Category Archives: Teachers’ narratives

Mother Tongue as a Resource in the EFL Classroom

Ganga Laxmi Bhandari*

Introduction

Whether mother tongue should be allowed or not in the EFL/ESL classrooms has been a debatable issue for many years, especially after the Grammar Translation (GT) method was considered ineffective in teaching English in non-native contexts (Paker & Karaağaç, 2015). Krashen (1981) claims that the use of the mother tongue (L1) deprives the learning of the English language (L2) in a natural setting, while the monolingual approach would maximize the effectiveness of learning the target language. Turnbul (2001) and (McDonald, 1993) are among other scholars who join Krashen in arguing that the use of the mother tongue hampers the learning of English and the best way to teach English is through English only.

However, the English-only approach – or the notion of teaching English through English (Richards, 2017) – is gradually being challenged as an impediment to teaching and learning English (Butzkamm & Caldwell, 2009; Pan & Pan 2010; Savage, 2019). The use of L1 not only creates the foundation for a better understanding of the L2 curriculum but also develops a positive attitude among children towards the schools that teach L2 (Savage, 2019). The use of L1 will be particularly relevant to the students from introductory to lower-intermediate levels (Pan & Pan 2010). According to Cook (2001), L1 creates a mental link between L1 and L2 and, thus, equips learners with the language competence they need to learn the second language.

Languages are linguistically interdependent, argues Cummins (2007), who, in the 1970s, developed the Linguistic Interdependence Hypothesis. Here,, the use of the mother tongue in the classroom reinforces the interdependence and enables the students to learn the second language through language transfer. Monolingual policies or prescriptions are actually contrary to and inconsistent with current understandings of how people learn (Cummins, 2007). In the same vein, Cook (2001) demonstrates that English-only policies and assumptions are wrong and urges instead to treat L1 as a classroom resource both for teachers and students to convey meaning, explain grammar and promote collaborative learning. Urging to use English where possible and mother tongue where necessary, Weschler, R. (1997) goes on to suggest developing a hybrid method drawing on the best of both schools of thought; English only approach and judicious use of mother tongue while teaching English.

At the beginning of my teaching career, 15 years ago, I was also influenced, like many beginner teachers, by the monolingual approach. I also used to think that English-only was the right approach, even aware that I was teaching on a public campus in which most of the students were from public schools with poor English competency. My preference for the conventional style of teaching English was to be an ideal teacher who could speak English fluently in the classrooms forbidding students from using their native languages.

Later, I realized that my approach was wrong particularly after my students started shifting to another class where the teacher used students’ mother tongue (Nepali in my context) as a medium (for instruction, teaching grammar, warming up, explaining homework and also the meaning of some technical words). Realizing the students’inclination towards their mother tongue went bilingual and saw the impact of it on the retention of students and their interactive participation in teaching-learning.

In the subsequent sections, I am sharing my own latest classroom practices in which I have used LI as a resource to teach writing skills and vocabulary. It was practised among 40 students of Bachelor of English Education at a Public Campus in Kathmandu.   almost all the students were from Govt schools, with limited English proficiency. Most of them were from the ethnic communities that would speak Nepali as a lingua franca.

Practice 1: Each student was assigned to write a paragraph (8 lines) describing their own culture in English within 20 minutes. Out of 40 students, only 2 students (5%) completed the assignment. Eight students (20%) wrote some four lines of a paragraph. Twelve students (30%) wrote hardly two lines and 18 students (45%) wrote nothing (sat passive biting a pen throughout the 20 minutes). The body language of almost all students would tell that the practice was dull and dispirited.

Practice 2: Students were divided along with their cultural/linguistic background and were asked to write a half-page about their culture in LI, Nepali in this case, within 20 minutes. Almost all the students completed the assignment in time. Unlike the first assignment, students were happy, engaged and motivated to complete the exercise to the best of their ability.

 Practice 3: Each group was, then, asked to translate the text into English and present it to peers. In case of difficulty finding an English term, they were allowed to retain Nepali term/s. Each group tried their best to translate what they had written, and presented among their peers highlighting the words/phrases they could not translate. I jotted down the highlighted words or phrases on the whiteboard. After the presentation, each group was asked to seek help from the other groups (using LI) to help find English words/expressions in their writing. After listening to the students, I stepped in to help them, explaining that certain cultural words might be difficult to translate, such as the name of community-specific food: Yomari (Newari food), Ghongi (Tharu Food), Sargemba (a food item of pig blood), Thekuwa (sweet cookie of terai people) and so on.

It worked well. Students were cheerful and fully engaged. No one seemed hesitant to share and express. On the contrary, everyone had something to offer and help a fellow student in need. It was truly collaborative. The mix of L1 and L2 would create a new environment of learning.

Impression

The use of LI is very helpful in EFL classrooms in a multicultural setting, like ours in Nepal. Foremost of all, it firms up the bond/connection between a teacher and students and helps create an inclusive environment in which students learn from each other (e.g., culture-specific vocabulary, writing skills, interpersonal communication) on an equal footing. It enhances inter-cultural respect among students and promotes collaborative learning.

The use of LI creates an environment in which everyone becomes an active learner. No one sees English as a burden. Instead, learning English becomes fun. As Pan and Pan (2010) rightly put it, “if L1 is utilized well and presented communicatively, it can be a facilitative tool that will improve the language proficiency of students” ( p.8 ) by motivating them to engage in learning exercises. L1 helps to develop students’ intercultural competence by providing learning content that is familiar to them (Chinh 2013). It is easy to build on familiar content, which also creates a level playing field for all to engage equally in learning without any sense of superiority or inferiority.

As argued by Weschler (1997), L1 opens the door to many possibilities for L2 while creating a natural learning environment. Learning cannot be imposed. It should not be a burden. Learning should instead be fun, which is possible through the use of the mother tongue.

The L1 versus L2 debate is not limited to educationists and teachers alone. Even our parents are drawn into it. Many of them want to see their children trained in the English-only fashion, unaware of perhaps the contribution of L1 to L2. Our teachers should also bridge the gap between the parental expectation (of L2) and the need of the students (of L1) by making the parents aware of the importance of L1 in getting their children where they want them to reach.

References

Butzkamm, W., & Caldwell, J. A. (2009). The bilingual reform: A paradigm shift in foreign language teaching. Narr Francke Attempto Verlag.

Chinh, N. D. (2013). Cultural Diversity in English Language Teaching: Learners’ Voices. English Language Teaching, 6 (4), 1-7.

Cook, V. (2001). Using the first language in the classroom. Canadian modern language review57(3), 402-423.

Cummins, J. (2007). Rethinking monolingual instructional strategies in multilingual classrooms. Canadian Journal of applied linguistics, 10(2), 221-240.

Krashen, S. D. (1981). Second language acquisition and second language learning. The University of Southern California.

McDonald, C. (1993). Using the target language. Cheltenham, UK: Mary Glasgow.

Paker, T., & Karaağaç, Ö. (2015). The use and functions of mother tongue in EFL classes. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences199, 111-119.

Pan, Y. C., & Pan, Y. C. (2010). The Use of L1 in the Foreign Language Classroom. Colombian Applied Linguistics Journal, 12(2), 87-96.

Richards, J. C. (2017). Teaching English through English: Proficiency, pedagogy and performance. RELC Journal48(1), 7-30.

Savage, C. (2019). The importance of mother tongue in education. Independent Education Today. Available at: https://ie-today.co.uk/comment/the-importance-of-mother-tongue-in-education/ (downloaded on 30 March 2022)

Turnbull, M. (2001). There is a role for the L1 in second and foreign language teaching, but…. Canadian modern language review57(4), 531-540.

Weschler, R. (1997). Uses of Japanese in the English Classroom: Introducing the Functional-Translation Method. Kyoritsu Women’s University Department of International Studies Journal12, 87-110.

Author’s Bio: Ms Ganga Laxmi Bhandari is a lecturer of English education at Mahendra Ratna Campus Tahachal (T.U.), Kathmandu. She has over 15 years of teaching and training experience in ELT. She has also been working as a Central Committee Member of NELTA. Currently, she is pursuing a PhD degree from Tribhuvan University. Her area of research interest is teacher professional development. She can be reached at gbgangakattel@gmail.com

Teachers’ Collaboration for Professional Development

Shaty Kumar Mahato*      

Introduction

Collaborative teacher development is the process of sharing together for enhancing and cooperating the quality of teaching and learning practices. It occurs when the teachers and learners work together in the process of teaching and learning. This paper is based on my presentation at the 22nd international conference of NELTA 2017. The teachers and learners have the common goal to overcome the problems occurred in the practices of teaching and learning. The teachers’ association like NELTA in Nepal is helping in energizing language teachers and researchers to be professional as well as professional growth. Personally, by joining NELTA, I am benefitted from growing professionally and academically. The teachers can play a pertinent role to collaborate with the people involved in teaching and learning practices. Collaborating together, the teachers explore more opportunities for the learners so that the learners can envision several steps of learning.

Likewise, teachers can also enhance expertise and build good confidence with their learners. The teachers exchange their ideas and knowledge with other participants in teaching and learning and that led them to be professionally sound. Therefore, collaboration is one of the ways for teachers’ professional development. Regarding collaboration, Vygotsky (1978) as cited in Barfield, (2016, p. 222) states, “Collaborative learning can be seen to occur through dialogue, social interaction, and joint-decision making with others and these shared processes contribute greatly to individual and collective growth as well as to co-constructed understanding and knowledge”. As a language teacher and researcher, I have had a similar experience in my classroom and outside of the classroom.

Similarly, Hargreaves, (1994, p.186) says, “To a point where teachers can learn from each other, sharing and developing their expertise together”. The learning becomes effective while sharing because they can generate meaningful ideas and information. Furthermore, Medgyes and Malderez, (1996), as cited in Barfield (2016, p.222), state, “collaborative teacher development is founded on dialogue, questioning, and discussion in working together towards educational change and improvement” and it is supported by Datnow (2011, p.155) that “it is at its most effective when it emerges voluntarily and spontaneously from teachers’ own beliefs that working together is productive and enjoyable”. It means teachers can feel comfortable if they apply the collaborative work to practice. Similarly, my experience in teaching is teachers can professionally forward in sustained and meaningful ways if we are able to do so together. Here, I transformed myself into a professional teacher and researcher.

This article explores the needs and importance of collaboration for teachers’ professional development. It is my own experience of encountering collaborative and non-collaborative teaching and learning. The theoretical studies of the collaboration in the field of language teaching and learning enhanced my pedagogical skills and also helped to explore more innovative ideas and skills. Likewise, this paper sets to explore collaborative teaching and learning to envision how it is one of the sources for teachers’ professional development.

Collaborative Teaching and Learning for Teachers’ Professional Development 

As a teacher and a member of NELTA, I participated in seminars and conferences and understand that teacher is not only empowering her/his students but also growing professionally. I also understand that professional teachers always try and stand in search of learning knowledge. Maggioli (2004, p. 5) defines, “professional development as a career-long process in which educators fine-tune their teaching to meet student needs”. As Maggioli suggests it is clear to say that professional development is not a day or night development for one’s career, it is an ongoing process where one should professionally develop and grow through joining different minds together. It gives the vivid concept that if the teacher understands themselves as a learner and expert to fulfil the demands of the students.

Collaborative teaching and learning make a sense of learning by sharing and engaging together. It also builds harmony in our Nepalese context. The teachers’ collaboration and an active engagement with their students and different agencies could explore more innovative ways and skills of learning. The literature also focuses on collaboration which means working together especially in a joint intellectual effort so that one could stay sound and confident in language teaching-learning practices. According to Richards and Burns (2009, p. 239), “it is a social process that is contingent upon dialogue and interactions with others, processes through which teachers can come to better understand their own beliefs and knowledge as well as reshape these understandings through listening to the voice of others”. It is clearer in our Nepali context that our country is diverse which helps to understand the social phenomenon. Similarly, teaching and learning practices enhance when there is equal dialogue and interactions. Through collaborative teaching, teachers can come and interact with other people. Regarding their understanding, experience, and subject matter build confidence and broaden their skills. Likewise, it helps to exchange ideas, skills, and understanding with other fellow teachers, researchers and policymakers in the language field.

Similarly, Johnston (2003) considers collaboration as a wellspring of teacher professional development. Collaborative teaching and learning are fundamentally social processes. It creates collegiality and quality in the teaching profession. Edge (1992) states, “self-development needs other people…by cooperating with others, we can come to understand better our own experiences and opinions”. I also understand that self-determination in learning with other people enhances both confidentiality and collegiality. Likewise, we need collaborative teaching and learning for teachers’ professional development because Johnston views state collaborative teacher development as any sustained and systematic investigation into teaching and learning in which a teacher voluntarily collaborates with others involved in the teaching process, and in which professional development is a prime purpose.

Collaboration is crucial and influential in teaching and learning, which is concerned with the teacher’s professional development that gives the update and current affairs of knowledge. Cook (1981) states, “concern for the ultimate clients, the students, and for intermediaries, the teachers are apparent in all programmes, and this concern is directed toward sound educational and professional development rather than the gratification of immediate needs and desires.”  Collaboration in teaching is not only meant for programme development, it is meant for individual development too. It creates an ample opportunity for the teacher to integrate and come up with the vision, increased understanding among teachers at all grade levels and in varied subject areas.

In my experience, I understand collaboration while engaging and interacting through different agencies such as NELTA, LSN, and so on. In doing so, I developed my skills and confidence not only in classroom teaching but also beyond classroom teaching. Likewise, it helps me to explore my techniques, strategies and methods to apply in and outside of the classroom. Doing collaborative works and finding its relevance in academia is described by Darling Hammond and Richardson (2009).

To make it more explicit, Cook (1981) states, “collaboration is to provide a means for improving the professional education, it is important to consider not only the meaning and implication of “collaboration” but also the nature of “improvement”. Collaboration creates an environment where the teacher can work together and learn together to improve their professionalism. The dialogue and interaction which led through collaboration also build trust, confidence and collegiality. Teaching/learning in such a way could give sound satisfaction with satisfactory achievement, which would orient them to professionalism. This could become like cooperation but not exactly cooperation. Collaboration is somehow different from cooperation. Let’s see the differences.

Collaboration and Cooperation 

Killion (2012) states, as cited in the essential guide to professional learning Aitsl (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership) “the more one educator’s learning is shared and supported by others, the more quickly the culture of continuous improvement, collective responsibility, and high expectations for students and educator’s grows.” Collaboration is a community where learners and teachers are involved together to share their knowledge, skills or ideas to recover the issues and challenges seen in teaching and learning. According to Aitsl, collaboration creates a community of working to achieve a common goal through the sharing of practice, knowledge and problems. And, effective collaboration encourages ongoing observation and feedback among colleagues where a culture of professional sharing, dialogue, experimentation and critique becomes commonplace. What I also observed through experiencing collaborative teaching, it makes sense of collegiality and mostly to get to know how things are going on worldwide.

Brook et al. (2007) state, “collaboration creates a base of pedagogical knowledge that is disturbed among teachers within a school as opposed to being held by individual teachers” as cited in Aitsl. It clears that if the teacher is suffering from the pedagogical problems they would get the chance to solve them through collaborative work that may not be solved by an individual. AITSL clearly defines both collaboration and cooperation where collaboration is concerned with working with another or others in a joint project.  Collaborative works, it has a common goal and a high level of trust. It is a job-embedded long term program and works with joint planning, decision making, and problem-solving methods.

Cooperation has individual ownership of goals with others providing assistance for mutual benefit. Generally, cooperation is spontaneous and passive engagement by others. Therefore, cooperation and collaboration have not much comparison. Collaboration is far better than cooperation in academia. We can say that doing collaborative work makes professional growth. Therefore, to grow professionally collaboration with the teachers’ association, colleagues, researchers and teachers enhance the skills needed for professional development.

Why do we need collaborative teacher development?

Collaboration is viewed as a process that facilitates teacher development, serves to generate knowledge and understanding, and helps to develop collegiality and one of which teachers should have or share control. It is an organizational and inter-organizational structure where resources, power, and authority are shared, and where people are brought together to share common goals that could not be accomplished by a single individual or an organization independently, Kagan (1991, p. 3) as cited in Rainforth and England (1997, p. 86). The work accomplished by the group may not be solved by an individual and mostly they become unfamiliar with the phenomenon or process used to accomplish the task. When they come together they would have common goals which can be shared together and can be easily accomplished. In other words, the most common things in collaboration are it facilitates every individual to share and learn the issues one is facing.

Similarly, teacher development is a social process that is contingent upon dialogue and interaction with others, processes through which teachers can come to better understand their own beliefs and knowledge as well as reshape these understanding through listening to the voices of others. It can be viewed as teachers learning, rather than as others getting teachers to change. In learning, the teachers were developing their beliefs and ideas, developing their classroom practices, and attending to their feelings associated with changing, Bell and Gilbert (1994), as cited in Evans (2002, p.126). It seems clearer that joining hands and working together means helping an association as well as helping an association means building a nation together.

Likewise, Goddard and Goddard (2007) states, “when teachers have opportunities to collaborate professionally, they build upon their distinctive experiences, pedagogies, and content” as cited in Burton, (2015, p.6). If we collaborate, our work and ideas together in a group could bring the lived experience in the field of professionalism. I’m not sure the satisfaction that I got during a teaching in a particular situation is equal to others in their own field. However, in my experience of teaching and learning in a group, I explore more ideas and opportunities to overcome problems with solutions. We need collaboration not only for individual improvement but also for our program development.

Yarger (1979) suggests, as cited in Cook (1981, p. 99) “collaboration in teacher education is not related to quality and improvement in program development”, it should provide a breadth of perception and vision, an enrichment in terms of resources and an opportunity for increased understanding among the teachers at all grade levels and in varied subject areas. It could then lead to effective programs of professional development.

Different Forms of Collaboration for Teacher Development

Collaborative Teacher Development (CTD) can take the initiation of effective teaching/learning along with professional growth. Nowadays it is one of the major concerns to be professional in one of the fields and teaching/learning is integrated into all the other development of the people. It helps learners and teachers to explore more innovative skills to find and accomplish the task according to their interests. To decide who, where and how the teacher gets collaborates for further development is necessary to know. We could say that five fingers are stronger than one finger, in the same way, working together by involving collaboratively could bring a concrete result which is most beneficial for all.

There are different forms of collaboration where teachers are the centre point to achieving the goal. According to Johnston, (2003), as cited in Richards and Burns (2009, p. 242), there are four different forms of collaboration that teachers can involve in their professional development.

Teachers can collaborate with their fellow teachers

In this group, the teacher and their fellow (peer) teachers worked and discuss together. This is the most balanced relationship in terms of power.  Collaboration among language teachers may well focus on instructional issues such as materials exploitation, classroom management, classroom language use, and other related issues. The language teachers are likely to point them toward certain common concerns and interests. Their professional understanding and depth of knowledge can help everyone involved in the group. It creates a lot of interaction related to the subject area and enhances the other further skills and knowledge. Here, we could say that meeting with different expertise minds certainly helps other minorities who have difficulties with resources and facilities in teaching/learning.

Collaboration between Teachers and University-based Researchers

As a teacher and researcher, I am much benefited from these forms of collaboration. I explore more innovative ideas and skills needed for the teachers and learners. For doing educational research such kind of collaborations are commonly initiated by the researcher to find out lived experiences of the teachers. Teachers and university-based researchers collaborate together and talk about the general and specific issues, and challenges that occur in the language field. Sometimes they do the classroom research to find the solutions; creating such an environment teacher could easily enhance their skills and knowledge whereas researcher also gets the credit for research and that could develop their professionalism as well as collegiality. Teacher and university-based collaboration may have a great inspiration for the teachers because the researcher could provide access and authentic resources to overcome the problems.

Teachers with their Students Collaboration

This type of collaboration makes an arrangement and offers fascinating possibilities for learning in-depth about one’s own classroom and who is in it. This kind of collaboration encourages the teacher and students to accomplish the goal together. Here, the learners are empowered by the teacher and the teacher also comes to know the current affairs of knowledge related understanding in teaching and learning. This form of collaboration is action and problem solving oriented which is livelier in the field of language teaching. It is problem and action-oriented therefore it could fix the problems raised by the students or teachers so that they could get the prompt feedback from their students to achieve the goal.

Collaboration with Others Involved in Teaching/ Learning

In this form of collaboration, teachers can collaborate with the administrators, supervisors, parents, materials developers and so on. Teachers and administrators collaborate together to find the issues and challenges that cause the improvement of the teachers, institutions, and programs, for the development. Similarly, the teacher and the supervisors collaborate together to recover the problems in the teaching and learning field. Supervisors can give constructive feedback to the teacher for their professional development. The teacher can also collaborate with the materials developers and share the implications of the material in the language classrooms. Teachers can also collaborate with the parents who play a vital role to achieve the students’ goals. They could share the students’ attitudes toward learning and the teachers’ teaching. In doing so, many of these collaborations, in turn, have had a significant component of the professional development of the teachers.

Conclusion

Sharing one’s learning is the everyday experience of human behaviour. The knowledge is hidden; it would enhance and grow when human beings take part in the discourse. Even unknown and unfamiliar things become known knowledge and familiar when people come together to share and present. Collaborative practices lead teachers to re-conceptualize the innovative process, boosting learners to continue varieties of challenges, generate cross forms, and participate in constructionist and supportive practices, including an-alternative dialogues. Collaborative teaching and learning practices help both teachers and learners to explore creativity and construct new frameworks for learning. Likewise, it creates innovative ideas and skills to know together and learn together.

References

Barfield, A. (2016). Collaboration. Key concepts in ELT, 17 (2). Retrieved from http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org/

Burton, T. (2015). Exploring the Impact of Teacher Collaboration on Teacher Learning and Development. University of South Carolina Scholar Commons (Doctoral Dissertations). Retrieved from http://scholarcommons.sc.edu/etd/3107

Cook, G. E. (1981, May). Collaboration, Change and Concern: Professional Development through teacher centers. English education, 13 (2), pp. 97-104.

Evans, L. (2002, Mar.). What Is Teacher Development? Oxford review of education, 28 (1), pp. 123-137.

Rainforth, B. & England, J. (1997, Feb.). Collaborations for Inclusion: Education and treatment for children, 20 (1). Pp. 85-104.

Richards, J.C. & Burns, A. (Eds.). (2009). Second Language Teacher Education: Collaborative Teacher Development. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Maggioli, G. D. (2004). Teacher- Centered Professional Development. Association for supervision and curriculum development (ASCD). Alexandria, Virginia, USA.

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (aitsl). The Essential Guide to Professional Learning: Collaboration.

http://www.aitsl.edu.au/professional growth/australian teacher performance/and development framework.

Author’s Bio: Mr. Shaty Kumar Mahato is an MPhil graduate in English Language Education from Kathmandu University and working as an ELT teacher, researcher and trainer in the field of education. Since his Bachelor’s degree in 2005, he has been involved in teaching and research. He has presented his research paper in NELTA, LSN, TERSD and Asia TEFL. At present, he is working as a Project Coordinator-Education in Aasaman Nepal a national NGO. His area of interest is teaching methodologies, Collaborative Approach, Teacher Education, Language Policy, Discourse Analysis and Narrative Research Inquiry.

Teacher identity and the new forms of governmentality in higher education in Nepal

Raj Kumar Baral
Prem Phyak, PhD

Introduction

The purpose of this article is to discuss the identity construction of teachers in higher education in Nepal, particularly in Tribhuvan University (TU). The article is based on our research on the narratives of teachers working in TU. We focus on how teacher identities are shaped by the existing broader socio-political context and the hierarchical structural arrangement of the university. Our arguments in this article are informed largely by the sociocultural perspective of teacher identity. This perspective considers teacher identity as a phenomenon which evolves in interactions with external and internal factors sharing their assumptions, positionings and sense of belongings. We are particularly interested in unravelling the professional trajectories of junior faculty members, known as lectures, working in TU. Due to space limitation, we are unable to include complete narratives, but we have tried to cover the most striking experiences that the teachers have shared with us during our in-depth interviews.

Understanding Teacher Identity

Teacher identity remains as one of the major aspects of teaching professional development (e.g., De Costa and Norton, 2017). How teachers define their own selves and how their selves are defined by others play a critical role in shaping their professional identities. Understanding teacher identity is important for two reasons: a) it helps us identify the state of teachers’ job satisfaction and their commitment to the profession; and b) the knowledge of teacher identity construction provides a framework to understand the institutional culture that shapes teachers’ professional trajectories. Teacher identity is not a fixed entity; rather it is a dynamic and evolving experience that involves complex interactions between both internal and external factors.

Thomas and Beauchamp (2007) argue that professional identity stands at the core of the profession and thereby provides the framework for teachers in the construction of their own ideas of “how to be” and “how to act” as a teacher (p. 230). The importance of identity is also highlighted by Palmer (2007) who notes that a strong sense of identity is the trait common to all good teachers. As he argues, our teaching experiences reveal who we are and that “teaching holds a mirror to the soul” (p. 3), adding that we cannot know our students until we know ourselves. In our teaching, continues Palmer, “We teach who we are” (p. 2). De Costa and Norton (2017) argue that both individual and psychological factors shape the self-image and other-image of particular teachers. For them, teacher identity is shaped by institutional cultures, structures, and values.

Methodology

The identities of teachers we have discussed in this paper are based on the analysis of narratives from six teachers from TU, who are anonymized as Teacher A, B, C, D, E and F. The participants are mostly the lecturers who are at the bottom of the professional hierarchy, according to the university’s rule. In order to collect the data, we had in-depth interviews with each participant. We also had informal conversations with the participants. All the interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed for the purpose of analysis. In addition, we also took field notes of events and activities that the participants took part in. In the remainder of the paper, we discuss major identity-related data under two different themes.

New culture and new identity

The participants in this study reported that ‘a new culture’ has emerged in the universities in Nepal. The new culture the teachers describe is the ‘bhaagbandaa’ (share) culture. One of the teachers (Teacher A), for example, said that ‘accept or not we have ‘bhaagbandaa’ in our university’. He explains that bhaagbandaa has been ‘the core system in TU […] is run by bhaagbandaa […] all officials are appointed on the basis of their affiliation to the political parties.” He argues that “if the appointments are made on the basis of party politics, then academic identity is not important here [university].” In the case of Tribhuvan University, the faculty members are divided into different groups such as ‘Democrat Teachers’ and “Progressive Teachers’. The democrat teachers’ group is the sister organization of Nepali Congress while progressive teachers’ group is affiliated to Nepal Communist Party. These teachers’ groups have organizations at the national and local campus level. As Teacher A shares, these groups have membership of their respective political party and follow what their party leaders ask to do. Teacher D reveals the reason behind university teachers being a member of a political party and unionized as party members. She shares that “teachers become a cadre to get niyukti (appointment) in different positions such as campus chief, Dean, directors, rectors, registrar, VC.” She reveals that “appointments in academic positions are shared among the teachers who belong to the party groups.”

The new culture of governance in the university has seriously affected the teachers’ professional identity. As Teacher C tells, university teachers are now “recognized by their affiliation to the party groups, but not by their academic work.” What is more interesting is that the teachers who lead the party-based organizations are considered ‘powerful’ and ‘hartaakartaa’ (decisive/influential), as Teacher C says, in the university. He further says that the teachers who lead the party groups ‘seek their bhaag (share) in each appointment of the university’. Consequently, the identity of the teachers who would like to remain independent from partisan politics remain invisible. The story shared by Teacher D reflects this situation: I was asked to be open and support one group of the teachers. They told me that they would help me for the appointments as well. It’s not easy to remain far from the political groups. These groups are key actors in the university. They recommend the names of the teachers for the academic appointments. Different groups of teachers negotiate and decide the share of the position.

The teachers agree that this kind of new culture has been very powerful in the functioning of TU. As Teacher D argues, “teachers who have good academic background are hardly appointed in academic positions if they don’t have political affiliation.” This view is supported by Teacher F’s reflections that “academic identity is important, but it is less important now. Teachers’ political affiliation seems to be more decisive.” These views indicate that a new culture of bhaagbandaa, on the basis of partisan politics, has positioned the academic identity of teachers invisible and unrecognized. More importantly, this culture has promoted new identities of teachers recognized as ‘pragatisheel’ (progressive) or ‘prajaataantrik’(democratic) rather than experts in their field of inquiry. Our discussions with the teachers also show that the new culture has affected the governmentality of the university system.

New form of governmentality and teacher identity

The new culture as mentioned above has created a new form of governmentality in the university system. The teachers in the discussions said that most appointments, including part-time teachers and non-teaching staff, are done on the basis of political bhaagbandaa. Teacher E said “every decision is made on the basis of bhaagbandaa, mostly directly and sometimes indirectly. You know if campus chiefs or other authorities make decisions without consulting political groups, they cannot implement their decisions.” For Teacher E, “due to political bhaagbandaa, the authorities cannot work independently.” One of the major issues that the teachers have highlighted is how they are ‘forced’ to become a member of one specific group. Teacher B, for example, tells that he had participated in programs organized by one of the groups because he did not like to be ‘an odd person’ in his campus. After attending such programs, he now feels that “he has other colleagues to support him if he faces any problem in the university.’’

According to the participants’ views in this study, the new form of governmentality, created by the bhaagbandaa culture, forces teachers to join politically affiliated teachers’ groups. For example, Teacher D shares that the teachers with strong academic, research and teaching background are rarely appointed in decision-making positions. She claims that this situation has hindered “innovative academic and other professional activities” in the university. As decision-making positions are filled with ‘bhaagbandaa’, the appointees become ‘loyal’ to their groups, but not the institution. In many cases, such appointees are ‘under control’ of their ‘factions’, and they hardly make policies and implement innovative ideas. This situation reproduces the status quo and contributes to creating an ‘unfriendly environment’ for academic activities.

The new governmentality has affected the early career teachers (lecturers) in many ways. For example, Teacher B asserts that ‘we are not free to say something because we do not know much about politics in the university’. He finds “lack of academic activities in his campus” and argues that “most discussions among university teachers are about national politics and political leaders.” As a junior faculty, he feels that the new culture has ‘divided the university teachers according to the partisan politics. This environment, as Teacher F claims, has invisibilized the academic and professional identity of teachers. As space for collective and collaborative academic activities is rare, junior faculty members do not have much opportunities to build their professional identity. In fact, Teacher F argues that the existing environment is demotivating for him. Although he can work independently, he says that “if you and I start a work together but we belong to different factions, at some point, the factions will discourage us. Why are you helping that person of another faction? They say I should work with our own members. This is never motivating. This will take us nowhere.”

The above discussion shows that in the new form of governmentality, university teachers are expected to become a member of political groups. Since most activities, including opportunities for professional development, are decided by the teachers’ factions, the identity of teachers who are not active members of such groups remain invisible.

Conclusions

In this brief article, we have discussed how teachers’ professional and academic identities are shaped by the political culture, bhaagbandaa politics, in Nepal. We understand that the arguments discussed here are based on the views from six teachers only, but the issues discussed here reflect how a new form of governmentality has been formed and how it has created a sense of uncertainty regarding professional development of the junior faculty members. The teachers’ perspectives as discussed in this paper show that teacher identity, most professional identity, of Nepali university teachers is heavily affected by the divisive political culture based on partisan politics.

Authors:

Raj Kumar Baral is a lecturer at central department of English at Tribhuvan University Nepal.  Dr. Prem Phyak currently teaches at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

References

De Costa, P. I. and Norton, B. (2017) Introduction: Identity, transdisciplinarity, and the good language teacher. The Modern Language Journal, 101, 3-14.

Palmer, P. (2007). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life (10th ed.). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

Thomas, L., & Beauchamp, C. (2007). Learning to live well as teachers in a changing world: Insights into developing a professional identity in teacher education. The Journal of Educational Thought, 41(3), 229-243.

Can be cited as:

Baral, R. K, & Phyak, P. (2021, January). Teacher identity and the new forms of governmentality in higher education in Nepal [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/01/teacher-identity-and-the-new-forms-of-governmentality-in-higher-education-in-nepal/

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