Why should we read? Why should we write? Why should we share? The answer to all these questions is the same: the life is too short to learn only from one’s own experience and to add some meaning to it. Therefore, if we grab the opportunity of learning from others’ experiences, we can make our life more meaningful. Reading, writing and sharing help us develop personally, professionally as well as academically by bringing creativity in thinking, clarity in thoughts, flexibility and open mindedness in considering others’ ideas and broader understanding of life in general and of our field in particular. NELTA ELT Forum was established with this aim and incessantly going ahead with the same.
This November 2014 Issue of NELTA ELT Forum has brought to readers different thought provoking ideas and issues related to policies and practices of English language teaching. In this collection of five articles, reflective deliberations have been made by the respective authors on three pressing ELT issues: teacher training, language- culture dilemma and developing critical thinking. When practically everyone is complaining about the low transfer of training in the classroom, Mr. Dinesh Kumar Thapa in his article, A Proposal for Instituting EL Teachers’ Support Mechanism in the System of Education in Nepal, has advocated for a policy intervention for establishing a robust English language teachers’ support mechanism owing to several shortcomings in the existing teacher support system. He argues that teacher development in the changing medium of instruction classrooms from Nepali into English has become a thorny issue, and claims that the quality of learning in schools will erode unless the teachers teaching in the changed linguistic context are supported and monitored well. Considering the centrality of teacher agency in any ELT reforms, he has presented strong cases and arguments to appeal to the concerned stakeholders for a close and intensive support to and monitoring of teachers, so that they can work in a more accountable way. He also claims that because of the lack of ‘sense’ of teaching in training courses, training has been a kind of ‘dread’ for trainees. Similar issue regarding curricular policy in English teacher education has been raised by Mr. Cholakanta Regmi in his article, Technology in ELT Classroom: Inevitability of Teacher Education. No one can deny the fact technology has permeated each and every sector of human life though its influence can be greater or lesser. In the field of English language teaching, the impact of technology is growing day by day. However, the teachers, the main agents for maximizing the benefits of technology in ELT class, are themselves in desperate need of support for making proper use of technology. He has urged the concerned authority to take immediate action in this regard to make ELT teachers capable of handling technology-driven English language classes.
Similarly, in the article, Culture and Language Learning, Ms. Stephanie Lerner shares reflectively her own experience of learning a foreign language as well as teaching English to students belonging to different cultures and learning English for different purposes. She claims that language and culture are ever inseparable, and therefore learning the culture embodying the language is a part and parcel of learning a language, including English language learning. According to her, both teachers and learners of any language including English are cultural explorers. She has also shared the links for the courses she prepared and her blog for those who are more interested in these areas.
Mr. Bal Ram Adhikari has highlighted the need for exploration, inquisitiveness, and reflection in his article “Don’t Say Yes Because…” Taking things for granted never leads to creativity and innovations. In this time when people are talking about schools killing creativity of students, Mr. Adhikari has urged students not to take things for granted; not to accept ideas for granted, as they are not exhaustive and have ample space for further scrutiny and, importantly, they are presented by teachers or writers. By no means is he saying that we should never accept others’ ideas; what he is suggesting is that we should take critical stand, revisit and reflect on them for transferring information to knowledge thereby being ‘knowledge-porter’ rather than ‘information porter’. Not information but knowledge helps to make informed decisions in real life situations. Adding to the importance of inquiry, Mr. Ramesh Prasad Ghimire has shared his success story of promoting trainee teachers’ confidence in using English for communication in his article, Removing the Trainees’ Hesitation in Using English during Training Sessions. He has methodically presented a thorough exploration into the interventions he made during his reflective teacher training project, and concludes that sense of self confidence, access to some very commonly used communicative expressions, non- threatening environment for using English and focus on meaning rather than accuracy create ‘win-win and no-lose’ situation resulting in successful learning of English.
Here is the list of contents included in this issue:
We would like to thank all the contributors for their efforts for making this issue worth reading. Thanks are also due to all the members of editorial team for their direct or indirect support and special thanks to Sagun sir for his technical support. We also expect critical and constructive suggestions from our valued readers for making NELTA ELT Forum even better in the days to come.
Ms. Madhu Neupane Bastola
Mr. Dinesh Kumar Thapa
A Proposal for Instituting EL Teachers’ Support Mechanism in the System of Education in Nepal
* Dinesh Kumar Thapa
“Doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”— Albert Einstein
This paper proposes for initiating ELT reform in Nepal through an intervention in the teacher support mechanism in the system of education. It attempts to create a deliberate discourse among ELT stakeholders and the academia for the provision of English language teaching support center in the educational system of Nepal. Arguments for this are made to advocate for enhancing professionalism of the Nepalese teachers of English, and, ultimately assuring improvement in the teaching and learning of English in the classroom. While doing so, perspectives and justification for the proposal have been drawn from areas as diverse as classroom practices to the demands of education in the 21st century. This paper envisions to making English language teachers more accountable to effective ELT reforms and quality instruction in the schools, an agenda that is rightly in high demand in the contemporary educational discourse of Nepal.
Teacher development, professionalism, ELT support center, medium of instruction, supervision, ELT reform
It is a common wisdom among educators working in the field of teacher development that, teachers, young and old, new and established, should be given the time to develop, to share and to train in order to meet the needs of the evolving generation of students. Therefore, every country/ state has set up departments/ agencies to support, to train and to supervise teachers, so that students are educated in the best possible ways along with the goals and spirit of education. Continue reading →
Technology in ELT Classroom: Inevitability of Teacher Education
In this write up, I would like to share my personal experiences regarding the use of technology in English language classroom and the inevitability of teacher education to grip on the technology-driven teaching and learning activities.
I have been teaching English for more than twenty years now. For many years, I have taught English where the use of modern technology is out of reach. I also did not know how to use technology in language class effectively. When I started using technology in my class, I was facing lots of technology related problems; still I have a lot of problems in bringing technology into my classroom. In the beginning, I had to suffer even for preparing slides for presentation. What was to be included and what was not in the slides was a big issue. Also, selecting appropriate articles and videos from the internet was another challenge for me; equally desperating was selecting and designing suitable materials for teaching speaking and listening. But I did not lose my heart. I got opportunities to observe my friends’ technology-driven classrooms which taught me the lesson that technology is a powerful tool which we can use to differentiate our classroom instruction and address individual learner’s needs. When I was used to browsing the internet, I was encouraged to learn more about technology. Now, I have understood the significance and inevitability of technology in language classroom and in the English teacher’s life, as it is the tool which can make a big difference in their classrooms and professional lives. Still, I find that my students are better in handling technology than me in some cases. My students are digital natives (someone grown up with digital technology like computers, the internet, mobile phones, MP3 players etc.), but I am a digital immigrant (grown up without digital technology and adopted it as an adult). Continue reading →
Culture and Language Learning
A few years ago, I stumbled upon a video clip of comedian Andrew Kennedy. He was talking about his experiences of being raised biculturally and he was hilarious! Here is a link to the clip if you’d like to check it out for yourself @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgfPMCwf7BA. So, Mr. Kennedy got me thinking about the importance of addressing culture in English as a Second or Foreign Language (ESL/EFL) classes. Why is it important, you might ask? Well, we, as human beings, are hardwired to process language in the context of culture…which means that there simply is no language without culture…nor is there culture without language, for that matter. Culture is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time, so imagine trying to become a totally fluent English speaker with no knowledge of vocabulary words such as Christianity, jeans, or hamburger- all words that describe various aspects of English-speaking culture. Likewise, imagine a group of people whose culture involves no language, no type of communication- it does not exist. All cultures communicate their beliefs and customs through some type of language. Thus, the two are so closely intertwined that to teach language without addressing culture leads to a huge hole in the language learning experience.
Having been involved in both public and private language education for the last twenty years, I’ve often experienced the link between culture and language- sometimes purposefully and other times without awareness. For me, I probably spent most of the first 8 years of my education career being oblivious to the importance of culture in language learning. During this period in my career, I taught students in a town close to where I grew up so culture faded easily into the background since there were so few students outside our mainstream culture. Then I moved to Africa and the importance of culture in language learning became something I witnessed, learned, taught, and thought about every day. Continue reading →
Don’t Say Yes Because …
* Bal Ram Adhikari
I was teaching the Anderson model of Declarative and Procedural knowledge to my M. Ed. students. I was sweating to get my understanding across. They too were sweating like their teacher to grasp what I was trying to bring home to them. I could sense their sense of loss heavily in the classroom air from their frowning, staring at the board, hanging their heads and so on. However, I could also sense that there were some who might have grasped some portions of the model. By the end of the lesson, I came to hear, to my pleasant surprise, their communal reply “Yes” to my ritualistic question “Did you understand what it means to convert DK into PK?” My euphoria did not last though. A second thought struck me that they were saving their teacher’s face by replying in the affirmative. They knew what their teacher was expecting to hear. What followed was my immediate and rather frustrating suggestion, “Don’t say YES because your teacher says it, because Anderson or someone else claims it to be the case. Say YES because YOU think so, because YOU have your own logic to accept it. So take your time before you jump to the conclusion. We will continue the model in our next lesson”. Then I heard a voice issuing from the back, “What do you mean by THAT, sir? You say Anderson is right. You also say you agree with him. But you tell us not to say YES”. My suggestion met with a mixed reaction from my students. Some look confused, some irritated, some indifferent and some look as if struck by bright ideas. Whatsoever, the time for the lesson was over. I ended the class with the ritualistic expression, “Thank you for your cooperation. See you in the next class.” Continue reading →
Removing the Trainees’ Hesitation in Using English during Training Sessions
*Ramesh Prasad Ghimire
The spoken form of language is very crucial for any language learner because language is a powerful tool for communication, and most of human communication takes place through oral medium. Despite this fact, many students, in English classes, are very poor in spoken English. They feel fear in speaking English. This problem is pertinent not only among the students but also among some teachers from school to university levels in Nepal. As a teacher and teacher trainer, I have been facing this problem in my classes and training sessions for a long time.
Educational Training Center, Surkhet conducted a ten- day professional capacity development training on English Medium Teaching for Community School Non-English Teachers of Basic Level (Grade 1-5) from 2070/07/04 to 2070/07/13. There were altogether 50 participants and they were divided into two equal groups. The participants (trainees) were the community school teachers who were teaching different subjects at the basic level using English as the medium of instruction. But unfortunately, on the first day of the training, I found them so hesitant about speaking English. They themselves could not use English for even simple day to day communicative purposes. They were too shy and lacked self-confidence in speaking English. How can a teacher teach different subjects using English as a medium of instruction without being able to use English for a basic communicative purpose? As a trainer, I found this to be a pressing problem. Therefore I decided to carry out an action research in order to make those teachers able to communicate in simple English. Continue reading →