Teach English in Solukhumbu

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The need

In a country that finds strength and opportunity through its international collaborations, English serves as a cornerstone of functionality in the most desirable job sectors. However, English is oftentimes a weak subject in village Nepali-medium schools. Some Nepali English teachers even teach English in Nepali!

Salyan is a village located far off the beaten path from any international visitors, and the opportunity to use English outside the classroom is rare. Volunteers can provide opportunities for students and teachers to have practical exposure to the English language and to develop their English conversational skills. Students would especially benefit from lessons that focus on proper word pronunciation.

There can be benefits psychologically, and both students and teachers can be much encouraged and motivated by having a visitor to the school. As long as the teachers observe and stay with the volunteer while in the classroom, they then can have the opportunity to see different ways of teaching and get ideas that they can use later.

Understanding the education system in Nepal

In Nepali-medium schools, all lessons are in Nepali (except English). Lessons taught usually include Nepali, math, science, social studies, English, and physical education; senior classes will also have population studies, economics, and maybe accounting. The Nepali style of teaching is usually very traditional, with memorization through lecturing and repetition. Teachers do not often get students to work in pairs or groups.

Course books are updated every year and new books are delivered to the schools every year. Course books are free to students up to class 8 and some stationary is available to primary students. Sometimes there is a problem getting the new books issued in the remote areas.

Schools generally have three terms and have end of term exams. At the end of the school year (March), end of year exams determine whether the student can progress to the next class. Students who do not pass this exam will be required to retake the year. Students take their School Leaving Certificate (SLC) at the end of class 10. Passing this enables the student to progress to class 11-12, otherwise referred to as 10+2 or ‘Intermediate’.

What to expect

School starts at 10am and finishes at 4pm with a ‘tiffin’ break for about 30 minutes during the middle of the day. The school day typically consists of 7 or 8 periods of about 40 minutes. Students stay in their own classroom all the time, with the teacher going to them.

Classrooms tend to be small and crowded; students sit on benches and the desks are narrow. Furniture is often in poor repair. Tin roofs mean rooms are very cold in winter and hot in the summer. When it rains, the noise level can be very high.

Teachers with a permanent contract have a job for life. Teachers who are on ’temporary’ contracts are not entitled to government training, and have no job security, often leading to demotivation.

Students will not usually be used to engaging interactively with the teacher, as much is learnt by verbal repetition and invariably the teacher lectures. It may be hard to get an answer from students who are not used to answering questions and who are often shy to speak.

What we can do to help

Don’t be afraid to use interactive and novel teaching ideas! One way to help break the ice is to get the students to engage with each other – to ask each other questions. This can be done by pair work, but can also work well by pointing at a student to ask a question to another student in the class and then to go around the class in this way.

Other suggested interactive activities include:

  • Practice pronunciation (not “es-school”)
  • Playing memory/vocabulary games ie “Concentration”
  • Teaching how to sing a popular English song
  • Small group sessions and guided dialogue
  • Talk about any subject you are passionate about and prompt discussion

Requested school donations

The countryside school that we are working with is limited in its supplies. The teachers have let us know that there is a need for the following items:

  • Educational posters of all kinds
  • Science teaching materials
  • Wall maps
  • Projector
  • Blank notebooks and pens

These items can make a direct impact on the education of many students over years to come.

Please let us know if you are able to source or bring these or any other donations over with you in your luggage. A big dhanyabad (“thank you”) from the students, teachers, and parents of Solukhumbu!