Saturday, 24 December 2011

Debunking a few myths

The government of Nepal has shown its commitment to ensure quality education for children from all the communities by 2015 as envisioned by Educational for All and the Millennium Development Goal programmes. The Ministry of Education (MoE) has also developed guidelines for implementing multilingual education (MLE) as an integral part of the Nepali education system. According to the plan, local mother tongues will be the medium of instruction for pre-primary education and for all subjects (except Nepali and English) up to Grade 3. Basic education in Grades 4 and 5 shall be bilingual (the mother tongue and a second language). The government aims to implement MLE in 7,500 schools by 2015.
Famous scholars like Carol Benson, Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Pamela MacKenzie and Ajit Mohanty have argued that teaching in one’s mother tongue not only enhances the children’s overall educational attainment but also establishes a linkage between schools and the community. However, there are some major misconceptions that have to be removed for the sustainability of MLE.
Education in mother tongue is irrelevant
There is a strong belief among parents, children and policy makers that dominant languages like English and Nepali are the most important languages to access wider socio-economic opportunities at the national and international levels.
Indigenous people from the developing countries often believe that learning in the mother tongue has no any relevance for promoting quality education. There is also a belief that since children are already competent in their mother tongue before they go to school, there is no point in introducing it in school. This belief emerges from the ignorance and illiteracy of the indigenous people. They are not aware of and are not well informed about the fact that, in the early grades, learning in the mother tongue will help children learn better, creating a strong foundation for effective learning of other languages like English and Nepali.
Kids should be taught in the dominant languages
There is a view that children should be taught in the dominant language irrespective of their linguistic background. In different developing countries, the perceived value of English, for example, as the language that brings prosperity in one’s life is taken as granted. People from poor countries have a mindset that without teaching English from the early grades, their children will be unable to compete with other children. Of course, it is true that having knowledge of English is necessary as it is a global lingua franca. There is no doubt that command over English provides wider socio-economic opportunities. But it is not true that children can learn better English or any dominant language if they develop confidence in learning in general.
Introduction of English, for example, from the early grades does not guarantee children’s competence in English. Availability of competent teachers, materials and other sources has to be considered. The case of Ethiopia (one of the world’s poorest countries) shows that children learning in their mother tongue for the first eight years have performed better in all subjects including English than those who were not taught in their mother tongue. Similar findings have been reported from Orissa, India. This clearly indicates that learning in the mother tongue in the early grades not only promotes competence in the first language but also promotes better learning of other languages including English.
Multilingual education is anti-English
In educational discourse, we see that mother tongue-based education and English education are considered as enemies. Not only indigenous activists but also educationists have this kind of belief. Policy makers and educationists fear that use of the mother tongue may displace the use of English and vice versa. However, this is only a misconception.
Mother tongue-based education is not an anti-English education policy, rather it supports effective teaching and sustainable learning of English. It advocates teaching of English at the right time, by the right people and for the right purpose. MLE argues for enhancement of quality education through the mother tongue in the beginning with effective teaching of English and other languages after children develop a strong foundation in their first language. Likewise, right policies and effective implementation of English education helps to promote the world’s linguistic diversity.
Multilingual education is expensive
There is a belief that since MLE requires production of materials and teacher preparation in multiple languages, the state cannot afford the financial burden of implementing such a programme. Although sufficient funds are necessary to implement the programme, it is not impossible to find funds if there is strong political will. At the same time, it should be noted that we cannot compare the children’s educational attainment with money.
Minority Rights Group International reported in 2009 that the world’s 101 million children are still out of school, and that between 50 and 70 percent of them are from minority linguistic communities due to linguistic barriers. We see that even if states and donor agencies have spent huge amounts of money, there is no substantial progress in ensuring access and promoting the quality of basic education. The World Bank has reported that although mother tongue-based education programmes are costly in the initial phase, in the long run they are more cost-effective as they promote quality education.
The value of the programme that helps to promote social cohesion, bring ethno-linguistic minority children into school, enhances quality education and increases community participation in schools is priceless and incomparable with the investment of money. In this regard, Tove Skutnabb-Kangas and others have argued that rather than asking whether states can afford mother tongue-based education programmes, we have to ask whether states can afford not to implement them.

Published on 23 December, 2011, The Kathmandu Post

Friday, 18 November 2011

Minding our languages

Language is very sensitive which may create social disintegration if it is not used and planned properly. We all know that Parmanand Jha, the first vice-president of the Federal Republic of Nepal, took the oath of office in Hindi on July 23, 2008. The whole country came to a halt for more than a week due to protests against his action. Although the Supreme Court declared his oath in Hindi to be unconstitutional and ordered him to retake the oath in Nepali, he refused to do so. To resolve this issue, the Legislative Parliament passed the Seventh Amendment to the Interim Constitution on Jan 28, 2010. The amendment allows the president, vice-president, prime minister and other ministers to take the oath of office in their first language. On Feb 7, 2010, Vice-President Jha took a fresh oath in both Nepali and Maithili, his first language.

Such issues emerge due to lack of a clear language policy. It is obvious that a society functions cohesively in a country where an inclusive multilingual policy is adopted. But conflicts and social disintegration of a different nature take place in a country like Nepal where the language policy is not inclusive. In a democratically just society, all linguistic communities expect their linguistic identity to be addressed and protected. In order to discuss how language issues can be settled for social cohesion, the Ninth Language and Development International Conference was organised in Colombo, Sri Lanka with the theme “Language and Social Cohesion” on Oct 17-19, 2011. As one of the paper presenters, I collected some major inputs that could be instrumental for language planning to build a cohesive Nepali society. 

The grand opening ceremony was conducted in three languages — Sinhala, Tamil and English — as per the government’s policy. As it was an international conference, all the government officials including Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressed the gathering in English. The president said that one of the reasons for the previous conflict in Sri Lanka was its discriminatory language policy (only Sinhala was recognised as the official language). There were two booths in the conference hall from where all the speeches were translated into Sinhala and Tamil that could be heard over a wireless headphone. 

Sri Lanka’s trilingual policy is clearly seen in the marketplaces, bus stations and the city. All the signboards and public notices are in three languages. Both Sinhala and Tamil are taught in the schools and universities. I learned at various informal discussions that Tamil-speaking children were doing well after the introduction of Tamil in school. It is also very interesting to learn that the Sri Lankan job market prefers trilingual candidates over monolingual ones. 

Sri Lanka’s language policy provides some significant issues to formulate an inclusive language policy in Nepal. First, it is clear that Nepal has to prepare a comprehensive language policy. Second, the country has to get rid of the “one language, one nation” attitude. Such narrow nationalism defined only in terms of the Nepali language undermines the indigenous identity of Nepal as a multilingual country. As Tamils agitated against Sri Lanka’s discriminatory one-language policy, different indigenous linguistic communities in Nepal have been demanding their linguistic rights for about two and half centuries. 

Although the country seemed to be unified with its one-language policy, people from various linguistic communities have been discriminated against. Due to lack of proficiency in the Nepali language, people from indigenous communities could not access wider socio-economic opportunities. Their children could not perform well in school as only Nepali was used as the medium of instruction. This clearly indicates that there is a need to formulate a feasible language-in-education policy which creates a cohesive atmosphere among the children’s home languages and the medium of instruction in school. 

Another important implication is that the country has to be cautious while developing language planning policies in its federal structure. As in Sri Lanka, the federal states can choose at least one local language (based on the number of speakers) to be used along with Nepali as another official and link language. In the case of other minority languages, the federal states can devise a policy to introduce them in education and other domains. Considering English as an important international language, its role has to be clearly defined. Although it is not easy to devise a multilingual language policy, it is not impossible if there is strong political will. For this, the country has to ensure the participation of linguistic groups in the process of language policy making. The top-down approach of language planning (planning based on the ideas of only the elite) may not really address linguistic complexities. 

We not only have more than 140 languages but also a treasure trove of knowledge constructed through them. All the languages have to be preserved. For this, the country has to make a long-term plan. One of the important lessons we can learn from Sri Lanka in this regard is the establishment of a separate ministry for the development of national languages. Sri Lanka has the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration which is fully responsible for the promotion of national languages and fostering social cohesion. There is an urgent need for such a ministry in Nepal. By promoting the national languages, the country will be preserving a vast store of knowledge in literature, culture, ecology, history, education, society, conflict resolution, religion and so on.

Friday, 26 August 2011

On sale

Do you want to purchase goats for this Dashain?
What size do you need?
Expensive or cheaper?
Local or imported?
Don’t worry
A perfect goat shop has been opened
At the heart of the city
Buy two and get one free

A Nepalese man selects a goat at a cattle market ahead of the Hindu festival of Dashain: Nepal runs out of goats to sacrifice

(Photo: The Telegraph)

Thousands of hunters and fellow goats
Brilliant juvenile
Enduring aged
Sacrificed to assemble six hundred one
Caste, ethnicity, gender, age and ecology represented
Quality guaranteed 
Height, weight and color mixed
Some bleat  
Others sleep
Very few frail
My goats are on sale

(Photo: Photobucket)

I fed them for three years
Unruly and petulant always
Now I’m too tired to bear
I’ve no optimism and endurance
My goats and myself are on sale, hence 

Monday, 22 August 2011


Hard-working doctors
Obedient nurses
Silent atmosphere
Patient patients
Incredible relief
Timely care
Attentive attendant
Luminous pain

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Education business

Last month my relative’s came Kathmandu for his higher education after passing the School Leaving Certificate Examination (SLC) with distinction marks. He came to me and asked for help to find out right higher secondary school (often known as college) for him. I was puzzled where to send him as I could see that there are colleges every nook of my residence, New Baneshwar. Although I have not counted the number of colleges, I can see that new Baneshwar chowk is already covered with colorful and big flex boards projecting the advertisements of various colleges. There is no any place left to put even a single more board. With my puzzlement, I suggested him that he had to visit as many colleges as possible and choose one which he liked. With his excitement he visited some colleges but he was not able to decide which college he had to choose.
He had collected attractive brochures of many colleges. Some colleges have offered him scholarships, free hostel and transportation as well. He also said that in some colleges he was welcomed by beautiful girls with garland and offered him breakfast. But his excitement declined when he didn’t see infrastructures printed in the brochure in the college. Neither there was that attractive building nor the basketball court. Classrooms were under a tinned-roofed cottage.  Although they said that the seats were available only for limited number of students, there were no any students enrolled. This is only an example of how private colleges in Kathmandu are operated with mere business purpose rather than for academic excellence. I am not saying that all private colleges are like the one as mentioned here but it is true that the operation of private colleges has become no more than the operation of a bank in which some filthy rich people invest to become even richer exploiting poor and innocent people like my relative’s son.
It is interesting to see that majority of private colleges have put various renowned professors’ name in their brochures and TV advertisements to attract more students. As they see the names of professors and Drs, students believe in the academic quality of the colleges. However, it is not transparent that whether those professors really take classes in those colleges. What are their roles and responsibilities? This is not clear. In many cases, students do not see those professors’ face during their study in the college. I have also seen that distinguished public figures from different sectors have been used as ambassador of various private colleges in Kathmandu. My humble request to all distinguished personalities is: Could you please ensure the quality of education that the institute you are involved with? Could you please make it accessible to even poor but deserving candidates? Could you please not promote unhealthy competition in education by stopping propaganda strategies in the advertisement of colleges?
An issue emerged with the mushrooming of the private colleges is the commercialization of education. It has already indicated that education institutes are being established only for the purpose of earning money rather than helping to fulfill the mission of the providing quality education to the students. We could see that there is no any strict rule and comprehensive mechanism for monitoring overall operation of private colleges. It is ridiculous to see that the founders of colleges rent a building and start a college after getting permission from Higher Secondary Education Board (HSEB). And they charge expensive fees to the students to cover rent and expenses for other infrastructure. It is also bizarre to see that HSEB is giving affiliation to a large number of private colleges every year without any comprehensive feasibility study of infrastructure. Another interesting issue is that HSEB does not have any scientific criteria regarding the distance between colleges. We can see that there are more than four colleges within the same locality in the Kathmandu Valley. At the same time, due to lack of supervision from HSEB, private colleges are also exploiting students by putting them into a cramped classroom and by not providing them with basic facilities e.g. library, playground, drinking water, laboratory and so on.
There are so many disadvantages of providing affiliation to a large number of private colleges especially in the Kathmandu valley haphazardly. On the one hand, there is unhealthy competition among colleges and on the other hand, education will be simply an ‘object-for-sale’. We have already seen that different private institutes are split due to dispute among the founders and they have opened their own private colleges after getting affiliation from HSEB easily. They have left no stone unturned to attract students in their colleges. In order to stop such a commercialization of education and to promote quality and sustainable education institutes, HSEB should stop providing affiliation to private colleges to run 10+2 classes especially in those where there are too many colleges already. We could see heavy traffic jams due to a large number of students during office hour in Baneshwar, Kumaripati, Lagankhel, Tinkune, Chabahil and other areas in Kathmandu. Instead, HSEB can provide its affiliation in rural areas. 
HSEB should also make a policy which gives students equal opportunity to get admission in private colleges. It is not fair to bar students, who secure low marks from government schools and rural areas, from getting admission in any college in Kathmandu. But as this trend is prevalent now, two kinds of private colleges are in existence – colleges where students from rich family and urban areas with distinction mark study and the colleges where students from poor family with poor marks study. This distinction has already created a clear social division in the society. If this situation persists for longer period higher secondary education will be no other than divider in the  society and business for the filthy rich people. 

Thursday, 28 April 2011

I am Maailee

I am Maailee, an outsider.
I have no home, no  family..
I wear ragged clothes and beg for my food. 

My destiny ends nowhere.
I remember those days when I was a servant
And the day my landlord decided not to keep me.
I had no single rupee.
Losing my hopes and dreams,
I sheltered at a temple,
Covering my body with newspaper.
I slept on the pavement.
Contemplating the endless miseries of life
I made an innocent attempt to end it.

Now, the statues are my only relatives.
They help to gather food for me.
They collect people around me
Who give me something out of pity -
And call me Maailee.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A night at the Aryaghat

It was 18 April 2011. The weather in Kathmandu was pleasant due to occasional rain. I was queuing at a petrol pump for 4 hours to fuel my motorbike. My cell phone rang around 1 pm. My friend, Tanka said, ‘the dead body of Jhalak dai is coming tonight from Qatar’. First I could not believe what Tanka was saying. ‘What’re you saying?’  I asked.  He said, ‘Yes, Jhalak dai passed away one and half month ago in Qatar’.
I had never known that Jhalak dai had been to Qatar. I had known him as a hard working, sincere and cooperative handsome uncle in the community. I still remember his charming white face and activism in sports in the school where both of us studied. I had not seen him for seven years.
Tanks told me that Jhalak dai’s body was being brought at the Tribhuvan International Airport Kathmandu at 10.30 pm. From my residence, New Baneshwar, I drove my motorbike to the airport where I met Jhalak dai’s brothers (including TB Sir, my teacher), Kaki (his wife), son, sisters, daughter, and many other relatives. All were in a sad mood and waiting for his body. Kaki was speechless and her eyes red with full of tear. I could easily guess that she could not even think what was happening around her.
I thought that I should speak with her. But I could not even produce a word. I had no idea about what to say. I could not decide whether I should ask her about Jhalak dai.
There was a huge crowd of people waiting for their relatives coming from different gulf countries. There were four international flights landing within the interval of 15 minutes. Taxiwalas and hotelwalas were eagerly waiting for tourists with placard. It was ten 10.30 pm. The screen in the waiting room at the arrival terminal indicated that the Qatar Airways just landed. We started moving. After waiting for half an hour, a thin man on leather jacket came out the terminal and asked whether there were relatives of Jhalak dai. In a second, we surrounded him.
‘My name is Aftab Miya. I am Jhalak’s friend’, he introduced.
He also asked whether Jhalak’s brother and wife were present there.  After talking to us for a second, he kept a file out of his small bag and gave to Jhalak’s brother, TB sir. We rushed to the reporting office. The officer there had already prepared necessary documents. He went through all the documents related to Jhalak dai that Aftab had brought from Qatar. I saw that there were a letter of the Embassy of Nepal at Qatar, a postmortem report and a letter from the company where Jhalak dai worked for two years.
I was very curious to know about Jhalak dai’s death. Aftab was not sure about how Jhalak dai died. But he said that the company where he worked with Jhalak dai was not a good company. They were not paid salary regularly even if it was very low. They didn’t get any kinds of facilities as it was agreed with the manpower company. ‘The company owner was so bad man that he never gave leave to them’, Aftab said. He became so emotional when he started talking about Jhalak dai.
“He was so sincere, hardworking and cooperative’, he praised him.
 ‘The company was reluctant to send Jhalak’s body to Nepal. He was such a bad man’, Aftab continued.
‘We stopped working for some days in the company to force him to send Jhalak’s body to his relative in Nepal’.
It was already 11.45 when we finished paper works to receive Jhalak dai’s body. We had to get custom clearance as well. After looking at the postmortem report, the officer at the custom counter said, ‘Oh again, heart attack?’ ‘Workers do not receive insurance if they die of heart attack’, he added.
‘Oh my god! Jhalak dai’s family is not getting anything. How’ll Kaki, who doesn’t have any job, manage the expenditure of her children’s education?’ I asked myself.
The dream of Jhalak dai and his children to live happily after his return to the village with enough money was shattered with his death at his early 40s.
A policeman at the Airport said, ‘the number of dead body coming from gulf countries is increasing everyday’.
After checking all records, the custom officer took us to a cargo room where I saw a long red wooden box wrapped with white plastic. My body was trembling and eyes were full of tear. I was hurried to see Jhalak dai’s face. It was already midnight when we brought the coffin outside the terminal. Kaki, his children and other relatives started crying at the airport. Putting the coffin in a van, we rushed to Aryaghat, Pashupati where many people had come to attend funeral of Jhalak dai.
We opened the coffin with the help of a big sickle. There was another tinned box within the wooden box. The body was wrapped with a plastic bag and woolen clothe. I broke with tear when I saw his frozen body which was so hard and full of ice. We paid last tribute by putting flowers on his body.
Kaki could not hold herself. She was crying breathlessly. I felt as if the entire world was listening to her sympathetically.
How restlessly she must be waiting for Jhalak dai’s presence in her life? I thought when Jhalak dai’s body was burning in the fire at the Aryaghat. It was already 4.30am when his entire body changed into ash.


Wednesday, 6 April 2011

I regret for being educated

I understand that while raising such questions educated people (like me) may think that my views are cynical. However, I think time has come to self-assess our own role, as a so-called educated person,  in the society.

Quite recently, I am collecting news reports on anti-humanity, corruption, violence, conflict and war from various national newspapers for my own research purpose. As it is not possible to bring all of them here, I will try to cover them under major themes. Let me start with a killing of a college girl. In June 2009, Khyati Shrestha was killed by her own teacher Biren Shrestha. He amputated the body, kept in the refrigerator for some days and threw different parts in different places. He demanded ransom even after killing Khyati with the help of his another student. You can read the detail news here and watch the video in this site Similar kind of crime was committed by a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Armed Policy Force last moth (January,22, 2012). The DIG killed his wife, took away her dead body in his own car and burned it (You can read the news details at this link  Brawls among students supporting different political parties are usual practice in campuses (please watch this video The involvement of political leaders in the abuse of the authority of various natures always dominate the pages and screens of media. The abuse of red passport is only one example.

If we critically analyze above news we find the involvement of literate/educated people in these crimes. This situation raises some questions: Why are educated people more hostile, dishonest, impatient, inhumane and egotistic? Are they contributing to social development  and harmony or creating mistrust and violence? I understand while raising such questions all educated people (like me) may think that my views are cynical. However, I think time has come to self-assess our own role, being so-called educated people, in the society . Is our education system able to prepare students to work for the prosperity of human civilization? Are our schools and universities able to produce students who can do something independently and sincerely for humanity and democracy? These are some representative questions that emerge from the sample news reports mentioned above.

At this moment, I remember what my late grandfather reminded my father when he decided to send me to school. He said that children should not be sent to school because they become dishonest and lazy. He confidently reiterated that children learn how to cheat others, become immoral and leave their parents and society when they are educated. Before 26 years, I thought that my grandfather had very traditional and illogical judgment about the value of education. I thought he was so prejudiced orthodox Limbu old man who never liked to send their grandchildren to school.

But after reading and watching representative news reports as mentioned above for two years above, I now realize that my grandfather’s words were full of wit and wisdom. His views exactly echo  what H. L. Mencken, a famous American columnist and essayist says, ‘the main thing children learn in school is how to lie’. His views reflect what Everett W. Reimer, says in his book School is Dead (1971): ‘parents and grandparents have never known schools as places they expected their children to attend. They do know, however, what schools imply. Going to school means leaving the traditional life, moving to a different place, laying aside physical burdens for the work of the tongue and the mind…’. (The book is available online at

While analyzing my grandfather’s opinions in relation to the involvement of educated people in various heinous activities, I find that, we, educated people are more cruel, hostile and uncooperative than the uneducated ones. With due respect to all those who have been doing magnificent works for the society, most educated people (including myself) seem to be more selfish, unsympathetic, and unsocial than the uneducated ones. We, educated people, who live mostly in urban areas with romantic charisma of globalization and pop culture, can never become a neighbor with the people living next door or room or house. Of course, these are all due to our orthodox hierarchical education system in which we are indirectly teaching our learners to be dishonest, lazier, hostile, egoistic and unsocial indirectly.

A famous educationist Ivan Illich wrote a ground-breaking book Deschooling Society (1971) in which he strongly argues that ‘by the time children go to school, they have learned how to use their bodies, how to use language and how to control their emotions. They have learned to depend upon themselves and have been rewarded for initiative in learning. In school these values are reversed’. (For details, Critiquing on the commodification of knowledge in institutionalized education system, Illich asserts that for schools ‘knowledge is a valuable commodity which under certain circumstances may be forced into the consumer [learners]. Schools are addicted to the notion that it is possible to manipulate other people for their own good’. Illich’s assessment resonates both how I was taught and I, as a teacher, am teaching now. Rather than giving chances to exercise learners’ natural potentialities and creativity, I often force my students to follow what I think is right. They cannot ask any question and share their views constructed in their rich socio-cultural contexts. I never count them as an agency and rich source of capital. By doing this, I am killing students’ ability to self-initiate and take ownerships of their own learning. Moreover, I am simply transferring prefabricated chunks of knowledge as specified in the curriculum which may not really address my learners’ needs who come from different cultura and linguistic backgrounds. I am making my students dependent, lazier, and a consumer.

Our classroom practices are instrumental for producing uncooperative and hostile learners. We create neither collaborative learning atmosphere nor try to generate diverse ideas (considering learners themselves as an abundant source of learning) so that learners can negotiate their own world views. We hardly give students chances to work and interact with friends and teachers. On contrary to this, illiterate or uneducated people in villages seem to be so cooperative. We feel the warmth of love and respect among the uneducated and rural people.

Although we aim to develop democracy and inclusion in society through education, our classroom practices are dominated by undemocratic and exclusionary deeds. We never bother engaging our students to set their own agendas and find their own learning style. We aim to build a peaceful world through education. But we, directly and indirectly,  are terrorizing children in school both mentally by giving excessive rote learning practices and homework without considering their cognitive level. We always tend to impose what we know. Ivan Illich contends that "The claim that a liberal society can be founded on the modern school is paradoxical. The safeguards of individual freedom are all cancelled in the dealings of a teacher with his pupil".

We have already isolated children from their society while teaching such contents which are not related to their life. Being a so-called educated man, I regret for not being able to meet my own granny and parents for three years. Sometimes, I feel bad about myself for being a so-educated man. Why is this modern education system  too much urban oriented? Why do educated people  not like to go back to their society? I should have returned  my village if the education I received had focused on the importance of rural life,  language, culture and indigenous knowledge. Unfortunately, through the present education system we are increasing children’s ambitions that can never be achieved. Isn’t it a good example of hypocrisy in education?

Margaret Mead, a famous anthropologist, once said, “My grandmother wanted me to have an education, so she kept me out of school.” This leaves a great implication that schools may not provide education in real sense. We need to assess how they are helping children to become independent, social, respectful, patient, adaptive and democratic.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Teaching English in Multicultural and Multilingual contexts: Challenges or opportunities?

(This article was published in the NeltaChoutari March Issue. For comments on the article please click this link

English is no longer the language of only so-called native speakers of English (e.g. Americans, British, Australians, and so on) because the number of native speakers is already outnumbered by non-native speakers of English. It has already become a global language which is not only a means of disseminating new knowledge in any field throughout the world but also a means for intercultural communication. English has already become an inevitable part of the education in Nepal though there are many challenges to make its teaching more effective. Those challenges include techniques of teaching to macro-level educational language planning in Nepal. One of the major challenges is how teaching of English can be made appropriate in the multilingual and multicultural context of Nepal. Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) organized its 16th international conference in Kathmandu (18-20 February) and Pokhara (22-23 February) where more than 500 and 400 participants in the former and the latter respectively discussed challenges and opportunities of teaching English in multilingual and cross-cultural context of Nepal. There were more than 200 papers and plenary speeches of different scholars, researchers and English teachers from home and abroad. Professor Adrian Holliday from Canterbury Christ Church University, UK and Professor Emeritus John F. Fanselow, Columbia University, USA delivered key speeches on the theme of the conference ‘English in multilingual and cross-cultural contexts: exploring opportunities and meeting challenges’.
Despite the fact that indigenous languages are on the verge of extinction, there is a craze of learning English among students and parents also aspire to educate their children in English medium schools. This aspiration has been already reflected in the educational language policy of the Ministry of Education (MoE) to introduce English from Grade One in community schools. In the same way, the MoE has already given the authority to management committees of the community managed public schools to shift themselves from Nepali to English medium of instruction. The number of schools switching to English medium is increasing every year. On the other hand, English is both subject and medium of instruction from pre-primary level in private schools. However, there are many challenges to teach English to students who come from various linguistic and cultural backgrounds. One of the challenges is that whether or not students get chance to utilize their own cultural and linguistic knowledge in schools while learning English. Some questions pertinent to the theme of the conference were: how our socio-cultural background can shape teaching and learning of English? How can we teach English while addressing linguistic and cultural diversity of Nepal? How can we foster critical and creative thinking skills? There were discussions on how learners’ prior linguistic and cultural knowledge helps in learning English. The papers presented in the conference provided a great implication that students’ cultural knowledge can be a resource for teaching and learning English.
Professor Holliday argued that the English language can foster intercultural communication among the children from diverse cultural as well as linguistic backgrounds. Focusing on the importance of children’s prior knowledge, he reiterated that teachers of English should capitalize multicultural experiences that children bring into the classroom while teaching English. He also put a significant point that teaching of English should be contextual and we need to educate children about the nature of English in relation to society. This clearly indicates that to address the expectations and experiences of children from diverse cultural backgrounds, teachers’ role as a passive-technician is not enough rather they have to be a transformative intellectual. Teachers should understand that classroom is socially constructed and historically situated and they should create such an environment where students from various backgrounds can get opportunities to utilise their prior knowledge. In general, English teachers are not simply in-charges of classroom but also agents for social change. They can also contribute to foster democracy and critical thinking skill by creative inclusive learning environment where students can exercise their values, assumptions and identities shaped by local, national and global socio-cultural settings and expectations. In the same line, Professor John F. Fanselow, another key speaker in the conference, focused on how students can be taught creatively so that they get more opportunities to use English. Breaking rules of traditional teaching, he discussed that teachers have to arouse curiosity of students to resolve various puzzles themselves rather than showing their fault while they make mistakes. Emphasising the importance of thinking process, he stated that students should be given enough time to think while teaching English. He also presented the idea of recording and transcribing learners’ classroom language which can be an abundant source for teaching English. This clearly indicates that we need to rethink the way we are teaching English in Nepal. Some crucial questions that may help us to further our debates are: How often do we give students chance to think critically? Are we aware of their socio-cultural backgrounds? Have we tried doing something new or beating the same old drum? Professor Fanslow’s presentations were all about deconstructing the old rules of teaching English and reconstructing alternative ones to engage students in doing things.
Professor Abhi Subedi, critically assessed the consequences of detaching teaching English from cross-cultural context in Nepal. Analyzing the socio-political and historical discourses, he strongly condemned that our practices of teaching English have not been able to address socio-cultural realties. He argued that ‘methods [of teaching] … failed to suture the diverse experiences of English teachers in this country’ and is critical about teachers’ resistance towards change. He showed his concern about the fact that teaching and learning of English has been confined within the classroom. This clearly indicates that there is a huge gap between socio-cultural reality and teaching of English in Nepal. He appealed that we can design syllabuses and can develop viable methods of teaching by considering our own multilingual and multicultural realities. He also mentioned that now there is no point in following British or American Standard English to teach English in Nepal. In the same way, focusing on the importance of English, Professor Jai Raj Awasthi presented that three language policy (mother tongue, Nepali and English) can be a pragmatic policy for placing English in multilingual and multicultural context of Nepal.
The reflection of the only mega event of its kind in Nepal points out some crucial issues regarding teaching of English. First, there is an urgent need of taking the ownership of English rather than considering it as a ‘foreign’ language (in literal sense, not in pedagogical and political sense). Since there is a craze of learning English even in rural areas of the country, we have to closely observe how English is being produced (Spoken and Written) to indentify our own variety of English. Second, we have to work hard on designing syllabuses, writing textbooks and producing learning materials which address expectations of Nepalese children from multilingual and multicultural backgrounds. Third, we have to explore more opportunities and should try developing alternative ways of teaching to foster students’ creative and critical thinking skills. Overall, we have to deconstruct the tradition that confines English in the classroom, break the rules that make students produce only minimal language (formulaic speech), smash the hierarchy between teachers and students to foster two-way communication, demolish monolithic and mono-cultural world view to advance intercultural communication and forget prescriptions of any method to instill critical thinking skills for independent learning in students.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A famous story writer

By Prem Phyak
Rabindra was ten when he went to Kathmandu. He was surprised to see so many cars, buses, and motorbikes. He had never seen such crowds of people in the street. Street lights and supermarkets were amazing for him. Because he was a village boy, he was frightened to walk in the street alone because of the heavy traffic.

Rabindra, his parents and two sisters had no money for home so they made a small shelter of bamboo and old rice sacks under the bridge of the Bagmati River.

It was a hard time for Rabindra’s family in Kathmandu. They had nobody to help them. Rabindra’s father started collecting used bottles, metals, plastics and papers. He visited different places from the morning to the evening. He sold what he found to the recyclers.

Before he went to Kathmandu, Rabindra was studying at Grade 3 in the village. He was very good in his study. But he couldn’t continue his study in Kathmandu. He had to help his father to collect plastics from the dumping site which was nearby their shelter. Sometimes he also took his two sisters. They were so happy when they found something to eat from the garbage.

Rabindra loved the old books he had found in the dumping site. He had kept them so safely. He read stories for his parents and sisters from the books every night.

One misty cold morning, he was raking through the piles of rubbish when he saw a book underneath a dirty black plastic bag. He pulled the bag off and cleaned its cover with his sleeve. There was a beautiful green colour book. The title of the book was ‘A Poor Boy’. He wondered if it was about a boy like him. He looked at the first page of the book. It was written: BE HONEST, WORK HARD, YOUR FUTURE IS BRIGHT. 

He read some pages of the book in the dumping site. He knew that the story in the book was similar to his own story. He told the story to his parents and sister at night.

One sunny Saturday morning, Rabindra found an old small leather bag. He picked up and opened it. There were some pieces of gold, some money and important papers. He rushed to the shelter with the bag. He told his father about the bag.

They opened the bag again. They found the name and phone number of the owner of the bag. They went to the nearest police office and asked them to telephone the owner of the bag.
After a while, an old man arrived in his car at the police office. He saw Rabindra and his father holding the bag. He was so happy to see his bag.

The old man took his bag. He wanted to take Rabindra and his father back to their home in his car.
The gentleman requested them again. He took them in his car to their shelter. The gentleman was so shocked when he saw the poor condition of where they lived and worked. He was impressed by the honesty of the family. He wanted to help them.
The old man wanted to take all the family to his own house. Rabindra’s father didn’t agree because it might be difficult to continue collecting for recycling.

Finally, Rabindra’s father agreed with the old man’s request to help Rabindra in his study. Rabindra joined school at Grade 4. He started writing stories about his own family. He read all the story books he had collected from the dumping site. He finished his higher education with very good grade.

Rabindra and his family left their village to go to Kathmandu. They left their village because they didn’t have their own land, home and they were very poor. Rabindra was very sad to leave to school. He loved reading and particularly he loved reading books and stories. 

Now he is a famous story writer. His books are all about poor people and their children. He has earned enough money to buy a small house and feed his family.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

From Far West

Pictures speak themselves. 

(This is the longest and the most beautiful bridge over the Mahakali 
River  between Nepal and India. Unfortunately, the river is dry because 
India has taken  water of the river by constructing a big damp. 

This is the Dash Gaja place (No man's land). I and my guru, Vishnu Rai 
pointing at the pillar on the boarder.) 

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Dying mother tongues

Local languages are being displaced from schools, both public and private. In private schools, English is not only the medium of instruction (MOI) and a subject in the curriculum, but also the language of communication. No matter the language policy devised by the government, it is only applicable for public schools. And currently, not a single private school features a local language as the MOI. Moreover, private schools attract students by overemphasising the English medium, for which many parents pay huge sums of money.

One parent, a taxi driver, from Kathmandu recently told me, “I am sending my son to a private school because they teach English and give a lot of homework. With most of his friends in private schools, my son doesn’t want to go to a public school. Since he started, his English has significantly improved.” The motivations parents have for sending children to private schools seem never-ending and often trump the difficulties many families face in paying high fees for private schools.  “It is difficult to afford private school, but in this modern age our children need to know English to get good jobs. And if I send my son to a public school, he thinks that he is from a lower class family…all rich people send their children to private schools. Besides, although I am Tamang, my children speak very little of the language and don’t like to use it.” It appears that private schools are selling English and projecting it as a key to material attainment by focusing on its commodity value. In this regard, sociologist Martha Caddell says, “English-medium instruction emerged as a key dimension of the selling of dreams that characterise these aspirations. Use of English—even of a very poor level—is considered to connect students to a wider international project, offering a greater potential for mobility than Nepali-medium government schools.”

There are two different educational language policies—one for private schools and one for public schools. This phenomenon has created a clear line between the haves and have-nots—a phenomenon similar to what educationist RA Giri argues as the “unspoken privileging of the English language has created a further division in an already divided Nepali society”. The social identity of the children who go to private schools seems to be richer and more civilised while those who go to public schools are considered to be poor and uncivilised. Given this division, parents are discouraged from sending their children to public schools where English is not as central as in private schools.

Another policy that contributes to the displacement of local languages in primary schools has been the voluntary transfer of public school management to local communities. The handover of management responsibilities to the community per the Seventh Amendment to the Education Act of 2001 envisioned enhanced participation of the local community, improved quality of education, and increased efficiency and accountability in schools. In 2003, the World Bank funded the government’s Community School Support Project (CSSP) to support community-managed schools. According to the Department of Education (DoE), more than 8,000 public schools have already been handed over to communities where School Management Committees (SMC) have taken sole responsibility for their management—including the hiring of teachers, the selection of the MOI, and the generation and allocation of funds for overall school development. The policy also aims to address the deteriorating quality of education in public schools. To this end, there has been a shift from Nepali or local languages to an English MOI in community-managed schools.

Regarding the switch, a head teacher at one community-managed school in Kathmandu said, “We had to switch to compete with private schools. Parents want their children to be taught in English, so without doing this, parents will send their children to private schools instead. Without English as the MOI, we are not able to increase the number of students, which limits the quota of teachers we receive from the government.”

Upon asking him asked him why the children, a majority of which are Newars, are not taught in Newari, he responded, “If we teach in the Newari language, Newari guardians will send their children to private English-medium schools instead of ours. The number of Newari students increased after we introduced English from grade one.” This view indicates that the government’s unwillingness to issue a uniform language policy for both private and public schools is forcing community-managed schools to introduce an English MOI to compete with private schools.

Why do community-managed schools introduce an English MOI? One obvious reason is that they want to increase the number of students so they receive more teachers from the government. If the number of students is low, fewer teachers are allotted for the school, both to teach classes as well as handle administrative work. The more students enrolled, the more teachers a school is entitled to. Because of this, community-managed schools are compelled to use an English medium, displacing local languages (even Nepali), to increase the number of

The government’s policy meant to encourage teaching in mother tongues in primary schools seems to be nothing more than rhetoric. The overall general educational policies of the government contradict its claims to be promoting local languages in schools. The dominance of over poor, marginalised and tribal groups has been legitimatised through the introduction of English MOI from the early grades in community-managed schools and private schools. There is a need for a more concrete national language policy to address not only the country’s multilingual realities, but also the strong aspirations of parents and children to learn English over their mother tongues. 

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Towards Local Literacy: Globalization and Nepalese ELT

(This article was published in the NeltaChoutari, January, 2011 Issue. There are wonderful comments from readers followed by my responses. Please click this  link to read discussion on this article)
Anything that is ‘local’ is generally better in terms of quality and permanence. Let me give some examples: local chicken is tasty, local fruit is hygienic, local vegetable is fresh, and local people make a big difference in your life. What about local literacy? In this short article, I highlight the importance of local literacy in relation to ELT in Nepal. I will also briefly discuss how local literacy in ELT can be promoted in the classroom. Let me start with some perspectives on globalization as the basis of this discussion.

Globalization and Local literacy: What?
We all know that English has become a part of our social and individual lives: it is not only in our education and professions but also in our homes, through television, internet, mobile phones, and other information and communication technologies. Through social networking and new media in particular, English is continuing to work as one of the most powerful means of globalization (See related article in May 2009 issue of NeltaChoutari). We cannot consider the trends of globalization and the spread of English as neutral without being extremely naïve. As Bourdieu (2001) tells us that
Globalization” serves as a password, a watchword, while in effect it is the legitimatory mask of a policy aiming to universalize particular interests and the particular tradition of the economically and politically dominant powers…It aims to extend to the entire world the economic and cultural model that favours these powers most, while simultaneously presenting it as a norm, a requirement, and a fatality, a universal destiny, in such a manner as to obtain adherence or, at the least, universal resignation. (as cited in Phillipson, 2004)

The term ‘globalization’ has now become a buzz word in every field, and it has very important implications in ELT because the English language is the most influential means of “universalizing particular interests and particular tradition of the economically and politically dominant powers” as Bourdieu argues. To say that we are simply “using” a “common” language for “communicating” across linguistic borders is both absolutely correct but absolutely ludicrous if we don’t “also” recognize/admit that languages belong to societies that wield cultural, social, and political powers through their languages: as language teachers, we must not limit our understanding and scholarship to dictionary definition of “language” because we must also know that the relative difference of the power that different language communities makes huge difference in both material and intellectual terms for people and societies. So, it is important to understand what role English plays in globalization of ideas and practices of dominant cultures. English is considered a ‘global’ language (Graddol, 1997; Crystal, 1997), and the number of researches on the role of English in globalization has increased in the last decade. Recent scholarship in this area helps us understand why and how the role of English as a global language should be assessed critically. The views about the role of globalization in language teaching are, however, more divergent. In their groundbreaking edited book ‘Globalization and Language Teaching,” Block and Cameron (2002) summarize following major views regarding globalization:

  • Hegemonically Western, and above all extension of American imperialism
  • Extreme of standardization and uniformity
  • Synergetic relationship between the global and the local- globalization

We see that the first view takes Gramsci’s ‘hegemony’ and Phillipson’s ‘linguistic imperialism’ about globalization considering it as a means to disseminate the Western and American economic, cultural, political and educational ideologies. In this sense, globalization is another face of Westernization and Americanization. This view is concerned more with the political and ideological discussion which, as I see, does not make more sense in ELT. But the second and third views have a great impact on ELT.

We can relate two major issues – native speakerism and imported method – regarding the ‘standardization’ and ‘uniformity’ in ELT respectively. Standardization here means many things. The most obvious point related to ELT is that in order to maintain standard we have to follow ‘native’ English representing maybe CNN and BBC English. The uniformity can be interpreted as ‘adoption’ of the same textbook, method of teaching and learning material all over the world without considering the ‘local’ socio-cultural context.

The third view – glocalization – is the negotiation between the global and the local in which we find the mixture of the both. At present, this cocktail idea has come to the fore to soothe the criticisms against globalization on the ground of ‘hegemonic’ and ‘imperialistic’ ideology. With this view, we can argue that globalization has its presence at local level as well. We can also say that it is the continuum which has greater impact at the global context but have less impact at the local context. This degree also differs in terms of power, economy and technological advancement. It is obvious that the societies which are poor, powerless and technologically underdeveloped have less impact of the globalization. In this regard, Block (2008) claims

Globalization is framed as the ongoing process of the increasing and intensifying interconnectedness of communications, events, activities and relationships taking place at the local, national or international level. (p.31)

Although it is accepted that ‘local’ components can also be incorporated in the ‘globalization’, questions which have been ignored are: To what extent we have recognized the value of ‘local’ in ELT literacy practice? Which one (the global or the local) is dominant? How can we bring the ‘local’ into ELT pedagogy? In the remainder of this article, I discuss these issues with reference to ELT in Nepal.

Local literacy and local society
Going through various literature and studies regarding literacy (e.g. Wallace, 1999, 2002), we find three major interpretations of local literacy. First interpretation takes local literacy as teaching through local languages. This is concerned more with the anti-linguistic imperialistic discussion pioneered by Phillipson (1992). Second interpretation is grounded on the use of language for daily communication. Teaching of English, in this regard, is considered as a planned and systematic academic endeavor to help ‘local children’ [Nepalese] use English in informal communications outside the classroom. But to what extent, Nepalese children, studying at Grades 1, 2, 3 in rural areas have to speak English while shopping, for example? Does such a projection of the English language as a means to achieve commodity help children achieve true essence of education? These issues are often ignored in academic discussion especially in the global ELT discourse. At the same time, as Cameron (2002) claims, ‘The dissemination of ‘global’ communicative norms and genres, like the dissemination of international languages, involves a one-way flow of expert knowledge from dominant to subaltern cultures” (p. 70).

The third view, which I want to focus in this article, is concerned with the contextual sensitivity of any language literacy including ELT. According to this view, ELT should be in consonance with the socio-cultural and politico-economic realities of particular context where literacy in English takes place. Moreover, this view believes that English language learning is a ‘situated practice’ which happens with the ‘bottom-up’ fashion rather than ‘top-down’ and through so-called expertise-delivered-knowledge. To be more specific, let me ask some questions (although there are many) regarding teaching English in Nepal;

  • Do the methods we are adopting while teaching English address our children’s values, beliefs and expectations?
  • Are the textbooks that we use for teaching the English language appropriate to our local socio-cultural and politico-economic realities?

We cannot answer these questions in a ‘yes/no’ manner. However, we can be realistic while discussing these issues. Elsewhere, Canagarajah (2002) vehemently argues that the global methods of teaching (e.g. communicative language teaching) have created inequalities in the global pedagogical village. Following a single method with ‘fits-in-all-context’ assumption does not really address learning needs and expectations of local children. Moreover, such an assumption does not empower children rather it marginalizes them psychologically and cognitively as well. This clearly indicates that we need to think about exploring our own practices of teaching English which is relevant to our own soil and people. At the same time, I am not claiming that we should not be aware of the global practices. We should be well informed with them but we should critically scrutinize those practices keeping our realities in view. I think I can discuss much about this when I come to textbook issue in the following paragraph.

In many parts of the world like in Nepal, textbooks are sole source of teaching and learning English. In that sense, textbooks are the most important component of ELT pedagogy in Nepal. However, it is not bizarre to say that, writing and production of textbooks is the most neglected agenda in Nepal. Let me start with the textbooks prescribed by the government. The textbooks in many cases include ‘foreign culture’ as reading texts and situations for conversation, which are difficult to conceptualize for children, are also foreign in some cases. In a way, such situations and texts take children away from their own context. If our goal is to develop reading skills of children, why don’t we bring the texts which deal with local issues, cultures, realities and challenges? Let us research which text (related to local or global text) is effective for enhancing reading skill of Nepalese learners of English.

The textbooks in private schools are more frustrating in terms of local literacy. The global textbooks like Headway/New Headway which are considered to be the global textbooks are prescribed in private schools without any approval from the government. Such global textbooks seem to promote more European and American culture, and project an affluent commodified life style (Gray, 2002). Through the texts like how much Bill Gates earn (New Headway/Upper-Intermediate, 1998) and going on holidays in London, New York, Paris and other expensive cities of the world, the global textbooks are projecting pleasure in life but they are ignoring pain of how a farmer in rural villages works hard to earn and feed his family. Why don’t we have reading texts on holidaying in Jomsom, paragliding from Sarangkot, trekking in Karnali and so on? Can’t we think about including the texts related to Maruni, Kauda, Dhan-nach, Deuda, Goura, Maha-puja, and so on? Are they not useful in teaching English? Of course, YES. On one hand, such texts promote interconnectedness between society and classroom teaching/learning and on the other hand, they help to address precious linguistic and cultural diversity we have. However, we, teachers of English, should always be ready to take the role of ‘transformative intellectuals’ (Kumarivadivelu, 2003) by going beyond our traditional role – teachers as a passive technician in the classroom – to accepting the extended role to show our concern in social reflection and situated practice of teaching English.

Future Directions: Critical Literacy and Postmethod Pedagogy

The above discussion implies that the so-called global textbooks and methods of ELT do not seem to be inclusive and appropriate in diverse world contexts. ELT in Nepal has the same problem. The fundamental reason behind this is that ELT policies we have made are so far shaped by the traditional notion i.e. ELT means teaching about the English language only. But this notion is already obsolete because ‘methods’, ‘textbooks’ and ‘assumptions’ which work better do not fit in other contexts. Moreover, ELT is more than ‘teaching about English’ it is a part of education which is heavily loaded with culture, identity and ideology which need to be scrutinized in relation to local contexts.

How we can promote local literacy is another crucial question we need to discuss. I am not expert at prescribing ideas which work better. But I think, Critical literacy and Postmethod Pedagogy are two major approaches which are helpful to promote ‘local literacy’ practices in Nepal.

The basis of critical literacy is Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) in which he criticises the transmission or ‘banking’ model of education (teachers are depositors and learners are depositories) and advocates for ‘dialogic’ model in which learners are not passive recipient but an active ‘agent’ of whole learning process. We have already discussed this issue in a January 2009 article of NeltaChoutari.

One major issue that critical literacy addresses is inequalities that persist in ELT. It focuses on bringing social issues and controversies into the classroom. Moreover, this approach involves students in a continuous process of thinking critically through a dialogic process in which students are provided opportunities to discuss the issues which have relevance in local socio-cultural context. Thus students clearly see the relevance of learning English in their life which, moreover, promotes local literacy. In this regard, Norton and Toohey (2004) claim

Advocates of critical approaches to second language teaching are interested in relationships between language learning and social change. From this perspective, language is not simply a means of expression or communication; rather, it is a practice that constructs, and is constructed by, the ways language learners understand themselves, their social surroundings, their histories, and their possibilities for the future” (p. 1).

The Postmethod Pedagogy (Kumaravadivelu, 2001) is another approach which may be helpful in promoting local literacy in ELT. The three parameters of the postmethod pedagogy include particularity, practicality and possibility. According to the pedagogy of particularity, “Language pedagogy…must be sensitive to a particular group of teachers teaching a particular group of learners pursuing a particular set of goals within a particular institutional context embedded in a particular sociocultural milieu” (p. 538). Similarly, the pedagogy of practicality “does not pertain merely to the everyday practice of classroom teaching. It pertains to a much larger issue that has a direct impact on the practice of classroom teaching, namely, the relationship between theory and practice” (p. 540). Finally, the pedagogy of possibility is concerned with “participants’ experience which draws ideas not only from the classroom episodes but also from border social, political and economic environment in which they grew up” (p. 542). We can see that ‘local realities’ and ‘experiences’ of participants (teachers, and students) are core of ELT in every world context. This indicates that we need to share our experiences to generate more local knowledge which can be a treasure for the whole ELT community of practice. To this end, we have initiated NeltaChoutari as a voluntary work to tell Nepalese ELT stories to the rest of the world. We hope this sharing through monthly publication in future will provide a basis for producing local materials for ELT in Nepal.

The looming trend of banishing ‘local practices’ due to acceptance of ‘global practices’ as a granted is one of the serious global issues in ELT around the globe. The notion of uniformity and standardization do not seem to be appropriate in linguistically and culturally diverse world contexts. At the same time, the expectations, values and beliefs of learners should be addressed through all kinds of pedagogy including ELT. In this regard, we should think about the use of locally produced materials and be fully informed with the process of adapting ‘creative and critical instructional practices in order to develop pedagogies suitable for their [our] community’ (Canagarajah 1999 p.122). Moreover, as Holliday (2005) has argued, we should discuss whether methodological prescriptions generated in BANA contexts (British, Australia, and North America) have ‘currency’ in our contexts, whether they are locally validated or appropriated. In this sense, whole idea of local literacy in ELT is concerned with the idea of (re)generating locally appropriate methods of teaching, (re)producing local materials using local resources and incorporating local issues and identities and accommodating learners’ experiences through a dialogical process in the classroom.

I am not saying that the ideas discussed in this article address all dimensions of local literacy nor I am saying that we should not be aware of global issues. What I am saying is our full dependence on global methods, norms and textbooks in ELT may not help to promote and sustain our identities and treasure of local knowledge. What I am saying is that we have wonderful ELT practices that we are not able to share with the people from other parts of the world which we need to do urgently. Let me give some example: we have very precious linguistic and cultural diversity in which English is being taught as a foreign language. We have been teaching under the shade of tree and sometimes in the open sky. We have been teaching more than 100 students in the same classroom even without chalk, duster and blackboard. We are teaching students who come from various linguistic, ethnic, religious, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Don’t you think that such realities and experiences are important source for teaching English? Of course, they are. We need to document these experiences so that other members of ELT community of practice will benefit a lot. Why don’t we take initiation of using local cultural texts (in addition to the texts given in the textbooks), for example, to teach reading and writing skills and see how it works? Can’t we bring stories of child labor, gender discrimination, inequality, poverty and so on to teaching English in the classroom? Of course, YES. But we need to work hard to achieve this end. We cannot make changes overnight but if we collaborative through different means like NeltaChoutari we can accomplish so many things for better ELT in Nepal.

Finally, the future of ELT in Nepal will be even better if we don’t consider teaching of English not simply as teaching about the English language but also as part of education that aims to empower children and to bring some positive transformation in the knowledge-based society. I argue that English teachers are not merely ‘classroom teachers’, we are ‘agent of change’. This is possible only when have a strong foundation at local level. We can access global means only with the strong ‘local foundation’. I would say that the best ELT practice is the practice which accommodates local realities and helps learners to link them with global ones. For this, we need to be aware of maintaining balance between local and global.


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