Nepal is in the middle of a time of great transition. Devolution of power to provincial and local levels in the new federal republic structure will have significant impact on the education system(s). Key decisions regarding the extent of these devolved powers are still to be finalized but teacher professional development and management, and language of instruction will undoubtedly remain priorities at local level.
In terms of language of instruction there is a significant policy-practice gap. At a policy level, the School Sector Development Plan (SSDP) advocates a Mother-tongue based multilingual education (MTB-MLE) approach. Although this is in line with international evidence on learning outcomes and would have a perfect fit in Nepal’s context, it isn’t necessarily seen in practice. There is a huge demand, especially by parents for English Medium Instruction (EMI) as proficiency in English carries a high status and is linked to increased opportunities for further studies and employment both in Nepal and abroad. As parents, even from middle and low income families, increasingly aspire for their children to be good in English the demand for EMI only gets stronger. This is allegedly compelling government to meet these demands by transitioning into EMI without any skilled teachers, resources or adequate English proficiency levels of teachers and students.
Although a national system isn’t in place to assess English levels of teachers, it has been documented, as part of our past projects, that the capacity of many teachers (including English teachers) to deliver the curriculum at primary and secondary levels in English is inadequate. The potential for students to develop knowledge and skills is therefore compromised as they struggle to learn in an unfamiliar language, one which they often have little exposure to outside school. It therefore becomes increasingly important for students to be taught in a familiar language by teachers who have the content, linguistic and pedagogical knowledge to enable learning.
However, parental demand for English is legitimate and cannot be ignored. Evidence from our past projects has also shown that English as a subject isn’t necessarily taught well in school Nepal which can be attributed to both to teachers’ lack of content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge. This project aims to address this gap by firstly supporting English teachers to improve their English language knowledge and skills and secondly to strengthen their pedagogical skills i.e. how to teach English effectively.