ELT in Nepal: Rethinking authenticity, creativity, and localization
English has long been dominant in the Asian educational landscape, stemming from an instrumental ideology of envisioning upward socioeconomic mobilities. In a country like Nepal where most citizens are looking for their better future, learning English skills is associated with “hopes” and “desires,” also allowing the development of uncritical narratives of the roles and status of English. While we can’t ignore the importance of English for various purposes as well as creating equal opportunities for ALL children to learn English, we must also be critical of the influences the uncritical recommendations and practices of English can have on local language ecology. For example, while the State is struggling to effectively implement mother-tongue-based multilingual education and there is a decline in appreciation for the use of mother-tongue in education (both because of elite narratives created at the macro-level), stressing the role of English in education as a medium of instruction or even asking for its legalization in other social domains is not only wrong but harmful. One must be very careful in defining the role and status of English in Nepal.
This, however, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t teach English but disrupt the perception of, for example, “We can’t survive without English.” There are people surviving without English in Nepal and beyond. Nevertheless, there is no wrong in teaching English as an additional language. The more languages children learn, the more creative and critical they become. So, teaching English as a foreign language in Nepal is an important part of the K-12 curriculum but we need to re-envision it from the “local” viewpoints to create a safe and comfortable space for Nepali multilingual and multiethnic children. ELT teachers and practitioners need to reflect on ELT practices that create injustice and inequalities for various social groups, often originating from dominant language ideologies and mechanisms.
In this special issue, we have tried to address the issues of “authenticity”, “creativity”, and “localization” in ELT practices. We sought contributions to the teaching and learning of English, highlighting authenticity in ELT, which refers to a sense of ownership of teaching/learning materials and cognitive and social activities in ELT classrooms: for example, whose texts, whose varieties of English, whose culture and knowledge we consider as valid. ELT practitioners and learners also employ creativity in incorporating meaningful texts for a realistic world, that is, what strategies (e.g., translation, codemixing/codeswitching, translanguaging) we use to make our teaching/learning processes more accessible to our students. Meanwhile, we need to (re)think if and to what extent we localize our teaching/learning activities for sustainable and linguistic, and culturally responsive practices. We hoped to together challenge the hegemonic ELT practices in Nepal, warranting more linguistic human rights and linguistic and cultural identities.
In this issue, we have included four blog posts and one exclusive interview. In the first post, Umesh Saud critically analyzes a recently published English language textbook of Grade 11, with special attention to the types of texts that are included and the ideologies embedded in the process of selecting those texts. He argues that avoiding/minimizing local and indigenous culture, contexts, and texts in ELT textbooks is the result of the prevalence of the traditional westernized ideology and advocates the promotion of Nepali culture through the inclusion of indigenous texts in the textbooks.
In the interview, Dr. Ram Ashish Giri dives deep into the status of English in Nepal and its future, policies, and practices of English language teaching in multilingual Nepal, ‘authenticity’ in ELT, ‘localization’ in ELT materials, and the roles of English teachers and practitioners.
Similarly, in the second blog post, In the third article, Mohan Singh Saud (also the author of the grade 11 textbook) shares his ideas of rethinking authenticity concerning ELT texts and materials in the changing world and shares his experiences of the politics of undermining the textbook author’s agencies during the text selection.
Likewise, in the fourth article Binod Duwadi shares teachers’ perceptions of non-verbal communication like eye contact, facial expressions, and gestures and their pedagogical implication based on the views collected from English teachers.
Finally, in the fifth blog post, Gyanu Dahal reflects on the situations of teaching English before and during COVID-19, indicating how the classroom culture has been changed due to this emergency and the challenges teachers and students faced to cope with this situation. Reflecting on her own experiences, she suggests some tips for effective virtual lessons and needs for teachers to be equipped with skills and traits for online teaching.
Here is the list of blog posts and interview of this issue:
Now, I would like to thank the entire team of ELT Choutari in general and Mohand Singh Saud (the associate editor of this issue), Jeevan Karki, Ganesh Bastola, Babita Chapagain in particular for their rigorous effort in reviewing and editing the blog pieces. Similarly, I am thankful to all the team of reviewers for their reviews and recommendations for publications. I’m equally thankful to all contributors to this issue and special thanks go to Dr. Ram Ashsish Giri for his exclusive interview.
Finally, if you enjoy reading the articles, please feel free to share in your circle, and of course, drop your comments in the boxes below. Likewise, please write about your experiences, reflections, case studies, reviews, or any other scholarly pieces for our future publications and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wish you a happy Tihar and Chhat festivals!
Pramod Sah, Ph.D. Candidate & Killam Scholar
Guest editor of the issue
(Department of Language & Literacy Education, Faculty of Education, The University of British Columbia, Canada)
In the context of Nepal, there are a large number of schools using English as the medium of instruction and most of them are private schools that prescribe English textbooks from foreign publications, mainly Cambridge and Oxford University Press. This has led to a situation where many of our school children consider foreign culture and even languages as more valid in comparison to their native culture and languages. And in many cases, children cannot write and speak in their native languages properly. The craze for English is so strong that young learners normally neither fully identify themselves with the foreign culture nor they appreciate their cultural values. It is partly because such prescribed textbooks make them alien to their socio-cultural settings.
After nearly two decades, the curriculum for Grades XI and XII compulsory English was finally upgraded. Since the 10+2 curriculum was first introduced, the country has witnessed a sea-change in terms of cultural awareness, political awareness, social values, and other fundamental aspects of human life. The development of the new curriculum and the textbooks was expected to reflect such critical changes. This article seeks to examine how well the new compulsory English textbook of Grade XI designed by Nepal’s Curriculum Development Centre, caters to the needs of today’s generation and accommodates the changes vis-a-vis the national interest of promoting the native culture. Further, I have shown whether or not the contents included in the textbook are in line with the spirit of the 2019 National Curriculum Framework (NCF).
Representation of texts in the textbook and their critical analysis
The Grade XI textbook has been divided into two sections — Language Development and Literature Studies. Under the first section, i.e. Language Development, there are 20 units with themes ranging from humanity, ecology, history to science and technology. The relevance of the literary texts kept under each thematic units can be a matter of discussion but the way various kinds of activities have been incorporated in the section is of course praiseworthy. The Literature Studies section is divided into four units. Literary texts under this section have been categorized into four literary genres — short stories, poems, essays, and one-act plays respectively. The course designers have seemingly tried to make this section more inclusive and diverse so that students can enjoy a variety of literary works. However, the rationale behind the selection of these predominantly foreign canonical literary texts and the selection criteria for those texts call into critical deliberations for Nepali educationists.
The new textbook has seven short stories, five poems, five essays, and three one-act plays. Among the short stories, The Oval Portrait by American writer Edgar Allan Poe, God Sees the Truthbut Waits by Russian Writer Leo Tolstoy, The Wish by British writer Roald Dahl, Civil Peace by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, Two Little Soldiers by French writer Guy de Maupassant, An Astrologer’s Day by RK Narayan, an Indian writer, have been included in the textbook. One cannot deny the greatness of these literary writers and their timeless works, but when we talk about teaching culture through language we expect the short stories of Nepali writers’ writing in English too if we have to sensitize today’s generation to the cultural and other issues of the Nepali society. Although texts have been adopted from multiple contexts, including India and Nigeria, which are non-Western countries, more numbers of Nepali texts would be beneficial and culturally reflective.
Likewise, in the poetry section, of the five poems, one is by Nepali Poet Vishnu Rai and others are by Robert Burns, a Scottish, William Shakespeare, an English poet, E.E Cumming, an American, Tran MongTu, a Vietnamese. It is true that these writers’ works are timeless and have universal appeal, but it is never a good idea to ignore the work of Nepali poets who have tremendously depicted the pains and sufferings of Nepali citizens in their literary works. Vishnu Rai’s poetry has been included, but the poem Corona Says may lose significance by the time these textbooks reach the students—it’s not reflective of Nepal’s linguistic, cultural, and social context although it portrays a current picture of the COVID-19-induced crisis. It can also appeal to stop the mindless activities of humans but doesn’t represent the unique Nepali culture. The poem All the World’s a Stage by William Shakespeare already features in the textbook of Grade X optional English. It is now beyond one’s understanding of what urgent need the textbook designers might have felt while choosing this poem. It could also mean that the author did not consider building cohesion across grade levels.
The third section has five essays (one is a speech by Steve Jobs). Most of these essays are of American writers except for the one by a British-Indian writer. Much can be debated about the relevance of these essays for Nepali students. In this section too, Nepali writers have got no space. The last section contains three one-act plays. One of the three plays is Refund which is so popular that there would be hardly any school which has not staged this play on different occasions. More importantly, today’s teenagers are more attracted to reading fiction. Instead of three plays, one play and one novel by a Nepali writer could have been included in this section. But quite obviously, the course designers have utterly failed to address this issue. And it should also be noted that the first section of the textbook — Language Development — does have both literary and non-literary texts. Except for one interview with social entrepreneur Mahabir Pun, there is nothing that represents the Nepali columnists and writers who write in English, and the issues faced by Nepali youths in particular and Nepali people in general. The preface of the textbook further states that an attempt has also been made to incorporate the emerging needs of the learners. But the way, literary texts have been selected, it seems that neither the cultural issues nor the students’ interest have been taken into consideration. While selecting literary texts, one should accord top priority to the interest of the target group, but the literary works have been selected as per the literary taste of a few individuals involved in designing the syllabus and the textbook.
This tendency to look down upon the local writers who strive to take the Nepali literature in the international arena, on the one hand, is counterproductive for protecting national identity and diverse cultures of the country and, on the other, discourages them to write further in languages such as English. Many promising Nepali writers are writing in English but this kind of apathetic and indifferent attitude towards them and their literary creations might render a severe blow to the growth and expansion of Nepali Literature.
Nepali writings in English emerged as early as the 1950s with Laxmi Prasad Devkota being the pioneer of the first generation of Nepali literary writers in English. Many followed Devkota in the coming decades such as Mani Dixit, Tek Bahadur Karki, Abhi Subedi, Ramesh Shrestha, Padma Prasad Devkota, DB Gurung, Laxmi Devi Rajbhandari, Deepak S. Rana, Kesar Lall, Dhruba K Deep, Yuyutsu RD Sharma, and M L Karmacharya. Many of them could not come to the limelight mainly due to lack of good readership in the country and also because of policymakers and educationalist’s personal prejudice. Yet, many of them are still actively contributing to the Nepali literature in English. Towards the turn of the 20th century, Samrat Upadhyay, Manjushree Thapa, Sheeba Shah, and Sushma Joshi emerged as the new names in the field of Nepali literature. These literary figures got recognition across the world. These writers have, to a larger extent, helped to promote Nepali literature in the global arena, but these writers not getting any space in the English course books for Nepali students to read is very unfortunate and exposes the indifference of those involved in designing the textbook.
The decision to change the textbooks for Grades XI and XII was appreciated by teachers and other stakeholders. They were expecting that the textbooks would introduce something new that could cater to the needs of the present generation. But the way literary texts have been chosen for the course, it seems that course designers are still motivated by the ideology of Westernized knowledge and the fact that a good representation of English has to be measured only through British and American canons. The textbook writers have yet again followed in the colonial footsteps of their predecessors and repeated the same mistakes.
A language is the reflection of culture and tradition. Thus, it is obvious that when we learn a second language, we do learn about the culture embedded therein. In recent years, we have seen how cultural awareness and identity issues have taken the entire world by storm, including in Nepal. Even teaching of other languages in schools is seen as linguistic encroachment, mainly when they don’t draw on the local. The belief that the English language is a must for academic and professional success has been challenged and subverted to some extent. People have become aware of the cultural encroachment transpiring through language. As a result, English is often claimed to have multiple varieties own by local speakers. A variety of English languages have been widely accepted and given recognition too. Efforts are afoot to teach local and foreign cultures through second languages in recent years. While teaching second languages through literature, it is imperative to see the cultural aspects as well. But such a serious concern has been completely ignored, which is very unfortunate, and to some extent against the spirit of the curriculum and the NCF. The preface of the new textbook states that “the National Curriculum Framework advocates for the promotion of skill-oriented, life skill-based, employment-driven, and value-based school education. It envisions developing the human capital dedicated to the nation, nationality, national integrity, and Nepali specialty” (DoE, 2020, preface). By largely ignoring the works of native writers, one cannot think of producing human resources with Nepali specialty. I do not claim that the only way of promoting nationality and national integrity is through the inclusion of native writers’ literary creations, but it will certainly be the first step towards this end.
I, personally, believe that many students in the country now have better linguistic competency in English than Nepali, or any other native languages for that matter, especially in urban areas. They prefer reading literary texts written in English. This shows that they are also the victim of the poor mentality that Nepali writers cannot write better in English.
Finally, it is high time the policymakers and course and textbook designers need to take took the issue of language and culture seriously. Talking about cultural encroachment through language and linguistic chauvinism is not enough. The incumbent government is hell-bent on introducing a clean-feed policy for the foreign television channels broadcasted in the country. And the government is defending the new policy stating that the clean-feed policy will help stop cultural encroachment done through various advertisements created in languages other than Nepali. If television advertising in foreign languages is considered cultural encroachment, what about the literary texts that are completely based on foreign contexts and cultures? If we cannot promote Nepali literature through Nepali languages, why cannot we promote Nepali literature by translating them into the languages, such as English, spoken by more people across the world? So, let’s begin this movement first with our academic courses, especially such courses which are compulsory for all students. The inclusion of local writings in academic courses will not only help protect Nepali diverse cultures but also take the Nepali literature to a new height and help produce more affluent Nepali writers in English.
About the author: Umesh Singh Saud is the Head of the English Department at DAV Sushil Kedia Vishwa Bharati School, Kathmandu. He is also a sub-editor at ‘The Himalayan Times’ national English daily.
Department of Education (DoE). The national curriculum framework. Kathmandu: Government of Nepal.
Saud, M. S. (2020). English (Grade 11). Sanothimi, Bhaktapur: Curriculum Development Centre.
Cite as: Saud, U. (2020). Undermining of “local” in new English textbook for Grade XI. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/10/undermining-of-local-in-new-english-textbook-for-grade-xi/
Ram A. Giri, PhD, academic staff at Monash University, English Language Centre, Melbourne, teaches and researches issues related to ELICOS courses, TESOL, language testing, and language (education) policy. In his extensive career spreading over Nepal and Australia, he has published in international journals, written book chapters, and published edited books. He is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of NELTA and sub-editor of TESL-EJ.
Our Choutari editor, Jeevan Karki has spoken with Dr. Giri about the status of English in Nepal and the extent to be used, policies, and practice of English language teaching to avoid educational inequalities in multilingual Nepal. Moreover, the interview has also explored the concept of ‘authenticity’ in ELT, pros, and cons of adopting the foreign textbooks and other instructional materials including the ideas of localizing English language teaching, and the roles of English teachers and practitioners to balance the influence of English in our teaching-learning practices. Now, here is the exclusive interview for you.
1) In Nepal, English has already received a considerable space in the school and university curriculum as a compulsory language subject and, more recently, as a medium of instruction starting from as early as grade one. So, to what extent do you think English is required in our education system? How do you see the status of English in Nepal in the current sociopolitical situation?
There are two parts to this question: why and to extent, English is required in our (education) system, and its status in the current socio-political system. Both of these should be looked at in their proper contexts. I will address the second part first because I think that it is the prelude for the first part.
Status of English in the current socio-political situation: As the readers of ELT Choutari may be aware, the label of ‘English as a foreign language’ and ‘English as the most important international language’ in Nepal was unceremoniously attached to it in the 1950s and endorsed in successive educational plans by the then so-called experts of education. Although the reports and articles published in the 1960s have challenged this labelling as unrealistic and inappropriate, I am not going to delve into the argument here because the label, for me, is unimportant. What is important is how people saw the status of English then and how they see it now.
I might add here that English was the language in- and of-education prior to 1951, and 44 percent of the population who participated in the first-ever national survey on education was in favour of keeping English as a medium of instruction in the planned school education. That was about 70 years ago. Let’s briefly outline what has changed in Nepal in the last 70 years.
The literacy rate in Nepal has changed: In 1951-52, the literacy rate was around 4 percent and only 1 percent of school-age children attended school. According to some internet reports, the literacy rate in 2020 is around 90 percent and 76 percent of children are enrolled. The children who attended school since then would have some literacy in English. So, we can safely claim that the literacy rate in English has also changed/improved.
There has been a change in the people’s attitude towards the language: People no longer see it as a subject they must study to get a degree. They see it as an essential graduate attribute which prepares them for being a functional citizen in the globalized world today.
There has been a change in how people use English. It is a second or an alternate language for a significant number of people in the country. There are many educational and economic domains where English is used as the primary language. Similarly, in many social domains, it is an alternate language. People do not simply use it to gain social prestige, they use to express themselves better.
There has been a change in the source and means of knowledge. Knowledge bases and knowledge sources have become multidisciplinary and multiple norm-referenced. In the globalized context, knowledge is sourced through the internet and the primary means of accessing it is English, the language of the internet. The Nepali users of English do not worry about what variety of English they are taught or whether it is multi-norm referenced.
There has been a change in why people learn English today. The target of ELE in the past was to access knowledge from the print media. Now it is learned to access educational, employment, and better life opportunities globally. The purpose of learning English today is more realistic, practical, and locally appropriate.
There has been a change in how people learn English. The conventional methods are no longer the only methods of learning English. More and more students and teachers work together today to negotiate what they need/want to learn and how they want to learn it.
Given these changes, we need to re-assess the label which is unfairly attached to it for so long. In other words, its status in the Nepalese context must be reassessed in the light of the current practices and situated appropriately in the national life and educational curricula. Let’s now turn to the second part of the question, the question of its requirement.
The requirement of English in our (education) system: You may have noticed, I have put the word ‘education’ in the parenthesis, and that is on purpose. I think it is relevant first to see why English is required in the national system before we can understand its place in education because the education system of any country is subservient to its national system. The national system dictates what type of education the country should adopt and how it should deliver it.
The requirement of English in Nepal has already been determined. The Federal Government of Nepal, for example, has been using it as a second language. It has become the language of education at all levels. Many provincial governments have committed, they have even signed a treaty to use it as the third language under the three-language formula. So, the socio-politics of Nepal has dictated its requirement and space through its directives for how it should be used in national life including education. What it has not done is that it has not formulated a policy consistent with its directives.
Considering the varying situations and uses of English, Nepal needs to re-assess the roles English plays in the lives of its people. More importantly, it needs to re-assess its status because the Nepalese users of English are not being served well in the existing provisions. Therefore, a new national framework for its status, roles, uses, and space in education needs to be constructed which recognises the different types of English literacy situations. A new approach to its education, recognizing its multiple needs, therefore, should be developed in order to serve the Nepalese population better.
2) You mentioned that English is an alternate language in many social domains for a significant number of people in Nepal, hence its status should be reassessed. But if you see the figures of the Central Bureau of Statistics (national body of government), there is only 0.007% (2032) speakers of English as a mother tongue, while we do not have any statistics of the proficient speakers of English yet. So, isn’t it too early to claim it? Could you elaborate?
As you may be aware, a sizeable section of the Nepalese population is monolingual native speakers of Nepali. The only other language for many of them, particularly those who are educated, they use outside their home/ community is English. In many economic and education domains, such as tourism and (private and higher) education, it is an alternative language. Now some people use the term ESL (English as a second language) or even ELF (English as a lingua franca) to refer to the situation. For me, these terms connote differently. The term ESL, for example, focuses more on the learning/teaching aspect of the language rather than its use. Similarly, ELF is a means of inter-community or intra-national communication. By using the term, English as an alternative language (not to confuse it with English as an additional language), I refer to the myriads of situations in which people use English to participate and respond to when their native language does not serve them best.
In order to be effective, creative, and confident communicators in such situations, such users negotiate their English by appropriating proficiency in terms of accuracy and fluency, communicative skills, and language repertoire for different types of participants, and purpose of the interaction.
Now let’s turn to the data you have quoted in your question. First of all, it is old data reported on the 2011 (2012) census. Secondly, the reported population is the native speakers of English. And finally, the concept of English as an alternative language does not include native speakers of English but those who alternate their native language with English. And as I mentioned above, there is a sizeable section of the Nepalese population who already do that.
3) Historically, English has always been said as the language of elites and elites are believed to have appropriated English for their benefits. While English still functions as a second/third/fourth language for the majority of multilingual children in Nepal. So, there appears to class-based injustice and inequalities in English language teaching. In your views, what measures can be taken in the policies and practice of English language teaching to avoid such inequalities?
As is widely reported, English was imported and has been used in Nepal for ideological reasons, which helped the elites to establish a linguistic edge over the caste/class-based divisions in the Nepalese society. An example of the primacy of English is evident in the fact that English was made compulsory in education even before Nepali (the official/national language) was (Nepali was introduced as a compulsory subject in school only in 1951; whereas English had been compulsory and the medium of instruction since the beginning of school education in Nepal). In addition, English language education (ELE) initially restricted to the elites has also helped establish a form of neo-colonialism in Nepal. The language became a yardstick for employment and educational and occupational opportunities which were made available exclusively to the English-speaking elites. This has been the basis of social injustice and social inequalities. But things have changed now. With the new generation of English users, a new school of thought has emerged that sees English as neutral, democratic, and, more importantly, liberating.
This new line of thinking is based on three perspectives. First and foremost, it suggests that Nepal’s identity in the new context should be redefined with English as an official language in it. They believe that that English in Nepal is no longer an elite language, nor is it tied to any caste or class. Rather it has become everybody’s language and therefore is one of the local languages. The second perspective is that as English is used in more and more domains by more and more people, it should be given official status to remove the confusion and uncertainties surrounding it. Finally, the third perspective contends that it must be appropriately situated in the Nepalese language landscape on the principles of language ecology and linguistic co-existence. So, the answers to what measures can be taken in the policies and practices to avoid such inequalities are in the three perspectives presented above. However, I will reiterate them here again.
In order to address inequalities, the following measures can be taken:
There is a great deal of confusion and uncertainties around what space Nepal should accord to English language education because the government lacks a clear and consistent ELE policy. In order to avoid these, the government should legislate it giving it an official status. Please note, it has already officialized it in its directives.
Legislating it should give ELE an official regulating body something like ‘The National Institute of English Language Teaching’ whose job can be to regulate the distribution of human and materials resources and monitor an effective practice of ELE throughout Nepal.
The official status will also place emphasis on addressing the issue of scarcity of trained and qualified English teachers in rural Nepal,
It will ensure equitable access to quality ELT for all, especially the disadvantaged sections of the population, and finally
An equitable and consistent policy will address the disproportionate distribution of ELT facilities and resources.
4) English, when promoted as the official language due to political imperative, has become the only dominant language in the educational landscape and administrative use limiting the growth and scope of other local languages for example in Rwanda and Cameroon. Research globally shows that students perform better in their local/mother tongues and the government of Nepal in its constitution and policy documents has also warranted and prioritized the use of local languages. So, why do you propose English to be the official language in multilingual Nepal which is not even the official language at the federal level in the USA ?
Legislating English, ambitious and problematic though it may sound, is not as problematic and chaotic as if we work out what to do, why to do it, and how to do it. First, we need to change our attitude towards the language and its legislation. People may see the problem in the very word of ‘officialising’. Let’s look at some of the ways the term ‘official language’ can be viewed. One view can see English – an official language as one of the languages that are accepted by the government of Nepal, which is taught in schools and colleges and is used as an alternative language in certain domains such as information and communication, official document, education, tourism, national and international companies, diplomacy and so on. Secondly, English could be given a special legal status, which could be used within the specified domains for communicational and transactional purposes. One other way of viewing it could be to legislate ‘official multilingualism’ where the government recognises multiple official languages with English among them. Under this system, all official languages are situated in the national space based on the principle of co-existence.
Furthermore, I am not suggesting that it should be legislated ‘overnight’. That could be disastrous. What we should commence doing is to prepare ourselves. We as a country should be prepared for this first. In order to be prepared, we need to initiate a conversation first with grassroots users or end-users of the language. We need to engineer the right attitude in the stakeholders. We need to develop the right strategies and adequate infrastructure. Above, all we need to situate English appropriately in the language landscape of Nepal. All of these processes are time-consuming processes, but if we want to do it in ten years’ time, we have to start the conversation now. Now whether or not it will become dominant will depend on how we situate it in our linguistic landscape. English is dominating our linguistic landscape now. As we have seen lately, it is replacing Nepali in several socio-economic domains. Not legislating will not stop its domination.
5) School-level English language curriculum of Nepal considers English as the most prominent means of international communication, language for global mobilities, and a means for academic success. What’s your perspective on this common belief?
The three aspects mentioned in the question sound great. It captures what may be called ‘the extrinsic view’ of English in Nepal. However, as it is evident, it fails to capture the local sentiments towards the language. It does not recognize the fact that English has already taken a significant position in the life of the Nepalese people. In other words, it lacks an intrinsic perspective on English.
6) In a country like Nepal, there is a tendency to adopt textbooks and other instructional materials developed elsewhere, mainly in the Western countries, and there is a lack of local reflections in such materials. What are the positives and negatives of this practice?
Using commercially marketed textbooks and instructional materials is a double-edged sword. By this, I mean that it has some pros as well as some cons. In my personal opinion, they do more harm than good. Let me explain this further. First of all, I will take up the pros. The marketed materials, especially those published by the western presses, are prepared by a highly trained team of experts and go through rigorous processes of reviews. In other words, the texts and exercises have been tried and tested on English language principles and organised and paced appropriately for a particular age-group of students. Therefore, the quality of such text materials and exercises can be assured. Such textbooks are visually attractive in that they contain colourful pictures, drawings, and charts. In addition, the accompanying workbooks, CDs, audios, and videos are of high quality. They work as a source of an appropriate model and input especially for those teachers who have learned English as a foreign language themselves. Such textbooks often come with comprehensively prepared teachers’ books (teachers’ manuals) which provides step-by-step guidance and support to teachers.
Now I look into the cons.
Such textbooks are prepared for a particular group of children, for a particular set of aims, on a particular approach, and with a particular context in mind. If such textbooks are appropriate for a particular group of children, there is no certainty that they will work for the children in Nepal. The Nepali learners of English may have a different route or pace of learning English. Their needs, objectives, and therefore, their interest in learning English are likely to be different. Such textbooks and instructional materials are prepared on the publishers’ prescribed approaches and their chosen context. These approaches and contexts are usually different from those of the approaches and contexts adapted in Nepal. Most important of all, they may be culturally insensitive. In other words, such materials are not culturally authentic. So, they do not help achieve the aims with which teaching English in Nepal. On the other hand, if the materials do not match the students’ pace and level, they can create demotivation or frustrations in them.
7) In the case of the Nepali English language teaching context, how do you define “authenticity” in both preparing and delivering lessons? What could be some ways to incorporate such authenticity in classrooms?
The term ‘authenticity’ is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. In the Nepali English language teaching context, authenticity in language lessons may be defined as lessons that are prepared and delivered in order to meet the learning targets of the students in the social contexts they learn English in and to fulfil their prospective needs. Now, this definition may sound a bit simplistic, but I tend to think that it is not. I will explain it with the help of three expressions, i.e., the authenticity of ELT practices should be passed on three principles: feed-up, feed on, and feedforward. Firstly, the lessons teachers prepare and deliver should be based on appropriate learning principles and designed to meet the current targets of the learners. The teachers and learners both need to understand what they are doing during the lessons, what materials they are going to use, why they are going to use such materials, and in what ways they are going to help achieve their learning goals. In other words, they should feed up in unpacking the learning targets and the curricular elements associated with them. Secondly, the materials and methods need to be grounded in the reality of learner needs and contexts. In other words, the preparation and delivery of lessons should be fed on the reality of the contexts in which the students learn and use English. For example, if the lesson is about ‘giving and receiving telephone messages’, the materials teachers use should be ‘actual’ conversations grounded in actual contexts in which students are likely to give and receive messages, e.g., giving and receiving messages about assignments, requesting and receiving messages about examinations, giving and receiving personal details at a bank, and so on. Similarly, if the lesson is about ‘pollution’, the materials used should be the ones that are written about their own cities published in the local newspapers or magazines, or broadcast on local radio or telecast on local TVs. Finally, the lessons should be designed in such a way that the language elements that they learn should feedforward to their future needs and activities on the related topic. Authentic materials, thus, have intrinsic educational value. It keeps them informed about what is happening in the context they live in.
8) Could you please also share your ideas about localizing English language teaching, also in terms of linguistically and culturally responsive teaching?
In Nepal, we have had no engaged discussions or conversations on the issue of how English language teaching can be localised despite the fact that the teaching and learning of English are now increasingly intricately intertwined with a wide variety of local cultures, including regional and national cultures. I am aware that some institutions/universities of Nepal, particularly those in the west, are planning to develop locally appropriated text materials for their localised teaching practices.
For linguistically and culturally responsive teaching, the text materials, and their teaching practices need to include four cultural dimensions: (1) the aesthetic dimension (local art and literature); (2) the sociological dimension (local customs and practices); (3) the semantic dimension, the manner in which a culture’s conceptual system is embodied in the language (local English); and (4) the pragmatic dimension, which pertains to linguistic and paralinguistic rules and skills that guide speakers to appropriate use of rhetorical styles for communication purposes (local use).
9) What should be the role of English teachers and practitioners to minimize the hegemonic influence of English in our teaching-learning practices?
In some ways, this question is related to the previous question. The hegemony of English is exercised through practicing Anglocentric norms, models, and teaching materials. This gives the learner the feeling that they have to speak/use the language as the native speakers do, and they are learning a language that does not belong to them. They do not identify themselves with it. English teachers can play a significant role in minimizing this hegemonic influence. They can change the lens through which our students look at English. They can, for example, develop in them a critical view of English, its ownership, its plurality, and complexity. In other words, they can raise students’ awareness of world Englishes, by detaching English from its Anglocentric linguistic and cultural model and methods, and then by localizing it considering the way(s) in which it is used and experienced locally. In other words, English teachers can shift the focus from norm, teaching methods, and materials of the Centre (Anglocentric) to teaching strategies, contexts, knowledge, and culture of the Periphery (Local) for the development of ELT curricula, materials, and methodology.
Note: Now the floor is open for you. If you have any concerns or comments on the interview, drop them down in the box below. Your constructive feedback and questions are always welcome. Thank you!
Cite as: Giri, RA (2020). English is one of the local languages in Nepal. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/10/english-is-one-of-the-local-languages-in-nepal-dr-giri/
The concept of authenticity “is a pervasive ideology within ELT” (Holliday, 2006, p. 385), which initially referred to the texts and materials reflecting native-like features and produced by the native speakers of English. However, at present, it is believed that such ideology damages the ELT profession as well as popular perceptions of English and culture disbelieving the cultural contribution of the non-native speaker teachers. Kumaravadivelu (2016) also argues that native-speakerism represents an unresponsive ‘native speaker’ hegemony in ELT. This ideology is what Phillipson (1992) calls ‘native speaker fallacy’. Along with the application of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), practitioners often talked of authentic texts and materials in ELT. More recently, new approaches and concepts have been proposed and even practiced, such as Kumaravadivelu’s (1994) notion of post-method pedagogy, Kachru’s (1985) World Englishes, McKay’s (2002) English as an international language, and Jenkins’ (2006) English as a lingua franca (ELF), which have challenged the native speaker fallacy.
There have been debates regarding the concept of authenticity, indicating a need for rethinking authenticity in ELT texts and materials. In response to the traditional EFL approach, it is essential to focus pedagogy considering the diversity of the local context with various purposes of learning English. Scholars argue that ELT should be culturally sensitive and socially responsive valuing multiculturalism.
The discussion above proves to rethink authenticity in ELT texts and materials of ELT, especially in non-English speaking countries. Authenticity is a relative contextualized concept since “authentic materials may mean different things for different people” (Shomoossi & Ketabi, 2007, p.149), and was the main focus of CLT in the past (Bax, 2003). In this background, this article explores the concept of authenticity concerning ELT texts and materials.
Authenticity as a social construct
A traditional definition of authentic materials refers to the materials created by native speakers of English and are used to teach for second or foreign language learners of English (Day, 2004; Rafalovich, 2014). However, my perspective on the authenticity of ELT materials is different. Agreeing with Rafalovich (2014), I believe that the authenticity of ELT texts and materials is determined by needs, availability, classroom environment, teacher-student relations, and the perception of the reader. Any text can be authentic if it is produced in English (or even bi/multilingual), may it be by a native or non-native speaker of English, and if it can be appropriated for the classroom teaching-learning purposes.
The main concern about the authenticity of texts was in relation to CLT in ELT. Those teaching materials were considered authentic, which were produced for real-life communicative purposes and used for teaching-learning purposes. CLT placed more importance on using authentic materials in the classroom. Thus, authenticity in the traditional sense is a social construct based on the ideology of native-speakerism promoting English culture. This notion needs to be reconsidered as English is no longer the language of the native English speakers only. As such, I define authentic texts as those texts that are written in English reflecting different cultures and can be appropriate in ELT.
Glocal ELT materials
With the globalisation of the English language, English no longer belongs to any single nation or group and new forms of English have been emerged in non-Western contexts (Kachru, 2004). As such, authentic materials do not mean those produced in Anglophone countries, but those could be produced in any part of the world and can be adaptable to teaching-learning purposes. It is essential to rethink the authenticity of materials that better meet their students’ diverse needs and those texts and materials should promote cultural awareness and intercultural understanding among them (Nault, 2006).
Although ELT texts and materials tend to adopt the contents from English-speaking countries and native English speakers, the globalization of the English language has demanded them to be inclusive across cultures. Materials must be culturally sensitive and socially responsive. ELT pedagogy is truly pluricentric (Sharifian, 2014). English is a pluricentric language, with variations in the spelling, pronunciation, vocabulary, etc. between the United Kingdom, America, New Zealand, Australia, and other English-speaking as well as non-English speaking countries, including dialectal variety within these areas. As such, no national authority can set the standard for the use of English. Moreover, a tripartite traditional distinction between English as a Native Language (ENL), English as a Second Language (ESL), and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) (Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, & Svartvik, 1985) have been debated, and Kachru (1985) put forward the three-concentric-circles model of World Englishes with inner-outer-expanding circles distinction. English, therefore, spoken in different countries and regions is increasingly taken as a pluricentric language. This reflects the need of focusing on the culturally sensitive and contextually appropriate use of English.
Byram (1997) proposed intercultural communicative competence (ICC) for effective and appropriate communication with people from various language and cultural backgrounds. The basic tenet of ICC advocates the need of including texts and materials from various cultures which could raise cultural awareness among the learners. Various studies have shown the importance of integrating varied cultures in the ELT curriculum to develop intercultural communication. Therefore, it is important to rethink the inclusion of the local and indigenous texts and materials in producing ELT textbooks and other materials in Nepal, with a multiplicity of linguistic, ethnic, religious, and cultural groups. It is time to challenge and resist the ideology of preferring texts and materials produced by American or British writers and ELT industries, but all those across the culture around the world that can be appropriate for teaching and learning English. Doing so will assure justice for all cultures and the true application of inclusive pedagogy in ELT.
Reconsidering native speaker mindset in text selection
I have been involved in selecting texts in the process of ELT coursebook development. Although I advocate the inclusion of local and indigenous texts for the expansion of native knowledge prioritizing non-native English speaker writers, it has been difficult in practice due to some other obstacles and our traditional ideology that only the native speakers’ texts can be appropriate, standard, and authentic. This kind of mindset needs to be challenged and textbook/material developers need to take inclusive, glocal, and pluricentric perspectives while selecting texts and materials appropriating the needs and level of learners.
Moreover, it is not easier to get the suitable texts to the level and needs of Nepali learners. I wanted to represent the local and indigenous texts and materials in the coursebook, but such texts are not easily available. Nonetheless, I attempted to include texts from diverse cultures across the world considering that authenticity remains in the text rather than who and where it was produced. I hope the textbook and material developers in the days to come would respect local culture and value Nepali writers rethinking the authenticity of texts and materials in ELT in the context of Nepal.
The concept of authenticity appeared in English language teaching along with the advent of the communicative approach in the 1970s. However, this article has argued that the authenticity of texts and materials used in English language teaching should be rethought
to reflect the multiple perspectives inherent in EFL pedagogy. Any text and material that is culturally sensitive and socially responsive can gain authenticity in the globalised context of English and English language teaching. It is recommended that the English curriculum should include the texts and materials representing varied cultures.
It is crucial to rethink text authenticity in ELT instead of promoting the traditional notion of authenticity of texts and materials in relation to CLT. It can be justifiable to use appropriate materials that will be fruitful and purposeful for students to learn the language effectively. Therefore, it is advisable to choose appropriate materials that will best suit students’ needs for language development, regardless of the origin and the originator of the materials. Even if the materials are produced by non-native English speakers, they can be taken as authentic if they serve the purpose of developing language and are readily accessible, appropriate, need-based, and socially responsive.
About the author: Mohan Singh Saud is Associate Professor of English Education at Kailali Multiple Campus, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He is a PhD scholar at Graduate School of Education, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He is also the author of Grade 11 compulsory English textbook under Curriculum Development Centre, Nepal.
Bax, S. (2003). The end of CLT: a context approach to language teaching. ELT Journal, 57(3), 278–287.
Byram, M., (1997). Teaching and assessing interculturalcommunicative competence. Bristol, England: Multilingual Matters.
Day, R. (2004). A Critical Look at Authentic Materials. The Journal of Asia TEFL, 1(1), 101-
Jenkins, J. (2006). Current perspectives on teaching world Englishes and English as a lingua franca. TESOL Quarterly,40(1), 157-181.
Kachru, B. (2004). Asian Englishes: Beyond the canon. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
Kachru, B. B. (1985). Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism: The English language in the outer circle. In R. Quirk, & H. G. Widdowson (Eds.), English in the world: Teaching and learning the language and literatures (pp. 11-30). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kumaravadivelu, B. (1994). The postmethod condition: Emerging strategies for second/foreign language teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 28(1), 27-48.
Kumaravadivelu, B. (2016). The decolonial option in English teaching: Can the subaltern act?. TESOL Quarterly, 50(1), 66-85.
McKay, S. L. (2002). Teaching English as an international language: Rethinking goals and perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press.
Nault, D. (2006). Going global: Rethinking culture teaching in ELT contexts. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 19(3), 314-328.
Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S., Leech, G., & Svartvik, J. (1985). A comprehensive grammar of the English language. Harlow: Longman.
Rafalovich, M. (2014). Reconsidering authenticity in ESL written materials. Hawaii Pacific University TESOL Working Paper Series, 12, 96-103.
Sharifian, F. (2014). Teaching English as an International Language in Multicultural Contexts: Focus on Australia. In R. Marlina, & R.A. Giri (Eds.), The pedagogy of English as an international language: Perspectives from scholars, teachers, and students (pp. 35-46), (Vol. 1). Springer.
Shomoossi, N., & Ketabi, S. (2007). A critical look at the concept of authenticity. Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 4(1), 149-155.
Cite as: Saud, MS. (2020). Rethinking authenticity in ELT texts and materials: A perspective of an author. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/10/rethinking-authenticity-in-elt-texts-and-materials-a-perspective-of-an-author/
In this piece of article, I have attempted to explore teachers’ perceptions regarding eye-contact; facial expressions (mimics) and gestures (body language) and their pedagogical implication based on the views collected from ten English teachers from five community schools of Kathmandu valley.
Teachers often complain about discipline, lack of attention and motivation, and many other challenges in large classes. In such classes, many of which lead to a communication breakdown between teachers and students or between students themselves. It is known that speech is only one of the forms of communication. Experts believe that most interpersonal communication takes place in a nonverbal mode. People’s faces disclose emotions and telegraph what matters to them (Santrock, 2001). Two aspects of non-verbal communication are the use of eyes and facial expressions; both of which are powerful tools to convey messages. Yet, most of our learners’ time in the classroom is spent with their eyes firmly fixed on books, whiteboard, projector, windows, or roaming randomly around the class. Ergin and Birol (2005) indicate that the real communication between people begins when they maintain eye contact, hence eye contact plays a crucial role in communication. If a person maintains eye contact with you, it indicates that the person is interested to start communication with you, while avoiding eye contact shows that the person is not interested or lacks the confidence to start the conversation.
While the use of eyes and facial expressions are reported to assist teachers in managing classrooms, direct eye contact with teachers in our context is considered disrespectful. According to Gower and Walters (1983), the main applications of eye contact in the classroom are to show that the teacher is taking notice of students who are talking; check that everyone is concentrating; indicate the students who want to communicate, and encourage contributions when one is trying to elicit ideas. A teacher can identify that students have something to say by looking at their eyes and face and teacher’s eye contact with students also helps to hold their attention and encourage them to listen to others talking (Snyder, 1998). The use of eyes, mimics, and gestures are also believed to help establish rapport with students. Rossman (1989) believes that the teacher’s body language and eye contact play an important role to set the climate of the classroom. A teacher who never looks at students in their eyes could be due to a lack of confidence, which gives students a sense of insecurity (Gower & Walters, 1983; Pollitt 2006).
Facial expression and eye contact reflect teachers’ confidence. Teachers need to be present in the classroom before learners and welcome them individually with a combination of eye contact and their names as they enter the room. Ledbury et al. (2004) report that eye contact is, fundamentally, time and effort saving even in a large class setting. Research reveals that teachers can save time and effort with specific messages delivered by eye and facial expressions like praises, encouragement, or disapproval. However, the role of non-verbal communication like eye contact, facial expression, and gestures in English language teaching-learning in a developing country like Nepal requires more intensive investigation. Therefore, I am interested in this area and have attempted to explore teachers’ perceptions of non-verbal communication and their implications in teaching-learning of English language.
Pedagogical practices in relation to non-verbal communication
Based on the qualitative research method associated with the interpretive paradigm, I collected the data from ten English teachers from five community schools of Kathmandu valley. The teachers were asked to share their experiences of non-verbal communication and its uses in their large classroom via email. They were given the freedom to report and reflect on any of the issues or incidents they find worthwhile or significant indicating why those moments were significant and critical to them. Information from the ‘critical moments reflection’ reports revealed two major categories based on the research questions as follows:
Teachers’ perceptions on eye contact
Five teachers stated that teachers’ eye contact is a source of motivation and coordination for the students towards the lesson making them feel important and confident as well. T4 states:
I think the relationship is crucial between teacher and student. The way we look at our students, their eyes seem serious towards the class, as they are found motivated towards our lesson, at that time I feel motivated and encouraged.
Similar to the perceptions of most other teachers, T4 reported that eye contact makes students feel important as when the teacher looks at students, they feel that the teacher is interested in them and cares for them. Moreover, eye contact for T4 helps to maintain concentration and boost the motivation of students. On the other hand, for T5, eye contact is a tool to manage the large class she says:
My class is sixty-three, so it is quite large, students make noise, that is very tedious to control, when I look at them, one by one, they remain silent to some extent, perhaps they are aware of my class.
T6 reports a similar experience, “As I find my class noisy, I feel stressed, and I use minimum eye contact for a while without talking to them, they also do not make noise, no matter the class is large.”
Their views are similar to the views of Gower & Walters (1983) as they believe that eye contact can be used to ensure that everyone is together in the lesson, to notice the student who is talking, and to encourage contributions, participation.
Likewise, the other five teachers reported that they perceive teachers’ eye contact as a means to maintain attention in the classroom, which is similar to the views of Gower and Walters (1983) and Snyder (1998) that eye contact is used to hold the attention and maintain focus in teaching-learning. T6 uses eye contact for a similar purpose as he mentions, “By looking at my students directly in their eyes, they pay attention to me and they listen to me, what I am saying in my class.” Similarly, T7 uses eye contact to increase motivation, maintain attention and most importantly to approve and disapprove of students’ behaviour as he says, “My eye contact is crucial for me and my class as it obtains the motivation of the students. This way students pay attention to the lesson. I acknowledge my student’s behavior that is posed in my classroom.” Eye contact also plays an important role in behaviour management of students. By simply fixing our eyes at students’ with an unhappy facial expression signals them to drop their behaviour, while soft eyes with a smile signals that the teacher is interested and wants them to continue what they are doing.
Moreover, it also can be a tool to assess students’ understanding of the lessons as a lack of understanding is displayed in students’ eyes in the form of restlessness or lack of confidence. T9 has a similar experience:
When we are confident, we feel easy to see our students face, otherwise, it is not easy to look at the students’ faces one by one. It is easy to evaluate our student’s situation, how they are presenting in the class.
Teachers’ perceptions on facial expression and gestures
The teachers mentioned that facial expression and gestures are the sources of motivation, enthusiasm, and confidence in learning, oneself, and others. T1 mentions:
Another thing that took my students’ attention is when my students speak, I always listen to them and show I am reacting by moving my body at least by one gesture. This makes my class motivated, encouraged, and enthusiastic. This gives us strong confidence to move on.
Signaling students with some non-verbal clues gives sufficient information about whether students are doing right or wrong and whether they should continue or drop the action. Such non-verbal clues are sometimes stronger than lectures. Teachers should be aware of their body language and the message it conveys because their body language can either encourages or discourages students in classroom engagement and participation as T3 notes that, “My students report me that my body language encourages them and they do not hesitate to talk to me. They say my body language is encouraging and they feel secure in their class.”
The teachers also reported that they perceived mimics and gestures as a source to maintain the attention and readiness of students to resume the teaching-learning activities. They reported that body language is very useful in managing students’ behaviour in a large classroom. Moreover, it also helps students to understand the discussion and lesson better. T10 uses various non-verbal clues to demonstrate and express the intended meaning during the discussion as he notes that, “By using various demonstrations and expressing the posture I make my class well managed.”
The participant teachers mostly perceived the non-verbal clues like eye contact as a source of motivation, concentration, enthusiasm, and a tool for gaining and maintaining attention during the teaching-learning processes. Although there are major similarities in the teachers’ perceptions of non-verbal communication like eye contact, mimics, and gestures, and using them in teaching-learning, some teachers perceive and use them differently. For instance, they use non-verbal clues not only to control the classroom but also to better elaborate the intended meaning of discussion and to encourage students in active participation in teaching-learning activities.
According to cognitive scientists, meaningful learning occurs if students’ attention is captured as information processing that begins with learners paying attention to the stimuli. Most of the students indicated how motivated they become as a result of the teacher’s eye contact, mimics, and gestures feeling comfortable, confident, and significant. Teachers’ non-verbal communication creates a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere for them, and this enables them to have self-confidence which also leads to increased participation and contributions to the lesson. When students participate in the lesson, they are more likely to ask questions which also increases their understanding of the topics. Teachers are recommended to be aware of the importance of nonverbal communication and use it in favor of learners to create a more motivating, comfortable, confident environment in class for better classroom management.
About the author: Binod Duwadi is an MPhil scholar (English Language Education Programme) at Kathmandu University. He is the Head of the English Department at Amar Jyoti Secondary School Kathmandu, Nepal.
Ergin, A. & Birol, C. (2005). EgitimadeLletisim. Ani Yayincilik. Ankara.
Gower, R. & Walters, S. (1983). Teaching practice handbook. Oxford. Heinemann.
Ledbury, R, et al, (2004). The importance of eye contact in the classroom. The Internet TESL Journal. X(8)
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for people around the world. Due to this crisis, we all are locked inside the home and no one can deny that life has suddenly and unavoidably become more difficult and complicated for everyone, including language teachers. All the schools and colleges are closed. So, these days regular face-to-face classes have been switched to virtual (online) classes. Conducting virtual classes is a new mode of teaching and learning for both teachers as well as students. The school closures have not only threatened teachers and students, but also parents to cope up with the entirely new situation. It has become a matter of anxiety and a nuisance for all of us.
Teaching is often said as one of the most stressful professions, even before the pandemic. Response to the Covid-19 pandemic has created a long list of new stressors for teachers to deal with, including problems caused by the emergency transformation to online language teaching. During this crisis, everything has happened so fast that it does not seem realistic to adopt a holistic solution that is easy to implement, and that works for everyone (Moorhouse, 2020).
I always realized that teaching and learning is a social and dynamic process. Teachers and students used to get enough time to be social in face-to-face classes. Students’ attendance was good. They seemed happy with teachers and there were personal connections between teachers and students. We could use facial expressions, body language, a physical gesture which is used to motivate students to work on time and to create a positive classroom environment, but there is a distance between teachers and students in virtual classrooms. They are deprived of physical closeness. The main negative aspect that was predicted and experienced in online teaching was the lack of interaction. The pandemic caused many teachers and educators to rethink and reshape their educational practice. These are the issues from which every teacher is suffering.
In many countries, teachers were given very little time to convert their face-to-face classes to online teaching via synchronous and/or asynchronous methods, often despite challenges concerning the availability of necessary digital devices, prior training in online teaching techniques, and/or effective online learning support platforms. In most cases, teachers have not been trained in the necessary technical and pedagogical skills to integrate digital technology instruction.
The typical days for language teachers around the world have been stressful enough, given their heavy workloads, time pressures, and difficult juggling roles. These days, we are not only stressed due to the reasons mentioned above but it’s because of sudden adaptation to online teaching. Furthermore, teachers are unhappy with the indifferent behavior of students, their passivity, and less enthusiasm in the online classroom. Students used to be very active and participatory in those days in comparison to now. The teachers indulge in the thought as to how to make students active and energetic in the class. There are concerns about low students’ attendance, reasons behind not submitting their assignment on time, and effective ways of assessment. In what follows, I have discussed my own experience of running online classes smoothly and effectively.
My learned experiences and suggestions to fellow teachers
Based on my personal experiences, I have listed several suggestions that might help fellow teachers to hold their virtual lessons effectively and successfully.
Prepare a lesson plan
Every teacher should develop the habit of making plans before starting their lessons. Allen (2003) explained that a lesson plan is a route map or mind map of teachers designed for a specific topic of a specific day. A plan helps to run classes smoothly without being distracted. It helps to become confident and mindful of what is to happen in lessons. When teachers are equipped with a lesson plan, they never find themselves mislead and likely to reach their teaching goals. Unlike the face-to-face mode of teaching, I would recommend fellow teachers to plan their lessons shorter for online teaching and try creating more opportunities for interactions.
Develop multiple classroom activities
In face-to-face classrooms, teaching was easier and more comfortable. We could quit or add some activities by observing students’ motivation and engagement. But now, before conducting online classes, we should set a plan with a variety of activities that can keep the students active and interactive. For this, we can use break out rooms, we can let the learners use the microphone, turn on the camera, and allow them to use a chatbox. It helps learners be active, interactive, and collaborative. Collaborative learning encourages understanding, fosters relationships, builds self-esteem, reduces anxiety, and stimulates critical thinking (Panitz, 1999). We should encourage our students to share their ideas, inspire them to participate in all the activities actively and enthusiastically, motivate them to be interactive in the classroom asking open questions.
Be vigilant in assigning and correcting work
Teachers assign homework to the students to practice the content and language they learned during the class. However, it’s not a good idea to assign homework at the end of the lesson because you may not have enough time to explain how to write it, and also students may not have enough time to ask questions if it is not clear for them. For doing homework correction, one effective way can be to display the corrections in PowerPoint slides and encourage students to do self-correction or in small groups in break out rooms. Sometimes, teachers can ask students to write answers in the chatbox and read their responses mentioning their names. At this difficult time, it is important to give compliments to students regardless of their failure to produce correct and sufficient work as it keeps them motivated. However, teachers need to correct their work and offer positive feedback.
Use of students’ L1
Researchers believe that the use of students’ L1 facilitates the teaching of a target language (Cook, 2001). Teachers use students’ L1 for various purposes like facilitating communication, conveying meaning, facilitating student-teacher relationships, and scaffolding, and peer learning (Cook, 2001). It also maintains confidence and self-esteem because it is linked to the learner’s identity and emotional wellbeing. At this challenging time when the instruction may not be delivered effectively during online teaching, it is important to use students’ mother tongue or the languages they are more comfortable with. The use of English-only may create difficulties and frustration for them.
Develop a positive classroom culture
Creating an environment where students feel safe and free to take part is equally important. Every teacher should love to have their students waiting to come to class every day to learn, feel safe, and have a sense of family with their classmates and their teachers. For this, I’m always mindful of creating positive classroom culture. It is a space where everyone should feel accepted and included. Students should be comfortable with sharing how they feel, and teachers should be willing to take it in to help improve learning.
Every student, teacher, and parent needs to be involved in playing a part in creating a positive classroom culture. Teachers present in class not only to teach for academic success but also to preserve student’s physical, social, and emotional needs. Teachers should never forget students’ variations, in the classroom, there may be students who have a troubled home life and do not get the motivation or emotional support from their family, but coming to a very friendly classroom culture and understanding is very beneficial in changing their views on themselves and other adults.
Teachers must be aware of the classroom culture they develop before starting new sessions. We need to take into mind what each student needs to feel comfortable in the classroom and give them a safe space to be themselves. Having a good classroom culture in starting days will give children a positive and friendly connotation with the teachers and learning. If students experience a bad classroom culture in the beginning, they will be less motivated to continue on their learning excursion with the best mindset.
Today’s teachers should be equipped with some specific skills that help teachers to succeed in their efforts to teach a language: for example, designing and implementing appropriate instruction for classroom assessment and student engagement, organizing and facilitating students’ participation, and providing guidance and support. We should motivate students and show enthusiasm and interest in learners. We can support our learners to promote group interaction, collaboration, and teamwork by setting some activities. We can also use different communication tools (e.g., email, video chat, text messages, etc.), for active communication and social presence to engage online learners. We can personalize our instructions, stories, messages, and feedback to make our class environment livelier by adding the appropriate sense of humor when possible. We can maintain a warm, and friendly, atmosphere by creating and developing respectful relationships by showing sensitivity and empathy when communicating online. We can offer some advice and suggestions from our learners for betterment. All these skills, tasks, and competencies can help us to be highly respectful online educators. Moreover, teachers should try these to possess some personal traits such as being highly motivated, supportive, visible, organized, analytical, respectful, approachable, active, responsive, flexible, open, honest, and compassionate.
About the Author: Gyanu Dahal is an English language teacher in Little Angels’ College of Management/School. She has also worked as a trainer and mentor in British Council projects. Her scholarly interests include mentoring, exploratory action research, and teacher education.
Allen, G.T. (2003). Important points about planning lessons. California: Philadelphia.
Cook, V. (2001). Using the first language in the classroom. Canadian Modern Language Review, 57, 402–423.
Harbord, J. (1992). The use of the mother tongue in the classroom. ELT Journal, 46, 350– 355.
Panitz, T. (1999). Collaborative versus cooperative learning: A comparison of the two concepts which will help us understand the underlying nature of interactive learning. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED448443.pdf
Cite as: Dahal, G. (2020). Changing assets in ELT classroom culture: Reflections on teaching during the pandemic. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/10/changing-assets-in-elt-classroom-culture-reflections-on-teaching-during-the-pandemic/
Post-COVID-19 School Transformation: What Teachers, Communities and Nation can Contribute
COVID-19 pandemic crisis and its impact on rural primary schools investigated that health, social, economic and education would be hardly predicted at its identification in Wuhan, a Chinese city in November 2019. When China was struggling to control its spread in communities across the country, most of the countries would not have even imagined how the pandemic could destroy their mechanisms of health, education, business, economy and society. Millions of teasing TikTok videos, cartoon sketches, metaphoric texts and lyrics about COVID-19 in China would have been hardly bearable for Chinese civilians living across the world.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 without the restriction of the human sketched territory of countries on the planet reached elsewhere within the first three months of its identification. Many countries, particularly in Europe and America, unexpectedly suffered from the pandemic as early as the virus spread in those countries after China. The rapid spread of the virus in Asian countries particularly India in recent days has become a threat to Nepal because of the open border between Nepal and India. Moreover, the spread of COVID-19 in Nepal can presumably bring deadly days soon if the government is unable to strategically control the spread.
The impact of the pandemic can be observed in various sectors such as education, health, business, tourism and industries in Nepal. More than 7 million students have been observing lockdown when all the schools and ten universities have been shut down since March 2020. Although particularly few private schools and colleges in cities have been trying to reach their students and teach them in online classes, the majority of schools are unlikely to switch to online teaching and learning in absence of information and communication technologies. Where only 4% of the government schools and 22% of the private schools have a computer lab, and the majority of schools lack internet facilities, holistically approaching internet-based teaching and learning in schools can be an immature idea. Although it is estimated that about 70% of the total population use the internet, the majority of them (95%) use expensive mobile data for personal communications and only 5% of them, particularly in cities, use broadband internet. Moreover, the limited practice of online teaching and learning particularly in urban schools may widen the gap between rural and urban communities. However, the effort several national and local televisions and radios have made by broadcasting tutorials is appreciated by the public. Unfortunately limited or no specific programme for regulating school and university education in this crisis indicates the extent of governmental and institutional preparedness to mitigate the crisis. Even though the majority of teachers and students have limited access to internet facilities, some teachers have reported their experiences of practising online teaching and learning. This issue comprises of teachers experiences of using ICT tools for teaching and learning, challenges they faced in their practices and suggestions for post-COVID-19 schooling.
Prem Prasad Poudeloffers his critical analysis of the pandemic influence on education particularly in Nepal and suggests ideas for post-crisis school transformation. He shares some ideas for alternative ways to conventional pedagogies to gradually revive school education.
Dr SM Akramul Kabircritically analyses the educational issues highlighted in Bangladesh during the pandemic crisis and suggests alternative ways to mitigate similar issues in general. Dr Thinh Le from Vietnam suggests some ideas for online teaching and learning. He specifically focuses on the community of learning model for online teaching and learning activities.
Dr Prem Phyak, Bhim Sapkota, Ramji Acharya and Dil Kumari Shresthaoffer how teachers during COVID-19 crisis have learned to use various ICT tools in teaching and learning. Their interviews with teachers suggest how many other teachers can take advantage of this lock down to develop their professionalism by exploring national and international training opportunities offered in online classes.
Krishna Parajuliand Pushpa Raj Paudel share their experiences of using internet facilities for teaching and learning. Both authors illustrate how teachers have struggled to go on online teaching and what schools can do to transform them to revive and survive ahead.
Karuna Nepal explicates how students can manage their online and distance learning and how teachers can facilitate them to learn their courses. Hiralal Kapar has reported school teachers’ early experiences of using ICT tools to teach their students and gradual development of their confidence in teaching in online classes. Manish Thapa highlights how few university departments have switched their physical classroom to online teaching and learning during the pandemic crisis and how the practice can be adopted to transform traditional pedagogies.
Babita Sharma, one of the editors of this publication, discusses issues of social and family environment for children’s learning, how parents can create supportive social atmosphere for their children’s learning. She also suggests how family members can be teachers of their children to teach them dynamic life skills particularly relevant to social and cultural values.
We on behalf of the ELTChoutari publication would like to thank all the authors for your contribution to this issue. We appreciate your academic work and hope to receive your writing for the future issues of this publication. Your contributions will be read and valued across the world. Thank you, Babita Sharma Chapagain (associate editor of this issue) for your incredible support to follow the review process of this issue. Thank you, Jeevan Karki, Ganesh Kumar Bastola and Mohan Singh Saud for your cooperation in the review and copy-editing process. Thank you, Ekaraj Koirala, Jnanu Raj Paudel, Karuna Nepal, Nanibabu Ghimire and Sagar Paudel for your great help in reviewing several manuscripts. Your great help will ever be accountable.
This issue to the date has had many great people since its foundation. Their volunteer contribution in the early days and difficult situations provided a strong foundation for the proliferation of this online magazine. Prem Phyak, Shyam Sharma, Bal Krishna Sharma, Sajan Kumar Karn, Kamal Poudel and Hem Raj Kafle who established this digital magazine have ever been a source of inspiration and motivation for many other friends including the current editorial and reviewer team of this publication. Thank you for your frequent advice and continuous support.
Thank you, readers and followers of ELT Choutari for your invisible but invaluable support to this publication. Your comments and feedback have ever been a source of improving our works and we hope you will keep on supporting us that way.
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.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges in every sphere of our lives and education is not out of it. With schools shut across the world, millions of children have had to adapt to new types of learning. This resulted in the largest “online movement” in the history of education with approximately billions of children around the world became homebound, together with their parents and extended families. Recently, a report of CNN has confirmed that even though the COVID-19 situation becomes stable, several universities in the USA have decided to consider the possibility that in-person classes may not resume until 2021. During this crisis, everything has happened so fast that it does not seem realistic to adopt a holistic solution that is easy to implement, and that works for everyone (Moorhouse, 2020). The pandemic is a monster situation to deal with, but we can tackle it following a prophylactic approach. So, I inspire individual solutions based on contextual needs.
The whole world has witnessed a paradigm shift in its teaching-learning-assessment process recently. So, the developing countries are no exception. For instance, in Bangladesh, irrespective of all levels, teachers have started teaching online despite several challenges. The government has also encouraged to go online to continue the teaching-learning process of the country during the pandemic. Teachers use different platforms to teach online. As there is a government directive, the primary and secondary teachers of government schools use Bangladesh Television (BTV) as a platform to teach virtually. The BTV announces the schedule of classes on different topics before the live session so that students can learn whether or not the class lesson is relevant to their level of study. In this regard, non-government schools are free from governmental directives. So, non-government schools have multiple platforms to conduct virtual classes apart from BTV. Most of the schools use Zoom or Google Classroom as their online teaching platforms although there are several challenges, such as lack of uninterrupted power supply with continuous access to the internet, unavailability of digital devices for each student, and the unavailability of well-trained teachers to conduct the online classes smoothly. In this regard, there is a huge possibility that the current paradigm shift of teaching virtually may exacerbate inequalities in education between developed and developing countries across the globe. In practically, in the post-pandemic context of education, online classes may become a regular thing in parallel to in-person classes depending on how the situation emerges. So, it’s important to get it right and make sure that no group of students is being left behind in the process. I have tailored some of the practical issues to conduct online classes in developing countries.
Access to ICT
One of those major challenges to the teachers of developing countries is access to the online mode of education to conduct classes virtually. Most of the students in the developing countries lack technical support such as unavailability of the internet or mobile device with a data pack or Wi-Fi connection to be connected to the virtual classes. OECD (2020) reported that a gap is seen across countries and between income brackets within countries in terms of students’ struggle to participate in digital learning via reliable internet access and/or technology. The report showed that 95% of students in developed countries such as Switzerland, Norway, and Austria have a computer to use for their schoolwork, whereas only 34% of students in Indonesia have a computer with internet access to do their schoolwork. So, it can be assumed that access to a computer with internet access may be similar in other developing countries such as Bangladesh or Nepal. Again, the number of computers owned by families, especially in the rural areas of the developing countries are presumably lower than the urban areas, which can have a negative influence on the whole online education. Moreover, in the developing countries, to conduct the classes online, the cost of the internet or mobile data-pack is beyond the reach for many students as well as the institutions. So, online teaching to all the students is a far cry from what is intended in the developing countries, such as in Bangladesh.
Willingness to communicate online
Another huge challenge to online teaching is the learners’ willingness to communicate (WTC) in the extramural digital environment. As most of the students in developing countries are not familiar with digital platforms, many of them are not enthusiastic about the transition to online learning. Students’ lack of online experience may promote fear and lead to their participation uncertainty. The fear can also cause withdrawal or resistance to their online participation. Therefore, it is a huge challenge for the teachers to remove this barrier to engaging his/her students virtually for the online teaching-learning process. A teacher should know how to apply different theories on virtual interaction such as activity theory of learning. Only then teachers may be able to engage the students in an interactive mode. If teachers can do so, it can be a great opportunity for them to teach interactively online in a real-time situation.
As we know that the classroom situation in developing countries is more or less is lecture-based. In most Bangladeshi schools, teachers are usually the speakers or controllers of the classroom and the students are passive recipients of the course contents. So, making a collaborative and participatory classroom in a face-to-face situation has always been a challenge for the teachers. However, at present, the teachers from the developing countries have the opportunity to create a collaborative class online as several researchers (Rana, 2018; Shaista, 2018) found that students become more participatory in digital classes than physical classes. In Bangladesh, despite various obstacles, about 80% of the students in a university have expressed interest in joining the online activities (“ [Shorkari Bisshobiddaloi] সরকারি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ে,” 2020).
Motivation for online learning
Teachers and students harbour their motivation for learning. So, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many students may lack the psychological readiness for online instruction. Even the teachers themselves may lack motivation for online teaching. Recently, in Bangladesh, the Education Minister pointed out that most of the teachers in the government institutions lack a positive mindset and the motivation to shift in-person classes on virtual mode during the COVID-19 pandemic (“[Shorkari Bisshobiddaloi] সরকারি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ে,” 2020). Students may also have misconceptions concerning online learning and its outcomes. They may consider this ‘paradigm shift’ as temporary resulting in their lack of motivation towards online learning. So, it is the responsibility of teachers to motivate the students that online instruction is necessary for collaborative learning and not a substitute to merely keep students busy until the pandemic subsides. Teachers also have to motivate students to shift focus away from the emotional consequences of COVID-19 to more personal investment in learning and achievement.
In this regard, I can share my experience. I have been running ELT classes on ZOOM since March 2020 for my students. I run three classes per week for this group. After overcoming the initial teething troubles related to technology and the new mode of teaching, participants have settled down and attended online classes regularly. I have motivated them to embrace this new teaching-learning situation. However, it is surfaced that the prevailing online mode of education (both public and private) is undergoing some teething troubles to adapt online exams and evaluation procedure for obvious reasons I have referred to. So, it is too early to comment on how successful the online teaching-learning activities have been until it continues at least for a considerable time.
Nonetheless, it has already been reported in different newspapers that there are more challenges to conduct online classes in rural schools due to the issue of urban-rural contextual dichotomy. However, my argument is that digital tools can be used as a catalyst to remove the urban-rural disparity and to put all the students on equal footing, then distance or institution won’t be a matter! The government just needs to take the initiative to create a level playing field. If we can ensure the internet for everyone with a digital device and train up the primary and secondary teachers to pick up digital literacy, more than half of the work will be done to transform our education online. Other petty technical barriers can be dealt with accordingly. Moreover, third world countries like Bangladesh, where face-to-face education is considered as a reliable but hefty medium, can take the current situation as a good opportunity to change its typical lecture-based classroom into a collaborative online classroom.
The upcoming world is going to based on digital platforms so do the educational skills. Without digital literacy, it may be difficult for students to survive in the academic arena. Therefore, after the post-pandemic reality, all schools should be equipped with digital support so that face-to-face teaching can be underpinned by the online learning scope. Without access to the world of websites, it is not possible to enter into the ocean of unlimited knowledge. By ensuring access to the body of world knowledge, there is a possibility to make a knowledgeable and techno-savvy generation to transform the country.
So, it is necessary to train the teachers with different online learning models (such as TPACK framework) as they are the main players to implement the process. The training should prepare the teachers so that they can interweave the three essential sources of knowledge ̶ technology, pedagogy and content to facilitate synchronous online learning to the students through a collaborative approach. All the students should be ensured a digital device with better internet connectivity so that they can have the access to the internet to browse any particular academic site related to their course contents or course lessons anytime and in anyplace. Therefore, the learning will be ubiquitous, no matter a student stays in rural areas or urban areas, and learners will be able to learn at their own pace. However, the major challenge is left with the policymakers as they need to figure out how to reach each of the student irrespective of rural and urban contexts. On the one hand, the COVID-19 has stagnated the whole world, and on the other hand, it allows us to think about the transformation of our education system for the future.
S M Akramul Kabir is an Assistant Professor of English under the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, Bangladesh. He has just completed his Doctoral journey and is waiting to be a graduate of the University of Canterbury with a PhD degree. He has taught English to both local and international students for more than 12 years. His areas of research interest include listening skill for language education, discourse analysis, learning theories, and ICT in language education.
Moorhouse, B. L. (2020). Adaptations to a face-to-face initial teacher education course
Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000) presented the online teaching model as a Community of Inquiry with three main elements: Teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence.
Community of Inquiry by Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000, p. 2)
Teaching presence is the responsibility of the teachers to select, organise materials, design the course to encourage students to interact while social presence refers is to show as a real person in the community. Cognitive presence refers to the construction of meaning by students through participating in the course. Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000) stated there was a correlation between these three types of presence. Since then, many studies have been conducted to examine the relationship among these three elements. Students gave a higher rate of the overall quality of interaction when instructors gave immediate feedback which means that course instructors were highly evaluated when they showed more teaching presence in an online course (Khalid & Quick, 2016; Richardson & Swan, 2003). Teaching presence was reported to be correlated with social presence because when teachers showed more teaching presence, students showed more social presence (Kanuka & Garrison, 2004; Shea & Bidjerano, 2009) and social presence was reported to correlate with learning outcomes (Hostetter & Busch, 2013; Romanov & Nevgi, 2008). These students concluded that students who participated more in the course, their learning outcomes were better than those who did not. In short, teaching presence affects social presence, or the better teaching presence is, the more social presence students will show. When students show more social presence, it will result in a better learning outcome. Therefore, the main responsibility of an online teacher is to organise the course so that students could show more social presence by joining online discussions, engaging in reading more materials. This essay will brainstorm some techniques to organise your teaching presence to improve social presence, which might result in a better cognitive presence or learning outcome.
The online teacher can engage students to do activities synchronously and asynchronously. Here are some techniques to enable students to interact asynchronously in an online course. To engage students to interact synchronously, some learning platforms such as Schoology, Edmodo or Google Classroom should be used. There are three main types of interactions: students’ interaction with materials, interaction among students, students and instructor interaction.
First, to encourage students to read materials, and watch a movie that the teacher should design a quiz to check whether students watch and understand the materials or not. This stage enables students to try to understand the materials. However, the quiz should include in the final assessment so that students will try their best to do it. By doing this step, students will interact with materials and show more social presence in the online course.
Second, after students understand the materials, they should be asked to interact with each other to share their understanding of the materials. At this step, some questions should be posted for students to share their opinions. To encourage students to interact with other students, students should be asked to reply at least two students’ posts. By doing this way, students will read other students’ posts and reply to other people post. The online forum is very important because students could reflect their ideas and show their deep understanding of the lesson.
Finally, the teacher could interact with students through an online learning platform. For example, the teacher could comment on students’ posts or give them some written feedback. If the teacher could give students some oral feedback, he could make a video by using Camtasia to upload on the learning platform.
Similarly, the teacher could interact with students synchronously. Synchronous interactions should also have three different types of interactions as described in the synchronous process. The interaction could happen through Zoom, Google Classroom or Skype. When the teacher gives students some materials, he should set up some activities for students so that they could show their understandings. Also, the teacher could create similar interactions such as group discussions for students such as Zoom breakout. Of course, during the online meeting, the teacher could have direct interactions with students.
These techniques are for online teaching; however, these also could apply in physical classes after COVID-19. The model for this kind of teaching is blended learning. The teacher could send students materials such as reading materials or videos that the teacher prepares in advance. However, to make sure that students watch the videos or read the materials, some tasks such as quizzes, questions or gap filling should be set up and these tasks should be a part of the final assessment to motivate students to complete all the tasks. These activities could be conducted online. Discussions could be carried in class when teacher and students see each other. The teacher can have more time for feedback and explore the lessons further.
In conclusion, the responsibility of the online teacher is to design the activities to encourage students to improve their interactions with materials, other students and teachers so that students could show more social presence which results in better learning outcomes.
Thinh Le Van holds a PhD degree from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. He is an English lecturer at Banking Academy, Vietnam.His research interest is around language, learning with a focus on computer-assisted language learning (CALL). Email: email@example.com
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2), 87-105.
Hostetter, C., & Busch, M. (2013). Community matters: Social presence and learning outcomes. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(1), 77-86.
Kanuka, H., & Garrison, D. R. (2004). Cognitive presence in online learning. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 15(2), 1-19.
Khalid, M. N., & Quick, D. (2016). Teaching presence influencing online students’ course satisfaction at an institution of higher education. International Education Studies, 9(3), 62-70.
Richardson, J., & Swan, K. (2003). Examing social presence in online courses in relation to students’ perceived learning and satisfaction. Journal of Asynchronous Language Networks, 7(1), 68-88.
Romanov, K., & Nevgi, A. (2008). Student activity and learning outcomes in a virtual learning environment. Learning Environments Research, 11(2), 153-162.
Shea, P., & Bidjerano, T. (2009). Community of inquiry as a theoretical framework to foster “epistemic engagement” and “cognitive presence” in online education. Computers & Education, 52(3), 543-553.
COVID-2019 has affected personal, economic, and professional lives of teachers in a number of ways. It has created a ‘superdifficult circumstance’ which can be defined as a situation where teachers, students, parents and communities face a multitude of problems which they may not able to address. In the context of COVID-2019, teachers are facing physical, mental, economic, and other socio-cultural challenges which directly affect their personal and professional life. While some teachers have lost their jobs, others have to teach using online tools which they had never used before. The purpose of this blogpost is to analyse teachers’ experiences during the COVID-2019 pandemic and discuss their implications in the post-COVID context. The narratives are drawn from the members of Teachers for Teacher (TfT) group, a small group of teachers for professional development and research in English language education. As a network of teachers, the members of TfT meet occasionally for informal discussions on issues related to teaching, research, innovations and professional development. The narratives in this blogpost were collected in writing and have been organised under different themes.
Learning opportunities for professional development
The pandemic has completely shut down the economy, transportation and social activities. The schools were closed and the planned exams were postponed. Schools and teachers had no clue about what they should be doing next. The situation was getting worse as the lockdown period was extended. We had asked the teachers what they have been doing during the lockdown and discussed how they coped with the pandemic situation. As seen in Raj’s (pseudonym) story, teachers have used the lockdown period as a learning opportunity for professional development.
In the beginning of lockdown, I was not worried about anything because I thought it was like the end-of-year vacation. I heard about online classes and distance learning as I was taking some Zoom sessions for my professional development. As the lockdown was extended, I tried to keep myself busy in taking some online courses. In the first month of lockdown, I was enjoying my personal life by learning different online learning courses. In the third week of April, the school leadership called me to talk about the possibility of running virtual classes and requested me to lead the initiative. It was a challenging job for me to coordinate and train other teachers for online classes. I started studying different means of virtual learning/teaching system management and talked to different experts, principals and coordinators of other schools and found a few learning management systems (LMS).
Raj does not realise that there was a complete lockdown. He kept himself busy in exploring ICT tools and development learning management system. He worked hard to identify the most appropriate tool for his school. As mentioned below, Raj explores multiple ICT tools by considering the financial situation of his institution. Finally, he is able to create an LMS for his school and becoming a ‘certified Google trainer’.
I kept myself busy in learning and applying ICT tools and applications. I was completely engaged. For two weeks, I could not realise that there was a complete lockdown. I worked 18 hours a day to enable myself to handle learning management systems. I studied Zoom, Google Classroom, Microsoft and the other tools for virtual teaching. I found Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams for synchronous learning and Google classroom, E-mail, Facebook, Viber and other asynchronous tools for communication. Eventually, I set up a learning management system (LMS) in my school. Zoom was used as asynchronous and Google Classroom as an asynchronous learning management system. But I faced some major challenges such as data storage problem (online/cloud data and offline device storage) in different tools and internet connectivity. Later, I knew that I could use Google for education which allows using Google Meet and additional tools for learning. I applied for G-Suite. As our school did not have much funding resource, I could not use other effective LMSs. For the first time in my life, I learnt about the word domain in technology. After a series of communication with Google representatives, I was able to get a G-Suite for Education for free. Now I have completed educator level ‘I’ and level ‘II’ and in the certification process for educator level ‘I’ and ‘II’ from Google. After that, I can go for a Google certified trainer.
Becoming a teacher educator and implementing innovations
The narratives show that teachers have first learned about ICT tools and trained other teachers. Although they faced challenges, they had time to explore new ideas and use them in their teaching and for training their colleagues. Rajan faced challenges to training teachers to deliver classes by using G-Suite. He organised a four-day workshop on Google form and other tools such as Google Meet and PowerPoints. He tells his experiences as follows:
Teaching textbook was a common and easy thing for all the teachers but in this flipped pedagogy teacher should prepare the materials based on the curriculum. Narrowing down the broad curricular concepts into teachable fragments was a great challenge for the teachers. On the other hand, implementing those materials in virtual learning is another challenge for the teachers. In this situation, the training was not effective as it was expected to be but I was able to make teachers familiar with Google Classroom. Though the planning of the lesson was not my part, I was compelled to go through it as the traditional lesson planning is not completely okay with distance learning. Though I was aware of the challenges of engaging students in virtual learning platforms I couldn’t design all the activities based on curriculum. Instead I requested teachers to make their classes more interactive by asking questions.
Teachers as a change agent and a community mobilizer
Teachers can play an agentive role during the pandemic situation. In the narratives we have collected, Reg (pseudonym), who has been teaching in a public school of Kathmandu and went to his village in Gandaki province during the lockdown, has played a critical role to establish learning centres to teach students by maintaining a physical distance. He tells how classes were run at those centres as follows:
I went to the learning centre near my house. Most of the learners were happy with new textbooks. The teacher was supporting every student in reading and writing. All learners were busy in reading and writing. I wanted to demonstrate different learning strategies so I requested the teacher to try out something new. I asked students to do creative tasks like drawing, small field visits, project works. […] I told them to maintain the physical distance and walk to the Shiva Mandir close to the learning centre. Most of the learners were passionate to know about the temple. I asked them to observe the temple closely and encouraged them to ask some questions about the temple and other activities around it. While some students were observing the temple, others were reading the notice board and the list of the donors pasted to the door. Others were counting the bells in front of the temple in a loud voice. They asked questions regarding the foundation, management committee, worshiping practices, and religious significance of the temple to the old grandfather, who was in the temple. After an hour I gathered them in the meadow and asked them what they observed. […] I was surprised by their confidence and happy mood while sharing their observation. Even small kids were sharing interesting information about Shiva Mandir, which I had not known before as the permanent inhabitant of the village. One of the learners shared the story of Shiva and Parwati as told by the old grandfather. After that, I told them to go to the learning centre. Most of them wanted to go to the next temple located in the community. I made a promise to teach them the next day and return to the home listening interesting talking on the way.
By engaging learners in project-based activities, Reg was helping them to develop research skills. The learners were motivated to learn about the temple in their own community. For them, it was an opportunity to interact with their friends, by maintaining social distance, observe the details of the temple and organise information to share with their friends and the teacher. By doing, Reg was helping the students to learn reading, writing and research skills beyond the textbook. Reg’s efforts help students connect their learning with real life experiences. The anecdote given below implies that students learn better when the learning process is linked with their personal life and community.
On the second day, despite a heavy rain, I went to the learning center. Due to the heavy rain, it was difficult to go out so I asked some questions related to how rainfall occurs. Some answers were funny and interesting. One of the learners answered that cloud brings a huge pot to carry water from a stream/pond and pours it from the sky. Some students from the upper level explained the process of rainfall correctly. They asked a number of questions such as why the cloud blocks the rays of the sun, how the hailstone falls, and what the reason behind hot and cold weather is. I was surprised with their questioning techniques. I was unable to answer some of their questions. I answered using taking the help from the internet but they continued to raise more questions. I promised to answer their questions the next day. I was impressed by their logic, curiosity, and passion for asking the questions.
Reg’s efforts imply that, in a superdifficult situation like COVID-2019, multiliteracy projects can help students learn effectively. Such projects do not necessarily follow the textbook contents. As discussed above, by engaging students in a fieldwork, they developed observation, reporting, communicative, speaking, and collaborative skills. Such activities promote students’ participation, motivation, and self-learning. By participating in such activities, learners gather historical information about different sites in their communities and develop questioning and research skills. As Reg describes “such activities have taught me a memorable lesson in my teaching profession that teaching and learning are not limited to textbooks and classroom; students can learn from their communities.”
Addressing the digital divide
Many schools do not have ICT infrastructures to run online classes. The teachers working in low-resource schools are not able to contact their students. The story of Rita (pseudonym) implies some key insights to address the digital divide and help students learn when the schools are closed. Rita begins her experience as follows:
My school has also tried to create virtual learning environment during Covid-19. For that, we contacted students through phone calls to confirm that whether they can learn through internet, T.V., or Radio. There were around 500 students in my school before the lockdown began. Among 500 students, 200 students came into our contact but the rest of them are still out of contact. The students were divided into 3 different groups based on their access to digital tools such as internet, T.V and Radio. Among 200 students only 82 of them were able to participate in online classes. We tried to begin the classes but we found that very few students could join the class. More than a half of the students were left behind. I thought this situation could create negativity in their mind […]. So, we could not run classes. Now, students read the textbooks at home and ask questions to their subject teachers via phone.
Rita further tells that due to lack of ICT devices with parents, it is not possible to implement online mode of teaching. However, as mentioned above, mobile phones could be a helpful tool to help students learn. Rita suggests that:
I would like to suggest that we could ask students to do different things beyond textbooks. We can ask them to do activities they are interested in. They can use their local knowledge and build up life skills by doing the things around them. Rather than asking them to do textbook-based activities for the purpose of assessment, it is important to give activities that foster their creative and critical thinking skills. They may enjoy documenting what they learned at home and in the community. They can describe what they have seen during COVID-19.
Rita argues that digital divide is a serious issue in education. While the schools are exploring alternative approaches to learning, it is important to assess whether such approaches (mainly online teaching) could exacerbate unequal participation in learning activities and access to knowledge.
The stories of three teachers imply that teachers could play a critical role in addressing students’ learning challenges created by the superdifficult circumstance of COVID-19. As discussed in this blogpost, teachers have engaged themselves in a number of professional development activities to strengthen their ICT and creative pedagogical skills. This situation indicates that teachers have utilised this difficult time to upgrade their professional skills which they could use in post-COVID classes.
Dr Prem Phyak, an MEd in English from Tribhuvan University, MA in TESOL from University College London, and PhD in English from University of Hawaii, USA, is an Associate Professor of English at Tribhuvan University, Nepal.
Mr Bhim Sapkota, an MPhil student at Nepal Open University, is a Lecturer of English at Kathmandu Shiksha Campus and English teacher at Shree Bishnudevi Secondary School, Chandragiri, Kathmandu.
Mr Ramji Acharya, an MEd graduate, is a Programme Coordinator as well as English teacher at Regent Residential School, Lalitpur.
Ms Dil Kumari Shrestha, an MEd in English and MA in Political Science graduate, is a Lower Secondary English teacher.
Now we are facing the global health crisis caused by COVID-19. Most of the countries in the world are asking people to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus. Following the recommendation of WHO, the Government of Nepal also ordered lockdown on March 23, 2019. The lockdown is going on and it is not certain that when it will be lifted. On the 15th June 2020, the Government of Nepal changed the modality of the lockdown and is loosely monitoring it. The lockdown has been eased to increase economic activities. As a result, the government offices, industries, shopping centres are carefully operated with some preventive measures. However, there is much uncertainty over schools and universities reopening. This article reflects on the effect of the global pandemic on education and the possibilities it opens up for the transformation of teaching-learning in Nepal, especially in the rural area where access to information and communication technology is limited. The rhythm of educational activities has been seriously altered because of the lockdown. Robert (2020, June 11) reported a deep learning crisis worldwide as about 1.5 billion students have been taking measures for COVID-19 prevention as the schools have shut down. All countries are making an effort to combat the COVID-19 and normalise people’s lives including education sectors.
Tribhuvan University, the oldest and largest university of Nepal, decided to adopt online teaching as an alternative teaching mode. Other universities followed similar practices. Nepal Open University based on online learning mode has been normally operating all academic activities. It has been observed that the majority of university students except Nepal Open University are scattered across the country and locked where they had been before the commencement of the lockdown in the country. They are unable to communicate with their university colleges and are probably waiting the day when their colleges will reopen for academic activities. The majority of undergraduate and school students are outside the coverage of online learning, especially in rural areas. Although some campuses have started online classes for Bachelors and Masters students, a large number of students are unable to join such classes because of lack of internet access and digital devices.
Although I have created a Google class for my students to extend learning space beyond four walls of the classroom before the pandemic, only few students used to visit it. Now they come to join Google classroom or ZOOM meeting more frequently although some students are unable to join my online classes. It is too early to forecast the effectiveness of online class for my students. We are experimenting with new learning technology. I am fortunate in the sense that I can apply my experience of studying in online and blended learning mode. I had done an online teacher training course from the University of Oregon and I am doing M. Phil at Nepal Open University. Now I am using my experience of remote learning to shape my online teaching practices.
To continue teaching-learning during the lockdown, many countries in the world have used radio, television, mobile technology or home delivery of printed materials to help students in their self-learning activities at home during COVID-19 (Robert, 2020, June 11). The government of Nepal has implemented alternative learning system for students grouping them into five categories: students outside the access of any technology, students with access to radio, students with access to TV, students with access to computer and students with access to computer and internet. The government has instructed to provide learning opportunities to all students at their home with the appropriate mode of delivery using print, audiovisual and online resources (Ministry of Education Science and Technology, 2020). The guidelines recognised online teaching as one of the teaching-learning modes.
I have observed high enthusiasm among the teachers in virtual space when the schools and campuses are shut down. Teachers are making attempts to reach to their students through various media on one hand and they are learning digital and pedagogical skills through online conference and training. Teachers have participated in professional development activities organised by various organisations. I frequently get an invitation to attend such opportunities. For example, I had three invitations on Facebook to participate in join online teacher training sessions on zoom. I have observed that many teachers are ready to teach online. However, limited access to ICT in rural areas prevents teachers to go online teaching immediately.
It seems that the teaching-learning continues with this alternative teaching mode for a few months. The face-to-face mode of learning will resume when the global health crisis will be resolved and school classes become safe. By the time the pandemic is over, I guess that more teachers will acquire digital and pedagogical skills and more teachers and students will have access to digital technology. Teachers are unlikely to unlearn the skills they learn during the pandemic as Robert Franek notes (Dickler, 2020, May 20). Kim (2020, April 1) predicts that in post-pandemic situation blended learning will rapidly increase and the top priority of educational instructions and that professional development of teachers will be geared up to integrate ICT in teaching-learning rather than outsource agencies to provide online learning.
I am not much hopeful that Kim’s prediction comes true in our context. However, I believe that, when school will resume, thousands of teachers will use some of the digital skills for teaching they acquired during the pandemic period. However, the actual use of these skills depends on available technology and school administrative policy. I believe that teachers teaching in rural schools will also continue with the use of ICT. I see the following possibilities in ICT integration in education in Nepal in post-COVID-19 era.
The Federal and local government will invest more in ICT infrastructures in remote areas. More schools will get access to the internet which will open a new venue for teaching-learning.
Teachers will continue to attend virtual conference, training and seminar regardless of their location. The frequency of online professional training will increase.
The government can provide virtual training so that teachers can balance time for teaching and participating in the training. This will save time and expenses for attending the training.
The training centre can hire experts drawing from the wider pool of experts easily and teachers can study at home.
Teachers can teach or take part in school meeting when they are away from school for personal or professional responsibilities.
Teachers can invite more experienced teacher as a guest teacher in their class through video conferencing.
Teacher and students can share class notes and other digital resources on the virtual classes which will save more time for class discussions.
Teacher and students can have a virtual discussion during long holidays or examination times.
Teachers can support the students who cannot attend face-to-face class because of illness or other reasons.
Teachers will share, collaborate and create digital teaching-learning.
Teachers are likely to observe other teachers’ virtual class which will enhance their pedagogical skills.
The global health crisis has forced teachers and students to stay at home. The use of ICT tools for teaching and learning in online mode has become an alternative mode instead of traditional face-to-face mode to prevent the spread of corona virus. ICT has drawn the attention of teachers, students, parents and educators. Despite the fact that many students in Nepal are unable to get access to virtual classes due to lack of ICT infrastructure, many teachers are trying to utilise internet and other available resources to meet the current needs of students. It is evident that the use of ICT will continue to grow in the post-COVID-19 era in Nepal by opening several possibilities.
Krishna Prasad Parajuli is a lecturer of English Education at Drabya Shah Multiple Campus, Gorkha. He is the Vice-Chair of NELTA Gorkha and a member of IATEFL.He is an M.Phil scholar of English Education at Nepal Open University.
Dickler, J. (2020, May 20). Post-pandemic, remote learning could be here to stay. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/20/post-pandemic-remote-learning-could-be-here-to-stay.html
Kim, J. (2020, April 1). Three post-pandemic predictions.
Ministry of Education Science and Technology. (2020). Alternative learning system implementation guidelines 2020. https://moe.gov.np/article/1323/html
Robert, J. (2020, June 11). Opinion: Reimagining education — this is the moment to think big. Devex. https://www.devex.com/news/opinion-reimagining-education-this-is-the-moment-to-think-big-97405
COVID-19 has been one of the critical human crises ever recorded after Plague of Justinian (541-542), the Black Death (1346-53), Spanish flu (1818-1819), Asian flu (1957-1958), HIV/ AIDS (2005) and Swine Flu (2009). Following the advice of WHO about maintaining physical distance to control the possible spread of the virus, the government of Nepal had announced the nation-wide lock down, and the four-month long lockdown has been recently waived though the educational institutions seem to shut down for some more weeks. During the ongoing crisis, the venture taken by some of the proactive teachers to continue teaching-learning activity to the extent possible for them and to engage themselves in continuous professional development is appreciable.
It was, undoubtedly painful for me to be detached from my students and the classroom for a long time. However, what made me satisfied was the constant contact with the students and colleagues via different digital means. Although the online classes were not as effective as the physical classes in the beginning, they remained a useful alternative to practise teaching-learning activity during the lockdown period. So, in this article, I have attempted to explore the ground reality of teaching learning from a survey and critically reflect on my teaching-learning and professional development practices including my feelings during the lockdown.
Digital divide deteriorating teaching-learning activity
Problem with the technology more or less exists in every nook and cranny of the world but the digital divide in our context seems bigger. For example, Sharma (2020) reports that only 8% of households and 12% of total schools have broadband internet facility in Nepal. Although 90% of the population use mobile phones, the majority of them do not have the internet facility. Similarly, Rana, Greenwood and Fox‐Turnbull (2019) show that only 72% of the total population of Nepal have the internet access and the majority of them (95%) are mobile data users, and mobile data is too expensive to use for educational purpose. Moreover, the urban dwellers have better access to the internet facility (not in the reach of all though). Indeed, this kind of disparity is present in the online classes that I have been taking at present, where there is the presence of less than 50% students. The condition is even worse in the case of the rural part of Nepal, which is waiting for the development of the internet infrastructures and access to web technology.
Professional development in the crisis
Although teachers are not physically present in the classrooms, some of the active teachers are busy taking the online classes or continuing teaching-learning via other alternative means. On the other hand, during the lockdown period, various national and international organisations were active in organising e-conferences and webinars for teachers’ professional development. I also participated in some of the webinars organised by Cambridge University Press, Webinar Series: British Council and NELTA, Continuous Proficiency Development Institute (CPDI), Thailand and TESOL Virtual Convention and English Language Expo 2020.
Having got opportunities to participate in these webinars and conferences, I was acquainted with new trends and ideas of English language teaching. So, they proved to be highly insightful for me to gain and share new knowledge and skills. I have used the learnt knowledge and skills in making the lessons interactive while teaching in the online environment. Moreover, I also utilised the crisis for creative writing and reflections, and also used them in my online classes to encourage my students to compose creative writing. History shows that there has always been the emergence of new literary figures and a new field to work with by the established figures due to the situation created during and post crises. So, as a teacher, we can encourage and support our students to express their emotions, feelings and experiences through creative writing or other forms of arts, which can help them to release their tensions and have a sense of achievement in the form of creation.
Teaching-learning practice during the crisis
Exploring the ground reality
Like other teachers, I always enjoy having students around me, but the ongoing health crisis caused havoc in teaching-learning activity with the temporary closure of the educational institutions globally, where Nepal couldn’t be exception. Some of the schools in Nepal, especially in the urban setting, have run the online classes by using different digital apps where there is internet facility and parents are capable enough to manage basic technologies for online classes. However, student participation in such online classes are observed low.
It is commonly reported that there is less student participation in the online classes and the delivery of lesson also has not been as effective as the face-to-face mode. Therefore, I wanted to understand if other teachers have similar problems. I conducted a survey by using the Google form about teaching-learning activity during the pandemic, where 48 teachers participated. The data showed that the majority of teachers faced the problem of low students’ participation. Additionally, some other problems mentioned by them were related to technology and learning environment like unstable or lack of the internet access, frequent power cut and learners’ unfavourable learning environment at home. Likewise, lack of apt digital contents were reported as another challenge. Similarly, challenges were reported on students’ involvement and learning facilitation like lack of students’ attention, disturbances at the students’ end, low participation in English course and lack of student-centred activities. In addition, the teachers also reported to have challenges in assessment including the lack of immediate feedback to students.
The responses of this brief survey indicate that online teaching cannot replace the physical classroom in Nepal immediately as there exist major challenges like technological preparedness, online pedagogical innovation, lack of digital contents and assessment. In such situation, the government in collaboration with public and private sector should come up with immediate strategies to reach students and also should envision to bridge the digital gaps in future.
Facing the crisis as a teacher following alternative ways
While some of us are taking initiative to run online classes to the limited number of students having with access to the stable internet and digital devices, Dawadi, Giri and Simkhada (2020) argue there exists a huge challenge to give equitable access to e-learning to all the students in Nepal and a swift move to e-learning will further widen the disparity gaps, depriving a large number of students from inclusion. This study, therefore, indicates that we need to adopt different modalities to reach to different students based on the means of connection they have. For instance, we can provide offline materials to students having mobile phones and computers without the internet connection. On the other hand, for the students having neither the internet nor the digital devices, we should reach via radios and televisions as some of the teachers have already taken this initiative. For example, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and local bodies are telecasting and broadcasting educational programmes via radios and TVs though people are skeptical about the effectiveness of such teaching-learning. On the other hand, to reach the students of difficult topography, we should deliver the print materials in coordination with local government. Moreover, teachers can also reach them and engage in teaching-learning by maintaining physical distance in their own locality.
Crisis and some food for thought on our practices
The present health catastrophe, I believe, is questioning our education system and has compelled us to rethink the way we are delivering public services like education and health. Our existing education system emphasises more on competition, i.e. producing a successful person is getting priority over helping a person become a good human being. With the same token, society gives value to the rich and this has led them to achieve more power. The existing gap between the rich and the poor is constantly increasing, which is visible during the crisis, where the poor suffered the most and the marginalised and minority people were much more affected. Education and health services are highly dominated by the private sector, which were already out of the access of the working-class people, seemed more unwelcoming during the crisis for many private hospitals denied treating the patients suffering from the corona virus. This was the failure of the present neoliberal society which emphasise privatisation, marketisation, and deregulation in various services including education and health sectors diminishing the nation’s role in these sectors of fundamental necessities.
Similar to English proverb “there is a silver lining in every black cloud”, I also tried to make the best ultilisation of the time I had in the crisis. I first focused on my professional development, especially ways to teach students online effectively. Then, I have been using the new knowledge, ideas and skills I gained from it in my own online classes. Now, my students in the online classes are no more passive listeners but the active co-participants of the teaching-learning activity. I use Easy Class and Google Classroom to manage my online classes. Likewise, to make the online lessons interactive, I use various digital apps and tools, such as online quiz using quizizz, Kahoot, ProProfs, Mentimeter, interactive videos using playposit and padlet to ensure learners’ participation in the online class and Google forms for feedback and for online test. After lockdown, I am confident that I am going to make visible changes in the lesson delivery in the physical class and the blended mode of teaching and evaluation. Moreover, I feel that the crisis in general has taught us an important lesson that Nepal also should envision alternative ways of teaching-learning by using various digital technologies.
Pushpa Raj Paudel, an M. Phil scholar at Nepal Open University, is a faculty in Sainik Mahavidyalaya, Bhaktapur. Mr. Paudel has interests in creative writing, teachers’ professional development, critical pedagogy and translation. Mr. Paudel, a life member of NELTA, has presented papers in various national and international conferences and webinars, and has published articles in various magazines and newspapers.
Dawadi, S., Giri, R. A., & Simkhada, P. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 on the education sector in Nepal: Challenges and coping strategies. Sage Submissions. Preprint. doi:https://doi.org/10.31124/advance.12344336.v1
Rana, K., Greenwood, J., & Fox‐Turnbull, W. (2019). Implementation of Nepal’s education policy in ICT: Examining current practice through an ecological model. The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries,86(2), 1-16. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/isd2.12118
When the government of Nepal decided to close the schools due to the pandemics of COVID- 19, initially I thought that it was going to be a good session break. I expected to have a good rest after finishing the busy schedule throughout the academic session. Similarly, I would have enough time for preparing for the upcoming session. But things did not happen as I expected. I began to think about my students and gradually this became intense. I even saw them in my dreams. I started growing more restless day by day. It was strange because I never experienced this type of feeling during other vacations, some of which had lasted for almost a month.
The imposition of lockdown has brought more uncertainties and sharing the same whereabouts with my school students has added to my discomfort. Being a teacher of a community school, I have had an opportunity of making a close observation of the vicious circle of poverty that the young children have to fight against. Moreover, I am well aware of the socio-cultural background that my students are a part of. Surely, the students are being victimized by the abrupt changes imposed into their lives.
One day, one of my friends shared a video on Facebook in which he was playing a language game with his daughters in his room. I was happy with the way he was dealing with his daughters. Shortly, I raised the curtain of my room. Through the window, I could see the smoke coming from the chimney of the brick factory nearly about a half kilometre ahead of my house. I started to visualize some of my students working there with their parents. Some of them were carrying buckets full of water and others were dangling with bricks on their head. I could not decide if it was just my imagination or a part of reality. I closed the window but still, I could not detach myself from thinking about my students. I wanted to know what they might be doing at that moment. I knew for sure that their parents must have neither been playing language games with their children nor been reminding them to revise what they had learnt at school. What were they doing then? I believed that they might either be working with their parents or have become de facto baby sitters for their siblings. Now the question echoed and as a teacher it was my turn to answer it. I started trembling since I did not have any justifiable answer.
My past efforts to boost students’ self-directed learning
This is not the first time that the schools have been closed with lots of uncertainties. I started recalling the past and reached to 2015 AD when schools remained closed for almost a month due to an earthquake. And of course, that incident had compelled me to devise some strategies that would possibly help the learners learn on their own when schools remain closed. Some strategies that I developed were making vocabulary web, playing word games, reading and retelling stories, doing individualized homework which addresses individual differences, keeping journal entries on significant life events such as interesting tasks accomplished and so on. I had also attempted to make students practise doing self-assessment while they work on their own at home.
I find these strategies useful but not sufficient. Now, my concern is, if the strategies were efficiently practised the students would be able to use them independently. It is because there is a significant difference between knowing about something and making them a part of life. At this point, I am not sure if my students are prepared enough to use these strategies on their own. I am seeking for some ways to get connected with my students but I have not found any way out. I would opt for virtual classes but in my context, it’s just like making a castle in the air.
The status of virtual learning in my context
Virtual classes have been advocated to be one of the best options for bridging the learning gap created by this pandemic. Although buildings are shuttered and classroom teaching has not been possible, learning is somehow being continued with distant learning. Some institutions are able to address the sudden demand of the time without delay. However, this is not equally applicable to all groups of students and perhaps completely impossible for those who study in a community school like the one where I teach. It is because running virtual classes is a challenging job in our context since it demands an excellent technical infrastructure which is beyond the access of most of the school students in Nepal. On the other hand, it is almost wrong to expect from the students belonging to lower-middle-class families to have access to the internet and modern electronic gadgets. Moreover, teachers are less experienced regarding online teaching. There is no doubt that the proliferation of technology equipped instructional setting is the demand of the day but doing this abruptly is not feasible and effective. Also, availability of teachers either directly or virtually in the current situation is beyond imagination for most of the school children, as many of the teachers have returned home and most of which are remote having no good access to the internet. Hence, teaching seems to have halted during this time.
Thinking of a way out: A need to work on developing self-directed learners
As I reflect on my teaching, now I realise, had I made some efforts for preparing the learners for these types of uncertainties beforehand, learning would not have been discontinued. Empowering the learners with self-learning strategies can be the best solution in the long run. As a language teacher, it has been crucial that we plan and implement our instructional activities efficiently for preparing our learners to take the responsibility of learning on their own. It helps in the continuation of learning both during and post-crisis situation if in case we face a similar situation in the future.
Hence, for preparing ourselves to respond to such catastrophes creatively is one of the primary responsibilities of a teacher, I have framed below some additional activities/strategies to incorporate in my upcoming lessons:
Make a birthday calendar and tell the learners to prepare a birthday card for their friends who have birthdays even on the days when schools remain closed. Similarly, the birthday boy or girl should write invitation letters to his/her friends and teachers.
Make the learners prepare a newsletter, covering reviews of the films they watch and the books they read.
Ask the learners to maintain their diaries every day.
Ask the learners to write letters to their classmates about their own stories whenever they have some changes in their daily routines. They can exchange the letter when they meet.
Ask the learners to collect some interesting news they listen to and comment on them orally.
Let the students decide the project works themselves and provide flexibility while carrying them out. I will encourage the learners to write reflections.
Design the lessons in such a way that I could bring a variety in my classes to address my learners’ multiple intelligence.
Involve the learners in activities that make them active both mentally and physically. For example, while teaching a story I will let them act it out. The learners choose the preferred roles themselves.
Engage the learners in translation activities. For this, I will separate a lesson each week when learners can translate self-chosen text (any story, a poem, an essay or so on).
Make the learners maintain a word book or vocabulary journal and add at least five words in it every day.
Although these are classroom-based strategies, I believe that once the students internalise these strategies, only then will they be able to replicate and adapt them to some extent even in the absence of the teachers. Activities demanding less or even no support of the teachers would certainly be useful. Here, it is necessary to make the learners aware of multiple strategies and let them decide which works best for them. The learners should be introduced to these various strategies to facilitate effective and autonomous learning. Eventually, the learners should be actively involved in the entire learning process from goal setting to evaluation.
Catastrophes are abrupt but preparation can be gradual. These types of pandemics close the door to the regular learning spaces but at the same time opens the doors of multiple alternative opportunities. For opening these doors, pre-planning and some rehearsals are needed. Empowering the learners with various learning strategies sufficiently will help the learners grow independent. This will, in turn, assist in bridging the gaps in teaching and learning during some unanticipated situations like the one we are facing these days. For this, teachers planning and facilitation play the key role to avert the cognitive loss in the learners. It is because teacher autonomy is pre-requisite to learner autonomy and is very crucial for handling these types of unpredictable situations.
Karuna Nepal is a lecturer at SS College. She also teaches at Shree Krishna Secondary School. She has completed her M.Phil. degree from Pokhara University. Her areas of interest include translation, philosophy and literature.
This article presents an examination of teachers’ experiences and understanding of online learning amidst COVID-19 crisis in Nepal, pandemic impacts on education and future challenges of schooling. Open interviews with four teachers teaching their students investigated how they managed to teach few students on virtual classes and what complications they experienced when using digital tools to teach their students. Although the findings suggest possibilities of utilising various freely available ICT tools in teaching and learning particularly in urban areas, the majority of the students are unlikely to have such access in the rural area.
There is a pandemic crisis that has created a kind of terror almost all over the world. The terrifying situation (COVID-19 Pandemic) made all the human activities as water in a pond in general and educational activities in particular. The entire world is being ceased where all the human chores are also being postponed indefinitely. More than 210 countries including Nepal are severely affected by COVID-19 (Worldometer, 2020, April 13). The majority of them have a lockdown to control the pandemic and keep their citizens safe (Argenti, 2020, March 13). However, I have a question “is teaching and learning possible in such pandemic?” on my mind. This is perhaps a common question to teachers, parents, students and other stakeholders of schools and colleges across the world because the entire world has been affected by the COVID-19. Perhaps similar to the Poudel’s (2020) experiences of stress during the lockdown initiated on 23 March 2020 by the government of Nepal to prevent the spread of Corona-virus infections, many others might have gone through frustrations losing their jobs, regular earnings and social relations. In Nepal, almost all educational institutions are closed but some of the universities have been trying to develop online learning mechanism (Poudel, 2020). Several webinars during this pandemic have emphasised online mode of teaching and learning as an alternative to physical classroom teaching and learning. However, the majority of schools and universities have a lack of ICT infrastructure and have the majority of teachers with limited ICT skills.
The COVID-19 pandemic crisis made me speculate some alternatives to teaching and learning where I experienced that there is a good future of online education. Similar to American schools following online learning (Bakia, Shear, & Toyama, 2012), I wish we had have minimum ICT infrastructure to switch our schools to the online mode of teaching and learning in Nepal. With this idea on my mind, I talked to my four participant teachers from various schools to get their views to a major question such as “what are the major prospects of online education in the context of Nepal to meet the needs in such a pandemic condition?” The following sections offer their experiences and understandings of online teaching and learning during this lockdown.
Online Education and its Effectiveness
Bakia, Shear, and Toyama (2012) have defined online learning as internet-based teaching and learning. In the teaching field, online education is the electronically supported learning that relies on the internet for teacher/student interaction and the distribution of class materials. One of the first institutions to use online learning for completely off-campus students was the British Open University (Bates, 2005). Bates (2005) further stated some of the terms that are being used in place of online class synonymously such as virtual, hybrid, blended, mixed-mode, and distributed teaching and learning. With the historical flows and meaning of virtual class in mind, we easily can predict some of its roles in teaching and learning.
In COVID- 19 pandemic crisis, people in the crisis of food are trying to grab opportunities of learning in virtual classes. In academia, it has multiple advantages. In the interview, teachers shared different views on the issue with the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. For example, Mr A expressed that online learning is only one alternative during the lockdown, and it may be cost-effective and feasible. Likewise, Mr B emphasised a virtual class that it provides students with face-to-face learning opportunities without any risk of being affected by the Corona Virus, is cheaper than regular conventional school, allows students to work autonomously and meets students’ needs. His idea aligned with Crystal (2020) that virtual class does not require any physical classroom to conduct teaching and learning activities similar to the conventional schools. Similarly, Ms C shared that online teaching saves teachers’ time and also makes them less formal as they do not need to go to school and college. Similar to Underhill’s idea (2020, April 19), she presumed that teachers can teach by sitting in the kitchen or lounge if they have virtual class facilities. Mr D shared that teaching virtually makes students psychologically free from their learning burden by creating a kind positive as well as a motivating learning environment.
ICT infrastructure for eLearning
Interviews with participants investigated the need to develop ICT infrastructure and to prepare the workforce for the implementation of online teaching and learning in Nepal. For example, Mr A emphasised electronic devices (laptop, smart-phone, etc.) and internet to initiate online learning mechanism. However, Ms B argued that both teachers and students’ physical, psychological and social aspects need to be considered before thinking about virtual classes. Mr C and Mr D focused on the peaceful and calm environment along with computer technology and internet facility to effectively conduct online teaching and learning activities. However, all the participants involved in interviews argued that teachers need to have minimum knowledge and skills of computer technology and be literate to teach on virtual classes.
I believe that Phillips’ (2020) suggestion to consider students’ learning needs, the content and purpose of the lesson, technology and pedagogy and access to technology need to considered to implement internet-based teaching and learning. Moreover, teacher preparation and infrastructure development are the basics of adopting eLearning mechanism in schools.
Challenges with online education
Various posts on social media indicate that schools in Nepal are capable of adopting eLearning mechanism. I have observed many webinars where many educators have highly emphasised the use of internet facilities where possible and some raised issues. I believe that Nepal at its current situation having limited ICT infrastructure in schools may be unable to holistically switch conventional physical classroom to online. Nepal, an underdeveloped country, where the majority of schools have a lack of ICT infrastructure (Poudel, 2020), the majority of people particularly in rural areas have limited or no internet access (Rana, 2020) and teachers have limited or no ICT skills and knowledge, cannot adopt eLearning overnight and may need another decade or so to equip schools with ICT infrastructure and teachers with ICT skills.
With the challenges of virtual classes in mind, my participants shared their challenges that they encountered when teaching in online classes. For example, Mr A shared the challenge of online class management because of untrained students. Similarly, Mr B shared students’ expectation of physical classroom more than virtual class. His experience reminded me of Johnson’s (2017) idea that the virtual classroom cannot replace traditional classroom where students can have natural life to engage them with their friends. Likewise, Ms C shared similar challenges, as she said, “Spoon may not replace someone’s hand. Although he can feed himself with spoon, he may not get satisfaction as of hand feeding (हातले खाने बानी भाको मान्छेलाई चम्चाले खानु पर्यो भने खान त खान्छन् र पेट पनि भर्छन तर सन्तुष्टि हुदैन ।)”.She indicated that an online class is not a replacement of the physical classroom. Although online class can be an alternative to physical school during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, it may not be effective to teach life skills. Moreover, Rana’s (2020) argument such as the majority of teachers and students are outside the range of broadband internet is one of the major challenges to implement eLearning in Nepal. However, teachers can utilise a few potential technologies like television and radio to deliver limited courses and engage students in possible projects.
With long interaction with the participants, I came to know that online/virtual classes can be a complement to the physical classroom and an alternative during COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are some challenges such as limited or no internet particularly in rural areas, lack of trained teachers and lack of digital devices in the majority of schools and families which prevent to switch to online teaching and learning. Although online learning has potential, it may take decades to realise it in the context of Nepal. It suggests that future researches may report how both teachers and students have experienced the use of available ICT tools in their teaching and learning activities and how many teachers and students having no such access have gone through this pandemic.
Hiralal Kapar, an M. Phil student at School of Education, Kathmandu University, is a teacher of English. Mr. Kapar believes on THIRST of education to be successful in the educational world.
Bakia, M., Shear, L., Toyama, Y., & Lasseter, A. (2012). Understanding the implications of online learning for educational productivity. U.S. Department of Education. Center for Technology in Learning SRI International, U.S.
Bates, T. (2005). Online learning tools and technologies Strategies for College and University Leaders San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Canada.
With time and evolution of structures, the teaching practices and classroom set-up have also evolved. Internet facilities have been widely adopted in educational practices across the world. With the evolution of internet and communication technologies, distance learning is now the widely discussed subject among academic institutions and policymakers (Traxler, 2018). Many academic institutions across the world have been conducting full-fledged certified degree programmes from distance learning modality (Owusu-Boampong & Holmberg, 2015). There are millions of people, who study through YouTube videos and short term (credited/non-credited and certified/non-certified) courses at different online course platforms such as Coursera, edX and so on. Owusu-Boampong and Holmberg (2015) reported that over three million interested people every month visit Studyportals, a platform to do distance courses available there. Many new students hit several websites in search of online courses to pursue higher education.
Technologies have been widely used to deliver course contents, for instance, broadcasting through television and radios, video conferencing through apps such as Skype, Zoom, Viber, Google Meet, and so on, sharing of educational materials through e-mail and having discussions through online based forums have been widely adopted. In developed countries where they have minimum ICT infrastructure, distance learning has been officially recognised and widely adopted. However, in the case of least developed countries like Nepal, there lies the question: “Can distance learning be widely adopted at academic institutions?”
History of distance learning in Nepal
Nepali education setting has been dominated by the face-to-face teaching-learning system. Historically, it was limited to Gurukul (teacher’s home or temple), Gumba (managed by the Buddhist community) and Madarasa (managed by Muslim community) (Pangeni, 2016). Formal education was started after the establishment of Durbar School in 1853 (Sapkota, 2012). In 1978, His Majesty’s Ministry of Education launched Radio Education Teacher Training Programme (RETTP), a quarter of the whole ten month primary teacher training, to develop teachers’ professional skills.
The tenth Five-Year National Development Plan (2002-2007) introduced distance learning in the education sector and highlighted the need for the open university to broaden access to higher education. The Government of Nepal formulated Open Education and Distance Learning (OEDL) policy 2007. OEDL policy helped formalise distance learning programmes and establish educational institutions for distance learning. Establishment of Open University was further stressed out by Three-year Interim Plan (2007-2010). Since then, Open and Distance Education Center (ODEC), International Centre for Academics, College of Professional Studies, British Council Nepal, and College of Distance Education and Online Studies (CDEOS) have been providing distance learning courses. Nepal Open University (NOU), a recently established university, offers a wide range of online courses and follows both synchronous and asynchronous modes of course delivery. Likewise, Tribhuvan University and Kathmandu University (KU) have been offering certain online courses since 2011. The progress rate and expansion of full-fledged distance learning have been somewhat limited due to lack of smooth electricity supply and internet with high bandwidth, the poor economic condition of a large population, lack of distance learning-friendly curriculum at universities and lack of trained human resources (Pangeni, 2016). However, distance learning has benefitted particularly employed people.
Adoption of distance learning during COVID-19 pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic situation, the potentiality of distance learning in Nepali academic institutions has been one of the widely discussed issues. Education sector similar to other fields is affected by COVID-19 as academic institutions are forced to shut down. However, several efforts have been made by various institutions to minimise the impact of the crisis on education. National TVs and radios continued their SEE-related tuition classes as usual. Academic institutions such as Ace College and Kathmandu University started to teach courses on Zoom classes. Being one of the students at Kathmandu University, I have experienced how distance learning can be productive and intimidating.
Distance learning was a completely new experience for me before my enrolment to M. Phil at Kathmandu University. Before COVID-19 lockdown, I had completed 30+ non-credit short courses through online platforms. Those non-credit short courses were completely different from any academic course. Short courses on an online platform are more about self-paced learning with flexibility in learning hours, tests, and assignment submission (if any) by learning through reading texts, listening to audios and watching visuals. Meanwhile, the academic course through distance learning is somewhat similar to classroom modality in terms of timing, assignment deadlines, course contents and teaching-learning modality. Moreover, it is launched as an alternative to regular classes for which there may or may not be any supporting classes once lock-down ends and the university will be able to resume face-to-face mode of learning. I am, therefore, curious to know how physical classroom teaching will be resumed. By the end of the lockdown, most of the courses may be completed. For me, distance learning has been more useful and efficient than traditional classroom modality as I can stay home and study my courses. However, the experience of distance learning differs depending on the nature of courses, students’ interest in studying online and also the state of internet connection.
Increases adaptability to technologies and increase digital literacy
Distance Learning itself is carried out through the optimum use of available technologies. In the current scenario, some schools and academic institutions have adopted information and communication and technological (ICT) tools to conduct teaching and learning activities. However, it has been limited and mostly relied on the availability of resources such as internet facilities and digital technologies. I believe such practices of ICT tools increases digital literacy and skills. During COVID-19 pandemic, some of the schools from urban areas have initiated distance learning.
The major difference, I found in distance learning is about the use of teaching-learning materials. In regular classroom teaching, instructors mostly use limited resource materials such as markers, whiteboards and textbooks/notes with occasional use of PowerPoint and visuals. Distance learning modality widens the use of resource materials and teaching-learning materials. For instance, an instructor can easily instruct through visuals and animations available in visual streaming sites (YouTube) and guide through a wider range of published texts with examples to clarify the concepts. I noticed an instructor can easily shift from one PowerPoint to another and link contents from one chapter or theme to another with examples to help students understand the concept. Distance learning also provides students with an opportunity to perform multiple tasks at the same time. While listening to the instructor, students can search for wider arrays of learning materials to understand the taught concepts. Upon any confusion even after going through learning materials, students can inquire with their instructor to get issues clarified.
Distance learning in post-COVID-19 scenario
Looking at the prospect of applicability of distance learning among Nepali academic setting in the current situation, it seems challenging. Although the use of internet facilities may allow learners to learn from their place, limited or no access to such facilities particularly in remote villages is the major concern to develop distance or online learning in Nepal. However, the underlying opportunities and lessons gained through COVID-19 pandemic should not be neglected in a rapidly growing education culture. Experience of distance learning has helped academic institutions and policymakers find the difference between a face-to-face physical class and technology-based distance classes. Discussing on wider opportunities of distance learning, academic institutions should introduce academic courses through online mode. Many employed enthusiasts who would like to achieve a higher qualification can study from their place.
With the experience of distance classes and having brief insights about its positive and negative consequences, I passionately believe that the current courses focused on theories and lectures can be operated through distance mode too. Meanwhile, academic institutions can either revise the existing course or develop a new course for distance learning. I believe that distance learning can complement conventional physical classroom teaching.
Manish Thapa is an M. Phil student at School of Education, Kathmandu University. He has over seven years of experiences on research and knowledge management at I/NGOs. His professional interests include research and advocacy through professional and loose networks focused on community development issues.
Owusu-Boampong, A. & Holmberg, C. (2015). Distance Education in European Higher Education – the Potential. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, International Council for Open and Distance Education
“Children learn what they live”. It is one of my favourite poems written by Dorothy Law Nolte. Throughout my 15 years of work in education field in Nepal, this poem always reminds me of my ongoing quest, which is to understand what children should experience at home. Facilitating children’s learning at home and empowering parents to support in their children’s learning is proved to be more important at the moment where the schools are closed. Therefore, this article offers some practical ways to bridge the gap between what theoretical knowledge children acquire inside four walls of the classrooms and what experiential learning opportunities parents can offer at home. It discusses the importance of educating parents regarding how they can contribute to their children’s learning at home and school.
Importance of parent education: My reflection
Academic achievement of a child in Nepal is mostly based on theoretical knowledge. However, some exceptional schools provide students with good environment and ample opportunities for experiential learning. In any case, schools alone cannot help individuals achieve success in life. As a teacher educator, I have visited more than twenty districts across Nepal where I got opportunities to work with various primary and secondary schools. During my visit, I was interested to explore the relationship between parents and schools, and parents involvement in their children’s learning. Most school communities understood that parents involvement means forming a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) that holds meetings sometimes only to have general discussions regarding students’ assignments, stationary, school infrastructure and so on. It was disheartening to notice that most of the schools did not pay any attention to the fact that parents can play an important role contributing to their children’s learning and overall growth at home and at school and learning can go beyond school boundary. All parents including those who are illiterate can be trained to be the ideal contributor.
While working for Rato Bangala Foundation some years ago, I was involved in a five-year long child-centred teacher training programme implemented in around six hundred schools in far- western Nepal. At the end of the project, we visited many cluster schools for monitoring and evaluation purposes. Many teachers in those schools expressed their concerns that it was challenging to improve children’s learning outcomes without the parents’ support. They reported that the children who were irregular at school were either busy in household chores, for example looking after their siblings, or working in the field. There were times when students stayed absent for a week or more even on occasions such as a distant relative’s wedding or a minor ritual in their neighbourhood. The teachers further complaint that many parents did not care about their children’s dress up, regular diet, health and hygiene. To our surprise, some children, especially girls, even used to bring their younger siblings to their classrooms to look, which would distract the whole class. What a teacher shared with me about a parent’s view, still hovers around my mind, “What’s the significance of sending my child to school? He can rather be a helping hand at home!” It was evident that many parents were illiterate and immature for good parenting and taking responsibilities of their children. That trend of parents to be irresponsible was not just because of poverty, child marriage, family break ups and lack of education but mainly because it sadly became part of the community culture. An important lesson learnt from that experience was that parents education and involvement in children’s learning plays a vital role in the learning achievement of children. In response to the findings of the monitoring and evaluation process, our organization then began to work intensively to run series of workshops for educating parents. To the best of my knowledge, there is a limited attention paid to educating parents to support Nepal government’s initiation of parent involvement and I feel proud to be a part of that movement.
In yet another experience, while working for an organization, we managed to incorporate parent education as a component in our training programme run in a mountainous district in the eastern region. I found it challenging to motivate headteachers and teachers to spare time to run workshops for parents on good parenting and involving parents in their children’s learning. However, once we did start working with parents, we were amazed to see the result. Parents easily accepted the change and happily began to participate in various school activities. For example, some parents visited their child’s classroom and shared the skills they knew. They set up a trend to read with their children at home and even those parents who could not read began to listen to their children reading to them or have meaningful interactions with them. It was a successful practice that helped to improve the parents’ relationship with the schools. Consequently, children began to take library books back home regularly, fill in the reading logs, try bringing healthy snacks to school, and most importantly they began to look quite clean, happy, and cheerful. Moreover, they looked very proud when their parents made an effort to visit their classrooms and shared any of their life skills ranging from the skill of brewing tea to kitchen gardening.
Parents’ contribution at home while schools remain closed
Finally, building upon my learning about the significance of parents’ involvement in children’s education and addressing to the current scenario of school closure due to the pandemic, our team have developed a set of guidelines for parents for our partner schools. Here, I have briefly shared some of the steps that I think parents can take away to guide their children:
Raising awareness about ecology: Parents can explain with an example, how human actions affect the environment and living organisms around them giving an example how throwing rubbish in a clean river can pollute water and poison fish which in turn can lead to various diseases such as cancer, when consumed. They should teach children how they can contribute to save mother earth from home by engaging them in the process of:
practicing to reduce wastage
making compost from food waste, and planting trees and flowers
recycling, reusing or reducing plastics
loving and caring animals in their surrounding
Boosting a child’s social skills:These tips can help parents to develop the social skills in their children. Therefore, parents can be requested to;
Spend about 15 minutes of quality time with their kids, telling them stories and biographies, reading aloud and trying to use good words at home learning to teach new words.
Try to interact with their children in their mother tongue.
Always listen to their child and acknowledge what he/she has to say.
Showcase good social behaviour such as showing respect and speaking politely to others as the children are good at imitating us.
Raising physical awareness:Parents can follow these simple instructions to help their children achieve overall physical wellness:
Prepare healthy food as much as possible for children avoiding regular junk food. A balanced diet is important for wellness.
Teach them good personal hygiene such as washing hands regularly using soap, brushing teeth, wearing clean clothes, and keeping nails trimmed.
Teach them basic movement skills such as catching, hitting, jumping, throwing, and running. They can actively play games with their children and make them practice focusing more on participation and enjoyment rather than winning.
Help children grow spiritually and emotionally:Parents can focus on these tips to attain proper spiritual and emotional growth:
Spend some quiet time with their children in nature and meditate with them.
Teach them to express love and gratitude to nature and the community.
Demonstrate how to solve issues without becoming violent and teach that we should control our emotions.
Teach them various acts from a young age such as making their bed after waking up, thanking someone for their kindness or service. This is to help them develop good habits for their future.
Parents should always try and identify their child’s strengths, abilities and interests in particular areas of learning, i.e. sports, music, arts, language, nature, mathematics, society, culture, and so on. Also, they can work with the people in the community to improvise their daily activities to incorporate in their child’s learning when needed. One can always consult elderly people from their community how various skills, culture, and traditions were passed being transferred from their ancestors and see how they can adapt the ideas to their teaching.
The present havoc created by pandemic and the closure of educational institutions around the world has compelled us to redesign the school-centred teaching learning and institutionalize the role of parents particularly in facilitating children’s learning at home. The joint effort of schools and parents will definitely produce better learning outcomes of the children. Therefore, it is a prime time to work on parents education so that children can get better academic support at home too. Moreover, the aware parents can also equip their children with important life skills, which can help them to fit well in this century. Although these aspects are addressed across the school curriculum, in the present context, children’s learning inside the classrooms is not connected with what they experience at home. The educators, on the other hand, should create and make a meaningful connection between teaching learning in the classroom and activities at home. Likewise, apart from contributing at home, parents’ regular participation in the school programmes is very crucial and they should be encouraged to spare some participating in the schools events, interaction and activities. Parents are the best educators who can provide their children with an opportunity to learn by experiencing above mentioned fundamental skills.
Babita Sharma Chapagain is associated with Integrative Education Research and Recreation Centre and also works part time in Himalayan Trust Nepal. She earned her MA in ELT from Kathmandu University and completed another degree from the University of Warwick as a Hornby Scholar. She is interested to work in the areas of classroom based research and integrated education.
How is everything there? How is your lifestyle in isolation? Not easy, is it? We have been in a halt and despair from the last couple of weeks, especially due to the spread of Corona Virus. It has really affected all walks of our lives in general and education in particular. We have not been able to normally accomplish our daily activities. We have been mentally pressured, physically idle and psychologically awkward due to the lock-down. However, we have been trying to settle down ourselves and continue our discontinued activities virtually.
In this issue, we have collected the reflections of the academics to explore the various practices of online-based teaching and learning. We have also amalgamated some specific tips for teachers of the 21st century to let them know more about digital literacy and using ICT tools to enhance their knowledge and skills required in a virtual classroom in one side and teacher-led professional development on the other. We have tried our best to envisage and offer the possible options from Face-to-Face mode of delivery to virtual ones. Moreover, we as teacher-educators, believe that we need to be able to tackle the problem of our students timely pertaining to 21st-century skills for quality education.
Education is not meant to be limited within the four walls of the classroom rather we should let it go beyond the formal setting. We should always think of the possible alternatives of the physical classroom for expanding the cognitive horizon of our students because teaching-learning can have good going with virtual mode as well. Thus, we are yet to analyse how online classes and resources could serve the purpose in the digitally savvy era of the 21st century to enhance the personal growth of the students and the professional development of the teachers. With the global call for social distancing resulting in the closure of educational institutions, there has been a discourse of how to best use the technology to deliver education in distance mode. The time has come and we have realised the essence of the virtual mode of delivery and it is not just to replace the traditional practice but to initiate the innovative global spectrum of education invited by technology and globalisation for the succinct enhancement of e/resources. The more we bring innovation in our teaching-learning process, the better our activities and learning becomes. Thus, teachers can utilise several social media platform to design and implement online classes for promoting contextually relevant resource materials. In this situation, the government has to initiate and research for the best choices to impart education via this virtual mode to tackle the situation created by COVID-19 pandemic such initiation can be a paramount option for the practice of online-based classes in the days to come in Nepal. In doing so, we teachers need to be supportive and updated.
Journeying for the 12 years, we have tried our best to screen our invaluable papers via the single-blinded peer review process. We have also initiated inviting one of the scholars from academia to share via the interview session. ELT Choutari has pertinently served to disseminate diverse local and global context replicating our ELT situation in Nepal and contextually relevant knowledge to reach into a global context and vice-versa to contribute to the wider readership. At Choutari, we explore the innovative practices made by teachers teaching at different levels on a thematic basis and provide a huge platform for the novice/expert practitioners to read, write and publish their papers to overcome the situation.
As you know, we always think, ink and link our innovative ideas and personal experiences into our classroom practice for the overall development of our students. In this April 2020 issue, we focus on COVID-19 pandemic pedagogy in general and some other relevant and strategic tips to enhance professionalism via ICT tools and digital asset in particular. We have included teachers’ reflections, online-based pedagogical practices, and experts’ perspectives and practices about the virtual classroom.
In this pandemic issue, Tikaram Poudel, Assistant Professor at, Kathmandu University reflects his experience of shifting his academic activities from face –to- face mode of delivery to a virtual one exemplifying some online-based tools to initiate online classes such as MOODLE Portal, Google Meet, etc.
In the second post, Ashok Sapkota, a faculty in the Department of English Education, Kirtipur, TU, depicts the need and awareness of ICT preparatory tools and their ways out for online-based teaching process in English language education.
In the third post, Jeevan Karki, a teacher trainer, researcher and writer hints some specific measures for professional development via teacher-led professional development (TLPD) in virtual route. Concerning his experience, the actual teachers who led such professional development activities are far better than the outside experts of TPD because these teachers know their students, content and context better.
Likewise, in another blog post, Puskar Chaudhary, an M. Phil practitioner at Kathmandu University, discusses digital literacy and its implementable assets. He also highlights the technocratic knowledge and expertise of a teacher to cope up with classroom challenges.
In another post, Dipak Prasad Mishra, an M. Phil practitioner at Kathmandu University, revisits his personal experiences and brings his lived learning experiences despite the COVID-19 pandemic. He also discusses the opportunities and challenges of the virtual mode of learning and teaching.
Likewise, in another post, Dhansingh Dhami, a master graduate at Kailai Multiple Campus, elucidates his nostalgia replicating Ramayana and its mythical social distancing and its closer lens to the current pandemic which is useful for brainstorming to foster our intuitive knowledge.
And last but not the least, we have also presented an exclusive interview with Dr Karna Rana, an academic coordinator at Open University, who provides insightful input for online classes, and resources to facilitate students and its possibilities at present and future in Nepal.
Finally, I would like to thank ELT Choutari entire team in general and Dr Karna Rana, Jeevan Karki, Babita Sharma Chapagain, and Mohan Singh Saud in particular for their rigorous effort in reviewing and editing the blog pieces. We are excited to announce you about the expansion of our team of reviewers to further enhance the quality of content on Choutari. Join me to welcome Sagar Poudel, Ekraj Koirala, Nanibabu Ghimire, Jnanu Raj Poudel and Karuna Nepal, the energetic members with robust experiences in teaching-learning and reading-writing. Let me thank them for their support and rigorous review of the papers starting from this issue.
On behalf of ELT Choutari Team, I would like to offer this ‘Pandemic Pedagogy’ special issue and thank all the invaluable contributors of the issue. If you are thinking of writing and publishing, we are always open to create give you space here. Share your write-up with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanking you once again for your continued readership, professional support, and volunteering enthusiasm to work with us collaboratively. If you enjoy reading the write-ups, please feel free to share in your circle, and of course, drop your comments too.
In this write-up, I reflect on my experience of shifting my academic activities from office to home, and from a face-to-face mode of delivery to a virtual one. When the Government of Nepal announced a complete lockdown on 23 March 2020 to prevent the people from the spread of Corona virus infection (Pradhan, 2020), all my academic activities came to a standstill. I am teaching three courses this semester; working as a member of the editorial board for Journal of Education and Research; supervising dissertations of Master of Philosophy students; and performing other administrative duties mostly related to the University Grants Commission, Nepal and my institution. A sudden change from free and independent being on the 23rd of March to a captive like one on the 24th of March with the inception of lockdown completely changed my physical as well as mental activities. Like all my fellow human beings across the globe, I also started living with unknown fear and anxiety.
We are locked down. The streets are deserted. Departmental stores are closed. A few corner shops are still open. People rush to these shops. Everyone has a long list to buy. People buy rice, pulses, flour, etc. Everyone standing there is not sure to get what he/she wants. Stocks are running out. It has been about a week since we had our vegetables. Everyone is masked. You do not recognize even your neighbour. People do not talk to each other. They have forgotten to smile. Everybody is in a hurry. Uncertainty is there. I remembered the medicines. I had to procure essential medicines. I rushed to the hospital pharmacy. I sanitized my hands. I showed the prescription to the pharmacist; he had a snap of it with the camera of his mobile phone. He showed me the amount in his calculator. I asked for the usual 10% discount on life-saving medicines. He looked at me as if I just arrived from the Mars.
Lockdown completely affected my daily activities. I began to wake up late. I changed the way of life. I gradually got adjusted to the lockdown style. I revived regular television watching after fifteen years. Watching television became my everyday routine. The harrowing news of Italy, Spain often terrified me. The focus gradually shifted to the USA, not because the situation in Italy and Spain were improving but because the conditions in the USA were getting worse with the 45000 + death tolls. I do not know much about this virus; I am not a medical professional. I am now familiar with COVID-19 Pandemic vocabulary like ‘social distancing’, ‘washing hands’, ‘flattening the curve’, ‘quarantine’ , ‘isolation’, etc. and many dos and don’ts. While writing this, many more people are being infected and more are dying. I do not know how many more will get infected and lose their life by the time I conclude this write up.
In a situation like this, along with my university colleagues, I decided to go for online classes. I am concerned with how we teachers are adjusting to new environment posed by this virus shifting our mode of delivery from face-to-face mode to ‘hopping online’ to use Tse’s term (Tse, 2020). This is the time we are passing through. Although lockdown was implemented from 24th of March 2020, regular university activities got affected from the third week of March. We stopped thumb signature and started signing attendance in a register. The canteen was almost empty. We already started getting terrifying news of deadly virus. The Government asked to close everything but essential services. Our university closed regular face-to-face classes. And the news from across the globe became scary the week before the lockdown. We sensed the situation would get worse. Some of my colleagues tested online classes and we shared our experience with each other in a virtual meeting through https://meet.google.com/_meet on Saturday afternoon. After sharing the experience of test classes, we decided to continue the classes online.
Moving from face-to-face to ‘hopping online’ delivery mode
Teaching online has not been completely new for me. My training as a linguist and, particularly using computer software for analyzing linguistic data, taught me handle the situations of teaching online with minimum of adjustment. I have been teaching students through both face-to-face and online and distance learning (ODL) modes for five years now. Before the COVID-19 Pandemic, my university used the MOODLE portal for the delivery of ODL mode; the learning materials were uploaded and the students used the materials wherever they were. The MOODLE has limitations; mostly its activities are asynchronous i.e., the students do not meet the teacher in the same time. Teachers rarely have direct discussion with the students. In our context, the students who were delivered through MOODLE hardly completed the courses. All my courses were uploaded on the MOODLE portal but students rarely visited them. However, I was planning something different from the MOODLE. I had my first online class with Masters of English Language Teaching students. This semester I am teaching the course Pragmatics and Discourse Analysis. My usual face-to-face class begins with the presentation from one of the students. Each student is assigned a particular topic to present to the class on the very first day of session. We were still learning all the features of https://meet.google.com/_meet and my student presented her paper without sharing to everyone. However, she did well.
My experience of teaching students through ODL mode informed me that students are more expressive in online mode than in face-to-face mode. However, the challenge is to provide opportunity to speak to each student. Therefore, I tried to ensure everyone participate in the discussion as much as possible. For 22nd March 2020, I planned to teach Speech Event, a topic closely related to Speech Act Theory (Austin, 1962), the topic I took up previous week. The first thing that I had to do was to prepare my students to recapitulate what we discussed the week before. I shared the PowerPoint slides and asked them to concentrate on two sentences there: I christen this ship the Joseph Stalin; I now pronounce you man and wife.
I asked them to do two things with these sentences; first change the tense of the verb into past and change the subject from first person singular to second or third person. After that I asked each of them to observe the effect on semantics. Unmuting the microphone button in meet.google, my students shared that changing the verbs into past tense and replacing the subject with second or third person would have completely different effect. Recollecting the class previous week, they also shared that ‘christen’ acts as ‘naming’ and ‘pronounce’ acts as ‘giving the bride and groom the status of husband and wife’. I told them that verbs like ‘christen’ and ‘declare’ not only say something but also refer to certain kinds of acts and such verbs are called ‘performatives’ (Austin, 1962).
After sharing their first ever-online learning experience, I asked them to identify appropriate context for each of the sentences. After a while, they came up the ideas that the appropriate context for the sentence could be; the ship is manufactured and yet to make her maiden voyage, a respectable person like mayor of the city or owner of the company is giving the name to the ship in a special function.
The appropriate context for the second sentence is: a wedding ceremony is taking place in a church and, most probably, the priest declares the bride and the groom as man and wife. These contexts refer to speech events in which individual speech acts perform various functions. In this way, in our almost two-hour class, my students analyzed several conversations between a doctor and a patient in a hospital, between a waiter and a customer in a restaurant and between a host and a guest at dinner in former’s house. Finally, each of them reflected their experience on the first ever-online class. One of them said that she lost her internet connection for a while and lost some of strands of the discussion. Others expressed they were excited as they found it very much similar to face-to-face mode of delivery. On 31 March, I had second online class with these students and we all were more equipped than before.
On 24th of March 2020, I met with third semester students of MPhil in English Language Education at five in the afternoon. I have been teaching a course on Contemporary Thoughts on English Language Education this semester. From my experience with master students, I understood that my presentation needs to be redesigned to fit in online mode of delivery. Unlike in face-to-face mode, each student is not seen on the screen, getting engaged throughout the class time is a big challenge in an online class. I redesigned my teaching items. As we competed the Module one that discussed the theoretical aspects of Post-Colonialism through face-to-face to mode, Module two was to apply the theoretical insights of Post-Colonialism to English studies. I started the class with three questions:
How many varieties of English can you think of? Can you name a few?
What particular variety of English do you speak?
What variety or varieties do you think should be considered “proper” and “correct”?
I asked them to ponder over five minutes; after five minutes I asked them to speak one minute each on any one of the questions. This made me assured that everyone is connected and participates in the discussion. I intended two major areas to cover that day: the spread of English over the ages and the concentric circles of Kacharu (Kacharu, 1985). When each of them spoke, I asked them to mute the microphone as the background noise caused disturbances. Then we discussed the spread of English in four phases: within the geographical region of present United Kingdom; America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand where majority of people speak English as first language; in the third phase, after the 17th century onwards English speakers took English to their colonies where a large number of people speak English as an additional language; and , the fourth phase, English spread because of technology, globalization and education to the countries that English speaking people never colonized. Most of the interactions concentrated the discussion on the phase III and phase IV because these two phases had direct link to our discussion on Post-Colonialism. Students enthusiastically participated in the discussion on the impact of English in our education and socio-cultural life.
Majority of the students were aware of concentric circles of Kacharu. They initiated the discussion and I intervened only when there were digressions. When the fundamental concept of Kacharu’s notion was established, I gave them ten minutes to find out three advantages and disadvantages of Kacharu’s circles in the study of varieties of English like English in Nepal. In these ten minutes they googled, discussed with each other and came up with ideas to discuss with the class. Each of them got two minutes to talk share their ideas. In this way class ended.
I spent an entire week teaching the second module of the course Trends in Applied Linguistics to the students of MPhil in English Language Education doing through block mode. The lessons were redesigned to fit in two hour teaching/ discussion sessions and one hour student’s presentation.
Students’ response on ‘hopping online’ delivery mode
Students have mixed reactions on the online classes that I have been delivering so far. In an unanimous voice, my students take these online classes very useful considering the difficult situation that the Pandemic has created. Many of them are happy that shifting to ‘hopping online’ mode of delivery saves them maintain the academic calendar without losing the academic year. Some of them took the online classes as ‘exciting’ as they are getting familiarized with the technology and enhancing ‘the virtual communication skills’. These online classes keep them ‘in track’; provide opportunities for ‘uninterrupted learning’; they are ‘as effective as face-to-face classes’; and they are ‘wonderful’ and ‘energizing’.
On the other hand, these online classes also have other side of the coin. One frequent issue that students encounter is the intermittent internet connections. Many of them get lost because very often they get disconnected to the internet and lose the flow of discussion. One of the students felt that discussing something serious without feeling the presence of the interlocutor puts him in an awkward situation. Getting used to new mode of learning from face-to-face to complete online mode needs to make them accept psychologically. They are tuned to learning in front of teachers and peers in the physical classroom and sudden shift to ‘hopping online’ mode of delivery causes them to ‘get distracted’, and these distractions lead to ‘mess up assignment’ and online mode offers ‘limited opportunities for interaction’ i.e., online classes means ‘reduced interactions’. One of the greatest disadvantages of online classes is to miss the original charm of meeting teachers and peers, the process of socialization and feeling the physical presence of someone when we are engaged in academic discussion.
In spite of these issues, reflecting on their experience on online classes, they consider these online classes are best possible options for the current situation. They also believe that they will overcome the trauma, anxiety and unknown fear and psychological state will accept the condition leading to more active learning. One of my students says that he finds difficult to concentrate on the topic while attending online classes but he thinks as time passes his nerves will align with the tune of the situation.
These online classes taught me several things. The way I used to get prepared for a face-to-face class is not sufficient and many things of my face-to-face class are completely irrelevant in an online class. I prepared my online classes, tested several times and reached my students. I also realized that using videos or other forms of materials require to ensure whether the tool supports these materials. Shifting from one tool to another always creates a havoc and we end up in a mess. The usual way of going to the class with a reading material and make the students read and discuss simply does not work in an online class; teachers have no way to monitor the active participation of students in the activity. In this particular area, I would love to listen from the experience of colleagues.
In these two weeks of intensive online teaching, my interactions with my students made me realize that, as a teacher, I learnt from the collective conversation with my students. To be honest, I have learned more from my students than I have taught. The questions, comments, critiques and insights of my students reshaped and challenged my academic position and such activities contributed to knowledge building. This shift to online mode has almost killed these opportunities; it may have new offers but it is too early to realize.
I deeply distressed with the ideas of some paranoids that post-corona era is the era of the death of physical classrooms and an era of revolution in online classrooms. I do not expect such radical changes in our educational system because physical contact is equally important, not only for education, but also for living. At this difficult juncture of life, I went for online because I, as a teacher, have to facilitate my students to the maximum and I did not have any other better option than going online. In the present state, I agree with young lawyer of Anton Chekhov’s story ‘The Bet’ ‘It’s better to live somehow than not to live at all’(Chekhov, 2015).
[Note: since you have come up to here reading it, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to it in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]
The Author: Educated in India, Nepal and Germany, Dr Tikaram Poudel currently teaches at the Department of Language Education, School of Education Kathmandu University, Nepal. Dr Poudel is well-known for his studies on morpho-syntax and semantics of case, tense, aspect and field linguistics of South Asian languages. His studies on the interface between ergativity and individual level predication, cumulative and separative morphology and affix suspension have been well received. Recently, Dr Poudel has been concentrating on the socio-cultural impact of English on contemporary Nepalese society.
Austin, J. L. (1962). How to do things with words. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Chekhov, A. (2015). The bet and other stories. (S. Koteliansky, & J. M. Murry, Trans.) Boston: John W. Luce & Co.
Kacharu, B. B. (1985). Standards, codification, and sociolinguistic realism: The English language in the outer circle. In R. Quirk, & H. Widdowson, English in the world: Teaching and learning the language and the literature (pp. 11-30). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pradhan, T. R. (2020, March 23). Nepal goes under lockdown for a week starting 6 am Tuesday. Kathmandu. Retrieved April 7, 2020, from https://kathmandupost.com
Tse, J. (2020, March 19). Letter to students past and present. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/42264494: https://www.academia.edu
Dr. Karna Rana is an Academic Coordinator [MPhil in English] at Open University Nepal and Lecturer of English at Gramin Adarsha Multiple Campus. Dr Rana facilitates teacher training for teachers and students in and about online classes and resources. He earned his PhD degree in ICT in Education at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. He did an MA in Education (E-based learning; Inclusive education; Managing teaching and learning; Research Methodology), from the University of Bedfordshire, UK. He is one of the members of the editorial board of ELT Chourati. He has authored and co-authored several academic papers and research articles nationally and internationally. He has launched different online-based training and workshop to contribute to Nepal’s ICT enhancement procedure. His interest areas include ICT in education, digital literacy, research and education.
Our Choutari editor, Ganesh Kumar Bastola, has talked to Dr Rana about COVID-19, pandemic pedagogy and its impact in and around Nepal specifically in education and explored some useful strategies to enhance online classes and resources during pandemic. Now, here is the exclusive interview for you.
1. What can be the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in our education system?
Well, if we review the history of educational development and the impact of such crisis like World War I and II on social transformation, the rise of industrial education value dominated neo-classical education value and it gradually resulted in capitalism. Before these wars, work efficiency used to be valued more than what education qualification someone had. The current industrial education system that came out of British and American neoliberal ideologies seems to be outdated as it is eventually failing to fix issues of this crisis. If the pandemic continues throughout this year, the world will be in an economic and humanitarian crisis. Many schools and universities will be shut down. Nepal will also experience it if the situation lasts long.
2. Since the educational institutions are shut down and the ‘face-to-face’ mode is put to halt. What can be the alternatives to reach students, especially school students in this crisis?
Since the world is in lockdown, several universities and schools mostly in developed countries have switched their traditional physical classrooms to online classes or distance learning mode. Unfortunately, the majority of schools and universities might not be prepared for it. Let’s observe the context of Nepal. Except for Nepal Open University, an online university, all other universities are not fully prepared to go online. It is unlikely to move schools to online in this situation as the majority of people live outside the range of broadband internet. However, we can utilise a few potential technologies like television and radio to deliver limited courses and engage students in possible projects.
3. How can we ensure and track the learning of school students if we adopt alternatives to educate them?
Let me share how schools before 2028 BS used to educate children in villages. Even the government did not know the number of schools across Nepal but these schools had their own curriculum to meet individual as well as social needs. The majority of schools particularly primary ones were never connected with the national examination system but they were efficient to educate millions of children. It does not mean to revive the system but we can explore such efficient local schooling ideas to make schools resilient and self-efficient. That was the time when there were few literate members of the community, but now we have educated or at least literate family members who can be teachers of their children. We have municipalities to follow micro strategies to engage teachers and students from their home. Probably flexible curriculum may provide schools with opportunities for developing own learning programmes, learning materials and outcomes. Of course, national education policy can provide them guidelines to maintain the education standard. Municipalities can be a focal point to manage local resources like teacher trainers, experts, teachers, learning materials and other essential materials. The wise use of ICT in education may develop our schools and education for the growing generation. FM radios and local televisions can be utilised to reach out children and their parents can be engaged with them. In cities and towns, internet facilities can be more productive. There may be challenges for ICT illiterate teachers to gather digital content and materials for teaching and learning but they can be shortly trained through radio or television to use smart mobile or personal computer to explore online materials.
4. What are the differences between online teaching-learning materials and face-to-face teaching-learning materials? As the academic session is going to kick off soon, how can we use the existing materials and resources for teaching via online, radio, TV or so on?
Teachers can bring some laboratory works and concrete materials in the traditional physical classroom but digital learning materials can be animated or real videos, audios and audio-visual. For many learners, online materials can be more productive than what they can read in library books. Unfortunately, such online materials cannot be shared without the internet. As I said earlier, the Education Unit at municipalities can look for ICT experts across the country to train local teachers on how to use digital devices and digital materials in teaching and learning. At least local authorities can train few teachers to plan and deliver lessons on TV lively and even students can be allowed to talk to the teacher over phone. It can go live on the radio too. By listening to the radio, students can work with pen and paper. In cities and towns, teachers and students can be shortly trained to use free apps like Skype, Messenger and Viber, and to communicate through emails. Teachers can utilise these free apps and emails to share learning materials and go to live interaction. Teachers need to have minimum ICT skills to operate these technologies. Unfortunately for many teachers, these advanced technologies may be intimidating. In that case, local teachers can be allowed to choose local learning materials for students. It can develop local autonomy and students’ independent skills. Both students and teachers can use print materials as a source of content. School and local libraries can be developed as a learning hub.
5. You have been facilitating the graduates at Open University, Nepal. What particular strategies do you employ for an online-based classroom to make the students engaged and make teaching-learning activities effective?
We have basic ICT infrastructure to plan and deliver lessons. We basically use MOODLE to share digital content with students, give feedback on students’ regular works and assess their works. Microsoft Teams connects students and teachers and they have a regular video conference on it. It is a dynamic tool to share screen and present works. I can create teams of any number and schedule meeting for the team. This application is highly advanced for online teaching and learning which allows us to share heavy contents like movies or large size videos and digital books. The whole class can be recorded and students can download it whenever they want to. Students from their home or comfortable place can join the class and share ideas. Actually, everyone works on their devices while they are in an online class with their teacher and friends. I teach a research course and it requires students to work on their area of research. I provide live feedback on their works and they actually work with my feedback. It is really effective, interactive and productive as we work while we discuss. I don’t go for a lecture.
6. As the pandemic hit us, we do not seem ‘prepared’ to deliver teaching-learning using alternative means. Firstly, the majority of teachers themselves do not seem to be well-equipped to employ alternative means. So, what skills should the teachers acquire to run alternative teaching-learning and how can we develop their capacity?
Yes, we may be immature to think about moving all schools online in this situation. As I explained earlier, the majority of schools don’t have ICT infrastructure and teachers may not have minimum ICT skills. We cannot expect students to have expensive internet and computers, particularly in rural remote villages. I have reported several challenges including a lack of ICT infrastructure, teachers’ ICT literacy and government preparedness in my research publications (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/KarnaRana). I wish the government would have enacted its educational policy in ICT and plan itself without relying on I/NGOs for the past two decades. If the government has a proper plan to equip teachers with ICT, the local governments can be involved in the project. In a cluster of many teachers at the local level, they can be trained to operate a computer and use internet facilities. Teachers basically need minimum computer skills, ICT literacy, information literacy, digital literacy, media literacy and communication literacy. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to train all the teachers across the country now. The educational crisis is apparently caused by unpredicted pandemic COVID-19 and such crisis may turn up time and again. Can we think a new way of schooling much more resilient than just internet-based school?
7. People also have started speculating that the online means can replace the face-to-face mode of teaching-learning in future. To what extent is there gravity in this speculation in terms of Nepal? And to what extent do we need online means?
I don’t think so. Internet can be used as a means but not as a replacement. There are predictable challenges like network crash, piracy and cyber-attack. Internet is based on the ideology of a few developed countries and they can hold the power of it. Let’s not imagine the worst but who knows if they destroy all the mechanisms of the majority of the countries. From my knowledge in this area, I would never suggest totally going to online. Of course, we can utilise internet facilities and develop the mechanism of e-learning to complement social learning strategies. Thinking about absolutely online school in Nepal may be an immature idea. The landscape of the country, weak national economic condition and expensive technology will be great barriers ahead. Poor people cannot afford such an expensive education. There are practical issues like how we can conduct actual laboratory works, how children learn to socialise and what kind of world we expect to be. I would rather think about how to develop the best practice that suits our local context.
Note: Now the floor is open for you. We encourage you to drop your comments in the box below after reading the interview. Your constructive feedback and questions inspire the interviewee. Thank you!