Towards Multilingual Education in Nepal

Reflections on MLE Conference 2013

Praveen Kumar Yadav

We not only use language for daily communication; we also use language to express our identities and cultures and to represent our lifestyles and communities. So, as we all know, the loss of language is loss of both culture and identity of the community speaking the language. Because communities that lose their languages–and thereby their culture, identity, and pride–also lose their status and confidence in society, the process of language loss often leads to broader and adverse social consequences such as marginalization, poverty and poor health, social evils such as drug abuse, and so on. Hence, it is important to preserve languages in the world, especially the languages of the minority groups.

Those who are ignorant about the value of language diversity tend to believe that communities that adopt a more dominant/mainstream language “gain” new power and opportunity; they even go to the extent of arguing that linguistic minorities shed the burden of multiple languages when they leave behind their local languages. The truth about multilingualism, however, makes such understanding absurd. Language is the key to engagement and therefore to sustainable development. The World Bank Research Report titled “Assessing Aid: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why” (1998) showed that development initiatives that sought beneficiaries’ involvement achieved 68 percent success, while those that did not achieved a success rate of just 10 percent. Engaging with the beneficiaries needs the use of their local languages. Such a linguistic and cultural immersion with the target communities contributes to establish two-way communication for people’s meaningful participation and to adopt bottom up approaches in order to achieve sustainable results. Trying to supplant local languages with outside language (whether that is done for efficiency or in the name of “empowering” local communities) is like trying to make one’s neighborhood greener by cutting down existing trees and planting new ones–or worse.

Language is the key to inclusion and inclusion is a must for democracy. For instance, Nepal being a multiethnic and multilingual country will become a true democratic nation when it fully overcomes more than 250 years legacy of linguistic and cultural discrimination against indigenous and minority groups. It is only possible when children of minority groups are provided with the access to education in their mother tongues. Promoting multilingual education in the country–where minority language communities can build upon their local linguistic, cultural, and knowledge resources even as they learn new languages–is a roadmap for true democracy.

In particular, the promotion of local languages is the key to effective education. Education is a basic human right in international law, widely accepted by governments throughout the world, and language is a medium of instruction as well as a subject matter to achieve the basic human right of expression and self-realization.

MLE Conference in Bangkok

Insights like the above brought together hundreds of educators, linguists, government and civil society delegates and development workers from the Asia Pacific region and beyond at the fourth international conference on language and education recently convened by the consortium of organizations ‘Multilingual Education Working Group (MLE WG)’ in Bangkok, Thailand from Nov 6 to 8, 2013.

Representing a development activist and educationist from Nepal interested in MLE, I attended the conference on the theme ‘Multilingual Education for All in Asia and the Pacific: Policies, Practices and Processes’. The theme was very relevant as it provided a common platform to adopt a common understanding of MLE and its importance in Asian context. This conference did showcase promising practices so as to increase understanding of the importance of expanding access to effective MLE and strengthen the momentum for this issue in the AsiaPacific region. The event did not only determined the factors that enable effective, efficient and sustainable MLE by sharing challenges and lessons learned from current MLE practice but also identified recent policy developments in the Asia-Pacific region. The researches and papers presented in the conference revealed that the role of MLE network and collaboration with the governments, non-government organizations, universities and language association played a significant role in making the government formulate and revise education policies in respective countries and putting the MLE practice into action at schools.

Towards Multilingual Education in Nepal

The research studies and papers on policies and practices towards multilingual education in Nepal occupied a substantial space in the conference. Altogether eight different research studies and papers were presented by Nepalese MLE practitioners, academician and NGO activists. Director General Dr. Lava D. Awasthi from Department of Education, Nepal and profound linguist Prof. Dr. Yogendra Prasad Yadava from Tribhuvan University, Nepal talked on multilingual education in terms of policy manifestations and pedagogical practices in Nepal and MLE policies and practices in Nepal as an appraisal respectively. Both the papers showed the variations, challenges and gaps in MLE practices introduced by Government of Nepal as well as national and international agencies in the country.

Even though Nepal is a multilingual and multiethnic country with 123 languages and more than 103 ethnic communities, children in most ethnolinguistic communities are deprived of basic education in their respective mother tongues. Teaching in unfamiliar languages has hindered cognitive development in the children. Language not only helps promote equality and empowers people but also is a key factor for the social inclusion in ethno-linguistic communities. MTB-MLE is the most important mechanism for achieving the goal of education for all among minority communities. However, the policy adopted by the government is not conducive for such a purpose. Curriculum and textbooks as well as reading materials are not compatible to the socio-cultural setting of the communities. Making these arguments in her paper, Dr. Ambika Regmi from Tribhuvan Universityconcluded her sharing claiming that only appropriate strategies can access to MTB-MLE be guaranteed in all ethno-linguistic communities of Nepal.

Reviewing the education policies addressing minority language use in basic education in Nepal,Pushker Kadel, director of Language Development Centre, an NGO shared the impact on the community, students and teachers of pilot MLE programs initiated by Department of Education in eight languages and MLE projects initiated by I/NGOs. Blending his own experience of MLE initiatives taken by local NGOs and the reported outcomes of the existing MLE projects, kadel made recommendations for effective MLE practices in Nepal.

MLE Practice: Case of Rajbanshi

Pamar Rajbansi from Nepali National Languages Preservation Institute

(NNLPI) an NGO and Kimiko Abe from Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) Nepal presented a case study of a multilingual education (MLE) program implemented in the Rajbanshi speaking areas of Jhapa and Morang in southeast Nepal. This case study showed how a quality MLE program can provide efficiency, effectiveness, and sustainability of education for students who speak non-dominant languages. The case study also illustrated that high quality program can persuade local governments of the value of providing education in the students’ strongest language, creating a sustainable policy and funding environment for MLE program. The three key factors that made the Rajbanshi program successful included community involvement as implementers of the program, child-friendly teaching methods and environment and capacity building and professional development support to the teachers.

Similarly, undertaking another case study of a Rajbanshi medium school in Jhapa of eastern Nepal,Surya Prasad Yadav from Tribhuvan University Nepal shared MLE practices in Nepal through his paper. The findings of his studies showed that children from Rajbanshi-medium school are more motivated towards education and are more regular in class attendance. Owing to the use of the mother tongue, the rate of their dropouts has decreased and there has been a reduction in the number of out-of-school children. Finally, he discussed the ways to address the challenges of MLE practices in that case and further claimed that such a case could be replica for other similar schools in the country.

MLE: A Case of Rana Tharu

The Rana Tharu language spoken by Rana Tharu community, indigenous inhabitants of Kailali and Kanchanpur districts from far western Nepal, is gradually being lost due to dominant language Nepali, which is only medium of instruction used in schools and literacy class. Children from such community face difficulties in education due to Nepali and English being the medium of government and private schools respectively.  Literary rate of the community is lower than that of Nepali-speaking communities. Presenting the above linguistic contexts, Prithivi Chaudhary fromTransformation Nepal, an NGO shared another case of MLE practice from Rana Tharu Community, which showed a perspective on language development for the sustainable use of Rana Tharu in schools and literacy classes. The findings carried out from a linguistic survey utilizing participatory tools, informal interviews and observations conducted in Kailali and Kanchanpur in 2012 show that Rana Tharu community lacks access to education, particularly in the mother tongue and lags far behind other Nepali communities in awareness, development and technology.

MLE for Adult Literacy in Nepal: A Case of Lhomi

Literacy programs in rural Nepal are quite common, but practitioners often experience low literacy rates among these rural communities. One difficulty related to literacy programs in Nepal is that many people do not speak Nepali as their first language, but literacy programs are required to teach literacy in Nepali. However, the joint presentation by Yee-may Chan fromSIL Nepal andChhejap Bhote fromNepal Lhomi Society (NELHOS), an NGO strongly argued that literacy programs are allowed to teach literacy in another language, as long as literacy in Nepali is included at some point. Their paper explained how the Lhomi Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) Adult Literacy program applied principles from MLE programs designed for children to literacy programs for adults. For instance, culturally appropriate mother tongue teaching materials relevant to the participants’ daily lives were created and used; teaching materials used in the classrooms moved from simple to complicated, from known to unknown; the participants’ mother tongue was the medium of instruction. The experience of the program showed that participants mastered basic literacy, numeracy skills, and simple mathematics within five months. Their experience further showed that after participants learned to read in Lhomi, they quickly learned to read Nepali (which uses a similar writing system). Some participants went even further, learning English, which uses a different writing system. The Lhomi program has demonstrated that best practices of language acquisition for children can be relevant for teaching adults as well, a finding that makes the local community, funding partners, and government authorities satisfied.

Alternative models of MTB-MLE for multilingual classrooms in Nepal

The language composition of the local communities in Nepal shows that most of the schools are linguistically diverse, with the presence of two or more languages. And, the mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB-MLE) program with a single mother tongue as medium of instruction fails to ensure equal access to quality education and linguistic rights for all students. Effective implementation of a MTB-MLE program depends on the appropriateness of the model in each school environment. Some innovative strategies have emerged in the multilingual classrooms from the continuous interaction between the principles of MTB-MLE and classroom language situations during the initial phase of program implementation. These strategies shared by Laxman Ghimire from Tribhuvan University, Nepal include development of multilingual textbooks, preparing multilingual teachers and allocation of school hours for each language in the classroom. His sharing added another insight that some other strategies were employed informally, such as policy negotiation and reformulation in the local context. Although these strategies have been emerged in the local context, it can be crucial for the development of an appropriate model of MTB-MLE in the linguistic and sociolinguistic context of Nepal.

Conclusion

Education acquired through mother tongue alongside other languages, which is termed as multilingual education (MLE), is stable, that it greatly bolsters children’s cognitive development, and that it prepares them to face the challenges of real life through education in much more effective ways.  The practice of MLE has shown that it is very useful for addressing global educational challenges like low participation and high dropout rates. The studies have already shown that use of mother tongue has powerful pedagogical and social justifications. Recognizing the profound importance of language for education and development, British Council has recently changed its position to English language teaching with a multilingual framework.

Nepal, where about ten dozen languages are spoken as mother tongue can serve both as opportunities, and by virtue of it being a developing nation with limited resources and sticky political problems, as challenges for the implementation of MLE. Despite of linguistic diversity, Nepali is the sole official language used as the medium of instruction in primary education throughout the country. However, there have been recent initiatives on multilingual education in Nepal’s primary and adult education. The MLE policy is enshrined in the various constitutional and legal provisions in Nepal in relation to MLE-related international laws and human rights obligations. Nepal has recently shifted the monolingual ideologies and established linkage between Nepal’s MLE policies, plans, programs, and interventions and their manifestations in schools. MLE piloting and local-level initiatives have significantly contributed to developing models for MLE expansion and mother tongue based pedagogies in different languages with the focus on creating indigenized materials, setting strategies and processes, and identifying good practices that have shown visible results in multilingual classroom settings.

In the context where community schools are shifting their medium to English from Nepali languages and guardian’s growing tendency of sending their children to English medium private schools, there are a lot of challenges of multilingual education in Nepal. However, the replica of best MLE practices along with local linguistic and cultural immersion, substantial awareness and advocacy at grassroots level and extensive MLE intervention for basic education and literacy class followed by proper joint monitoring by concerned GOs and I/NGOs could be the ways for effective MLE in Nepal.

Acknowledgements: I am grateful to Mahidol University, Thailand and Multilingual Education Working Group (MLE WG) for providing me the scholarship to attend the international conference in Bangkok. I am equally thankful to Plan Nepal for creating conducive environment to attend the event.

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Investing in Teachers

On October 5, we celebrated World Teachers’ Day with the theme “Invest in the future, invest in teachers!” Since long, it has been observed in the academia that teachers and education policymakers are at loggerheads. But it is high time for both to come together and start a discourse in order to confront the issues they are currently dealing with. Teaching has undergone drastic change over the last few years, as the old procedures and methods used in teaching are no more applicable in the new contexts.

This is the digital era of technology. Today the challenge facing the teachers is to bring latest technologies to the classroom. If the teachers, who claim themselves educated, are not able to use technologies and fail to integrate them for pedagogical purpose, they are to be taken as illiterates. Lots of technological tools can be used for educational purpose but lack of competence and knowhow about those tools can make teachers outdated. As children of our times are exposed to latest technologies, teachers must go a step ahead.

Here's the link of the article originally published in Republica.

Today’s children and adults have diverse learning needs driven by new contexts. Hence, in facilitating their learning needs teachers require skills, knowledge and support. Therefore, investment in teachers is a must as it will have direct bearing on future of children they teach.

Needless to say, deficiency in teachers undermines quality education of a country. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 1.4 million teachers are missing in classrooms and they are needed to achieve universal primary education (UPE) by 2015. The UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) and the Education for All Global Monitoring Report (EFA GMR) on October 6 jointly released a paper stating that countries will need to recruit more than 4 million more teachers to achieve UPE by the deadline. To replace teachers leaving the profession, 2.6 million would be needed while filling new positions. The remaining 1.6 million is a must as well. There should be no more than 40 pupils per teacher. The paper also claims that at least 27 million teachers should be recruited even if the deadline is extended to 2030.

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Another challenge facing us is the lack of qualified and trained teachers. Thus achieving quality education has been a far-fetched dream for many countries.

As the 2015 deadline of Millennium Development Goals (MDG) is nearing it is high time to shape new development agenda for which investment in teachers should be a priority. World Teachers’ Day this year was themed with the same notion.

Realizing the urgency for investing in educators, heads of different UN agencies have issued a joint statement this year. The agency chiefs say that an education system is only as good as its teachers, calling for more rigorous training, better conditions for employment, quality-based teacher recruitment, thoughtful deployment and attracting new teachers and talents, especially young people and women from under-represented communities. “Innovative, inclusive and results-focused teaching is crucial for 2015 and beyond,” the statement reads.

Likewise, Global Thematic Consultation on Education in the Post-2015 Development Agenda states good conditions of employment including appropriate contracts and salaries, prospects for career progression and promotion, good work environment based on creating school contexts that are conducive to teaching, high-quality pre-and in-service training for teachers based on respect for human rights and the principles of inclusive education, and effective management, including teacher recruitment and deployment as essential conditions for supporting teachers’ effectiveness.

Teachers require support in enabling themselves to become professionals through their involvement in various trainings, workshops and conferences, journal writing and research publications. They can also develop professionalism by getting associated with professional forums of teachers, which often organize professional enhancement programs for their members.

Such associations not only help strengthen their professional capacity but also influence policymakers to reform policies for teachers’ welfare. Policymakers need to engage with both teachers and the teachers’ unions to devise policies in their favor for ensuring future of children and learners.

Reflections on TSC written test

After a gap of nearly 17 years, recently Teacher Service Commission (TSC), the government body to appoint teachers for community schools, has recruited teachers for Secondary, Lower Secondary and Primary levels across the country. The process consisted of both written and oral examinations. For written examinations, a total of a total of 413,000 examinees across the country had appeared. Based on results of the written examinations, those successful candidates were called for the interview.

Here's the link of the article originally published in ELT Choutari.

On the behalf of Choutari, I would like to congratulate all those who succeeded in TSC exams and have recently become teachers in government owned community schools.  

Out of those successful teachers, the three have shared their experience and reflections through this blog entry. They have been  appointed by the government to teach English in secondary levels. Specifically, they have presented their reflections under three different sections included in the written test.

Kishor Parajuli:

I have been teaching aspects of ELT theoretically to students pursuing higher studies on the one hand, and at the same time, I have been implementing those theories while teaching English at secondary level.

As you see all the questions included in this section are basically related to pedagogy. While answering them, I have integrated my experiences of teaching students English theoretically as well as practically.

Even facilitating and attending in different professional development activities, especially conducted by NELTA in Kathmandu, Makwanpur and other branches have provided me enough exposure to answer these questions comprehensively.

Upendra Kafle:

Teaching means creating environment where our students can learn many things. While creating such an environment, we apply many theories, methods and techniques. When applied, some of them become effective while others turn out to be ineffective. Hence, based on the best of classroom teaching practices, I have answered the questions from this section.  Besides, my answers have reflected on my own experience of teaching different aspects, including teaching grammar, use of teaching materials, language games, teaching poetry and writing exercise.

Abadhes Ray:

Apart from my knowledge and experience with ELT, I, as a regular reader, must give credit to Choutari for enabling me to answer these questions. I recalled different blog entries that I have read here on the blog while answering those question. For instance, some of the articles I found useful for me to answer the questions of this section include the blog post.

Not only this, I did two online courses from Oregon University and Maryland University, which were very effective for learning. Training and access program have also enhanced me to effectively write answers.

Kishor Parajuli:

This section includes problem solving questions. While answering such questions, I reflected on my own experience of facing challenges and problems teaching English to secondary schools. Some of key pertinent problems I mentioned in the test include English teachers’ reluctance in adopting changes in teaching practice, methods and techniques, traditional translation method that still exists in schools, lack of reflection about their teaching and how the learners can learn better, lack of evaluation and follow up of trainings, and  application of action research. For such problems, there’s the only solution, i.e. comprehensive engagement of English teachers in various modes of professional development. A teacher should not only teach, but they should also play a series of roles—of a facilitator, a problem solver, a trainer, an instructor, a guide, a leader and many more.

To cater the needs of individual learners from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, the teacher should apply an appropriate method and practice based on action research. Besides, they can organize group discussions, focus group discussions, and role plays for their active and meaning participation in the classroom, by adopting learner centered teaching methods.

Upendra Kafle:

Over a decade of my involvement in English language teaching, I have come across several problems, and I have also solved them properly by adopting practical measures. Firstly, based on my own experience of problem solving, I attempted the question. Secondly, ELT researches and case analysis of different contexts that I have gone through during and after my academic career were equally helpful. Finally, I have used my observation and learning from various professional development trainings in order to answer the questions.

Abadhes Ray:

As a reader of Choutari and a teacher, I was familiar with the problems and their solution faced in ELT. Besides, I had taken two online courses from Oregon University and Maryland University respectively. I was also an access teacher and attended ELT trainings. All these professional engagements with ELT community have been quite supportive while answering the questions.  

Kishor Parajuli:

In my opinion, the concept of open school program introduced by the government is quite good with the view to providing education to all and especially targeting to those who cannot attend school regularly. However, problems I have seen are on the part of execution. The success of the program would reach a high only after all the stakeholders are sensitized on the significance of open school program, and they also play their respective roles.

I find teachers themselves responsible behind classroom problems. While teaching the students, they face challenges and also celebrate their achievements. It is the teachers who witness stories of success and failure of their efforts in the classroom. What they can do is they can carry out an action research in order to learn from failure and replicate and scale up best practices to improve teaching learning activities.

Upendra Kafle:

Awareness for the government’s open school program is yet to be raised as I do not find many target groups, viz. students and guardians familiar with the program. As a result, they have not been able to get benefitted substantially. Besides, local ownership for the program needs to be developed for effective implementation.

No doubt, action research is an appropriate and common tool to solve all the problems related to teaching. It includes problem investigation, taking action & fact-finding. Based on the findings, teachers can adopt most appropriate strategy within its own teaching environment.

Abadhes Ray:

Lack of massive orientation to the target groups and low participation are key problems I have identified so far in the government’s open school program. The participation needs to be encouraged through stakeholders’ engagement in execution.

In order to scale up effective classroom practices and solving pedagogical problems in ELT, action research can be applied for tangible improvement. It is useful for both classroom management and effective teaching practice. A small scale research can be carried out on a specific aspect of teaching. Its application can further improve the teaching and learning outcomes.

SLC Examination 2014: Melodrama Continues

The Office of the Controller of Examination (OCE) declared another “successful” SLC this year, despite multiple incidents of violating exam code of conduct. The SLC examination was held across the country this year from March 20 to 28, 2014. Over half million students appeared in the SLC exams, which many of them still perceive as the Iron Gate, which is cruelly known to have slammed on more young individuals than it has opened up life opportunities for.

Here's the link of the article originally written for ELT Choutari.

According to OCE, 1,836 exam centers were set up across the country in order to conduct the SLC exams for 566,085 students, including 419,352 regular and 146,733 exempted this year. However, some students were disqualified to appear in the exams this year since their attendance in grade 10 was below 75 per cent. Only students with 75 per cent attendance in grade 10 are eligible to take the SLC examinations, as per the Education Act. For instance, 162 students, including 88 boys and 74 girls in Khotang, and 644 in Rupandehi district were not eligible to sit in the exams, according to District Education Offices. Compared to private schools, the number of those disqualified for the examinations is higher in community schools.

This year’s SLC exams witnessed few changes in previous practice such as restriction of the provision for home centers in the schools. The government had allowed home centers for the SLC exams during the Maoist insurgency, with an aim to prevent unpleasant happenings. But, at many home centers a large number of incidents of violence were reported and consequently, the OCE had amended the Examination Management Regulations 2011 a few months ago, before the exams began.

Some days earlier than the exams began, the OCE had circulated that the exams would be conducted in a disciplined and a sober manner this year. Conversely, the irregularities during the exams, though lesser in comparison to the previous ones, were witnessed in different places as the trend of breaching the exams code continued.

The cheating trend and irregularities in the exams continued this year too in eight districts of the Tarai (Parsa, Bara, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Mahattari, Dhanusha, Siraha and Saptari), which are mostly eyed on for various reasons and also termed as sensitive ones. Many students and invigilators were expelled for their misconduct. In Dhanusha, one of those sensitive districts, police had to open several rounds of bullets in the air to disperse the mob of agitating examinees and guardians, following a scuffle between the students and police personnel on March 24, 2014. In the incident, two examinees and a policewoman had sustained serious injuries. As a result, the test of social studies paper was cancelled at three exam centers on the fifth day of this year’s SLC exams.

The Terai is not the only region where irregularities in the SLC exams were reported from, there were reports from the Hills as well. 11 exam invigilators were expelled in Humla district after they were found involving in violating the exam regulations, i.e., helping students to answer the question papers.

But this year, unlike previously, the OCE has declared the provision of conducting no re-exams for the students in those centers where locals, guardians, teachers or the students themselves disrupted the exams for whatsoever reason.

The students heavily rely on textbooks or guess papers for the exams and most portion of the evaluation system except in few weightage in practical test of compulsory subjects like English, population studies and optional subjects like computer is written. Again, the practical test in those subjects is seen to have been ineffectiveness and raise a question mark due to lack of proper conduct and effective monitoring mechanism.

Now let us give a glance over the results of the SLC Exams. Last year the country witnessed the dismal results of the Iron Gate for higher studies (41.57 per cent), which is five per cent lower when compared to 2012. This is the lowest percentage results in the last five years. The statistics shows that 90% out of those who fail their SLC exams, fail in core subjects such as Mathematics, English and Science. In this gloomy situation in the backdrop, the Ministry of Education (MoE) had argued that the teachers are to blame for the decline in the public education sector. However, the issue of teacher accountability is not that straightforward. Based on need assessment, the teachers needs to be trained and supervised properly before they are made accountable.

To conclude, conducting fair exams is still a challenging job in Nepal, which is yet to adopt other alternative modes of evaluation system than written exam in secondary schooling system. Although our SLC doesn’t seem to be serving any different purpose than the Chinese “gao kao” or American “SAT”, it is high time we started conversation on how we can make it unique, more acceptable, and more respectable. Until and unless teachers, students, test makers, policy makers, and guardians and other counterparts do not opt for the easiest and the most reliable way to conduct exams with creative techniques, keeping in mind the students enjoy while appearing in the tests, the exams will always remain to be the IRON GATE for the examinees. It is high time the government of Nepal and concerning stakeholders pay due attention to rectify the exam system, which is an integral part of the education system.

Jai Guru Deva

Here's the link of the article I originally published in The Kathmandu Post.

Guru is a popular term in Nepali society. We use it to address different people. The word guru, which has its origin in the Sanskrit language, is generally used in religious affairs, especially in Hinduism. But in academia, guru refers to teacher. Here, I would love to talk about the word guru in terms of teachers in the light of the culture of treating students. One incident I have recently faced relates to a meeting with my gurus and colleagues before forming a literary association. I was sitting beside my guru’s guru. The event still haunts my mind when someone utters the word guru. This guru told me that the seat I was occupying was not for me but for another colleague. His remark kept me mum for a while, and I promptly vacated the seat without any response.

I am not in the opinion that a guru should not be respected. But I oppose the way my colleagues show their respect towards gurus. I have seen some of my friends blindly supporting my guru’s views, which I dislike. Another thing I do not like is to work for gurus. I loathe fetching vegetables and other things for gurus just to earn their favour. Instead, I would love to work with them for some academic and research-oriented activities. I believe that my hard work and contribution in such activities does showcase myself if my guru shows favour on me. Some gurus I have come across wanted me do so to earn their favour, but I couldn’t.

Being fed up of with the guru culture in Nepal, I came across another Nepali guru teaching at a university in the US. I found his attitude completely different. I came to know that he was also fed up with this culture while he was studying and working in Nepal. He always asks me not to address him as sir but by his name. I have been working with him on writing projects in Nepal.

As a university teacher of rhetorical writing, the way he treats his students inspired me a lot. He has been mentoring me, and I am one of his interns in academic, business and technical writing. I sometimes have opposing views regarding his ideas. There is never a situation to impose one’s ideas. We always have equal and meaningful participation in discussions.

Our discussions are not limited to studies and work but personal and family matters too. This shows that our relationship never let me feel that he is a guru to me but always a friend. The culture of treating students by the teachers in Nepal needs to change, or else it will badly affect some students, especially those who are not in their favour. A guru should treat his or her students equally. I am also a teacher, and I am always careful about this issue while dealing with my students.

AT THE CROSSROADS: COMMUNITY SCHOOLS IN NEPAL

Atma Ram Bhattarai & Praveen Kumar Yadav

At a time when community schools across the country are facing a lot of challenges in terms of ensuring access, enhancing quality and educational governance, they are struggling to attract students as increasing number of children are enrolled in private schools, dropping the public schools, to receive education in English medium. Hence, the community schools took a step to compete with private schools rather than closing themselves in the lack of students. Better late than never, they have started teaching in English medium. We can see the trend of such shift at community schools in Nepal proliferating by leaps and bounds.

It is seen that the community schools which have started teaching in English medium are able to attract more students than before. Even, they reject the admission for the current academic session due to lack of infrastructures available for more students. They have chosen this move to save their fate ensuring their survival among the private schools. But such a move at community schools for English medium instruction without adequate preparations and proper plan has brought them at crossroads, where they meet with different consequences than it was expected.

 

                             We originally wrote this for and published in ELT CHOUTARI.

We could draw the above situations reflected during an interaction with the teachers from different thirteen-community schools in Sindhuli district of Nepal held to find out common educational issues focusing on their roles for girls’ education. The interaction was a part of celebration of the first international day of the girl organized by ‘Janta Higher Secondary School’ a community school located at Ratanchura VDC in the district with support of Plan Nepal, Sindhuli Programme Unit. Another significant event to mark the day was the essay writing competition among 26 girl students from 13 different schools on theme ‘Because I Am A Girl.’ ‘Because I Am A Girl’ (BIAAG, in short) is a five-year global campaign officially launched by Plan International, global child-centered development organization with an aim to help 4 million girls to get the quality education, skills and support they need to transform their lives.
Please take a glance on a brief account of the International Day of the Girl Child before we come to the consequences that shifting from Nepali medium to English at community schools has brought in terms of access, quality and educational governance.

International Day of the Girl Child

Last month, October 11, 2012 as the first ever International Day of the Girl Child, which was unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, was celebrated by the governments, international development agencies and people around the world. Following are the facts behind the special day;
-Majority of the 75 million girls out of school in the world by the daily realities of poverty, violence, discrimination, and child and forced marriages.
-One in three girls are globally is denied a secondary education.
-Less attention to the difficulties and specific problems faced by girls, especially girls born in developing countries
-One in seven girls in the developing world married before they are 15, some as young as five years old.
-150 million girls under 18 have experienced rape or other forms of sexual violence.
-Pregnancy and child birth are the leading causes of death for girls aged 15-19 in the world’s poorest country.

This is all happening because girls are not being seen as priority at home, community and even schools. The distressing thing is that girls are not even allowed to be born. No one can deny the fact that an educated girl is less vulnerable to violence. We, the people involved in the academia are key stakeholders of the community and hence, we need to be accountable to pay attention on the importance of girls’ rights, particularly the right of girls to access to quality education.

Consequences of Shifting from Nepali to English medium
The shifting from Nepali to English medium is deemed as the matter of great achievement in community schools. However, there are many other issues mounting. It is matter of worries to note that there is a great malady of English language teaching.
Based on the interaction with the participant teachers and our observations of schools in Sindhuli, I have made following analysis in terms of access, quality and governance.

Access:
No doubt, parents in Nepal having even low-income send their children to private schools but the number is very less since all of them cannot afford the high charge of those schools. The community schools charge minimum fees from the students, therefore they are easily accessible to all the parents even the poorer. Besides, textbooks prescribed and prepared based on the curriculum are also provided to them freely in some schools. Once the community schools have started teaching in English medium, they assign English medium textbooks, which are high in price. Some of them have not even been prepared as per the educational goals mentioned in the curriculum of different levels.

Quality:
The percentage of students from community schools failed in SLC Exam in English subject only indicates poor English language proficiency. Community schools which teach all the subjects except English in Nepali language lack English language proficiency greater in comparison to private ones where all the subjects except Nepali are taught in English.
When the teachers who have been teaching all the subjects except English in Nepali medium for years start teaching in English, they face challenges on language issues. They cannot communicate with the students in English and comprehend the subjects since they have a very poor command of the English language.

Governance:
The relation between parents and schools is being improved. The parents started regular visit to schools for knowing the learning achievement and behavior of their children. They are in the practice for improving the sanitation of the children at home as well.
The School Management Committee (SMC) is being responsible for improving the quality in education by the trend in teaching in English medium. The SMCs are always worried on managing quality resources as well.

Conclusion:
It is not surprising that English was the medium of school education in Nepal until the 1950s. Following the facts that there was political move of the educational system from English influence, formulation of the first Nepali language policy and adopting the educational practices from the Indian education system, the National Education Planning Commission recommended to remove English from the medium of instruction through its report in 1956. The New Education System Plan-1971 devised during the Panchayat system under the regime of King Mahendra was also in favour of Nepali language as the medium of instruction. There were not English medium schools except few missionaries in Nepal, which had been operating since the early 1950s. But during the regime of King Birendra the education ideology got change and private schools were encouraged to apply.

The Education Act in Nepal allows schools to adopt Nepali or English or both languages as the medium of instruction without any legal restriction. The Interim Constitution of Nepal has focused on the free and compulsory education of all children. Similarly, the Government of Nepal has initiated different interventions for improving on quality in school education and increasing access of girls of basic education. At last but not least, reward and punish is one of means for improving the above issues which lacks in this period.