A Report of the 17th International Conference of NELTA
Praveen Kumar Yadav
In this post, I share some information about and my personal reflections of the 17th International Conference of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) which took place in Kathmandu (18-20 February) and Chitwan (a city in western Nepal, 21-23 February). The theme of the conference was “Beyond Binaries: Sharing ELT Practices and Creating the Future.” Rod Ellis from the University of Auckland, New Zealand; Angi Malderez, an honorary senior fellow at the School of Education, the University of Leeds, UK; and Fredricka L Stoller from Northern Arizona University, USA, were the key panelists of the conference. The conference covered issues about various aspects of English Language Teaching (ELT) among ELT professionals, practioners, researchers, experts and scholars. It greatly helped to promote ELT in the country.
It is perhaps that first time in the ELT history of Nepal that More than 750 ELT professionals from 22 different countries including Bangladesh, India, Singapore, USA, Pakistan, Britain, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Oman, Indonesia, New Zealand, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakasthan, Thailand, Morocco, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia and Japan presented, participated and held discussions on different burning themes in the mega event of ELT in Nepal. More than 270 research papers including 191 in Kathmandu and 80 in Chitwan were presented in the conference. However, unfortunately, I missed Chitwan conference, about which I learnt from colleagues that it added a new chapter in the history of NELTA via energizing ELT professions of suburbs via new trends and techniques in the field.
Other than the plenary sessions on the first day, I attended a few other panel discussions and concurrent sessions which I briefly reflect upon in this entry. I could attend three concurrent sessions on the first day, as one of the rapporteurs. Presenters of my sessions on the first day were from Bangladesh, Japan and India.
Rasel Babu, one of the researchers of EiA-DU-OU, Research Collaboration Programme at Institute of Education and Research of the University of Dhaka presented the research paper on learning English at primary level, fun not fear. Exploring the success story of English in Action (EiA) project (2008-2017) funded by UK-Aid and implemented by the government, he concluded that the project has recently changed traditional scenario of ELT at primary level in Bangladesh where English is taught as compulsory subject from grade-I to grade-XII. It has helped the students develop English language skills through games, songs, rhymes and different interactive activities, leaving all the anxieties behind. The most exciting things about the sharing was that the songs like good morning, hello and good bye have been developed during the project to make the students enjoy learning English language. Such projects could be implemented in Nepal as well since the context of Bangladesh is very much similar to Nepal. The government or the concerning stakeholders like NELTA can take initiative to implement the EiA project in our country Nepal as well in collaboration with UK-Aid or other developing agencies like US-Aid, I assume.
In the second session, Shawn Huizenga, a licensed attorney in the United States of America and associate professor in the law department of Kinki University in Osaka, Japan shared the Approaches and considerations about Content Based Instruction (CBI). Introducing the CBI and presenting the rationale behind it, he discussed about three general models of CBI: Theme Based, Sheltered Content and Adjunct model to organize the content based courses. Then he moved ahead referring Fedricka Stroller and William Grabe who outlined A Six T’s Approach to CBI: Themes, Texts, Topics, Threads, Tasks and Transitions. To address the challenges while following the CBI, he finally concluded his session with the considerations that worked well based on his experience. They were motivation, selection of appropriate approaches, introduction of vocabulary in advance, selection of level-appropriate texts, frequent repetition, breaking the lecture into short “mini-lectures” and questions in advance. It was very beneficial to those who are involved in teaching content-based classes.
Amitpal Kaur, a senior lecturer in English at Degree College, R. S. PURA (J&K) had her session on Innovations: Crux of ELT, which was very effective and useful for the teachers for making the students concentrate towards the learning with the help of visuals, realia, videos, movies, documentaries, etc. She focused her discussion largely on the use of information communication and technology in ELT classroom to bring innovations.
In the evening, the participants were thrilled to watch the cultural programme organized by the team of English Access Micro Scholarship Project implemented by NELTA in support of the US Embassy, Kathmandu to develop English language proficiency and cultural understanding for the needy children in Nepal. The access children performed their dances diverse culture representing Rai, Sherpa, Newari and Tamang Communities of Nepal. This is the first time NELTA has been able to organize a cultural show to give a flavor of Nepalese culture to attendees from abroad and to give some sort of recreation to the Nepalese attendees.
2nd Day (February 19, 2012)
The second day of the conference (February 19, 2012) began with the plenary talks by key note speakers Angi Malderez and Fredricka L. Stroller and Nepalese presenters Dr. Ananda Sharma and Laxman Gnawali.
Key speaker Malderez facilitated a plenary talk on Stories in ELT, wherein she demonstrated the use of four stories for primary language classroom, secondary classroom, teacher development and mentor development. At the end, she provided the participants the sources of more stories that can be used in ELT classroom. In another plenary talk on vocabulary building as a response to students’ present and future needs, key speaker Stroller has explored important principles of effective vocabulary teaching and learning that can be used with the students at all proficiency levels. The talk was focused on vocabulary selection criteria, ways and techniques to teach and recycle vocabulary and instructional options that encourage students to see key words in relation to other words.
Dr. Ananda Sharma, associate professor at Tribhuvan University and Laxman Gnawali, associate professor at Kathmandu University jointly facilitated a plenary talk on Dictionary and Foreign Language Learning. The joint talk attempted to break the confinement of the general language users regarding the use of dictionaries in finding word meanings, spellings and pronunciation. The session motivated the language learners to get out of the traditional box of using dictionaries in classroom and suggested them to use the dictionaries extensively for different purposes like grammar, usage status, synonym discrimination, application of derivative affixes and distinction between spoken and written English. They concluded the talk that the dictionary is an indispensable weapon in teacher’s arsenal and its discussion on its preparation and practice is a must for a teacher training programme.
Following the plenary talks, I attended five concurrent sessions on the second day of the conference. In the first concurrent session, Ushakiran Wagle, an M. Ed. in ELT from Kathmandu University presented a paper on “Introducing Humour in English Language Classroom”. Basing on the learning-through-fun principle, she suggested some of the ways of creating humour in ELT classroom. She concluded that introducing humour in the language classroom makes the learners motivated towards learning.
Bir Bahadur Shahi, Chair of NELTA Dailekh and the principal of Bhagwati Higher Secondary School Dailekh and Suvash Gautam, life member of NELTA at Dailekh presented a paper on English for Academic Purpose to the Students of Science and Technology. The presentation focused on suggestions to teachers, students and planners how science can be taught effectively through English.
Sharmila Sitaula and Kalpana Poudel, students of masters in ELT from Kathmandu University together carried out “An Action Research: How to Make Grammar Class Interesting?” in a primary school. Basing on the action research, they have relayed the findings that grammar can be taught about the teaching of grammar in an interesting and interactive way.
A Fulbright ETA Amber Powers who is currently teaching at Dapakhel, Lalitpur, Nepal had a presentation on How to Teach While Students Play. Illustrating public school classrooms where she taught English to younger students in Nepal, she discussed on easy ways to teach and assess them through playful and hands on activities.
The last concurrent session of the second day, I attended the session on English language, Globalization and Teacher’s Role, wherein Ishwor Adhikari, CEO of Pathshala Nepal Foundation and his co-presenter briefly presented the key roles of a language teacher for teaching English language in the globalized context.
At the end of the second day, Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held, where in the members of NELTA only gathered there.
3rd Day (February 20, 2012)
The third day of the conference began with two plenary talks and followed by concurrent sessions. Assistant professor at SIA University, Thailand and Editor-in-Chief of Language Testing in Asia Robert Kirkpatrick’s plenary talk IELTS Writing Test: Reliability and Raters, which mainly focused on IELTS writing module. He shed lights on difficulties involved in scoring writing tasks and the ways that IETLS organization attempt to meet the objective and reliable rating.
Professor of English and Journalism Ms Gayatri Khanna from India had plenary talk on Assessment: An Indispensable Part of the Curriculum. She argued that assessment not only measures the progress and achievement of the learners but also the effectiveness of teaching materials and methods used for transaction. The talk concluded with the argument that assessment should be taken as a component of curriculum that fulfills the objectives of effective delivery and further improvement in teaching learning process.
I participated in four concurrent sessions by the presenters from Mehedi Kayser Pabitra from Bangladesh, Laxmi Bahadur Maharjan, Sajan Kumar Karn and Sarah Elisabeth Howlett from Nepal. Pabitra, lecturer at American International University, Bangladesh (AIUB) presented his paper on Business World in Language Classrooms: An Effective Language Acquisition Model. The paper presented a simulation model of an authentic communicative platform to develop students’ business communications in speaking, reading and writing. The teaching of English to the students of Bachelor in Business Administration (BBA) he shared he was involved in was quite amazing and innovative. He changed the classroom as a corporate office and he played the role of manager and let students play the roles of employees of the corporate house. Even they were dressed up in the way that they looked as if they were in an office not in the classroom.
Laxmi Bahadur Maharjan, teacher at Department of English Education, TU Nepal presented a paper on Which Accent to Follow, which focused on the significance of the proper accent for English language teachers. Sajan Kumar Karn, lecturer Department of English Education, TU Nepal presented a paper on why we are not doing what we are not doing? Integrating Critical Thinking into ELT Lessons. He motivated the participants with his argument to integrate the elements of critical thinking into ELT lessons in order to pave the way for active learning. His argument was that Nepalese ELT is too much indulged in philosophy of presence and it was time to ponder over the things that have created gaps in Nepalese ELT. In order to bridge those gaps, critical thinking has been essential in perspectives and practices both.
The last concurrent session of the day was Sarah Elisabeth Howlett’s presentation on Rapping with Obama: The Power of Music in Understanding English Texts. Firstly, she handed over an essay on Barrack Obama, the President of the USA to the participants and let them comprehend themselves and she facilitated them in the meantime. Extracting the ideas from the essay, she finally asked them to prepare a poem or song and present it with music and they did accordingly. Hence, she beautifully presented her ideas to make the participant understand the texts with the power of music.
After concurrent sessions, following Ms Gayatri Khanna’s plenary talk on Dictionary-indispensible part of life, a closing ceremony was organized wherein Dr. Abhi Subedi was the chief guest and the main attraction of the ceremony.
It would be unfair if I did not mention the journals published by NELTA centre and branches which were made available to the participants of this conference. The journals and newsletters published by NELTA Centre and branches like Makwanpur, Siraha, Birgunj, Nuwakot, Sindhuli and Pokhara branches were released by Chief guest Prof. Dr. Jai Raj Awasthi, the first vice-chancellor of The Far Western University during the inaugural ceremony while journals of NELTA Rautahat and Surkhet were released by Dr. Abhi Subedi during the closing ceremony. The publication of the journals by NELTA branches increased this year.
NELTA Birgunj has celebrated the success of NELTA Choutari publishing its journal ELT Today that has included the materials retrieved from this blog. This is an attempt to bridge the “digital divide” created by the lack of access for many of our colleagues on the ground to the emerging conversations in online forums. Being web-based, this mode of professional conversation is not yet feasible for many of our colleagues across Nepal due to load-shedding, geographical difficulties, lack of internet access and adequate computer and internet surfing skills in most of the teachers —hence this attempt made by NELTA Birgunj is appreciative to provide some contents of Choutari offline—to encourage the readers and contributors along with editorial board to make it more productive.
There were more participants than expected in the conference. Finally, NELTA president Hemant Raj Dahal’s closing remarks wrapped up the conference held for three days at St. Xavier’s School Kathmandu.