Category Archives: Case Studies

Identity construction of the Nepali EFL students

Arjun Basnet*

Context

As an English professional teaching in English medium private secondary schools in  Kathmandu valley, I found many students having different abilities, skills, attitudes, and behaviours. Among many students, I marked Aaravi as the School Prefect (the School Head Girl) who is good at speech.  She was amiable among her friends. Prayush, the next student, is a nimble person always good at writing. He often bagged one or the other title including prizes in essay/poetry writing competition. Likewise, Chetan, the other student, seems to be confident in an oratory competition. The title ‘the Best Speaker’ would be of his own. At the same time, I remembered Anurodh and Aradhana, the other students who would neither do assigned work nor would speak English in the class in spite of having strict rules of speaking English in English Medium School.  Actually, they were not dull, rather were slow learners. They constructed distinct identities like Aaravi ‘the School Prefect’, Prayush ‘a good writer’, Chetan ‘the best speaker’, and Anurodh and Aradhana ‘the slow learners’ despite the same teaching approaches adopted in the EFL class. Looking at all the students having different identities, I thought that students’ identity is ‘an issue’ (MacLure, 1993) found in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) class while participating in different EFL activities (Pavlenko & Lantolf, 2000). Student identity is shaped with a reference to the classroom environment where they are situated through various classroom interactions, conversations, behaviours, and actions. In this context, I situated Aaravi, Praysh, and Chetan as subconsciously legitimate members (Wenger, 1998) and Anurodh and Aradhana as incompetent members in the class (Toohey, 2000) because the first three situated their learning and later two failed to ‘situate’ according to the context.

This write-up discusses the identity construction of students in English medium secondary schools arguing the ideas of Block (2007) who says that the students have second language identities. My arguments in this article are largely informed to acknowledge how the student identities are constructed in second language learning in English Medium Secondary schools in Nepal.

Understanding student identity

Student identity is a fundamental issue that originated from the interest in the student’s subjective experience of being a self. Student identity is how the students understand their relationship to the world, how that relationship is constructed across time and space, and how they understand possibilities for the future (Norton, 2013). The identity of a student is constructed both in the formal and informal experience of becoming a student as a part of a worldwide community of professionals with shared goals, values, discourses, and practices. The students construct their identities understanding themselves, their actions, and their minds based on time and space by negotiating experience, community membership, nexus of multi-membership, and the relationship between local and global. They generate identity based on their works, social discourses, their grades, communicative power, narratives, etc., and form their existence in the class. Their mutual engagement in the classroom offers the possibilities for more personalized interaction which constructs student identity.

In the process of identity construction, language learners negotiate their sense of self in the learning process and contribute to their meaning-making process in second language learning. It is understood as a purely social construct of ‘being’ co-constructed by ‘self’ and ‘others’ to explore how they see their life based on interactional practices. According to Block (2007), student identity is an encompassing process of being active participants in their community of practice and showing their relationship among the members constitutive of and constituted by the learning environment. Shields (2015) says that the students in EFL class interlace between local culture and society and find their new existence into ‘being’. He argues that new experiences of learning English as a second/foreign language shapes individual learners and other students to construct learner identity. The students construct their identity perceiving themselves as an agency, classroom as their learning community, and learning as their mastering tool. The students do not autonomously construct their identities in a social, cultural, and political vacuum; rather socio-cultural and socio-political discourses. While participating in the class, the English learners construct multiple identities either by being a member of groups or having certain roles or being the unique biological entities that they are, and so on.

The study

The identities of students that I have discussed in this paper are based on the analysis of narratives from seven students from English medium secondary school, anonymized as Andeela, Bishal, Deepak, Sulav, Sanjeev, Supriya, and Utsukta. The participants were the students studying in class IX and X in English medium schools. Only four English medium schools having more than 1000 students were chosen from Kathmandu and Lalitpur districts.  To generate the data, I had in-depth interviews with each participant. I also had informal conversations with the participants. All the interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed in the meaning-making process. In addition, I also took field notes of events and activities that the participants took part in.

Students’ identity construction

The participants in this study reported that the students constructed their identity through the process of positioning, opportunity, and transformation. Within these three themes, the students were found constructing discourse identity, affinity identity, social identity, L1 identity, authored identity, being and becoming, student identity, and inner circle identity in the Nepalese EFL context. The students constructed their identities from their subjective experience as the learners and their extrinsic forces are the source of raw materials (Falsafi, 2010).

Positioning in students’ identity

On the basis of attitudes they possessed, behaviours they performed, actions they did, and conversations held among the friends and the teachers, the students ascribed different positions in the classroom. Sulav’s narratives gave me insight that the students construct discourse identity in the EFL classroom. This identity is constructed through the pattern of thinking, speaking, behaving, and interacting (Miller & Marsh, 2003, as cited in Clarke, 2008) with him as Sulav says:

I improved my English from sixth grade when one of my friends suggested me that I should listen to English songs, native speakers’ voice and watch English movies from YouTube. I did so and started reading novels, prose, and fiction which gradually improved my English.

I situated meaning from his discourse as a tool of inquiry (Gee, 2005) to understand his discourse positioning as a native-like fellow. Such a discourse identity was developed through English songs, listening to native speaker’s voices, and reading books. Social identity was constructed through the social position established by the students based on classroom norms, cultures, interactions, and conversations. Supriya’s expression ‘I actively take part in classroom interaction with the teacher and students’ reflected her classroom participation in the classroom context because the class was her social community of practice from where they learned trajectories of learning among the teachers and students actively participating in the classroom conversation. They constructed identity by participating in interaction actively in the social identification process involved the use of classroom resources to construct her identity. Utsukta’s claim of speaking compulsory English in the class was a claimed processor (Wenger, 1998) which gave a certain experience of participation, interaction, and communication in the classroom. Her social stance ‘the way of being in the world’ revealed her classroom world.

Sulav’s appointment as the School Head Boy, Spriya’s the School Prefect, Utskta’s the Vice-Prefect were their institution identity (Gee, 2001) proposed by their Principal considering their command over the English language. The institution empowered them to construct institution identity looking at his language propensity as Sulav recalls that ‘Principal sir chose me as the ‘School Head Boy’ thinking that my English is good.’ Andeela showed her smooth relationship with her dialogical process at both moments of expression, listening, and speaking and revealed her authored identity. Some of the students were found constructing affinity identity based on affinity group that varies on the basis of their interests, demands, age factors, and nature. This type of identity is revealed when the students perform certain types of actions in the classroom or school premises. The expression of Bishal ‘ …I always sit with Rashik and Ayush’ showed that Rashik and Ayush were his affinity members whose allegiance set him primarily a common endeavour or practice and secondarily to other students of the class in terms of shared culture or traits they possess. The affinity relation was not limited only to close circle within limited friends; it was limited to a large space with students having common cultures and norms. For instance, Sulav had a good relation with other students. Therefore, affinity identity is a focus on distinctive social practices that create and sustain group affiliation, rather than on institutions or discourse or dialogue directly. Some other students in the classroom were found constructing L1 identity; might always talking in Nepali as a crude identity marker (Block, 2007) despite strict school rules. The main reason for speaking their mother tongue was to be open up among the friends. This happened not because of lack of English proficiency but because of his L1 identity as a deep abiding pride.

Opportunity in students’ identity

Students’ equal participation in learning is an opportunity to the students of English medium secondary schools and their joint engagement in having interaction is supplementary. The statement of Supriya, Sulav, and Bishal ‘…the slow learner is given more priority in class’ revealed how the students in the class got an optimum chance of participation and how EFL teachers managed time for their students. Such opportunities provided to the students in the classroom helped them construct ‘Becoming’ and ‘Being’. The identity of the students was not found “static and one dimensional, but multiple and changing” (Norton & Toohey, 2002, p.116) when I saw hierarchical learning from their junior classes, Utsukta revealed:

I’m from Gulmi. My parents took me to Kathmandu from there and enrolled in Himalaya Higher Secondary school where I studied up to class five. In class six, I was enrolled in this school. My English is now good, yeah… good, better than others. I can speak English fluently and express my feeling better… My English teacher is supportive and he encourages me to do better in English. When I was in sixth grade, one of my friends suggested that I should listen to English songs and watch English films and so did I. I found English films and movies really original, and they helped my English in pronunciation, grammar structures, and vocabularies.

In the above excerpt, Utsukta constructed her identity as ‘becoming’. Her present condition as ‘a better learner’ is her ‘being’ or existence. Enrolling in that school and practicing English through English films and songs were her ‘becoming’.

Transformation in students’ identity

The students’ narratives clearly showed that they crossed a long gap to recognize the sense of who they were in course of time. I found the change in all my participants; especially Sulav, Supriya, Utsukta, and Deepak whose identity was changed in secondary education. Sulav’s identity as a native-like fellow, Supriya’s nimble social worker, and Utsukata’s obsessive orator was not transformed overnight, rather took a process of transformation in language capability and thinking power. Even after coming from a rural area, Deepak got mastery in the English language as a symbol of transformation to accomplish his dream of gaining an inner circle identity (Kachru, 1983). Deepak’s interpretation I am trying to make my English better to develop British-like competence was very powerful to me to construct students’ inner circle identity constructing in English medium schools in Nepal. I found that they were constructing such an identity from their complex participative experience and their overall behaviours (Wenger, 1998) to get a native-like orientation in their linguistic performance. All my participants narrated that they were trying to make native-like English. This clearly showed distinction between ‘us and them’ division with ‘inner, outer’ and expanding circle’ (Kachru, 1983) and central and periphery (Philipson, 1992). Deepak wanted to be in ‘inner circle’ (powerful Western countries where English language as a native language) from the peripheral dichotomy (Underdeveloped country where English is a second or foreign language) looking at the possibility that ‘centre’ has high stakes in maintaining his operation as he interpreted:

I want to do my higher study from Britain as Andrew suggested because of the excessive use of technology used in language learning. I need very good English, therefore, I am now practicing day and night to make my English native-like.

The excerpt above clearly illustrates Deepak’s interest in constructing inner circle identity by going to the UK, the powerful western country where English is their native language.

Conclusion

In this brief article, I have discussed the different processes of identity construction of students who were studying in English medium schools in Nepal. Through their lived stories, I found that the students were constructing their discourse identity, social identity,  affinity identity, L1 identity, and institution identity through positioning, becoming and being and student as identified through the process of opportunity and inner circle identity by making their native-like English learning from native speaker’s voice from YouTube and English songs through transformation. The students’ perspectives as discussed in this paper show that student identity is constructed in English as a foreign/second language classroom through their active engagement. The identities were not found going parallel because the identities constructed in one field infused their identities in other fields. I found that the students are holistic social agents who have the power to construct different identities in the classroom. They actively take part in certain practices, construct identities, negotiate the meaning of their actions and take control over their learning in pursuit of their goals of learning English for which they require an extended amount of time, effort, and commitment.

About the author

Mr. Arjun Basnet is an M.Ed., M.A., and MPhil in ELE from Kathmandu University. Mr. Basnet is a teacher, teacher-educator, and freelance researcher. Mr. Basnet works as a full-time faculty at Bijeshwori Gyan Mandir Sainik Mahavidyalaya, Bijeshwori, Kathmandu. Currently, Mr. Basnet serves as a Visiting Faculty at Kathmandu University, School of Education. He is also a Life member of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA). Mr. Basnet is interested in reading, writing, and research works.

References

Block, D. (2007). Second language identities. London: Continuum.

Clarke, M. (2008). Language teacher identities: Co-constructing discourse and community. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Falsafi, L. (2010). Learner identity: A sociocultural approach to how people recognize and construct themselves as learners. An Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation Submitted to the University of Barcelona.

Gee, J. P. (2001). Identity as an analytical lens for research in education. Review of Research in Education, 25, 00-125.

Kachru, B. (1983). The other tongue. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Gee, J. P. (2005). An introduction to discourse analysis. New York: Routledge.

MacLure, M. (1993). Arguing for yourself: identity as an organizing principle in teachers’ jobs and lives. British Educational Research Journal, 19, 311-322.

Norton, B. (2013). Identity and language learning extending the conversation (2nd ed.). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Norton, B., & Toohey, K. (2002). Identity and language learning. In R. Kaplan (Ed.), Handbook of applied linguistics (pp. 115-123). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pavlenko, A., & Lantolf, J. P. (2000). Second language learning as participation and (re) construction of selves. In J. P. Lantolf (Ed.), Sociocultural theory and second language learning (pp. 155-177). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Philipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Shields, R. J. (2015). Walking into the ESL classroom: A narrative inquiry through the eyes of latino American immigrants in Southern California. An Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation Submitted to Drexel University, Philadelphia.

Toohey, K. (2000). Learning English at school: Identity, social relations, and classroom practice. Cleveland, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Can be cited as:

Basnet, A. (2021, May). Identity construction of the Nepalese EFL students. [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/identity-construction-of-the-nepali-efl-students/

Speakers’ club for enhancing public speaking skills and English language

Gyanendra Yadav

Abstract

These days, public speaking seems to be an essential soft skill for an individual which needs to be focused in school. Speakers’ club can be an effective way to develop such skill in students in addition to enhancing language proficiency. Based on a case study, in this paper, I attempt at sharing my experience of being an active participant in a speakers’ club and conducting it in the school for a couple of years. In the first section of the paper, first I introduce readers with the notion of speakers’ club; then, I briefly talk about how I collected data for the study. Next, I discuss the importance of speakers’ club in public speaking in general and language learning in particular as well as the challenges we faced to conduct it regularly. And finally, I present possible ways to minimize such challenges before moving to the conclusion at last.

Key words: public speaking, speakers’ club, language development, social skill

Background

When I was doing my Masters, I attended a  Speakers’ Club in 2013, which was organized by senior English language teaching scholars at Kathmandu University. The speakers delivered wonderful speeches; in fact, they were so inspiring and motivating for me.  The programme encouraged to take part as a speaker in the next Speakers’ club. In the following programme, I was one of the featured speakers speaking on The person who shaped my life. It appeared to be an easy and interesting for me as I had written an essay on the same topic. I prepared as much as I could but I felt nervous to speak in front of mass. Actually, that was the first time I had ever participated in any speech competition. I shared how a teacher transformed me from an average student to a teacher. The participants were found to have touched by my story and some of them praised my speech at the end. I do not recall exactly who got the prize on that particular day but I cannot forget the way the toastmaster and other judges analysed and gave their feedback on my speech. This proved to be bedrock for my passion I developed in public speaking. Then onwards, I became one of the regular speakers of speaker’s club. It has been more than five years, but I still love to be part of it.

After years of practice, I realized that I have significantly improved my public speaking skill which has been an asset for me as a teacher. As a regular participant, it worked as a platform for me where I got familiar with the ingredients successful speeches and practised them in my own speeches. I was able to grab best speaker awards a number of times. I was so influenced that I introduced this concept in my school as well. Some students were found interested and they successfully conducted it throughout academic year. After one year, they became so confident that one of the students from my school took part in KU Speakers’ Club and was able to raise the best speaker award from the hand of ELT scholars doing masters and M. Phil. Similarly, the other students also followed him and gave influencing speeches and were successful getting award several times. Despite the fact that we could not run it regularly every year; many students were found to be benefited from this club and have developed themselves as powerful speakers.

Reflecting upon my experience as a participant in KU and coordinator of Speakers’ Club in my school, I realized that Speakers Club can be used as an effective means of developing public speaking and language proficiency. Thus, in this article I attempt at exploring the use of Speakers’ Club in the EFL context of Nepal.

Notion of speakers’ club

Speakers’ Club can be simply defined as a platform for language learners to develop their public speaking skills. Like an international toastmaster, it is a club one delivers and observes each other’s speeches. Participating in such club gives students an opportunity  for practising their public speaking skills and their language skills. First time, speakers’ club was introduced by a group of ELT scholars of KUSOED and it became so famous that many of us implemented it in our respective schools and college. I was one of them to take this program in school level.

The notion of speakers’ club was guided by the International Toastmaster which aims at developing public-speaking and oral communication (Sun, 2008, as cited in Hsu, 2012). While implementing this at my school, we modified some of the rules to make it suitable for school children. First, we became little flexible about the time in the beginning as students often ran out of ideas in the middle and could not speak for four minutes. Likewise, we paid little attention to grammatical errors  so that they would speak freely without stress . Moreover, we created a post: highlighter, whose job was to give compliment  on only positive aspects of the speech. This was found to be encouraging for students to take part in the club.

Besides these changes, the main notion of feature and impromptu speakers remained the same like in toastmaster. Thus like in toastmaster club, we also have two kinds of speakers in a session: four feature speakers and four impromptu speakers (see agenda sheet in Appendix 1). The feature speakers are given a topic of speech and they are supposed to speak for four minutes, not less than three and more than four. But the impromptu speakers, as the word suggests, are provided the topics for their speech on the spot and they have to speak for at least two minutes. This is found to be challenging for speakers as they are only informed about theme but the topics are unknown to them. Besides speakers, we have  toastmaster,  grammar checker,  fidget counter,  highlighter, and  timekeeper. The toastmaster  selects topic and theme of the speech and conducts  session effectively. Sometimes, guest speakers are called to deliver mock speech and their experience of public speaking and  sometimes we watch famous speech by professional speakers. Speakers’ club can also be significant for language learners in enhancing their speaking skills. In relation to speaking skill, Ur (1991) emphasized the importance of small talk that advanced or academic students need to develop ability to speak at length which can be developed through short lecture or talk. Likewise, Harmer (2007) takes student’s presentation as an activity for developing speaking skill by giving talk on a particular topic. It seems that when learners take part in speakers’ club, they get ample opportunity to deliver and hear many speeches and harness their skills by collaborating and learning from each other.

The case study

This program was introduced in our schools’ academic calendar and was conducted twice a month. Basically students from grade eight and nine participated in the program. In the beginning, the students were hesitant; I had to guide them in selecting title, themes and word for the day for speech. Sometimes, I had to play the role of grammarian and check their grammatical errors as they could do on their own. But slowly and gradually, they not only improved their speech but also learned to organize the event themselves with little support from teachers. Now, they seem to have become independent; they can organize the program on their own. After successful implication of Speakers’ Club for two years, last year the school introduced Nepali Speakers’ Club as well.

The respondents for the present study were M. Phil graduates and my students who had been actively taking part in Speakers Club. They were selected purposefully so that I can get the required information for the study. I used interview and FGD as data collection strategies and my own reflective notes. The participants were given pseudo-names to maintain confidentiality in the study. First, I interviewed three respondents using interview guideline (see Appendix 2), however, it was used just as a guideline to cover the emergent issues. It mainly covered three aspects: participants’ experience, challenges in conducting speakers’ club, and their learning as speakers and language learners. Similarly, I also conducted an FGD with my students focusing on the same aspects. Their interviewed were transcribed and finally I developed different theme for analysis and interpretation. These themes have been presented and discussed in detail in the following section.

Importance of Speakers’ Club

All the respondents expressed that Speakers’ Club has been beneficial for them in enhancing public speaking as well as other skills. Regarding importance, Bimala argued, “I have not found anyone who express speakers’ club is not beneficial or uninteresting”. All the respondents agree that they have benefited from speakers’ club in many different ways which was also reported by Yu-Chih (2008). Their responses can be presented and discussed under three major sub-themes: Building confidence, enhancing public speaking skills and developing language.         

Building Confidence in speakers  

Most participants expressed that they developed confidence as a result of participating in speakers’ club. Building confidence appears to be a common phrase in almost every respondent’s   answer when they were asked to express the benefits of speakers’ club. In the process of sharing her experience as a speaker, Bimala mentioned that earlier she had habit of looking at ground while giving speech and she would become nervous when she looked at her audience. In her own words, she put “I learned to be normal” by thinking audience as nobody and herself to be superior to them. Similarly, Rajan emphasized that hesitation or fear of speaking is one of the main problems which he overcame by giving speech in speakers’ club. He believed that through practice one can decreases their hesitation and can become better speaker. This seems to be supported by students in the FGD and by other study (Iberri-Shea, 2009). Most students agree that after long practice, they felt confident while giving speech in mass.

Improving public speaking skills

Enhancing public speaking was found to be the main expectation of each respondent. However the way they express their development as speakers vary from one to another. First, Sunil opined that he adored being part of speakers’ club. According to him, speakers’ club is “a platform for learners where they can practice and develop their skills to deliver effective speech in the mass”. Furthermore, he shared that he learned to use quotation and personal stories in his speech which made him winner twice. But he believed that winning is not final goal; rather speaking is an opportunity to explore their ability and a process to collect required information on particular topic which can be used to influence our audience. So, he seems to have connected speaking skills to personal and professional development as well. This seems to be in line with Yu-Chih (2008) who states that through such club students improve their proficiency in public speaking and other various skills.

Next, the respondents of FGD view public speaking a way to develop research skills. They expressed that speakers club gave them opportunity to research on different new topics. As a result they developed habit of collecting information from different sources to prepare and give speech. Their understanding was found to be in line with Iberri-Shea (2009) who states that “public speaking tasks require students to conduct research and develop support for their arguments” (p.23). Likewise, Rajan articulated that he became conscious about his errors yet it did not decrease his fluency. He expressed to have learned to maintain both accuracy and fluency even after being aware of his error.

Above all, the participants were able to learn to present themselves as speaker, use anecdote and quotation, research on different topics and developed as speakers. By the same token, Al-Tamimi (2014) argues that “public speaking such as speakers club has been proved as a suitable pedagogical activity for ESL/EFL students to develop their speaking competence” (p.66). They can better relate their stories with the context, make inferences from observation and experience, and derive conclusion effectively. These skills can be important in real life situation besides learning language and public speaking. In this line Thornbury (2005) states that for language learners, the experience of presenting ourselves in front of class and giving talk can be an effective way of preparing for real life speaking.

Opportunity to practice target language

In response to my question regarding language development, they believed to have developed their speaking skill and improve their grammar. First, a respondent in FGD put that learning English or any other language is not limited to book; it can be learnt better by speaking. He belied that the more one speaks the more they develop speaking skill. In the same line, Sunil also echoed this respondent when he stated that speaking, as a productive skill, needs practice; so the more we speak the more we develop speaking proficiency. He also added that such practice can have positive impact on writing as well since speech can be turned writing.

Next, Rajan and Bimala expressed that speakers could improve their grammar by focusing on the comments given by grammarian in the speakers club. They believed that speakers club can be used as platform to reflect on our error in order to minimize them and become better speaker. In this line, Ur (1991) states that developing leaners’ ability to express through speech is an important factor in language course.

Thus, delivering speech in speakers club seems to provide EFL learners immense opportunity of using language to influence people. They learn to use their communicative competence – “knowing when and how to say what to who” (Hymes, 1971, as cited in Larseen Freeman, 2000) in their speech to influence people. Thus, such meaningful discourse can help EFL learners acquire language subconsciously just like in natural setting (Krashen, 1982).

Challenges in conducting speakers’ club

From the interview and FGD, I found three main challenges in conducting speakers’ club successfully. First, they expressed that most students were hesitant to participate in speakers’ club. Bimala and Sunil mentioned that some appeared to be unaware of the benefits that speakers club can offer and therefore they were not interested in being part of it. Similarly, Rajan added that some participants were even found to have fear of speaking in public as it might reveal their mistakes. Rajan was in line with Ur (2005) who mentions being worried about committing mistake and fearful of criticism or losing face as common problems in speaking activities.

Next, it appears to be challenging to run this program smoothly. Time management because of busy schedule was expressed to be a major cause for irregularity in speakers’ club both in KU and in my school. In addition, toastmasters’ inability of selecting suitable topic and conducting program was also viewed as one of the reasons for discontinuity in the program. Third and most importantly, most participants argue that voting system had negative impact provided that some speakers could get more vote because of their popularity. They mentioned particular session in which the deserving candidates did not win even after giving better speech; instead a popular friend was selected as winner.

Ways forward

Having shared the above challenges, I present some possible solutions offered by the respondents in order to overcome them. First, managing suitable schedule and time can minimize a number of issues mentioned above. As suggested by Bimala, it would be better to manage routine in a way so that maximum students can participate. Next, Rajan suggested that guest speakers can be called to deliver speech, especially inspirational speeches. This might make demotivated participants realize the benefit of public speaking and motivate them to take part in the club. And they can be the in charge of their leaning (Iberri-Shea, 2009). Finally, voting system can be modified giving fifty percent right to the judges and fifty percent to the participants. This can minimize the biasness so that deserving candidate will have better possibility to be winner.

Conclusion

Speakers’ club is proved to be an effective platform for me and my students. This seems to be beneficial in EFL context as it builds confidence in speakers, enhances their public speaking skills, and develops language proficiency. Running this program smoothly for long period of time appears to be challenging if the participants are not enthusiastic and hesitate to participate. This can be minimized by planning, preparing and conducting the program properly. Effective time management and inspiring speeches by guest speakers can lead to better participation.

References

Al-Tamimi, N. O. M. (2014). Public speaking instruction: Abridge to improve English speaking competence and reducing communication apprehension. International Journal2(4), 45-68.

Harmer, J. (2007). How to teach English. London: Pearson Longman.

Hsu, T. C. (2012). Enhancing college students’ global awareness through

campus Toastmasters clubs. International Journal of Research Studies in Education, 1(1), 21-34.

Iberri-Shea, G. (2009). Using Public Speaking Tasks in English Language Teaching. In English Teaching Forum, 47(2), p. 18-23.

Larsen-Freeman, D. (2000). Techniques and principles in language teaching (2nd edition.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Krashen, S. D. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition. New York: Pergamon Press.

Thornbury, S. (2005). How to teach speaking. London: Pearson Longman.

Ur, P. (2005). A course in language teaching: Practice and theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Yu-Chih, S. (2008). The Toastmasters approach: An innovative way to teach public speaking to EFL learners in Taiwan. RELC Journal39(1), 113-130.

 

Contributor

Gyanendra Kumar Yadav is a research scholar at Kathmandu University and teaches English language at different colleges in Lalitpur. He is pursuing his M. Phil. in English Language Education from Kathmandu University, School of Education. He is also a life member of NELTA, and has published several journal articles and presented papers in NELTA conferences. His areas of interest include teaching English through literature, teachers’ professional development, and critical pedagogy.

Appendixes

Appendix 1

Speakers’ Club-KU (Season 7, Session 1)

4th Floor, Building C, KUSOED Hattiban

10 September 2017

Topic for Featured Speakers: Introduction

Theme for the Impromptu Speakers: Teaching profession

 

 

Word For the day: Passion

  • Toastmaster: Gyanendra Yadav
  • Grammarian: CB Khatri
  • Highlighter: Raju Shrestha
  • Time Keeper: Anupama Manadhar
  • Ah counter: Sharmila Parajuli
  • Fidget counter: Kausalya Khadka
  • Tech-support: Manuka Adhikari
  • Prize Sponsor: Regent school

 

Featured Speakers Impromptu Speakers
  1. Damodar Poudel
  1. Sudip Neupane
  1. Ishwar Koirala
  1. Keshab Prasai
  1. Jhaggu Gahatraj
  1. Deepak Regmi
  1. Yogendra Ruwali
  1. Birat Chaulagain

 

Best featured Speaker Best Impromptu Speaker
 

 

Appendix 2

Guideline for interview (speakers’ club)

Experience sharing

  1. Have you taken part in speakers club?
  2. Would you like to share you experience of being part of speakers’ club?

Importance of speakers’ club

  1. Do you find any benefits in participating in Speaker’s club?
  2. Can you share any concrete changes that you notice after participating?
    1. In Public speaking
    2. In Language development /as EFL learners

Challenges and ways to overcome them

  1. It is found difficult to continue the program for long. What is your view regarding it?
  2. What other challenges do you find?
  3. What can be done to overcome such challenges?

Peripheral Classrooms: Reflections of English Teachers in Nepal

In community schools, teaching and learning of English has always been taken as a ‘difficult’ task. Teachers and students confess that it is a difficult subject to teach and learn respectively.  As a teacher, do we reflect on our own classes? Do we ask ourselves how are our classes going? Reflection upon our own classrooms certainly assists us to improve our pedagogical practices.

In this connection, our Choutari editor, Ashok Raj Khati has asked to five English teachers to reflect on their own English classrooms from different regions of Nepal. In the context of English language teaching, they briefly express their ideas in relation to resources, participation of students, use of English and L1, their best practices in English classroom and challenges they face.The five secondary level English teachers are: Babu Ram Basnet (Solukhumbu) Chandra Singh Dhami (Ramechhap), Kamal Raj Basyal (Palpa),  Durga Prasad Pandey (Dang) and Khagendra Nath ‘Biyogi’ (Bajhang).

562665_685671534783323_943408360_nBabu Ram Basnet                                                     Mahendrodaya Secondary School, Salyan, Solukhumbu

Teaching English is not always a fun but it is a very tough job in this part of country. We do not have enough resources, like the internet and other supportive materials, to facilitate English language teaching. Therefore, students do not get enough and authentic exposure in English. I have to read out listening text myself as we do not receive cassettes in time. There are 65 students in grade 10, which is a large classroom in our context. In the same way, the large classrooms are a barrier to many participatory activities. There are many activities to be done and performed by students such as drama, simulation, games and role plays. I am not able to do all these in such a large class which ultimately affect their learning achievement.

Students come from different socio- cultural and economic backgrounds, they usually speak in Nepali language among them. They are generally good in writing but hesitate to speak in English. They have fear to lose face among their friends if they commit any mistakes. So that, I am not satisfied with their fluency in English. To some extent, I am applying traditional method while teaching English. It is often challenging to correct their home assignments in a class of 45 minutes. I use group and peer correction technique several times. I conduct class test in regular interval to know how they are doing. The most challenging part of my teaching is developing speaking skill on the part of students.

15174624_1208623562564901_1405021138_nChandra Singh Dhami                                                       Manthali Higher Secondary School, Manthali, Ramechhap

My classroom in tenth and ninth grades are large, which contains the students with mixed ability. Likewise, students come from diverse socio-cultural and linguistic backgrounds. We have a ‘media’ hall equipped with different facilities such as internet, speakers, tape recorder, dictionary and projector. I often make them watch movies, biographies of poets, popular TV show and show activities related to English language learning. For instance, while teaching English sounds, I often download native speakers’ accent for them to practice. I regularly conduct unit and monthly test. It provides me timely feedback on the areas to improve. We have cassette players, charts and other daily use materials. Students sometimes prepare charts in different lessons.

Majority of students try to speak in English in the classroom. I often use group work and drilling. I make them write in group as a process writing. Students also speak in Nepali language particularly when they do not understand reading texts. I encourage them to speak in English even outside the classroom. Students also take part in speech and debate competitions. I use shorter expression. Even if, students have positive motivational orientation towards English, I am still not satisfied with the progress. Many students do not have same pace in learning English and it can’t be. However, the challenge for me is to cope the students with different levels of English language proficiency.

15239253_735504923267147_1974166001_nKamal Raj Basyal                                                                 Krishna secondary school, Peepaldada-Jheskang, Palpa

There are 56 students at grade 10 in my school which accommodates 29 girls, 26 students from Magar community and 5 from Dalits. Three language use can be observed there in the classroom – Magar, Nepali and English. They are from low income and mostly from middle class families. Their socio-cultural background is not much trouble for me while teaching English as they have positive motivational orientation toward learning English. Likewise, we have whiteboards, electricity, audio-tape/cassette players and necessary charts in English in the classroom. But, we do not have the internet facility in school.

I have found that my students are active in different learning activities in English class where I try my best to use English only and inspire them to use it. I believe it maximizes exposure in English. Next I have generated weekly discussion on certain topics related to the course. In regular interval, I conduct several contests like debate, spelling and quiz in English. Regarding teaching technique, I generally use group and pair work and role plays to facilitate English language learning. I also encourage them to go to library and read books. Therefore, teaching English has always been a fun for me. I am satisfied with their progress. I specially enjoy teaching grammar and vocabularies. However, I often find myself challenged while teaching listening and free writing. So I need to be well prepared to deal with listening and writing activities.

1931541_925213197563390_775367134454601593_nDurga Prasad Pandeya                                               Padmodaya Public Model Secondary School, Ghorahi, Dang

I work in a government funded school having the classes from grade 1 to 12. It has around 87 classes and 5, 000 students. Generally, the student- teacher ratio is one to 50-78 students. Therefore, we teach in large classes. We have irregular internet access and the multimedia projector is only in the audio visual room and students have very less access to them. We also have a smart board but there is no skilled man power to operate it but white boards are available in each room. Teachers make charts and posters for the upper classes and use printed charts the lower/primary classes.

When I reflect on my English classes, my students work very happily in pair and groups particularly to practice speaking skills and some project based tasks. Many of them are found excited and interested to work in group or pair but a few are found reluctant to do all these activities and they prefer individual tasks. I instruct them both in English and Nepali languages. I particularly need to use Nepali as they understand me and are unable to respond in English. They are also not encouraged to converse in English. Another challenge of teaching English is being unable to create English speaking environment in school, which is the result of the low exposure of English in lower classes. It eventually affects their performance in upper classes.

11178286_1427707574212674_9151478527758031773_nKhagendra Nath ‘Biyogi’                                                   Bhairab Higher Secondary School, Jhota, Bajhang

I as an English teacher in this rural area, find myself encouraged in the recent years. Although the classroom is large, we have some minimum resources to facilitate English language class such as tape recorders, computers and other necessary materials. They are taken to computer room to play various language games. Similarly, I make use of laptop and the internet in the classroom. Students prepare charts of CVs, wild life reserve, language functions and so on inside the classroom. There are many different charts in schools, student make use of them in English class in different ways. Many of them use Nepali language inside the classroom. However, I inspire them to speak English. Every day, I ask them a question (as a part of general knowledge), related to English and they enjoy it very much. (For instance, how many words can you make from the word ‘examination’?). I also conduct quiz, debate and speech competition. Regarding the participation of students, they normally work in group and pair. Students are always invited to the front of the classroom to work or present the task assigned. Few students also feel shy to do so.

In the same way, I am selective on using methods and techniques in my ELT classes. Most importantly, I reflect back on my classroom activities to figure out what is working and what is not. Students are found improving the skills of English language these days. It might be the result of increased exposure of English through technology and social media. Another important activity that I do is to visit students’ parents (nearby school) once a week. I talk to them about their children’s progress. While talking with them, I figure out four types of students – outstanding, excellent, good/average and low achiever. The most challenging task for me is to teach and work with the low achievers. Some of them cannot read and write properly. Therefore, it is always challenging to find the strategies to support them.

Choutari team sincerely acknowledge teachers who shared their valuable reflections in this interactive article. They have particularly highlighted the diverse pedagogical practices and issues while teaching English in peripheral parts of Nepal. Now, we request you to feel free to share your thoughts and reflections after reading these reflections here.

EMI in community schools: A case from Mt. Everest region

Mahendra Kathet
Mahendra Kathet

In this blog post, I begin with rationale behind community schools adopting English as the medium of instruction (EMI) in Nepal, and a case of Schools with EMI from Solukhumbu district followed by importance of EMI and some suggestion for its effective implementation in schools.

Rationale for Community Schools adopting EMI

Since formal school education has introduced in Nepal, English has been included in the curriculum as a compulsory subject. Even English was later introduced in early child education and development (ECED) or pre-primary level. However, high school graduates from community schools have failed to develop their proficiency in English in school level. Whereas, proficiency level of the same graduates from private schools are better than of community schools. When analyzed the gaps, the only tangible difference between private and community schools is medium of instruction. The private schools have been using English as medium of instruction (EMI) while Nepali is the medium of instruction in community schools. The impacts are visible on the performance of the school graduates in higher education as a whole. When they pass SLC, and join the college to further studies, they find it difficult to cope up with teaching and learning methods. Only the bright and ambitious students can pursue their college studies while others face English language problem. Lack of adequate knowledge in English has left many of the students feel inferior and lag behind in higher studies in comparison to the students who come from English medium schools. The poor performance by community school graduates in higher education home and abroad has made children, guardians and teachers attract toward the private schools with EMI.

Families with strong financial backgrounds have started sending their children to expensive English medium schools. The children from financially weak families have been bound to continue going to community schools with poor English exposures. Even some of English teachers teaching in community schools are unable to conduct classes in English in remote parts of the country. Those with bachelor’s or master’s degree in English seldom communicate in English. The absence of English speaking environment has further deteriorated their English speaking skills. In many cases, they teach ‘English’ in Nepali language.  I have found that many lower secondary and primary school teachers can hardly read English texts with correct pronunciation. These days, many master’s degree holder teachers in the community schools are feeling awkward as they cannot communicate in English properly. Here, teachers’ inability to communicate in English means students lagging behind in higher education and job opportunities in the competitive world.

As a result of the justifications mentioned above, community people of Mt. Everest region (Solukhumbu district) in eastern Nepal have come together to adopt English as Medium of Instruction (EMI) in their village schools.

EMI in Schools of Mt. Everest Region

 With the beginning of academic session of 2011/12 A.D., EMI was adopted and are now practice in Khumjung Secondary School and Mahendra Jyoti Higher Secondary School along their four lower secondary and six primary feeder schools. However, a serious challenge came forth was teachers, who were not confident and reluctant to adopt the EMI despite their basic knowledge in English. The teachers were needed to enhance the teachers’ English knowledge and get them ready to teach in English.

 In 2011 and 2012, with the financial assistance from Himalayan Trust Nepal, we coordinated with Rato Bangala Foundation (Patan) to organize a month-long EMI training. This training solely aimed at increasing and improving communicative skills of the teachers in English language. A total of 40 school teachers were the beneficiaries of the training program. However, large number of teachers have remained deprived of EMI training. Then in 2013, REED Nepal, a non-governmental and not-for-profit teacher training organization took the responsibility of training the remaining teachers with EMI. The REED has started EMI training in the district since 2013 in co-ordination with DEO Solukhumbu and NCED .

I believe that hard working teachers, who practised the language seriously with colleagues and students during the training, have improved their English knowledge and skills. Some stiff teachers are still struggling to improve their skills to teach in English. In addition, classroom support programs and school based trainings are proving effective to help them learn as well. Ironically, some students are found far better than some of the teachers in terms of communicative skills in English.

As the teachers are always the key figures to impart quality education through English language to the students. If the teachers are not competent enough, students certainly lag behind and cannot achieve their expected goals. This vision prompted Himalayan Trust Nepal to grant financial support to 12 EMI schools in hiring competent teachers to teach in English medium.  Although there is not much sufficient exposure and English speaking environment as expected, students, especially children from poor financial backgrounds, are benefitting from this program.

Why EMI is important in community schools?

Earlier for thousands of years the world was so huge that people had only few ideas and hypothesis about it. Gradually, the human intelligence explored the world making access to it much easier and simpler. Remarkable human inventions of transportation and communication technologies has transformed the whole world into a global village. English language, which is the most widely spoken language, made communication possible at any part of the world. English language transformed the gigantic world into a small community.

English Language is an enormous medium of world knowledge and affairs.  Most of the world’s popular books and literatures are written in English. Ability to comprehend English means an easy access to the works of world’s most famous writers.  It is the dominating language as used in science and technology. Medical doctors, pilots, engineers, university professors can hardly develop their career in the absence of English knowledge.  Majority of the web-pages are written in English. Knowledge of English skills, therefore, allows us to enter into the world’s ruling intellectual resources. The knowledge of English opens the door to boundless opportunities including works in foreign countries.

Careers that involve lots of travel and international exposures such as the airline, tourism, film industries, etc. use English language  as their  official language and many  employers  in these sectors  demand a certain  level of  proficiency in English. The proficiency in English broadens social networking and increases our chances of getting a good job in foreign countries.

Most importantly, English has occupied a place of primary language in world business. It is a must for international business persons to learn and speak English. A lot of English speaking multinational corporations with offices in Nepal use English language to communicate.  They often use English in business meetings, customer services and sales, and marketing and  communications.

English is widely regarded as the language of higher education. It gives us access to the world’s famous and best universities. The academic proficiency obtained from such renowned universities opens up opportunities to find respectable job anywhere in the world. Learning English really can change our life. People all over the world study English as their second language in their school syllabus and children start learning English at a young age.

Suggestions for implementing EMI

Trends of community schools shifting their medium of instruction to English are high in different parts of the country. Although learning English is quite challenging and time consuming, many remote village community schools are taking the risk of implementing EMI. Lack of communicative skills in English in the teachers is one of challenges that the schools are facing with the change in their medium of Instruction.

Collaborative and consistent efforts in the part of teachers and management body are a must to improve English language learning environment for the EMI. The teachers equally need to be hard working and studious to cope with the change. The hard working and energetic teachers can also arrange self-learning opportunities, develop English language lab, teach English in an interactive way, develop self-learning package, build English language development centre and work together to develop their communicating skills. They can stimulate themselves to watch English program on TV, and listen to radio talk programs in English.

Another suggestion for facilitating effective implementation of EMI is making speaking English environment in the school premises. The teacher trainings should be based on classrooms communication English. The school authorities should also hire and appoint competent teachers, who will be the great asset for effective implementation of EMI. The authorities should also organize English learning sessions and encourage and facilitate other teachers to improve their spoken and written English. Enabling teachers for developing communicative skills in English will contribute to the success of EMI in schools and help students for their better performance in higher studies and better opportunities ahead.

The author was the former head teacher of Khumjung High School, Solukhumbu and teacher trainer at Himalayan Trust, Nepal at present.