemonic influence of English in our teaching-learning practices?
In some ways, this question is related to the previous question. The hegemony of English is exercised through practicing Anglocentric norms, models, and teaching materials. This gives the learner the feeling that they have to speak/use the language as the native speakers do, and they are learning a language that does not belong to them. They do not identify themselves with it. English teachers can play a significant role in minimizing this hegemonic influence. They can change the lens through which our students look at English. They can, for example, develop in them a critical view of English, its ownership, its plurality, and complexity. In other words, they can raise students’ awareness of world Englishes, by detaching English from its Anglocentric linguistic and cultural model and methods, and then by localizing it considering the way(s) in which it is used and experienced locally. In other words, English teachers can shift the focus from norm, teaching methods, and materials of the Centre (Anglocentric) to teaching strategies, contexts, knowledge, and culture of the Periphery (Local) for the development of ELT curricula, materials, and methodology.
Note: Now the floor is open for you. If you have any concerns or comments on the interview, drop them down in the box below. Your constructive feedback and questions are always welcome. Thank you!
Cite as: Giri, RA (2020). English is one of the local languages in Nepal. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/10/english-is-one-of-the-local-languages-in-nepal-dr-giri/
The concept of authenticity “is a pervasive ideology within ELT” (Holliday, 2006, p. 385), which initially referred to the texts and materials reflecting native-like features and produced by the native speakers of English. However, at present, it is believed that such ideology damages the ELT profession as well as popular perceptions of English and culture disbelieving the cultural contribution of the non-native speaker teachers. Kumaravadivelu (2016) also argues that native-speakerism represents an unresponsive ‘native speaker’ hegemony in ELT. This ideology is what Phillipson (1992) calls ‘native speaker fallacy’. Along with the application of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), practitioners often talked of authentic texts and materials in ELT. More recently, new approaches and concepts have been proposed and even practiced, such as Kumaravadivelu’s (1994) notion of post-method pedagogy, Kachru’s (1985) World Englishes, McKay’s (2002) English as an international language, and Jenkins’ (2006) English as a lingua franca (ELF), which have challenged the native speaker fallacy.
There have been debates regarding the concept of authenticity, indicating a need for rethinking authenticity in ELT texts and materials. In response to the traditional EFL approach, it is essential to focus pedagogy considering the diversity of the local context with various purposes of learning English. Scholars argue that ELT should be culturally sensitive and socially responsive valuing multiculturalism.
The discussion above proves to rethink authenticity in ELT texts and materials of ELT, especially in non-English speaking countries. Authenticity is a relative contextualized concept since “authentic materials may mean different things for different people” (Shomoossi & Ketabi, 2007, p.149), and was the main focus of CLT in the past (Bax, 2003). In this background, this article explores the concept of authenticity concerning ELT texts and materials.
Authenticity as a social construct
A traditional definition of authentic materials refers to the materials created by native speakers of English and are used to teach for second or foreign language learners of English (Day, 2004; Rafalovich, 2014). However, my perspective on the authenticity of ELT materials is different. Agreeing with Rafalovich (2014), I believe that the authenticity of ELT texts and materials is determined by needs, availability, classroom environment, teacher-student relations, and the perception of the reader. Any text can be authentic if it is produced in English (or even bi/multilingual), may it be by a native or non-native speaker of English, and if it can be appropriated for the classroom teaching-learning purposes.
The main concern about the authenticity of texts was in relation to CLT in ELT. Those teaching materials were considered authentic, which were produced for real-life communicative purposes and used for teaching-learning purposes. CLT placed more importance on using authentic materials in the classroom. Thus, authenticity in the traditional sense is a social construct based on the ideology of native-speakerism promoting English culture. This notion needs to be reconsidered as English is no longer the language of the native English speakers only. As such, I define authentic texts as those texts that are written in English reflecting different cultures and can be appropriate in ELT.
Glocal ELT materials
With the globalisation of the English language, English no longer belongs to any single nation or group and new forms of English have been emerged in non-Western contexts (Kachru, 2004). As such, authentic materials do not mean those produced in Anglophone countries, but those could be produced in any part of the world and can be adaptable to teaching-learning purposes. It is essential to rethink the authenticity of materials that better meet their students’ diverse needs and those texts and materials should promote cultural awareness and intercultural understanding among them (Nault, 2006).
Although ELT texts and materials tend to adopt the contents from English-speaking countries and native English speakers, the globalization of the English language has demanded them to be inclusive across cultures. Materials must be culturally sensitive and socially responsive. ELT pedagogy is truly pluricentric (Sharifian, 2014). English is a pluricentric language, with variations in the spelling, pronunciation, vocabulary, etc. between the United Kingdom, America, New Zealand, Australia, and other English-speaking as well as non-English speaking countries, including dialectal variety within these areas. As such, no national authority can set the standard for the use of English. Moreover, a tripartite traditional distinction between English as a Native Language (ENL), English as a Second Language (ESL), and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) (Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, & Svartvik, 1985) have been debated, and Kachru (1985) put forward the three-concentric-circles model of World Englishes with inner-outer-expanding circles distinction. English, therefore, spoken in different countries and regions is increasingly taken as a pluricentric language. This reflects the need of focusing on the culturally sensitive and contextually appropriate use of English.
Byram (1997) proposed intercultural communicative competence (ICC) for effective and appropriate communication with people from various language and cultural backgrounds. The basic tenet of ICC advocates the need of including texts and materials from various cultures which could raise cultural awareness among the learners. Various studies have shown the importance of integrating varied cultures in the ELT curriculum to develop intercultural communication. Therefore, it is important to rethink the inclusion of the local and indigenous texts and materials in producing ELT textbooks and other materials in Nepal, with a multiplicity of linguistic, ethnic, religious, and cultural groups. It is time to challenge and resist the ideology of preferring texts and materials produced by American or British writers and ELT industries, but all those across the culture around the world that can be appropriate for teaching and learning English. Doing so will assure justice for all cultures and the true application of inclusive pedagogy in ELT.
Reconsidering native speaker mindset in text selection
I have been involved in selecting texts in the process of ELT coursebook development. Although I advocate the inclusion of local and indigenous texts for the expansion of native knowledge prioritizing non-native English speaker writers, it has been difficult in practice due to some other obstacles and our traditional ideology that only the native speakers’ texts can be appropriate, standard, and authentic. This kind of mindset needs to be challenged and textbook/material developers need to take inclusive, glocal, and pluricentric perspectives while selecting texts and materials appropriating the needs and level of learners.
Moreover, it is not easier to get the suitable texts to the level and needs of Nepali learners. I wanted to represent the local and indigenous texts and materials in the coursebook, but such texts are not easily available. Nonetheless, I attempted to include texts from diverse cultures across the world considering that authenticity remains in the text rather than who and where it was produced. I hope the textbook and material developers in the days to come would respect local culture and value Nepali writers rethinking the authenticity of texts and materials in ELT in the context of Nepal.
The concept of authenticity appeared in English language teaching along with the advent of the communicative approach in the 1970s. However, this article has argued that the authenticity of texts and materials used in English language teaching should be rethought
to reflect the multiple perspectives inherent in EFL pedagogy. Any text and material that is culturally sensitive and socially responsive can gain authenticity in the globalised context of English and English language teaching. It is recommended that the English curriculum should include the texts and materials representing varied cultures.
It is crucial to rethink text authenticity in ELT instead of promoting the traditional notion of authenticity of texts and materials in relation to CLT. It can be justifiable to use appropriate materials that will be fruitful and purposeful for students to learn the language effectively. Therefore, it is advisable to choose appropriate materials that will best suit students’ needs for language development, regardless of the origin and the originator of the materials. Even if the materials are produced by non-native English speakers, they can be taken as authentic if they serve the purpose of developing language and are readily accessible, appropriate, need-based, and socially responsive.
About the author: Mohan Singh Saud is Associate Professor of English Education at Kailali Multiple Campus, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He is a PhD scholar at Graduate School of Education, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He is also the author of Grade 11 compulsory English textbook under Curriculum Development Centre, Nepal.
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Cite as: Saud, MS. (2020). Rethinking authenticity in ELT texts and materials: A perspective of an author. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/10/rethinking-authenticity-in-elt-texts-and-materials-a-perspective-of-an-author/
In this piece of article, I have attempted to explore teachers’ perceptions regarding eye-contact; facial expressions (mimics) and gestures (body language) and their pedagogical implication based on the views collected from ten English teachers from five community schools of Kathmandu valley.
Teachers often complain about discipline, lack of attention and motivation, and many other challenges in large classes. In such classes, many of which lead to a communication breakdown between teachers and students or between students themselves. It is known that speech is only one of the forms of communication. Experts believe that most interpersonal communication takes place in a nonverbal mode. People’s faces disclose emotions and telegraph what matters to them (Santrock, 2001). Two aspects of non-verbal communication are the use of eyes and facial expressions; both of which are powerful tools to convey messages. Yet, most of our learners’ time in the classroom is spent with their eyes firmly fixed on books, whiteboard, projector, windows, or roaming randomly around the class. Ergin and Birol (2005) indicate that the real communication between people begins when they maintain eye contact, hence eye contact plays a crucial role in communication. If a person maintains eye contact with you, it indicates that the person is interested to start communication with you, while avoiding eye contact shows that the person is not interested or lacks the confidence to start the conversation.
While the use of eyes and facial expressions are reported to assist teachers in managing classrooms, direct eye contact with teachers in our context is considered disrespectful. According to Gower and Walters (1983), the main applications of eye contact in the classroom are to show that the teacher is taking notice of students who are talking; check that everyone is concentrating; indicate the students who want to communicate, and encourage contributions when one is trying to elicit ideas. A teacher can identify that students have something to say by looking at their eyes and face and teacher’s eye contact with students also helps to hold their attention and encourage them to listen to others talking (Snyder, 1998). The use of eyes, mimics, and gestures are also believed to help establish rapport with students. Rossman (1989) believes that the teacher’s body language and eye contact play an important role to set the climate of the classroom. A teacher who never looks at students in their eyes could be due to a lack of confidence, which gives students a sense of insecurity (Gower & Walters, 1983; Pollitt 2006).
Facial expression and eye contact reflect teachers’ confidence. Teachers need to be present in the classroom before learners and welcome them individually with a combination of eye contact and their names as they enter the room. Ledbury et al. (2004) report that eye contact is, fundamentally, time and effort saving even in a large class setting. Research reveals that teachers can save time and effort with specific messages delivered by eye and facial expressions like praises, encouragement, or disapproval. However, the role of non-verbal communication like eye contact, facial expression, and gestures in English language teaching-learning in a developing country like Nepal requires more intensive investigation. Therefore, I am interested in this area and have attempted to explore teachers’ perceptions of non-verbal communication and their implications in teaching-learning of English language.
Pedagogical practices in relation to non-verbal communication
Based on the qualitative research method associated with the interpretive paradigm, I collected the data from ten English teachers from five community schools of Kathmandu valley. The teachers were asked to share their experiences of non-verbal communication and its uses in their large classroom via email. They were given the freedom to report and reflect on any of the issues or incidents they find worthwhile or significant indicating why those moments were significant and critical to them. Information from the ‘critical moments reflection’ reports revealed two major categories based on the research questions as follows:
Teachers’ perceptions on eye contact
Five teachers stated that teachers’ eye contact is a source of motivation and coordination for the students towards the lesson making them feel important and confident as well. T4 states:
I think the relationship is crucial between teacher and student. The way we look at our students, their eyes seem serious towards the class, as they are found motivated towards our lesson, at that time I feel motivated and encouraged.
Similar to the perceptions of most other teachers, T4 reported that eye contact makes students feel important as when the teacher looks at students, they feel that the teacher is interested in them and cares for them. Moreover, eye contact for T4 helps to maintain concentration and boost the motivation of students. On the other hand, for T5, eye contact is a tool to manage the large class she says:
My class is sixty-three, so it is quite large, students make noise, that is very tedious to control, when I look at them, one by one, they remain silent to some extent, perhaps they are aware of my class.
T6 reports a similar experience, “As I find my class noisy, I feel stressed, and I use minimum eye contact for a while without talking to them, they also do not make noise, no matter the class is large.”
Their views are similar to the views of Gower & Walters (1983) as they believe that eye contact can be used to ensure that everyone is together in the lesson, to notice the student who is talking, and to encourage contributions, participation.
Likewise, the other five teachers reported that they perceive teachers’ eye contact as a means to maintain attention in the classroom, which is similar to the views of Gower and Walters (1983) and Snyder (1998) that eye contact is used to hold the attention and maintain focus in teaching-learning. T6 uses eye contact for a similar purpose as he mentions, “By looking at my students directly in their eyes, they pay attention to me and they listen to me, what I am saying in my class.” Similarly, T7 uses eye contact to increase motivation, maintain attention and most importantly to approve and disapprove of students’ behaviour as he says, “My eye contact is crucial for me and my class as it obtains the motivation of the students. This way students pay attention to the lesson. I acknowledge my student’s behavior that is posed in my classroom.” Eye contact also plays an important role in behaviour management of students. By simply fixing our eyes at students’ with an unhappy facial expression signals them to drop their behaviour, while soft eyes with a smile signals that the teacher is interested and wants them to continue what they are doing.
Moreover, it also can be a tool to assess students’ understanding of the lessons as a lack of understanding is displayed in students’ eyes in the form of restlessness or lack of confidence. T9 has a similar experience:
When we are confident, we feel easy to see our students face, otherwise, it is not easy to look at the students’ faces one by one. It is easy to evaluate our student’s situation, how they are presenting in the class.
Teachers’ perceptions on facial expression and gestures
The teachers mentioned that facial expression and gestures are the sources of motivation, enthusiasm, and confidence in learning, oneself, and others. T1 mentions:
Another thing that took my students’ attention is when my students speak, I always listen to them and show I am reacting by moving my body at least by one gesture. This makes my class motivated, encouraged, and enthusiastic. This gives us strong confidence to move on.
Signaling students with some non-verbal clues gives sufficient information about whether students are doing right or wrong and whether they should continue or drop the action. Such non-verbal clues are sometimes stronger than lectures. Teachers should be aware of their body language and the message it conveys because their body language can either encourages or discourages students in classroom engagement and participation as T3 notes that, “My students report me that my body language encourages them and they do not hesitate to talk to me. They say my body language is encouraging and they feel secure in their class.”
The teachers also reported that they perceived mimics and gestures as a source to maintain the attention and readiness of students to resume the teaching-learning activities. They reported that body language is very useful in managing students’ behaviour in a large classroom. Moreover, it also helps students to understand the discussion and lesson better. T10 uses various non-verbal clues to demonstrate and express the intended meaning during the discussion as he notes that, “By using various demonstrations and expressing the posture I make my class well managed.”
The participant teachers mostly perceived the non-verbal clues like eye contact as a source of motivation, concentration, enthusiasm, and a tool for gaining and maintaining attention during the teaching-learning processes. Although there are major similarities in the teachers’ perceptions of non-verbal communication like eye contact, mimics, and gestures, and using them in teaching-learning, some teachers perceive and use them differently. For instance, they use non-verbal clues not only to control the classroom but also to better elaborate the intended meaning of discussion and to encourage students in active participation in teaching-learning activities.
According to cognitive scientists, meaningful learning occurs if students’ attention is captured as information processing that begins with learners paying attention to the stimuli. Most of the students indicated how motivated they become as a result of the teacher’s eye contact, mimics, and gestures feeling comfortable, confident, and significant. Teachers’ non-verbal communication creates a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere for them, and this enables them to have self-confidence which also leads to increased participation and contributions to the lesson. When students participate in the lesson, they are more likely to ask questions which also increases their understanding of the topics. Teachers are recommended to be aware of the importance of nonverbal communication and use it in favor of learners to create a more motivating, comfortable, confident environment in class for better classroom management.
About the author: Binod Duwadi is an MPhil scholar (English Language Education Programme) at Kathmandu University. He is the Head of the English Department at Amar Jyoti Secondary School Kathmandu, Nepal.
Ergin, A. & Birol, C. (2005). EgitimadeLletisim. Ani Yayincilik. Ankara.
Gower, R. & Walters, S. (1983). Teaching practice handbook. Oxford. Heinemann.
Ledbury, R, et al, (2004). The importance of eye contact in the classroom. The Internet TESL Journal. X(8)
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for people around the world. Due to this crisis, we all are locked inside the home and no one can deny that life has suddenly and unavoidably become more difficult and complicated for everyone, including language teachers. All the schools and colleges are closed. So, these days regular face-to-face classes have been switched to virtual (online) classes. Conducting virtual classes is a new mode of teaching and learning for both teachers as well as students. The school closures have not only threatened teachers and students, but also parents to cope up with the entirely new situation. It has become a matter of anxiety and a nuisance for all of us.
Teaching is often said as one of the most stressful professions, even before the pandemic. Response to the Covid-19 pandemic has created a long list of new stressors for teachers to deal with, including problems caused by the emergency transformation to online language teaching. During this crisis, everything has happened so fast that it does not seem realistic to adopt a holistic solution that is easy to implement, and that works for everyone (Moorhouse, 2020).
I always realized that teaching and learning is a social and dynamic process. Teachers and students used to get enough time to be social in face-to-face classes. Students’ attendance was good. They seemed happy with teachers and there were personal connections between teachers and students. We could use facial expressions, body language, a physical gesture which is used to motivate students to work on time and to create a positive classroom environment, but there is a distance between teachers and students in virtual classrooms. They are deprived of physical closeness. The main negative aspect that was predicted and experienced in online teaching was the lack of interaction. The pandemic caused many teachers and educators to rethink and reshape their educational practice. These are the issues from which every teacher is suffering.
In many countries, teachers were given very little time to convert their face-to-face classes to online teaching via synchronous and/or asynchronous methods, often despite challenges concerning the availability of necessary digital devices, prior training in online teaching techniques, and/or effective online learning support platforms. In most cases, teachers have not been trained in the necessary technical and pedagogical skills to integrate digital technology instruction.
The typical days for language teachers around the world have been stressful enough, given their heavy workloads, time pressures, and difficult juggling roles. These days, we are not only stressed due to the reasons mentioned above but it’s because of sudden adaptation to online teaching. Furthermore, teachers are unhappy with the indifferent behavior of students, their passivity, and less enthusiasm in the online classroom. Students used to be very active and participatory in those days in comparison to now. The teachers indulge in the thought as to how to make students active and energetic in the class. There are concerns about low students’ attendance, reasons behind not submitting their assignment on time, and effective ways of assessment. In what follows, I have discussed my own experience of running online classes smoothly and effectively.
My learned experiences and suggestions to fellow teachers
Based on my personal experiences, I have listed several suggestions that might help fellow teachers to hold their virtual lessons effectively and successfully.
Prepare a lesson plan
Every teacher should develop the habit of making plans before starting their lessons. Allen (2003) explained that a lesson plan is a route map or mind map of teachers designed for a specific topic of a specific day. A plan helps to run classes smoothly without being distracted. It helps to become confident and mindful of what is to happen in lessons. When teachers are equipped with a lesson plan, they never find themselves mislead and likely to reach their teaching goals. Unlike the face-to-face mode of teaching, I would recommend fellow teachers to plan their lessons shorter for online teaching and try creating more opportunities for interactions.
Develop multiple classroom activities
In face-to-face classrooms, teaching was easier and more comfortable. We could quit or add some activities by observing students’ motivation and engagement. But now, before conducting online classes, we should set a plan with a variety of activities that can keep the students active and interactive. For this, we can use break out rooms, we can let the learners use the microphone, turn on the camera, and allow them to use a chatbox. It helps learners be active, interactive, and collaborative. Collaborative learning encourages understanding, fosters relationships, builds self-esteem, reduces anxiety, and stimulates critical thinking (Panitz, 1999). We should encourage our students to share their ideas, inspire them to participate in all the activities actively and enthusiastically, motivate them to be interactive in the classroom asking open questions.
Be vigilant in assigning and correcting work
Teachers assign homework to the students to practice the content and language they learned during the class. However, it’s not a good idea to assign homework at the end of the lesson because you may not have enough time to explain how to write it, and also students may not have enough time to ask questions if it is not clear for them. For doing homework correction, one effective way can be to display the corrections in PowerPoint slides and encourage students to do self-correction or in small groups in break out rooms. Sometimes, teachers can ask students to write answers in the chatbox and read their responses mentioning their names. At this difficult time, it is important to give compliments to students regardless of their failure to produce correct and sufficient work as it keeps them motivated. However, teachers need to correct their work and offer positive feedback.
Use of students’ L1
Researchers believe that the use of students’ L1 facilitates the teaching of a target language (Cook, 2001). Teachers use students’ L1 for various purposes like facilitating communication, conveying meaning, facilitating student-teacher relationships, and scaffolding, and peer learning (Cook, 2001). It also maintains confidence and self-esteem because it is linked to the learner’s identity and emotional wellbeing. At this challenging time when the instruction may not be delivered effectively during online teaching, it is important to use students’ mother tongue or the languages they are more comfortable with. The use of English-only may create difficulties and frustration for them.
Develop a positive classroom culture
Creating an environment where students feel safe and free to take part is equally important. Every teacher should love to have their students waiting to come to class every day to learn, feel safe, and have a sense of family with their classmates and their teachers. For this, I’m always mindful of creating positive classroom culture. It is a space where everyone should feel accepted and included. Students should be comfortable with sharing how they feel, and teachers should be willing to take it in to help improve learning.
Every student, teacher, and parent needs to be involved in playing a part in creating a positive classroom culture. Teachers present in class not only to teach for academic success but also to preserve student’s physical, social, and emotional needs. Teachers should never forget students’ variations, in the classroom, there may be students who have a troubled home life and do not get the motivation or emotional support from their family, but coming to a very friendly classroom culture and understanding is very beneficial in changing their views on themselves and other adults.
Teachers must be aware of the classroom culture they develop before starting new sessions. We need to take into mind what each student needs to feel comfortable in the classroom and give them a safe space to be themselves. Having a good classroom culture in starting days will give children a positive and friendly connotation with the teachers and learning. If students experience a bad classroom culture in the beginning, they will be less motivated to continue on their learning excursion with the best mindset.
Today’s teachers should be equipped with some specific skills that help teachers to succeed in their efforts to teach a language: for example, designing and implementing appropriate instruction for classroom assessment and student engagement, organizing and facilitating students’ participation, and providing guidance and support. We should motivate students and show enthusiasm and interest in learners. We can support our learners to promote group interaction, collaboration, and teamwork by setting some activities. We can also use different communication tools (e.g., email, video chat, text messages, etc.), for active communication and social presence to engage online learners. We can personalize our instructions, stories, messages, and feedback to make our class environment livelier by adding the appropriate sense of humor when possible. We can maintain a warm, and friendly, atmosphere by creating and developing respectful relationships by showing sensitivity and empathy when communicating online. We can offer some advice and suggestions from our learners for betterment. All these skills, tasks, and competencies can help us to be highly respectful online educators. Moreover, teachers should try these to possess some personal traits such as being highly motivated, supportive, visible, organized, analytical, respectful, approachable, active, responsive, flexible, open, honest, and compassionate.
About the Author: Gyanu Dahal is an English language teacher in Little Angels’ College of Management/School. She has also worked as a trainer and mentor in British Council projects. Her scholarly interests include mentoring, exploratory action research, and teacher education.
Allen, G.T. (2003). Important points about planning lessons. California: Philadelphia.
Cook, V. (2001). Using the first language in the classroom. Canadian Modern Language Review, 57, 402–423.
Harbord, J. (1992). The use of the mother tongue in the classroom. ELT Journal, 46, 350– 355.
Panitz, T. (1999). Collaborative versus cooperative learning: A comparison of the two concepts which will help us understand the underlying nature of interactive learning. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED448443.pdf
Cite as: Dahal, G. (2020). Changing assets in ELT classroom culture: Reflections on teaching during the pandemic. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/10/changing-assets-in-elt-classroom-culture-reflections-on-teaching-during-the-pandemic/
Post-COVID-19 School Transformation: What Teachers, Communities and Nation can Contribute
COVID-19 pandemic crisis and its impact on rural primary schools investigated that health, social, economic and education would be hardly predicted at its identification in Wuhan, a Chinese city in November 2019. When China was struggling to control its spread in communities across the country, most of the countries would not have even imagined how the pandemic could destroy their mechanisms of health, education, business, economy and society. Millions of teasing TikTok videos, cartoon sketches, metaphoric texts and lyrics about COVID-19 in China would have been hardly bearable for Chinese civilians living across the world.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 without the restriction of the human sketched territory of countries on the planet reached elsewhere within the first three months of its identification. Many countries, particularly in Europe and America, unexpectedly suffered from the pandemic as early as the virus spread in those countries after China. The rapid spread of the virus in Asian countries particularly India in recent days has become a threat to Nepal because of the open border between Nepal and India. Moreover, the spread of COVID-19 in Nepal can presumably bring deadly days soon if the government is unable to strategically control the spread.
The impact of the pandemic can be observed in various sectors such as education, health, business, tourism and industries in Nepal. More than 7 million students have been observing lockdown when all the schools and ten universities have been shut down since March 2020. Although particularly few private schools and colleges in cities have been trying to reach their students and teach them in online classes, the majority of schools are unlikely to switch to online teaching and learning in absence of information and communication technologies. Where only 4% of the government schools and 22% of the private schools have a computer lab, and the majority of schools lack internet facilities, holistically approaching internet-based teaching and learning in schools can be an immature idea. Although it is estimated that about 70% of the total population use the internet, the majority of them (95%) use expensive mobile data for personal communications and only 5% of them, particularly in cities, use broadband internet. Moreover, the limited practice of online teaching and learning particularly in urban schools may widen the gap between rural and urban communities. However, the effort several national and local televisions and radios have made by broadcasting tutorials is appreciated by the public. Unfortunately limited or no specific programme for regulating school and university education in this crisis indicates the extent of governmental and institutional preparedness to mitigate the crisis. Even though the majority of teachers and students have limited access to internet facilities, some teachers have reported their experiences of practising online teaching and learning. This issue comprises of teachers experiences of using ICT tools for teaching and learning, challenges they faced in their practices and suggestions for post-COVID-19 schooling.
Prem Prasad Poudeloffers his critical analysis of the pandemic influence on education particularly in Nepal and suggests ideas for post-crisis school transformation. He shares some ideas for alternative ways to conventional pedagogies to gradually revive school education.
Dr SM Akramul Kabircritically analyses the educational issues highlighted in Bangladesh during the pandemic crisis and suggests alternative ways to mitigate similar issues in general. Dr Thinh Le from Vietnam suggests some ideas for online teaching and learning. He specifically focuses on the community of learning model for online teaching and learning activities.
Dr Prem Phyak, Bhim Sapkota, Ramji Acharya and Dil Kumari Shresthaoffer how teachers during COVID-19 crisis have learned to use various ICT tools in teaching and learning. Their interviews with teachers suggest how many other teachers can take advantage of this lock down to develop their professionalism by exploring national and international training opportunities offered in online classes.
Krishna Parajuliand Pushpa Raj Paudel share their experiences of using internet facilities for teaching and learning. Both authors illustrate how teachers have struggled to go on online teaching and what schools can do to transform them to revive and survive ahead.
Karuna Nepal explicates how students can manage their online and distance learning and how teachers can facilitate them to learn their courses. Hiralal Kapar has reported school teachers’ early experiences of using ICT tools to teach their students and gradual development of their confidence in teaching in online classes. Manish Thapa highlights how few university departments have switched their physical classroom to online teaching and learning during the pandemic crisis and how the practice can be adopted to transform traditional pedagogies.
Babita Sharma, one of the editors of this publication, discusses issues of social and family environment for children’s learning, how parents can create supportive social atmosphere for their children’s learning. She also suggests how family members can be teachers of their children to teach them dynamic life skills particularly relevant to social and cultural values.
We on behalf of the ELTChoutari publication would like to thank all the authors for your contribution to this issue. We appreciate your academic work and hope to receive your writing for the future issues of this publication. Your contributions will be read and valued across the world. Thank you, Babita Sharma Chapagain (associate editor of this issue) for your incredible support to follow the review process of this issue. Thank you, Jeevan Karki, Ganesh Kumar Bastola and Mohan Singh Saud for your cooperation in the review and copy-editing process. Thank you, Ekaraj Koirala, Jnanu Raj Paudel, Karuna Nepal, Nanibabu Ghimire and Sagar Paudel for your great help in reviewing several manuscripts. Your great help will ever be accountable.
This issue to the date has had many great people since its foundation. Their volunteer contribution in the early days and difficult situations provided a strong foundation for the proliferation of this online magazine. Prem Phyak, Shyam Sharma, Bal Krishna Sharma, Sajan Kumar Karn, Kamal Poudel and Hem Raj Kafle who established this digital magazine have ever been a source of inspiration and motivation for many other friends including the current editorial and reviewer team of this publication. Thank you for your frequent advice and continuous support.
Thank you, readers and followers of ELT Choutari for your invisible but invaluable support to this publication. Your comments and feedback have ever been a source of improving our works and we hope you will keep on supporting us that way.