Future of our nation is in Students’ Quality Circle*

Lekhnath Sharma Pathak

Secretary, QUEST-Nepal & Lecturer, Central Department of Linguistics, Tribhuvan University

This might sound just like any other academic kind of statement that is overstated, or like the clichéd claim that ‘children are the future of our nation,’ which actually means nothing at all. But Students’ Quality Circle has the power to translate this dream into reality. The whole philosophy of this approach is rooted in concrete here-and-now kind of pragmatism rather than abstract idealistic speculations. SQC movement has a vision of producing citizens who are SMART and GOOD. Smartness implies competitiveness and excelling over others whereas goodness implies serving others. Practitioners of SQC know of all this. But for someone new to this movement, it might be worth telling how it works.

Like minded students of a particular class in a school form a group, what we call circle. The term ‘circle’ is important. In linearity there is somebody ahead and someone behind the one who is ahead. In circularity, there is no first and last. Everyone is equal. The first lesson students learn (without being explicitly taught, of course) is that everyone is equal. The lesson of respect to human rights and equity begins from here.

The circle sits down together to identify problems of and on their own. This is done by using the technique of brainstorming. Be it whether the teacher is too strict, or the seniors bully juniors, or the school premise is dirty, or there is no one to guide with homework at home, or the parents’ quarrel or TV as a nuisance to study are all problems that irk  students at home or in the school. This is an easy way to start, as anyone can talk about the problems around oneself. Ironically, this does not work with adults. What adults learn is to hide their own problems rather than share in a group. Children are yet to fall into this trap. So it’s useful to teach them early that it’s a good thing to talk about your own problem. It’s important that children take up only that problem which they can solve on their own initiative and which is under their control, not the one which is beyond their control to intervene and solve.

It’s not easy to solve all the problems which have been identified and listed. So the problems have to be narrowed down. The problems are voted and the one which gets highest votes becomes the common problem of the entire group. This is democracy at work. They learn the way of building a consensus and working at a common problem unanimously. This is exactly what adults strive at in many circumstances but end up in strife.

Now it’s time to get things done. Solve the problem, that is. The students get down to identify the causes which have led to the problem. The causes may be within their control to check or outside their control. All the causes are identified and root causes targeted – the causes when removed will minimize or reduce the problem. This is done by using brainstorming, survey, research and is presented using Ishikawa or cause-and-effect diagram.

In the next stage they think of the countermeasures which will reduce or remove the problem. Again the research cycles of brainstorming, incubating the ideas, more research begins till they come out with and exhaust the possibilities available. And set down to implement the countermeasures. This may be done by undertaking different activities like raising the awareness about the problem and intervening on their own. The process does not stop at merely implementing the solutions or countermeasure to the problems. It starts another cycle of cross checking as how much the problem has been minimized as a result of implementing the countermeasures. This completes the cycle of problem solving.

One cycle ends finally, with making a presentation of the entire activity in 15 minutes. The presentation is done using complete illustration of the work done. The presentation highlights also the tangible and intangible benefits children got out of the whole enterprise. Besides having solved the problem they undertook to solve, the benefits include the spirit of team work developed, learning to respect others’ views and listening to others, taking initiative, becoming responsible, learning about lateral and creative thinking, developing communicative skills, learning the basics of research and scientific way of problem solving, leadership skills, confidence building, public speaking and overall developing of an all rounded personality. All these and many more life skills develop naturally. That the problem gets solved is merely a by-product of this whole process, the end-product is the evolution of a child into a complete human being.

If we can get SQC done in all the schools of Nepal in each and every corner of the country, it won’t take us long to have a generation of citizens who will be equipped to take up any problem of the country and society on their own and solve them in such a way that it won’t recur again. Once this movement succeeds in schools, this will go up to colleges and universities and finally to different spheres of professions. So instead of merely Students’ Quality Circles, we will be able talk about Youths’ Quality Circles, Women’s Quality Circles, Politicians’ Quality Circles, Teachers’ Quality Circles, Doctors’ Quality Circles, Engineers’ Quality Circles or Managers’ Quality Circles. Likewise Quality Circles in all the spheres’ of our activities.

And it’s not impossible to it make happen. In Nepal, this movement is led by Prof. Dinesh Chapagain who has a committed team under QUEST-Nepal and which organizes Students’ Quality Circle Convention every year which we celebrated last year in Galaxy Public School on November 26-27 and this Year in 2010 we are bracing up to organize 13th International Convention in Nepal from November 1-3 . SQC spirit is also reflected in the working spirit of QUEST-Nepal in collaborating as a team with likeminded organizations like PABSON, NPABSON, NJS, FNCCI, NQPCN and NELTA. We are also looking forward to work together with other organizations and institutions who are working in the areas related to children and education. SQC needs to become a national reality if we think of creating a real New Nepal.

English and Scientific Research: Some Reflections

— Deepak Subedi

When I was asked to contribute an article on the importance of English language for scientific research, I felt I got an opportunity to express my gratitude to the language which gave me an enormous access to good books written by scholars around the world. Without the knowledge of English, I would have to rely on books written only in our native language, which would have certainly narrowed my thinking. My simple understanding is that our ability to think is proportional to the number of good books we read. Also, it is generally accepted that knowledge is for the brain as is food for the body, and that a person with knowledge of different languages has greater vision and wider horizon.

I was motivated to learn English by my revered father since my childhood. Although my father himself never had formal education, he had gained some practice of spoken English during his service in Indian army. He had a strong desire to educate his children in English medium. I think this might have been due to the influence of British officers in India. He used to tell me fascinating stories about the additional benefits he used to receive in the army unlike his colleagues by virtue of his knowledge of English, although limited. Even with this limitation, he was supposed to be superior to others, and was assigned some official tasks during the war time which avoided the risk of being deployed to the front.

In spite of a moderate income,  my father always stressed on educating children in good schools. Although our family was based on a village, my father settled in the town only to provide us good education with additional tuition in English.  So far as I remember, he was the first person in our town to arrange tuition in English from the primary level. It was during this time that I met my most favorite teacher of English, Balkrishna Shrama, who inspired me to learn. He was a noble teacher with amazing skills of delivering spellbinding lectures. With his guidance, I experienced the joy of learning new words in English and writing them nicely in four-lined papers.  Since then, I started learning English spontaneously.

I realized the real importance of knowing English when I joined I. Sc. in Amrit Science Campus in 1989. All our subjects were taught in English. Had I been poor in English, I would have certainly been discouraged from studying science.  The knowledge of English helped me in learning the major subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics. I had a huge advantage over my classmates with a weaker background of English. Meanwhile, some of our teachers had just returned from US with terribly twisted tongue, and many of our friends who were from remote areas of Nepal got frustrated with the US-style pronunciation. Students who had their schooling in English medium had no difficulty in grasping the lectures in the major subjects.

Well, these were some of my recollections about my background in the English language. Let me discuss a little about the importance of the use of English in the field of science.

In 1931 Vladimir N. Ipatieff, a Russian-American chemist, had begun to take lessons in English at the age of sixty-four. He was already a well-known scientist but had to learn English in that age in order to continue his research in the USA. He probably was under the influence of the “publish or perish” dictum so common in the field of research. But his story simply highlights the necessity of knowing a language of wide international readership in order to popularize researches in science.

Michael Faraday said that any researcher has to follow three major steps: “work, analyze and publish.” All the three parts are equally important. However, the importance of the language appears in the third part — publishing. The real output of any scientific research is measured by its impact, hence the level of international journals is determined by their impact factor. How many people cited our papers is more important than how many papers we wrote. To make our papers accessible to a large number of readers, we have to publish our results in a language understood by a large population.  Thus one has to publish his/her findings in English.

Most of the world’s leading scientific journals are published in English. It has been reported that researchers from non-English speaking countries have to spend a significant portion of their time in getting their reports and research papers translated/written in English. This obviously steals their precious time from laboratory work. For example, in Japan English is becoming the language of basic science resulting in the gradual disappearance of  publications in Japanese. RIKEN, one of Japan’s most comprehensive groups of research facilities, has claimed that its scientists published about 2000 original reports in English in 2005, but only 174 in Japanese. One report shows that editing companies in Japan charge researchers $ 500 to $ 800 per manuscript. Language training can cost $2000 for a ten-week course. These costs are additional burdens and slow down scientific activities in laboratory.

In fact, this should not have been the period for spending so much time for writing the paper alone. Had their schooling been in English, as that of ours, the researchers could have devoted more time for their experiments than exercising for language. In this respect, we should feel fortunate; we learned basic sciences in English medium at school and the university. In several international conferences and seminars, I have observed the difficulty faced by scientists from the countries which are quite developed in science and technology but are non-native English users. In spite of their good research results, they are sometimes nervous during presentations due to the difficulty in expressing their ideas clearly in English.  On the other hand, researchers who studied their courses in English are more confident in presentations even if the merit of their research work is not of high standard.

Another case where proficiency in English plays a vital role is in the preparation of research grants proposals. Even a promising project proposal may be rejected because of the lack of logical reasoning. It may be argued why a researcher should worry about English when one can easily consult with professional editors to prepare a proposal. But the fact is that professional editors may not know the technical ideas of the project, and that sometimes this joint venture may lead to negative results. Considering the growing need of disseminating research results to a wider population, many Asian and European countries, which used to teach science courses in their own native languages, are gradually adopting English as the language of science.

Summing up, today no discipline can function in isolation. Since a large number of interdisciplinary subjects like environmental science, biotechnology, biomedical engineering, engineering physics etc. are emerging, people of different areas of expertise have to work together. Professionals from different disciplines find English quite comfortable to communicate among themselves. Also, professionals in the discipline of English language must also constantly update themselves because the world is changing rapidly due to the advancement in science and technology.  For the survival in this competitive and rapidly advancing world, everyone has to be able to grasp the new challenges and opportunities. Due to the latest advancement in information technology, specially with the introduction of internet services and cellular phones, the world has become like a village. Whoever gets the latest information at the earliest will come ahead and those who miss will certainly lag behind. In which language this communication is being made in a broad scale? Of course, English.

Presidential Address: Fifteenth NELTA International Conference

Ganga Ram Gautam
President, NELTA

Rt. Honourable Chair of Constituent Assembly Mr. Subash Chandra Nembang,
Honourable Member of National Planning Commission and Founding President of NELTA Prof. Tirth Raj Khaniya,
Past President, Current Advisor and Chief Editor of NELTA Journal Prof. Jai Raj Awasthi,
Prof. Abhi Subedi sir,
Secretary, Ministry of Education,
Paula Middleton and Ewan Davies British Council,
Amanda Jacobson, the US Embassy,
Founder Principal, Little Angels’ School,
Distinguished Guests on the dais,
Key speakers, Presenters, participants from home and abroad, publishers,
NELTA colleagues, media persons, ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning and a very warm welcome to you all. This morning I feel very honoured and privileged to be here as the President of an association which we co-founded with my seniors 16 years ago. On this occasion, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to all my seniors and all NELTA members for entrusting the current team to lead this wonderful association.

NELTA now serves through its 26 branches across the country with over 1300 life members and thousands of general members. Our members include English teachers of all levels of education, materials writers, ELT practitioners and experts working both in government and non-government sectors.

Now NELTA has established itself a truly voluntary professional organisation. NELTA members contribute to the framing of ELT curriculum, training packages preparation, their delivery and trainers’ preparation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
NELTA operates through its strategic plan and in the last one year we have achieved a lot. The details of the accomplishments have been presented in the conference booklet and it will also come in the General Secretary’s report at the AGM tomorrow. To highlight the key achievements, we have made some progress in the ELT survey in which NELTA works with the National Planning Commission, Ministry of Education, British Council and the US Embassy. We have done the preliminary work and detailed discussion is being carried out on its size and modality. David Graddol, a world renowned expert in this kind of research, has kindly accepted our request to contribute to the design of this survey and we have him here at this conference as one of the key speakers. NELTA and other key stakeholders will have a detailed discussion with David on this ELT survey.

Secondly, B. Ed. and M.Ed. courses at Tribhuvan university have been recently revised. In order to make our teacher education system compatible with the global ELT framework, NELTA and TU requested the US Embassy to make an international expert available to review these courses. As a result, we have Dr. Numa Markee with us here who kindly accepted the request and contributed to the standardisation of the courses.
When we asked Numa to give us his impression about our courses he said, “Overall, I think that the quality of the curriculum you have devised is certainly comparable to that of British, American and Australian universities with which I am familiar”. Numa will also be giving a key speech, plenary session and workshop both in Kathmandu and Surkhet conference. We are very grateful to both David and Numa for their important contributions to NELTA.

Thirdly, we have two key partners working with us since NELTA was born. Currently, we partner with British Council to implement the English for Teaching and Teaching for English (ETTE) project at the branch level. Similarly, with the support of the US embassy, we plan to run a new program called Access in which we will teach English to the youths of the disadvantaged communities and this program will be implemented by the NELTA branch locally. Also, the US embassy has been very kind to supply the ELT Forum magazine to all the life members of all the NELTA branches. NELTA has collaborated with Radio Sagarmatha in the English by Radio program supported by the Embassy and it is very popular.

One of the significant achievements of this year is the outreach program. We have two highly dedicated friends with us who have reached the unreached in the NELTA network. Gretchen Coppege, the English Language Fellow sponsored by the US embassy travelled with NELTA trainers to eight different branches and reached more than one thousand teachers. Similarly, another untiring friend Kate Miller from the UK who has been with us for the last four five years at different times voluntarily travels to the very remote branches and trains the teachers. This year she conducted teacher training in Baitadi, Dhangadh and Chitwan and she also conducted TOT in Lalitpur. After the conference in Kathmandu and Surkhet, she will conduct another TOT in Surkhet. Gretchen and Kate, thank you both of you for your great contributions.

Capacity building of the NELTA leaders has always been our priority. With the support from the British Council and the US embassy, NELTA members have participated in different international courses and events. We are very pleased with the Bell Centre in the UK for providing NELTA with the scholarships to attend trainer’s development course in the UK. Our warm welcome to Jim Scrivener from Bell who will be presenting here and in Surkhet.

Decentrilisation is yet another key strategy NELTA has included in the current plan. We would like to build regional hubs regionally so that sustainable growth can be observed at the branch level. NELTA Birgunj successfully organised a regional conference and NELTA Surkhet is undertaking a responsibility of organising international conference immediately after this conference. This shows that the branches have built up their capacity to function independently and NELTA Dhangadhi branch has acquired land and they are soon constructing building. I am happy to report that most of the branches have been very active and vibrant and with some support from the centre and the collaborating agencies. We have also had some discussion with the Fulbright Commission in Nepal and we have planned to have six ETAs to work with NELTA next year. We thank Fulbright for their willingness to partner with NELTA in this program.
The present NELTA journal is a historic one as it was peer reviewed and got registered with the ISSN number. The credit for this goes to the highly dedicated editorial team led by Prof. Awasthi. Along with him, Prem Phyak, Ghanshyam Sharma and Bal Krishna Sharma were behind this Herculean task and they have worked day and night to bring the journal in time.

Similarly, the online discussion forum moderated by the journal team along with Sajan Karna and Kamal Poudel and yahoogroups have been excellent forums for our members to connect themselves with the global ELT. Please log on to these sites and enrich yourself through mutual sharing.

In the next couple of years, NELTA should continue the projects that it has initiated and we need to create more space for collaboration with the key ELT stakeholders. Consolidation and capacity building of the branches should remain the top priority and the implementation of the ELT survey project should be our main target for next year. In order to accomplish these ambitious targets, we need your active participation and cooperation from all the sectors including the government. I am sure if we are together we can achieve what we aim.

Nepal at present in undergoing a big political shift. We are going to have a new constitution in a couple of months and the language issue is one of the hot topics. As an association of English teachers, we feel that the new constitution should also talk about the role of English in new Nepal. Since English is now a global language and language of education and business, a systematic positioning of English would certainly benefit our country to keep ourselves abreast with the rest of the world. In this context, I would like to request the Chief Guest of the ceremony Rt. Hon’ble Chair of the CA, to bring this discourse in the constitution framing process. NELTA shall be happy to contribute to this and we will be ever ready to collaborate with the CA for the appropriate positioning of English in the new constitution.

This conference marks the historic one with more than 100 speakers from different countries. I would like to welcome the two key speakers, all the presenters including the representative of our neighbouring ELT organisations like SPELT, BELTA, SLELTA, ELTAI and all the participants from home and abroad. On behalf of NELTA, I would like to express my gratitude to you all for accepting our invitation. I wish all the participants and experts to have fruitful deliberations. I also wish the foreign and out of valley participants a pleasant stay in Kathmandu. Please bear with us the very humble arrangements we, as a voluntary association, have been able to make.

Finally, in order to make this conference happen, Little Angels’ School System has given us a great support without which we would not have been able to carry it out so smoothly. Thank you LAS team. Similarly, for the last few months, NELTA colleagues have worked day and night. I sincerely acknowledge their voluntary contributions and I truly feel that they deserve the credit of the success of this conference.

Thank you very much indeed.

Hello World!

Written by Shyam Sharma as the About page when Choutari was started.

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The new era of web based communication began with someone writing “Hello World!” in a website created with complex web/code language. Today, with the advent of Web 2.0 web technologies, what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG). Bal, Prem, and Shyam (3 NELTA members who are studying abroad) began this collaborative blog in the beginning of 2009. Our intention is to make our often useful conversations, and the conversation of everyone who will join us in the future, accessible to other ELT professionals back home in Nepal and abroad. In sharing our ideas publicly, we are sort of making a rhetorical statement to the effect of something like this: What we know is knowledge too.

Please join us and let us help one another grow as knowledge-makers, as teachers and learners.

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