Reflections on TSC written test

July 1, 2014

Praveen Kumar Yadav

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.

NeltaChoutari 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.

More Than Status Updates: Choutari Chat with Some ELT Professionals

January 1, 2014

We log on to Facebook–or at least many of us do–when we want to find out what member of our social network are doing. But how do we learn about what the most experienced Nepali scholars and emerging professionals in our field at home and abroad are doing? One of the things we’ve always tried to do in Choutari is to invite experienced colleagues to stop by in order to share their stories and tell us about their current engagements. Especially in the special anniversary issues, we also ask veterans of our field–or our “agrajs” as we call them around here–to share their time with us. We believe that even simply listening to their stories of struggle/success and learning what they are currently doing can have tremendous impact on younger members of the community. In this post, we have tried to present golden nuggets from their experience with the help of three simple questions. We are grateful to our guests for stopping by at the Choutari as they went about their very busy work and lives!

Without further ado, then– we present the voices of six personalities:

Choutari: What is the current project or responsibility that you are engaged with in the field of ELT? As an ELT scholar, our audience would be inspired to learn about it.


Dr. Jai Raj Awasthi, the Vice Chancellor at the Far-Western University and Former President of NELTA

After teaching English for over thirty-six years at Tribhuvan University (TU), the government of Nepal gave me a responsibility of starting a new university at Mahendranagar … since 2011. As a Vice Chancellor, I had to start everything from a scratch. … For the first time in my life I felt alone and  helpless. However, my colleagues from TU helped me out to design new syllabi and we started the ELT courses at the undergraduate level from December 2012 along with other 13 undergraduate courses. For the first time in the history of Nepalese education, we made all our undergraduate programs of four years duration in line with the international parameters. This year we have launched the M Ed TESOL program for the first time in Nepal. While designing the courses, we  have kept the international standard in mind.  Since we have started a four- year undergraduate and two year graduate courses under the semester system, we have from the inception of the university proved that we can follow the calendar operation and run classes uninterruptedly. Our aim is to go for M Phil leading to Ph D in TESOL soon.


Dr. Anjana Bhattarai, Reader at Tribhuvan University, Nepal

Currently from the year 2070 B.S, Tribhuvan University decided to implement the semester system at the University Campuses. The big challenge for us is the preparation of courses for the new program. Not only me but also all the teachers are busy in rounds of meeting for devising new courses so that the new system will be delivered through two different modes: face-to-face and online. Online delivery will start from 2015 AD but the preparation has already on the way.


Mr. Ganga Ram Gautam, Associate Professor at TU and Former President of NELTA


Besides my regular service at TU, I’m contributing to government established Far-western University and Mid-western University in the year 2011. I feel fortunate that I have been currently involved in developing the ELT/TESOL/EFL curricula of the undergraduate and graduate programs of these two universities. With the support of the colleagues and the experts involved in this field, we have been able to introduce some of the new courses for the first time in Nepal. Such courses include Nepalese English and Nepalese ELT, Critical Discourse Analysis, Bilingualism and Multilingualism, World Englishes, EFL Seminars, etc.


Mr. Laxman Gnawali, Associate Professor at Kathmandu University and Former Senior Vice President of NELTA

I have my hands on several ELT initiatives at the moment but I would like to mention the English grammar series writing project which is in progress. Why I picked this project to share is that the team is working with the principle of the Presentation-Practice-Production (PPP) model in actual sense. When we surveyed the grammar books produced and/or being used in Nepal, we saw that they include only the first two components and fail to continue with the third. If the learners have no opportunity to produce language chunks with the grammatical items they just learnt, the retention is very low, let alone the proper contextualization. The series in progress follows the inductive approach and the PPP model which I believe will not only be meaningful for the learners but also a principled resource for the teachers in the classroom.


Mr. Kashi Raj Pandey, Assistant Professor at KU & Member of NELTA



I am planning to publish a book on creative writing; a collection of my poems and stories that links with the narratives of journey of language learning.





Dr Prithvi N. Shrestha, Lecturer in ELT, Department of Languages, Faculty of Education and Language Studies, The Open University and Chief-Editor, Journal of NELTA


As a Lecturer in English Language Teaching at the Department of Languages, The Open University, UK where I have been working since January 2006, I am currently involved in a number of ELT projects both in the UK and abroad. My projects have two broad strands which include research as well: UK-based and international development. In terms of the UK projects, I chair an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) module which has about 1,400 students. I oversee 42 tutors tutoring on this module. In addition, I supervise two PhD students (one Greek and one Indian). I have just completed a UK Higher Education Academy funded project which investigated formative writing assessment at the Open University. In terms of my international development projects, until recently I worked as an English language specialist for the £50-million project (UKAid funded) called English in Action in Bangladesh for over five years. It involved both designing mobile technology enhanced teacher professional development materials and research on their use. Since November 2012, I have been working as the academic lead for the mother tongue education strand of the Teacher Education through School-based Support project (£15 million, UKAid funded)) in India (TESS-India). I have been working very closely with Indian colleagues to produce open educational resources (OERs) for elementary mother tongue teachers in seven states of India (Assam, Bihar, Karnatak, Madhya Pradesh, Paschhim Bangal, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh). In addition, I currently lead, as the principal investigator on an IELTS research project funded by the British Council (BC). The project runs in Bangladesh and Nepal, examining the impact of the use of IELTS test in these two countries. Another BC project that I work on is INSPIRE in Bangladesh in which we explore the use of ICT with ELT in government secondary schools.

Choutari: Please consider sharing about any challenges and/or opportunities that you see for ELT in Nepal? It could be about present or future.

Dr. Awasthi:
Teaching of the English language is both a challenge and opportunity in Nepal. We can easily see the increasing craze of the people toward  the English language.  A recent study reveals the fact that many more people are attracted toward it and they are ready to sacrifice the MLE at the cost of  it, though I don’t think it’s a positive sign for the initial literacy years. The challenges we face here  are both methods and materials suitable to our children and the teachers who can handle them efficiently to yield the desired  results. The studies carried out in the past have shown  a very gloomy picture of the achievement in English at all levels of examinations, claiming a big loss of  the stakeholders. On the one hand, the status of  teaching English in Nepal is changing drastically and heading toward a second language and on the  other we are not yet prepared to take this challenge. We have to address  different EL related issues in time to facilitate its teaching so that we can minimize the loss.

Dr. Bhattarai:
English Language Teaching, a global profession, opens many doors to the opportunities. Take for example, being a translator we can contribute to the exchange of ideas, opinions, views and also earn our livelihoods. Similarly, a lexicographer can contribute to the preparation of bilingual dictionaries for the users of different languages. Most importantly, we are teachers dedicated in producing the new generation that can use English as a second language for multiple purposes. I take it as one of the most challenging fields, for we, teachers, must change the attitudes of our students. We should encourage them to review themselves and their views critically, to exchange those views among themselves by creating blogs, to read online books and articles. Moreover, the major challenge is making our students aware of online resources so that they can be intrinsically motivated.

Mr. Gautam:
The key issue that remains at the forefront regarding the role and position of the English language in the forthcoming new constitution of Nepal. It is urgent that discussion should be initiated in this regard and we need to redefine the role of the English language in the country. In case of teaching and learning, English is still taught in the formal education merely as a content area subject, not as a language. Systemic interventions and collaborative approach is needed to make English teaching an experiential experience for its learners.

Mr. Gnawali:
The biggest challenge in the Nepalese ELT has been, is and is perhaps going to be, the English language proficiency of the teachers. Most English teachers lack the basic of the English language teaching: the proficiency to communicate in English, written and oral. Without the command over the language one is supposed to teach, one cannot do justice with the other nuances of the teaching of this foreign language. I believe this problem is going to stay for quite some time as the problem persists not just in the lower level but in the teacher educators’ level. Unless the English teacher education programmes stress on the language development component, the learners will be exposed to English that will not provide adequate exposure to the target language that they are supposed to learn, if not acquire. When the teachers have the “what”, the “how” will be less worrying.

Mr. Pandey:
Students from Government schools still feel that they are poor in English compared to other “smart” students in the classroom. Why is this? However, I see a great opportunity in language learning all around, even outside the classroom. If one has passion, No one is poor in the beginning, nor are we born with perfection in mastering the fluency of any language. It’s all about the part of our determination to learn a new language. So modern technology has made English a fun, convenient and practical part of your daily life, may it be through mobile phones, TV or other social media, students can connect their learning to the things they enjoy, and English learning becomes a real life experience. This may demand a lot of patience, but it gets easier and easier as our students advance and get engaged.

Dr. Shrestha:
As a professional who has been away for many years from the reality of the ELT situation in Nepal, I can only say what I have observed from a distance and what I have read. To me, with regard to opportunities, ELT would highly benefit from exploiting already existing technologies used by learners and English teachers. As far as I know, mobile devices such as mobile phones are ubiquitous in Nepal and they are not exploited enough. NELTA can surely push government agencies and its own members towards this direction. In terms of challenges, I want to mention only two things though there are many: a clear national policy on language education and strategies of its implementation, and making improvements to English language assessment both in schools and higher education. To me, English language education in higher education seems to be an area that has not received much attention. Therefore, NELTA in collaboration with universities and international bodies such as the British Council could help to ameliorate the existing situation.

Choutari: Please consider sharing an incident/story from your early years (or even recent past) as an ELT scholar and leading figure. We’re trying to add something light and fun but thought-provoking for our readers.

Dr. Awasthi:
If I flash back my memory of learning English and the journey that I took to become an ELT lover, I  cannot believe myself. I studied English in Hindi from the Gurus who came to teach us from the neighboring country. I even studied Nepali in Hindi. When I started teaching it, I did not have a pedagogical degree. I learned to pronounce English sounds while I was doing my Master’s degree at TU. It was only then I came to know that English has 20 vowel sounds. I still remember my teacher, Ms Susan Fortescue at the master’s level, who made me pronounce the word ‘vocabulary’ 15 times in the classroom because I could not pronounce it the way the British people pronounced it. I did not feel otherwise. Since then I have developed a feeling that every moment is a learning moment for us and learning does not have an end in itself. It is a lifelong process. If we work hard we can achieve our goals.

Dr. Bhattarai:
I completed my education up to B Ed in a small town of the Eastern Nepal, Dhankuta. After completing IA in political science I did B Ed in English. I was the only female student in the class. You can imagine the situation! With the limited exposure to English, my B ED degree came to completion. Then I decided to do MA in English at Kirtipur. The challenge was immense. After completing MA in 2042 BS, I decided to go for M Ed in 2047. The completion of M Ed paved the way for M Phil and PhD which I completed in 2058. English language learners in education think that completing Master’s degree is enough. Contrary to this, I think that it works only as a foundation. They need to construct the whole building of their career by doing many other supporting courses. At present, many online courses available have made it easier.

Mr. Gautam:
I finished my high school from Baglung and joined Butwal Campus for further study. When I attended the English class, I realized that I had very little English. I could not speak English at all and writing in English was even more difficult. I could hardly write a paragraph. When my English teacher asked me a very simple question in English and I could not respond to it, there was a big laughter in my class. Feeling a bit frustrated and embarrassed, I decided to choose English as my major and worked extremely hard since then. When I found myself as one of the top ten candidates to pass the English subject in the annual exam, I learned that it is never too late to learn anything. It is the dedication and commitment that takes you to your destination.

Mr. Gnawali:
Let me share an incident that took place in 2001. I was doing my Masters course at the College of St Mark and St John ( in Plymouth, England. On a sunny Sunday in June, the college organised a bus trip to Bath for international students. We left early. We had a beautiful view of the English countryside on the way. Next to me was sitting an officer of the college chapel. We were talking about the weather and the scenery. I wanted to talk to her about something related to the Bible.

I started, “Jenny, I have a question related to the Bible. Can I ask?”

“Go ahead,” she said.

I asked elaborately, “According to the Bible, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, He punished them by expelling them from the paradise. They were thrown down to the earth. Can you tell which country they came down to?”

She said she had never thought about it.

I said I knew the answer. I drew my answer from the story “The Apple” by H G Wells.

“Which country?” she was curious.

I said, “Armenia”

She said, “Which country?”


“Say that again!”


“Can you spell that to me?”

I spelt it, “A-R-M-E-N-I-A”

“Oh, Armenia.” She was putting stress on the second syllable. I heard that very clearly. I had put it on the first syllable. I saw the value of the word stress for the first time. I tried to pronounce it the way she had, but it was difficult. I knew the stress shift made a difference in meaning, but only theoretically. I had never had an experience of mis-communication just due to the stress shift even when the correct phonemes were uttered.

I asked her what she had heard when I said “Armenia.”
She said “Harmony.”

After that, I always tried to imitate the stress pattern when I talked to the local people at the college. When I left England, I felt that I was less misunderstood than when I travelled to Bath.

Mr. Pandey:
Those were the days (a part of my upcoming autoethnographic research textbook, in print): Our class teacher at Niranjana High School, “Y sir” was a kind of strict man, yet nice to good students like “me”, of course a hard master for others. Go – went – gone = “Janu” – “gayo” – “gayako” a method of direct meaning making was his approach, or recite the whole text in whatever way it was given in the classroom, were several of the approaches we practiced during the initial years of my learning English. Teachers would come to the classrooms and ask us to read the text, making sure we were able to re-tell it — the complete literal comprehension approach.

The success was even measured how we all could write the answers in final exams at the end of every academic year. All we did was prepare ourselves overnight for the tests and write it as a summary, not bothering much on the question pattern. If something was already asked in the previous years, the students would simply escape from it thinking that was dim-witted idea to prepare for what would not come as a question that year.

Dr. Shrestha:
I remember one incident which I can never forget. It was in the summer of 2004 when I was appointed as a pre-sessional EAP tutor at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. A pre-sessional EAP course is offered to international students (below IELTS band 5.5) who are offered a place at a UK university provisionally. It was my first pre-sessional EAP job in the UK and so I was very much looking forward to it. On the day of our induction, there were about 15 tutors including myself. Except the line manager, I had not met anyone else before. After we had our first few induction sessions, we were at a lunch break. I was sitting next to a female tutor (short, brunette hair). She looked towards me and said, ‘So you are from Nepal! And you teach English here?’ I had already heard some rumours that some people were making fuss about me being from Nepal.
The lady’s comment confirmed what I had heard. I said, ‘Yes, indeed. I am from Nepal. And I have been teaching English here for a year now.’ The lady realized that she asked the wrong question or made inappropriate comments and said, ‘I was just curious, but don’t take me wrong!’. I said, ‘No, worries at all. I can understand!’. This incident keeps reminding me of the professional journey I have travelled, and linked with this thought in my mind is my current line manager’s touching comment referring to Braj Kachru’s three circles of countries where English is used ‘you came from an outer circle country (Nepal) to the inner circle country (UK). It is such an achievement.’ So all I can say to all readers of this forum is: however challenging your situation may be, you can do it if I can!

What, Why and How of Doing Grammar? An Interview with Dr. Bal Mukunda Bhandari

May 1, 2012

There is no denying that a language is language because of its grammar. Whenever there is a question of teaching and learning of a language, grammar stands as the most focal element there. In the context of Nepal, grammar instruction has ever been a vital element of English language teaching and learning both in schools and colleges.  Particularly, for school levels, many English grammars are written by Nepali authors, authenticity of which perhaps can be questioned in many ways.  These grammars seem to have a lasting influence on English language learning and teaching ahead in their life. Likewise, there are a number of misconceptions and issues with regard to what grammar is in actuality, why our students need to be taught grammar and how it can be instructed more effectively. In this interview with Dr. Bal Mukunda Bhandari, who has been involved in grammar instructions for more than two decades, an attempt has been made to penetrate into the issues regarding principles and practices in teaching grammar and to seek his insights to help address the issues.

About the Interviewee

Dr. Bal Mukunda Bhandari, an Associate Professor in the Department of English Education, Tribhuvan University has been involved in Nepalese ELT for about two decades. Dr. Bhandari has published more than a dozen of books on ELT and linguistics. He is also one of the authors of Lotus English Series, school level textbooks for English. Currently, he is the Executive Director of Centre for International Relations, Tribhuvan University.  

 Do you think grammar is necessary to teach at all in order to ensure teaching and learning of a language? There are many who go for interdisciplinary approach to teaching language where grammar instruction is not explicit.  What is your perception?

Human beings are capable of speaking and understanding language. They can use utterances to refer to a thing, state or action. The sounds they produce with a physiological process are shaped to form an intended word or sentence. They have a level of knowledge of the language that they speak. This knowledge helps associate the human sounds to extra-linguistic world. This is a preprogrammed knowledge imprinted in the human mind. This is the knowledge which in the world of linguistics is called grammar.

A second/foreign language is taught at least for two reasons. It is taught as an end to fulfill the immediate goals. For example, someone is going to work in an English speaking country as a waiter, or a baby-sitter or some people may need English in Nepal so that they can guide tourists, they can run a curio shop, they want jobs in the English speaking countries. In such cases, the learners need to learn English as a language, a means of communication. They don’t need the metalanguage. They don’t need the rules that underlie a language e.g. English. In many countries including Nepal English is taught in schools and colleges as a subject (as opposed to language) of an academic grade or degree. When the main focus is to introduce lexis and grammar (as a device of making sentences), the tests and grades matter a lot.

We have been applying two completely different approaches of English education in Nepal. In an approach we have courses on grammar from primary to tertiary level (post graduate level). A significant portion of the syllabus is occupied by grammar. In another approach we teach English through contents such as essays, conversations, interviews, short stories, poems, plays and novels. Students learn English mainly through reading, and their knowledge is tested through writing. There is neither grammar lesson in the class nor there are questions to test any specific grammar points. On completion of their education both the products are sent to perform the same function. No difference in the proficiency of language or in their performance has been noticed. Those who have undergone grammar course can’t exhibit better performance in grammar itself. This shows that grammar teaching in a language class has no ground support.

It is important to keep in mind that there is a strong relationship between grammar and vocabulary. Lexical items inherently posses some property. For example, no NP follows the word ‘die’ whereas an NP should necessarily follow the word ‘kill’ and ‘murder’. At the same time the words suggest that the NP that follows ‘kill’ has to be an animate but it should be human NP to follow ‘murder’.

The value of grammar instruction has been debatable since the beginning of teaching modern language as a foreign language. Everyone involved in teaching and learning has an opinion for or against grammar teaching. Some of them opine that a good knowledge of grammar is necessary if the learners’ have to use the language correctly. While others think grammar instruction is not necessary at all. They think it hampers language acquisition and slows down the fluency.

In the fields of second language acquisition earlier research findings (when communicative language teaching was in fashion) showed that grammar had very little to do in language teaching but recent research findings show that grammar has a role but they still do not accept direct grammar teaching. Grammar instruction may be used as a basis in some practice activity or sometimes as consciousness raising device, not as a device to learn to use a language.

Some say grammar incorporates only morphology and syntax but others tend to think that grammar should incorporate all the levels of language. In the broadest sense of the term, what a grammar is in actuality? On What conditions can we say that a particular sentence is grammatical?

Let us consider the following definition of grammar.

Grammar is the study and description of a language in terms of either syntax and morphology alone or these together with aspects of phonology, orthography, semantics and pragmatics. (The Oxford Companion to the English Language).

In past grammar was considered the art of speaking and writing. The word grammar would include the study of everything related to language. Structuralists separated the levels of language and defined grammar as the level between phonology and semantics so it meant the study of rules in a language for changing the form of the words and combining them in to sentences. However, linguists today treat grammar same as linguistics which is sometimes referred to as a linguistic grammar. Therefore to be a sentence grammatical it should be phonologically (in speech), orthographically (in writing), morphologically, syntactically, semantically and also pragmatically acceptable.

 There are two ways of teaching grammar: deductively and inductively. Most observations show that Nepalese teachers find deductive method to be more comfortable to instruct language with. Why is it so? Which method do you recommend and why?

I don’t label any method ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Both the methods have advantages and disadvantages. For example, the rules and explanations help students understand what is being taught. It respects the creative and generative power of human mind. It introduces bits of language in a systematic and gradual manner. Use of mother tongue makes the environment comfortable for teacher and students. On the other hand inductive method accepts the principle of learning to communicate through communication. It respects the learner as subject (as opposed object in deductive method). In learning a language, we’ll have two goals understanding about the language and learning the language. Deductive method caters for the first goal while inductive method caters for the second one.

I agree with your observation that most English classes in Nepal, we find deductive  (an imperfect  deductive) method. This is because the teachers who have been given the tag ‘trained’ have never got opportunity to undergo, observe or practice inductive classes. The teacher education institutions provide them with the theory of methods – no classroom application. On the other hand inductive method require good command in English, sufficient resources and materials. The attitude of making students ‘understand’ is the chief barrier which stops teachers using inductive method. In fact, language teacher’s job is to make students learn the language.

Application of a method depends on many factors. So the teacher should be capable of analyzing them. Choice of a method depends upon many factors. It is the teacher whose job is to analyze the factors governing the context and choose an appropriate methodology instead of a ‘method’.

Do you think linguistic grammar is any worth for teacher? How do you think a linguistic grammar and a pedagogic grammar interact with each other?

Linguistic grammar, also known as theoretical grammar, is the systematic description of language usually not concentrating on a particular language. It provides a language teacher with the apparatuses to investigate the features of the given language. Pedagogical grammars on the other hand are intended chiefly for classroom use under the guidance of teacher. They may contain rules, exercises, vocabulary lists, dialogues, reading passages and writing activities. There are many good teachers who have not studied linguistic grammar. However, the study of linguistic grammar makes them better. The source of pedagogical grammar is linguistic grammar. For a language teacher linguistic grammar is resource and pedagogical grammar is the teaching material.

Many English grammars written in Nepal are in vogue in both private and public schools of Nepal. How authentic do you find them in terms of contemporariness?  Do they reflect everyday English? How do you think this issue can be addressed? Do not you think that it is important to base grammar on corpus?

Privatization in education is thriving in Nepal. It has opened avenues of opportunities for the people of different sectors. As a result textbooks (pedagogical grammars) of English have come out in abundant number. Few years ago books were produced in Nepal because they were needed, but now books are produced as publishers and ‘writers’ need them. Because of this students and novice teachers are misguided, there is also unhealthy competition. Most of the grammars produced in Nepal are based on (i.e., borrowed materials from) traditional grammars of 19th and early 20th centuries. They have no materials of present day English.

Most grammars now in Britain and America are corpus-based which teach learners the real contemporary English. Languages keep on changing. It is natural and regular process. All the speakers of a language have internalized grammar. They do not follow grammar books but the grammar books have to follow the speakers.

  Do not you think that nativization of English or the birth of local varieties of English has created a big controversy over what is acceptable and what is not? Do you think that different varieties should have different grammar books to describe and explain different grammars? Do you recommend that English grammar for Nepal should base on Nepalese English?

English speaking people from England went to America, Canada, Australia and other countries where their English gradually deviated from the original one, and thus grew many varieties viz. American English, Canadian English, Australian English as so on. Varieties also appeared in the countries where English is taught as a foreign or second language. The English found in Nepal has its own characteristics. So it is also a non-native variety of English. The native varieties are intelligible to each other, but the nonnative varieties are more deviated. A language is what its native speakers speak and what they accept. The idea of writing grammars of different varieties can be done as linguistic research but not for pedagogical purpose. English is not a lingua franca in Nepal, nor a second language. The purpose of teaching a foreign language is to enable the learners to communicate with its native speakers. So the issue/idea of writing English grammar for Nepal based on Nepalese variety of English is illogical and worthless.

 Do you have any other observations to share on teaching of English grammar in Nepal?

In my observation, I have found that most teachers teach the structures in the name of grammar being isolated from the functional aspect of language. They give rule of form (for example, how a tense is formed) and some common examples missing the rule of meaning (for example, how, when and where a tense is used) and activities of language use.

Whoever observes English language classes in Nepal, very quickly recommends that the teachers should be trained despite the fact that almost all the teachers are trained either from a university (mainly from Tribhuvan University) or the ministry of education. The teachers often have to prove their training by showing their certificate. Once a government official rightly announced, “We have given training certificate to 98% teachers”. This situation very easily indicates the inefficiency of teacher education in Nepal. It has to be improved, and we, teacher educators, should take initiative.

Thank you so much for your contribution. 

Exam-oriented Nepalese ELT

November 1, 2011

An Interview with

Professor Chandreshwor Mishra

Professor Chandreshwor Mishra is the new Chair of English and Other Languages Education Subject Committee, Tribhuvan University. He has succeeded veterans Professor Shishir Kumar Sthapit, Professor Shanti Basnyat and Professor Jai Raj Awasthi. Having been involved in teaching English for the last 30 years, Professor Mishra is a Ph.D. in ELT from CIFEL Hydrabad. The post of Chair is challenging in the sense that there are a lot of issues to be resolved such as taking the mission initiated by predecessors to the destination, leading Nepalese English Education in the right direction, standardizing thesis writing, departmental autonomy etc.  I tendered a few questions-some personal but academic, others departmental. Find his observations in his own words below:

1. Professor Mishra , You are the new Chair of English and Other English Languages Education Subject Committee. How challenged do you feel?  How do you plan to proceed in the days to come?

I have taken the chairmanship of the English Education subject Committee both as a challenge and an opportunity. It’s a challenge because there is a huge demand for effective implementation of newly designed course throughout the country. It’s an opportunity because my predecessors have built a strong foundation of English education to go ahead. I think in order to bring more developments definitely there is a great need of skilled manpower in the country. As you know one swallow does not make a summer. I feel the cooperation from my predecessors and continued efforts of the ELT distinguished personalities will of course energize me to work. I will be working in collaboration and consultation with all teachers throughout the country for the development of English education in Nepal.

2. Departmental autonomy has long been desired in order to introduce more specialization courses instead of core courses such as Foundations of Education, Psychology and Curriculum. How do you rationalize the need and how do you think you are going to take this issue to the concerned?

The talk of autonomy has been raised since long. I remember during the days when Professor Tirth Raj Khaniya was the Head of the Department, he had raised this issue very seriously. But because of non-cooperation from the concerned agencies and authorities the issue of autonomy was foiled. Luckily the present system of education is in the favor of decentralization and autonomy of the departments. I think it is the high we started hammering the nail into the right at the right time. What I feel is that the quality development as well disburdening the rising administrative cost of education under TU system can be facilitated with autonomy of the departments. TU and the Government of Nepal is no more in a condition to pay off the entire cost of education.  Autonomy would be a boon to academic promotion of TU as well as the department of English education. As there is an acute shortage of people with high caliber in the field of ELT and Applied Linguistics, granting autonomy to the department of English Education would be a significant step to bring about desired changes and qualities in the field of English Education. At this point I would like to state that Department of English Education is well equipped with necessary manpower to handle the autonomous department quite successfully. As the chair of the subject committee, I will be raising my voices to the concerned authorities continuously. I am sure that I will be able to convince the need of autonomy to them.

3. Most of our practical exams and project works (e.g. Foundations of language and linguistics, English for Mass Communication, English for Communication etc.) including practice teaching have virtually been reduced to a ritual. How do you think we can improve it?

I do admit that there are some challenges in the implementations practical examinations throughout the country not only in the English education courses but also in all the other subjects. The practical exams, as reported from various campuses and by teachers, are not executed in the true spirit of the courses. However, it is not because of the structure of the course but because of a large number of students as well as teachers’ unprofessional approach to handle these courses. First of all, we, all the teachers need to realize the ethical issues of your professionalism. Secondly, there should strict follow-up and monitoring mechanism from the Dean’s office and other examination related offices. Besides, the remunerations for practical examinations should be substantially increased so as to stop people taking it as a ritual.

4. Nepalese students learn English for fourteen years but still most of them have problems in expressing in English. Does not it conclude that our ELT has failed and therefore needs to be subverted?

So far as I have experienced for 35 years, teaching English in Nepal has remained only as an exam-oriented and completion of the course. There is hardly any interaction and discussion among the students in the teaching and learning process. Teaching of English should not be considered as teaching of other subjects. It is taught as a subject but not a language which is unfortunate for us. We still see that students are learning English through rote memorization which results into a handicap to express their ideas in English in different social and academic contexts. I think first of all teachers should be trained on how to teach English as a language not as a subject. Second, the patterns of questions asked in the examinations should be changed.  Questions that require creative and critical thinking of students should be asked so that they are discouraged to memorize bits of information from textbooks, teachers’ notes and guidebooks. I do not think that ELT has failed at all but the objectives have been mislead and unintentionally misinterpreted.

5. There has been a voice from some corner that our thesis writing has remained more mechanical and less academic? Do you agree with it? If yes, what changes are you going to introduce in order to improve it?

First, the issue of thesis writing is to be understood from the right perspectives. All the students are not either capable or in need of taking up thesis writing genuinely. As thesis writing is a rigorous and very serious academic exercise which calls for extensive readings, research skills, and academic writing ability, I feel that all students do not qualify for this. But in the past there had been a convention that all the students were expected to go through it. I think now we should give more emphasis on the qualitative approach of research. Thesis writing has become more mechanical because of its rigid nature and quantitative approach. However, the freedom and creativity of ideas manifested through language is always possible in the body of the thesis. I feel that all teachers should also keep themselves abreast of the latest development in the field ELT and Applied linguistic research works. This will of course benefit the students as well as the society they live in.

6. Latest revision of the courses reveals that we are in consonant with the wave of change in ELT around the globe. But global changes and local realities are poles apart. What do you think is the middle path to take?

Our new courses are undoubtedly quite updated and no less than the quality of courses in the world class universities as commented by Professor Numa Markee, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA. In this regard, we all should be grateful to Professor Jai Raj Awasthi who led the challenging job of designing new courses. As local needs throughout the world are against the global needs it is natural that we have to be cautious of it. But I do not think that the courses ignore the local needs and realities. We have adopted a balanced approach in which both global changes and their contextualization in local situation have been given a noticeable space in all the courses. However, what we should not undermine is that although the courses are quite challenging, the teachers who are responsible to translate these courses into practice may not be in tuned with the spirit of course. Therefore, I strongly urge the Dean’s office to take up immediate steps to reorient the teachers to handle the courses.

7. What do you think could be the ways to collaborate Department with NELTA in order to resolve ELT crises?

Yes there are many areas where we can go together hand in hand. At present we are working with NELTA to host Senior English Language Fellow(ELF), who is training teachers of English (both campus and school levels) throughout the country. In fact, NELTA is the most vibrant forum to promote ELT in Nepal. Since we have same mission, we can work together on teacher training, designing the courses for teachers, developing materials for short and long-term training course. We can also exchange our expertise and share our ideas and experiences from time to time in different events organized by NELTA and Department.

8. What directions do you think Nepalese ELE should take? What efforts are needed?

First, the policy of English language education should be restructured and redefined in line with the challenges that the students and society have to face. We have to plan for effective teaching of English but not the populist views of English education. We should also look at the needs and realities of the students, parents and other stakeholders. Even if we have introduced English from Grade 1, due to lack of competent and professionally motivated teachers, the teaching of English has simply become a ritualistic practice. Although the government claims that more than 80% teachers of English are trained, we have not seen substantial changes in their approach and motivation resulting into a poor performance of the students who miserably fail in their School Leaving Certificate examination. This indicates that we should rethink about the way we are teaching English, the way we are training teachers and the way we have been designing courses and developing textbooks.

 Thank you very for your time and contribution. 

An Interview with Professor Khaniya

May 1, 2011

Mr. Test Writer,

Does your test really test what it should test?

It is all apparent that testing in general and language testing in particular in Nepal have been plagued with a bundle of issues. Some of the blazing issues that call for immediate intervention include memory and content based (English language) tests, slipshod marking system, lack of post result analysis, derogatory influence of exams on education, guess paper based exams, abolishment of entrance exams, issue of remarking papers, escalating cheating and so forth. Unfortunately, exam authorities have turned deaf ear to the issues. I put a few questions before Professor Tirth Raj Khaniya, a well known expert on the subject of testing if his visionary perspectives and long gained expertise could offer some guidelines to trim them down. Here are his insights and observations in his own words.

Please also feel free to put your comments, no matter you like or you feel difficult to digest the views expressed in the interview.

1.   Professor Khaniya, you have been involved in testing and evaluation for a long time. We do acknowledge your contribution in exam reforms in Nepal. However, if you look at the current trends in testing in Nepal, are you satisfied with what and how we have been testing?

Your question reminds me of the time when, after completing my PH. D. from University of Edinburgh, I was flying back to Kathmandu from London in the then RNAC flight thinking of how I would be working on bringing about reforms in the SLC Examination in particular (my area of investigation) and examination system of Nepal in general. As a matter of fact, I was able to influence some authorities involved in the management of the SLC exam to initiate some reform activities. I must say that there have been several changes in the SLC exam since then. However, I should also confess that I have not been effective in bringing about the reforms I wanted to bring about in the SLC Exam. What it is that I wanted the SLC to be is both an exit exam, as it is now (administrative), as well as a research process (academic) to bring about reform in the whole school sector of education. What it means is using the SLC exam as evidence of school performance and post analysis of the exam would give us sufficient information about what kind of intervention is needed in the school sector reform so as to make the system better. Doing this every year would obviously build the system better. It is mainly because of our failure in utilizing useful information available from the post analysis of the academic aspect of the SLC exam, even after spending a lot of money on school education, accomplishment is very little.

In response to your query, I must say that my academic pursuit forces me to work on making examinations as powerful instruments for causing learning, which is possible only when we produce good exams, but the situation in which I and we have been working leads me/us to be with the community that understand(s) exam only as an administrative tool. In that sense I have not been able to accomplish my mission so far. I will continue working towards this direction. The new generation is very positive about such changes. I am optimistic about it.

2.   When we look at the tests made in Nepal-whether be them for the English language or for other subjects/disciplines, we find most of the questions can be answered only if students have committed the contents well. Are we supposed to test that at all?

You have rightly touched on the main problem of testing in Nepal. As a matter of fact, we do not care what questions we ask, what answer our questions will stimulate the learners to produce, how to develop a question, how a learner will answer our question, etc. Especially in language testing, asking a question is more difficult than answering it if we really appreciate the art of questioning.

In response to your concern, I would say that the whole lot of the people involved in testing in the present set up does not have adequate orientation to testing. Their main source of knowledge about testing is that they took exams during their study period. But in modern education, testing has become an independent discipline and thus people who want to work in the field of testing need training on it.  Without training they cannot appreciate that a question cannot be a question simply because of its structure and a question mark, rather the one who asks a question needs to know what he is asking for (i.e. the expected answer or response or performance). On most occasions, I have seen people setting questions in such a way that there is no way for creative and innovative answers. To give you an example, in most question papers on the top, you find the statement saying “Candidates are required to give their answers in their own words as far as practicable” whereas you do not find even a single question in the paper not asked in the previous exams. How can the teacher expect original answers from students when he has not used even a single word in the whole set of question paper on his own? The argument is that in order to stimulate students to produce creative and innovative answers, you need to ask such questions and this is possible if testing procedures (e.g. specification) are truly followed.

3.   You have written a book entitled ‘Exams for Enhanced Learning’.  Contradictorily, tests are criticized for exerting deleterious influence on education and for not being able to assess the actual competence of a person. If so, why should test exist at all? Do not we have any alternative to it?

In my views, what we test, if done professionally, represents what we want our learners to learn. It makes the learner clear what they should strive for. In addition, testing is associated with intrinsic and extrinsic values which make the learner work hard. The combination of all these has a lot to do with how teachers prepare students for testing, how students prepare for it and how parents support them for getting through it. Then if we have good tests, working for such tests will enhance students’ learning. By the same token, if it happens to be a bad test, students are bound to suffer from its derogatory influence. The argument is that derogatory influence of an exam is not inherent, it depends upon whether the test is good or bad. A good test allows students to deal with what they are supposed to learn, and through testing their learning becomes powerful.

The main crux is what we ask students to produce and how we want them to demonstrate. Since a human brain is intelligent, and can tell a lie, as you said, it may be difficult to test real competence. However, a good test can lead a learner to truly perform tasks which can be accepted as an indicator of the learner’s competence.

My argument about exams is that at least for a foreseeable future, exams are likely to survive because even the advanced technology could not find a substitute for an exam. If so, why not prepare for using the power of exams which leads towards better learning, and it is possible if we design good tests

4.   Many allege that exams in Nepal have virtually remained guess-paper based? Why is it so? How can we check it?

As I said above, students’ behavior in an exam is shaped up by the questions we ask. When we ask questions borrowed from previous exam papers, commercial notes and guide books, we are forcing the students to be guess paper based. We can change the situation only when we make our students know that questions will not be based on market materials, and marking will be done on the basis of a marking scheme not on the basis of the answers copied from different sources.

5.   Specifically, what are English language testing issues in Nepal? What efforts are to be made in order to check them?

There are several issues in language testing in Nepal. One of the major issues, for example, is that we need to be clear about what we want to test- language or content. For me it is language not content.  If we want to test language we should not put a pressure on the students about contents. Content in language is merely a way of eliciting language. Lack of knowledge about this concept makes the whole process of testing complicated. We do not understand the difference between asking Nepalese students to write on Pashupatinath and The White House. When students do not write, we do not know whether it is because of lack of knowledge or language. In language testing we need to make sure that when students do not give us proper answer it is because of language not because of content.

6.   Particularly what tips or suggestions do you provide to test writers so that they unveil creative and critical abilities of the students?

What we need to understand is testing should not be treated as an isolated activity; rather it is a comprehensive activity. What I mean by this is that testing cannot be improved only by changing tests. Before we produce a changed test in an exam hall, we need to present it to the classroom in the beginning of the academic year so that the teachers and students understand what they are expected of; be it creative or innovative or practical or something they need to demonstrate. Once students and teachers know what they need to demonstrate in the exam, they will work for that and when what we want them to learn and what they need to demonstrate in order to pass an exam become the same, then we can concentrate on strengthening creative and critical abilities of the students through and for the exam.

7.   Language Testing has been established as a separate discipline elsewhere and that has systematized the evaluation of language learning from perspectives to practices. What about ours? Do not you think we need to make it more organized here in Nepal?

Everywhere language testing is emerging as an independent discipline.  In a short period of time, let’s say, after 1960s, it has grown in such a way that it is like any other disciplines which have long history and rich literature. Nepal’s case is the same. When we were students in Nepal, there was no concept of language testing. We were trained through measurement and evaluation concepts under pure education courses. Now we have a 50 marks’ course for language testing. I agree with you that we need to do more like forming language testing groups, publishing language testing journals, organizing special activities for training and sharing focusing on language testing, etc. The increasing popularity of language testing is creating sufficient spaces for doing what you are proposing.

8.   Often fingers are lifted on the marking system in Tribhuvan University and elsewhere. Many departments have been set on fire alleging subjective and careless examination of the papers? What do you have to say on this?

You are right. Our department was set on fire two times during my headship. I see problems not only in marking, but in the whole process of enrolling students for teaching and testing. Recalling that time, I think the students who were serious and regular in the class were not the ones who damaged the department. Those who led the vandalism were guest students but strong enough to exploit the situation. Saying so, I also agree with you that our testing involves subjectivity and carelessness. We need to provide some sort of professional development courses to all who are involved in teaching and testing about language testing. We happen to wrongly believe that good teachers are good testers. Once questions are developed professionally, many anomalies can be sorted out

9.   Students of TU and Higher Secondary Board have expressed their disgruntlement over the marking system time and again. Universities in the world do have the provision of remarking system. Do not you think TU should introduce this system at least for the students’ satisfaction and also to show the fairness of exams?

Many universities have a provision for an appeal when students do not accept results for any reason. In order to satisfy them, the provision for remarking is a way to give them justice. There is another advantage of remarking, that is, making teachers feel responsible for what they do. When teachers know that they are not the final authority for marking, when they know that the answer sheet may be examined again, they would to be more serious and do the job sensibly.

10. Tribhuvan University abolished entrance exams in some disciplines? How justified was the decision? Is there any university in the world which holds open admission?

It is unfortunate that the TU abolished entrance exam in some disciplines. As a matter of fact, it comes under university’s autonomy- a university making decisions on who to be allowed for admission and who not- my argument is, it is a matter of deciding on the quality of students for enrollment. When a university has no say over what kind of students it wants to invite and select, how can it talk about the quality of its product? Our student leaders also feel proud being able to allow those who do not merit for admission. They do not understand how it damages university’s credibility. In my view, this decision should be revisited.

11.    Last but far from the least, cheating has been rampant in Nepal-whether be it SLC or Higher Secondary or even exams of university? It has become a matter of headache for one and all. Why do you think has it happened? What do you think could be the best solution to check it? Can anything be done on the part of test writers to check cheating?

I am of the opinion that cheating is a byproduct. Students go for cheating because cheating is possible in the exam, they have seen their friends passing exams by cheating, questions are asked based on previous exam papers and published materials available in the market, etc. If we do not ask cheatable questions, if we effectively communicate to them that cheating cannot lead them to pass an exam, if we ask them questions answers of which cannot be supplied through cheating, and if we make them that cheated answers would not be awarded marks, I think they would not cheat.

Yes, you are right, we can stop cheating by improving how questions are asked and how answers are expected. But this has to be clearly communicated to teachers and students and classroom teaching has to be improved.

Thank you so much for illuminating us with your viewpoints.

 About Professor Khaniya 

Tirth Raj Khaniya is a familiar name in the arena of Nepalese education and ELT both. A Ph. D. in Language Testing from University of Edinburgh, UK.  Dr. Khaniya led several examination and education reform taskforces. Currently, a Professor of English Education, he teaches language testing in the Department of English Education, TU.  To his credit, he has a number of books and articles published in national and international journals on Nepalese education and ELT. New Horizons in Education in Nepal (2007) and Examination for Enhanced Learning (2005) are his highly acclaimed works. 

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