From Teaching Students ABCD to Preparing Global Citizens
This article is based on the experience I have received, and lessons learned from my errors during my teaching learning journey.
I started my career as a novice teacher, but the journey of teaching so far is like a roller coaster for me. Not knowing pedagogical knowledge of teaching and education, I started my career as a primary teacher in a reputed private school in Kathmandu. It was jumping in a big ocean without knowing how to swim; it was like sinking or to swim across for me. I used different models or techniques and methodologies in teaching unknowingly, until I realized many of them were deductive rather than inductive teaching, when I did PGDE and joined MEd and attended different seminars and workshops.
I still remember how I used to struggle while teaching, as I used to go to classes without any preparation, teaching aids or planning. Now I realize, whatever I did in those initial days were inducting myself for my professional development unknowingly. I wish I had some mentors or educators, like we have nowadays.
Now, each year I teach forty to forty five different individuals in a class, which is like completing the errand of Sisyphus, preparing students to appear for SLC, once they finish it another errand starts with the fresh batch.
I teach the same books and curriculum, same time constraints, same type of students with mixed ability, and multi levels. The only difference is to I try to teach using different techniques according to the changing needs of my students.
What are we teaching?
Teachers are textbook bound in Nepal. They teach only what is prescribed by the curriculum and the syllabus in the textbook. It is always assumed that the textbooks serve as the basis for much of the language input learners receive and the language practice that occurs in the classroom. We also try to balance skills of language with what we teach and the kinds of language the students practice in the real world. For an inexperienced teacher like me, initially textbooks served as a guide, as they provided ideas on how to plan and teach lessons without being prepared with teaching aids. How simple ! In other situations, the textbook served primarily to supplement the instructions to me what to teach in forty-five minutes. Teaching was far behind such concepts of child-centered or task-based or collaborate learning and other techniques and methodologies. Thanks to NELTA, different workshops and trainings I received from the British Council, the US Embassy and other national and international organizations that have given insight and vision and has helped me to be able to use them practically in my class.
Do we teach what students need? In many schools the scenario is what this picture depicts, catering same method of teaching for everyone. There may be reasons behind it. Do we think the activities reflect the interests and needs of students, do they require adaptation? Many of us do not bother or want to identify what the children like to do in the class. On a students’ reflection session I had asked them “What type of activities do you enjoy?” Most of my students chose collaborative activity, doing assignments, project work and presentation. However, is it possible to teach according to their choice? Does our curriculum provide us with such human resource and options?
Preparing students for global market
Are our textbooks written for preparing students for global markets? It is a matter of great discussion. Every year thousands of young people go abroad for higher studies, and the trend to opt for higher studies abroad is increasing. The fiscal year 2013/14 saw the highest number of applicants for no objection letter from the Ministry of Education (Moe) for overseas studies. As many as 28,126 students received the letter from the MoE, according to the data issued the ministry recent, the number exceeds the record of the fiscal year 2010/11 when 26,948 students had received the letter. 147,567 students have gone abroad for higher studies in the past six years. Under secretary at the Ministry, Nanda Poudel says a total of 15,068 students have received no objection letters in the first six months of the current fiscal year. (14th September 2015, Republica)
Total students taking no objection letter
Fiscal Year Students
Source: Ministry of Education
Is our curriculum able to meet the requirements of the level of proficiency of our students? As English is the medium of communication and instruction, abroad students should have higher level of proficiency in English language.
Why are we teaching?
Are we teaching for our status? Or teaching for the development of our students’ language skills?
“In most of societies, the social roles of teacher and learner accorded high and low status respectively. Status depends on the amount of esteem, admiration, and approval; we get from our immediate social group, as well as society in general.” (Tony Wright). I think in Nepal, teaching is still not an esteemed profession. During my class interaction, I have not found a single student who aims to be a teacher.
One of the factors affecting teaching styles according to Huberman (1989) cited by Diaz and Maggoli, is teachers develop strategies to cope with day-to-day tasks. There is little or no focus on student learning during this phase, as the teachers are primarily concerned with following rules and plans. I think, this is what we are doing in Nepal. We are more focused on day-to-day survival rather than exploration and research according to the need of our students. At the same time, there is lack of evaluation of teachers, little or no follow up of new methods and techniques. Sometimes, teachers lack ownership of their responsibilities because of top down decision made by the school authority and the government. The policies are often tailor made, which is one size to fit for all.
Although, many reforms have taken place in the education system in Nepal, more has to be done and achieved in order to make our students global citizens. There are phenomenal advances in information and communication technologies and migration to foreign countries has greatly increased the interdependence and interconnectedness of people and places. It is2 a challenge for English language teachers to produce good and smart students not only for Nepal but also to compete as Global citizens.
Lastly, I am still struggling to swim in the ocean of teaching, the challenges are increasing with the revolution of technology, globalization and different types of competitions, I can see the shore but it is not pellucid and still far behind it, yet I am not sunk.
- Jack, C Richards and Lockhart, C. (1998). Reflective Teaching In Second Language Classroom. USA: Cambridge University Press.
- Doff, A.(2010). Teach English, A training course for teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Harmer, J. (1990). The Practice Of English Language Teaching. Hong Kong: ELBS edition.
- Wright, T. (1996). Roles of Teachers & Learners. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Ur, P. (1996). A Course in Language Teaching, Practice and Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
(*Sarita Dewan is the Faculty Head of English Department at Little Angels’ School, Hattiban, Lalitpur. She is the treasurer of NELTA Central Executive Committee.)