Schools can today participate in committing linguistic genocide through their choice of the medium of formal education – and they do. (Skutnabb-Kangas, 2010, p. 212)
The above quotation by Skutnabb-Kangas (2010) ought to be self-evident. The situation in some public schools in Nepal is that they are running after English medium instruction. In Nepal, the official language is Nepali and English is taken as a foreign language. It shows that the language of instruction in schools should be Nepali as it is the formal language in Nepal. Yet English as a medium of instruction policy has been adopted by some schools especially in urban areas believing that English medium brings so-called quality. Are they bringing quality in education or committing linguistic genocide as Skutnabb-Kangas says?
The medium of instruction (MOI) policy has been a controversial issue in the context of Nepal. Nepal has adopted a neoliberal policy regarding the MOI. CDC (2019) states that the MOI at the Basic Level (Grades 1-8) will be either mother tongue or Nepali. NCF states that social studies and Nepali should not be taught in English; however, other subjects can be taught in English at the Basic Level (p. 36) at the secondary level (Grades 9-12), the MOI will be Nepali or English. The government policy mentions that children can get education in their mother tongue since it is their right; or Nepali can be the MOI as it is the lingua franca of Nepal. Neglecting the linguistic human rights (Skutnabb-Kangas, 2006) of the children to get education in their language, there has been a shift to English Medium Instruction (EMI) in some public schools in Nepal. Is it justifiable to do so or are the public schools violating the language rights of the school children? This is a debatable question to be discussed in public discourses. Considering this issue, this paper discusses whether EMI is for quality education or the destruction of minority languages in Nepal.
It is agreed that students learn better when they understand what the teacher is saying (Brock-Utne, 2010; Klaus, 2001), and this is possible only through the learners’ mother tongues. If the children are provided education in other languages, they often remain silent or become puzzled. Let me relate this issue to the experience of one of my colleagues. When my colleague (Tamang as the mother tongue) was admitted to school, he didn’t understand anything that the teachers said or taught. There was another Tamang student who also knew the Nepali language. Then he used to ask what the teachers said. This example clarifies that students learn better in their language only. What we infer from this event is that we are destroying the knowledge of the students. Learning is for the knowledge of the subject matter. It does not mean that we can get better knowledge in English only. If this was true, Chinese, Korean and Japanese learners would be the weakest ones in the world, but it is not so. These countries are far forward in science and technology including education. Therefore, adopting EMI and compelling the learners to get education is destroying their clear-cut knowledge in content areas.
Another argument is that indigenous languages are destroyed through the adoption of EMI policy in schools. Languages get protected, survived, and promoted through their use, especially in education. Skutnabb-Kangas (2010) argues that schools can kill languages that had survived for centuries when their speakers were not exposed to formal education. This is what happened through the adoption of the EMI policy in the public schools of Nepal. Nepal is a multilingual, multicultural and multiracial country with 131 indigenous languages spoken by 125 ethnic groups (Language Commission, 2020). Since there has been a growing trend of using EMI in public schools in Nepal, learners’ mother tongues are endangered. Once when I was in the field collecting data for my research work, one Rana student (Rana language is one of the indigenous languages of Nepal) who was studying in a public school in Kailali district where EMI was implemented said, “I don’t want to learn and speak my mother tongue. If there is no use of my language in school and in the market, then why should I use it? Only my parents speak it but I use Nepali to talk to them at home.” This shows that the use of EMI is one of the causes that obstruct students to use local or other indigenous languages at home. In my neighborhood, one family belonging to the Newar community. Both the father and the mother are educated and job holders. Their children study in a private English medium school. I have never heard them speaking the Newari language even with their children. When I asked, “Why don’t you use the Newari language at home with your children?” The father replied, “Sir, what’s the use of using our language if it has no value in society? So we want our children to learn only Nepali and English.” Thus, there is linguistic genocide (Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000) or the policy that encourages language shifts in multilingual societies. EMI in education is playing a crucial role in this case. Skutnabb-Kangas (2001) argues that linguistic human rights are necessary for maintaining linguistic and cultural diversity on earth. Only the use of mother tongues in education can support the maintenance of linguistic diversity, thereby preserving and promoting indigenous languages.
English is taken as a killer language (Gutiérrez Estrada, & Schecter, 2018; Khaled, 2020; Schrijver, 2013). If so, how can EMI policy in education remain its exception? Although English is a global lingua franca, it is an agent of making other languages disappear because of people’s attraction towards the use of English in education, media, public spheres, tourism, and other sectors.
I argue after Brock-Utne (2010) that English in education is the language of destruction rather than instruction in two senses. First, the use of EMI in education is destroying and limiting the knowledge of education in the learners since they do not get a clear-cut concept of the subject matter in English. Second, the use of EMI in education is destroying the learners’ mother tongues.
I conclude my argument that the only way to preserve and protect the indigenous languages thereby imparting crystal clear knowledge to the learners about the subject matters is through the use of mother tongue-based education especially up to basic level (1-8) education. It is believed that the more languages the learners know; the more cognitive development they have. Following this assumption, I propose that some subjects related to local knowledge can be taught in the learners’ mother tongues, the subjects of national importance can be in Nepali, and the subjects like Maths, Science, and Computers can be taught in English. It is the responsibility of the nation to protect the indigenous languages of the country. The linguistic and cultural diversity of a country is the property and identity. Therefore, the linguistic human rights of children must be preserved. We can never imagine this through the use of EMI in education.
Brock-Utne, B. (2010). English as the language of instruction or destruction–how do teachers and students in Tanzania cope? In Language of instruction in Tanzania and South Africa-Highlights from a project (pp. 77-98). Brill.
Gutiérrez Estrada, M. R., & Schecter, S. R. (2018). English as a” Killer Language”? Multilingual Education in an Indigenous Primary Classroom in Northwestern Mexico. Journal of Educational Issues, 4(1), 122-147.
Khaled, D. Y. A. (2020). English as a killer language: South Africa as a Case Study. International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation, 3(3), 72-79.
Klaus, D. (2001). The use of indigenous languages in Early Basic Education in Papua New Guinea: A model for elsewhere? Paper presented the Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society held in Washington DC. March 17, 2001.
Language Commission (2020). Annual Report (5th). Language Commission.
CDC, (2019). National level curriculum framework for school education in Nepal. Sanothimi: Curriculum Development Center, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Government of Nepal.
Schrijver, P. (2013). Languages Competing for Speakers: English as a Killer Language. In Language Contact and the Origins of the Germanic Languages (pp. 20-22). Routledge.
Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2000). Linguistic genocide in education – or worldwide diversity and human rights? Routledge.
Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2001). The globalisation of (educational) language rights. International Review of Education, 47(3), 201-219.
Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2006). Language policy and linguistic human rights. An introduction to language policy: Theory and method, 273-291.
Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2010). Language rights. Handbook of pragmatic highlights. Society and Language Use, 7, 212-232.
Mohan Singh Saud is an Associate Professor of English Language Education, ELT trainer, book writer, poet, editor, and researcher from Nepal. He is the visiting faculty at Chandigarh University, Panjab, India. His areas of interests in research include grammar teaching, teachers’ professional development, medium of instruction, English medium instruction (EMI), mother tongue-based medium of instruction, teaching English as an international language, English language teachers’ training and education, linguistic diversity, and globalisation.
[To cite this: Saud. M.S., (2022, October 15). Is English in Education a Medium of Instruction or Destruction? [blog post]. Retrieved from https://eltchoutari.com/2022/10/is-english-in-education-a-medium-of-instruction-or-destruction/]
Bal Krishna Sharma (PhD) is an associate professor of applied linguistics at English Department, College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, University of Idaho, US. He is interested in the role of English in multilingual contexts. He studies the dynamics of teaching, learning and use of English in order to examine the topics of language ideology, intercultural communication, identity and pedagogy. He has been studying the issues of culture, representation, and the economy of language from the perspectives of tourism workers in the Nepal’s tourism industry. Likewise, he investigates what English, other international and minority languages mean for a workplace where the commodification and representation of languages and cultures is a major driving force. He is also investigating language-related ideologies and identities of non-native English speaking faculty as U.S. universities in STEM fields.
So, in this post, Jeevan Karki has facilitated a conversation with him, which unfolds the global discourse in ELT, (second) language acquisition, English language teaching in multilingual contexts, critical language teaching, English language policy and practices in Nepal.
Feel free to comment, ask questions and share the conversation to continue the discourse. Here is the YouTube video for you:
Here is the list of questions covered in the conversation:
Q1: What are you busy at currently?
Q2: The global conversation in ELT is very critical towards ‘standard English’, while the goal of English language education in non-English speaking countries is to develop proficiency in standard English (either British English, American English or so on). So, have the critiques been too idealistic about it or the practitioners not aware of this conversation?
Q3: Ofelia Garcia (2017) says that “there is no second language acquisition in the traditional sense but children are acquiring languages together/in totality.” What does this mean to the field of SLA? What are the future directions of SLA?
Q4: In the short history of English language teaching, 50 years or less, what has Nepal gained from it and what has Nepal forgotten in this race?
Q5: And what should be the role of English in multilingual contexts like Nepal?
Q6: Parents and stakeholders don’t seem much concerned about preserving and promoting their own languages as much as they are concerned about immersing their children in the English language right from pre-school. Why does this happen? What can be done about it?
Garcia, O. (2017, June 7). Ofelia García – Translanguaging [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5l1CcrRrck0
The coronavirus (i.e., COVID-19) crisis has brought unprecedented challenges in all the systems including education globally, and communities, particularly in the developing countries, are suffering the most as the public service systems in these countries are not well-planned. The coronavirus pandemic has been a portal that leads the world to reconfigure the future (Roy, 2020) largely different from the one we are/were living. The human sufferings are unprecedented, and of course not measurable either in terms of the economic, social, and psychological losses (both visible and invisible). There are tragic consequences everywhere, and the education sector is one of the most affected ones due to school closure, leaving millions of students from pre-school to the university at homes. The fundamental services of education have halted, with students without textbooks, face-to-face formal interactions, and detachment from their peers. This unexpected context has forced people to think about transformations for the future to enable the pedagogical contexts to recover from the losses, and to cope with the similar future challenging in education systems.
Although schools and universities have tried hard and the best to compensate the loss of schooling by adopting the online mode of instruction, both teachers and students’ limited access to internet facilities, particularly in the least developed countries (LDCs) such as Nepal has become a barrier to holistically shift the physical school to online teaching and learning. This scenario has further accentuated the discourse on equity, concerning the widening gap in terms of access to resources, learning opportunities, human resource management, and the effectiveness of the learning (if any). Similar to Ebola, AIDS, SARS, and Spanish Flu, this pandemic has taught us a lot about humanity, human attachments, health, and urgency of international cooperation. Against this backdrop, in this paper, I have presented my reflection, not necessarily based on strong empirical data, on the potential pathways that we MUST adopt to accelerate transformations in our education systems. By ‘our’, I mean Nepali society, however, my arguments would equally apply to other similar contexts waiting for reforms in their education systems.
The schools are closed for an indefinite time, and standardised tests are suspended. Discourses on educational standards and qualities are extended and enlarged due to the spread of coronavirus. Many people are living with the absence of their friends and families, while others are crammed in their families experiencing probably the longest moment of togetherness with family members. For many, the homes are transferred to online learning stations. The online meetings have covered the walls of Facebook and other social media pages. Perhaps it is the worst ever experience my generation people have had of such pandemic. However, it should also be taken as an opportunity and the right time for countries and relevant communities to unlearn, relearn and rebuild their educational systems to prepare for a better future.
The challenges in schooling
Despite the massive stimulus measures in response to the Covid-19 effects, the global economy is estimated to be hit by recession in 80 years (Guenette, 2020), the deepest since World War II (Al-Samarrai, Gangwar, & Priyal, 2020), and the financial distress will severely impact on the education sector. In other words, this pandemic is likely to impact on several key aspects of education, including financing, resource management, school expansion, and access to learning.
The pandemic crisis is likely to leave the education sector vulnerable in terms of infrastructure development including the endeavours to equip schools with technological innovations. In Nepal, the budget allocated for education is inadequate. In the fiscal year 2076/77 (2020/21 AD), the Government allocated 11.64% budget for the education sector (Ghimire, 2020, May 29), which is very less than the budget spent in countries with larger and established economies. Although here is a mere increase in the budget compared to the current fiscal year, two of the ambitious programmes:six-thousand volunteer teacher mobilisation and mid-day meal, will cover more than three quarters (6 billion) of the total increment of 8 billion rupees. It indicates that there will be a limited budget needed to embrace information and communication technology (ICT) in the educational sector.
Human resource development and management
The low-level budget allocations in the education sector, especially in higher education will have serious consequences in managing technical human resources, and technological innovations, due to budget shortages. It is making both short-term and long-term effects on human resources development on handling the technology integration in teaching and learning. Last month, I had a talk with a teacher of a primary school about the use of technology in teaching, and his immediate reaction was “We have a computer and a printer in our school, but we are unable to use them because we could not find a technician to repair them”. His exemplary experience informs us about the level of understanding of what technology in teaching is, and how computer technology is used in schools in remote Nepal. I had a short visit to one of the public campuses in Kathmandu Valley, and during a talk, the campus chief of the campus said, “Sir, we have managed IT on our campus”. I was thrilled and wanted to see how they have made the reform. He took me to one of the carpeted classrooms and showed some computers (seemingly unused for months) and said that it was the IT lab, where students could occasionally go to learn the computer.
These two instances, which I brought here from my own primary experience, tell us how people perceive the use of technology in teaching and learning. In none of the above cases, there was technology integration in pedagogy. They have understood that technology means having computers and using them occasionally for specific purposes such as showing how to open a word file, how to type, and how to print. The development of a broader framework for human resource development in a planned way is a greater challenge ahead.
School expansion and access
Insufficient budget for public education leads to the decline in education outcomes, and poorer education services, which ultimately impacts on parents’ affordability for their children’s education. In Nepal, usually, the households that largely rely on the remittances for education funding of their children and relatives will suffer a lot. It is predicted that expensive private school education will cause an increment in the enrollment in community schools and then pressurise the community schools to accommodate a large number of students. However, community schools at the current state without minimum ICT infrastructure and comfortable learning environment for those students coming from private schools will not be able to hold them and again private schools may take this advantage. Consequently, the social gap between the communities with high and low-income will be much wider than it is.
These challenges, along with many others, need to be addressed in time to meet the new demands of educating in the post-crisis period. I suggest some viable ways to begin the reform in education in Nepal.
In general, the current context requires us to understand and transform the overall schooling system in a completely different way, as the opportunities for learning have completely gone online. However, the majority of students and teachers, particularly in Nepal, are unable to access online learning for many reasons including the lack of ICT infrastructure, expensive mobile data, and limited or no digital literacy of teachers and students. Complaints have been raised regarding teachers’ efficiency in the use of the online learning management system (LMS) platforms. Teachers’ inability is not due to their negligence but due to their ill-prepared teacher education systems (programmes) that did not equip them with even the basics of integrating technology in pedagogy.
I remember when I was mentoring some students during their field experience in teaching three years ago that they were compelled to follow the lesson planning as par with the lesson plan booklets commercially prepared. This practice barred the students to prepare their lessons autonomously. One of the student teachers asked, “Sir, is it good for English students to follow the same pattern as Science students while preparing lesson plans using this booklet?”. I was speechless, as I knew that this system was not viable, and the student teachers were not even having their own space for altering the patterns of lesson preparation. All the student teachers were filling out the same lesson plan formats provided to them. This is just an example that how we are highly structured in our education systems, following the conventions developed decades ago, and not even asking students to think beyond the box. The main concern I wanted to raise here is that “How does the current strategy of educating and preparing teachers to meet with the growing challenges in learner autonomy, blended learning, and integration of technology in teaching and learning?”.
The crisis has prevailed a need for school transformation by enabling educators and teachers. However, the economic crisis hit by COVID-19 will be a great challenge particularly for developing countries like Nepal to even revive the pre-COVID-19 schools. School transformation is a multifaceted process, including teacher empowerment, readiness, and responsiveness. It is a high time to think about how the teachers can be better equipped to navigate the wounds surfaced in this dark time to reconstruct life anew for themselves and their children through the schooling process. The relevant government agencies can also think of benefitting from the outsourcing of the education services, especially in terms of managing the techno-friendly resources including technical assistance in LMSs design, teacher training, and material development. Although outsourcing of educational services sometimes understood as ‘businessification’ of schooling (Bates, Choi & Kim, 2019), it has been widely adopted as a ‘tested solution’ to many educational problems in many countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong SAR of China.
Enabling teacher agency
There needs a ‘transformation from within’ to meet the challenges generated by this global crisis and a shift from the traditional ‘banking model of education’ (Freire, 1970). Teachers should be prepared for fostering their self-reflexivity and responsibility in shaping their actions in their social contexts. Although teacher agency has been underestimated in the educational contexts of the countries with developing economies, it has been observed that teachers can make the change, provided that they are exposed to an all-enabling environment, both through institutional and professional support. Teachers as reflective practitioners and professional decision-makers (Borg, 2008), also as insiders of the learning process, should be encouraged to come up with their strategies to meet their contextualised learning requirements. The current crisis has also taught us that “the one-size-fits-all” type of blanket strategies, mostly drawn from the global-north contexts, are no longer relevant. In the case of Nepal, owing to its wider demographic diversities such as socio-economic status, language backgrounds, geographical situatedness and cultural orientations, the strategies formed at the federal level will be less likely to succeed requiring greater role of the local government in taking actions to put the policies into practices. In having so, more localised research-supported strategies for maximising teachers’ agentic actions are the must. Teachers are the forefront fighters whenever there is a learning crisis.
Enabling autonomous learning conditions
The transformations can emerge from our actions based on our ideologies and self-regulated efforts to prepare our learners for their life-long learning. The current centralised curriculum development and implementation process have been a problem-posing condition as it does not prepare the learners to be the innovators and self-regulators. The teachers and students are waiting for the state agencies to avail the textbooks for them to start the pedagogies. The curriculum needs to recognise and validate teacher and learner agency in shaping their localised learning environment. The COVID-19 has taught us about making the change from within, not necessarily waiting for some externally sourced interventions facilitating us to transform our professional rituals.
Therefore, it is essential to enable our teachers and students to create their autonomous learning conditions by:
Developing and providing them with the simplified digital learning programmes
Accelerating local governments’ engagement on developing learning materials at the micro-level
Streamlining non-governmental organisations towards facilitating the technical requirements, and
Supporting parents to educate (or facilitate the learning of) their children.
These strategies are rightly doable to manage and enable autonomous learning conditions at the grassroots level. However, at the same time, none (teachers, students, and parents) should be the victim of the circumstances like the current crisis. Teachers, students, parents, and the local level governmental and non-governmental agencies can be engaged in supporting the children to learn. It can be done by bringing all of them together with complementary roles in scaffolding design by enabling innovative learning environments. For instance, the development partners working in the education sectors can provide the local governments with emergency funding opportunities, and parents of each learner can support learning by engaging them in the family affairs, rituals, and daily chores.
Embracing technology: A blended mode of learning
Despite the well-articulated ICT enhancement policies of the government since the beginning of the 21st century in Nepal, the use of technology in teaching and learning contexts is still in its infancy, particularly in the public education system (Rana & Rana, 2020). However, it is also important that we should be able to grab the highest-level advantage out of the use of technology in teaching and learning, which is very much a core part of learning in this digital era. It should also be noted that technology alone is not a panacea for compensating all kinds of learning gaps, as it is just a tool or a medium to facilitate learning. Therefore, the best feasible way for all learning conditions is to develop a justifiable blend of face-to-face and online (virtual) learning. Although media particularly social media like Facebook and twitter are covered by discourses of the use of ICT that would do everything possible, I believe that it is just a good friend of humans and that human values the kids need now are best transferrable and learned through direct human contact and interaction in a comfortable zone. In our educating system, we should be able to ensure that technology is used to integrate the aspects of our indigeneity of knowledge, cultures, values, and worldviews. Moreover, it is essential to include local epistemologies, heterogeneity, the multiplicity of values, and pluralism to make everyone feel owned.
From the above discussion, I come to a holistic picture of the transformation required as presented in figure 1.
Figure 1 provides a holistic approach to innovations in schooling in such a way that teachers, parents, and the social institutions can actively engage with their agency in the learning conditions that teachers promote autonomy, indigenous pedagogies, and professional development opportunities. A culturally responsive environment that incorporates technology will lead to greater success in meeting our 21st-century learning needs.
This reflection reiterates that evidence-based policymaking for the transformation in Nepal’s education system is essential to prepare our students for a better future, in such a way that our schools remain the “places of mutual respect and a place for understanding human differences and opposing viewpoints” (Arnove, 1994, p. 211) along with their equal access to learning opportunities. We have to be able to institutionalise our indigenous pedagogies that enable our students to equally participate in the learning process. The adoption of technology in teaching and learning might also contribute to foster such inequalities differently, as technology has a double-edged effect. On the one hand, it has created an unequal learning opportunity, and on the other, it has been established as the only alternative mode of learning available during this crisis. All that requires a coherent policy framework that consistently facilitates and controls the local innovations with stronger visions and valuing on teachers. We have a lot to learn from Singapore, where “talk less, learn more” is the core principle of teaching (Hogan, 2014).
Mr Prem Prasad Poudel is currently a PhD scholar at The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. He has worked as a lecturer of English Education at Mahendra Ratna Campus, Tribhuvan University, Nepal for more than a decade. Mr Poudel is a well-established as a teacher educator, teacher trainer and material writer in the field of ELT in Nepal. He has presented papers and published articles in the renowned national and international journals such as Journal of NELTA and Current Issues in Language Planning, respectively. Previously, Mr Poudel also served as the secretary of the Central Executive Committee of NELTA.
Al-Samarrai, S., Gangwar, M. & Gala, P. (2020). The Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education financing. World Bank, Washington, DC.
Arnove, R. F. (1994). Education as contested terrain: The case of Nicaragua: 1979–1993. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Bates, A., Choi, T. H., & Kim, Y. (2019). Outsourcing education services in South Korea, England, and Hong Kong: a discursive institutionalist analysis. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057925.2019.1614431
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Herder and Herder.
Ghimire, B. (2020, May 29). The national budget fails to prioritise education, experts say. https://tkpo.st/2AiSQCZ
Rana, K., & Rana, K. (2020). ICT Integration in Teaching and Learning Activities in Higher Education: A Case Study of Nepal’s Teacher Education. Malaysian Online Journal of Educational Technology, 8(1), 36-47. http://dx.doi.org/10.17220/mojet.2020.01.003
Roy, A. (2020). The pandemic is a portal. Financial Times (3rd April). www.ft.com/content/10d8f 5e8-74eb-11ea-95fe-fcd274e920ca.
Dr Sharma is a scholar of Writing and Rhetoric who teaches at the State University of New York in Stony Brook. Recipient of the Nepal Vidya Bhusan (Nepal) and the Cross Award for Future Leaders of Higher Education (USA), Dr. Sharma in his research/publications and teaching focuses on academic writing (especially writing in the disciplines and graduate-level writing education), international education and students, and cross-cultural rhetoric and multilingual/translingual issues in writing. He writes a regular op-ed column in The Republica and writes about “language, literacy, and life” in his personal blog.
Our Choutari editor Jeevan Karki talked to Dr Shyam Sharma about writing education in Nepal, focusing on areas like beliefs and assumptions about writing, need of writing today, issues and challenges in our writing education, and some ways forward. This exclusive interview sheds light on writing in general and teaching writing in particular. We hope you will enjoy it! [Choutari Editors]
1. Whether children or the grown-ups, people are usually not ready to pick a pen/keyboard and start writing. Why are people scared of writing? Is writing a really painful and difficult task?
I am actually not sure I would frame the challenge as people being scared or hating to write, because research done in some countries has shown that people are writing a lot more today than they used to in the past. And that’s likely true in any country, including ours. We should instead ask who writes and who doesn’t, what kinds of writing people do, why they write and why they don’t (whether that is a question of liking or something else). That is, I wouldn’t worry about maybe just a few people not wanting/liking to write at all, or, perhaps, I would try to understand why not; that might have educational implications. In fact, I would go one step further and ask: Why should they? Maybe that’s where we can start a different kind of conversation, especially educational and pedagogical conversations.
That being said, there is such a thing as anxiety (and even fear) of writing, or writer’s block (though systematic teaching of writing seems to have made this largely a non-issue in recent decades), especially when it comes to doing certain types of writing. So, for example, I don’t think we can find a lot of people who are afraid or hate to write text messages to their friends and family. Most people like to do a variety of writing, or just do it (and not have fear or dislike of it). Maybe they struggle because of the screen size of mobile devices, the lack of input application for their language on any device, or the lack of spelling or other writing skills (especially if they’re afraid of being judged). Maybe they dislike having to write because they know that their writing is primarily meant to be judged, and judged negatively–such as when students who haven’t been taught social studies well wouldn’t want to write social studies exams. However, what I just mentioned are “factors” undermining writing, not a matter of dislike of “writing the message” itself, which, in that case, is the objective. And if the purpose and motivation is there, then the negative factors may disappear or diminish. This means that maybe we should as teachers focus on the factors that facilitate writing (trying to mitigate others that undermine writing). Also, finally, if “writing” means the process rather than getting something done (with or through writing), then, yes, there may be resistance or anxiety having to do with challenges related to the amount and types of skills needed for the process of writing, or for producing the desired text.
The educational question, then, is how can we as teachers teach and facilitate writing in ways that our students can develop the skills and confidence about the process of writing, can focus on the purpose of writing, and, indeed, on its joy sometimes? This will require us to break down the meaning of “writing” in ways that our students can focus on not just the act of writing, certain skills and tools they need to master, or the vague ideas and myths about writing. Instead, we should give them purposeful writing tasks (not just any writing tasks) and help them along the way. We should design tasks so that students either have or can discover what to say/write in the first place. We should stop teaching skills through drills and rules, unless we can do so within purposeful and inspiring contexts.
Writing–as in writing in exams, in timed situations, or when it seems to have no purpose other than to do it because you have to–can be painful. Our job as teachers is to make it more pleasant, or at least more purposeful and therefore more motivating, whenever it may not be so pleasant otherwise.
People (including students) are not just going to start “liking” writing — even if there is just one thing we can call writing. Most people already do and like and know how to write, and when we teach new kinds of writing, we can help them overcome any (possibly natural) anxiety by developing our own professional skills and knowledge about writing and writing pedagogy.
We can help students overcome any (possibly natural) anxiety by developing our own professional skills and knowledge about writing and writing pedagogy.
2. Writing is not a cup of tea for everyone and it is also believed that good writers are geniuses. To what extent do you believe this?
This extremely common assumption, honestly, is total nonsense–and I don’t say that to criticize the question, for, in fact, I am glad you asked it. The idea of writers as geniuses comes from literature and creative writing, and there too, it is a rather outdated idea. Modern writing education in many parts of the world is light years ahead of that kind of mythology, so I think it is time for us to do a lot more to ramp up and teach and write and research and publicize more up-to-date ideas about writing as in academic writing, day to day writing, professional communication, writing in social media, and so on. In the North American academic context where I now work, for instance, academic writing is taught by helping students analyze the context, audience, medium, and purpose (CAMP, as I tell my students) or by further using samples or peers’ work to critique and discuss how to write, so students can emulate how more experienced writers write (often learning how they too don’t always write perfectly). It is taught by taking students through the “process” (one of the god terms of modern writing studies), starting with reading or discussion, research or brainstorming, then pre-writing by outlining or mind mapping in a variety of ways, then drafting, then revising and peer reviewing, often rewriting parts of or the entire draft, then editing, and then proofreading. Teachers can teach component skills during the process, including how to read with writing as a purpose in mind, how to use necessary tools effectively, how to do research purposefully and reading strategically, how to turn off the internal editor while reviewing the overall draft, and so on and so forth. The ways in which we design the writing assignment or task makes a big difference, so this is another area where teachers must be educated or trained. I could go on, but here’s the point I’m trying to make: Some people have better aptitude for doing some things than others, and that is certainly true about writing, but the idea that good writers are geniuses is a dangerous mythology that educators need to give up and also teach their students by showing how it is not so.
I think it is time for us to do a lot more to ramp up and teach and write and research and publicize more up-to-date ideas about writing as in academic writing, day to day writing, professional communication, writing in social media, and so on.
3. You pointed out that the writing tasks are not appropriately designed and the teachers are yet to be trained to better facilitate their students in the writing process. In this context, what can we do locally to strengthen the teachers’ skills for teaching writing in the under-resourced context?
First, I think that administrators and leaders of colleges and schools must be trained/educated. This will help to create an environment and culture where the learning of writing is not seen as something that just “happens” when students know what to say/write. Of course, that’s a major component of writing, which is why just teaching writing skills outside of the context of subject/content doesn’t work well. But conventional beliefs and myths about writing like this–or the idea that you mentioned earlier, that good writing requires genius–must be countered at the institutional level. When training teachers, we can focus on particular purposes for which they would be interested in (or already need to) to teach students how to write better. One good place to start is exams; if teachers are provided training and resources for teaching their students how to score higher marks in the exam, then both students would have the incentive to spend time teaching and learning writing skills. Another purpose that might inspire teachers and students (and also institutions) to promote writing education would be professional communication, such as writing effective emails, crafting effective resumes, drafting and revising application letters and personal statements (or any high stakes writing), and using new media for communication (including social media). Teachers could also be provided a database of activities, assignments, assessment methods, and testing tools from which they can adopt and adapt the material for their classes; this may need to be presented with some illustration, such as through in-person or video training material, by experienced teachers/trainers. It takes a lot of time to change assumptions and habits about teaching and learning, and writing is one of the hardest things to integrate as an element of change.
The ways in which we design the writing assignment or task makes a big difference, so this is another area where teachers must be educated or trained.
4. Generally, our university graduates are not confident to compose a simple essay, application or reflection. What’s missing in our writing education? What’s going wrong in our teaching writing process?
Frankly, I don’t think we have a writing education that meets a fair standard yet. Yes, there are really talented instructors within English Education and English Studies departments who teach writing courses and writing skills. But the curriculum and especially the mode of assessment, faculty autonomy, institutional support, professional development opportunities for faculty, and a community of discourse and practice-sharing is limited–not to mention a robust scholarship that is produced by local scholars. Two years ago, in a brief talk that NELTA Central Office invited me to give, I shared a review of Writing Studies in Europe and North America, and highlighting our unique social and academic contexts, suggested that the discipline of ELT could embrace and advance the profession of teaching and researching writing. Other disciplines (English, Nepali, linguistics, journalism, rhetoric, or communication–in whatever form these exist) may also start more systematically and substantially advancing Writing Studies (with whatever name we give it locally). In fact, I strongly believe that it is important to dissociate writing skills and the study and teaching of writing with one language or another–meaning there should be an independent field of Writing Studies so it won’t be overshadowed by English or Nepali for that matter, although a balance of some kind would make sense–but we must also look at it pragmatically. ELT seems best positioned to advance teaching and scholarship of writing in Nepal, and it could help to advance multilingual/translingual writing and communication skills, as well as making writing pedagogy and scholarship adapted to our local realities. Without a strong disciplinary foundation, there won’t be sufficient production of new ideas through research, sharing of practice through professional events, promotion and advocacy of teaching and teachers of writing, and so on. It is time to advance this conversation on a broader, national scale.
Writing should be an independent field of Writing Studies.
5. Comparatively, the spoken skills are more dominant in our day to day life than these academic and professional writing. Why do we need to worry if everyone is not a good writer?
Well, writing serves distinct purposes–or, rather, a variety of purposes that are usually distinct from those that speaking serves. Fortunately or unfortunately, writing has become more and more important and necessary for more and more communicative functions in our lives, society, and professions–not to mention education. That is, everyone has to be a “good writer”–not in the sense of being a genius you mentioned earlier but in the sense being effective in communication using writing–in order to be successful academically and professionally. Information has exploded due to rapidly emerging technologies, not only in terms of its production but also sharing, retrieving, adapting, repurposing, and so on. And while a lot of information is being conveyed in images, sound, animation, and so on, writing continues to dominate and take more complex, often multidimensional forms. Its genres and functions are also rapidly increasing, making generic writing skills insufficient for all but the most basic purposes. This means that we need a lot of “writing education” in Nepal, an education that integrates full-fledged writing courses that are required of all students in schools and colleges, writing major for those who want to specialize at the undergraduate level, and writing degrees for those who want to develop more advanced professional skills or study it to advance the discipline and teach increasingly advanced courses in writing.
Without a strong disciplinary foundation, there won’t be sufficient production of new ideas through research, sharing of practice through professional events, promotion and advocacy of teaching and teachers of writing, and so on.
6. What are your suggestions for teachers to teach writing with ease in schools and colleges?
I would urge all colleagues, in any discipline (including in business and humanities and social and natural sciences) to learn how to integrate writing skills into their courses. That can enhance their students’ academic success and professional growth. To colleagues who are able to teach writing more explicitly and directly, such as within English Studies and English Language Education, I would urge them to study any scholarship (including essays on blogs like this) about writing pedagogy and research, find more to read from other countries, and continue to help advance writing education in any way they can. It seems to me that there is enough interest in the idea of systematically teaching writing that this could start taking the shape of a new discipline, or at least a rich new community of practice and scholarship. There is the tremendous opportunity for those who are paying attention, whether they be individual scholars and teachers or academic institutions.
In 2015, the global community of applied linguists lost one of the founding fathers and major theorists in Applied Linguistics/ELT, Professor Alan Davies. Since the inception of the field in 1957, Professor Davies continually contributed to various dimensions of Applied Linguistics such as language testing, language policy, English language teaching, sociolinguistics and second language learning through teaching, research, publications, seminars, and community service. He was a Professor Emeritus Professor Emeritus of Applied Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, UK (You can listen to his recent interview here).
However, many of us may not know that Professor Davies contributed to teaching, discourse, and policy regarding ELT and Applied Linguistics in Nepal. In the context of the sad demise of Professor Davies (in September 2015), I would like to dedicate this blog post to his legacy and share some of his major contributions to Nepali ELT and Applied Linguistics.
Known best for his theory of “native speaker” (see Davies, 2004, 2007, 2013) and principles/theories/ethics in language testing (e.g., Davies, 1997, 2003, 2008), Professor Davies have contributed to the inception, development and globalization of Nepali ELT/Applied Linguistics by discussing Nepal’s case in most of his popular publications that deal with language policy and politics, English language teaching, and local-global tensions.
Introduction of Applied Linguistics/ELT in Nepal
Many of us may not know that Professor Davies was Head of Central Department of English at Tribhuvan University. In 1969, with British Council’s support, Professor Davies joined the Central Department of English as Head. In his two-year stay, he introduced and taught linguistics and applied linguistics courses for MA students. The courses were deigned to train college teachers on how to teach English effectively. Reflecting on the courses, K. P. Malla, one of the reverent linguists in Nepal, says “Personally for me and many of my colleagues it was the first exposure to linguistics, particularly to Applied Linguistics” (Malla, 1976, p. 8).
He was Chair of the Board of English Studies in 1971. He reformed the existing English language syllabuses and introduced General English course for both the Intermediate and Bachelor levels in 1971. The new syllabus which Malla (1976) calls ‘Davies syllabus’ provided students with an exposure of contemporary spoken and written English and recognized the use of local English by including local newspaper reports and excerpts in the course.
In the early 1970s, Professor Davies, in collaboration with British Council developed in-service training courses for secondary school teachers. The courses focused on both English language development and teaching methods. Most importantly, a new school level English syllabus was developed. He also designed an experimental English language test items for School Leaving Certificates exams. He was the first keynote speaker for Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association [NELTA] in 1993. The NELTA conference was the first event that gathered teachers for academic discussions in ELT in Nepal.
The ELT Survey: Insights into ELT policy reforms
In 1983, when the public education was not yet well planned, Professor Davies was requested by the Ministry of Education and British Council to lead a team of experts to carry out an ELT Survey of Nepal. Two other British scholars, Alan McLean and Eric Glendenning, and three Nepali counterparts, Arun Pradhan, Niraj Kumari Bajracharya, and Jai Raj Awasthi, were involved in the project. The survey team was asked to: (a) observe and describe the status of English language teaching in schools; (b) analyze aim, content, format and the process of textbook development and other reference materials; (d) describe the English language examination system and its connection with ELT practices in schools; (f) assess English language proficiency of both teachers and students and analyze factors contributing to good and poor performance; (h) explore English language teaching methods; and (i) provide recommendations for policy reforms.
The major findings of the study are: a) the level of teachers’’ pedagogical expertise was not adequate due to lack of training and transfer of training into classes; b) the textbooks were appropriate and adequate for the local situation; however, they were not used effectively for the classroom purpose and needed editing and proof-reading; c) the SLC exams did not test students’ English language skills but they meant to test students’ memory of the content knowledge; d) the English language proficiency of both teachers and students was inadequate to fulfill the course objectives; e) the non-communicative techniques such as grammar-translation, rote-learning, choral repetition, gap-filling, and lectures were major techniques of teaching English; and f) the in-service teacher training provisions were not adequate to help teachers teach English effectively. Due to space limitation, I cannot discuss all the findings and issues identified by the survey team. However, I would like to highlight some major policy recommendations, which I think are still relevant to English language education policy reforms in Nepal.
First, the survey team clearly points out that there is no optimal age for learning a second/foreign language. Studies in second language learning show that adults can learn as good second or foreign language as, indeed better than, young children. Building on this research base and considering the low status of English, the survey team recommends to start English late—at Grade 8. Doing so, as the survey team recommends, helps the Ministry of Education invest more resources into three years of teaching English. Until 2003, English was taught from Grade 4. This means that the resources were spread over 7 years (Grade 4-10) in teaching English for school education. Most importantly, the survey team claims that “as much English is learned in 7 years by Grade 10 would be learned in 3 years (see Davies, Glendenning, & McLean, 1984, p. 6).
The survey findings show that starting English at Grade 4 resulted in students’ “repeated failure and loss of motivation to learn [English]. It also leads to a drain on English for school resources” (Davies et al., p. 6). The survey team contends that “extending the period of language learning may sound superficially sensible but in circumstances where so much of the teachers’ own English (and their teaching of English) is poor the problem would be compounded by three more years repeated failure” (Davies et al., 1984, p. 6). The survey team has clearly mentioned that lowering age for learning ESL/EFL is not a good idea to help all children achieve a better education.
English and nationalism
Professor Davies critically examines the space of English in education in the face of strong linguistic nationalism. When he was actively involved in research and teaching in Nepal, the national education policies and practices were guided Nepali-only policy for the nation-building purpose. The teaching and learning of language other than Nepali was discouraged. However, English was still taught and used as a medium of instruction in a British ‘aided’ public school and a Jesuit school. Moreover, rich families sent their children to different parts of India for English education.
While Nepali medium policy was promoted by the state in the guise of nationalism, English medium education was still available for high-middle class elites. Professor Davies is critical about the social divide implicated in the contemporary Nepali-English divide (see Davies, 1970, Davies et al., 1984). Critically analyzing the data that show a huge gap in English language of students and teachers from a British ‘aided’ English medium school in Kathmandu and the public schools outside Kathmandu (see Davies et al., 1984), Professor Davies contends that aid agencies should pay attention to what works best for the majority, especially for the poor, not just for the benefit of a few elites. To address this issue, Professor Davies have suggested that it is better to provide school level education in Nepali, a common national language, and focus on teaching English as a ‘specialist subject’ from the intermediate level.
However, the recommendations of the survey team did not receive any attention in educational policies. The English craze never went away. Professor Davies reflects on the ELT survey data in his 2009 paper in which he strongly argues that Nepal’s English language policy is not shaped by educational motive, but by political motive. In other words, learning English does not actually mean to develop English language proficiency, not even to participate in the process of learning it in many contexts. As Professor Davies argues, lowering the age for teaching English in Nepal is highly shaped by the symbolic value (social prestige) attached to English due to the Nepali-English divide in education for the sake of nationalism.
Professor Davies’ contributions are informed by his critical awareness of Nepal’s contemporary sociolinguistic and sociopolitical situations. He consistently argues that ELT policy in Nepal should be grounded on second language research and focused on what is appropriate for all children.
Professor Davies’ contributions to Nepal are very special and his ideas provide significant insights into creation of an educationally-grounded, locally appropriate, and equitable ELT policy. In the context that English is already taught from Grade 1 and gradually becoming a de facto medium of instruction in public schools, Professor Davies’ contributions make even more sense. His contributions do not just tell the history of Nepal’s ELT, but suggest what the present and the future of Nepali ELT should be. While we are rushing to introduce English from the early grades, Professor Davies’ studies remind us to critically think about the following questions:
Are the current policies and practices based on any educational research? What second language research studies inform them?
Why is there a huge gap between the policy (desired expectations) and on-the-ground practices?
What happens if we start teaching English after students develop strong literacy and academic skills in their first language, Nepali or bilingualism?
Who benefit from and who are represented in the current policy?
Do in-service English language teacher training programs actually help to improve the early English policy?
If studies on second language learning show no significant role of age in learning a second or a foreign language, why should we rush to introduce English from the early grades?
Does the current English medium of instruction policy in the early grades support students to achieve the national and curricular goals of each subject (e.g. Science, Social Studies, Mathematics) as specified by the government? Does this policy promote interactive and critical pedagogies?
These questions do not have definitive answers; however, they are important to consider in creation, implementation, and evaluation of ELT policy. Answering these questions require us to engage in the exploration of the locally-situated ELT issues and academically grounded debates that focus on both theories and pedagogies of equitable ELT policy. Teacher development, material writing, assessment, and classroom pedagogies all should have an educational base. Our engagement to answer above questions actually pays a true tribute to Professor Alan Davies from the community of Nepali ELT practitioners and applied linguists.
The author: Prem Phyak is currently a PhD candidate at department of second language studies, University of Hawaii in the USA.
Davies, A. (1970). The pedigree of nations. Ramjham, 6(3), 26-33.
Davies, A. (1997). Introduction: The limits of ethics in language testing.Language Testing, 14(3), 235-241.
Davies, A. (2003). Three heresies of language testing research. Language Testing, 20(4), 355-368.
Davies, A. (2004). The native speaker in applied linguistics. In A. Davies, & C. Elder (eds.), The handbook of applied linguistics (pp.431-450). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
Davies, A. (2007). An introduction to applied linguistics: From practice to theory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Davies, A. (2008). Assessing academic English: Testing English proficiency 1950-89—The IELTSsolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Davies, A. (2009). Professional advice vs political imperatives. In J. C. Alderson (Ed.), The Politicsof language education: Individuals and institutions (pp. 45–63). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Davies, A. (2013). Native speakers and native users: Loss and gain. Cambridge: Cambridge \ University Press.
Davies, A., Glendenning, E., & McLean, A. (1984). Survey of English language teaching in Nepal. Report presented to the His Majesty’s Government Ministry of Education and Culture,Kathmandu.
Malla, K. P. (1976). English language teaching in Tribhuvan University. Vasudha,16 (1), 1-19.
EMI has been a hot topic for research and interaction locally and globally. Choutari Editor Jeevan Karki has spoken to Prem Phyak, a PhD scholar from the University of Hawaii, US on EMI. Mr. Phyak critically shares his opinions on practices and realities on EMI and suggests some ways forward for EMI practice in Nepal. Here it goes:
Nepalese public/community schools are switching the medium of instruction to English day by day and the government is also in the campaign of training the teachers for promoting EMI. Is EMI the need of time or an effect of linguistic hegemony?
This is a complex question; it requires a thorough observation of local context and an critical analysis of what language education research findings have shown. Let me try to be as specific as possible. First of all, it is not quite clear why English must be the medium of instruction from Grade 1. What’s the purpose of English as the medium of instruction (EMI) policy? Does this policy really help children access both linguistic and academic knowledge? To put it differently, what’s wrong with teaching content area subjects (e.g., Social Studies, Mathematics, and Science) in Nepali and/or any other languages that students understand better? Of course, the English language has an important space in global multilingualism particularly to access globally available socio-economic and educational resources. However, this taken-for-granted assumption does not work quite well in education (teaching-learning process) particularly in the context where children speak languages other than English outside classroom (For many children in Nepal, English is the third language and they do not need to use English in their everyday social interactions). Whether or not students have a better understanding of the content of teaching/curricula largely depends upon whether or not the language used as the medium of instruction in school is comprehensible to them. Studies from all over the world have shown that most low-achieving and drop-out students are taught in a language other than the language(s) they speak at home/community.
The basic principle of learning in the classroom is: if students don’t understand the language of instruction, they are not able to achieve the curricular goals. Most importantly, they are, directly and directly, excluded from the whole learning process; students are not able to invest themselves in performing cognitive skills such as comprehending, evaluating, analyzing, and critical/independent thinking. What we must know is that if we care about and would like to put education and children at the forefront, the imposition of any language as the medium of instruction (e.g., EMI) in which students cannot fully operate in the classroom leads to numerous social, psychological, and cognitive issues. Studies have further shown that if children are forced to learn in “an insufficiently or poorly developed second [/foreign language], the quality and quantity of what they learn from complex curriculum materials and produce in oral and written form may be relatively weak and impoverished” (Baker, 2011, p. 166). It is basically wrong to force students, who have never learned and used English before they come to school, learn all the content area subjects in English (without any English language support) from the first day in school. We should also know that learning in Nepali has already been a problem for many children.
I think the question is not whether “EMI is the need of time”; rather we must engage in analysis of whether EMI is an appropriate approach to ensure access and meaningful participation of all children in teaching-learning process in the classroom. The current de facto EMI policy is fundamentally flawed; it seriously lacks academic/educational justifications that are grounded in language education theories and best practices. It is quite surprising to see that public schools are switching from Nepali medium to EMI policy without examining its educational, social, and cognitive ramifications. I don’t quite understand the intention of the government as well; if we closely look at the Ministry of Education’s policies and plans such as Education for All, Millennium Development Goals, School Sector Reform Plan and National Curriculum Framework, it wants to promote multilingual education by considering children’s home/community languages a resource for an equitable and quality education. Through these policies, the government has shown its commitment to ensure access, equity, and quality education for all children. Thus, it is completely unethical for the Ministry of Education to divest from its commitment to multilingual education and invest just on EMI as a monolingual approach to medium of instruction policy. In this sense, we can say the current EMI policy seems more hegemonic, i.e. it is shaped by the global dominance of the English language but not by its educational/academic rationale in the multilingual context of Nepal. However, I would like to mention that any policy (be it Nepali-only or English-only) that promotes monolingualism in education is hegemonic for multilingual students.
In Nepal, do you think we are ready for switching the medium of instruction especially in public/community schools?
Whether we are ‘ready’ for an EMI policy is not what we must be debating about. Rather we must engage in critically examining whether EMI contributes to promote both access and quality in education. Here, I would like to mention two things: first, we already have English as a ‘compulsory’ subject from Grade 1. From the first day in school, children must learn English, irrespective of their linguistic backgrounds (I learned English from Grade 4, but was never taught in EMI in school). My own observations and other studies show that public schools and teachers are facing a number of challenges to teach English-as-a-compulsory-subject from Grade 1. How can we imagine that the EMI policy works in this existential reality?
Second language acquisition and bilingual education studies have revealed that when students are not fully functional in the languages taught/used in schools, they are not able to fully engage in cognitive activities and perform academic skills well. We must also be aware of the fact that strong academic skills and knowledge/concepts that students develop in one language is always transferable to learning a new language. This means that it is important to help children develop their academic, cognitive, and linguistic abilities in their home language/community language before they are taught any new language. We have already seen this issue in teaching English-as-a-compulsory-subject. Therefore, we should first engage in understanding and reimagining how to teach ‘compulsory English’ effectively. I think we must be happy if we are able to effectively execute the English-as-a-compulsory-subject policy.
Most importantly, we must not forget that each academic subject, grade, and level has specific objectives that the nation wants students to achieve. In other words, the nation expects students to learn specific content knowledge and skills by the end of a subject, grade and level. While talking with me, teachers (science, social studies, mathematics, and even English) have said that it is ‘impossible’ to achieve subject-, grade-, and level-wise objectives through EMI. Let me share an anecdote. I was observing a Grade 2 science class; the topic of the lesson was the characteristics of living and non-living things. The teacher first asked students to open the science textbook (English translated version of the national textbook in Nepali) and wrote the topic on the board. He kept on reading the lines from the textbook and asked a series of questions to the students. What are living things? What do living things do? All the students were silent. I heard some students asking questions to each other in Nepali to check whether they understood what the teacher was teaching. The most difficult moment was when the teacher was unable to explain the meaning of the word ‘sensitivity’ [one of the characteristics of living things] and could not provide its actual meaning in Nepali to the students. Students remained frozen unless the teacher allowed them to talk in Nepali. As the students could not respond to the questions in English, the teacher himself wrote all the answers on the board and asked them to copy. There was no teacher-student communication at all, but very little student-student interaction in Nepali. The whole lesson was like an English language teaching class, rather than a science lesson. I have observed so many other Science and Social Studies lessons that end up being lessons on the “English language”. After each class observation, I asked Social Studies and Science teachers whether EMI is contributing to achieve the subject-, grade-, and level-wise goals of education. All teachers said “No” and preferred to teach these subjects in Nepali.
My point is that the language that is used as the medium of instruction in schools should not be detrimental to learning. I have seen that EMI is negatively affecting students’ academic skills (use of language for specific genre/communication, independent/collaborative learning, and critical thinking) and knowledge. What is most dangerous is that the de facto EMI policy has projected (quality) English language learning and teaching as synonymous to quality education, which is no other than a myth.
Which is the right level/age to introduce EMI in our education system? Why?
It depends upon whether or not students actually need EMI. The current EMI policy is very much top-down and based on very weak ‘commonsensical ideas’. What I am saying is that a language policy must embrace ‘on-the-ground’ language practices and realities and should be backed up by language education theories and findings; it should not be based on non-academic/education assumptions that a few people think might work well for all the children.
Talking of the right level to introduce EMI, we must be clear about some basic ideas about language and language ability. First, it is important to understand what language abilities are necessary in education. There are two general language abilities: conversational and cognitive academic language proficiency. Conversational proficiency is concerned with interpersonal communicative skills such as holding a conversation, introducing each other, talking with shopkeepers, and organizing meetings. On the other hand, cognitive academic language proficiency includes more complex language abilities needed to handle curriculum contents. It includes language abilities to engage in complex higher order thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, evaluation, hypothesizing, and generalizing in specific academic areas such as Social Studies, Mathematics, and Science.
Studies have shown that students take 2-4 years to acquire conversational language abilities while they take 6-8 years to develop cognitive academic language proficiency. This happens in very well planned educational policies with competent teachers, sufficient resources, and a continual support from the government. You know how badly our educational plans and policies are development without any comprehensive research. We must understand that conversational language abilities do not reflect cognitive academic abilities. In other words, we cannot judge students’ cognitive academic ability in terms of their fluency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in English. We must know whether students can cope with academic content areas through English. Considering the current failure rate in English (even in basic interpersonal skills), unplanned educational scenario, and an extremely limited understanding of language education in a multilingual context, I cannot exactly tell what level we should begin EMI. What I can say however is that introducing EMI without understanding existing conversational and cognitive academic language abilities of both students and teachers is detrimental to both access and quality in learning. A comprehensive plan based on an extensive research study must be developed, piloted, and examined what works and what does not. A non-negotiable principle we must keep in mind is: the language gap should not create educational/learning gap among students.
As Alan Davies, a famous applied linguist who has immensely contributed to the beginning of Nepal’s English language teaching, has recently argued, the expansion of English in Nepal (both as medium and subject) must not be guided by any ‘political motive’ (although it happened when he was leading a 1984 ELT Survey), rather it should be guided by an academic motive. In the 1984 ELT Survey and his 2009 article, Alan Davies has recommended that it is better to start English from Grade 8 so that students are well prepared to learn English and more resources (both teachers and other materialistic resources) can be concentrated on teaching better English. But as the secretary of the Ministry of Education and the representative from the royal palace rejected this academic idea, his survey team had to negotiate and agree on the Grade 4 start. But they have clearly mentioned that lowering English to Grade 1 is not academic sound and desirable. But as we seen now the Ministry of Education has already introduced English-as-a-compulsory-subject from Grade 1 and now promoting it as the medium of instruction.
If we to go for EMI, where should we start from- tertiary level to prepare teachers or from the school level?
I am not sure if I understood this question well. If you want me to comment on teacher preparation for EMI, I have to say two specific points. First, before we talk about teacher preparation we must be clear about the purpose of EMI. Most public schools are forced to introduce this policy because they want to increase the student number so that they get more teacher quotas from the government. They also want to compete with private schools. However, all these arguments are non-academic and very superficial that conceal real issues in public school management. Second, if we would like to discuss the issue of medium of instruction on the academic ground, we should seriously think about how we can prepare teachers to help children, who come from multilingual, multicultural and multiethnic backgrounds without having any exposure of the English language, learn curricular contents better. Based on experiences from all over the world, universities develop language teacher education programs and courses to address issues that teachers face on-the-ground. However, we do not have a strong language teacher education program that prepares competent teachers who can better handle a multilingual class in Nepal.
Let me share two issues with regard to teacher preparation for EMI. First, the way this policy has been pushed without setting up a rigorous teacher education program that both educates and trains teachers on the issues of language education does not seem to be sustainable and realistic. A professional-development (PD) model of teacher training, a famous model of teacher training in Nepal, is not sufficient for the teachers who have to work with a new language education policy. Thus, it is important for the Ministry of Education to collaborate with the universities to develop a new language teacher education program to deal with the current language issues. Second, and most importantly, the new teacher education program must embrace a multilingual approach to language teacher education in which teachers explore various models and approaches to teach multilingual students multilingually. In other words, they should know the fact that a multilingual medium of instruction policy not only promotes learning multiple languages, including English, but also promotes strong academic content knowledge. What I am saying here is that the ways in which teachers have been trained now simply promotes the monolingual ideology of ‘teach-in-English-for-English’.
Children in private boarding schools are taught in English medium and exposed to English language and culture since the first day of their admission. Similarly, all subjects expect Nepali are taught in English and public schools are literally copying the same practice. Do you think it is a good practice or there should be some limitation regarding the use of English language in schools?
Yes, you are right. Public schools are imitating what private schools have been doing in terms of the medium of instruction policy. As we know, private schools focus on English language teaching both as a subject and the medium of instruction. Let me mention two points: a) as private schools are profit-oriented institutes, they have been promoting the English medium of instruction policy as a principal feature of education even when the use of languages other than Nepali were banned in public schools. They taught English from Grade 1 even when the public schools were asked to teach English from Grade 4. Most private schools are located in urban cities and affordable only for high-middle class people; and b) private schools are considered ‘better schools’ because of their students’ higher pass percentage in School Leaving Certificate Exams (SLC), a gateway to higher education. Every year, private schools excel public schools in students’ passing rate in SLC. One of the major reasons for private schools’ success is the greater awareness of parents who send their kids to private schools. As these parents are already conscious about and can invest their time, money, and other resources in their kids’ education, most private school students receive proper guidance and resources (from both school and parents) that help them succeed in SLC. Contrary to this, most public school students, who live a rural agrarian life in lower-class families, do not have all these luxuries. And there are other political, educational, and managerial issues in public schools. Thus, many public school students are unsuccessful in SLC. This gap rooted in socio-economic class differences has eventually constructed a commonsensical assumption that private schools are better and their EMI policy is the only way to obtain quality education.
Public schools are following what private schools have been doing in terms of EMI policy. In various interactions (both formal and informal) with me, head teachers and District Education Officers hastily claim that they have to implement EMI because in this ‘adhunik jamana’ [modern age] English is necessary for ‘jagir, bidesh, and gunastariya shikshya” [job, abroad, and quality education]. However, they really don’t have answers to these questions: how EMI helps to achieve all these? Does it mean that students who are not taught in EMI do not get job and quality education?
Schools that practice English as medium of instruction are considered as better schools and are believed to provide quality education. Can EMI help promote quality education?
It’s unfortunate that EMI policy has been considered a panacea for educational issues in public schools. As described above, this policy does not seem to promote quality education in reality. Although it is hard to define what a quality education is, it is evident that the education that helps students develop independent, creative, and critical thinking/leaning skills; appreciate multiple perspectives while engaging in social interactions; and foster an increased awareness of both local and global sociopolitical issues is desirable for all children to succeed in the present world context. A quality education provides students with an opportunity to fully invest their cognitive abilities in making sense of the world where they live in. And a quality education eventually promotes both access and equity in education. What is most disturbing however is that schools are labeled ‘better schools’ or ‘worse schools’ based on whether or not they have implemented an EMI policy. Such evaluative discourses, policies, and practices are a very narrow-view about schools and education and they reduce the meaning of education just to learn English.
Public schools feel a strong pressure to increase the number of students, as mentioned above, to get more teacher quotas. In my interactions with head teachers, teachers, parents, and policymakers, I have found that public schools have introduced EMI to ‘compete with private schools’. Most head teachers argue that the EMI policy is necessary to attract more students in public schools. However, it is evident that the absence of the EMI policy is not the only reason behind the low student enrollment in public schools. Increased migration of people from rural to urban areas, unplanned opening of private schools in both rural villages and urban towns, and decreasing population growth are some of the major reasons behind the issue. Most interestingly, although most public schools have ‘announced’ the EMI policy to attract students, they have not been able to successful to implement the policy. They have asked students to buy English textbooks, but eventually end up translating everything into Nepali. Some head teachers have said that the EMI policy did not even work in their schools so they have started teaching in Nepali. They further said the policy created a lot of confusion among students and teachers. I have seen that students could not answer test items in English unless teachers translated the test items into Nepali. Some teachers give test items before test and dictate their answers in advance.
The assumption that the EMI policy fixes all the issues in public schools is a very myopic view on public education. Public schools (and, of course, private schools as well) can provide a better education in any language and language practices that students understand better and feel comfortable to express themselves.
What is your suggestion regarding the use and practice of EMI in the schools in Nepal?
First, at the theoretical level we must be clear that forcing students to learn academic content knowledge and skills in the language which they have not fully development yet is detrimental to effective learning. Thus imposing English as the medium of instruction, in the guise of an abstract quality education and an imaginary or unrealistic job market, without having an in-depth understanding of language education theories and best practices and without analyzing its educational ramifications may not help students develop strong academic skills and knowledge. Second, there is a clear distinction between teaching English as a language and using it as the medium of instruction. But the current EMI policy and practices are focused more on helping students develop English language proficiency, but not on achieving curricular goals as specified by the Ministry of Education. Most schools and teachers are not teaching Social Studies, for example, but they are teaching the ‘English language’—vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling, sentence structure, and so on. This implies that the entire teaching-learning activities turn to be activities for ‘teaching English’ and schools eventually look like an “English language institute.”
Third, and most importantly, our policymakers must be aware that there are models and best practices in which both language and academic content can be taught using multiple languages simultaneously in the classroom. Recent studies have shown that a monolingual medium of instruction policy does not work well for multilingual students. Thus it is important to redefine the current language education policies and practices including teacher education and professional development programs from a new multilingual perspective.
Finally, as the Ministry of Education has already developed a multilingual education policy and shown its commitment to promote access and equity in education, it is not professionally and institutionally ethical for any organization to focus only on a monolingual approach to education, including teacher training. A multilingual approach to language education not only provides equal space to all languages, including English, but also promotes better language and academic content learning. So it is the right time to redesign our teacher education programs, professional-development modules, and teacher training packages considering our local multilingual complexity and the role of English in it.
Baker, C. (2011). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism (5th ed.). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
It is often assumed that a target language can be best taught in the target language. This assumption basically developed from the Direct Method, which emphasized that translation and use of the learners’ language is detrimental to the learning of the target language. This ideology influenced the succeeding methodologies in the field of English language teaching and teaching of other second languages. In the audio-lingual method also, teaching and use of the learners’ first language was considered a detrimental factor in the success of language learning. This ideology and practice is best suited in contexts where learners are almost fully competent in the target language. However, this case is very rare because if the learners are already competent in the target language, why should they bother to sit in the second language classroom? Learning in the second language, for example in English, may provide more exposure to the learners since they may be able to receive more hours of English. However, lack of adequate proficiency in that language is likely to severely affect their general learning as well as their learning of content subjects such as mathematics and social studies. When the learners do not grasp what the teacher is teaching in the classroom, she does not only abstain from important information being taught, she also feels left out, excluded and discriminated. Research literature from around the world shows evidence for that.
The concern regarding the use of English as a medium of instruction has drawn a considerable attention from both teachers and policy makers in the context of Nepal. While the “English-medium” private schools have long been bragging the English-only policy and practice in their schools, teachers have always been agentive in resisting this ideology, making varied use of learner’s language. I was an English teacher in a private school in Chitwan for about five years from 1996-2001, and while teaching English, I consciously made use of Nepali in various degrees. Teaching English, only in English benefitted only those who had developed a considerable degree of proficiency in English; those with little knowledge of English suffered a lot.
Translingual pedagogy: some cases
The concern regarding the benefits and drawbacks of English-only policy is not a Nepal-specific issue. In order to address the complexities of bilingual and multilingual schools and societies, researchers and teachers have recently shown an increased interest in using a translingual pedagogy. Translingual pedagogy or translingualism largely refers to a conscious and dynamic use of two or more languages in a language classroom. In such contexts, the teacher is competent in using both languages. Professor Ofelia Garcia is well known for elaborating this concept in bilingual classrooms in the US. In a thought-provoking post that she wrote a while ago for Choutari, she mentions:
Translanguaging in education can be defined as a process by which students and teachers engage in complex discursive practices that include ALL the language practicesof students in order to develop new language practices and sustain old ones, communicate and appropriate knowledge, and give voice to new sociopolitical realities by interrogating linguistic inequality (Garcia, 2013, https://neltachoutari.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/translanguaging-to-teach-english-in-nepal/).
Two other researchers, Adrian Blackledge and Angela Creese, from the UK have also shown compelling evidence of using two languages concurrently in a second language classroom. They write:
We also find examples of the need for both languages, for the drawing across languages, for the additional value and resource that bilingualism brings to identity performance, lesson accomplishment, and participant confidence (Creese and Blackledge, 2010: 112).
Such evidences suggest that learners benefit largely by being taught in two languages.
Translingual practices in an ESP classroom
I have long been interested in the use of English in non-formal and informal educational contexts in Nepal. One of my previous studies investigated how learners of English in Nepal navigate information technologies such as Facebook in order to enact and practice their bilingual identities. Recently, I have been researching on the teaching, learning and use of English and other foreign languages in Nepal’s tourism industry. As a case in point, Travellers’ World (pseudonym) in Thamel, Kathmandu, offers English courses for porters and trekking guides two times a year – in monsoon and in winter- each lasting for about a month. I was in the monsoon class for a month in 2013, observing the class, taking notes, recording classroom interactions and interviewing the teachers and the students. As a noticeable finding relevant to the present essay, I here provide two examples which at times show contradictory practices.
Point 1: Travellers’ World has a policy to hire “native” English speaking volunteer tourists who tend to be from English speaking countries such as Australia, the UK and the US. I was in a class taught by a volunteer teacher from the UK. She hardly spoke any Nepali. The students, as you might guess, had only basic language and literacy schools, and their English competence was notably poor. Here, I reproduce my observation notes and a piece of classroom dialogue below.
The teacher was teaching how to write a CV. She first briefly explained what CV is and what it is used for. She wrote Curriculum Vitae on the board and asked the students if they knew it before. A few nodded. One student mentioned that CV means bio-data. The teacher acknowledged the student’s response and distributed a one-page handout that contained a template for writing a CV. She then divided the class into three groups. The students seemed confused, looking at each other and at the teacher, speaking unclearly in Nepali. The following interaction occurred meantime:
T: What are you writing in your CV? (addressing to one a student)
S: (pause) I am writing…
T: Okay. You need to write your education background.
T: You can write about a famous person. Write about a famous person’s CV.
T: Oh yeah. Write Barack Obama’s CV for the presidential post? For example you are Barack Obama and you want to apply for the post of President. How do you like the idea?
S: Good good. (laughs)
(pause for a while)
T: What about you (to another student). (pause) Do you like sports?
S: Oh, I write David Beckham. I like football.
Most of the students did not have their education beyond the School Leaving Certificate (SLC, equivalent to Grade 10). Some of them were school dropouts, who did not continue their formal education after grade 5. At first, writing a CV that asked for their university education obviously created a problem for them. Rather than helping students to prepare a CV that included their own information, the teacher assigned a more daunting task of writing the American President’s CV. Another student perhaps thought only the famous people in the world have their CVs and he proposed writing a famous British soccer player’s CV. CV for them meant biography. The students encountered more problems later when they had to write their previous work experience for the posts they were supposed to be applying for. Second, because the students could not grasp the teacher’s English, they could hardly make sense of what she was saying. Since the teacher did not speak any Nepali, there was no way that the students ask her to translate words or explain the meaning of the English words in the language they could understand. Even if she explained them the meaning, it was in English, which often lead the students to more challenging cognitive tasks. Often, students would look at each other talking with their eyes or gestures. Their silent talks were in Nepali, and they apparently were looking for meanings and definitions in Nepali. Those who were sitting by me would ask me ‘Nepalima ke bhnacha, sir?’ (What do you say in Nepali, sir?). I would happily volunteer to help them out by telling them in their language. At the same time, however, I feared that teacher would not like my intervention since I was permitted only to “observe” her class, not to make any interventions. Had the teacher known some level of Nepali, the students would have benefitted significantly. My point of giving the example above is that both the students and the teacher should be able to understand each other and the task being implemented in the classroom. There were problems with English-only instruction: students were lost and often solicited my responses.
Point 2: Students’ practices were reasonably translingual. Their conversations among themselves were in Nepali. They tried to speak to the teacher in English, but at times would insert Nepali words (which, as you know, did not make sense to the teacher). Their class notes reflected their translingual competence. Given below is an example of class notes by one of the students named Chhatra.
Chhatra’s note was produced during a group work. The students were asked to report their activities in the past simple tense. Chhatra took notes using the past tense before he reported his activities to his group members and to the teacher. His notes show the characteristics of what they recognize as broken English. Chhatra told me that his writing represents English words as he hears them. First few lines are in Nepali with occasional translation into English and vice versa. His literacy skill in Nepali also shows characteristics that do not conform to the standard Nepali writing. For example, the word उभएचा (ubhaecha) in the second line should be उभएचर (ubhaechar) in standard Nepali, and the word डेफे (defe) in the third line should be डाँफे (danphe) if we follow the standard writing system in Nepali. Similarly, Chattra’s English writing shows orthographic peculiarities in its use: he uses ‘treek’ for ‘trek’, ‘languse’ for ‘language’, ‘contuse’ for ‘continuous’, ‘averyd’ for ‘everyday’, ‘staday’ for ‘Saturday’ and ‘vigited’ for ‘visited’.
To take the point further, Chhatra shows his complex translingual skills. Although the language of instruction of his class is English-only, he appropriates that with his “non-standard” English skills, combined with various degrees of proficiency in Nepali. This shows that students look for and benefit from combining varied linguistic and literacy resources at their disposal.
Societies are being more multilingual today. Students come from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. If teachers can wisely use bilingual resources, students will benefit more. Teachers in Nepal have been doing this although schools may have various policies regarding the use of English in classrooms. To conclude, while it at first seems that students get more exposure of learning if they get more hours of English talk in their class (in ideal cases where all students equally understand English and the concepts being taught in that language), systematic and dynamic use of English and Nepali (or another local language) will have more positive learning experiences and outcomes.
Creese, A. and Blackledge, A. 2010. Translanguaging in the Bilingual Classroom: A Pedagogy for Learning and Teaching? The Modern Language Journal, 94, 102-115.
Can be cited as:
Sah, P.K. (2015, August). English medium instruction (EMI) in Nepalese education: potential or problem? [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Retrieved from<https://eltchoutari.com/2015/08/english-medium-instruction-emi-in-nepalese-educationpotential-or-problem/>.
Many non-native English speaking countries have taken on English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) owing to the growing need for developing communicative competence in English that may fulfill the increasing demand for English language in order for socioeconomic and sociopolitical development . The rise of English as a global lingua franca seems to be further forcing non-native speakers to learn English and many countries are trying to drastically overhaul their education system in favour of English in order to meet the challenge of global integration. The rapid change to EMI in developing countries, for example Ghana and Rwanda, unprepared for such a vast change is causing havoc in some educational systems. EMI, therefore, has become a much-hyped issue today and it attracts a wide range of studies globally.
Nepal, one of the developing countries, that has not yet been able to sustain a single educational policy with full effects is now implementing EMI education in public schools. The decision of introducing this huge change is made with no proper plans; however, some mere studies are on track. It has been evident that some countries, such as Ghana, Turkey and Rwanda, have failed to continue EMI education because of the lack of educational infrastructure, teachers’ proficiency in English, proper teacher education programmes, and in-service professional development (Tylor, 2010). If we have a close look at the present Nepalese situations, the Ministry of Education (MOE) does not seem to be well prepared to meet the basic requirements for the successful implementation of EMI. Questions would thereby arise as to why the MOE has opted for EMI education over Mother-tongue based multilingual education.
EMI policy has also benefited many contexts, namely India, Pakistan and Spain, with suitable outcomes. They, however, used appropriate plans and principles (Marsh, 2006). Some countries initially failed to receive the set objectives and further developed plans that could lead to a successful implementation of EMI education. One of such contexts is a Ghanaian context where they introduced ‘bilingual transitional literacy programme’ and ‘Bridge to English’ in order to build up suitable situations for the implementation of EMI education.
EMI is therefore an interesting topic to discuss and is consequently receiving a huge attention from language policy researchers. This article draws on global issues in terms of the adaptation of EMI education. It also attempts to discuss whether EMI is a radical need for Nepalese education, or it may pose further problems. The issues related to possible effects of EMI in Nepalese public schools are further accounted for with some recommendations for a successful execution of EMI.
Do we need EMI education?
The switch to English medium education is a subject of considerable debate internationally because it impacts the acquisition of young people’s national language and the future development of the national language itself. Nepal is a home of 123 indigenous languages, and unfortunately a large number of these languages are dying. It was 1990 when the constitution outlined the provision for mother-tongue education in primary level, following of which Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) produced textbooks in 18 different local languages. This had showed some possibilities for promoting local languages and creating more opportunities for cognitive development in children through L1, on the other hand. There is evidence that some countries rejected EMI policy in order to protect home language such as Bangladesh, Israel, Senegal and Venezuela (Dearden, 2014). Moreover, SLA studies show that learners benefit from using their home language in education especially in early grade years. Thus, would it be advisable to protect home languages and ensure children’s effective learning through L1 instruction? Multilingual education, in addition, was launched in 2007 and studies claimed it to be effective in terms of language and content learning. However, with the termination of Finnish Government’s technical assistance, the programme could not sustain. This thereby questions why the concerned authority did not choose to continue multilingual education with their own sources of funding and resources rather than seeking to implement new programmes, namely EMI.
The MOE is implementing EMI policy to ensure quality education in public schools and increase the number of students by considering Nepalese parents’ perception of having of their children’s better future. Sultan (2012) drew on national examinations in Indonesia that children from English medium schools outperformed, which can also reflect Nepalese situation, and they proactively involved in learning English. Paulsrud (2014), in the similar vein, revealed from a Swedish context that the EMI learners were more motivated and confident academically. It is a common perception among Nepalese people that children will have better future prospects if they have English medium schooling (Aryal, 2013). A similar context was also realized in Pakistan (Khan, 2013). There is no doubt that EMI is associated with socio-economic realities that English is largely needed for global employment and higher studies. The need for English can thereby not be ignored; however, questions arise whether English medium education enhances quality education and performs a pathway out of poverty in developing countries like Nepal.
Wagle (2015) argues that if about 150 Nepali medium schools could outperform in School Leaving Examination (SLC), the medium of instruction may not be responsible for poor quality education in public schools. The MOE can advisably look at other aspects such as quality teachers, teaching materials and resources, curriculum and syllabus, and school management.
There may not be much harm to go for EMI education provided that the MOE can ensure the availability of qualified and proficient English speaking teachers, in-service professional development courses, teaching materials and resources, technical support to schools, and proper plans and principles. If teachers do not have high level proficiency in English and a lack of suitable materials, general education can be detrimentally affected. Poor educational quality will adversely affect all national indicators including health, social wellbeing and economic performance. Such a scenario would be a tragedy in Nepal, one of the developing countries in the world, and suffering the after effects of a catastrophic earthquake. It can hence be suggested to teach English merely as a subject rather than implementing a bad EMI.
What if EMI is preferred?
The implementation of EMI education can be welcomed if the MOE intends to bridge the gap between private and public schools in terms of ensuring quality education and addressing the perception that English is needed for better future prospects. This may increase the number of students in public schools and provide with an opportunity for children from lower economic status to be educated in English medium- so called a ‘standard education’. However, it is primarily important for the MOE to develop plans for successful implementation of EMI. It is equally necessary for them to identify the conditions that can lead to success. The attention of the MOE, concerned teachers and institutions should be drawn to the following issues:
Inquiry from the existing EMI situations
Before EMI is executed in schools, there requires inquiries to be focused on collecting information on different facets of EMI, for example potential challenges, effects , attitudes towards EMI, from the schools that have already adopted EMI. The information can be from the policy level to implementation level.
Programmes in conjunction to EMI
The unplanned change in educational policy is likely to receive a number of unforeseen problems, and it may lead to failure. It is thus necessary to develop small scale programmes in relation to EMI. For example, a ‘Bridge to English’ programme can be developed that would help learners and teachers enhance the communicative competence in English. A type of complementary education programmes can be taken on in order to boost EMI education.
Teachers’ proficiency in English:
It is, by no means, a good idea to implement EMI unless the teachers are competent users of English language since exposing children to erroneous form of English would develop inaccurate and inappropriate English language proficiency. This would even develop frustration among children that they do not understand the medium of instruction, and eventually do not stay in schools (Cummings, 2009). This is, however, going to be a huge challenge for the MOE to ensure all the teachers have the level of competence in English language. To meet this challenge, the MOE has started intensive training for teachers from primary schools across the county (Kantipur, 2015). It is aimed that the teachers will be provided with ten-day training for all subjects, and one month training for general English. This seems to me near to impossible to develop English language proficiency and content teaching skills with these short periods of trainings. There would also be questions in the quality and ability of teacher trainers. It is suspected whether the MOE has teacher trainers who are experienced with EMI teaching principles and practices, or they are the means to read out handouts developed in other contexts. Primarily, it is of high importance to develop a set of well qualified teacher trainers, who have native level of proficiency in English language. It would also be unwise if they are recruited without a formal certification in the domain and a level of scores in English language proficiency tests such as IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE.
Developing appropriate instruction materials
Availability of appropriate teaching resources further plays a determining role whether EMI would be successfully implemented. Tamtom et al (2012), in a comparative study of the implementation of EMI, found the lack of appropriate instructional materials as a prominent barrier to the success of EMI in almost all contexts. Hence, the concerned authority needs to develop instructional materials for both learners and teachers keeping the unique Nepalese context in loop. This may have concern about the variety of English that the curriculum is based on, and whether it would be a partial or total immersion into EMI. By the variety of English, I refer to the issue of World Englishes- whether the curriculum focuses on a local variety or inner circle variety. Moreover, a decision needs to be made over the type of EMI immersion it required to be used in curriculum.
Can we also think of ‘translanguaging’ and ‘plurilingual’?
Translanguaging is an approach to bilingual education that facilitates accessing different linguistics features of autonomous languages in order to maximize communication competence. In other words, learners receive input in one language and produce output in other language. For example, a learner reads a story in English and summarizes it in Nepali. It is argued that it facilities a deeper understanding of the subjects taught since if a learner can understand contents in one language and discuses it in other language, it requires a deep metal mechanism.
In Nepalese context, we experience students from Nepali medium schools often face difficulties to express the content in English although they have good knowledge on the topic because they are exposed to two different individual languages rather than mixing the two languages in a single lesson. Recently I met an Indian lady who was taught in English from her primary level. She hardly got any opportunity to learn and mediate her knowledge in Hindi, her mother tongue. Consequently, she struggles to communicate in Hindi, and therefore faces challenges to communicate with her own people who share Hindi as a common language. Translanguaging therefore can be an effective approach to content teaching and learning in Nepalese context where learners can develop Nepali and English language concurrently. However, looking at the linguistic background of Nepalese classrooms, we can find students who already know two or more languages, for example Newari and Nepali, before they start receiving instruction in English. In addition, there is another group that has an L1 such as Bhojpuri, Maithali, Gurung and Awadhi, and Nepali as an L2 that they start learning in schools along with English as a third language. Literally, the majority of Nepalese classrooms are multilingual. In this case, I doubt whether translanguaging can a better option; this can a subject of further research. Nevertheless, ‘plurilingual’- a condition in which a learner who has competence in more than one languages can switch between the languages- can be another effective approach in Nepalese context as the majority of learners are bilinguals. This does not only help learners develop their overall learning but also preserves and promotes other indigenous languages.
With the increasing demand of English language for global integration, the choice of schooling children in English has been given a major priority in developing countries including Nepal. And, in fact, we cannot ignore the need for English as a global lingua franca. However, there are very limited success stories of EMI, and the successful countries evidently based the policy on appropriate educational principles. The ad hoc implementations are very likely to be counterproductive. The overall goal of EMI is to help children acquire English language that enable them to cope up with globalization. However, a concern remains as what if other languages will replace English in future, for example Mandarin (Chinese) or French, as China is growing as the most hegemonic country in global corporate world that is obliging even English people to learn Mandarin. Moreover, a total adaptation of EMI will keep children deprived of their local languages making them lost citizens of the word that they do not have linguistic identification. Therefore, would it not be a good idea to adopt or develop an educational policy that can account for developing English language and local languages simultaneously? Translanguaging and plurilingualism are one of the other options that Nepal can opt for instead of implementing EMI on an ad hoc.
Khan, H. I. (2013) An investigation of two universities’ postgraduate students and their teachers’ perceptions of policy and practice of English medium of instruction in Pakistan universities. Unpublished thesis PhD, The University of Glasgow.
Marsh, D. (2006) English as medium of instruction in the new global linguistic order: Global characteristics, local consequence, METSMaC, 2006
Paulsrud, B. Y. (2014) English medium instruction in Sweden: Perspectives and practices in two upper secondary schools. Stockholm: Stockholm University
Tamtam, A. G., Gallagher, F., Olabi, A.G., and Naher, S. (2012) A comparative study of the implementation of EMI in Europe, Asia and Africa, ELSEVIER, 27 (2012), pp. 1417-1425.
Taylor, S. K. (2010) MLE policy and practice in Nepal: identifying the glitches and making it work. In K. Heugh, & T. Skutnabb-Kangas (Eds.), Multilingual education works: From the periphery to the centre (pp. 204-223). New Delhi: Orient Black Swan.
I now teach at a prestigious university within the largest and one of the best American public university systems, the State University of New York.
But twenty-four years ago, when I first appeared the SLC, I failed.
Now, I am not about to tell you a wonderful story. Sorry, there are more stories of suicide than of success in this regard. I am instead telling my story, for the first time beyond my family, in order to make a very broad point about the SLC exam and our society. Continue reading Ditch it: SLC Exams→
Testing is inevitable although not desirable. It is necessary in order to keep the track of overall progress of language teaching programme. Debates have been going on for and against the testing. However, the important point to note here is that it is the faulty process of testing that is being criticized not the concept of testing itself. In fact, such criticism is necessary as it can help improve the system. The sphere of language testing in Nepal is also not free from criticism. Therefore, we decided to test the testing system of Nepal in this interactive article. We have attempted to explore the existing problems in the field of language testing and possible solutions to them after an interaction with experts and readers. We believe such interactive can play a significant role to reform the system. A thematic question was asked to language experts as well as Choutari readers. The question was ‘What is a major problem in language testing system of Nepal and what can be the solution to it?’ Among the responses collected, we have presented the opinions of eight respondents here:
There are many problems with current language testing regime (as well as some good things). One issue that’s come up in our conversations is how testing practices typically ignore multilingual competencies. At first, this may seem like an impossible ideal, but if you look deeper, the question becomes why not. Ours is a multilingual society and students’ language proficiencies are not isolated; their English is a part of a complex sociolinguistic tapestry; their other languages don’t “hamper” English; languages aren’t just mediums but rich epistemological resources; and, humans have always spoken multiple languages without seeking a monolingual standard. So, when we face the task of teaching and testing students’ English abilities in isolation, we shouldn’t act like helpless slaves of the system; when discussing the roots and stems and branches and bitter fruits of the current regimes, there’s no need to surrender to the “reality.” The reality includes politics, power, and possibilities beyond their grips, and thus, we must broaden the base of our discussions so we can see testing as a broader phenomenon than, well, testing. Scholarly conversations under the tree here can and should help the community rethink the fundamentals.
Shyam Sharma is an Assistant Professor in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stony Brook University (State University of New York)
I call it an ‘issue’ rather than a ‘problem’; why do we still ‘test’ monolingual ability (although our students have bi-/multilingual ability)? Another issue embedded within this issue is: How can we test students’ multilingual ability? First, we must be clear that ‘testing’ is not a ‘fixing-shop’ where you can fix a ‘problem’ rather it is a complex discipline which needs a critical scrutiny from multiple perspectives for a valid evaluation of students’ ability. Our assumption that ‘language testing’ should only test ‘monolingual ability’, meaning that multilingual testing is impossible, is the major challenge for reforms in language testing. This dominant assumption decontextualizes language testing from students’ cultural, linguistic and educational contexts. So, the major issue is: our tests are not context-sensitive. For example, I still remember that we were often asked to write an essay in SLC (School Leaving Certificate) exam about different highways in Nepal but I had never seen any highways (when I was in school). We were asked to memorize their lengths, construction dates and so on. I could not even conceptualize what a ‘highway’ was. However, I could write more and better when I had to write about ‘my village’ or ‘my school’.
The issue of contextualization is closely associated with testing multilingual abilities; locally-contextualized test items require students to work with their abilities in more than one language. For example, when I had to write an essay about my village I used to think in Limbu, Nepali and English. I (and my friends) could not think about the topic in only one language – no separation of languages! But the tests did not allow me to use my Limbu and Nepali abilities while writing essays in English. This is the major issue, right? If language tests are meant to test ‘language ability’, why don’t we test students’ functional abilities in multiple languages? This applies to Nepali language tests as well. For example, when students speak Nepali they simultaneously use English as well (and/or other local languages if their first language is other than Nepali); one cannot create the fixed boundary of a language. Suppose a bilingual student writes “आजको class मा कस्तो frustrate भएको…” (I had frustration in today’s class) for her Nepali essay (it can be more complex than this in the case of Maithili and Newari children, for example), how do we evaluate her Nepali language ability? The first reaction could be ‘असुद्द” (incorrect –literally impure). However, she is expressing her views fluently by using both Nepali and English in her repertoire. She cannot separate one language from another. This means that monolingual tests do not test students’ bilingual or multilingual abilities. Unfortunately, the students who show their bi-/multilingual abilities in language tests are considered ‘deficient’ and ‘poor’. However, the above example represents the use of language in the real-life (authentic) context.
There are ways to test multilingual abilities. For example, an inquiry-based formative assessment, which engages students in doing research and working with teachers to receive qualitative feedback on their work, can be one way to help them fully utilize their multilingual abilities. Such assessments encourage students to translanguage (use multiple languages to perform different tasks) to achieve the goals as specified by the test criteria. However, any kind of so-called ‘standardized test’, which are guided by the monolingual assumption, cannot test bi-/multilingual abilities. We should say a big ‘NO’ to the standardized tests if we truly believe in developing equitable language testing.
Prem Phyak is an MA (TESOL), Institute of Education, University of London, UK, M.Ed., Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Tirth Raj Khaniya:
Lack of professionalism is the main problem of English Language Testing in the context of Nepal. Professionalism is known as ability of applying fairness, ethics and standards in exam related issues. While dealing with exam related matters we need to be fair. We assume that we are professional but in reality we are not professional thus the test is not testing what it is supposed to test.
In language testing for teachers’ to be professional they require both necessary skills and abilities and application of those skills and abilities in a proper manner. To maintain professionalism it is necessary to have wide discussion among teachers and therefore all those who are involved in exams will have clear understanding.
Tirth Raj Khaniya has a Ph. D. in Language Testing from University of Edinburgh, UK. Currently, a Professor of English Education, he teaches language testing in the Department of English Education, TU.
Ganga Ram Gautam:
The main problem of language testing in Nepal is that the test itself is faulty. It does not test the language skills but test the memory of the text materials given in the textbook. There are also other several problems that include the issues with the test writers, test item construction, test administration and validation of the tests.
One solution of this problem could be to develop standardized tests and administer them in the various key stages such as primary level, lower secondary level and secondary level. In order to do this, we need to train a team of experts to develop the test and the test should be standardized by going through the reliability and validity testing. Once the tests are developed, they should be administered in a proper way so that the real language proficiency of the students can be obtained.
Ganga Ram Gautam is an Associate Professor at Mahendra Ratna Campus, Tribhuvan University and former president of NELTA.
There is no need to reiterate that the aim of the learning a foreign language is to be able to communicate in it. In order to find out whether English language learners in the Nepalese schools have developed communicative skills in this foreign language, there is a provision for the testing of listening and speaking at the SLC level. I feel that this test is not serving the purpose. The lowest marks students get in speaking is 10 out of 15, which is 66%. However, when we communicate with the SLC graduates (let alone who fail the examination), most of them perform very poorly. There are two reasons for this inflated marking: the speaking test includes predictable questions for which the responses can be rehearsed: personal introduction, picture description and one function-based question (which is repeated so often that students can prepare a limited set of responses and be ready of the test). Secondly, there is a kind of extreme leniency in the examiners; they just award marks irrespective of the quality if the responses.
Two interventions could improve the situation. Firstly, the examiners should be trained to ask very simple everyday realistic questions which students cannot respond without knowing the language. Secondly, each test should be video recorded so that inflated marks can be easily scrutinised. Administrative issues should not come in the way of quality testing which has far-reaching consequences.
Laxman Gnawali is an Associate Professor at Kathmandu University and Former Senior Vice President of NELTA
Laxmi Prasad Ojha:
I think we are giving too much priority to examinations and tests in our education system. We do not understand the purpose of testing and evaluation. We don’t test the comprehension and understanding of students. This is the main cause of the failure of our education system in many cases, including the language teaching programmes.
I think “formative” should be the key word here. Laxmi ji, pointed out an important bottleneck we have experienced due to lack of purpose of testing and evaluation. If we think of a typical Nepali school, we do give more importance on summative tests than the formative ones. What we seriously lack (and that’s why we have a tremendous opportunity to work on) is systematic feedback for student.
Uttam Gaulee is Graduate Research Fellow, University of Florida College of Education, Gainesville, Florida
Bal Krishna Sharma:
Yeah, one way would be to introduce and practice more formative type of assessment. This will evaluate and test students’ ongoing progress and learning outcomes.
Ph.D. student, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Although the issue was one, the thematic question unbelievably raised so many genuine issues. The respondents highlighted the issue of testing multilingual competencies apart from only testing monolingual ability and also suggested some ideas on how to test students’ multilingual abilities. In the same way, the interaction raised the issue of lack of professionalism in language testing. Similarly, the respondents also urged that our memory-driven testing system itself is faulty. Furthermore, there is problem in test construction and administration and suggestion is put forward to develop and practise standarized tests to minimize the problems. In relation to the problem in testing listening and speaking in SLC exam, it emphasized that the test items are predictable and examiners are lenient and award marks irrespective of quality. The solution proposed is to train the examiners properly and introduce the system of video recording students’ performance. On the other hand, overemphasizing exams and not testing what it should test is characterized as a problem. The solution discussed over such problem is to give more importance to formative test rather than summative test, which helps keep the track of students’ achievement.
Now the floor is open for you. Share what you think is the problem of testing system in our context and what can be the solution. We believe such interaction contributes in the development of innovative ideas in ELT.
Language testing cannot be separated from the changing understanding of the nature of language, language abilities, and language teaching and learning. Accordingly, what is to be tested in language teaching has drastically been changing in recent times as a result of changes in what is to be taught. In this regard, we have entered a new era in language testing, which is classroom assessment also termed as performance assessment.
In recent years, there has been a growing discussion on whether classroom testing should replace other tests. In this essay, we suggest that it should work as a supplement to paper and pencil tests. The method may not be capable of replacing established methods of testing but there are a number of benefits that make classroom-based language testing more genuine and better attuned to effective language teaching and learning by today’s standards.
Let us begin with the central role of teacher in classroom assessment through this real story.
In an award giving ceremony to School Leaving Certificate (SLC) graduates, a teacher stepped forward and asked a particular student whom he had taught for years, “How did you get the first division, you deserve the second division.” Though the student passed SLC and got certificate of the first division, the teacher remarked so confidently that he should not have got first division.
It indicates the fact that teacher spend long time with his/her students and are able to evaluate them more or less rightly. In many countries, a teacher is the authority. If a student is unable to sit in the final examination because of certain reasons; the teacher has a right to recommend grades or percentages to examination board based on the students’ internal/classroom assessment and the board accepts it. Doing that makes teacher fair and ethical. However, there are many other contexts where teachers have not gained this sort of credibility. The point is it is the teacher who can best judge his or her students and it the classroom tests which allows teachers to do so. Therefore, classroom assessment is accepted as being close to what we are struggling for a long time.
Secondly, in most of the cases, we make a machine type of judgement when we test students through paper and pencil beyond the class but it is a human mind or brain that is involved in making judgement on classroom assessment. It used to be believed that everything can be tested by using a paper and pencil test but now people have started asking how? There are things that we want to test which cannot be tested by paper and pencil based test. The answer to this question is classroom testing. There are so many things that we can do in classroom which cannot be done through a paper and pencil test. We cannot test all types of abilities and skills by paper and pencil test because of expertise, time, and other limitations, but classroom assessment is genuine and it is worth implementing.
Class room assessment or performance assessment is genuine because one cannot test people’s actual language ability while they are not actually performing an act by using it. It is the classroom that allows learners to perform. In this regard, classroom assessment captures genuineness. Many scholars have realized that paper and pencil test, whether it is based on communicative approach or something else, cannot authentically test students’ performance. Especially a large-scale test cannot be a performance based test. There were classroom tests after 2010 but those tests were used for internal assessment. Classroom tests are different, they are bound to be different and they are of different designs.
Classroom assessment is collaborative in nature. When students obtains marks in board examination, one common thing they cannot figure out is on what basis was their answers marked and consequently, they think they are given less and what they deserve. However, in classroom assessment, teacher works with students before, during, and after the assessment. The present of students makes teacher cautious and transparent. Thus, the teacher makes judgement of the students in a collaborative manner. Further, teachers can also assess students’ performance by assigning group work that makes classroom testing different from large-scale assessment. That adds one more dimension to collaboration.
The best thing about classroom testing is that it is learning focused. As a result, it has positive wash back. It mainly focuses process and less product. Teachers get enough opportunities to observe the different learning processes of their students in classroom assessment. By contrast, paper and pencil test may not be able to create situations and offer adequate opportunities to demonstrate different abilities and skills, and perform certain tasks on the part of students. It is more product-oriented. It is only classroom test that can make learners perform tasks while being tested.
In the same way, classroom assessment is a social phenomenon. The classroom is a society. A school is run for teaching and learning but at the same time, we mange it in a way that that would be the representation of the society. Thus, the classroom assessment is a social phenomenon where we promote classroom assessment and students learn and practise performance based activities, which they will continue to practise outside the classroom.
In terms of creativity, classroom testing is not an entirely new approach because in some way prior approaches also tried to capture what this approach tries to do. A good example of this is how Bloom’s Taxonomy captured a range of simple to complex competencies. It is very difficult to capture the psychological processing of learners in many occasions. We have to be tentative to assess it. Testing cannot be a science; it is different from many other activities. The focus of language testing is: what is the content of the language, where is it, how do we get hold of it? Scholars who are advocating for communicative testing have now realized that what they were trying to accomplish with it is something different. Icons of language testing has different views on communicative testing. Some say that it is not necessary to test communicative abilities through communicative approach. After 2010, testing has moved into assessment, assessment has moved into performance, and testing tends to be always indirect unless one asks students to perform certain tasks. It is not the test that test; it is the tasks that test. It may be hard to determine whether or not classroom testing can entirely replace communicative testing. However, classroom-based testing can be a focus of testing because it is very close to reality since teachers will be asking students those tasks in the classroom which they are supposed to do outside the classroom in their real lives.
While talking about classroom-based testing communicative testing, there may arise a question of construct. The construct is the basic characteristics of activities of an event, the psychological and the philosophical aspects of skills and abilities, and the quality of the content. The construct in communicative language testing may be assessed in an indirect way by bringing language performance into the classroom and assessing it. The concept of communicative language teaching and testing in a real sense has been changing. Henry Widdowson, one of the prominent scholars in the field of Applied Linguistics, wrote a book in 1979, “Teaching English as Communication”. Once in 2000, he said that he if he were to revisit that book, he would call it “Teaching English for Communication”. He realized that it is not possible to teach English as communication. He was excited to talk about communication in 1980s but later he found that it was not easy to capture communicative activities and bring them into the classroom and make it happen. In some ways, it has to be indirect, less communicative and difficult to bring communication in the classroom.
In a way, the philosophy behind the communicative language teaching (CLT) is the continuity of what we have been doing for the last 70 years. Somehow, CLT is also based on a paper and pencil test. At the end of the day, teachers give test to students to perform where they may not authentically perform language use. Based on the change from CLT to language teaching and testing, teachers and scholars began to realize that classroom assessment should be an additional learning exercise. Therefore, a genuine assessment must be a performance assessment and an inherent part of the whole process and that is the next era of language testing. It does not mean that communicative language testing has nothing to do with language teaching and testing in the days to come. We are still using 1960s’ multiple choice items. All previous methods of language testing have made lots of contributions to language testing but we are moving toward something new. Communicative approach in testing will also continue because it has strengths and potentialities but at the same time, the thrust of classroom assessment needs to lead classroom teaching and learning activities.
In sum, classroom assessment is an important approach to language testing. It appears to be very close to what we have been trying to find out. It may take time to make a strong ground to be a prominent approach. So for now, classroom assessment is an additional option- not a replacement. It will contribute to make assessment more authentic and better attuned to current understanding of language learning. It will be a good instrument for us to improve teaching and testing in the classroom.
(The piece is based on a lecture delivered by Prof. Dr. Tirth Raj Khaniya at the School of Education, Kathmandu University)
Decolonization, which sets out to change the order of the world, is clearly an agenda for total disorder. But it cannot be accomplished by the wave of a magic wand, a natural cataclysm, or a gentleman’s agreement. Decolonization, we know, is an historical process: In other words, it can only be understood, it can only find its significance and become self- coherent insofar as we can discern the history-making movement which gives it form and substance.
Decolonization is the encounter between two congenitally antagonistic forces that in fact owe their singularity to the kind of reification secreted and nurtured by the colonial situation, Their first confrontation was colored by violence and their cohabitation-or rather the exploitation of the colonized by the colonizer-continued at the point of the bayonet and under cannon fire. The colonist and the colonized are old acquaintances. And consequently, the colonist is right when he says he “knows” them. It is the colonist who fabricated and continues to fabricate the colonized subject. The colonist derives his validity, i.e., his wealth, from the colonial system. – The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon
Fanon is the pioneer of postcolonial studies in the world. He is the first thinker to begin to realize the dire consequences of colonialism and again he is the first writer to register his strong opposition to various forms of colonialism. To overcome the trauma of colonialism and to challenge it, he thought, the process of decolonialization had to be initiated.
If the literature written during the hay day of imperialism to support the empire is called colonial literature, then, literature written after the empire ceased to exist to challenge the dominance of the empire on the so called colonized nations is called postcolonial literature. Postcolonialism is an umbrella term which is inclusive of all discourses that challenge the dominance of all kinds of hegemony in all walks of human life. “Postcolonial scholars have pointed out that when two cultures sharing unequal power confront each other, the weaker culture seeks different alternatives to meet the situation. If imitation and internalization of the values of the dominant culture is one of the responses, to struggle to retain its identity by turning to its roots is another”. For instance, the seeds of British imperialism can be seen in Shakespeare and Marlowe who happen to be the two most significant British renaissance writers. It is Queen Elizabeth who gave the royal consent to the British Navy to sail across the European oceans and reach the far off places for the purpose of trade and commerce which eventually led to the establishment of the British colonies creating a new chapter in the history of British Raj. Prospero in Shakespeare’s Tempest, for his own political reasons, comes to an island for shelter for him as well as for his only daughter. He , in the course of time, acquires control over the original inhabitants of the island, considers them as savages, uncivilized brutes who need to be taught lessons in life and treats them as inferior forgetting the fact that he himself is an outsider and has come here to get shelter. He hates the culture, language and manners of the inhabitants living on the island and thinks that he has come here to redeem them from what he considers to be an uncivilized way of life. We hardly see any difference between what Prospero did on the island and what the British did when they annexed a large part of India. Similarly, we find no big difference between what the former British Imperialism did in their colonies and what the American neo-imperialism is doing now in some parts of the globe today.
One of the most exciting features of English literature today is the explosion of postcolonial literatures– literatures written in English in former colonised societies. This has given rise to a range of theoretical ideas, concepts, problems and debates, and these have been addressed in a range of articles, essays, talks and books. Here an attempt is made on to look at the postcolonial studies in Indian literature. It was a period which witnessed many changes in Indian society. The impact of Western education and industrial developments were led to radical changes in society. The writers like Rabindranath Tagore, Bankimchand Chatterjee, Sarat Chandra, Premchand, O. Chandumenon, Gulwadi Venkata Rao and many others from different parts of India wrote about the colonised India. They have addressed various developments and reforms in their works. People of that period including political leaders, nationalists, writers and the masses started to think in their own ways. However, colonialism became the centre of discussion for the people of all sections. In the early 19th century most of the writers focused more on social issues of the society. The social reformists played a significant role in changing the society. The social reformists like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Dayanada Sarswati, K.C. Sen, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Annie Besant, Surendranth Banerjee and Jyotiba Phule have tried to give a new life to the decadent contemporary society and thought about the social problems of the society through their writings. The intellectuals of this period started spreading the message of progressive and rational ideas.
Indian society in the colonial period was very rigid and was beset with social evils like the Sati, widow-remarriage, the caste system and the social, religious as well as all kinds of hegemony. The primary aim of the writers of this period in most of the Indian vernaculars was to alert people of the consequences of these evils and also to bring awareness among them. For instance, in Malalyam, O. Chandumenon in his work Indhulekha (1889) takes “issue with the colonial characterization of Nair society and especially of Nair women.”2 “The modern education Indhulekha received gives her a necessary strength to shape up her own life. She is able to use the new education to help consolidate the strength of her own community in relation to the Nambuthiris.”3 In Kannada Gulvadi Venkatrao in his novel Indirabai (1899) presents the question of widowhood and supports widow remarriage in the transition period. M.Vedanayakam Pillai in his collection of poems Penputtimalai (The Garland of Female Wisdom) emphasises the need for women education. Ishwar Gupta in Bengali and Dalapatram in Gujarati wrote poems about widow remarriage, women education and patriotism.4 The sati system, child marriage, marginalisation of women, widow-remarriage were in vogue during the period. The intellectual-reformists tried to uproot such evil practices from society and to translate their dreams into reality, they used theory writing as a tool to bring these issues to the notice of the people of their times.
In postcolonial writing a greater emphasis was put on the process of colonialization and attempt was made to record a strong resistance to the masters of the colonized societies besides insisting on contemporary realities of life. It deals with the literature written in colonized countries about the sufferings of the masses and also about the resistance of the people who were at the receiving end. Postcolonial writings can be considered as the historical marker of the period because it deals the literature which comes after decolonization. Postcolonial writers engaged themselves in opening up the possibilities of a new language and a new way of looking towards the world. Their writings can be taken as a medium of resistance to the former colonizer. Their themes focus on the issues like identity, national and cultural heritage, hybridity, partition, contemporary reality, human relationships and emotions etc.
The rise of Indian English writing in postcolonial era was a significant development in Indian English literature. In the Indian context, postcolonial writing with its new themes and techniques makes its presence felt in the English-speaking world. Subaltern study is also a major sphere of current postcolonial practice. Gayatri Chakraborhy Spivak, Kancha Iliah, Ranjit Guha and others have focused on the subaltern issues in their works. The literary works of the colonial nationalist period revolved around themes like marginalization, widowhood and widow remarriage. It was Bankim Chandra Chattopadyaya, who for the first time, sought to bring the national movement and patriotism in his novel Anandmath (1882). Later, it was followed by Ishwar Chandra Vidya Sagar, Sri Aurbindo, Rabindranath Tagore and others. Tagore’s Gora (1910) is also the product of the colonial period, which ultimately questions nationalism and the reader at the end of the novel wonders whether nationalism is an illusion or a reality.
The entire history of Indian English novel can broadly be divided into two periods—pre-independence novel and post-independence novel. The pre-independence period witnessed a slow growth of Indian English novel. It begins with the publication of Bankimchand Chatterjee’s Raj Mohan’s Wife in 1864. Most of the novelists of this period like Bankim Chandra Chattopadyaya, Rabindranath Tagore, and Raja Rao wrote mainly under the influence of Gandhism and nationalism. They exposed social evils, customs and traditions, rites and rituals, poverty and illiteracy, bonds and bondages in their novels on the one hand and on the other, they made their writings a powerful medium to highlight the east-west encounter and thereby to spread the nationalistic ideas of the great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi among the people. Mulk Raj Anand, R.K. Narayan and Raja Rao presented the radical social and national issues in their novels. The novels produced in the pre-independence period depicted the changing socio-political scene.
But a paradigm shift took place in the post-independence novels both in terms of content and style and novelists like Mulk Raj Anand wrote novels extensively dealing with social evils such as exploitation of the untouchable, the landless peasants, tea garden workers and the problems of industrial labour. The novels like Untouchable (1935), Coolie (1936) Two Leaves and A Bud (1937) and The Village (1939) are milestones in Anand’s journey of social reform. These novels concentrated on social reforms so much. The trend of presenting the social issues for the purpose of social reform got strengthened with the publication of G.V. Desai’s All About Hatter and Bhavani Bhattacharya’s So Many Hungers. While G.V Desai’s All About Hatter concentrates on the frontiers of social realism and stresses the need for social reform, Bhattacharya’s So Many Hungers studies the socio-economic effects of Bengal famine of early forties. Many women novelists in postcolonial period like Anita Desai, Arundhati Roy, Jhumpa Lahiri, Shobha De, Kamala Markandaya, Nayantara Sahgal, and Kiran Desai carved a niche for themselves in Indian English fiction.
Vijaya G. and Vikram V. (2009). Chakori: The Indigenous in the Postcolonial World. Sahitya Academy. Indian Literature, Vol. 53, No.6. pp. 197-201.
O. C. (2005). Indulekha. Oxford Indian Paperbacks. p. Xvii
Das, S.K. (2005). A History of Indian Literature: 1800-1910. Western Impact: Indian Responses, New Delhi: Sahitya Akademy.
(Research Scholar) Department Of English Central University of Karnataka Gulbarga, India. Email:email@example.com
In this reflective article, I will be sharing my personal belief about why I think research as a subject and practice is hegemonic in nature. I will also talk about the issue of several students dropping out from universities because of the pressures of research work.
For a long time, I had planned to join M.Phil. in English Language Education program at Kathmandu University School of Education (KUSOED). Some of my fellow friends had already completed the program and were working as faculties in KU. Some of my friends were still struggling to complete their dissertations. They in a way inspired me to join KU for the program. However, the same friends, those who graduated and those who are still under the surveillance of dissertation committee, shared this bitter reality to me – “doing RESEARCH is pain in the neck”.
Due to unrelenting pressure to complete the research work on time, I have seen and heard many of my friends dropping out from the program. But I was determined to face this situation. I was committed to doing my best in all aspects of my M. Phil. course. Initially, things were quite manageable at KU, the classes and assignments went smoothly. I also learned about a few terminologies – the buzz words of research like dominance, emancipation, positivism, post-positivism, interpretive, critical, integralism and HEGEMONY.
In the class, we learnt that research means to search or re-search for new knowledge, to establish the new norms, values and meaning. From positivism (a rigid perspective) to post-positivism, from interpretivism to criticalism, we advocated multiple perspectives, realities, meanings, values and methodologies in the classroom. Meanwhile, the discussions I had with my friends (who graduated from KU’s M.Ed.) on ‘Research Methodologies in Social Sciences and Education’ were quite terrifying. Their experiences about the pressures of writing and defending the research proposal, working tirelessly for many months, reading literature, drafting the document, re-writing these and so on, were intimidating for me. These realities and terminologies got engraved in my mind and heart as a giant ghost, against which I found myself as a tiny dust, a novice learner, a crawler, a breast feeding child, a tyro.
On the first day of my research class, I was expecting the hope and aspirations of a new sun and a warm morning. A professor started his lecture and, to my surprise, wrapped it up within two sessions. To make the matter worse, his concept on research left my highly expectant mind with mixed feelings. We were trying to see the world through the lens of multiple realities, multiple perspectives, multiple meanings, multiple knowledge, multiple values and post-modern paradigm. We were triangulating the (data) realities, (methodologies) way to search the new knowledge and (theory) previously set up value to come to the real sense of qualitative strategies of inquiry. However, these two sessions of my professor turned back my expectations towards the 19th century’s positivist approach in real classroom praxis. The deep rooted concept of extreme positivism in the manner, delivery, discipline, and the way of commenting to novice learners like me, left a hideous mark on my mind, which I felt as the mark of HEGEMONY of research as a subject and praxis.
Hegemony, as stated by Fairclough (2010), is the power over society as a whole of one of the fundamental economically defined classes in alliance (as a bloc) with other social forces but it is never achieved more than partially and temporarily, as an ‘unstable equilibrium’ (p.61). Research in KU, with the references to above experiences of my friends and my own perception, positions itself defiantly and powerfully among other subjects creating an artificial identity. And hence I feel that research is hegemonic in nature. To put in other words, the group of research scholars, committee members, and as a whole, research as a subject in a real sense has more power, control or importance, which I think is overtly imposed over other subjects and to the students.
Due to this hegemonic nature of research as a subject to be studied and a praxis to be done in a controlled way, I hardly attempted to do my class presentation well, I hardly completed my proposal and other assignments and I hardly took part in classroom discussion as I did not want to make any mistakes in front the professors. I never made any comments and thus lost my confidence, and I accepted everything from my teachers and colleagues. The deep rooted terrifying picture of the giant known as research work scared me so much that I did not touch or turn the pages of Creswell, Cohen, Manion & Marrison and Denzin & Lincoln. That hegemonic stereotyping script made so worried till the day of examination.
We focus on qualitative strategies of inquiry (Creswell, 2011) to establish multiple realities and search for the multiple perspectives. But, why do we still go back to quantitative inquiry and positivists approach to deal in the classroom, establishing an overall dominance over all subjects? Are we still narrow-minded or do universities still prefer traditional approach? If it is not hegemony, why is research a problem for many students and why many students feel the brunt and drop out?
My reflection on the subject, I hope, will be an emollient to sooth and pacify my feelings.
REFERENCE Fairclough, N. (2010). Critical discourse analysis: the critical study of language (2nd ed.). London: Longman.
Krishna Prasad Khatiwada M. Phil. (ELE)
School of Education
“What does ‘authentic’ assessment mean? How do we do it?” A Critique on 19th NELTA Conference Plenary by Professor Keith Morrow, UK
Authenticity in Context
Man: Mary, am I a man?
Woman: Yes, John. You are a man, and I am a woman.
Dr. Keith Morrow started the plenary session at Hetauda on 3rd March, 2014 with this excerpt from an English textbook used in England over four decades ago. It is interesting to note that the textbook writers and language policy makers bordered absurdity in the name of imparting the right content to the students. Dr. Morrow shared the same line of thought and discussed with the audience regarding how the text in English textbooks have steadily gravitated towards authenticity. And how all this has resulted in a testing system that is more authentic in nature.
But what is authenticity? Dr. Morrow was of the notion that a text that mirrored the context of a society as exactly as possible could be considered more authentic. This resulted in an inextricable correlation between the text and the context of the learner while defining authenticity. Probably that was the reason why the speaker delivered the whole session on authenticity along the thread of context of the learner. He exemplified his belief by giving an example of how an authentic piece of language text like his personal tax return paper, might prove to be far from authentic in a different context, say Nepal. This spatial, and most likely temporal, property of language discourse necessitated context of the learner to be addressed while designing both textbooks and assessments for language learners.
Dr. Morrow thus added the aspect of context while designing a test in addition to the two important traditional criteria: validity and reliability. He was of the opinion that there was a very direct and strong link between validity of a test and the context. However, the relationship between reliability of a test and the context could be rocky at the best. By making the test authentic in accordance to the context of the learner, the validity is confirmed as the test measures exactly what it intends to measure. But if you consider the reliability of the test, the same learner taking the same test at two different times might not result in the same performance level. Now this creates a dilemma – should we contextualise the testing material so it is more valid to the learner, or should we refrain from doing so, and confirm to the reliability criterion that is so essential in testing?
Although the session did not offer a viable solution for the ensuing dilemma, it did focus on the necessity of the testing material to be more authentic in nature. Authenticity in testing not only brings the learner closer to the language, but also creates a more meaningful learning. However, since it is the learner who is indulged in the language pedagogy, it is imperative to integrate the context of the learner to make the testing more authentic.
M.Phil. English Language Education
Outside, the pile of snow was thicker than vehicles parked on the street. From frozen New York joined Shyam Sharma.
Uttam Gaulee was in warm Florida (as far away from Shyam’s place as Colombo is from Kathmandu), at 10.30pm, still in my University of Florida office.
In Kathmandu’s King’s College in Babarmahal had gathered some of Nepal’s brightest ELT scholars– which we are not exaggerating. It was early morning there, seemingly cold, and some colleagues were slightly late from trying to juggle personal and professional responsibilities (as well as beat Kathmandu’s traffic).
Present in the virtual shade of the Choutari tree were Praveen Yadav, Umes Shrestha, UshakiranWagle, Santona Neupane, Suman Laudari, and Jeevan Karki from Nepal; Uttam and Shyam joined from the US.
This was a meeting among Choutari editors, originally supposed to be a “training” where Shyam was going to walk us through the kinks of technology before discussing how to translate technological affordances into professional purposes. The plan was to ensure that editors are proficient in the use of WordPress blog platform and functionalities: how to add new posts, save drafts, schedule for certain dates, order by time stamps, create table of content, hyperlink using part of preview link, integrate images and other media, learn how to tag and categorize posts, and so on. Shyam did start by emphasizing that the technology is largely a tool that we need to learn how to use with command (meaning everyone must learn how to post/schedule, edit, link, organize, and manage posts and pages on the blog) but the focus must be on how to achieve the professional objectives that the tools are used for achieving. We used the metaphor of hasiya, kodalo, and bancharo and how we keep them sharp and ready but don’t look at them as the focus of our harvest seasons.
However, within a few minutes of trying to walk the rest of the group through the dashboard of the WordPress blog, using Google Hangout’s Screen Share functionality, he realized that the participants already knew the basic applications and functions–or at least they could teach each other basic features and more quickly and easily. In fact, more people than we knew prior to the meeting turned out to have their own blogs and have mastered fairly advanced functions. Going into details of advanced functions like managing widgets, plugins, theme and customization, exporting content, and managing pages could make the meeting more boring than productive; and more advanced functions should also come from gradual development of expertise. Some roles such as approving comments can be assigned to certain editors because they need some attention and understanding (such as spotting and excluding spams; Uttam and Praveen seem to be doing this now, and that looks like a good plan).
So, the conversation naturally and quickly moved on to the agenda of maintaining quality, promoting collaboration and efficiency, and modeling for as well as engaging the community.
Maintaining Quality: Making Review Process Effective and Efficient
We started this segment by summarizing the notes that were shared with the group prior to the meeting. It is worth highlighting that editors fully familiarize themselves with the rules provided to writers; these rules are outlined and even demonstrated under the section “Join the Conversation.” We also later discussed the overarching objectives of the forum spelled out at the top of the Team Charter. The specific best practices and general mission statements are worth viewing as giving us a sense of direction with regard to quality of the publication and engagement of the community. Below is a rundown of what we discussed in terms of making the objective of maintaining quality/standard efficient from a collaborative perspective. Please don’t read these as instructions; they were discussed as suggestions for effectiveness and efficiency. Everyone agreed that a more efficient process for collaboration is needed.
Submission: All submissions must be made to the official email, firstname.lastname@example.org in order to avoid various types of possible confusions and inefficiencies. First, promote the “Join the Conversation” section; when any authors submit their drafts to individual editors, they should request the writer to resubmit it to the official email address (create a template email if necessary); or just forward the email to the official email, copying the author. Even this much will make a huge difference in terms of streamlining the review process.
Reception & Assignment: The lead editor of the next month should respond to all submissions made between, say, 16th of the previous month to the 15th of the current month. Lead editors can choose to respond from the official email if they prefer; otherwise, lead editors can respond to writers of each submission during the time window and copy one reviewer (and if necessary one mentor), asking everyone to complete the review process and submit the article by, say, the 24th of the month before publication. If a lead editor can distribute the burden of review among different editors/reviewers, starting with his/her subeditor(s), this will allow the lead editor to be more creative, to try to cover more base, to run the conversation, and to better maintain the overall quality. To avoid confusion, editor/reviewers not assigned to work on any draft should leave it to the assigned editors/reviewers. We also discussed the driving principle that “collaboration” and “taking turns” are two very different things, and what we need is the first!
Collaborative Review: Using Google Doc as a general rule can make a positive difference, though it may be necessary to give individual writers the choice of opting out and using email with his/her reviewer (and mentor if any). Lead editor can create a new Google Doc each within the official account, giving edit access to the writer (as well as editor/reviewer and any mentor). Again, while some writers may not be able to use Google Doc (due to technological limitations of skill, tools, internet, anxiety, etc), even those who are able to do so will significantly eliminate the need for email- or phone- based updates among the writer, reviewer, and coordinating editor. Just the lead editor being able to see where the review process for some of the submissions can save a lot of time and hassle. Finally, some writers may not want the review process to be open to all editors, but the solution to this is to make the review process more professional (and respectful of authors) rather than relapsing into privacy–because the idea of privacy among editors doesn’t make sense anyway. A standardized folder and file naming convention should be developed through a Facebook Group conversation.
Assessment of Quality: Lead editors should sort submissions into three or four groups, such as: 1) ready for publication with minor edits, 2) worth reviewing and publishing next month, 3) worth assigning a mentor as well as reviewer, and 4) impossible to improve. While the general principle of a community like this should be “reform not reject,” there may be some cases of #4, such as plagiarized or already published content, not at all related to ELT, etc. Drafts in category #1 can be managed by lead editors themselves (no need to assign a reviewer); drafts in category #2 would be the majority; drafts in category #3 should be directed to the coordinator of of the Choutari Mentoring Project, Uttam Gaulee, or at least copied/coordinated. The idea here is that even though a blog should not be about rejecting or accepting articles like conventional journals, shifting the focus from personal to collaborative/communitarian is in everyone’s benefit. We also briefly touched upon the following issues as a yardstick for assessing how to approach different types of drafts/submissions:
Relevance and Significance: The draft is not relevant to ELT, doesn’t situate or even relate the main idea to ELT or to education at large in a significant way. Or, the draft doesn’t have a significant, interesting, or engaging point from the perspective of our readers–because the subject is outdated, the topic too broad/vague, the argument diluted, etc.
Organization and Connection: The draft doesn’t start with an engaging and clear introduction that provides a sense of direction, a sense of scope, and a sense of organization to the readers–and there doesn’t seem to be an easy fix, such as moving the key idea to the beginning and adding transition sentences for better flow between sections that are in themselves focused on the main idea.
Focus and Strength of Main Idea: The draft has long a long background and/or includes barely relevant paragraphs/sections that can’t just be deleted (because the rest of the draft would be insufficient or affected by the removal of parts), or the overall writing doesn’t develop a main idea with a focus and a perspective.
Originality and Use of Sources: The author uses external sources without proper/effective citations, seems to use external sources without citation but it is hard to determine by simply Googling chunks of text, or cites correctly but the citations are not integrated and used effectively alongside his/her own ideas–for instance, there are large chunks of citations that are not yet framed within the writer’s own ideas.
Language and Style: The writing is highly formal, academic, or abstract and therefore in need of “translation” to make it more accessible to the blog’s readers–or it is extreme on any other end, such as too informal, too gimmicky, etc.
Fast Tracking Review: Taking drastic but intellectually sensitive approach as editors: especially when there is little time and not enough material, blog coordinator and/or editors/reviewers may have to take a drastic approach. But the authors must always be given the opportunity to review and approve any and all changes/edits made to their work. Here are some time-tested strategies that may be handy.
Do/Show: cut/paste the main idea if it comes late in the draft to the beginning, add a sentence or two in the beginning (esp. within the first two paragraphs) in order to provide context and/or overview of the post, foreground or add topic sentences within the body paragraphs;
Tell Directly: highlight and directly tell the author to delete any sections that are irrelevant or go too far in one direction, ask the author to condense an elaborate section into a certain proportion such as two-third or one-fourth, etc, and
Ask Bold Questions: ask the author if any section can be deleted, condensed, or elaborated as necessary.
Team Spirit: Team spirit is very important. Both facilitators highly emphasized that Choutari is a forum with tremendous value and impact in the world of ELT and that it also has huge potentials for the editors’ professional growth; but both the impact on the profession and the person heavily depends on maintaining a team spirit, keeping one another inspired and energized, cultivating a positive attitude, going for the positive, inspiring the community, giving the best back. And, for a community that depends on virtual communication, all the above heavily depend on regular communication among the team as well as strong, positive messaging from the team to the community.
Reflective Editorship: We also touched upon the idea of “reflective editorship,” which means that if lead editors start, carry out, and end their coordination by engaging the rest of the team in an ongoing conversation, assessment, and reflection, there will be continued learning and inspiration for all involved. No one comes to Choutari already knowing what exactly to do; if we do, we would still be quickly outdated! The community continues to develop new ideas, columns, strategies, etc; and this starts by building one set of guidelines and trying to achieve the shared objectives, then gradually updating and improving the strategies through ongoing conversation and reflection. The Team Charter is a starting point, not a stone tablet with rules.
As we were engrossed in the conversation, paratha arrived. Amid the rustle of unwrapping packages and as our colleagues back home served themselves the mouth-watering breakfast, and with our mouths watering from two ends of a country on the other side of the world, we wrapped up the conversation. Very deep intellectual discussions branching out from technological topics, laughter and giggles, multi-tasking, using alternative channels when the lights went out, bantering about the men in Kathmandu forgetting to turn the camera to the chelis . . . made the meeting both inspiring and memorable.
The Choutari brings people together, people who are on their way to their own professional destinations (or rather journeys), people who care enough to stop by, to share their ideas– in spite of the crazy busy lives they live, in spite of the seven seas separating them. The virtual Choutari has a lot in common with the physical. This too is on the way to somewhere, as the physical choutaris usually are. This too gets its meaning when people stop and talk, rest and energize themselves. The burdens we carry may have become abstract–for as teachers, scholars, we transport ideas on our backs–the journey we make may be to places around the world, and the travelers we meet may be citizens of the whole world. But we still share the same concern to keep our community informed, our bonds strengthened.
It was 2.30am by the time we finally left the Google Hangout. The snow was still piling up in New York, Uttam had to go home by the last university escort at 3 am, and colleagues in Kathmandu had half the day left and work to be done.
Photos (above): Jeevan Karki
Dr. Shyam Sharma is an assistant professor of Writing and Rhetoric at State University of New York, Stony Brook University. His professional interests include composition (writing and rhetoric) pedagogy and theory, writing in the academic disciplines and professions, multilingual and multimodal writing and scholarship, rhetorical traditions, and research and program development for professional development of university students.
Uttam Gaulee is a doctoral student in Higher Education Administration and Policy program at the Department of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education at the University of Florida. After working as an English language teacher at Tribhuvan University colleges in Nepal, he joined the University of Pittsburgh as a Fulbright scholar, before joining UF. He is Associate Director of Community College Futures Assembly at the Institute of Higher Education and also serves as Graduate Affairs Chair of Graduate Students Council at UF. Uttam is leading the new Choutari Mentorship Program.
When we think about the beginning of a new year, we’re referring to the cycle of seasons changing for that many times on a particular calendar (in this case, the Gregorian calendar). In that sense, the marker of 2014 is a mere social construct. However, we do make milestones with passing years in our collective consciousness. At this blog magazine, as we bid farewell to the year 2013 and welcome the year 2014, we hope to invite many more of our professional colleagues under the shade of a tree that is growing taller and bigger and its platform widening farther. We invite you to a platform where we will strive to connect the global and local realities in ELT, to bring about positive changes in ourselves and in our field! As we make this leap, I would like to relate Choutari’s vision with relevant scholarship in our field.
Expressing his discontent with the conventional trend of Applied Linguistics and thus appealing for transformation in the field, Pennycook (2004) proposed four types of responsibility on the part of the Applied Linguistic practitioners. They are ethical, political, intellectual, and social and cultural. In the paper entitled Restructuring Applied Linguistics for the Welfare of the Society (2012), we (Sajan Kumar and I) proposed the addition of the creative responsibility to Pennycook’s list. To escape these responsibilities is to fall into the trap of academic hypocrisies is the crux of Pennycook’s argument. The appealing element in Pennycook’s argument is his call for the transformation in the field without which one cannot fulfill the above mentioned professional responsibilities. We, teachers are supposed to bear all of these responsibilities and also many more. This calls for transformation, probably the most sought for and cherished concept in all fields, variously known as energy and transformation (Krishnamurti, 1972), quantum leap (Osho, 2001) in the field of philosophy, paradigm shift (Kuhn, 1962), New Physics (Capra, 1975) in the field of science. Likewise, the field of language pedagogy is replete with such terms as the postmethod condition (Kumaravadivelu, 1994), innovation (Markeee, 1997), culture specific-pedagogy and so on to mean transformation. Whatever the terms employed, the essence underlying them is the call for revisiting the field in question and showing a live response to everyday practice in order to bring out the positive change. I’d like to relate the thread of transformation to Nepalese ELT and to extend the thread to the long-term goal of our Choutari.
Our goal is transformation. The appeal for transformation lies at the heart of all post-realities (i.e. poststructuralism, postmodernism, postcolonialism, postcommunism, postmethod pedagogy and so on). I believe that the craving for transformation in various academic disciplines has its origin in the notion of the paradigm shift as hypothesized by American philosopher and historian of science Thomas S. Kuhn in his seminal work The Structures of Scientific Revolutions (1962), and the Derridan notion of deconstruction (1967). The post-realities bubbled to the surface most vigorously in the 1990s. We can speculate on a multitude of causes. I leave them untouched here for the constraint of the space and the nature of this writing. However, I cannot help mentioning the dismantling of Berlin Wall on 9th of November, 1989, and the collapse of the USSR in 1991. These two vital political events opened the window to the free world, “one where every human being would be free to realize his or her potential” (Friedman, 2006, p. 607). These events were coincided with the end of the Panchayat era resulting in the re-establishment of democracy in Nepal in 1990. English language teaching as a globally booming profession could not remain untouched from these changes and new realities in academic and political fields at home and abroad. The 1990s is also remarkable for the booming of ‘the dot.com market’, to use Friedman’s term, that revolutionized the field of ELT in many respects. The field of ELT was in a desperate search for alternatives in its theories, principles, methodologies, resources and assessment. Such a search is evident in Pennycook’s (1990) Towards a critical applied linguistics for the 1990s, Phillipson’s (1992) Linguistic imperialism, Kumaravadivelu’s (1994) Postmethod condition, to mention only a few. These post-thoughts entered the English teachers’ courses. The hope was to bring about transformation in the existing theory and practice. The existing ELT courses in Nepal too were restructured to introduce these critical and alternative perspectives to Nepalese English teaching. Transformation in the profession echoed in the academic air blowing within and across the Tribhuvan University premises. The courses and coursebooks appeared bearing such transformation-loaded titles as New Generation English, Expanding Horizons in English, Advanced ELT, New Directions in Applied Linguistics, New Paradigm, Reading Beyond the Borders, Across Languages and Cultures and many others. Some changes in the perspective on the profession are hazily perceptible in the distance. However, to believe that transformation would be on the way on its own after introducing recent information available in the field is but our naivety. There can be no quantum leap from information to transformation. The journey is long and on the way lie knowledge, wisdom and discretion, and application.
Though related, information and knowledge are not identical. Information is just an object that can be collected from multiple sources. In our case, we are working with borrowed information from ELT books and articles produced in different contexts and for different purposes. No harm is there in the accumulation of information. Access to information is prerequisite for knowledge. However, such borrowed information has to be balanced against the information that has emerged from the regional/national and local experiences. All courses prescribed to prospective teachers in Nepal are flooded with the imported information devoid of local contexts. Courses like English Grammar for Teachers, i.e. a course on pedagogical grammar for English teachers, contain no trace of anything from the Nepalese context. It gives the impression that Tribhuvan University in its many decades of teaching English has not yet produced any expertise in the field of pedagogical grammar. Or, it can also suggest that whatever the teacher educators have produced out of their decades of teaching experience and years of research in the field is either ignored or does not deserve to be transferred to the next generation. Several embarrassing examples can be put forward in the case of other courses too.
Most teacher educators have hardly produced any knowledge to communicate their experience and expertise. They seem to be contented with the accumulation of information from the ‘authentic sources’ and many professors have earned their professorships and wasted their students lives, a sad fact I’d call it, by confining themselves to the information stage. Information is only a raw material for knowledge and the process of knowing. It’s the means not the goal. Its function is to inform the seeker of something. Information is not experiential nor is it truly existential. It is only a map for the journey, not the journey itself. Unless the seeker embarks on the journey, s/he is in no way to ‘know’ the actual path and in no way to feel the pain and pleasure of journey. Information becomes knowledge only when it enters the conscious realm of the subject (knower/seeker and doer). My being in the university as a student for one decade and as a teacher educator for seven years as well, and my formal/ information discourse with the scholars give me the impression that many of the university teachers are swayed by the false notion that the accumulation of a wealth of information will necessarily lead them to transformation i.e. the goal desired or the destination aimed at. The Choutari team is and should be aware of this misconception. However, we are not denying the value of information collection and generation. For this, the two types of information are made available at this platform: information generated by the practitioners, and information that we signpost the readers via the resources of the month. Our prime focus is on the generation of information rooted in our existential and experiential zones. The Choutari has served as an ever-flattening platform for the signposting and accumulation of information on teaching and learning English at home and around the globe. A word of warning, never should we be contented with the information available in the Tree that stands high at the centre of the Choutari. The visitors to this platform have to climb the Tree itself to taste and test the information according to their desires and needs. The information that we have produced at and via this platform is likely to turn into knowledge only when it is humanized, only when it enters the experiential and existential zones of the seeker.
Knowledge functions in the realm of logic. Logic is syntax and the most preferred property in grammatical and mathematical analysis. Each language classroom has its own rhetoric and silence too. The rhetoric of the classroom often struggles to move away from the syntax imposed from the ready-made methods, techniques, and conventional expectations of experts or supervisors. Thus I think it would be naïve of us to expect the teachers to stick to certain methods, techniques, and the steps mentioned in their lesson plans and follow them mechanically. It is because of this, many well-documented lesson plans or well-articulated methods fail in the ELT classrooms. The undue inclination to logic might mar creativity and liberty in the teaching learning process. Logic can be cunning. It can prove something theoretically sound and appealing which might be pragmatically harmful. The taboo of the mother tongue use in English classes as promoted by private schools in Nepal can be a case in point. Practically, the strategic use of the mother tongue or the use of translation as one of the several techniques in the English class has more benefits than harms. Communicative competence is another myth that has been ‘Holy Writ’ for we information-collecting ‘intellectuals’. We are hardly aware of the fact that all the models of communicative competence proposed so far suffer the poverty of knowledge component (Adhikari, 2013). Hence, the Choutari aims at awakening the ELT practitioners to such theoretical taboos and myths that have stood as barriers to successful teaching in their specific contexts. We want them to experiment with their own strategies and share their experience with their fellow beings. Failure of certain methods or techniques borrowed from outside does not mean that we have failed. This means now we need to turn inward for our own sight which we call insight and intuition. It means it is also the time to “move from intellect to intuition, from the head to the heart” (Osho, 2001, p. 98) in our teaching.
The Choutari platform welcomes informal writing, spontaneous and ‘non-academic writing’ from ELT practitioners, for we value intuition and insight of those who are directly facing challenges in the actual field of ELT. When out-tuition (teaching from outside) fails, we need to turn to intuition. The mystic teacher Osho, once university professor of philosophy, has brilliantly put it as ” You know the word tuition– tuition comes from outside, somebody teaches you, the tutor. Intuition means something that arises within your being; it is your potential, that’s why it is called intuition (2001, p.13). Learning by intuition is a lifelong process. It’s integral to our professional development too. Intuition ruptures the body of knowledge that we have accumulated in the formal setting and paves a way to the process of knowing. The Choutari as always welcomes the insights from the practitioners and share their insights with each other. However, someone’s intuition is mere information when it is communicated with others. We can inform others of our intuition but cannot transfer and infuse into them. Intuition is all experiential and existential at the individual level. It calls for self-reflection, inward journey in our professional life and also the ability to distance our mind from the pile of information gathered from multiple sources. The fusion of knowledge with intuition and insight bears the flower of wisdom and discretion. Then only we can go for application.
I believe that such a theoretically informed and intuitively aware application of theories, methods, techniques and activities might bring about transformation in our professional life. This journey from information to transformation, though looks a seemingly longer one, might usher us in the landscape of post-method pedagogy as envisioned by Kumaravadivelu.
Let the branches of the bodhi tree
Planted at heart of NELTA Choutari
Spread farther and wider, and rise higher and higher
Let all the wayfarers of ELT come and rest
Under its cool canopy with novel zeal and vigor.
May they move from the mere accumulation of information
To the higher goal of transformation.
Happy New Year, 2014
Adhikari, B. R. (2013). Restructuring communicative competence from the perspective of translation competence. A paper presented at 34th annual conference of LSN, Nepal Academy.
Capra, F. (1976). The Tao of physics. London: Flamingo.
Friedman, T. L (2006). The world is flat. England: Penguin.
Krishnamurti, J. (1972). Tradition and revolution. India: KFI.
Kumar, S. & Adhikari, B. R. (2013). Where does applied linguistics truly lie in the architecture of Nepalese Academy: Restructuring the discipline for the welfare of the society. A paper presented at the opening seminar of Nepalese Association for Applied Linguistics, Kirtipur.
Kumaravadivelu, B. (1994). The postmethod condition:(E) merging strategies for second/foreign language teaching. Tesol Quarterly, 28(1), 27-48.
Markee, N. (1997). Managing curricular innovation. Cambridge: CUP.
Osho (2001). Intuition: Knowing beyond logic. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.
Pennycook, A. (2004). Critical applied linguistics. In Davies, A. & C. Elder(2004) The handbook of applied linguistics. Blackwell: Australia.
For decades we have been teaching the English language primarily as an end in itself. The question whether English should be taught as an end in itself or as a means to achieving larger pursuits of life has been a matter of constant debate among ELT scholars, language experts and language theorists. Equally mighty question is whether larger pursuits can be achieved only after gaining a proficient command of the English language, or any other language for that matter, or, the desired proficiency comes only after we engage in larger pursuits of life.
By larger pursuits of life I mean all those creative sorts of activities that demand either field-specific professional excellence or that bring happiness to our lives with a sense of well-being or euphoria which I take art and literature for preciseness. The latter sort of pursuits become imminent from the very idea that the chief end of everybody life is the pursuit of happiness. Undeniably, this type of happiness derives from self-actualization, the highest level of need in Maslow’s hierarchy, and art and literature are the best ways towards self-actualization. In this article I shall attempt to establish a relationship between language command and these larger pursuits of life with special reference to the English language.
Field-specific professional excellence
In the past English was taught solely as a language of communication and was by and large used as a means of communicating with the world community, and its secondary application was for literary activities. However, within the last two decades, the world has undergone a vast transformation with its explosion of knowledge and English has pervaded our life and culture. The world has been anglicized, so to speak, and new types of professional needs have emerged. Now, the scope of the English language has broadened. In this changed context an ESL/ EFL teacher has now not only to deal with English and its grammar, linguistics, ELT but also there are a number of disciplines like philosophy, literature, anthropology, psychology, mass communication, journalism, and above all those registers of English that are used in an indeterminately large number of fields and situations, that most often pass over the heads of a majority of English teachers. As a side note, English teachers need to acquaint themselves with all those varieties of English used in different English speaking communities and different professional contexts so they can help their students deal with world realities in relation to English use.
English for Specific Purposes: English for Specific Purposes (ESP) is the English for professional needs of learners and requires field-specific knowledge of English. Why ESP? This question should be clear from the following anecdotes from my own life.
I had just passed Master’s in English when my spouse complained of abdomen pain during her last months of pregnancy and we visited a doctor, who noticing my flaunting of English, replied in English. He used medical register: “She has a minor cervical fissure. Miscarriage might result if we don’t resort to caesarian.” I didn’t have the faintest idea of what he said but I just uttered a faint “Yes”. So deplorably I wished I could have a dictionary handy then.
At another time I was invited to write a bank guarantee for an organization for a loan that would be sanctioned to the organization on their written request along with the collateral. I spent the whole day trying and re-trying and ended up with what looked like an abstract literature. Ah, it was a horrible experience.
As a matter of fact, some of us might aspire to write a proposal for an organization that might bring up ludicrous incomes to us; some of us might aspire to write an influential article for a newspaper, a film script, a dissertation, a legal document, an advert, or a book, for that matter. But our own English comes as a barrier when we proceed. We lack the knowledge and skills of field-specific register of English. In a world where knowledge is a measure of power and where English sells as a commodity, why can’t we sell our knowledge of English? Why in certain vacancy announcements where sound knowledge of English is a must, preference is given to other disciplines rather than English? Rarely have English language graduates got the posts like manager, project coordinator, executive officer, proposal writer, and the likes solely on the basis of their English skills. Why can’t we sell our English skills in larger world markets? It may be perhaps because we don’t study/ teach field-specific professional English that can in technical terms be called ESP. Certainly ESP is a lot different from General English.
So what? Teaching the English language as merely an end in itself is not the demand of time. The demand of the hour is teaching need-based English. For this, whole the programmes and curricula of English right from beginners’ level have to be re-looked and revised.
English for art and literature: a euphoric pursuit
After so much reading of the English language, grammar, linguistics, research articles, critical theories, newspapers, journals and so on and so forth, we should be prepared to create something of worth for the real world audience – a poem, a piece of fiction, an essay, a travelogue, or a book worth reading. Well, yes, we do really well when our audience is our students but our ability starts to answer when our audience is the literati from the world community. Many of us might even fail to interpret and appreciate a piece of art or literature written in the current trend, for we are still reading/writing structured literature of the romantic age and modern age. Facing postmodern literature is a challenge for us. If we cannot read and enjoy art and literature, we have no right to call ourselves connoisseurs of art and literature. Reading, appreciating and creating art and literature to cultivate a sense of well-being or euphoria is what I mean by “euphoric pursuit”. Art and literature are something that make our life meaningful and worth living, and there is no gainsaying the fact that these entities are the stairs that lift us towards self-realization and self-actualization. These pursuits should be at high end of ELT/ ELD.
However, the way we teach literature in English classes is no way better than spoon feeding – mere discussing the gist or summary of the literary text, dictating the summary or a stereotypical summary to them and getting them to learn the end-of-the-text question answers, which WILL only blunt their creative potentialities rather than sharpen them. When shall we encourage our students to read, interact with and appreciate the literary texts, making out their own enquiries into the text to distill their own interpretations of the text, and generate their own critical thinking and creative writing?
Nothing is right, nothing is wrong; everything is right, everything is wrong.
Nothing is best, nothing is worst; everything is best, everything is worst.
One day, I asked my B. Ed. students, “Which is the best method for teaching English?” They quickly responded in a single voice that the communicative method (CM) is the best method. I remained silent for a while looking around the class. All the students had the same answer. Even the students who did not respond seemed to agree in the same matter. Similarly, when I went to Bhajhang, Bajura, Doti, Dadeldhura for examination conduction and research work, I asked the same question to some English teachers there. They also answered that CM is the best method. Like them, I had the same understanding when I was a student, and before familiarizing myself with the concept of postmodernism and post-method pedagogy in ELT.
They do not seem to have postmodern mind. They were guided by the truth; rather than by a truth. They did not strive for potential perspectives and alternatives in ELT. They did not become critical rather became blind supporters. They viewed CM from BANA perspective. Postmodern mind believes that everything considerably varies according to contexts. In this connection, Tarnas (1993) writes, “There is an appreciation of the plasticity and constant change of reality and knowledge, a stress on the priority of concrete experience over fixed abstract principles, and a conviction that no single a priori thought system should govern belief or investigation.”
In this world, nothing is final, nothing is absolute and fixed; everything is relative and fallible. Postmodernism accepts multiples truths and realities in everything. The concept of postmodernism also applies in ELT. Many teachers and students are still unaware of this fact. Like in many spheres of life, innovations are also being explored in the field of ELT. Teachers and students should be familiar with the changing trends of ELT around the world. They should not be guided by the fixed ideas and values. This is the world of postmodernism; it is the world of options, possibilities, and alternatives. There are many options in every sector, for example, in education, media, communication, auto-mobile, mobiles, business, transportation, politics, manpower, politics, and fashion, etc. There is no hegemony of a single thing. The same applied in ELT. Postmodern pedagogy allows ELT to be flexible and contextual. It gives freedom to use teachers and students’ experiences, values, cultures. It also considers socio-economic status, political realities and local circumstances. Hence, we need to teach in local realities in which we find our values, cultures; rather than following others’ practices blindly. Teachers and students should keep abreast of the new trends and best practices of the world emerged in ELT, but act locally and contextually. Pertaining to it, Freeman (2008) has rightly remarked ‘think globally, act locally’.
In the past, ELT was virtually led by methodologists and experts. What they told was followed strictly by the teachers and students. The teaching learning activities which followed certain methods strictly would be counted as the good teaching. In the field of ELT, different methodologists have introduced different approaches, methods, techniques one after another rejecting and criticizing the previous ones and claiming theirs as the best ones. Over the last 100 years, the ELT professionals searched for a single, ideal method, generalizable across widely diverse student bodies around the globe. They vainly searched for the absolute method that would serve as the panacea in language teaching. However, they always failed to do so. It is because they had wrong the assumption that they could find a universal method. As a matter of fact, searching a universal method is like peeling off an onion and never getting into its core.
During 1990s, the ELT professionals came to realize that no approach/method/technique can be ideal. Actually, all approaches, methods, techniques are context specific. They can be very effective, depending on a particular context, place, students, purpose, etc. It is the context which determines how teaching and learning should take place. Hence, while teaching we should consider the contextual factors such as the place where teaching learning activities are taking place, the students and teachers, culture, time, available resources, socio-economic condition, purpose, motivation, etc. Teachers need to be able to use approaches, and methods flexibly and creatively based on their own judgments and experiences. They should look for alternatives, question the existing practices if they have doubts and explore their own practices that best befit in their contexts.
Going through the literature of language teaching, we find myriads of methods, approaches and techniques discussed by methodologists. Grammar translation method, direct method, audio-lingual method, communicative method, nativist approach, functional approach, oral structural situational approach, task-based approach, behaviorism, rationalism are to name but too few. All these have own importance in their own places. Most of these have well-established background and theory. Yet, they cannot be regarded as the best methods in all the places, for teaching all language items, and for all teachers and students. There are various views regarding the best way to teach a language. Prabhu (1990) writes:
…no single method is best for everyone, as there are important variations in the teaching context that influence what is best. The variations are of several kinds, relating to social situation (language policy, language environment, linguistic and cultural attitudes, economic and ideological factors, etc.), educational organisation (instructional objectives, constraints of time and resources, administrative efficiency, class-size, classroom ethos, etc.), teacher-related factors (status, training, belief, autonomy, skill, etc.), and learner-related factors (age, aspirations, previous learning experience, attitudes to learning, etc.). (p.162)
Regarding the best method, the prevalent notion is that if a method yields the best results in terms of learning outcomes that is the best method. Different methods are best in different teaching and learning contexts. A method which is regarded best in one context can be far removed from classroom reality, and become impractical in another context. Brown (1994, p. 15) maintains that “the best method is one which you have derived through your very own careful process of formulation, try-out, revision, and refinement.” Likewise, Tarnas (ibid) writes: “One must try the new, experiment and explore, test against subjective and objective consequences, learn from one’s mistakes, take nothing for granted, treat all as provisional, assume no absolutes.”
Brown (ibid) says that different philosophical theories have appeared and disappeared in history, so have language teaching methods ‘waxed’ and ‘waned’ in popularity. Likewise, Harmer (2008, p. 48) writes: “Both abstract theory and practical techniques have been debated, have gone in and out of fashion, and have influenced what was and is included in classrooms and teaching materials.”
The above mentioned discussion implies that no approach or method or technique, etc. can be best or worst in its own right. It is the context which makes it effective or ineffective. None of them is universal. Brown (ibid) mentions that no method can guarantee success, because every learner is unique, teacher is unique and every learner-teacher relationship is unique.
No single method can suffice to fulfill all the needs and expectations of all the learners at all times. If we talk in the context of Nepal, it is more complex. It is difficult to meet all the widely differing expectations held by individual students and too difficult to ensure that everyone learns by a single method. If we glance at most of the Nepalese ELT classrooms, we will find heterogeneous learners in terms of levels, competence, age, academic background, family background, economic background, mother tongue, personality, sex, language aptitude, learning style, culture, geography, etc. . Hence, it is a big challenge to teach ELT effectively and successfully by a single method. Hence, teacher needs to practice “enlightened” eclecticism. The teachers of English can use different approaches, methods, and techniques that can be suitable for their own classes. Therefore, some professionals started to speak death of the methods and the term ‘post-methods era’.
Richards and Rodgers (2002) have made some criticisms of approaches and methods.
The top-down criticism
Almost all the methods typically prescribe for teachers what and how to teach; they fail to consider their potential application to practical situations. The role of the teacher is sidelined; his or her role is to understand the method and apply its principles appropriately. There is often little freedom for the teacher’s own personal initiative and teaching style. Likewise, learners are sometimes viewed as the passive recipients of the method and must follow the prescribed exercises and activities strictly. But, today, it is commonly acknowledged that learners bring different learning styles and preferences to the learning process that they should be considered in the process of developing a teaching program, and that teaching methods must be flexible and adaptive to learners’ needs and interests.
Role of contextual factors
Pedagogical experts often propped up their approaches and methods as all-purpose solutions to teaching problems that can be applied all over the world and under any circumstance. That is to say, they regarded their approaches and methods as universal. In the application of approaches and methods teachers ignored the context in which teaching and learning takes place, including the cultural context, the political context, the local institutional context, and the context constituted by the teachers and learners in their classroom.
The need for curriculum development processes
Curriculum planners view debates over teaching method as part of a broader set of educational planning decisions. A careful examination of all available sources of knowledge, objectives, piloting of those methods and materials which are judged most likely to achieve the objectives which teachers agreed upon, the assessment of the work and objectives and feedback of all experience gained are to be taken into account in the process of curriculum development processes (Nicholls and Nicholls, 1972 as cited in Richards and Rodgers, 2002, p.248). Choice of teaching method cannot, therefore, be determined in isolation from other planning and implementation practices.
Lack of research basis
Approaches and methods are often based on the assumptions, claims, and assertions, without research evidence, so as to have the understanding of second language learning process. There is lack of clear evidence to be believed. Assumption cannot always be true in all contexts. Most of the approaches and methods are not empirically tested. Hence, there is the need of research over these approaches and methods.
Similarity of classroom practices
It is very difficult for teachers to apply approaches and methods in the ways that precisely mirror the underlying principles of the method. Theory and practice are not consistent with each other.
For Brown (1994) language teaching and learning should be “a principled approach” that is, having a finite number of general research-based principles on which classroom practice is grounded. He has mentioned the twelve principles, for example, automaticity, meaningful learning, the anticipation of reward, intrinsic motivation, strategic investment, language ego, self-confidence, risk taking, the language-culture connection, the native language effect, inter-language and communicative competence. This principled approach is oriented to diagnose the needs of students, to treat the students with successful pedagogical techniques and to assess the outcome of those treatments. For him, a teacher has to be engaged in diagnosing their learners’ needs, offer treatment as per the needs and assigning the effectiveness of their own practices.
To conclude, we can say that all approaches, methods and techniques cannot work in all contexts. We should not take them for granted. We should raise vital questions if we have some doubts and adapt them as per our contexts instead. Therefore, we should remake, reset, rethink, revisit, and reinvent the teaching learning activities for our lessons ourselves.
Mr. Paudel is a teaching assistant at Dandeldhura Campus ,Dandeldhura and he has been teaching English for Nepalese learners of English over the last seven years.
Brown, H. D. (1994a). Principles of language learning and teaching. London: Prentice Hall.
___(2002). English language teaching in the “Post-method” Era: toward better diagnosis, treatment, and assessment. In Richards and Renandya
(eds.). Methodology in language teaching. Cambridge: CUP.
Harmer, J. (2007). The practice of English language teaching. London: Longman.
(2008). How to teach English. London: Longman.
Prabhu, N. S. (1990). There is no best method- why? TESOL Quarterly Journal.
Richards, J. C. and W. A., Renandya (eds.) (2010). Methodology in language teaching. Cambridge: CUP.
Trana, R. (1993). The Passion of the western mind: Understanding the ideas that have shaped our ideas. Random House Publishing Group
I attended a guest lecture on The ‘Critical’ in Language Education delivered by Bal Krishna Sharma on the 3rd of July 2013 at the School of Education, Kathmandu University. Bal Krishna is a one of the past editors of the Journal of NELTA and a doctoral candidate in applied linguistics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA. There were 24 students of MPhil in English Language Education. In this brief reflective essay, I am going to share some key points of the lecture and discuss how the ‘critical’ aspect of language education is an important for language teachers and researchers.
I had come across the term ‘critical’ many times during different courses in MPhil and discourses of English language education; however the talk made me broaden my perspective particularly on how we can introduce ‘criticality’ in the classroom in Nepalese ELT settings. Before the class, he had assigned us to read an article on ‘the practicality and relevance of second language critical pedagogy’ by Graham Crookes (2009) so that we could have better perspective on the topic and better participated in the talk session. I found that the article (see appendix) addresses eight different areas including EFL critical pedagogy and it also highlights the practical relevance of critical pedagogies of second language (L2) in several areas. This write up is very relevant and useful to see the practicality of critical pedagogy in EFL or ESL classroom.
The aim of his talk session was to introduce the ‘critical’ in language pedagogy. Nevertheless, his talk did not only introduce the term ‘critical’ but also illustrated with examples giving practical insights on how it can be integrated into language education. Bal Krishna’s talk mainly focused on four kinds of the ‘critical’ in language pedagogy. They were critical discourse analysis, critical pedagogy, critical language awareness and critical literacy organized together in the talk. He first presented the general overview of such terms and then the examples. Each of them contained an assignment or project work for the audience. Firstly, critical discourse analysis (CDA) takes place through an analysis of how power and inequality constructed through different discourse like naturally occurring interactions (e.g. classroom), photographs, images, media (movies, newspapers and documentaries), websites, textbooks, policy documents, etc. We critically observed the cultural and authenticity aspect in some examples of English textbooks. Finally, we attempted to explore possible critical discourse analysis through a list of assignments given as follows:
Collecting naturally occurring interaction data in a language classroom and analyze how the teacher and the fellow classmates treat a stuttering student.
Analysing how professional roles are represented in terms of gender in English textbooks of Grade 9 and 10.
Analysing how ‘Nepali’ culture is constructed in English textbooks.
Critically analyzing how VP Paramanda Jha’s oath in Hindi is constructed by media.
It was an exciting discussion in the sense that the instances taken in the talk were of Nepalese context.
Secondly, Bal Krishna discussed critical pedagogy. He defined, following Freire (1972), Giroux (1981) and Apple (1982), critical pedagogy is primarily concerned with critiquing existing educational institutions and practices, and subsequently transforming both education and society. I came to know that critical pedagogy has several names like radical pedagogy, feminist pedagogy, pedagogy of possibility, pedagogy of empowerment and transformative pedagogy. I understood that Social Responsibility Interest Section in TESOL and Global Issues Specific Interest Group in IATEFL are address the concerns of critical pedagogy. I realized that there are two important aspects of critical pedagogy—Give students voice and Critical analysis skills. At the end of the discussion on ‘critical pedagogy’, he introduced an example of the Tamang Project entitled ‘Privileging Indigenous Knowledges: Empowering Multilingual Education in Nepal’ led by two Nepalese and a foreign researchers. The major focuses of the project are on:
– herbal medicines and healing practices,
– traditional and modern knowledge and skills,
– History, numerical systems, weights and measures,
– Relations, belief systems and practices and
– Life rituals, feasts and festivals, songs, lyrics and poems.
Thirdly, in his presentation he defined critical language awareness as it refers to importance of ‘noticing’, applicable to marginalized language speakers and it argues to deconstruct the standard language ideology. It covers dialect awareness, non-standard language awareness, pidgin and creole awareness native/heritage language awareness (think of internal migrants). The following assignment was given at the end.
– Develop a lesson or activities which ask all of the students to discuss and present on their languages and cultures and how they make use of their languages in their lives, both in and out of school. The students can bring in an artifact from home which represents their home language(s)/culture(s), and they can be encouraged to teach the class some expressions in their home language. The Tharu language in Chitwan, for example. The students should also be encouraged to work with their parents.
I found the discussion on critical literacy was more useful from the perspective of global citizenship. I was highly interested in the issue. We came to know that critical literacy as an educational practice that focuses on the relationship between language, social practices, citizenship, intercultural relations and global/local issues, with several implications for our understanding of language, our pedagogical practices and the role of teachers. I occasionally used issue-based teaching in my class but came to know this time that it was critical literacy. To teach life skills to the learners through critical literacy was quite convincing to me. The inspiring examples for critical literacy like makingsmall scale interventions within the existing institutional constraints (Shin and Crookes, 2005), raising students’ consciousness on matters relevant to their lives (Konoeda and Watanabe, 2008) and connecting ESL pedagogical practices to issues of power, equity, and social justice (Ajayi, 2008) added value to the discussion.
The assignments based on different ‘critical’ in language pedagogy were so useful on the part of the students since they worked as clue to prepare theses, design project work, develop a lesson plan or activity and organize a workshop from critical perspective. Besides, I found his talk very relevant to Nepalese context where there is a need to look into such issues and bring a change in traditional chain of learning. It has really enabled all of us who attended the talk and made us really thoughtful on such issues with reference to multilingual context of Nepal. Following the talk, we some of our friends had larger discussion and interaction realising our concern to work together for this. I will largely incorporate such issues at different professional avenues in the days to come.
Before he concluded his two-hour talk, he shared with the audience his research project and opened the floor for question answer session. At the end of the session Associate Prof. Laxman Gnawali, Kathmandu University, summarized the talk and appreciated Mr. Bal Krishna Sharma for his contribution to the M.Phil in ELE program of Kathmandu University.
Mr. Khati is a life member of NELTA and currently pursuing his MPhil in ELE from Kathmandu University, Nepal.
Here is the pdf version of Mr. Sharma’s presentation slides and the article by Crookes (2009).
So what happens when a place gets deterritorialized? Does the local expand beyond its borders and become global or does it evaporate all the localness because the borders disappear? And I could ask similar questions about language too: what happens when we teach a language as a separate entity with fixed meanings rather than teach Language as a dynamic semiotic process?
Evidently, both local and multilingual in the title of this issue are hotly contested categories. The term local is often tied with a boundary whether that is a rural village like Togi, my birthplace or a megacity like New York or Kathmandu. For me local used to mean homegrown. But, mainly because of migration of people, ideas, artifacts, and technologies on much broader, often global scales, it is becoming more challenging for many people to pinpoint where the local and the global meet. Easy availability of cell phones, as well as relatively cheaper rates for international calls, and faster travel have made flow of social and cultural practices even more intense. It is interesting to note that while most of us in Nepal look toward the West as the point of reference for the methods and techniques of ELT education, we often fail to see that pre-colonial communities in our own area had such practices, although in different forms (see Bal Krishna Sharma’s article below).
To talk about the next part of the equation, the concept of multilingualism as a conglomeration of multiple languages learnt and processed separately is a myth as argued by the contributors of this issue. While it might be hard to ignore the current fact that our instructional objectives are based on fixity of multiple languages, we should also not forget that these languages were once invented (often along with the birth of the nation-states) and they have all gradually but dramatically evolved into the forms they are used today.
The articles in this issue guide us to find appropriate pedagogies when the “borders” of both nation-states and languages are getting porous. This special issue as a whole should help us to answer questions such as: what kind of pedagogies we can adapt and adopt in language teaching in the face of increasing globalization? Should nation-states be still the frames of references for our pedagogies? How can we possibly assist in diminishing the divide between the hegemony of Standard and emerging vernacular practices? In terms of teaching English, are we always supposed to be norm dependent? Additionally, I believe the issue also helps in brainstorming about how we reached in the present condition where we have viewed multilingualism from the perspective of monolingualism, and how we draw the borderline between local and non-local practices. It also helps us rethink the power dynamics of the medium of education (language) versus the mission of education (making learning relevant).
If we are to understand the dialectics of social change, it is necessary to destabilize the binary of local and global and better understand the shifting relations between space and place, whether real or metaphorical, as well as recognize existence of multiple positions along the continuum. After all, as Canagarajah argues in his 2002 book Geopolitics of Academic Writing, global knowledge is basically one particular local knowledge with power that is presented, promoted, and adopted as globally relevant. If we are truly living in a knowledge society where one’s value is determined by what one knows, what counts as knowledge is of prime importance. If we do not care to reflect upon our own practices, call ourselves a minority when in fact that is not the case, and easily buy into discourses that discredit our own identities, we are self-colonializing ourselves. The writings in this issue confront issues like this critically.
Basically the question is what should be done in today’s language classrooms where the teacher has to mediate between global and local discourses. When the quality of education is measured by evaluating what students do not know rather than what they do know, most of the emerging voices get crushed or washed away by a system that fails to serve the majority. And I’m not speaking from an ivory tower as I have taught in rural parts of Kaski, Lamjung, and Myagdi and sadly seen nil results in multiple public schools of the country. I hope all five articles in this issue will provide us some food for thought in reimagining better pedagogies.
In the first article, Ofelia Garcia offers a vital approach to that end. She argues that rather than language we need to be looking after translanguaging. Translanguaging refers to the process of meaning making by dynamically utilizing one’s repertoire. The failure of nurturing emerging voices, Garcia reminds us, is in fact a global problem. By destabilizing major myths about language and language learning, she shows how multiple languages students bring to schools can be used as resources.
Along the similar lines, Rama Kant Agnihotri argues that if we were to develop local pedagogies, we should start to learn to respect the languages student bring in the classrooms. Unlike our common view of seeing them as major obstacles, Agnihotri indicates that to lessen the gap created by the private-public school divide, we can explore cross-language relations.
Another reason of not seeing our own local practices as authentic comes from the inferiority complex caused primarily by the discourse of non-nativeness. Challenging such status quo, Davi Reis encourages all of us to attain our professional legitimacy by being cognizant of the damaging effects of such oppressive ideologies, and by dismantling the false dichotomies, by not undermining ourselves but by reaching out for help to the global community.
In a country where diversity of languages, religions, and cultures has existed for centuries, researching older practices might provide some insights even for today’s societies as Bal Krishna Sharma exemplifies from ancient Hindu texts. It is our task to study many more traditions such as Buddhism, Jainism and others that have co-existed there for years and save them from being lost, left and thwarted. We can even develop wholeness of body, mind, and spirit and integrate teaching, learning, and evaluation as they once were in the past. Ironically, as Sharma emphasizes, we might be surprised to find that these “neglected” practices had features that we borrow today from the advanced societies.
Finally, reflecting on our assessment practices at SLC exam, one of the key stages in Nepalese education system, Shyam Sharma urges us to accept the harsh reality of how we English teachers tend to be disinterested in the big picture of education as we often buy into the myth that English medium means quality education. It seems that we are hardly successful in creating global citizens demanded by today’s knowledge economy because we are not even successful at developing pedagogies that are socially and culturally meaningful. It has been now well argued that over-emphasis in the “Standard English” amounts to short-sightedness.
I hope articles in this issue along with lists of further resources provided by the authors will help us to reflect on important issues about the global/local dynamics in English language teaching and education at large.
Before closing, I would like to express my deep gratitude to all who made this issue possible despite their unimaginably busy schedules. And I’d like to request you to please leave comments in order to encourage writers (as well as share your ideas), to like and post entries to your social network, and to consider contributing your own blog entry to Nelta Choutari’s future issues.