Welcome to Nelta Choutari March Issue 2014
(with Usha and Jeevan)
Dear Readers of Nelta Choutari Blog Magazine,
We took an extra week to publish this issue, but the time has been worth it!
As we present the ‘NELTA Conference special issue’, including an amazing set of blog posts based on the 19th International Conference, we are excited by many things. We have continued our tradition of the special issue after this important event for Nepal’s ELT community. We are also proud to see the emergence of new venues of professional conversation, most significantly the “official” blog started by NELTA (www.neltaeltforum.weebly.com). We see such development as the community’s dream coming true, because there should be more venues of professional conversation, some run by individual scholars, others by groups, some less structured and formal than others, and so on. We remain an independent community of bloggers who strive to publish the voice of other colleagues on top of ours, in the spirit of the Nepali way, building scholarship from the ground up.
We remain inspired by the passion for promoting critical pedagogy, promoting local scholarship, incorporating the voices of local teachers, writing ourselves to value the voices of teachers on the ground across the country, and fostering creativity and innovation in the teaching of English… drawing on global scholarship for promoting local professional practice. We continue to explore new landscape, ask new questions, and try new ideas. Our strength lies in our ability to engage almost 3,000 visits to the site every month from more than 80 countries around the world, and in the achievements reflected in almost four hundred blog entries, a thousand comments, 1.53 lakh total views. Former and present editors and also the ELT community have put in a lot of hard work and dedication over the years. And we are driven to take Choutari to new heights every year, building on our strength in quantity and quality.
Now to focus on the theme of this special issue — The conference was held in two phases, first in Kathmandu and then in Hetauda, under the theme, ‘Authentic Assessment: A Paradigm Shift from Traditional to Alternative Assessment’ and it was attended by over 600 presenters and participants in Kathmandu, and by over 300 in Hetauda. It has become a tradition in this blog to dedicate an issue to the conference and to show our solidarity and respect to NELTA as an organization that we belong to, and to all English language teachers and professionals all over Nepal.
Let me start by sharing my personal reflection. Initially, the theme of the conference didn’t really create any interest in my mind. However, after attending the plenary sessions by Professor Stephen Stoynoff (US), Professor Keith Morrow (UK), and Professor Z.N. Patil (India), and pondering over what they presented and shared, I realized the gravity of the issues related with testing and assessment in our context.
For far too long, and for the worst, we have snubbed our learners and students based on the results of one-off examinations. We, both teachers and parents, have robbed them of their true potential and pushed them into the dark ‘You’re a failure’ zone. I have always thought that our assessment system had holes all over it, but now it seems to me that it is a total disaster. For years, the primary objective of our traditional assessment system has been about how to make students pass the tests (or how to make them fail the tests), instead of how to make them literate, proficient, and talented.
Our teachers may have changed with time, our students too – but the curriculum and assessment system has not changed at all. It is still ‘old’ and terribly traditional, and it constantly victimizes numerous learners and students. Out of fear and pressure, students study only to pass the test, unfortunately, not to be educated. And, as one of our writers has said on this blog, this is the tragedy!
So, this is what I’ve decided. The next time I enter the classroom, I will not judge any student based on their performance on the exams. This is one idea that I’m going to take from the conference into my classroom. And specifically, I will never hold any biased or indifferent attitude toward ‘low-scorers’ or ‘under-achievers’ because now I can understand and empathize with their struggles, motivation (or lack of it) and various external reasons which are somehow the spiraling repercussion of a very ‘poor’ assessment system.
I might have painted a very bleak picture of assessment and its objectives but it’s time to get real and it’s time to act. We must act, individually and collaboratively, and raise enough strength to wipe out the damaging consequences of one-off assessments, like the SLC exam. Prof. Stoynoff quoted Bob Dylan and said, “Times, They Are a-Changing” and indeed, the concept of assessment and its purpose is changing. The change, however, must be towards viewing assessment through sociocultural perspective and the change must be towards teachers and authorities taking more responsibility.
Having said that, here I present the blog entries of this special issue.
Besides the conference related posts, we have also included Gopal Prashad Bashyal’s experience of attending a BELTA Conference held in Dhaka of Bangladesh. Also adding some variety, former and current Choutari editors, Shyam Sharma and Uttam Gaulee, have collaboratively written a reflection on a recent Choutari meeting. And, finally, to go along with the reports, reflections, and essays, we have also included a photo-highlight of both phases of Nelta conference.
Table of Contents
- Professor Stephen Stoynoff’s Keynote Speech: Ganga Ram Gautam
- Nelta Conference – Hetauda Phase: A Short Report: Narayan Prasad Tiwari
- Interactive Language Fair with Photo Feature: Laxman Gnawali
- What Does ‘Authentic’ Assessment Mean?: Mabindra Regmi
- A Presenter’s Reflection on Nelta Conference: Prema Bhusal
- A Report on plenary “Do We Still Need Dictionaries?” led by Dr. Elaine Higgleton: Suman Laudari
- Learning from the self and others: Gopal Prashad Bashyal
- What Are You Taking Into the Classroom? Conference Experience: Santona Neupane
- A Workshop on Language Testing and Assessment – A Reflection : Ganesh Datt Bhatta
- Before the Sun Rises – A Reflection on a Recent Choutari Meeting: Shyam Sharma & Uttam Gaulee
- Photo Highlights – 19th Nelta International Conference: Umes Shrestha
After going through the blog entries, please post your comments and feedback, and help us experience an enriched professional communication.
And, please don’t forget to join our new initiative – Choutari Mentorship Project. Some of our colleagues have already started benefiting from this project. We sincerely thank all participating mentors and mentees. You can also watch a short video by Uttam Gaulee explaining the purpose of this project here. This video was part of a presentation in the 19th International Conference of NELTA in Kathmandu.
As usual, please like us on our Facebook page, encourage writers by liking their posts, leave comments, share what you like on your network, and contribute your own blog posts for future issues.
Editor for March Issue