All posts by pphyak

Not a fix-it shop: Making mentoring productive

Prem Phyak, PhD Scholar  in Second Lang. Studies, University of Hawaii, USA

In this blog post I discuss some strategies that can be helpful to make mentoring more productive and goal-oriented. Drawing on my own experience working as a writing consultant/tutor for the Writing Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa for two years, this post focuses on how to make mentoring more interactive, grounded/bottom-up, and collaborative rather than top-down and authoritative.

Starting the conversation

One undergraduate student came to the Writing Center and asked whether I could help him. “Yes, I am available now”, I said. After we introduced to each other, I asked what his problem was. He said, “I want to write a research paper for my political science class. But I am struggling to identify a topic. I am worried because the assignment is due next week.” His face was telling me that he was procrastinating and finding no way to move forward.” 

First, I was perplexed how I could help him as he was not sure what he was going to write about. Second, I was not sure what the student was expected to write in his  research paper. I began our mentoring session by telling him that every student faces the same problem. I gave my own example; I quite often do not know what I am going to write in the early stage of my writing projects. Continue reading Not a fix-it shop: Making mentoring productive

Editorial: November Issue

Dear All
In this issue, we have six articles. Although these entries are different in terms of issues, all contributors focus on bottom-up and personalized teaching/learning experience. While Madhav Kafle, reflecting on his own teaching, shares his ambivalent situation by showing the gap between what he preaches about critical pedagogy and how he teaches, Madhu Neupane shares key aspects of effectively running teachers’ associations that she learned from the seminar on strengthening teachers’ associations in Dhaka, Bangaladesh. Focusing on importance of active reading process, Dinesh Dahal discusses how SQPRRS and note taking techniques can help teachers engage students while teaching reading. Likewise, Tara Sapkota describes the ways of teaching listening skills and Sharmila Sitaula analyses whether learning a second language, especially English, is need or preference. Both articles draw on authors’ own lived experiences and provide a critical insight to the respective field. Atma Ram Bhattarai and Praveen Kumar Yadav analyse increasing trend of public schools shifting from Nepali to English medium of instruction in terms of access, quality and governance.

Table of contents
1. Do I teach what I preach? Teacher’s ambivalence, Madhav Kafle
2. Sharing Best Practices:Strengthening teachers’ association in South Asia, Madhu Neupane
3. Making students read in teaching reading: A reflection, Dinesh Dahal
4. … listening then…? Tara Sapkota
5. Learning second language: Need or preference? Sharmila Sitaula
6. At the crossroads: Community schools in Nepal, Atma Ram Bhattarai & Praveen Kumar Yadav

We hope you enjoy reading the articles in this issue.

Prem Phyak
Praveen Kumar Yadava
Editors, Choutari, November Issue, 2012

Do I teach what I preach? Teacher’s ambivalence

Madhav Kafle

In this narrative I share with you my recent realization that despite self-labeling myself a practitioner of critical pedagogy, I do keep following the old teaching tricks in most instances. To begin with, early on my academic journey as a learner, I had figured out that my answers can be only either right or wrong; and the more difficult and arcane words I used in my writings, the more impressed would my teachers be. My very attitude sustained during most part of my graduate teacher training both in Nepal and in the US. However, I was also fortunate enough to get an opportunity to work with champions of critical pedagogy in both countries, and to develop my teaching philosophy and practice accordingly. Nevertheless, I am starting to realize my current practice is not adequate enough to make the pedagogy truly critical. Let me first point out the gap between what I preach and what I practice.

What I think I preach: I’m a language and literacy specialist who believes that languages are mobile resources rather than discrete and fixed entities. What that means is we need to focus on the process of meaning making–not on a predefined form of grammar. Social practice outweighs the individual competence; therefore, assessment practices should acknowledge, if not reflect, that. Learners not only use language, they also change the language; we should not treat the target (language) community as a homogeneous one. Overemphasis to verbal features of the text is limiting as meaning is often created by integrating multiple codes and modalities. Similarly, language learning is a quite dynamic and complex system and does not necessarily follow the same incremental pattern. Even more, I’m all for integrating local epistemologies in my pedagogy;I would like to use what students bring with them as their resources to build up on. All of these sound great, don’t they?

Here is what I practice: Yes, I’m a language and literacy teacher, who keeps correcting my students based on the superficial grammatical errors they make rather than complimenting them on their ability to connect various texts. If they bring in some nuances I’m unfamiliar with, then, I think that they are wrong. I judge my students based on the product not on the process. Despite high level content, I penalize them for using a wrong article when, in fact, I’m still not confident about my own use of articles. Rather than being concerned with if they will be able to utilize their repertoire to accomplish some functions, I’m obsessed with if they will follow what I think are the correct features of academic discourse. And, I’ve to teach them how they should read and write, despite at times lacking knowledge of what goes on in their broader academic communities.

I suspect there is not much I can change in some academic settings. However, something must be missing in my current practice, which hardly can meet the goal of critical language and literacy teaching.Yet, I try to justify my helplessness. One mundane logic that soothes me: I’ve to do my “stuff” as it is generally expected, plus I don’t have a whole lot of time (and resources) with me to improve my practice. Next, in a multilingual class, I also take for granted my expertise in dominant tongue, which assists me to disregard the minority languages. Alternatively, I can pretend that I can’t do anything for the students because I don’t have a competence in most of my learners’ languages as they generally hail from China, Korea, and Puerto Rico than from Nepal. And, yet, I become wishful that whatever I do in class will somehow assist my students to be critical in the long run as long as I keep browsing the critical pedagogy literature. May be to test my pedagogical competence, some students from Nepal have finally landed in my current university this semester. Unfortunately, the current semester is already half way through, still I find myself at unease to do something really critical in class as the majority of the students are from elsewhere. But aren’t those lame excuses?

Now let me get real.In a nutshell, one of the major goals of teaching language and literacy is to enable learners to “language.” So, what does languaging entail? We use language for some tangible purposes. The real question, therefore, is in what ways we can involve our students in real actions, where meaning making can unfold by itself.Some might argue that since we have the hurdle of standardized testingand our academic culture also prioritizes the grades rather than the learning process, languaging is not a good option. However, while I do not mean to neglect these conditions, by being obsessed with gatekeeping we are already undermining students’ creative languaging. If we create some safe houses for them and let them play with the semiotic process judiciously that will provide an opportunity for the students to be real language users. I’m not saying that we as teachers can let students do anything they want in the name of providing agency. Nevertheless, we should not hesitate in letting the students to experience the process of languaging. Please share what you have been doing already or what possibilities you see in this light.

Sharing best practices: Strengthening teachers associations in South Asia

Madhu Neupane

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt.

With Eleanor Roosevelt’s quotation mentioned above, George Pickering (also a life member of NELTA and the past key note speaker of its international conference), who trains English teachers and supports Teachers’ Associations (TAs) facilitated the seminar ‘Sharing Best Practices: Strengthening and Extending Teachers’ Associations in South Asia’ on 11-16 December 2011 in the Brac. Inc, Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. There were thirty participants representing seven different TAs from South Asia: NELTA (Nepal), ELTA-A (Afghanistan), BELTA (Bangladesh), ELTAI (India), AzerELTA (Iran), SPELT (Pakistan) and Sri Lanka (SLELTA). I, along with other three members (Mr. Bishnu Silwal, Mr. Min Bahadur Gurung and Mr. Shankar Datta Bhatta) participated in the seminar that was organized by the Hornby Regional School (HRS), Dhaka Bangladesh with the British Council support.

There were three main purposes of organizing the seminar: to offer TA participants a platform for sharing their success stories and best practices in key areas; to review TAs’ current strategic plans and facilitate on how to prepare an effective strategic plan; and to provide the participants with substantial capacity building training for strengthening and extending TAs in South Asia. The capacity building training was focused mainly on the core financial management skills like marketing, fund-raising and sponsorship, keeping membership databases, empowerment of members, and promotion of more transparent succession planning through open voting, recruitment, and role shadowing and mentoring. Besides, the seminar provided an opportunity for the TAs in South Asia to establish stronger links among them.

Key points of the discussion during the seminar

We were asked if TAs have their strategic plan, which most of TAs had. Following the review of our plans, the course director provided us with some guidelines for preparing better strategic plans. The analysis of the current situation, considering both internal and external customers, using the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) framework is important for preparing a strategic plan. While objective, which should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound) is a key component of a strategic planning, its implementation and monitoring are equally important. We all participated in a selective attention test that showed us how we miss another aspect while focusing on one aspect. We concluded with the fact that proper strategic planning from the bottom-up is unnecessary to materialize the mission of TAs.

Teacher Associations need funds. Fundraising is an integral aspect of running an association successfully. Like Helen Keller’s quote, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing”, fundraising is an adventure and can be a fun if it is planned properly and make clear to others about who we (the associations) are and why somebody should give us funds, as George mentioned. Convincing logic, clear targets and proper communication of such targets to potential sponsors are instrumental in fundraising. Preparing a credibility file consisting of promotional literature, letter of endorsement from experts and prominent figures’ saying about the associations is necessary for convincing sponsors. One of the participants, Sheilagh Nelson, suggested to find out the annual calendars of the potentials sponsors. George presented the key principles of fundraising: giving priority to hi-touch before hi-tech, personalizing message and benefits to the sponsors; and including stories and using visuals to authenticate the message being communicated.

Organizing conferences is one of the main events of TAs. The conferences provide a rich platform for teachers to learn collaboratively through an exchange of their experiences with national and international professionals. Organizing successful conferences is, however, a challenging task. All we need is to pay attention at all the phases of a conference (pre-, while and post). The selection of the conference theme, keynote speakers/plenary speakers, quality of presentations, good communication, participation of teachers, food, accommodation and transportation services to the participants, social activities, variety of speakers in terms of levels and geographical regions, volunteers, provision of training materials and handouts, exhibition and shopping/site-seeing, etc. are the things that should be taken into a consideration before and during the conference. The post conference phase, which includes publication of proceedings, journals, dissemination of PowerPoint sharing among the participants and thanksgivings and acknowledgement to the presenters and other concerned stakeholders and press coverage, is equally important for the success of the conference. The organizers must review the conference to learn from the past experience and plan better for the future.

George said, “Every moment of contact with a member is a chance to impress or disappoint him or her”. As a conference organizer, the teacher association should always try its best to leave positive impression in each and every moment of truth for there is never a second chance for leaving the first impression. Leaving such impressions comes up with different avenues to make it difference and better.

The success of an association depends on the quality of leadership it has. Teachers associations are non profit making organizations and they have continuous change in the leadership and therefore, the new professionals need to be groomed and empowered for handing over the coming leadership. The ‘Leadership Development and Succession Planning’ session was very useful to provide the participants the ideas of mentoring/coaching and leadership training program for preparing the new leadership.

During a mentoring- coaching session, George demonstrated Catherine Kelly’s ideas on the GROW model of mentoring, wherein Goal (Coach and Clint agree on the topic of discussion) Reality (What is the current reality? Invite self assessment and seek specific examples), Options (Suggestions and choices made), Warm up (Commit to action and agree time frame and support required). He summed up the session with the facts that mentoring does not mean imposing. Thus, offering suggestion (Would you like to try this?) can be the best way of mentoring. It is always easy to give suggestions but difficult is to follow them.

People join TAs for different reasons such as practical benefits, sense of belongingness, professional support, desire to make contribution to society, and professional advancement. The role of the leadership is imperative for meeting different expectations of its members.

Information and technology is an integral part for the development of TAs. This is the age of C generation which includes connected, communicated, connect centric, computerized and always clicking. The use of technology saves our time, money and efforts and provides wider exposure to the members beyond geographical barriers keeping them together through professional networking. The web technologies used by teacher associations include TA websites, social networking sites like twitter, face book and LinkedIn, VLEs (Moodles), Google docs, Skype and blogging. It does have environmental benefits too since it helps the association to minimize the excessive use of paper.

Collaboration, linkage and networking with likeminded organizations for TAs. George explored some possible areas of collaboration, linkage and networking with regional level activities which included the publication of newsletter, peer support review, organizing regional conferences, sharing speakers, rapport building with contact persons from each TA and creating yahoo groups. Finally, we agreed on leading regional cooperation forward with further discussion.

Sharing and reviewing the best practices among TAs. The membership of different special interest groups (SIGs) of Bangladesh English Language Teachers’ Association (BELTA), well organized website of Sri Lankan English Language Teachers’ Association (SLELTA), mobile conferences of Society of Pakistani English Language Teachers (SPELT) and regular meeting on every Saturday and a wide range of activities including the publication were the best practices sharing among TAs. However, we were all moved by the struggle English Language Teachers’ Association of Afghanistan (ELTAA) is facing because of insecurity in the country. This is a kind of peer support review and evaluation too, which provides us an opportunity to exchange and replicate the successful ideas from one another.

The seminar concluded with the feedback session, for which we were provided with a questionnaire and Catherine’s inspiring suggestions, “Less is more, do not put for tomorrow what you can do today, set your own objectives, and say what you mean and mean what you say”.

The reflection of the seminar does not end here if delicious food, cozy accommodation and other management facilities provided are not appreciated. Besides, organizing social gatherings by a riverside reflecting the flavour of cultures of Bangladesh, shopping and boating trip were worth mentioning here. A short film capturing the events of the HRS, which I got to know later was shown at the IATEFL Conference in Glasgow 2012 during Associates’ Day.

The seminar was successful in enabling TA participants to share their best practices and collaboratively learn specific skills required for running the teachers’ associations effectively. We, the participants not only learnt about necessary organizational skills required for successful associations but also the ways of organizing successful workshops and dealing with adult learners.

My sincere thanks go to the British Council, Nepal for providing us with such an opportunity and the gratitude to the course director George Pickering who facilitated the seminar in an interactive and learner friendly way.

Making students read in teaching Reading: A reflection

Dinesh Dahal

Teaching reading in Nepal is still teacher fronted and it is not believed that teaching reading is not possible unless the teacher reads in the class. But I found something very different during my observation of the Intermediate level English Language Learning (ELL) class in the United States. I am impressed to see how reading skill is taught by making the students read in the class, where the teacher’s role is just a facilitator. The SQPRRS (SQEEPERS) and note taking are key techniques adopted to make students engage in active reading process. Based on my observation of the ELL classes in the US and my own experience of teaching English in Nepal, in this post I am sharing how SQPRRS (SQEEPERS) and note taking techniques can be used in teaching English.

Applying SQPRRS for teaching reading
SQPRRS (Squeepers), which stands for Survey, Question, Predict, Read, Respond and Summarize, is one of the effective classroom reading strategies that I noticed the US teachers use in reading classes. I found this technique quite relevant to promote active reading process in a reading class. I learned that this technique is helpful for language teachers to train their students to use cognitive and metacognitive strategies to process non-fiction texts (and even fictions).

S for Survey
First, students are asked to scan (Survey) the text in 2- 3 minutes. They are asked to read the first line of each paragraph, look at the titles, pictures, graphs, captions and words in the bold face or italics.
Q for Question
Next, the students are asked to write 4-5 questions that they will be able to answer after they have finished reading. Students might feel difficult to formulate questions. But the teacher can facilitate them by suggesting some questioning words like what, where, why, etc. The teachers need to make sure if they have written the questions.
P for Predict
Third, the students are asked to make predictions about the text. Predictions can be of two types: one, for fiction – What is the theme of the text? and for nonfiction – What will you learn from this text?
R for Read
Then, the students are asked to read the text in detail. While they are reading, they are asked to look for the answers to their questions and check their predictions. But they will not be allowed to write.
R for Respond
After students finished reading, they are asked to respond to the questions they asked themselves. Here, they will be allowed to correct the predictions if needed.
S for Summarize
Finally, they are asked to write a paragraph summary of the text on a worksheet (the format is presented below) with the teacher’s help.

Applying NOTE-TAKING for teaching reading
NOTE-TAKING is another technique that works very effectively in teaching reading. The students are asked to take a note following the format presented below and to make a 4 squares about the text with the main idea at the center and supporting details in the periphery. And finally they are asked to write a summary and present it.

On my return to Nepal, I would follow these techniques to teach reading at my class. I am also planning to disseminate this idea to my colleagues through workshops and conference presentations. The article is also part of my commitment to share these techniques to other readers. I would appreciate your comments on this post.

Formats of the Worksheets for SQPRRS and Note Taking:
Name: _______________ Roll no. ____ Date: ________

Survey the text.
What do you see?

Right There
1. ________________________________________________________________________
Think and Search
2. ________________________________________________________________________
Author and Me
3. ____________________________________________________________________________
On My Own
4. ________________________________________________________________________
Write a Prediction about the text.
This will be about….

Read the text
Read with your partner.
a. Partner A read 2-3 sentences. Partner B listen.
b. Partner B explain what partner A read.
c. Partner B read next 2-3 sentences. Partner A listen.
d. Partner A explain what Partner B read.
e. Repeat, asking teacher for help with difficult words or sentences.
Respond: answer the questions that you wrote before you read:
Right There
1. ________________________________________________________________________
Think and Search
2. ________________________________________________________________________
Author and Me
3. ____________________________________________________________________________
On My Own
4. ____________________________________________________________________________

Make a 4-sqqare about the text


Write a Summary of the text.
Format for note taking

Peg no

……listening then…?

Tara Sapkota

“…… it was in the SLC (School Leaving Certificate) test, I had, for the first time, sat for a listening test.….” I wondered when one of my classmates told this to me. I was doing my intermediates then. I was even more surprised when I heard that all the answers to the questions were written on the board by the invigilator during their test and nothing significant was asked in the speaking test as well! There was nothing more to talk about, we stopped our conversation then.

I discovered that I was the only one, in the group of my colleagues, who had as experience of listening practice in school. I began to see myself as a lucky person among the friends. Not only this, every now and then, then, I realized that I had so many things to share with my friends about my English teacher, “……our English teacher did this in class, our English teacher did that in class, we had learnt to do this and we had learnt to that…..” I wasn’t boasting about my teacher and the school, of course, but unfortunately, they realized the same, however, it made no difference, I was still happy that I had some extra knowledge and skill of the English language which allowed me to speak and write simple texts without much trouble like they used to have.

Of course, the reason behind the so-called ease was the frequent use of language, may that be in spoken or in written form. In addition, I used to feel that we had got good exposure of the language. In the junior grades, the practice remained limited to reading, writing and speaking. As my school was an English medium school, no doubt, ENGLISH was medium of instruction between teachers-students and students-students interaction. Further, we also used to hear the teachers speaking in English whenever they had something to communicate among themselves. Perhaps my listening skill in English was strengthened by the occasional listening practices I did in schools, I thought.

This was the reason I had given some listening classes when I started teaching. I didn’t know how it was being practiced in other schools, but the way I gave the classes were just like the way I had taken them; I used to have a class on listening after a certain period of time. I taught the other sections in the class. I had at least three exercises of listening in one class. In the class I did nothing more than letting them listen to the recordings and do the exercises they had in their textbooks. It was something that we used to do when we were taught. As a teacher, I used to have easier classes on the day. I didn’t have to do anything in the class more than playing the tape, nor I had to prepare a lessson in advance. This way I recounted my stories of listening English while talking with the friends and also while working as an English teacher.

I had to go back to my school in the last evening once again, however, the reason behind the reminiscence was completely different this time. We had a class on designing tasks for listening skill last Wednesday. The teacher wrote a series of steps that a teacher has to follow while teaching listening which showed that a teacher has to do a lot of homework before coming to the class with the recorded listening texts. There I was enlightened that a series of exercises are to be produced for the students so that they develop a better understanding through the text.

The teacher told me that I have to start the class with schema activation by giving a background context of the listening text so that the students make themselves ready for the class. They, at least, have some clues about the following exercises they are going to do. Similarly, the difficult words of the text have to be dealt with before the text is played. They also need to be made curious about the text so that they listen to it actively. In addition to this, the extensive and intensive exercises need to be developed that are followed by the text related activities to keep the students engaged throughout the class.

I had never done these things as a teacher. All I did was I made them listen to the text and do the exercises of their textbooks. Now those students are in college, perhaps, they don’t say to their friends, “…… it was in SLC, I had, for the first time sat for a listening test.….”

Learning second language: Need or preference

Sarmila Sitaula

Learning language is one of the basic aspects of human growth and development. Allowing both intra-personal and interpersonal relation, language, “socially shared code or conventional system for representing concepts” (Owens, 1996, p. 8, serves as a means of communication. Among three forms of language – spoken, written and sign – the spoken form is generally considered to be primary as it can be understood and used by all, both literate and illiterate people. Written form of language is considered secondary because all people do not learn to write and communicate by writing. The sign language, also known as the body language, may be the language that is understood by the vast majority of the people, even more than the spoken language. It is said that body language is the language that can be understood across the geographical locations. Whatever the form, language is the basis for establishing human relationships and interactions.

“Language acquisition is one of the most impressive and fascinating aspects of human development” (Spada, 2006, p. 1). A child learns a language as soon as she/he is born. The primary language or the first language is the language that a child has learned since his/her birth and learning of such language can be considered as ‘learning without awareness’ (Rünger, 2012). Due to human progress, the first language of the child may not always be the mother-tongue of the child. The mother-tongue is the language of the ‘ethnic community’ (Selinker, 2008) that the child belongs to, or the language of his/her parents. However, the language of the ethnic minority may not always struggle over the language of the majority; this is why the child never really gets maximum exposure to the mother-tongue. Then, the child may have to learn the mother-tongue as a heritage language and learn it as a second language. Likewise, the child in the process of growing up may be exposed to a different language and may want to or have to acquire it, which is categorized as a second language. Now, in the following chapter let me share my process of learning language:

Process of Learning Language
The different questions such as: how can we learn a second language? Is there something inside us that helps to learn more than one language? etc are some of the frequently asked questions among the individuals. There may be many reasons why we are able to learn any language in addition to our first language. There are many theories that define why and how we can learn a second language. For example; behaviorist theory claims that language acquisition is the process of habit formation. “It is based on modeling, imitation, practice and selective reinforcement”(Robert E. Owens J. , 1996, p. 8) Likewise, Chomsky talks about the LAD or Universal grammar which he says is inherent in every child, only needs to trigger it so that language learning becomes a natural process.

I have been able to acquire English as a second language because I have had enough exposure to this language at school and also because I have been motivated to learn the second language. As a person from a Brahmin family, my first language is Nepali and that is what I was exposed to during my early childhood. Later on, I went to school where teacher taught me though I was quite small, and I could utter a few words and that helped me to catch a few words in English like “hello” “hi” and “bye” and so on. This was probably my first direct exposure to the English language. My learning of second language was limited to English because nobody could speak English at my home. Later on, when I started to know some English words and when I got more exposure, then I was keener on learning English. My Village was near to Tamang community so I could speak some Tamang words too. When I moved to Dhading Bensi for my further study, I couldn’t get more exposure and now I have forgotten those Tamang words. This is mostly because I got minimal exposure with the Tamang community there, and even the Tamang people communicated with us in Nepali. There was no need for my family to learn or to communicate in the Tamang language. I was motivated to learn English from my childhood because I wanted to understand the stories from the English story books, which made me learn English from my own will. I wanted to be good at English because I used to dream about the wonderful stories that I read in the books. My mother had a role to play in my acquiring of English, as she taught me the ABCs when I was around four years old and started to go to school. It is needless to say that I got exposed to more English in my school, and that has continued until my M.Ed. in ELT. So, the following will discuss all about my learning second language as need or preference:

Learning Second Language: Need or Preference
With the support of exposure and largely because of motivation, I acquired English as a second language (I may not go into the philosophical/literal distinction between a foreign language and second language at this point). Additionally, I have also acquired some Hindi as a second language. However, my learning of Hindi language was an inactive process in the beginning. I did not have communicative opportunities in my surrounding for this purpose and I did not have any formal teaching either. I got exposed to Hindi due to the television and movies that were in Hindi. Likewise, Hindi songs have been a source of fascination and interest to me ever since I was a small girl. I wanted to understand the dialogues in the movies, the television series as well as the lyrics of the songs. This was only possible if I learnt Hindi. So, my learning of Hindi language was my own preference to understand Hindi movies, Hindi series and songs. The learning of Hindi language was thus possible mainly because I was fascinated by the fun world. Now, it is beneficial for me to be able to converse in Hindi if I require it. To my understanding, I preferred acquiring both languages, but the fundamental needs were different. Learning English was supported by formal teaching and related exposure, while learning Hindi was supported by the fun world, which perhaps was relatively painless. The more informal and fun oriented the language learning environment is, the easier and interesting it is to learn the new language. However, I may not be good at accuracy of Hindi.

Motives for Learning English
In case of acquiring of English language, there are several needs on my reflection. Firstly, I wanted to be able to read in English. This is purely individual or my preference. If this was the only motivation factor for me to learn English, then I would not learn it so well. As mentioned above, I needed to understand English stories. This reason for learning English can be kept under the need of learning a language. Secondly, everybody learnt English due to the effect of globalization. Especially in the schools and colleges, if you don’t know English language you may not get admission. In a way, it is promoted in our educational institutions as a medium of teaching and learning. There is no way out, if you want to get a college degree of any sort, then you need to be apt in English. Not only me, but everybody else is in some way encouraged to learn English. This reason is also need or necessary to learn English to achieve any kind of concrete success. Finally, the most important and hidden necessity why I learnt English is that it is a language that people feel is superior and globally recognized. It has been deeply rooted into psyche of human beings. Of course, English is a global language. Where-ever you travel, you see English signs and advertisements. Whenever you enter a hotel or restaurant in a foreign city, they will understand English and there will be an English menu. If your English is good or mother tongue is English, you may feel pride that your language is the one which has been so successful. If you know English, then you can go anywhere in the world, and at least be able to communicate minimally. Likewise, if you know English then you can have the most attractive jobs that you want. This reason is also need, even though it is not seen at the surface. English has been promoted as a lingua franca throughout much of the world as a result of political and cultural influence. In some ways, it can also be considered a linguistic cum cultural imperialism; a welcome imperialism of the modern world!

I am quite glad that I can use and understand more than one language. If I knew only one language, then my thoughts and creativity and experiences would be confined to the world equipped with one particular language. I am so delighted that I can watch movies, listen to songs and be adapted to the cultures of at least some different languages. I can have my preferences and decide to listen to the language I prefer at different times. It is my privilege that I got exposed to these languages and also my luck that I got interested in more than one language. In my view, all people should be open to more than one language so that their knowledge of the world and of the cultures is broadened. The point is that you need to be motivated, but you should also get some kind of exposure for the enhancement of second language learning experience.

Owens, Robert E. (1996). Language development.Needham Heights, MA: A simon and schuster company.
Rünger, P. A. (2012). Implicit Learning. Current directions in psychological science, , Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 13-18. Retrived from: HYPERLINK “”
Selinker, S. M. (2008). Second language acquisition.London: Routledge.
Spada, P. M. (2006). How languages are learned.Oxford: Oxford University Press.

At the crossroads: Community schools in Nepal

Atma Ram Bhattarai & Praveen Kumar Yadav

At a time when community schools across the country are facing a lot of challenges in terms of ensuring access, enhancing quality and educational governance, they are struggling to attract students as increasing number of children are enrolled in private schools, dropping the public schools, to receive education in English medium. Hence, the community schools took a step to compete with private schools rather than closing themselves in the lack of students. Better late than never, they have started teaching in English medium. We can see the trend of such shift at community schools in Nepal proliferating by leaps and bounds.

It is seen that the community schools which have started teaching in English medium are able to attract more students than before. Even, they reject the admission for the current academic session due to lack of infrastructures available for more students. They have chosen this move to save their fate ensuring their survival among the private schools. But such a move at community schools for English medium instruction without adequate preparations and proper plan has brought them at crossroads, where they meet with different consequences than it was expected.

We could draw the above situations reflected during an interaction with the teachers from different thirteen-community schools in Sindhuli district of Nepal held to find out common educational issues focusing on their roles for girls’ education. The interaction was a part of celebration of the first international day of the girl organized by ‘Janta Higher Secondary School’ a community school located at Ratanchura VDC in the district with support of Plan Nepal, Sindhuli Programme Unit. Another significant event to mark the day was the essay writing competition among 26 girl students from 13 different schools on theme ‘Because I Am A Girl.’ ‘Because I Am A Girl’ (BIAAG, in short) is a five-year global campaign officially launched by Plan International, global child-centered development organization with an aim to help 4 million girls to get the quality education, skills and support they need to transform their lives.
Please take a glance on a brief account of the International Day of the Girl Child before we come to the consequences that shifting from Nepali medium to English at community schools has brought in terms of access, quality and educational governance.

International Day of the Girl Child

Last month, October 11, 2012 as the first ever International Day of the Girl Child, which was unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, was celebrated by the governments, international development agencies and people around the world. Following are the facts behind the special day;
-Majority of the 75 million girls out of school in the world by the daily realities of poverty, violence, discrimination, and child and forced marriages.
-One in three girls are globally is denied a secondary education.
-Less attention to the difficulties and specific problems faced by girls, especially girls born in developing countries
-One in seven girls in the developing world married before they are 15, some as young as five years old.
-150 million girls under 18 have experienced rape or other forms of sexual violence.
-Pregnancy and child birth are the leading causes of death for girls aged 15-19 in the world’s poorest country.

This is all happening because girls are not being seen as priority at home, community and even schools. The distressing thing is that girls are not even allowed to be born. No one can deny the fact that an educated girl is less vulnerable to violence. We, the people involved in the academia are key stakeholders of the community and hence, we need to be accountable to pay attention on the importance of girls’ rights, particularly the right of girls to access to quality education.

Consequences of Shifting from Nepali to English medium
The shifting from Nepali to English medium is deemed as the matter of great achievement in community schools. However, there are many other issues mounting. It is matter of worries to note that there is a great malady of English language teaching.
Based on the interaction with the participant teachers and our observations of schools in Sindhuli, I have made following analysis in terms of access, quality and governance.

No doubt, parents in Nepal having even low-income send their children to private schools but the number is very less since all of them cannot afford the high charge of those schools. The community schools charge minimum fees from the students, therefore they are easily accessible to all the parents even the poorer. Besides, textbooks prescribed and prepared based on the curriculum are also provided to them freely in some schools. Once the community schools have started teaching in English medium, they assign English medium textbooks, which are high in price. Some of them have not even been prepared as per the educational goals mentioned in the curriculum of different levels.

The percentage of students from community schools failed in SLC Exam in English subject only indicates poor English language proficiency. Community schools which teach all the subjects except English in Nepali language lack English language proficiency greater in comparison to private ones where all the subjects except Nepali are taught in English.
When the teachers who have been teaching all the subjects except English in Nepali medium for years start teaching in English, they face challenges on language issues. They cannot communicate with the students in English and comprehend the subjects since they have a very poor command of the English language.

The relation between parents and schools is being improved. The parents started regular visit to schools for knowing the learning achievement and behavior of their children. They are in the practice for improving the sanitation of the children at home as well.
The School Management Committee (SMC) is being responsible for improving the quality in education by the trend in teaching in English medium. The SMCs are always worried on managing quality resources as well.

It is not surprising that English was the medium of school education in Nepal until the 1950s. Following the facts that there was political move of the educational system from English influence, formulation of the first Nepali language policy and adopting the educational practices from the Indian education system, the National Education Planning Commission recommended to remove English from the medium of instruction through its report in 1956. The New Education System Plan-1971 devised during the Panchayat system under the regime of King Mahendra was also in favour of Nepali language as the medium of instruction. There were not English medium schools except few missionaries in Nepal, which had been operating since the early 1950s. But during the regime of King Birendra the education ideology got change and private schools were encouraged to apply.

The Education Act in Nepal allows schools to adopt Nepali or English or both languages as the medium of instruction without any legal restriction. The Interim Constitution of Nepal has focused on the free and compulsory education of all children. Similarly, the Government of Nepal has initiated different interventions for improving on quality in school education and increasing access of girls of basic education. At last but not least, reward and punish is one of means for improving the above issues which lacks in this period.

(Besides being the members of NELTA, the authors are working for Plan Nepal, Sindhuli Program Unit)

Editorial: September, 2012

– Prem Phyak

Dear valued readers
Welcome to the September-2012 Issue of the NELTAChoutari!

We have four articles and two teacher training/workshop reports for this issue. In his article Janak Raj Panta critically analyzes various issues and challenges of teacher training in Nepal. Based on his conversations with teachers from various districts and his wide range of teacher training experiences, he argues that teacher training organizations lack conceptual clarity and rigor in their programs. Hem Raj Kafle’s article, although not directly related to English language teaching, discusses the meaning of being a teacher. His article informs language teachers in understanding our roles and defining our identities in a society at large. Likewise, Raju Shrestha shares his experiences of working with teachers on the Teacher Professional Development (TPD) program. His article analyses practices and beliefs of teachers on-the-ground. He identifies some major issues for the further improvement of the program. Shyam Sharma shares his experiences of professional growth and his association with NELTA. He also succinctly discusses the roles that NELTA has to play to help teachers develop their academic and professional life.

Finally, Anil Kumar Nidhi and Praveen kumar Yadava report workshops that were organized by NELTA Rautahat and the Center respectively.

Table of contents
1. Janak Raj Panta: Teacher Training in Nepal: Reflection and Realities
2. Hem Raj Kafle: Being a teacher
3. Raju Shrestha: Teachers Professional Development (TPD) Program: Boom or Bane?
4. Shyam Sharma: Growing Together with NELTA
5. Anil Kumar Nidhi: I write, therefore I am: A report
6. Praveen Kumar Yadava: Writing workshop: A report

I hope you enjoy reading these posts for the month.

Prem Phyak
September, 2012 Issue

Teacher Training in Nepal: Reflection and Realities

– Janak Raj Pant

In Nepal, we have a lot of trainings in which we discuss the modern teaching techniques and learner centered teaching. Although, in its School Sector Reform Plan (SSRP), the Ministry of Education (MOE) has focused on the teacher professional development, still teaching learning activities have largely remained the same i.e. traditional teacher-dominated classroom activities. Although we reiterate, in theory, that we should move from the eastern highly strict teaching methods with due importance on the teachers’ role to the students’ and from rote learning to discovery and innovative, explanation and oratory to activity, the current situation shows that we could neither maintain our originality nor incorporate the innovative practices and standing in the transition with a high risk on making the situation even worse. This situation has made us critically reflect and explore the root causes behind this: if there is something we can do with our teacher training to make it more effective?

Against this brief backdrop, in this article I present my reflective note which focuses on my teacher training experience for different institutions and organizations in Nepal including NELTA. My reflection is based on face-to-face interactions with teachers, trainers, education officers working for different I/NGOs in different teacher training programmes in Tanahu, Dhanusha, Kapilbastu, Baglung, Surkeht and so on. In addition, I also draw on the field observation of a number of schools in Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Lamjung, Makwanpur, Kaski, Kailali, Sindhuli, and Kaverplanchwok. Mostly my reflection represents the situation of teacher trainings in community (public) schools in the country.
Basically, I have tried to focus on the existing gaps and limitations in teacher training with an intention to initiate ‘thought for actions’ for improvements. Some major needs and ideas for addressing challenges are also mentioned briefly.

Presently there is little uniformity among the teacher training courses and programs. So far our state agencies have not been able to monitor the teacher training courses and programs implemented by different organizations in terms of their relevance, need and quality. It is bizarre to mention that your expertise and the standard evaluated to be a teacher trainer. In many cases, I have seen that the Teachers’ Professional Development (TPD) courses are developed overnight including the content that comes on the top of one’s head rather than from teachers’ needs analysis. This has made teacher training programs unfocused and ritual.

We have not been able to make our teacher training courses/programs consistent and uniform within and across institution. So-called trainers have been using different modules and content according to their convenience and capacities without considering their impacts and relevance in teaching and learning. My observation is that there must be at least some kind of perceived sense of standard for which everybody should try hard to achieve and therefore, not facilitating training with the content that comes in his/her mind but with some preparation, planning and reflections of their working context.

In the training programmes, we rely mostly on awfully limited materials. Frequently, we notice the trainers using the same training sessions in all the places and times not because the context and need is the same but because the trainer is good at that particular bit that he/she got from another trainer. And the trainer asks our teachers to generalize them in rest of the context. It is good to ask them to generalize but it is not fair to ask them to generalize something we fear to do and fear to bring into a broader discussion. So, another major gap in the field of teacher training is the fear to accept we are not enough and we do not have enough materials. I think first we as trainers need to be ready to accept our weakness and work hard to enhance our skills and explore resources. To this end, we can work with the teachers collaboratively and share resources with them so that they feel that what they are trying to do is new and worthwhile for improving their situation. By doing this, they feel proud of what they have created and will be able to convey the message to other teaches as well. But so far, it has not been possible not because it cannot be accomplished but because we did not try to do it. I have felt that there is we need to develop a a resource center where teachers have access to updated materials that they can read and use in the classroom. They can produce something like that in their own effort as well.

Coordination and collaboration?
There is lack of coordination among the teacher education organizations. All the organizations have their own resources. They are doing the same job in their own. What if they do it together and share it for the larger number of teachers. Instead of doing the same thing ten times, we can do the same thing accumulating all the efforts in the same place so as to make it very effective and uniform. This will foster the culture of collaboration among the organizations working with the same objectives.

Follow-up and support?
For the effective use of knowledge and skills gained during the training, trainees need frequent follow up and support based on the action plan prepared at the end of the training. It also exerts some positive pressure for training transformation. But unfortunately in many cases I have noticed that the action plans for the implementation of the training are rarely prepared. Majority of training programs lack comprehensive follow-up plans as well. And where the follow-up is conducted the support mechanism and time remains vague. The Government Resource Persons who are responsible for the regular supervision and support to the teachers have the responsibility of covering more than 32 schools in average, which is impossible for an expert to make observation and provide substantial input to teachers on their teaching skills.

Continuation and conformity?
Teacher professional development is not something that takes place in the form of an event e.g. marriage. It is something that occurs as an ongoing process. The teacher training programs we conduct need to be based on previous training, should start from what teachers practiced in different contexts, how they are using them, what were easy and what were challenging to implement in practice. Having reflected on the previous training and making it stronger in action, we can step ahead with further training. Most of the trainings we have currently are not based of previous experience and we always make a fresh start. Our trainings always begin with and dismissed in the middle, before they get matured. We remain always immature in our action and the impacts we intend to make are not seen. That is what most of our teachers are experiencing.

One of the most important features of teacher training is to what extent its effectiveness becomes visible in the classroom. The trends in our teacher training are not focused enough in this regard. The teacher themselves are supposed to be the only responsible agent for the transformation of the training. What about the trainers and training providing organizations’ role? How many of the trainers contact their teachers in this regard?

So my feeling is that teacher training has been taken very lightly and the job of training has become just a recreational project, something done for pleasure rather than for making professional impact. It is important for all the teacher educators and teacher educators’ organizations to have teacher training policy guidelines first.

I sometimes feel, maybe it is worth having a conference on teacher educators’ organizations in Nepal to develop a common teacher education policy guidelines to make them responsible for their actions and impacts.

Being a Teacher

– Hem Raj Kafle

Some school children might wonder, “How do teachers know so many things? Why are they smarter than many other people? Why do people generally not speak ill about them?” They get the answer in growing up. They know that teachers have spent certain years learning, and imparting that learning. They have learned from more qualified persons and qualitative sources. They command respect for being responsible, and thus people do not generally speak ill about them.

The opportunity to teach is a reward. The realization of being rewarded starts with the belief of being in good company of students and colleagues, who signify the piety of creating, transmitting, expanding and sustaining the mission of culturing the society as a whole. The teacher is a torchbearer, who always helps fellow beings to explore their lives’ directions and to widen their intellectual horizons.

There are productive challenges in being a teacher. First, you can’t afford to be lazy. A simple rule in teaching is you have to know more than what you can tell in the classroom. For this you must continuously know. A competent teacher makes every teaching a new teaching, and every day a different day. And a teacher must be more dynamic and knowledgeable than students. Students adore teachers who are intelligent and active, in the same extent as teachers would love to teach intelligent and active students. Such expectation of reciprocation and mutual respect forms the first necessary classroom infrastructure. Second, you can’t be dishonest. Dishonesty does not go with real teaching. Dishonest persons, in fact, are unfit in every profession that involves welfare and service to people in large number and multiple generations. Even if honesty may not pay at once in teaching, it certainly gives the satisfaction of being a part of a virtuous growth of knowledge and wisdom, which expand as they transfer, and transfer as they expand.

In teaching there is always a chance to know people and be known. Knowing people helps you increase the number of friends. Adding the number of acquaintances is a good source of knowledge, and partly, of emotional security. And this does not happen just once, but over the years. The piety of the profession itself suffices to keep you honest and invulnerable to corruption. Teachers are expected to act as role models both in knowledge and conduct. They are ethically conditioned to continuously update and polish themselves. This keeps them good, and goodness is not without returns, let alone the joy of seeing successes and growths.

Teaching may not ensure material prosperity. Sometimes, you may think of switching the profession for rapid social or financial uplift. But everyday necessities and the desire for quick fame do not suffice to make you disapprove of the grandeur of teaching. The fact that teachers are needed until humans stop learning makes your presence indispensable and your profession respectable.

Teacher Professional Development (TPD) Program: Boon or Bane?

-Raju Shrestha


Recently, the focus of teacher education in the Ministry of Education has shifted from teacher training to teacher professional development with the view to transforming today’s schools from a place of knowledge-transmission to the knowledge-creating/generating space that considers classrooms as a learning-community. This means teacher professional development program has been introduced in our teacher education programs to promote teachers with creative and critical ideas and skills to bring changes in their teaching. Moreover, from this program we have high expectations from the teachers with regard to their personal and professional development. Our planners, who do not have to train and teach, at the policy making level have envisioned bringing substantial changes in current educational scenario by implementing the teacher professional development program.

The term ‘Teacher Professional Development’ (TPD) has already become a buzz-word. People who are working under the Ministry of Education (MoE) always produce this word as it is one of the crucial parts of the MOE’s School Sector Reform Program (SSRP). TPD has already been implemented for three years. People working in the field have experienced both opportunities and challenges of this program.

Voices on-the-ground

We cannot deny the contribution of teacher training to teachers’ professional development. It plays a prominent role in teacher professional development. But, the teachers on-the-ground usually perceive that teacher training and teacher professional development program are synonymous. They think that TPD is the continuation of the previous training programs. This kind of belief system of the teachers, head teachers and PTAs and SMCs create a big gap between the 98.2% data of the trained teachers from community-based schools (NCED-2066) and teachers’ demands about the what ‘aspect’ and how ‘aspect’ of their teaching in the TPD program. I find a significant gap between the expectations of the policy makers and teachers. It is, therefore, necessary to make teachers clear about the difference between training and professional development. Here, I don’t mean to say that training does not have any role for the teachers’ professional development and empowering them. As mentioned above, to a large extent, it facilitates to enhance teachers’ professional development, but the activities and the way they have to be performed in these two areas of teacher education differ largely. Head and Taylor (1997, p. 5) have presented following differences between teacher training and teacher development:


 Training                                                             Development

-Compulsory                                                      -Voluntary

-Competency based                                            -Holistic

-Short- term                                                         -Long- term

-One-off                                                              -Ongoing

-Temporary                                                         -Continual

-Skill/ technique/knowledge based                     -Awareness based

-Product/certificate weighted                             -Process weighted

-Done with experts                                              -Done with peers

This distinction indicates that in comparison to teacher training, teachers are expected to perform higher level activities in teacher development. But unfortunately, what has happened is whatever the data of trained teachers we have gathered in statistics, the teachers’ classroom behaviors have not changed a lot. They still need the toolkit of some techniques and specialist knowledge of classroom teaching and classroom management. NCED has made a claim that it has brought this program after a series of discussions and interactions with various stakeholders. NCED (2011 in TPD policy guidelines) purports that:

A working framework was developed and stakeholders’ observations and aspirations were gathered through consultative meetings and workshops. It is worth mentioning that national consultative workshops were conducted for two rounds with participation of representatives from universities, teacher unions/professional organizations, implementing agencies and national/ international experts.

An issue arises here. NCED’s, the sole responsible MOE’s agency for taking initiatives in implementing every provision of the policy guidelines, claim does not match with on-the-ground reality.  Based on my conversations with teachers, I have indentified following key issues;

  • Most of the teachers have native attitude about their own teaching profession.
  • The teachers have only heard about the term TPD but they are not fully aware of it.
  • Some teachers are not ready to fill out the demand-collection form.
  • The TPD program has been conducted without collecting teachers’ real needs.
  • The TPD module has not be prepared and implemented in accordance with teachers’ needs and contexts where they are working. Same module is used in many TPD hubs. There is the system of copy and paste. It neglected the concept of “site-based TPD”.
  • The teachers who are going to retire soon are not ready to fill out the TPD form. They feel that action research and project works are extra work.
  • The Roster Trainers seem less competent and confident in their subject matter although ETCs ‘ka’ is providing a 12-day TPD TOT program every year.
  • In some cases, the Resource Persons are biased in selecting the roster trainers from their Resource Center (RC) areas.
  • The Head Teachers did not pay much attention to help their teachers in academic and technical aspect. They always seem to be running for the administrative work.
  • The Resource Persons (RP) think that the present framework of TPD is time consuming. It demands a whole year to finish.
  • Teachers feel that TPD is compulsory than necessary and,
  • Most importantly, there is lack of conceptual clarity of TPD among practitioners

Based on these voices of teachers on-the-ground, we can say that in real field, whatever the beneficiary points it has in its literature, the teachers and head teachers have faced myriad challenges to tackle while grasping the essence of teacher development as outsiders’ i.e. planners, implementers, managers, facilitators and so on, expect from them. It is because of this I have given the title of this article as the TPD: Boom or Bane?

Then what is teacher professional development?

Different scholars have viewed it from different standpoints. Richards and Farrell (2005, p.1) assert that ‘professional development is next step when once teachers’ period of formal training is over’. Craft (1996, p. 6) says professional development ‘ is sometimes used to describe moving teachers forward in knowledge or skills’. Similarly, Victoria (in Burn, 1999, p. 216) argues ‘professional development or growth means enabling teachers to generate their own ideas about classroom practice’.  After going through these views on TPD, it will be fruitful to mention Reimers-Villegas’s (2003, p. 1) ideas here. What Reimers-Villegas says is that TPD should move towards achieving ‘double roles of teachers’, that is to say, both subject and object of educational reforms. Firstly, teachers are the object of the educational reform. This means their professional development should be considered. They should be brought in such activities which help them ensure their professional development. Secondly, they are the objects of the educational reform. This means by their involvement they are responsible to bring changes in their classroom in particular and in education at large. They will be expected to be professionals and to play the role of change-agents. In our context as well we ‘outsiders’ are expecting this kind of dual roles of teachers from the TPD program. We expect to change teachers’ role from technicians to classroom researchers to equip them with the skills to deal with their own pedagogical problems in their own settings. It is not always possible to bring teachers in the Educational Training Center (ETC), Lead Resource Center (LRC), and Resource Center (RC) to discuss all the issues they have.  Therefore, if they are able to carry out action researches, they can solve their own problems. This is what we expect from our teachers.

Now, to achieve the above mentioned goals of TPD we need to engage our teachers in the following activities (most of them are from Richards and Farrell, 2005):

  • Workshops
  • Self-monitoring
  • Teacher support groups
  • Keeping a teaching journal
  • Peer observation
  • Teaching portfolios
  • Analyzing critical incidents
  • Case analysis
  • Peer coaching
  • Team teaching
  • Action research
  • Subscribing to ELT magazines and journals
  • Joining professional organizations such as NELTA, IATEFL and TESOL and attending their conferences wherever possible
  • Forming local teachers’ groups and holding regular meetings to discuss common problems
  • Inviting fellow teachers / teacher trainers and guest speakers to contribute lectures and workshops
  • Reading professional publications
  • Publishing an ELT newsletter on a local or national scale
  • Self-directed study
  • Using distance learning materials
  • Receiving on-the-job coaching, mentoring or tutoring
  • School-based and off-site courses of various lengths
  • Job shadowing and rotation
  • Experimental ‘assignments’
  • Collaborative learning


Although the TPD program is necessary for the professional development of teachers in Nepal, due to lack of teachers’ efforts to engage themselves in doing professional development activities most of the teachers are confronting many challenges in the classroom. They have experienced the TPD program as as obligatory condition (in the sense of the top-down approach and a formality) than the necessity to enhance their professionalism. It is therefore, time has come to reflect on the whole idea of the TPD program and critically discuss how we can go further for better result.



Craft, A. (1996). Continuing professional development: A practical guide for teachers and schools.  Rutledge Famer: London; New York.

Head, K. k Taylor, P. (1997). Readings in teacher development, Oxford: Heinemann ELT.

Richards J.C. and Farrell T.S. (2005). Professional development for language teachers; strategies for teacher learning. Cambridge: CUP

Reimers-Villegas, E. ( 2003). Teacher professional development: An international review of the literature. UNESCO: International institute for educational planning.

Teacher development policy guideline (2011). Preparing for effective implementation of school sector reform plan 2009-2015. NCED.

I write, therefore I am: A report

– Anil Kumar Nidhi

I write, therefore I am is a modified version of French philosopher, mathematician and writer Descartes who holds the views, “I think, therefore I am”

On 24th August, 2012, Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) Rautahat organized a One-Day Training Program on “I write, therefore I am” at the premises of Madhya Rautahat Multiple Campus, Garuda. The program was organized with a view to empower the branch members with professional skills for writing journal articles at large and for its annual journal ‘The ELT Issues’. The theme of the training facilitated by Mr. Sajan Kumar Karna was “Write to grow.”

The inaugural program started with the flames of the candles kindled by the Chief Guest Mr. Yogendra Prasad Yadav, the facilitator Mr. Sajan Kumar Karna, NELTA Rautahat Chair Mr. Anil Kumar Nidhi and other guests. The children of Mid-Rautahat English School, Garuda chanted the national anthem accompanied by the participants of the training in a chorus.

In the meantime during the inaugural ceremony of the training, NELTA Rautahat felicitated Mr. Praveen Kumar Yadav for his sincere contributions in NELTA Branch formation in the district and Miss Sonu Silwal who stood the district topper in the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) Examination 2012. On the same event, Moonlight Academy Chandranigahpur was offered with the letter of appreciation for collaborating with NELTA to organize Two-day ELT Training for English Teachers of All Levels facilitated by Mr. Kamal Poudel, General Secretary of NELTA Central Committee at Chandranigahpur, Rautahat on June 29-30, 2012.

‘I write, therefore I am’

Mr. Karna had a discussion with the participants over the following key points during his facilitation;
 Write but why?
 Write but when?
 Write but to whom?
 Write but what does it mean to write?
 Write but where?
 Write but how?

Write but why?
In the beginning of the training, he asked the participant teachers why they would like to write. Some of their answers in their own words are as follows;
– I write because I am asked to write
– I find joy in writing
– It makes ideas wider and easily available
– It popularizes me
– I contribute while I write
– I express myself in writing
– It gives me a space in the world I live
– I grow while I write
– I exercise democracy while I write

Write but when ?
During the discussion with the participants on write but when, they came up with following situation, time and context when people generally write.
– When ideas start overflowing your head or heart
– When you want to change the world you work in
– When you are not happy with certain systems
– When you like to propose certain changes
– When you have new experiences and you would like to share
– When you think it is important to critique against certain practices
– When you face some crisis in your teaching
– When you have better ideas to address the issues, etc.

Write but to whom?
When discussed over ‘write but to whom’, the participants responded with the following target groups, to whom authors suppose to write,
– Audience
– Teachers
– Colleagues
– Professors/lecturers/teachers
– Teachers in making
– Administrators/supervisors
– Intellectuals /educationists/curriculum framers

Write but what?
The following contents that the participants write were extracted from the discussion in participatory way,
– Poems
– Stories-success stories
– Essays(articles)
– Short articles (2000 words)
– Long articles (5000 words)
– Reflective articles
– Insightful articles
– Travelogue
– Memoir
– Lesson plans
– Book reviews
– Article reviews
– Interviews
– Experiences
– Comments, etc.

Write but what does it mean to write?
As a result of discussion, here are the things that writing meant to the participants of the training.
– Putting down your original thoughts/ideas
– Putting down your gained experiences
– Putting down your new learning
– Putting down things that are relevant
– Putting down things that benefit the larger community
– Putting down things that help transformation
– Putting down things to initiate discussion
– Putting down things that have pedagogical implications

Write but where?
Mr Karna concluded by mentioning following forums where the participants could write.
– Blogs
– NELTA Choutari
– Journals
– Journal of NELTA
– Journals and newsletters of different NELTA branches
– Regional journals
– ELT journals such as
– ELT Journal,
– English Teaching Forum
– Asian EFL Journal, etc.

Write but how?
During the training the participants were engaged with following strategies in order to write academically.
– Read in order to write
– Follow the general format (Title – Abstract -Introduction – Body – sub titles – Conclusion & References)
– Write the rough draft of the article
– Proofread the article
– Rewrite the article as often as it takes
– Submit the completed article.
– Follow the editors
– Follow the reviewers
– Resubmit the article

The facilitator facilitated that a good paragraph must contain a topic sentence (Introduction), body (supporting details) and conclusion (a transitional sentence to the paragraph that follows). He added that the good paragraph always maintain Unity (state the main idea of the paragraph in a clearly constructed topic sentence and make sure each sentence is related to the central thought), Coherence (arrange ideas in a clear logical order and provide appropriate transitions to the subsequent paragraph and adequate development (develop the paragraph with specific details and examples.)


Mr. Karna concluded the training session with some remarkable suggestions that were helpful in preparing articles for publication. He suggested the participants to avoid plagiarism, i.e. the act of academic dishonesty such as copying and pasting others’ sentences from books, paraphrasing others’ ideas and sentences and claiming them to be our own and summarizing in our own words without citing references.

The training programme was very important for NELTA Rautahat since it dug out wonderful opportunity to empower the branch members so that they could contribute with their articles for the upcoming second volume of The ELT Issues, journal of NELTA Rautahat. Altogether there were thirty-five members of NELTA including the potential students who could write the articles.

Bal Krishna Sharma and Prem Phyak

On May 15, 2012, we facilitated a one-day workshop on ‘critical literacy in teaching English’ for secondary level teachers in Lalitpur. We had an enthusiastic group of 16 participants for the workshop organized by NELTA Lalitpur. There were two major goals of the workshop:

—  To understand the ways of linking authentic materials to local contexts in order to develop the students’ critical literacy skills.

—  To prepare and demonstrate a lesson plan that includes the use of locally available materials, addressing a critical social issue in Nepalese society, and demonstrates the teaching of language structure(s) (e.g. grammar, vocabulary, communication skills, etc.) based on the mandated secondary school level curriculum/textbook.

We went through the following stages in order to deliver the workshop.

  1. Materials preparation and evaluation: We (Bal Krishna Sharma and Prem Phyak) first independently worked on preparing materials. Bal Krishna prepared three English language lessons for teaching critical literacy: Domestic Child Labor, Women and Girls in Education and Dowry Practice. Pictures and essays were drawn from newspapers, magazines and other online sources. Prem drew on experiences from his previous workshop on critical literacy at NELTA Conference and a published article on NELTA’s Proceedings (co-authored with Rachel Bowden). Prem himself took a number of pictures of street children in Nepal, environment pollution in Kathmandu and prepared materials and lessons following OSDE methodology in order to train teachers at the workshop. Drawing ideas and materials from these two sources, we decided to train English teachers who were teaching English at secondary and post-secondary levels.
  2. Input: Before we engage the participants in actual activities and tasks, we thought that some theoretical and conceptual information on ‘critical’ pedagogy and literacy was essential. Our experience with similar workshops shows that the participants do want to ‘learn about’ recent developments and innovative ideas on English language teaching. Some of the questions that we asked the teachers to contemplate on as we worked on during the workshop were:
    • What are some critical issues in teaching English as an international language?
    • Are we isolating the students from or making them familiar with critical social issues while teaching English?
    •  Do the activities/texts/ methods we introduce in classrooms really encourage students to engage in dialogs?
    • Do we try to explore diverse ideas or single (so-called right) idea from the students?
    • Are we imposing teachers’ power or liberating students to come up with their own ideas?

    We talked about Paulo Freire’s ideas on critical pedagogy and his criticisms of banking model of education (Freire, 1970).  We made a distinction between traditional transmission model of education and relatively modern view of student-centered teaching. With the help of powerpoint slides, we explained different technical terms used in the field: critical pedagogy, feminist pedagogy, radical pedagogy, transformative pedagogy, and pedagogy of hope/possibility/empowerment (Wallace, 2003).

    3. Issue Elicitation: It was necessary for the participants to remember that English teachers should not only be teaching grammar or vocabulary or language skills, but also be putting language in a broader Nepalese societal context and teaching critical social issues.  We asked a question ‘What are some critical social issues in your locality?’ The participating teachers volunteered to mention social issues that are very much concerned about and are interested in addressing their English lessons.  As they said, we noted them down on the board:

    Gender inequality in education; Domestic violence; Dowry in marriage; Discrimination of gender at and after birth; Caste/ethnicity/class discrimination; Brain drain; Human trafficking; Cultural pollution/ degradation/ imperialism; kidnapping ; Poverty; Child labor; drug addiction; superstition; sexual harassment; global warming; bullying; cyber bullying; corruption; unemployment; price hike; energy crisis

    Then, as part of a mini-task, we asked the participants to read a text on child labor from a national daily The Kathmandu Post: No festive season cheer for domestic child workers  and gave the following instructions:

    -Read the text and prepare one critical reading question that you can ask your students.

    -Share with your group members and discuss how you can make your questions more engaging and critical.

    -Choose one question to share with the whole group.

    We visited individual groups and overheard what they were talking about. They were discussing how they could make the questions more ‘critical’. Following are the questions that each group shared.

    —  How could you react if a similar situation happens to you at the age of 16?

—  Why is Sanju Shrestha unable to go home to celebrate Dashain?

—  Why do you think Sanju does not feel good?

—  Is the mistress doing good for Sanju? Why (not)?

In addition to these questions, group discussions showed that the following language items can be taught:

—  vocabulary: fragrance, activities, leisure, privilege, monitor, flashcards, phonetics, meaning, synonyms, use in a sentence

—  narration/reported speech: underline,

—  voice: helping verbs and active and passive: underline;

—  Expressing likes and dislikes: elicitation; underline; compare and make them work in pair or group

We followed a similar process using the following picture asked a similar question: “How will you use this picture in your class? What language item can you teach?”


4. Reading a Sample Lesson Plan on Critical Literacy:

Then we asked the participants to read a lesson plan on Gender differences in schooling and occupation. Since we wanted the participants to have a thorough reading of the lesson plan, we prepared a set of guidelines to help them focus on each component:

—  What are the teaching items for this lesson? (page 1 top)

—  What are the SLOs and instructional materials?

—  What are the main components of the lesson plan?

—  What activities, materials, and SLOs are mentioned in the lesson?

—  What do pre-reading activities include (page 2-4)? Fill out some slots in page 2, 3 and 4.

—  What activities are used for the reading text?

—  What grammar items are focused in this lesson?

—  What makes this lesson more interactive? How does this address critical literacy issue?

This sample lesson plan reading activity started with an individual reading followed by pair and group discussions. We visited individual groups to see if they have any questions.

5. Preparation of a Lesson Plan:

Obviously we wanted to let the participants choose a critical social issue on their own and prepare a lesson plan based on that. However, neither we nor the participants had materials necessary for any open-ended issues. We grouped the participants into four and provided them with the pictures (one example is given below.  We took this picture from The Kathmandu Post) and reading texts. Here are four themes and some pictures we provided: street children, elderly population, pollution, witchcraft practice. Image

The participants were expected to start with Student Learning Outcomes and work on detailed components of a lesson plan for a 45-minute class, keeping the language and social background of their students. Each group engaged in discussions and each decided to teach different language skills/aspects while simultaneously teaching a critical social issue. Here are some pictures from the event: ImageImageImageImage

6. Why This?

Classroom teaching in Nepal strictly follows prescribed textbooks because students are tested from the textbooks at the end of the academic year. While the English medium private schools make use of textbooks published by international publishing houses like Oxford, Cambridge and Longman, government-aided public schools use textbooks approved and published by the Ministry of Education. These textbooks make very little attempt to encourage local teachers to design their own materials that supplement the textbook topics. There is enough room to contextualize the materials and activities in the textbooks that make connection with the learner’s everybody life in their community. This workshop illustrates that it is possible to teach, for example, vocabulary and grammar and other language skills by linking them to broader societal contexts that the learners are part of. When the teachers include a critical literacy component in their teaching, students do not only engage with language practice; they in fact can constantly take part in making discourses that question or negotiate the power and hegemony persistent in their societies.

Here is a response from one of the participants.

I learned how to make students active and enthusiastic to read a text themselves. I knew how to engage students in asking and responding critical questions. …. I learned how to organize group works to promote classroom interaction. We can teach grammar from the text (which is related to a critical social issue). We can collect the individual report and share their knowledge among their friends through critical discussion. It helps them to experience a friendly environment in the classroom. I learned how to make an effective lesson plan within a fixed time. The workshop provided me an opportunity with designing a lesson plan in collaboration with friends. I also learned how to make lesson plans objective oriented and demonstrate them before they are really used in the classroom.   Now I feel comfortable to teach in classroom with a lot of contextualization. My students too feel so happy to read actively and creatively. It makes my students curious to know more about their society and interested to share their views in the classroom.


Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed (MB Ramos, Trans.). New York: Continuum2007.

Wallace, C. (2003). Critical Pedagogy for language teaching. In Critical Reading in Language Education (pp. 49-78). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

August 2011 Issue

Teachers’ narratives:Building theory from the bottom up

Prem Phyak
(with Shyam Sharma)

We generally assume that only so-called ‘scholars’, especially those who are from the national or global centers of knowledge production, can produce new knowledge; ordinary teachers don’t do so–they just teach! We are used to simply turning to the ‘real’ scholars for ideas about how to teach. Isn’t this a problematic view of our profession? Without grounding scholarship, research, and pedagogy in the local realities of the classroom and students, and without teachers participating in the creation of new knowledge, how can our profession genuinely develop from within? It is time that we start being a part of pedagogical innovations that we know will work for our students. We need to start developing new approaches, theories, and methods based on local socio-cultural contexts and dynamics. The practical challenges of the classroom can be better tackled if we as teachers try to theoretically, methodologically and pragmatically address those challenges  than if we continue to look for solutions in the big ideas of big scholars out there. We need to develop ELT scholarship that is based on our teaching practices, experiences, stories*.

August-2011 Issue of NELTAChoutari brings teachers’ narratives related to various issues of language teaching and learning within classroom and beyond. Janak Raj Pant’s narrative is related to teaching English in large multilevel classrooms. Janak discusses a number of unusual benefits of large classrooms. While recognizing  many downsides of teaching/learning in large classrooms, he also shares his experiences and strategies of how to tackle those challenges. His article is a good example of how methods, approaches, and theories of ELT must and can emerge from local teaching/learning situations.

Alban Holyoke, a Fulbright scholar from the US, who shares his experience of teaching English in Nepal, reflects on the challenges faced by novice teachers. In his narrative, he articulates uncertainties and pains teachers, particularly those who have never had any experience of teaching English, have to bear in their first year of teaching. Three important themes emerge from Alban’s narrative (a) building rapport with students is as important as having teaching skills, (b) utilizing students’ existing knowledge is an important strategy to promote dialogue in the classroom, and (c) teachers must learn to teach from mistakes and uncertainties.

Simon Taranto, another Fulbright Teaching Assistant, shares his experience of teaching English in a government-aided public school in Nepal. His narrative depicts that understanding local context is an indispensable component of teaching English. A brief account of his experience indicates that teaching English is always a situated practice i.e. without understanding local exigencies it may not be possible to expect effective teaching of English. In order to understand contextual realities, as he describes, we have to engage ourselves in outside-classroom-interactions (with teachers, community members and students) which help to understand dynamics of teaching and learning in school. He also suggests that it is important to be a part of teachers association like NELTA for professional development. At the end, he presents how students can be helped to produce a variety of language by using a simple communicative activity.

In another narrative, Luke Lindemann, also a Fulbright scholar, shares his thoughts about a crucial issue in ELT: creative production of English. He points out that Nepalese students lack the ability to produce English creatively i.e. they can only produce limited chunks, usually on one-to-one question-answer basis, but they cannot express their own thoughts and feelings very fluently in English. He suggests that by engaging students in collaborative activities and games in groups or pairs, students’ creativity can be fostered. As an example, Luke uses collaborative storytelling, which seems to be very effective towards meeting the goal of creative production.

Uttam Gaulee in his review article discusses the issue of gender in education and urges us to think about it in the context of Nepal. Reflecting on his own narrative which depicts how students are segregated in the classroom in terms of their gender, Gaulee raises some crucial questions for discussion. Here is a list of Choutari’s ELT khurak for the month:

We hope that you will enjoy this issue. Please remember to leave at least one comment: let us build knowledge as a community, one idea at a time. Please also remember to like, share, and subscribe to entries. Thank you.

* If you’d like to read more Choutari scholarship on the subject of teacher narratives, please look them up by “teacher experience” tag in the selection menu on right.

Brief Experience of Teaching English in Nepal

Alban S. Holyoke

 When I started college I never envisioned myself teaching English, much less in Nepal.  In all honesty English is not my strongest subject; my friends often joke with me about my poor spelling.  When I applied for a Fulbright grant to teach English in Nepal I thought of it as a long shot.  When I received an email telling me that I won the scholarship, I realized that I would have to put my words into actions.  Fortunately, I have some very incredible mentors in the US that got me excited about the prospect of not only traveling to a vastly different culture, but also the joys of teaching.

When I came to Nepal I had little experience of teaching in a formal setting, and none in an English classroom.  During my first month in Nepal I received a crash course in teaching methodology, which bolstered my confidence somewhat.  But when I visited my first Nepali school, my spirits sunk.  I was standing in the middle of a room of screaming kids, with all the classrooms around me.  I sat at the back, observing the class from a dark corner, making notes about the classroom, the teacher’s methodology, and how the students responded.  That night I talked to my parents in the US and told them I didn’t think that I was up to the challenge of being an English teacher.  I had anticipated it being difficult, but nothing like I had seen in that first school.  Our teacher training ended, and I was sent to my school.  Set free to teach as best I could, hopefully to do more good than harm.

That first day when I arrived at my school, there was a snaking line of smiling faces, all thrusting flowers into my overflowing arms.  Their smiles said it all, “we’re happy you’re here!”  I sat in the staffroom with  other teachers while they tried to make me comfortable by making small talk in Nepali, most of which I didn’t understand.  That first day was exhausting, and when I went home after school I lay down on my bed and thought about how tired I was, and I hadn’t even taught.  My first week went by in a blur.  I went from classroom to classroom introducing myself, and having a hundred different kids introduce themselves to me with little hope that I would remember any of their names.  Then came Dashain holiday, and I  had yet to actually teach a class.  Most of my time was spent in the staffroom, or observing other teachers’ classes.  My anxiety about teaching only multiplied over the holiday, and when the school resumed I was certain that my first class would be a failure.

My classes arranged, I went to the school with very low expectations.  I would be teaching class 7, first period.  Although I had prepared for class, I was startled by what actually happened.  I went to class being anxious about how I would do, but to my surprise, staring back at me were twenty smiling faces.  I was amazed at how receptive they were and excited to learn.  When the bell rang for the second period I was surprised at how effortlessly the time had passed.  I smiled and said goodbye, and the twenty smiling faces echoed their own goodbyes in response.  I had done it, one class down.  It wasn’t so hard, and I was surer of myself in the second, third and fourth classes of the day.  The day, just like my classes, passed quickly and before I knew it I was back on my bed reflecting on my first day of teaching.  I was exhausted, but happy.

Over the course of those first few weeks I began to learn my students names, their strengths and their weaknesses.  They very quickly welcomed me into the school community.  At the same time, I was trying new teaching methods that they had never encountered before.  I tried to challenge not only in English, but also to think in progressive, critical ways.  Though all this, they stuck with me. I thought a lot about how mature, and intelligent my students were compared to me when I was their age.  But I learned quickly that I shouldn’t be suppressed by my students’ capabilities.  At the very moment that I would start to think of one of them as a poor or lazy student, they would baffle me and their peers, with an incredible dialog, or answer.    It was this uncertainty, and spontaneity that kept me on my toes, and excited to come to school.

Everyday after school I would go home exhausted.  After a few months I met another teacher and told him how tired I was after school each day.  He insisted that I must have been doing something wrong, that I shouldn’t be so tired.  In reply I said that I was fine being tired, in fact I wanted to be tired.  If I had gone home and felt anything other than exhaustion, I would feel as though I hadn’t accomplished anything that day.

That’s how time passed until a few weeks ago.  It was all of a sudden that I realized I wasn’t a new teacher anymore, and then it was time to go.  I had done it, and enjoyed every minute with my students.  My fears from the beginning were never realized.  I found that I was a pretty good teacher, perhaps not because of superior teaching or English skills, but because I cared about my students.  On my last day of school another teacher told me that the students “really love Alban sir, really really love Alban sir.”  It touched me that she would give me such a compliment.  I would have been flattered if she would have said “the teachers really love Alban sir,” but that wouldn’t have meant as much to me.  I knew that she was right, that my students really did love me.  And I, in return, loved them back.  Perhaps that’s why we had such a good rapport, they knew I cared about them, and they about me.  That also may be why they worked so hard for me, humoring my spelling mistakes, and new teaching methods.

As I sat on the stage at my farewell ceremony I could see those one hundred faces that I met eight months before with little hope of learning their names, smiling back at me.  There was Pratima, Monoj, Swastika, Sajan and so many others.  I can honestly say I have never felt such an outpouring of love as I did that day.  As they left I said goodbye and hugged as many of them as could fit between my arms.

While I may not have been a perfect teacher, certainly making mistakes along the road, I’ve very happy the way things turned out.  I’m going to miss my students when I return to the United States, but I will always remember them and teaching English in Nepal.

A Reflection on Teaching English in Large Multi-level Classroom

A Reflection on Large Multi-level Classroom

Janak Raj Pant

This is a short reflection on my teaching experience in a large multilevel class at university level in Sindhuli. In this piece, I discuss the opportunities and challenges in a large multi-level classroom. My focus is on how large classrooms can be made maximally beneficial for the students. I conclude by emphasizing that all language classrooms are diverse in one or another way and the larger a class the more diverse it is likely to be. It is our level of awareness, attention and devotion as a teacher that can address the challenges of the large multilevel class into opportunities for the students in their learning.

There are varied perceptions of a large classroom among the ELT professional as well as the other stake holders. For a teacher who does different activities for which the students need to move around a class in which such activities cannot be done very efficiently because of the high number of the students is a large class. For a teacher who basically delivers lectures the same class might not be a large class so far he or she is audible, can maintain non-verbal communication with the students, and can monitor the activities of the students. In the both of these contexts, the idea of large class is at substance level different but still it is not different at pragmatic level. So, it seems more beneficial not to leave it to the teacher to define a large class in their context, based on their teaching strategies, the resources available, and the strategies they can execute. As Baker and Westrup (2000) state, ‘A large class can be any number of students, if the teacher feel there are too many students for them all to make their progress’.

The class I am going to talk about is the class of B. Ed. first year students a community college in Sindhuli.  Usually more than 80 students attend the class. It is a class on general English. Different learners have different level of language proficiency varying from beginner to upper intermediate. Some of them study major English while others study other subjects such as Nepali education, population education. I found them differing in terms of their interests. Some of them have keen interest to learn English for academic purpose while others are keen interested in English for communication. However, for majority of them to pass the examinations is the ultimate aim. It is quite significant to note that for some others it is simply matter of formality to attend the class no motivation in learning at all. For some of them, being inside the class is equal to learning, they expect everything done by teachers for their learning expect copying, they remain silent in the class. The peer influence, family background, their own life orientation has deep rooted integrative influence in them. There is even terrible group of the students who have their pleasure in disturbing the class and do not have any intention to study. They just behave like visitors; for them learning is not any goal at all.

However, in spite of limitations like the above, there are a number of good things about large classes. First of all, the learners with higher level of English language proficiency have been good model in the classroom and it is good to push the weaker learners too. The learners with higher level of language proficiency have been the source of motivation for the weaker ones. Actually they are made the source of motivation.

Likewise, the learners with different cultural background have been significant in order to create communication gap in the classroom activities so as to form genuine language learning activities. It is also useful to address and illustrate several social issues in general English course.

In such large classes, I have always found willing volunteers to actively participate in classroom activities. Such classes are livelier than the smaller ones. So, it is easy to move them towards any direction. I have found the students learning from each other. One the one hand, it has been source of motivation for the one who have been supporting and on the other hand, he could support rest of the friends. This promotes mutual learning and challenges each learner appropriately. In this case brighter learners have challenges to maintain their position while the weaker ones have challenge to be as good as the brighter ones.

There is another advantage, such situation reflects real life situation as real life situations are also full of diversities. It has caused a number of challenges as well. First of all, it is quite difficult manage appropriate level of input in course of instruction. It is impossible to satisfy individual need as well. It is so because the same input becomes easy for on group and very difficult for another group. However it is possible to address such problems by some of the ways to make the lesson useful for all the learners in one or another way. Hadfield and Hadfield (2008) have shown the possibility in the following words:

It may feel like an impossible task to try to satisfy all the individual needs of your students, and you are right! But there are some practical things you can do to make sure that there is something for everyone in each of your lessons (p.152).

Similar is the case with other activities. Setting home work is even more complicated. In order to overcome this problem, I usually set the multilevel task and graded exercise to promote independent learning of an individual student. I found learning more useful than in a normal case as because we have variety of learners with the varying with varying expectations.

Having outlined some of the advantages of large classes, let me now turn to the drawbacks of them, because it would be unfair to not do so at the same time. But while presenting the challenges, I will also include how to address those challenges.

In large classes, it is difficult to monitor classroom activities and conduct class progress tests because if the teacher cannot reach all the students in order to monitor and we cannot have enough time for individual feedback and whole class feedback might not be very effective. Gallery walk and group feedback can be helpful for addressing this challenge.

Large classes also make it very difficult to counsel the students individually, mainly because of the number of students. In many cases we might not have detailed information in order to support students. When I teach a large class, I know little about most of my students; as a result, I don’t how to counsel students even if I can manage some time for them.

Sometimes, in large classes, students with low motivation influence the students with high motivation level. There is always possibility that students are influenced by the peer pressure. It is equally possible for the laborious and sincere learners to influence the lazy or insincere ones and vice versa. The existence of the latter case is challenge for me. I have found acknowledging former instance has been helpful and somehow preventive for the latter case.

Students in large classes are often likely to dodge classroom activities and can go off the task. Such class is also likely to go noisy. Immediate performance based task can help us to improve the situation. There are always some late arrivals and some passenger students (the students who enjoy the lessons like passengers view (not focused, not intensive, not rigorous). For me nothing is as helpful as being strict in terms of the norms of the classroom.

In large classes, the teacher always has to speak very loudly in order to be audible in the class. Occasional written instruction and the systematic and consistence use of gesture is significant for me in many cases. The existing diversities in such situation takes longer time and how carefully you design the activities in the classroom the are student for whom it does not become very much relevant. It is also difficult to remember their names which can become another complexity in setting activities and designing the activities.

Obviously, dealing with a large group of people requires a complex set of social and professional skills. Let us take a very simple example. Let us suppose that someone slaps a child. What will he or she do? There are so many possible ways in which the child will behave: the child will flee, will respond violently, will start crying, will ask you  why you slapped him/her, will rush to his or her parents and ask them to slap you in turn, and so on and so forth. The same might be the case of positive response. Let’s say you offer a candy to a child in the street: what will the child do? Takes your candy and thank you, looks at you feels shy and goes away, take the candy and goes away, does not take your candy and says “no thank you”, becomes afraid of you and leaves the place, and so on.

Learners in the class have diverse experience, cultural understanding, self esteem, level of motivation, needs, aims, interests, context, facilities, attitude, etc. So, naturally they are likely to behave differently in the language class as well. The similar is the case even in smaller classes so diversity is the norm of language class rather than the exception. You will have diverse students whatever criteria you use in grouping them. It is essential to some extent as well. So, teaching, more than dealing with people in ordinary situations, requires highly advanced skills.

Larger class exerts some pressure on the side of the teachers to be more efficient and deal with the existing challenges. So, it makes teachers strategic and more competent in their profession.


Dewan, S. (2003). Teaching large multilevel classes. Journal of NELTA, 8:158-162.

Hadfield, J. K. & Hadfield, C. (2008). Introduction to teaching English. Oxford: OUP.

Baker, B. & Westrup, H. (2000) The English Language Teacher’s Handbook: How to       teach large classes with few resources. London: Continuum.

Ur, P. (1996). A course in language teaching. Cambridge: CUP.



Within and beyond classroom for teaching English

Simon Taranto

 [In his narrative, Simon Taranto shares his experience of teaching English in a public school in Nepal.- Editor]

Family/Village Life Situation

Living with a Nepali family was a challenging but very rewarding experience for me.  There were many cultural, societal, and language differences that I had to get used to when living with my Nepali family.  I could not speak Nepali in the beginning. But my Nepali language skills improved slowly over the last 9 months to the point where I am now able to hold conversations and joke around in Nepali.  During the first few months of my time in the village and at the school getting over the language barrier took a significant amount of energy.

The Khadka family provided me with a very comfortable room, clean water to drink, comfortable facilities, and outrageously delicious food.  Uttam-ji, Manju-ji, Ujjwol-ji, and Hajurama-ji, were incredibly warm, welcoming, and helpful throughout my stay.  They really made me feel welcome into their family.

I met many people who live in the village and over the past many months I was able to foster relationships with many of them.  From the teashop owner to the recent college graduate and from the bicycle mechanic to the fitness center owner I really enjoyed speaking with and getting to know people.  The village is very quiet and pleasant but also located very close to Patan city so it was easy to move in and out of the city to attend meetings and other events.

School Situation

Rimal sir was an outstanding, ambitious, and energetic teammate to work with.  He showed me the ropes when I first arrived, organized an ornate welcoming ceremony, and made sure that my teaching at the school was run smoothly.  Shambhu KC, our school’s principal, was also a key asset that allowed me to work within many classes at the school of 350 students.  I regularly taught Grades 7-10 and frequently filled in for absent teachers in other lower classes.  The students and I got along well and we were able to share cultures and languages easily.  Whenever time allowed I chose to work outside of the textbooks so as to show other teachers some new teaching ideas and to give the students a broader learning experience.  The school does suffer from volatile teacher attendance and fluctuating student attendance rates.  With a new principal coming in next year and a new school building nearing completion, I expect that the future of Siddhi Mangal is brighter.

NELTA/Fulbright Cooperation

I am very grateful to the immense amount of work, time, and energy that is dedicated to NELTA by its numerous volunteer members.  NELTA’s cooperation with Fulbright is a good relationship that I hope continues far into the future.  Many of the trainings that were run by NELTA members were very impressive and helpful for teachers.  The network that NELTA provides to English teachers is an excellent resource that members should take advantage of.

It would be helpful if NELTA were able to alert ETAs with advance notice of upcoming events so that ETAs could plan accordingly.  In addition, with school selection for the next batch of ETAs I would recommend that NELTA cast its nets wider so as to include schools outside of the Valley and with schools that don’t have a traditional NELTA presence so as to spread the excellent benefits of being a part of NELTA.

Teaching Exercise/Lesson Plan

I frequently found that students were very adept at answering questions they were used to but struggled with slight variations of those same questions.  For example, ‘How are you?’ is question that can easily be answered by students.  However, how’s it going?’ or ‘How was class?’, all of which require the same kinds of answers, are very difficult for students to answer.  With that in mind, the following exercise can help students to be more linguistically flexible, feel more comfortable in unknown language territory, and be more confident.

One of my favorite exercises to run with both students and teachers is titled ‘You Can’t Say Fine.’  This exercise teaches students different ways of asking ‘how are you’ and an array of adjectives that can be used to respond to these questions.  There are many ways to run this exercise.  I am a proponent of getting children out of their seats and outside of the classroom.  With that in my mind, this exercise can used while walking around the school or while on field trips or picnics.  Below is one way to run this activity while inside of the classroom:

  1. Ask students, ‘How are you?’  They will likely robotically respond, ‘We are fine.’
  2. Write ‘fine’ on the board and then put a large X through it.
  3. Tell students they are not allowed to say ‘fine.’
  4. Ask them again, ‘How are you?’ and write all the different responses you get on the board.  This may require the teacher to ask hinting questions about other adjective that be used.  Examples of good adjectives are: excellent, outstanding, fantastic, great, very good, good, okay, alright, bad, terrible, miserable etc..  These responses will likely come from the students in an arbitrary order.
  5. Have the students work in groups and put the words in order from best to worst and write the results on the board.  Have the students copy this down into their notebooks.
  6. Next, the teacher will help the students to practice using these words by introducing other ways of asking ‘How are you?’  Some examples include: ‘How are you doing?’ ‘How are you today?’ How is your day going?’ ‘How’s everything?’ ‘How are thing?’  There are many more but this is a good start.  Write these on the board and have students copy them also.
  7. Show an example of how this works by asking a volunteer one of the above questions.  The volunteer must respond with an adjective and a reason why.  For example,
    1. Teacher: How are you?
    2. Volunteer: I am excellent because I am a volunteer.
    3. Teacher: That’s great.  Thank you.
    4. Have students work in groups to practice these different questions and responses.


1. The title is given by the Editor.

2. The author would first like to thank NELTA, the Fulbright Commission in Nepal, Shree Siddhi Mangal Higher Secondary School, and the Khadka family for making my stay in Nepal possible.  I am very grateful for all that you did to make me comfortable.  I hope that cooperation between all these hard-working groups continues.

3. The author is a Fulbright ETA-2010 in Nepal.

Encouraging Creative Production

Luke Lindemann

 During my ten-month stint teaching English in a public secondary school in Lalitpur district, my greatest difficulty was in encouraging creative production to my students. The students found it very difficult to create spontaneous speech acts, to speak and write in an unprompted and unscripted way.

With regards to reading and writing, I found that most of my students had a good command of English vocabulary and could answer questions as long as they were not open-ended. They were very good at answering fill-in-the-gap questions, in which they must find a particular name or action in the passage and write it down as the answer to a question. But they had enormous difficulty when asked to summarize a passage or write down their own emotional response to a passage. The students were having difficulty with creative production.

As to speaking, I found that my students were used to being called upon individually to answer a specific question from the text. These questions were typically close-ended: there was only one correct answer. If they did not know the correct answer, they would look for a fellow student to answer for them, they would claim ignorance and quickly sit down, or they would stand in silent discomfort. Aside from one or two confident students in every class, the majority of students stood up to answer questions with a look of mild dread, and then answered as simply, quickly, and quietly as possible.

I believe that one solution to this problem is to give students many opportunities to practice speaking English without being put on the spot. This means creating activities in which students work in pairs or in small groups to practice dialogues, write and perform their own dramas, or play simple question-and-answer games. Students who are too shy to answer direct questions during a lecture are much more willing to speak English to their friends during group activities.

It is also necessary to foster the ability to give spontaneous answers. For this it is crucial that students learn to say the same thing in multiple ways (“How are you?”, “How is it going?”, “How are you doing?”, “What’s up?”, “What’s new?”, “Are you well?”, etc.). Speaking practice should not be about carefully translating the one correct answer from Nepali into English without any flaws in grammar or pronunciation. It should be about developing the ability to communicate.

As a student learning the German language, my teacher introduced me to the German word umschreiben. Whenever I was speaking in class and I was stumped by my inability to remember the German word for something, instead of giving me the vocabulary word I needed she would tell me that I must umschreiben. This means to paraphrase, to circle around the elusive word, to use all of the words in German that I did know to describe the word that I did not. This is a very valuable skill because it develops creative production and the ability to communicate even when knowledge of vocabulary fails.

One way to encourage spontaneous speech in a class where students have little speaking practice is to play language games that require students to quickly think of something to say. For example, with many classes I played a collaborative story game. The first student in the first row would yell out the first word of a sentence, the next student would yell out another word that adds upon the sentence, and so on down the line until the sentence is complete and a student yells out, “Full stop!” These sentences can be remarkably creative and are frequently hilarious.

Turning briefly to reading and writing skills, I found that my students needed a lot of practice to produce completely novel sentences on their own. I lead some projects in story writing, letter writing, and cartooning, in which each student was required to put his or her own thoughts on the page. We would brainstorm topics and structures as a class, and then each student would have to write their own stories or letters or cartoons.

The goal of all of these exercises is for students to learn to do more than just rearrange the words and concepts that are given to them, or that they have memorized as a sequence of simple scripts. They must learn to use English to express their own ideas and concepts, to go beyond simple reaction to creation.

If we can foster that ability, examination scores will be much higher and students will have more confidence in speaking and writing. Creative production is essential if we wish our students to learn English as an actual language, a useful tool for communication and business, and not as a mere academic exercise.

Luke Lindemann was a 2010-2011 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Shree Udaya Kharka Secondary School in Chapagaon VDC, Lalitpur. Before receiving this grant, he worked as an English teacher for Bhutanese refugees in the United States. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics from Pomona College, and his primary interests are language issues and education.



Review article: Shall We Separate Boys from Girls?

Uttam Gaulee

 “How can I sit on the girls’ bench?”his eyes staring at me, as if I had forced him to do something very objectionable. All the students in the classroom burst into laughter. This was a sixth grade boy at an English medium school I was teaching in West Nepal a dozen years ago. I showed the only available seat for him to sit.This boy had arrived late in the class, and afterperforming a customary “May I come in sir?” at the door, had entered the class. I expected him to take the only available seat but he wouldn’t sit down. I felt obliged to show him the only available space for him to sit and I encouraged him to sit there. The bench was shared by four other students–all girls! He would rather stand up for the entire period rather than condescend to sit on the bench with theother sex.Why would he? Wouldn’t he be insulted by all other friends afterwards? Anyway, I smiled to myself, feeling proud as his English teacher, because he spoke out his feeling so nicely in English.

We are all familiar with the typical Nepali high school classroom: girls flocked together at one side of the class in a couple of benches, and boys taking up all the rest of the available seats. Girls are often a minority and they feel secure when together with other girls. How do you arrange boys and girls in your classroom? Boys and girls alternatively, or all the girls together at one side and all the boys at the other? Or do you teach only boys and/or girls in the “boys-only” or “girls-only” schools? We do have some Kanya schools in Kathmandu such as Ishwari Kanya and Balkumari Kanya Vidhayalaya. Why did St. Xavier’s switch to co-ed at the turn of the century after serving as the “boys-only” school for half a century?Are there schools still in place where only boys are taught, perhaps in some Sanskrit or army schools? What is the rationale behind single sex education? How do these schools compete with their co-ed counterparts?Do boys learn differently than girls? Do boys and girls distract each other in learning process? Shall we rather separate boys and girls in schools or even have entirely different schools for boys and girls, so that they learn better? In this piece, I review an interesting article and present an interview that I conducted with one student as a way of testing the article’s arguments. I would be glad to hear what fellow Nepali teachers think about the issue of gender in education in general and teaching English in specific.

In Single-Sex Classrooms Are Succeeding,”[1] Michael Gurian, Kathy Stevens, and Peggy Daniels say “yes” to the questions I asked above. The authors argue that their institute, the Gurian Institute, has trained thousands of teachers from a wide range of schools from fifteen countries, including more than two thousand schools and districts of the USA. Hence, they claim that having worked with all kinds of schools; they have seen “what is working and what is not working around the globe.”  As strong advocates of single-sex education, the authors have been able to argue very convincingly that single-sex classrooms are succeeding and that the phenomenon has been gaining popularity again. This popularity is happening despite many legal and attitudinal barriers over the past decade, particularly after the announcement of a change of regulation by the US Department of Education in October 2006.

One of the main reasons cited for promoting single-sex instruction is that boys and girls have both brain and learning differences. Putting forward their argument of single-sex instruction, the authors state that such instruction “offers specific gender friendly opportunities”  for expediting learning by the use of their resources and techniques, which many schools featured in the article have found helpful in setting up and maintaining successful single-sex programs. The article features a series of stories about single-sex education piloted by many different schools in the United States that have utilized the single-sex program model and verified its success. Also, they have experimentally verified the results in different modalitiesranging from whole single-sex academies to single-sex core programs andoptional single-sex classes.

There have been widespread successes in single-sex classrooms throughout USA. After single-sex programs were implemented, usually by teachers of the same gender as their students, but not always, achievement on state assessment tests greatly improved, causing some schools like Roosevelt Middle School in Oklahoma, to be taken off the “at risk” list. Some schools, like B.E.S.T Academy, focused on reading instruction for boys and technology instruction for girls. Moreover, a public high school in Arkansas specifically worked with struggling boys who were failing in various subjects and having problems with the transition to high school. Within two years, the high school found that very few of the boys failed. But not only this, discipline referrals also went down by one third. An independent college preparatory school in North Carolina implemented single-sex instruction and found many advantages in four years’ time, such as stronger mentoring relationships, more trust and feelings of attachment between the students and teachers, more stress reduction, anda greater production of new energy for the teaching and learning environment.

Success testimonials from principals, teachers, students, parents and even counselors all chime in to the wonderful achievement stories of the new initiative. One of the counselors writes to the authors, “There is something incredible taking place …a contagious excitement in the air that goes down to our students. It’s not just me – I am hearing it across divisions – I’m glad to be a part of it too.” While the authors cited many glowing examples of schools implementing and finding success in single-sex programs demonstrating that teachers and students found that the classroom environment and academic achievement improved, very few details were given about how boys and girls learn differently. Also missing from the article were instructional strategies teachers could use to better teach these genders.

I interviewed a person who had had some experience of both single-sex and co-ed schooling and interestingly, she is herself a part-time teacher currently teaching boys and girls in 6th grade. She went to an all-girl Catholic high school for grades 9-12, but she was in a co-ed elementary school for grades up to the 8th grade. I think she can be another testimonial for the authors.  Reflecting on her experiences, she remembers in 7th and 8th grade at a co-ed Catholic elementary school she was “a lot more interested in boys.”  However, “…at the high school, I could focus more on learning and was not afraid to participate in class.” She did take Honors Physics and A.P Physics, as well as Calculus for college credit, due to the suggestion of her Chemistry teacher, who was a male. She doesn’t remember favoring female teachers over male teachers, though. “Actually my History and Chemistry teachers (both male) were my favorite teachers because of their kindness, ability to make the class interesting, and their positive feedback.” Her physics teacher, also male, was not her favorite teacher but she did enjoy the challenging work and high standards for organized notes and classwork that he expected.

When I asked if she would have advanced in the math and sciences if Oakland Catholic would have had boys too, she answers, “Hard to say, I might have been more self-conscious and less focused, but truly hard to say.” She believes that in those years where she was forming her identity, she needed to not be distracted by the opposite sex and concentrate on growing academically, and even taking leadership roles at the Catholic religious retreat, “Kairos.”

As a current six grade teacher, she is very surprised to read of a gender achievement gap. She had worked for four years at a predominantly African American school where the racial achievement gap was discussed and shown in presentations.Asked for her thoughts on the reduction in the disciplinary referral for boys, she also wonders if teachers who only taught one gender were fairer if their student population shared their gender. Were female teachers fairer with girls and male teachers fairer with boys? Would co-ed classes show that male teachers disciplined girls differently and female teachers discipline boys differently? “Are we more open-minded with students who are more like us because we understand them?” She wants to learn more about it too.

While she thought more of brain and gender differences in terms of boys being more active and less willing to sit and study than girls are, as well as the stereotypes of boys being more interested in Math and Science while girls prefer Language Arts, she never really heard much thought about other ways they could be different. She is definitely interested in learning more about these differences now. “I briefly looked at an article about gender learning differences, and while I didn’t understand the Math concept, as it was higher Math, I could see how the teachers tapped more into the boys’ interests by just diving right into the material, while with the girls, their emotions were tapped into in regards to their curiosity about the mathematician, stories that surrounded the concept, real-life application, where they brought flowers and other objects in to use for the lesson.” The article for that suggested using “story problems” for girls because they want more of the real-life application than boys do.

She is intrigued by the section of the article that points out that due to single-sex education, the classroom environment improved, where teachers and students felt more connected to each other, and there was a greater sense of trust. Continuing this thought, my subject wondered when teachers “start from scratch” and not stick to the same routine and classroom set-up, if that helps them be creative and enthusiastic, and the students, sensing that, are more motivated to learn as a result.

The article sounds like a promotion of the authors’ institute in the beginning for a couple of reasons. First,  the authors own the institute themselves. Second, they have made a lot of claims bolstered by lots of evidences and testimonials. As much as they seems to be set out to sell their products in describing how their professional development plan for the teachers have been highly effective, they do have compelling elements in in the article.

After the discussion with my subject, another skeptical thought came to my mind. Every new idea comes with a promise and enthusiasm, such as a newly released film, and the charm wanes gradually with time.Did the teachers become more creative and/or students more motivated simply because it was just another “new idea?”  This notion of ephemeral fascination cannot be generalized to all innovations though, as there are someeducational reform movements like B.F. Skinner’s behaviorism, that have perpetual influence in the educational field, even after losing dominance for a long time.

There aretwo most compelling argumentsin the article: (1) the brains of girls and boys develop along different trajectories, and (2) thefactor of being conscious towards the opposite sex during the onset of puberty causes underachievement. However, details regarding these statements are not discussed much in the article. The interview with my subject also prompted me to reflect my own high school days. Boys and girls never sat on the same bench. Actually, all the girls flocked together in a couple of benches set to one side of the classroom while boys were on different rows. In spite of this arrangement of seating, we boys used to be very conscious about the girls’ presence in the class. It was a big distracting factor for most of us, not only in high school, but also in elementary school often times. Most of the boys were hesitant to speak out their thoughts in class because they feared the embarrassment that would entail in front of the girls if what they said was not accepted by the teacher—and the chance of rejection was always high as the teachers were too much obsessed with right or wrong and little did they care about accepting different thoughts.

While this reappearance of single-sex education has attracted the attention of educators, policymakers and parents, Dr. Leonard places a caveat on the possible global acceptance of single-sex education, though she doesn’t say anything about the success in school, per se. Her findings have ‘fuelled claims from teachers’ leaders and education psychologists that boys brought up in a single-sex environment are less able to relate to the opposite sex than those taught in a co-educational school. There is no such effect on the girls as “Girls seem to learn what the nature of the beast is if they have been to single sex schools whereas boys taught on their own seem to find girls more puzzling.” [2] This leads me to conclude that although co-education has a promise to foster natural human development, and that there are a host of other factors such as motivation contributing to the success of education, the modality of single sex classrooms does seem to have many advantages to consider and their book, I am sure, has a lot to offer for the teachers while opening an important issue for further research in different contexts.

I would like to hear what fellow Choutari readers think about this issue in the case of Nepal. Where are we in terms of single sex and co-ed discussion? Do we need to have it?


[1] The article that the author is reviewing in this work can be viewd at:

[2] Professor Diana Leonard, from the Institute of Education, University of London at a conference at the Perse School for Girls in Cambridge.

[ 3] See for single sex issue