Online class amidst COVID-19 lockdown

Hiralal Kapar

Abstract

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.

Context

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.

Conclusion

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.

References

Argenti, P. A. (2020, March 13). Communicating through the coronavirus Crisis. Harvard Business Review, Nicholas. https://hbr.org/2020/03/communicating-through-the-coronavirus-crisis.

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.

Crystal (2020). What’s new in the English language? IAREFL Global Get-Together Day 2. An Online Conference, UK. https://www.iatefl.org/iatefl-global-get-together-day-1

Johnson, A. (2017). Why virtual teaching will never ever replace classroom teaching. Study.com. https://study.com/blog/why-virtual-teaching-will-never-ever-replace-classroom-teaching.html

Phillips, M. (2020). 5 things teachers should consider when moving lessons online. Monash University. https://www.monash.edu/education/teachspace/articles/5-things-teachers-should-consider-when-moving-lessons-online

Poudel, T. (2020, April 20). Teaching virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic: A reflection of a university professor in Nepal. ELT Chautari, Nepal. Vol. 12 (95). http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/teaching-virtually-during-the-co vid-19-pandemic-a-reflection-of-a-university-professor-in-nepal/

Rana, K. (2020, April 20). E-learning is only a means but not a replacement of physical classroom. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/e-learning-is-only-a-means-but-not-a-replacement-of-physical-classroom-dr-rana/

Underhill, A. (2020, April 19). Kitchen table teaching; Affective teaching online. IAREFL Global Get-Together Day 2. An online Conference, UK. https://www.iatefl.org/iatefl-global-get-together-day-2

Worldometer (2020, April 6). Countries where COVID-19 has spread. Worldmeter Web. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/countries-where-coronavirus-has-spread/

 

Cite as: Kapar, H. (2020, July). Online class amidst COVID-19 Lockdown. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/online-class-amidst-covid-19-lockdown/

Teacher-led professional development in crisis and ever

Jeevan Karki

“In addition to taking some MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) on blended learning and teaching online, I’m virtually engaged to empower teachers around on how productively they can involve their students online.” –

Baman Ghimire, a high school teacher. (Ghimire. B., personal communication, 15 April, 2020)

“After the lockdown, I formed an online group of teachers and started sharing my ideas of running online classes in my district and beyond. Recently, I presented a session on Google Classroom to teachers in coordination with an English teachers’ association.” –

Bibas Jung Thapa, a lecturer (Thapa, B. J., personal communication, 14 April, 2020)

 

We are in isolation to fight COVID- 19, so our normal day-to-day activities are diverted in different ways and the classroom-based teaching-learning activities are halted. Amidst this circumstance, Baman and Bibas are not only engaged in their self-professional development but also in the professional development initiative of the fellow teachers using different routes i.e. virtual route. Whatever means has been adopted, the initiative to support fellow teachers is truly appreciable as the message is more important than the means, and the willingness to do is the most important thing. Moreover, this initiative will bring teachers closer during the isolation, which increases professional harmony and strengthens professionalism.

This initiative is an example of teacher-led professional development (TLPD). TLPD initiatives are led by teacher/s for the teachers. Professional development activities in our context are basically led by ‘outside experts’ and hence they are grounded on top-down approach. However TLPD initiative is bottom-up and customised (Diaz-Maggioli, 2004; Hills, 2017; Vangrieken, Meredith, Packer & Kyndt, 2017), aiming to empower teachers and enhance their knowledge and skills (Vangrieken, et al., 2017). The scope of TLPD is within the same schools and outside. For instance, a teacher (one or more teachers also can lead) from the same school can lead professional development activities for their colleagues or for the teachers beyond his/her schools (e.g. within their region, district, country or even out of the country). The example of Baman and Bibas fits for the second.

Why TLPD?

TLPD events emphasize on day-to-day teaching-learning issues of fellow teachers, which the facilitator deals based on his/her rich classroom experience. TLPD has been popular among teachers and school administrators for several reasons. For instance, Hills (2017) in her TLPD study explored that the fellow teachers enjoyed such initiatives for the diversified facilitators, neutral and non-threatening atmosphere and practical topics.

Wearers know where the shoe pinches. The teachers can better understand fellow teachers’ issues in teaching-learning and can respond accordingly. In the case of Baman and Bibas, as they have lived experiences of conducting day to day teaching learning with their students, they know what works and what does not work in a real classroom unlike the outside experts. I’m not undermining the role of the outside expert in professional development, they have their own value, which I will discuss later but there are certain things which these teacher leaders know better, deal better and do better. For instance, they can contextualise ideas to fit in the real classrooms based on the practices, which they have already tested. They can share their good practices of planning, preparation, teaching particular topics, assessment, remedial measures and so on. The participant teachers basically want the facilitators to offer hands-on solutions to deal with their pedagogical issues and the fellow teacher/s can do handle that better.

In addition, the TLPD reduces the gap and distance between facilitators and participants as they share the common ground, which results in increased openness, lively discussion and participation, and a joint effort for problem solving. In addition, TLPD are owned by teachers because they are customised, contextual, jointly developed by both facilitators and participants, and they emphasise on inquiry-based learning (Diaz-Maggioli, 2004). As a result, it can make teachers accountable.

Moreover, TLPD initiative can bridge the post training gap (Diaz-Maggioli, 2004). Generally, when an outside expert facilitates some training/workshop, there is scarce or no chance of follow up visit to provide on-site assistance to the teacher/s who is struggling to implement the newly learnt idea. Instead, when a teacher from the same school or neighbouring school/s leads the training/workshop or so on, they can be easily consulted as they share the same chiya pasal (tea shop) or same dhara (tap). They can even be asked to observe the classroom and assist the fellow teacher/s to implement the skills learnt in the training. Gradually, it leads to a better collaboration and a higher chance of training transfer in the classroom.

Teaching is not a competition with other fellow teachers but a competition with oneself, to create environment for children to learn themselves, not to teach! Every teacher is here to facilitate and support students to learn better and reach their full potential. So why competition? Instead teachers need a mutual collaboration with each other, a collaboration to share good practices and support each other to overcome the challenges associated with teaching and learning because the empowered teachers can empower students too. And the teacher-led professional development initiatives would do that because the future lies on the bottom-up approach but not on the top-down.

Roles of outside experts

At this point, question may arise, are all teachers capacitated enough to lead the professional development initiatives? Perhaps not, to give a quick answer. And now, here comes the role of the experts, trainers and teacher educator to strengthen their professional expertise to lead the cycle of TLPD. While leading the professional development events for adults, it is really important to be familiar with adult learning principles, key facilitation skills, converting contents into activities, interpersonal skills, latest research in the field and their implications, and so forth. Moreover, the teacher-leaders (the facilitators) also need support in school-based model of TLPD and its overall cycle, starting from planning and developing sessions to reflection and feedback collection. Therefore, the experts now need to groom school-based leaders to lead their professional development themselves and observe and study how it works.

How to start TLPD initiatives? 

The easy answer to this question is just start the way Baman and Bibas did. TLPD model seems to work better during this halt, where the outside experts are not easily reachable. Therefore, let’s start this with our colleagues, who are the nearest experts at the moment, just go through the Facebook friend list and make a team. Actually, I came to learn about the initiative of Baman and Bibas via Facebook. So, we can look for the teachers/colleagues teaching English (or related subject) in our friend list, create a group and start the conversation. Thereafter, we can only discuss on the issues we are facing while teaching our students and make notes of all the issues. The issues can be anything related to planning, methods, materials, assessment, teaching particular topics, and classroom management skills and other soft skills like communication, motivation or using technology in classroom. Then, the list can be shortened by removing repetition or the least important topics for the moment (through a common consensus). moving forward, we can ask each other to choose one or two topics, which we feel comfortable to lead the discussion/presentation. If all the topics are not covered, let’s not worry. We can always start with whatever we feel comfortable. Then, we can schedule the presentation and discussion using accessible and free Software like Messenger, Viber, Skype, Zoom or so on. Next, the session leader should take a good time to plan on his/her topic. Once the preparation is done, we can advertise a little via social media to invite other interested teachers to join the discussion. I’m sure we will find more than enough participants. Then, on the day of presentation, we can make some house rules to run it systematically, otherwise, it can go messy. After the presentation, we should entertain questions and open the discussion, which will help both the facilitator and fellow teachers to reflect upon the ideas shared and set direction future direction. And after we do it successfully, we can write our reflection and share, the way I’m doing here.

Before I leave

As the situation is getting worse day by day globally, we as educators can’t just keep quiet and stay at home. Baman says that the ongoing journey of professional development goes beyond the chains of any ‘lockdown’. So, we should start thinking proactively about the alternatives of educating or reaching our students. Such teacher-led professional initiatives can help us to explore multiple ideas of reaching them during this crisis.

[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!]

[To cite it: Karki, J. (2020, April 20). Teacher-led professional development in crisis and ever. [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/teacher-led-professional-development-in-crisis-and-ever/]

The Author: Jeevan Karki is a freelance teacher trainer, researcher and writer. He serves as an expert in designing materials and developing training for literacy program at Room to Read. He has authored several op-eds and blogs including some national and international journal articles. He is also an editor of ELT Choutari and the Editor-in-Chief at MercoCreation (http://merocreation.com/).

References:

Diaz-Maggioli, G. (2004). Professional development today. Teacher-centered professional development. Retrieved from: http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/104021/chapters/Professional-Development-Today.aspx

Hills, D., (2017). Teacher-Led Professional Development: A Proposal for a Bottom-Up Structure Approach. International Journal of Teacher Leadership. 8(1), 77- 91.

Vangrieken, K., Meredith, C., Packer, T., & Kyndt, E. (2017). Teacher communities as a context for professional development: A systematic review. Teaching and Teacher Education, 61, 47-59.

11th Anniversary Issue of ELT Choutari: Special Coverage on Resources & Materials #Vol 12, Issue 94

Resources and materials for more engaging and comprehensible learning

Source: teachercreated.com

Welcome to the 11th anniversary issue of ELT Choutari and the first quarterly (January- March) issue of 2020.

On the completion of its glorious 11 years and moving forward for the 12th year, the current editorial team would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all our founding members, past editors, contributors, well-wishers and most importantly you, as our reader! ELT Choutari has primarily served to promote local scholarship and a resource bank for ELT practitioners. The 11th resourceful years of Choutari has produced 11 volumes and 93 issues with hundreds of resourceful articles. Besides, we also have created a resource bank of ELT Blogs, Discussions and ELT Journals to bring the ELT resources at a single venue for our readers. Our ongoing effort of developing Choutari as a resource bank has further encouraged us to dedicate the theme of this issue on production of ELT resources and materials and their use in ELT context of Nepal to generate a focused discourse on this area.

Resources and materials add value in teaching learning as music adds value in a celebration. They are means and tools for making our teaching-learning more engaging, interesting and thus making activities more learnable and understandable to students. Actually, resources are not only for their day-to-day teaching learning but also for the professional development of teachers. Therefore, the use of resources and materials plays a tremendous role in shaping the professional skills of an English language teacher.

The essence of teaching approach or technique largely depends on the resources and materials teachers choose. Because they help teachers in offering students an amazing variety of routes for learning and discovery (Harmer, 2007). So, the classroom that uses resources and materials makes learning more meaningful by engaging learners and allowing them to learn through self-discovery. The resources and materials also support to address multiple learning styles of children through differentiated instruction. Teachers can design the diverse learning activities to address diversified classroom based on them.

The availability and access to the ELT teaching resources and materials both in physical and online formats have been huge than ever. The online resources stand out more in this era due to its menu like ready-made availability. Such resources can also be accessed through simple android phones even in the rural parts of the world. However, a teacher should be able to customise and contextualise the resources as per the need of curriculum and children.

In the context of Nepal, the production of ELT textbooks and supplementary materials is increasing. And there have been some efforts on publishing ELT journals, audio-visuals, digital magazine like ELT Choutari to contribute to the professional development of teachers. Yet, the resources and materials to address the needs of both students (in the classroom) and teachers (for professional development) are insufficient. Likewise, the quality and innovation on the available resources and materials are also far behind the standard. In this backdrop, this quarterly issue of ELT Choutari is presenting you the six blog posts and one bonus resourceful article to create a focused discourse on these issues.

The blog posts offer you good practices of teachers in using locally available resources, teachers’ reflections on using students’ feedback as a resource for shaping their teaching skills, practices of using Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) for professional development and interview with an expert on the resources and materials to the fullest. Moreover, on the occasion of our anniversary, we also present you a special package of reflections- reflections from our founders, editors, ELT experts and readers. Last but not the least, we also present you a super special resourceful article about ELT resources from TESOL blog, which unpacks many other resources once you get into it (so don’t hesitate to unfold the package).

Here you go:

  1. Reflections: Hearing from founders, editors, ELT experts and readers
  2. Quality scrutiny in materials isn’t merely a formalization process: Ganga Ram Gautam, PhD
  3. Teaching English using locally made/available materials: by Rishi Ram Paudel
  4. Open online courses for teachers’ professional development: by Bibas Thapa
  5. How to convert reading into pleasure from pressure?: by Ghanashyam Raj Kafle
  6. Collecting students’ feedback for enhancing my teaching skills: by Somy Paudyal
  7. The Best 2019 Resources for Teachers of ELs: by Judie Hayness

While releasing this issue, we take the pleasure of welcoming and introducing Mohan Singh Saud in our editorial team. Mr. Saud is a PhD candidate at Graduate School of Education, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He has been teaching English at Kailali Multiple Campus, Dhangadhi, Nepal since 2004. He has also authored some books including school level English series and some journal articles. Currently, he is working on Grade 11 compulsory English textbook under Curriculum Development Centre, Nepal.

Before leaving, I would like to thank all the contributors to this issue. Likewise, I would like to offer special thanks to Babita Sharma Chapagain, Karna Rana, Ganesh Bastola, Praveen Kumar Yadav and Mohan Singh Saud for reading and reviewing the blogs rigorously.

Finally, you are requested to drop your comments for the blog posts you read, share anything you like in your network, and consider writing your own blog post for April- June issue.

Thank you!

Jeevan Karki,
Lead editor of the issue

How to convert reading into pleasure from pressure?

Ghanashyam Raj Kafle*

Scene setting

Teaching is not telling. However, sharing a teacher’s experience on classroom success and failure while ‘teaching reading’ could be of benefit to many fellow teachers. This article offers some examples of how we can use reading materials to encourage students’ active engagement with reading texts.

My experiences of using reading materials

As usual I used to ask my students to read passage from the lesson and answer the questions given there. While doing so, I would notice clear expressions of dislike of the task on their face, and their hands moved halfheartedly to work although verbally they did not express that. Sure, that the technique did not work, and I slightly changed it into briefly explaining them how reading would contribute to secure better marks/grades. The second technique too seemed no better than the first one. Therefore, I asked them to read the questions first to make sense of what the passage is about. This time I noticed involvement of more students.

Next, I asked them to look at the pictures and then tell who the people were, what they did, which of them they liked and disliked and so on. The students sounded interested and more engaging this time than ever before. Next day, I used yet another idea to read aloud only half of the story in a way the rest half was missing. The students sounded then curious to know the outcome of the story. That’s the reason why I think teaching reading is not just exposing students to reading materials. It calls for a simple trick and twist of teacher to make the old stuff feel like new.

In my successive lessons, I told the students to watch a favourite movie and narrate the story to the class next day. They were given free choice to tell the story in Nepali first and then in English. Everybody there and then wanted to tell/write the entire story of the movie and I had to remind them of the next class to stop. It was hard to resist them otherwise. It seemed to me that they each wanted to have their turn first in the class the next day because they had so many things to tell/write about the movie they watched. Here, the point I’m making is how we teachers set aside ten or so minutes in advance to slightly devise new twists and turns in the given reading passages/materials.

Discussion

We teachers have been working hard; there is no doubt. Is it not like we are filling a jar which takes in much water still never fills up? Certainly, there is a leakage in the rear. The earlier we discover and plug in the leakage, the better it is. Similarly, when a dress of latest fashion arrives in the market, people rush to buy it no matter what the price is despite already having many sets in their wardrobe. Similarly, people love eating out in restaurant or picnic although the food cooked at home is far more hygienic and cost effective. Yes, everywhere new taste is preferred and the same applies in teaching reading too!

Now it’s high time that we teachers tried out something new to give a twist in teaching reading. Traditional stereotypical methods of teaching reading wore down the students’ interest and passion in reading. When students sense that teachers are using the same old methods and techniques always, it no longer sustains their interest. Therefore, it is rewarding to set reading materials in a way to go beyond their prediction. Sometimes, splitting the story into several bits and then asking them to arrange in order of events works wonder to engage them in reading activities. Indeed, materials themselves are just the means, not the end.

Every time the teacher deals with the same reading stuff, it is advisable for one to change activities every ten minutes to avoid monotony of the students. Listen to Roy (2013) who proposes two approaches of reading: reading for message and reading for language. Using only one approach leads to incomplete reading. On the other hand, it runs the risk of overlooking the language aspect of the reading text. For instance, look at the sentences – ‘She asked him a question’. ‘She fired a question at him’. ‘She hurled a question toward him’. ‘She projected a missile of question at him’. Not all writers use the same way to say something. They complicate the meaning under the cover of vocabulary and structure challenge.

Similarly, an essay named ‘How should one read a book’ written by Woolf (1918) must be a sure shot answer to all those who still bump about reading. Earlier I wondered if this is even a question to ask. We’ve read several books and have had higher grades and degrees. The thing to realize at this point is that we teachers should present reading materials with a clear objective for the day; say for example, meaning into words such as, how much reading do you do with answers? Students may come up with answers like, I do quite a lot of reading, I don’t do much reading, I haven’t been able to do any reading these days. In doing so, we can arise the students’ interest in how meaning is expressed with words. Most likely, every single reading text emphasizes certain vocabulary and ordering of words to deliver meaning. That is to say reading many books, preparing for test, performing in the exam best is not the same as learning/discovering how to read a book. Therefore, a teacher should offer different reading items in their reading menu. I notice it refreshes students’ reading experience. Just as we develop distaste and dislike eating the same food, students too would feel the same while exposed to the same reading text.

In addition to message and meaning approach to reading, there is yet another milestone in readers’ journey to reading: reading for pleasure and reading under pressure. Students read newspaper and generally understand the message. They hear many things during the day and remember it without missing one bit. They watch a movie and can still narrate the story even after a year. But intriguingly, how is it possible that we read a text and can’t make sense of it immediately! So, it certainly speaks of a massive leakage in the rear of our reading jar. The leakage is nothing else but ‘pleasure’ and ‘pressure’ aspect of reading. When we read a newspaper, we have no pressure followed by. So, we read it with pleasure and the memory retains for long. Similarly, when we listen to people every day, there is no burden of sitting at the exam to answer the questions. The same applies to reading too.

Doff (1988) offers three tips to handle a text as fun material: i) give a brief introduction to the text ii) present some of the new words that will appear in the text iii) give one or two guiding questions. Similarly, Harmer (1991) gives three tips of how best to teach English to the non-native learners of English. The tips include i) training students to use textbook ii) training students to use communicative activities properly iii) training students to read for gist iv) training students to deal with unfamiliar vocabulary v) training students to use dictionaries.

 Conclusion

Teaching reading by using various materials such as stories, magazines, pictures, movies or reading passages should break away from the repetitive methods with the change of activities every ten minutes. The pressure (a ghost) of reading for test spoils the pleasure of reading the text and comprehend! Making connection of the reading text with everyday life, and prior to teaching asking a few leading questions serves as a stimulates their interest.

[Note: since you have come up to here reading the whole piece, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to this article in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

*The author: Ghanashyam Raj Kafle is an English teacher and freelance translator. He also works in authoring and translating textbooks for Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) Sanothimi, Bhaktapur.

[To cite this: Kafle, G, R., (2020, January 25). How to convert reading into pleasure from pressure? [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/01/how-to-make-teaching-reading-pleasure-from-pressure/]

References

Doff, A. (1988). Teach English: A training course for teachers: teacher’s workbook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Harmer, J. (1991). The practice of English language teaching. Longman Handbooks for Language Teachers. London/New York.

Roy, S. (2013). The impact programme. India. Retrieved on January 20, 2020 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_ZeBr6bhyw

Woolf, V (1913). The critical reader. Kathmandu: Ekta Publication.

My reflection on second ELT and applied linguistics conference in Nepal

Somy Paudyal

I attended NELTA (Nepal English Language Teacher’s Association) conference last year which was my first experience of attending a conference in my life. I learned a lot regarding English language teaching in the conference. I remember one presentation where a teacher shared her experience of telling stories to her students by the use of wheel cycle and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, English language teachers are so motivated.’ I felt energized and encouraged at the end of the three-day conference. After a year, when I first heard of second English Language Teaching (ELT) and Applied Linguistics Conference that was going to be held in TU, I could feel the flutter in my chest out of happiness.

The image of the first day of the conference is still fresh in my mind. It was February ninth, Saturday and it was raining heavily. The weather was chilly, the clouds gloomy; nevertheless, I could see smiling faces of the people around me who, like me, had come to get something out of the conference. I also saw expats coming to the university arena, some on tourist buses while some on the back of the motorbikes with raincoats on. The program was delayed by half an hour or so due to the weather as many failed to arrive on time. However, by lunch time, the rain had stopped and all could bask outside in the lovely sun.

Regarding the events on the first day, I remember cultural dances, plenary sessions and there were nine concurrent sessions going on at the same time. I was enthralled and had a hard time choosing which session to attend to as all of them seemed really interesting. However, I do remember one of the very first workshops I went to. It was Jeevan Karki’s workshop on academic writing where I learnt a lot about how we can choose a good topic, brainstorm ideas and give a proper shape to our writing. The highlight for me that day, however, was panel discussion on the topic: English Medium of Instruction: Assumptions, Policies and Practices. Dr Jay Raj Awasthi, Dr Lava Deo Awasti and Mr Dinesh Thapa did a really good job on raising some burning issues regarding the medium of instruction for effective learning. The insightful discussions compelled the audience to think about those serious issues. There was equally good wrapping up of the program with some cultural programs.

The next day, however, was a sunny day and everybody seemed to enjoy basking in the sun in the little break they got. The spirit of the conference did not die out but instead was more enlivened with Sanjeev Uprety being a keynote speaker who gave the message on how literature can indeed be used as ELT resource and he also talked about discourse. For me, the hero of the second day was V.S. Rai. His talk inspired me and I became a fan of him. In my opinion, he gave us an important message on how we should rethink our methods and policies of using one language over others in our teaching and how that can lead to dying language like Tulung. It was a great insight for me. The concurrent sessions went on. There were interaction sessions and panel discussions with some interesting cultural shows in-between. A drama at the end was like icing on the cake to wrap up that day. I went home fulfilled with lots of ideas and things to think of.

The final day was as exciting as the first day of the conference for me.  I was so much inspired by the speech of Dr Jay Raj Awasthi , the  keynote speaker who is the guru of gurus how he explained about the trajectories of ELT and Applied linguistics in Nepal. He told us about ‘Post-modern method’ and added that we, as teachers should not only adhere to western method but should also research in one’s local context about the appropriate method to teach. I got to see wonderful presentation of Dr Laxman Gyawali on teachers’ readiness to learn and their practices of EFL writing in Nepali Secondary Classrooms. In addition to that I got to see wonderful presentations in the concurrent sessions. One of the presenters was Guru Prasad Poudel who talked a lot about teacher’s identity. Finally, I got to see Ganga Ram Gautam’s plenary session on Fostering Learner Autonomy in Large ELT Class.

The highlights for me of this conference were: getting to meet international and national scholars, networking and this conference opened the door to opportunities for new ELT practitioners like me to get exposure to a lot of new content. I have heartfelt gratitude toward Dr Prem Phyak and his team for organizing the conference for us. I have gathered the experiences that I am going to remember all in my life.

The Author:

Somy Paudyal is an M.Ed. student of Central Department of English Education at Tribhuvan University, Kritipur, Kathmandu.

My story of growing as a professional English teacher

Narendra Airi

I adopted teaching as a profession some 18 years ago. My teaching career commenced from a private English medium school. It was after I completed proficiency certificate level examination. In this blog post, I am sharing my experiences from a novice teacher to a professional English teacher. The article explains that how I grow as a professional English teacher. It also depicts what different stages of my journey of teaching passed through.  

Teaching is my favorite profession. It is my passion too. I have been turning my passion into action teaching in different levels and schools. What I adore is standing in front of enthusiastic pupils and delivering something. This passion led me to adopt teaching as a profession. Before I started teaching, I had some exposure of English Grammar and language for the Level I had to teach. After I had completed the examination of intermediate level, I started teaching. I was selected as the teacher after my class observation. In order to perform well and mark good impression on the part of observers, I had gone through all the topics of grammar that I studied in high school level. Furthermore, I went through an English speaking course book to improve my speaking skill. The book incorporated various language functions, vocabularies used in daily conversation, class room language, Nepali –English translation and so on. When I read the book twice, it broadened my horizon of knowledge in using the English language.

After teaching in two private English medium schools for a year, I joined a government-aided school. It was the school where I had studied at lower secondary level. The school proved a turning point in my life both as a student and a teacher. It proved a turning point in my student life in the sense that I could make my foundation of English strong as a volunteer teacher from the U.S.A. taught us.  In the beginning, it was quite difficult to grasp what she uttered. She was the class teacher for a whole academic year. We, the students, were exposed to native tone in English in EFL (English as a foreign language) setting. Gradually I could get what she spoke. The way she pronounced English words or the way she delivered in the class helped me to grasp the native accent. Moreover, the school proved a turning point in my teaching career as I took my further study and teaching ahead simultaneously.  I completed my Bachelor’s Degree (B.Ed in English education) during my service there.

Then I attended training on ‘Interactive Radio Teaching’. All the trainee teachers had been given one set of radio to each. A live program would broadcast from 2:05 to 2:50 pm by Curriculum Development Centre. I had to teach English taking the radio set in the classroom to Grade five. It was a formal training in distant mode. All I had to do was to turn on the radio in the class and make the students listen to. And I had to repeat after the instructor on the radio so that students could understand what was delivered through the radio. The program particularly helped me to improve my pronunciation of English sounds and pedagogical skill.

Moreover, I attended micro-teaching (also called peer teaching) by the end of bachelor’s 3rd year. Later on, I had to teach the 10th graders for one and a half month as practice teaching. I got acquainted with practicality of communicative approach of teaching during this period. The course book that I studied in Bachelor’s level and the practice teaching I was involved in proved fruitful for my teaching. This practice teaching added some teaching techniques, skills and application of knowledge in me. During 45 days’ practice teaching I received feedback from my peers who taught English in other classes. Moreover, my classes were observed by the internal and external supervisors as the subject experts. Thus, the peers’, subject experts’ feedback made me more competent and confident to handle the class and deliver subject matter effectively. To be well prepared, I came to know that the teacher’s guide was helpful. I borrowed and went through it during this period. It has multiple benefits in teaching in a way it provides clear direction to teach English.

Besides I grabbed an opportunity to attend short-term teacher training program which helped boost my performance. After having attended the training, I started teaching the students using learner centered approach. I also learnt how to teach grammar creating situation to the context. Furthermore, I learnt to teach the vocabularies more than just giving synonyms and translating. I grasped some techniques and ideas on how to motivate the students towards learning English too.

While teaching English in grade 10, I felt some difficulty to teach some poems. I consulted several practice books; went through questions and exercises in the textbook and made notes in diary. I could interpret the poems. However, I was not fully satisfied. I went through many hurdles at personal and professional level. On the one hand, I was only job holder in the family and the other I went through obstacles in teaching career too. As I had strong passion for reading from which I could get sheer satisfaction and joy, I pursued my higher study and completed my master’s degree. After the completion of teaching practice by the end and M.Ed. 2nd year, I was offered to teach in Grade XI and XII. I got a decent platform to consolidate the subject matter that I had learnt in campus and university level. In this teacher education program, I studied various course titles such as linguistics, phonetics, translation studies, grammar, semantics and pragmatics and so on. These courses made the foundation of language, linguistics and grammar stronger in me.

In the course of time, I joined a residential Military school in western Terai of Nepal. On the very first day, when the students had enrolled, the school organized an orientation program for the first batch. I had been assigned the responsibility to host the entire program. I did not have any difficulty to teach English and to speak in English. But I had never got the exposure of public speaking in English. I did not have much idea on how to conduct a program though I know what to speak.  The principal just gave me the program details. I went through it. It struck my mind. It was the first time I was going to host a formal program in English. I mustered courage, I made notes; prepared rough draft; read it. Then I consulted one of my friends in the telephone who had the experience of conducting such program. I was well- prepared to host the program. I hosted the program. I received good feedback. It shows speaking in English in EFL setting is not an easy task. Furthermore, these types of real life contexts are really instrumental to enrich the professional growth. Like me, many students hesitate to speak English in different situations. Therefore, positive attitude toward target language can definitely enhance learning of the language. It also indicates that the abstract knowledge (competence) is to be brought out (concretized) through performance. The competence of an individual has to be sharpened through performance.

After I had attended 23rd international Conference of NELTA, I received a congenial atmosphere to learn more. The key speakers from foreign universities, presenters belonging to the expert groups and practitioner groups gave wonderful sessions. I received many insights on various issues and topics in ELT (English language teaching). Likewise, a mentor, my principal, who usually assigns me to work on various responsibilities – proof-reading the articles, writing articles and editorial for school magazine, writing proposals and certificates in English, inspires me to improve my writing skill. It shows that attending conferences and collaborating with experienced teacher or mentor helps to grow professionally.

Where there is a will, there is a way. In other words, every problem has a solution. During my teaching career in the school where I have been teaching for 8 years, I taught several course books in English. Almost every year or sometimes after 2 or 3 years the course book are changed. Moreover, a teacher has to teach three/four course books in a class. The teachers have to work hard to perform well in the class. I am not the exception. I taught an English Course book which mainly dealt with English literature to the 4th to 7th graders for two years. In other genres of literature, I had no difficulty. But I felt difficulty to teach poetry. It doesn’t mean I was unable to teach poetry; I could teach poetry to the students; I could interpret the poem. But I was not satisfied myself. Later I found myself less interested in poetry. It shows that teachers’ area of interest matters a lot in teaching learning process.

It is said handwork pays. Working as a teacher, I teach 4 to 5 periods a day. Besides classroom teaching, the teachers have to conduct co-curriculum activities in the school. Not only this, the teachers are assigned various other tasks- writing proposals, reports, certificates for various purposes, and articles for annual magazine and so on. Among the four language skill writing carries comparatively a greater importance. In this connection, the words of Francis Bacon are worth-quoting ‘Reading makes a full man, conference a ready man and writing an exact man.” This quote highlights the importance of writing. Furthermore, writing is considered to be more difficult than other skills of language. One has to read a lot to enhance writing skill.

To conclude, in the journey of my teaching, day-by-day I began to feel more excited and motivated. Moreover, I felt more confident and competent. It was possible because of the readings, working with mentors, peer observation, feedback from the experts and most importantly my passion for teaching, a positive attitude toward the English language; an internal motivation to perform better.

Through my journey from a novice teacher to a professional teacher, I come to a conclusion that it is not difficult and impossible to transform ourselves. One needs to have desire to grow and enhance the professionalism in the course of time. He/ she needs to update to adjust him/herself in the changing context in a regular basis. It is possible only if he/she is dedicated, inquisitive and studious.

The author:

Narendra Airi is an M.Ed. from Tribhuvan University and the head of English department at Sainik Awasiya Mahavidhyalaya Teghari, Kailali.

Thesis Writing: A Hard Nut to Crack (A Student’s Experience)

Muna Rai

Background

No doubt writing a thesis is a hard work. But it becomes harder for students like me who have a limited idea about a subject that I am going to study. My study was always focused on ‘how to pass’ the exam. I rarely voyaged beyond the prescribed books and rarely generalised the things in life that I have studied. I always had a due respect to my teachers and their powerpoint slides and I became successful to note and rote them. I was like a ‘broiler kukhura’ (poultry chicken, not free range), who merely depends on others. Since I started writing my Master’s thesis, I realised the real sense of reading and writing. Before that, I might have just read and written the alphabets and words. Having little knowledge of Critical Discourse Analysis I became crazy. This was the time I suffered the most. Those were the days when I lost my hunger, sleep and even I forgot to smile. I used to see my seniors being scared of the word ‘thesis’ like a ghost. They used to say “oh god, how to write a thesis, the most terrible thing while pursuing a master degree”. I could see a thesis phobia in their eyes. And when the time came for me, I was not an exception to it.

Choosing the area of research

Before the notice came out for thesis writing, I started thinking about it. I became so much worried regarding my research topic that I could not sleep properly many nights. I planned to take some steps for selecting a topic, hoping it will help me to lessen my tension. I kept in mind the classes of Mr Ashok Sapkota, my research methodology teacher, and Prof. Dr Anjana Bhattarai, my academic writing teacher. I looked into the previous thesis titles provided by Mrs Madhu Neupane. I went to my friends’ circle and talked to them about the thesis title. They told me to “Take it easy”. Some of them said, “Thesis can be done within a month. You just go to Curriculum Resource Centre (CRC) and choose one best topic, collect two-three theses and copy and paste some portion of each”. How can I do that? I didn’t understand whether my friends were consoling me or consoling themselves.

One evening, I laid down on my bed and started to think about the research topic starring at the ceiling continuously. I recalled all those subjects which I had studied throughout four semesters. Among them, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) struck to my attention. I quickly remembered CDA taught by my teachers in the past. And then I became determined that CDA would be my research area. The following day, I went to the department and met my teacher Mr Guru Prasad Poudel to know some possible topics on CDA. To be honest, I was seeking a topic with his help to carry out my research. I said, “Sir, I am planning to do my thesis on CDA, please suggest me one best topic on it?” My question was straightforward. He smiled with anger and said, “How can I provide you a topic, Muna?” and added “In CDA, there are two facets: one is spoken language and the other is written. You can do your thesis on anyone that interests you”. And I choose the second one.

Becoming ‘specific’ – narrowing down the area

I pulled put those bulky photocopy collections on CDA from my bookshelf and read them restlessly focusing on written texts. I became inquisitive and searched CDA in Google and Wikipedia but none of them worked out. Alas! I couldn’t find the topic. After some days the department published the lists of the students’ names and their supervisors. I was under the supervision of Dr Prem Phyak.  On the same day, he informed me that he was appointed as my thesis supervisor and he invited me and other friends in the department for the first meeting with him the following day. The following day was concluded with the general idea about the thesis. In the meeting, I expressed my interest in studying in the field of CDA.

I have the habit of reading newspapers and magazines. I used to see so many advertisements. So, at the time I thought of doing my thesis on advertisements. I became so much happy that I was able to find the thesis topic. I felt like I was flying in the sky. Another day, I rushed to the department and met my supervisor. I said, “Sir, my research topic is Critical Discourse Analysis of advertisements, how is it, sir?” Quickly he replied, “Yes you can but what kind of advertisements, Muna?” I said, “Sorry sir”. He replied, “There are different types of advertisements, which are you going to work on? Please be specific, Muna”. Honestly, I didn’t understand what my supervisor was saying. I returned back with the empty heart.

Every second the words ‘be specific, Muna’ sounded in my mind. I became so restless and I could not sleep well. I didn’t like to eat at all. Later on, a day when reading The Himalayan Times, an English newspaper, an advert about Pond’s beauty cream attracted my attention. More than that a beautiful lady’s face scratched my heart. Suddenly, I remembered the time when I was attracted by the beauty product advertisement ‘Fair & Lovely’. When I was in my early twenties, ‘Fair & Lovely’ beauty product was very popular. At that time, I could see the advertisement of ‘Fair & Lovely’ on T.V screen and in different newspapers. I was highly influenced by the language ‘Get moonlight fairness in your face just in seven days’. I even tried that product wishing to be like them but I could not get the result as said. Now I realized I was being manipulated by the language used. So, I decided to do a research on the title ‘Critical Discourse Analysis of beauty product advertisements’.

I went to the department and met my teacher Mrs Madhu Neupane. I asked her whether this topic would be appropriate for my research. The same day I also met Mr Guru Poudel and got some information about Fairclough’s CDA model. And then I met my supervisor and expressed my intended thesis topic. He said, “Great! Muna. It’s a wonderful idea”. But I had no idea about how to make that great, a really great in action. Everyone praised my topic. As I was confirmed to my research topic, stress topped over my head. It was the first time I understood research is done in a very specific area. After that, I talked to my guru Prof. Dr Jai Raj Awasthi and shared my interest and intention of doing research on that particular topic with him. Soon he sent me plenty of books, theses and articles on CDA and advertisements. I downloaded those sources and read them.  I just read the title and looked at page numbers. Rests of them were books and international theses above hundred pages. I didn’t dare to open them but kept them safely.

Writing proposal

After some days I along with other friends was called by my supervisor for the discussion for the second time. The night before I opened one short article ‘Beauty product advertisements: A Critical Discourse Analysis’ by Kaur et al. I read it twice because it was short in length as well as it was written in understandable language. The following day we had a discussion on everyone’s topics and objectives in short. The supervisor made us aware by saying “now it’s the time for work” and suggested us to start working on it. I don’t know what my friends did but I started to read. I started reading not because I loved it, but because I had no choice. While reading, I took note that struck my attention. I highlighted those lines which I didn’t understand. I went to CRC and overview the previous thesis. I searched theses related to my area but I didn’t find even one relevant to my interest.  Instead, I found almost all theses written from the definition of language and I did the same. I wrote my proposal from the definition ‘Language is a means of communication…’ thinking it might be the best way of writing a thesis.

One day my supervisor asked me “do you have Fairclough’s CDA book?’. I replied “Yes, sir. I do have”. “Which edition?”, he asked. I said, “1998, sir”. He said, “That one is very old; I will give you the latest edition, 2010”. The next day he handed me the book ‘Critical Discourse Analysis: The critical study of language’. My happiness was out of control. I thought I would grab the whole book and make the best out of it. I came back to my room and started to read it. I turned the first page and searched the definition of CDA. I turned the second page, third page, fourth page respectively. Alas! I couldn’t find the thing what I was looking for restlessly. Eventually, I found the book worthless for me. The things I didn’t understand is the book on CDA which consists of above 500 pages did not have the definition of CDA.

I finished writing the introductory part of my proposal in about a month. I sent it to my supervisor for his comments. After some days he called me at the department. The first question he asked me was “why did you start writing your proposal from the definition of language, Muna? Does it make any sense?” I remained silent, as I didn’t have the answer to his question. Then he handed over the corrected section of my writing and asked me to go through it. He also asked me to take out the definition of language. To my astonishment, about 80% of my writing was red marked. I again lost my confidence and thought that I could not cope with CDA. I nearly decided giving up my research on CDA and find another simple topic to carry on. It was only then I realised how weak I was in the English language itself although I was soon going to be an M. Ed graduate. I evaluated myself and felt disheartened.

Facing the viva – proposal

I remained silent for a month as I was looking for another simple topic. During the period, I received a mail from my supervisor who wanted to know about the status of my proposal. I informed him that I could not go further as I found CDA quite tough. I also told him the difficulties on doing a research from the level of knowledge I had on the area I was trying to pursue. He tried to encourage me to do better in my work. He also suggested me to believe in self. His words energised me again. I stood up again. And then I vowed not to let down myself. I started to read the related sources again. I tried to play with the words and thought differently. I went through the corrected part of my introductory portion. I again opened the publications by Fairclough, Foucault, Van Dijk, Wodak and many more and read them line by line. The most painful situation for me was when I went through the bulky books and understood nothing. I felt hard to understand Fairclough’s idea. When I went through his book, I completely understood the first paragraph, but hardly understood the second. When I reached the last part of the book, I even forgot the little idea I had framed. But I had no choice except to read it repeatedly. I kept on reading it even though I didn’t understand.  Ultimately, I continued writing my proposal and prepared the first draft in about four months. Then I mailed it to my supervisor and got his suggestions. This process continued thrice.  Finally, I survived the viva and got confirmation of my thesis proposal.

And facing the thesis viva

Then I set out for my fieldwork. I visited different publications and stationery shops to know about the local magazines and newspapers. As the objectives of my study were to find out those magazines that contained beauty product advertisements meant for women. I collected magazines and newspaper such as WOW, WAVE, Family, Nari, Nawanari, Himalayan Times and The Kathmandu Post published from 2016 to 2017. From these newspapers and magazines, I collected one hundred beauty product advertisements.

Though I was asked to submit the first draft of my thesis before Dashain (two-months after facing my proposal viva), I couldn’t do it. The whole country was enjoying Dashain and Tihar but I was busy in the collection of data for my study. Finally, I was able to collect data but I did not have any idea of interpreting the data.  Again I read Kaur’s article repeatedly and got the basic idea. I followed that article and moved ahead. I made observation guidelines and analysed the language used in beauty product advertisements in terms of their lexical and syntactic features. I also investigated the discursive techniques that represent the identity of women.  I completed the fourth chapter of the thesis by the end of Tihar vacation. I sent it to my supervisor and started to work on concluding the chapter.

I went to the department to meet my supervisor to get his feedback on chapter four. I became happy as he said “Good Muna, this time you worked hard”. He also suggested me to put some pictures in the language analysis part and give sub-topics in the discursive techniques part. I made the corrections suggested by him. I also completed the fifth chapter and sent both chapters to my supervisor for the feedback. After some days, I received his feedback and worked on it. After the fourth round of feedback from supervisor, my thesis was finalised. I successfully defended my thesis on 20th March 2018.

My reflection on this one-year journey

Through my research journey, I learnt to be patient. It made me creative. Now I knew that research is a systematic and stepwise procedure. As a researcher, I learnt to think critically, paraphrase idea and construct it by playing with words. I experienced writing a thesis is the most important part of my journey to achieve the Master’s degree. It led me from tension to creation. It ultimately helped me enter the academic world.

We do not have a habit of discussing academic matters with our friends nor do we have time to exchange our idea with them. I understand that a piece of research is a collaborative work. With my experience, I now feel that although thesis writing is a hard nut to crack, as the time passes by with our own efforts we can not only crack it but also chew and digest it with utmost satisfaction. Therefore, I suggest my juniors to make critical comments on their friends’ ideas. For this, the creation of a friendly environment is required in the academic circle to promote collaboration that may yield constructive outcomes. Exchanging of ideas plays a pivotal role in research writing, so we need to go beyond books.

Finally, in this academic journey, I am highly indebted to my supervisor, Dr Phyak, for his constructive suggestions and guidance. I now sincerely believe that the thesis supervisor’s role is to hold our hands so firmly that he/she would never let us tumble down until we are done with our work. Most importantly, I have due respect for all the authors and researchers who indirectly enlightened me to successfully complete my journey. Moreover, I cannot forget to acknowledge the advertisement companies that remained the heart of my entire work.

Muna Rai is the Master’s student at the central department of education, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. She is also a life member of NELTA since 2015.

A relevant post from our past issue by Dr Bal Krishna Sharma: Writing thesis or academic papers? Read this…

Sharing My Experiences of Masters Thesis Writing

Mamata Bhattarai

Talking to my personal experience in thesis writing, I experienced a way of learning when selecting a research topic, planning for data collection and writing process and I learned to struggle and enjoy pleasant moments.

Selection of the topic

Firstly, I had a level of motivation when selecting the topic: “Linguistic Features in English Usage on Commercial Billboards in Kathmandu Valley” and a curiosity to study in an area ‘Linguistic Landscape’ in the context of Nepal. The term relates to language study of signs, texts, symbols and logos, multimodality (the mixture of texts and signs, symbols, scripts, codes, styles, translation and transliteration).

Most importantly, I would like to thank Dr Prem Phyak, my thesis supervisor who supervised my thesis despite his many other academic and professional commitments. I acknowledge his invaluable suggestions and constructive feedback from the very beginning to the end.

Secondly, the selection of the topic came up in my mind as I was attending my ‘ELT Seminar and Report Writing’ class, and there I got to know about ‘Linguistic Landscape’, its introduction to language use on public areas. After that, I started gathering some information about linguistic landscape from various websites. Gradually, the topic was finalised. I intended to study about the way of the language used at public places, the advertisers’ policy of language adaptation and management with multimodality usage on their billboards, the way the shop owners’ display by designing texts, codes, scripts, logos and symbols with the fusion between them.

Planning to Write

I selected the topic of my interest. After that, I followed a framework mentioned by Shohamy and Gorter (2009) to support my study in the specified area of the linguistic landscape. The linguistic landscape framework was applied to structure my study design. Moreover, the plan as a framework was maintained to study on social and cultural aspects, language policy, power and ideology, linguistic features and multilingual meanings of the contents and contexts of languages used on billboards.

The Process of writing the thesis

Firstly, I introduced the topic as termed to linguistic features and linguistic landscape. Then the reason as mentioned for the selection of the topic was introduced. I stated the main objectives of the study. To meet the objectives, I included some research questions. I reviewed the term linguistic landscape, globalisation of English language, areas and features of the linguistic landscape, functions and taxonomy of linguistic landscape, and linguistic features such as code-mixing/ switching, transliteration, stylistics, scripts, and translation. The study also presented empirical review, its implication for the study and conceptual framework of the study.

For the research data, I collected billboards’ photographs about 100 photographs as the sample.

Struggling as well as pleasuring moments in thesis writing

I faced several challenges when collecting research data (100 photographs of various adverts). I visited various shops around Kathmandu valley, selected various adverts and took pictures of them. I had to select different display board which contained various linguistic features. Some of the advertisers let me take their billboards’ photos with curiosity and interest of my study but some others did not allow me to take photos of their display boards. In some places, shop owners permitted me to capture their adverts after my explanation of the purpose of taking photos.

After the data collection, I gradually stepped onto the process of writing the thesis. To be honest, I did not have any idea from where to start my thesis writing. I needed to study more and prepare myself. After that, I had put a lot of efforts on it, I got the way and order of writing. I consulted my supervisor frequently and he directed me to a certain way of structuring and managing the data. In the beginning, I was worried about how to find the way and managing the writing but I read foreign books and journals related to linguistic landscape and started writing. The ideas I learned from publications helped me shape my thesis at the end. After getting motivated each time by the supervisor for my effort to writing, I got the energy to learn more about how to follow the way of writing the thesis.

Personal experience and reflection

When I selected the new topic of my interest in writing the thesis, I got a load of priceless joys at first. Eventually, I thought as a dreamer to be good at my own writing but it did not happen in the process of research what I had thought. I had to tackle lots of challenges during thesis writing. However, thesis writing brought both pleasure and pain throughout the study. The pleasure led me to become more curious towards the interests of study and generated energy to face the pain during the research process. I now feel that I learned a basic process research writing.

As the linguistic landscape is an essential resource to be implemented in the classroom for teaching and learning, due care should be given to make it as a good teaching and learning instrument. The aim of teaching and learning should not be merely limited to the classroom teaching. It should rather equip students with learning beyond the classroom, learning through the language codes, vocabulary, and structures of multilingual language scripts. Similarly, my personal experience targets to teaching through textual signage in the classroom as it comforts the students to learn better, learning through pictures and symbols along with multiple language codes. An English teacher can take the formal features of signage texts like metaphor and transitivity as what ideological value they carry in consideration while teaching. A teacher, as well as students, can make an appropriate choice of textual signage material while teaching and learning. Finally, the study can be equipped with the selection of appropriate features and functions to learn specific aspects and skills of English use as well as greater understanding of how they are reflected in the language use of others.

Mamata Bhattarai is the M. Ed student at the Central Department of Education, Tribhuvan University, Nepal

Welcome to the June Issue of ELT Choutari: Language Planning and Policy

Language Plan & Policy

Editorial

English teachers should initiate discussion on rationales of English medium of instruction

It is common to experience different issues in teaching-learning process in educational institutions, which is not desirable but inevitable. Most of the problems can be solved through an effective communication and discussion among the team.

One of the key issues in our educational institution now is the appropriate use and practice of language/s both as a medium of instruction and access of children’s mother tongue in teaching learning. Before addressing the issue of mother tongue based multilingual education, there has arisen another key issue in teaching learning, which is the increasing use of English as a medium of instruction in our multicultural and multilingual classes. And the interesting thing is the practice of English medium instruction is merely guided by a statement in policy, which states that “the medium of instruction at school level can be Nepali, English or both. However, Mother tongue can be used up to basic level and the same language should be used for a language subject.” There is no any other policy guidelines to systematise this practice. Schools are imitating each others and the practice is increasing. In this backdrop, the communities, local governing bodies and teachers as local executives should also play an important role to make a wise decision on the language practice in the educational setting. An initiation from a teacher also can make a big difference. Therefore, teachers, especially English teachers should initiate effective communication and discussion among the team to avoid the situation from getting worse because they know more about English language and its limitation.

In the context of Nepal, the increasing shift to the English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) seems to be guided by two major factors. First, to stop the transfer of students to private boarding school and increase students in community school. Second, the belief that the English language proficiency of students can be enhanced by teaching all subjects in English medium.

There are several other factors behind the distrust of parents towards community schools, resulting the decrease in number of students. Merely introducing English medium instruction does not solve the problems but its impacts can further deteriorate the condition of school. On the other hand, schools and parents believe that the teaching all academic subjects in English can improve the language proficiency of students. But are schools only English language teaching centres? Or they have roles to deliver the academic contents effectively to students as set by curriculum. Can the existing teachers deliver the contents effectively in the new language? Are students ready for that? Most importantly, is it necessary to deliver all academic contents in English language from primary level? What is the rationale behind it? What do the researches suggest?

We, therefore, need to consider several important questions before making the decisions of language shift in schools. It is very important decision, which can affect the future of children and society but schools are taking it very lightly.

As an English teacher, we can do something to rethink and review this practice. Firstly, we ourselves should be clear that language is just a medium to deliver the information, knowledge and skills. Therefore, the medium of instruction should be the language in which both the students and teachers feel comfortable. It has been huge challenge even for teachers of English to teach English effectively around the nation and how can other teachers teach academic subjects (well packed with contents) effectively to students? Therefore, let’s teach English language subject effectively first. If only English language is taught effectively, students can achieve a level of conversational English. In the name of EMI, actually parents are asking for a workable conversational English, which is possible through effective teaching of the English language. It is not necessary to make such a big shift to attain this purpose. As an English teacher, if we only can clarify these illusions in our school management and school family, it could avoid the random practice and decisions regarding the medium of instruction.

And presenting you the June issue for you, we have tired to re/start the discussion on the language planning, policy and language practices. This issue is packaged with language planning and policy, language in education, professional development and general thoughts on education. The following lines will guide you to select the writing in the area of your interest:

In the first post, Kumar Narayan Shrestha talks about language planning and policy, and its process, and also reviews the language planning and policy of Nepal.

Similarly, Gyanendra Kumar Yadav explores the actual language practice and the issues related to language policy and English language teaching (ELT) in Nepal.

Likewise, a PhD scholar Karna Rana, shares the global need of multilingual citizens and rationales for education in children’s mother tongue.

In an exclusive interview, Dr. Prem Phyak shares his insights on the effective approach to language planning and policy analyzing the flaws in the existing language planning and policy. Similarly, he also shares the possible approach in language in education and multi-lingualism and evaluates ELT in Nepal.

In another post, to present you a different taste, Dr. Shyam Sharma urges us to reframe our perspectives and look the realities through positive lens and encourages everyone to take action from their level for language policy and quality education for all.

In the last but the not the least post, Shikha Gurung shares how teachers can continue their professional development through the three dimensional act of reflection, research and networking.

Here is the complete list of the posts in this issue:

  1. Language Planning in Nepal: A Bird’s Eye View: by Kumar Narayan Shrestha
  2. Language Practices and Food for Thought for Language Policy Makers: by Gyanendra Kumar Yadav
  3. So What, If Not Mother Tongue?: by Karna Rana
  4. Language Planning and Policy Should Embrace Inclusive and Co-learning Practices: Dr. Phyak: by Prem Phyak
  5. Beyond Beating Dead Horses: by Shyam Sharma
  6. A Three Dimensional Approach to Professional Development of English Language Teachers in Nepal: by Shikha Gurung

Finally, I would like to thank Karna Rana for his rigorous support in reading and editing. Likewise, I am thankful to Ashok Raj Khati and Praveen Kumar Yadav for their support to release this issue. Similarly, special thank goes to all the contributors of the issue.

Read, comment, share and write your own practices and send to us at 2elt.choutari@gmail.com

Happy reading!

Jeevan Karki the Editor of the issue

Jeevan Karki
the Editor of the issue

Language Planning in Nepal: A Bird’s Eye View

Kumar Narayan Shrestha

Kumar Narayan Shrestha

Introduction

Nepal is a multiethnic, multilingual, multi-religious and multicultural country. According to the latest census (2011), there are 123 languages and 125 castes and ethnic groups. However, Lewis (2009) and Yonjan-Tamang (2005) claim that there are 126 and 144 languages spoken within the territory of Nepal (as cited in Rai, Rai, Phyak & Rai, 2011). Although, languages are sources of knowledge and icon of identity, the majority of indigenous languages spoken in Nepal are endangered due to various reasons.

There were recorded ten different religions viz.  Hindu, Bouddha, Islam, Kirat, Christian, Prakriti, Bon, Jain, Bahai and Sikha. Similarly, there are four llanguage families/genetic: Tibeto-burman, Indio-Aryan, Austro-Asiatic/Munda, Dravidian (Kansakar, 1996, p.1). But Rai (2016) says there five families (Kusunda no family ye), fourteen scripts.

According to (CBC, 2011), the major five mother tongue speakers are as follow:

 

1. Nepali 44.6%
2. Maithali 11.7%
3. Bhojpuri 6%
4. Tharu 5.8%
5. Tamang 5.1%
6. Newar 3.2%

 

According to Yadav (2007) many indigenous languages of Nepal have spoken form only. Rai (2016) says there are 14 scripts: 1. Nepali 2. Lepcha 3. Kirati 4. Tamang 5. Sherpa 6. Newari 7. Santhal 8. Gurung 9. Maithali 10. Bhojpuri 11. Magar 12. Sunuwar (Koich) 13. Dhimal 14. Muslim (Urdu)

According to Yadav (2007,10) Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Hindi, Maithli, Newari, Sherpa, Tamang, Tharua and Urdu have all kinds of publications, whereas Bajjika, Chepang, Danuwar, Jero, Kumal, Lohorung, Nawa, Nuhbri Ke (Larke), Santhali (Satar), Surel, Tokpegola/Dhokpya and Uranw/Kudux have no publications and other languages have some publications available.

Language Planning and Methodology

Language planning is inevitable for any government since it is associated with the notion of national language. Language as an identity can be a source of national unification as well as source of dispute in a country. Therefore, in the multilingual situation like in Nepal, proper initiative needs to be adopted to build a unified nation.

For the first time, the term ‘language planning’ was coined by Einar Haugen in the 1950s to elucidate the process of language development. It is “a government-authorized, long-term, sustained and conscious effort to alter a language’s function in a society for the purpose of solving communication problems” (Weinstein, 1980, p. 56.). Conclusively, following Cooper (1989) it can be understood as deliberate efforts to influence the behaviour of others with respect to the acquisition, structure, or functional allocation of their language codes” (p. 183). Mostly, language planning is carried out by authorized agencies but to restrict it to the work of authoritative institutions is to be too restrictive (Cooper, 1989).

Different scholars suggest different stages of language planning. Such as, Haugen (1966) proposes four aspects of language development: selection of form, codification of form, elaboration of function and acceptance by the community. On the other hand, Cooper (1989) suggests three stages of language planning: corpus planning, status planning, and acquisition planning.  The stages mentioned by Cooper (1989) can be described as follows:

Corpus planning

Corpus planning deals with the reform within the language structure. Most commonly, a language or one variety of a language is picked up by the government to standardize it. Cooper (1989) states it as the “the creation of new forms, the modification of old ones, or the selection from alternative forms in a spoken or written code” (p. 31). It focuses on the internal condition of a language or language variety. It aims to standardize a variety of language and change its condition. It generally includes the development of orthography, new sources of vocabulary, dictionaries, and literature, and the deliberate cultivation of new uses so that the use of language can be extended to government, education, trade and link language and so on. It may include creation of new forms in spelling, pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. As Corpus Planning of Nepali language, British Scholars such as J.A. Ayton (1820) and Sir Ralph Turner (1931) began the standardization process by producing grammar and dictionaries of Nepali. (Kansakar 1996, p.3)

Status planning

Status planning changes the status of a language either by raising or degrading the status of a language. It may deprive or allow the speakers of a minority language to use it in government, education, and trade. It deals with efforts undertaken to change the use and function of a language. It is the allocation of new function to the language in question. Conclusively, for Cooper (1989) it refers to ‘changes in the systems of … speaking’, ‘changes in a language’s functions, ‘language use’, ‘use of language’ and ‘organization of a community’s language resources’. It is concerned with the relationship between language rather than changes within them.

Acquisition planning

It aims to expand the number of speakers of the language in question. Following Cooper (1989) “When planning is directed towards increasing a language’s uses, it falls within the rubric of status planning” (p. 33). It focuses on the teaching and the use of language. Cooper (1989) mentions three types of acquisition goals:

  1. Acquisition of the language as the second or foreign language;
  2. Renativization or revitalization of the language;
  3. Language maintenance.

In case of acquisition planning, the learners are provided with opportunities and incentives to attract their attention. Acquisition planning becomes effective when the language in question serves all the functions desired by the speakers or learners.

Phases of Language Planning in Nepal

Weinberg (2013, p.63) has mentioned three phases of language planning in Nepal.

Periods before 1950 (As rare as snakes in Ireland)

This phase is considered to begin around the annexation of Nepal by Prithivi Narayan Shah and existed till 1950. It stretched within two absolute reigns of Nepal, absolute Shah before Ranarchy and Ranarchy itself. The use of then Khasa language has become Nepali language now which was supposed to germinate politically during Shah Regime in Gorkha. This very language was nurtured by Ranas later. However, “The Rana rulers were not interested in developing the feelings of nationalism that often inspire the imposition of national language policies” (Burghart, 1984 in Weinberg 2013, p.63). They were also opposed to widespread education therefore there was no need to set language in education policies.

First language policy in Nepal was made in 1905. Then, Nepali language was made as language of law and government. However, Hutt (1988 in Weinberg 2013, p.63) claims that no documentation of this declaration has been published.

On the other hand, though Nepali was only permissible court language, Rana (Janga Bahadur) wanted English-language education for his children. He established Durbar School for Rana family. It was the first government-run English medium school in Nepal. However, Hindu Pathshalas and Baudha Gompas were using Sanskrit and Tibetan respectively as medium of instruction from the time immemorial in Nepal.

Later, Dev Shamsher opened 200 Nepali language schools. Likewise, in 1905 Chandra Shamsher started a Nepali-medium school to train civil servants. In 1934, Nepali was declared as the official language of education (Caddell, 2007 in Weinberg, 2013, p. 69).

Padam Shamsher’s regime is marked as a turning point in the history of language policy of Nepal. He proposed ‘vernacular’ schools inspired by Gandhi.

The first post-secondary educational institution in Nepal was Trichandra College, established in 1918. In this college, language of education was English. Its purpose was to shelter students of Durbar school and to prevent them from going abroad (India). His underling purpose was to prevent Nepalese from getting radical ideas which could be dangerous for them.

From 1950-1990 (Panchayat Era: one language one nation)

After 1950 for the first time, Nepal’s government became interested in cultural unification. According to Rai et al. (2011) Panchayat government imposed their political goals through the slogan of ek bhasha, ek bhesh, ek dharma, ek desh (one language, one way of dress, one religion, one nation), which attempted to spread Nepali, Hinduism, and other symbols of nation throughout the country to create a unified national identity. Its goal was to assimilate people of different culture and linguistic background into a Nepali identity based on the cultural practices of elite, high-caste hill Hindus (Onta, 1996a, as cited in Weinberg 2013)

Education was taken as a tool for teaching the end. After the introduction of democracy, new educational language policy was formed considering the recommendation of Nepal National Educational Planning Commission (NNEPC). The report of the NNEPC strongly supported Nepali as the medium of instruction for schooling, largely for purposes of national integration. The report advocated the use of Nepali language not only in classroom but also on playgrounds and in all spheres of life. It states:

The study of a non-Nepali local tongue would mitigate against the effec­tive development of Nepali, for the student would make greater use of it than Nepali – at home and in the community – and thus Nepali would re­main a “foreign” language. If the younger generation is taught to use Ne­pali as the basic language, then other languages will gradually disappear, and greater national strength and unity will result. (NNEPC, 1956, p. 97).

NNEP followed Hugh B. Wood’s personal view and practice of his country (English as medium). Another educational policy was proposed by National Education System Plan (NESP,1971). It advocated the use of only Nepali in administration, education and media. Stressing the need of monolingual situation, it states the goal of education as”

“to strength devotion to crown, country, national unity and the Panchayat system, to develop uniform traditions in education by bringing together various patterns under a single national policy, to limit the tradition of regional languages…” (Ministry of Education, 1971, p.1)

Throughout Panchayat era Nepali language speakers got privilege as the goal of education was to unify nation under one language and one culture.

Schooling After 1990: The Right to Education in the Mother Tongue

After the restoration  of democracy in 1990, for the first time new constitution recognized Nepal as a multicultural and multilingual country. The Constitution of 1990 states “All the languages spoken as the mother tongue in the various parts of Nepal are the national languages of Nepal. (His Majesty’s Government of Nepal, 1990). For the first time language in education policy was stated in the constitution. It paved a way for running school in mother-tongue and even teaching at least up to primary in mother tongue.

In 1993 a commission for formulating policy for national languages was formed to promote national languages and their use in local administration, primary education and media.

Rai (2016) claims that as a result of ‘Education for all (2015) campaign’, textbooks are published in twenty two indigenous languages. Quite recently, the constitution of Nepal (2015) has provisioned the right of language under fundamental rights and states, “Every Nepalese community residing in Nepal shall have the right to get education in its mother tongue and, for that purpose, to open and operate schools and educational institutes, in accordance with law. (The Constitution of Nepal, 2015, Part 3, Article 31)

The School Sector Reform Plan, 2009-2015 provided supported use of mother tongues in grade one through three (Ministry of Education, 2009). The government has approved a set of guidelines for implementing multilingual education and commissioned a report on teaching Nepali as a second language to speakers of other languages in Nepal (Yonjan-Tamang, 2012 in Weinberg, 2013, p.67).

Conclusion

Language planning tries to develop the uses of the country’s national language for the purposes of education, trade, technology and so on. Language planning is ideally based on language policy. Language planning mainly embraces corpus planning, status planning and acquisition planning. In the history of language planning in Nepal has gone through many ups and downs, from monolingualism to mother-tongue rights which still lack feasibility and ground based reality in planning and implementation. Since it is the era of local identity, the government has accepted its spirit through linguistic inclusion.

 

Kumar Narayan Shrestha, M.Ed. and M.A., is a faculty at Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He is an M.Phil. scholar at Kathmandu University. He has been associated in teaching for seventeen years. He has published articles in different journals and presented papers in national/international conferences. His professional interests include ELT, research and translation.


References

Central Bureau of Statistics. (2014). Statistical pocket book of Nepal. Kathmandu: Author.

Nepal Gazette (2015). The Constitution of Nepal (2015). Kathmandu: Author.

His Majesty’s Government, Nepal. (1990). Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 2047 (1990). Kathmandu: His Majesty’s Government.

Kansakar, T.R. (1996). Language planning and modernization in Nepal. Nepalese Linguistics, 13 .1-13.

Ministry of Education. (1971). The national education system plan for 1971-76. Kathmandu: His Majesty’s Government.

Nepal National Education Planning Commission. (1956). Education in Nepal: Report of the Nepal education planning commission. Kathmandu: His Majesty’s Government.

Rai, G. (2016, August 26). Ojnelma chaltika anya lipi [Other prevalent scripts in shadow]. Kantipur, p. 11.

Rai, V.S., Rai, M., Phyak, P. Rai, N. (2011). Multilingual education in Nepal: Hearsay and reality? A report. Paper commissioned for UNESCO. Kathmandu: UNESCO.

Weinberg, M. (2013). Revisiting history in language policy: The case of medium of instruction in Nepal. Working Paper in Educational Linguistics, 28 (1), 61-80.

Weinstein, B. (1980). Language planning in francophone Africa. LPLP, 4 (1), 55-77.

Yadava, Y.P. (2007). Linguistic diversity in Nepal perspectives on language policy. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 237459920

1 2 3