Praveen Kumar Yadav
Right-based approach (RBA) is synonymous to Human right based approach. Today human right based approach is applied in the development of almost all the programmes implemented by different organizations including the those owned by the government. The English Language Teaching profession cannot be an exception. Therefore, there is a need of English Language Teaching through human rights perspective. In the article, I have mainly focused on how right-based approach can be adopted in ELT in Nepal.
ELT through Human Rights Perspective
I would like to ask all the valued readers a very common question, “What sort of Education is our right/human right at the present age?”
We have several answers appearing in our mind. Some of them may be science, mathematics, geography, medicine, health and many more.
Of Course, it’s the education that enables us to compete globally, earn prestige and live with dignity. Competing with rest of the world is only possible if one has developed competence and proficiency in English language. This is the language that can ensure our rights. Only we can live in the world with dignity from human rights perspective when we are able to communicate and comprehend in English.
The latest statistics shows one in every four human beings can speak English with some degree of competency. Today, English is spoken by around 14oo million populace which amounts approximately to a quarter of the world’s population. It has been estimated that some 4oo million people speak English as their first language. The same is the figure of the people who use it as second or additional language but some 6oo million use it as their foreign language. Native speakers of English may feel that language belongs to them, but it has truly become the property of those who use it as a second and foreign language.
Furthermore, over 1oo countries treat English as a foreign language, about a third of world’s newspapers are published in countries where English has special status, and majority of these will be in English and English is the medium of the vast treasure of world’s knowledge and pleasure. More than half of the world books are in English. Furthermore, some sixty percent of the radio broadcasts are beamed in English and English is the medium of some eighty percent of the information stored in the world’s computer, a figure quoted in McCrum et al. (1986) (as cited in Sajan Karn’s article in Nelta Journal).
People who are able to use English language for communication are deemed to be well educated, intelligent and so on whereas those who lack the ability to use English consider themselves to be educationally underprivileged and yearn to learn it in order to grow academically and professionally. Besides, those who use English are considered to belong to a high class society. They are believed to live their lives in dignity. This makes us realize the significance of English in today’s democratic age.
With the establishment of Durbar High School in Kathmandu by the then prime minister Jung Bahadur Rana in 1854, English Language Teaching (ELT) formally began in Nepal. Since then, the English language has been taught and learnt as a foreign language in the schools and colleges of Nepal. During Rana Regime, only children from Rana families and higher class families had rights to learn English language.
Behind the spread of English in Nepal, Establishment of Religious Missionaries (St. Xavier’s & St. Mary’s Schools in 1950s), The Gurkhas’ return to Nepal from Anglo-Gorakha War-1814 and Privatization Policy after the restoration of democracy in 1990 are responsible for the spread of English in Nepal.
Before Nepal government introduced English Language Teaching from Grade one to Twelve (School Education) as compulsory subject, the language was taught from fourth grade. Shifting from fourth grade to first grade is because of globalization and significance of English language. This is also realization of the rights of children.
Rights Based Approach (RBA) to ELT
A right based approach to development is a framework that integrates the norms, principles, standards and goals of the international human rights system into the plans and processes of development. This approach is characterized by methods and activities that link the human rights system and its inherent notion of power and struggle with development.
The human rights-based approach aims to ensure that projects and programmes are based on international human rights standards, that they empower those that are involved and have a strong focus on the most disadvantaged.
The Right based approach is founded on certain human rights principles. They include participation, accountability, non-discrimination, empowerment and linkages to human rights standards.
Meaningful participation of children and individuals prioritizing from disadvantaged and marginalized communities in English language learning activities is a must when RBA is adopted in ELT.
The approach identifies the “rights holders”, as well as “duty bearers” to highlight who has responsibility/accountability for ensuring rights holders’ rights are realized.
Here the “right holders” in ELT mean children, teachers, individuals, organizations like NELTA whereas the “duty bearers” mean the government. Increasing capacity of duty-bearers including governments, individuals, local organizations and authorities, different organization, donors and international institutions, they can be made accountable for ensuring their rights.
Everyone should realize their rights to learn English language. The state should also be accountable to fulfill their rights equally.
Those who are involved in ELT should be empowered to enhance their capacities so that they can claim and exercise their rights to learn English language.
The human rights requirement for nondiscrimination demands that particular focus be given to the status of vulnerable groups (we have Children as vulnerable groups in ELT.)
Linkages to human rights standards:
The approach is linked to international human rights law and standards, which outline the minimum standards required to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. ELT should meet such standards so that they can globally compete and raise their voices for their rights.
Different organizations have been adopting and following Right Based Approach to development. Development does not exclude Education and, English Education we are concerned. NELTA can play a crucial role as a key stakeholder to adopt the approach in English Education in Nepal.
NELTA is working with an aim to improve the teaching and learning of English language across the country. Since its inception in 1992 AD, it has been carrying out different activities like workshops, seminars, trainings and conference and publishes materials, journals and periodicals on English language Teaching. Today NELTA has developed into a big umbrella that can accommodate one and all English language teachers from primary to university levels.
The Government is seen as the chief provider of education through the allocation of substantial budgetary resources and regulating the provision of English education. The pre-eminent role of the state in fulfilling the right to education is enshrined in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Traditionally, education has been the duty of a child’s parents, however with the rise of systems of education, the role of parents has diminished. With regards to realising the right to education the World Declaration on Education for All, adopted at the 1990 World Conference on Education for All states that “partnerships between government and non-governmental organisations, the private sector, local communities, religious groups, and families” are necessary.
At present, Social Welfare Council (SWC) reports 191 international NGOs working on a wide-range of issues and sectors to contribute to development efforts in Nepal. Among them, more than 50 INGOs have been working in education sector of Nepal. The AIN (Association of International NGOs in Nepal) comprises more than 80 INGOs.
It is high time NELTA took initiative in raising awareness among INGO community working in Nepal for taking ELT as development. Besides, the INGOs and the government need to take English language learning from human rights/child rights perspective.
Like British Council and American Embassy, the INGOs working for rights and development should collaborate with NELTA to adopt human right based approach to English Language Teaching. The collaboration will certainly help NELTA achieve its mission, vision goals and objectives along with adoption of RBA to ELT.
(The present article is an extract of a part of the paper presented by the author on Children’s Rights to English in Nepalese Context at the 16th International conference of NELTA. Mr. Praveen Kumar Yadav is a development professional, who is currently working as Development Coordinator in Plan International, Rautahat district. The organization is an international humanitarian, child centered development organization without religious, political or government affiliation. Before he joined the organization, he was involved in teaching English to higher secondary and bachelor level students in Rautahat. Awareness raising, empowerment and making advocacy with rights holders and duty bearers for child rights, human rights based approach to development and raising innovative ELT issues are his interests. He is presently carrying out his M. Ed. research on NeltaChoutari. He is the executive member at NELTA Birgunj. He has co-edited the ELT Today, journal of NELTA Birgunj. He has recently attended the 6th International and 42nd English Language Teachers’ Association of India (ELT@I) Conference held in Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) University, Vellore, India.)