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Gautam's article-NELTA History

Page history last edited by Bal 14 years, 4 months ago

 Professional Organisation & Professional Development: NELTA, a 10 years old baby*


Ganga Ram Gautam

Professional organisation and association with such organisation has now become a fashion all over the world including Nepal. People believe that by affiliating to such organisations one can enhance his/her professionalism and become a member of the global village. This is, in fact, true. These associations bring together English teachers from different parts of the world and provide a good opportunity to share the professional experiences. A professional association whether it is at macro-level like International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) or The Association of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Language (TESOL) or at the micro level like Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) or Society of Pakistan English Language Teachers (SPELT) or Sri Lankan English Language Teacher Association (SLELTA) both can provide a forum for the teachers to find solutions to the problems they are facing, to introduce the innovations they have made and so forth.



 “The major point .of course, is indeed that teachers associations, whether micro or macro, are necessarily centrally concerned with the professional development of their members. This is the ultimate justification for their existence”

(Allwright, 1991).

In places where the ELT is guided by top-down authorities and there is a very little chance the teachers can do to bring changes in ELT individually, the associations function



 “as a platform to teachers where they can unite and advocate change and updating of educational process and thus improve the teaching learning standards in their environment. Seen from its perspective, success in teachers’ own development is closely linked with the success and growth of the professional organisation belongs to”

(Sarwar, 1994).



NELTA is one of such organisations which has provided a platform for English teachers/ELT practitioners of all levels of education in Nepal. It is indeed a great pleasure for all of us (ELT practitioners) to celebrate its tenth anniversary this year.









Birth of NELTA

NELTA was born in the British Council Nepal in 1992 when its first meeting was held in the British Council Office. I remember the day when Mr. David Pottinger, then Assistant Director of the British Council wrote the minutes of the first meeting on a plain sheet of paper and all the members who attended the meeting promised to keep this association away from all the organisational ills including politics and favouritism. It was, thus, established as a non-government, non-political, non-profit making, professional association with the aims of improving ELT situation in Nepal The need to improve the teaching and learning of English language, thereby keeping abreast of new development in ELT, lay the foundation of NELTA. The other members present in the meeting were Mr. Jai Raj Awasthi (currently the professor of English Education), Dr. Tirtha Raj Khaniya (currently the professor of English Education), Mr. Ram Ashish Giri, Mr. Ratna Bahadur Bajracharya, Principal of Anandhakuti Vidyapith, Mrs. Meera Shrestha, Lecturer of English Education at Mahendra Ratna Campus and myself. The meeting assigned Mr. Awasthi to draft NELTA constitution and an ad hoc committee was formed. This is the first milestone that NELTA set in its journey.



The justifications to its birth were many. To recall some of them are listed below:

  • The majority of English teachers in Nepal were untrained and no EFL qualifications were/are required to become an English teachers. Thus, some kind of initiation to familiarise them with the ELT pedagogy was a must.

  • All the teachers associations that exist in Nepal were affiliated to political parties and functioning as trade unions.

  • Teachers could hardly participate in the professional development activities.

  • The ever-increasing demand of English grew higher and higher due to the expansion of business and tourism sector with the restoration of democracy in the country.

  • The Ministry of Education was in the verge of revising the ELT syllabus in school level. The shift from Structural teaching to Communicative teaching demanded massive teacher training orientation which the government could not do alone.





Aims and Objectives of NELTA

The main aim of NELTA is to improve the teaching and learning of the English language. In order to achieve this aim NELTA has set the following objectives:

1.     To raise the standard of ELT in Nepal.

2.     To provide a forum for relationship among individuals, institutions and associations having similar goals.

3.     To foster the exchange of ideas, resources, information and experience among people associated with ELT.

4.     To publish ELT materials, journal and periodicals.

5.     To establish a net work among the professional association with the association of similar interests.





With these objectives in mind NELTA has been working continuously for the betterment of ELT in Nepal. NELTA now has 12 branches from Mechi to Mahakali and altogether about 2000 annual members and more than 200 life members. The beauty of NELTA is that its members include the teachers from pre-primary level to tertiary level, ELT personnel working in the Ministry of Education and Sports, teacher trainers/educators and the professionals associated with the ELT.





Infancy Period of NELTA

After the birth of NELTA, a great challenge among us was how to establish it as a professional organisation among the ELT stakeholders. It did not have any office space and it had zero resources. Everything had to be started from the scratch. The British Council provided the venue and secretarial services for its regular meeting and right from the beginning a routine meeting was scheduled for the last Friday of the month. NELTA had to be disseminated among the ELT professionals and membership had to be increased. A professional organisation like NELTA was relatively new in the sense that it was neither affiliated to any political parties nor would it run any popular activities such as demonstrations, making statements on the political incidents etc. People used to ask NELTA persons how the executive committee has been formed and how the balance among different political thoughts has been represented. This was a very obvious questions because no organisation/association could exist then without affiliating to a political parties. This was indeed a great challenge for NELTA to grow as a professional organisation. But thanks to those people in the leadership and we should be very proud of the then executive members who never compromised in this regard and always fought for its de-politicisation. With the occasional ELT events in between, NELTA was able to organise its first annual conference in November 1992 at Nepal Administrative Staff College. About 300 participants participated in the conference in which Mr. Alan Davies who introduced linguistics in the post graduate course delivered his keynote address.

The first annual conference also formed the first NELTA executive committee. In fact the annual general meeting (AGM) held during the conference unanimously voiced the ad hoc to be converted into the first elected executive committee. This gave additional challenge to the executive members to keep the faith of 300 plus ELT practitioners.





NELTA’s Early Years

NELTA then regularly organised short term ELT events in different parts of the country and its membership grew bigger and bigger. During the course of time The British Council offered short term scholarships to the NELTA members to attend short ELT training courses in the UK. This increased the membership and Mr. Narayan Uprety from Pokhara went to Leeds to attend such course as the first NELTA Ambassador. Upon his return he presented a session in the NELTA’s 2nd annual conference which was also held at staff collage in the year 1993. Mr. Eric Glandenning, who once was the editor of the English textbooks of Janak Education Materials Centre, participated in the conference as the keynote speaker. This kind of professional activities organised in different parts of the country and the exposure to the UK institutions attracted more and more people to join NELTA and gradually they even were willing to pay for the one day event. The membership grew bigger and bigger and English teachers from Pokhara requested the Central Committee to allow them to form a branch at the local level. This is another milestone in the history of NELTA that it was able to open up a branch office outside the valley.

Similarly, ELT practitioners from other parts of the country were also encouraged to form NELTA branches and NELTA spread all over Nepal in a very short span of time. One of the branches, Makwanpur, has also worked with a VSO Volunteer in 1998/99 the volunteer with a counterpart served the members of NELTA Makwanpur, NELTA Chitwan and NELTA Butwal. The programmes they organised in those branches were teacher training and their follow up, language improvement courses for the teachers, material development workshops and seminars, one day workshops etc.





NELTA’s Growth

NELTA was able to gain faith of its members and it has now been established as a professional organisation in ELT. Due to its professional commitment and its regular professional activities more branches were requested and now NELTA spread all over Nepal with its 12 branches, some full-fledged and some on ad hoc basis. Sustaining the branches in the same professional spirit was another challenge and it was not easy for NELTA to run regular activities in the branches from Kathmandu. The only source of income was the membership fees which could hardly cover the expenses of its regular correspondence and publication of the newsletter. Therefore, NELTA sought support from other agencies who were working in the field of ELT. British Embassy, British Council and USIS were of great help during that time and with their support NELTA conducted a number of professional activities. With the support of the British Council and ODA fund NELTA developed a weeklong teacher training package and training programmes were conducted in different places. More than 1400 teachers were trained. With the generous support of the British Embassy NELTA has been able to establish ELT resource centres in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan, Makwanpur, Butwal, Surkhet and Dhangadhi. These resource centres are equipped with the computer and printer facilities. With the resources available in the resource centres NELTA branch run regular ELT activities locally. We believe that this is one of the best strategies to sustain professional activities in the local level.





NELTA’s Major Activities

As  a professional organisation, NELTA has conducted different activities. Major activities that NELTA has conducted in the past and recent past are as follows:





Annual Conferences

A major event NELTA has regularly organised in its annual international conferences. This is the biggest ELT event in the country in which more than 400 people from home and abroad participate. Each conference has a theme and a keynote speaker delivers keynote address on the theme. Mr. Davies, Mr. Glendenning, Mr. Mark Fletcher, Mike Beaumont, Hywel Coleman from UK and Mr. Tim Robinson from the USA are some of the keynote speakers in the past NELTA conferences. Deliberations on different areas of ELT are made by the ELT practitioners from Nepal and abroad. ELT books/materials exhibition, poster presentation, panel discussion are other supplementary events during the conference. This year, we are organising NELTA’s 10th International conference and we have Penny Ur, a renowned ELT practitioner, from Israel as the keynote speaker.

The conferences have been highly valued by our members. The deliberations made during the conference help our members update their knowledge and skills and keep them abreast with the new developments/innovations in ELT.





Short-term Teacher Training Programmes

The teachers’ role in a language programme is instrumental. They have to be resourceful, creative and properly trained. NELTA, in this regard, has its own teacher training packages. At present NELTA has a secondary teacher training package, primary teacher training package, SLC Exam orientation teacher training package and primary English teachers’ language improvement course package (DRAFT). NELTA runs short term teacher training programmes in different parts of the country.





Human Resource Development (HRD)

HRD is a main component of NELTA. Quality ELT depends upon the quality human resource. Thus, NELTA has pool of trainers at the centre and at the branches level. Every year we organise a week long trainer’s training (TOT) in Kathmandu just before the annual conference. Participants of such TOT are the trainers from the branches and some nominated by the central committee. These participants when go to the branches after the conference cascade the training at the branch level.



In addition to this, NELTA has received scholarships for an M.A. in ELT in the UK under Hornby scheme. So far 7 NELTA members have availed this opportunity. The British Council sponsors such scholarships. These scholarships help the NELTA members to visit the English speaking country and learn more about ELT. The members attending such programmes are the asset of NELTA and they upon their return to Nepal support NELTA’s activities in various ways. It is indeed a matter of great pleasure to mention that of the seven Hornby scholars, five of them are working in the NELTA central committee.

NELTA has also received short term scholarships to attend short ELT courses in the UK. Similarly, NELTA members have attended many ELT conferences in different countries. These exposures to our members keep them abreast with the new developments in ELT and enhance their professionalism.










NELTA publishes its Journals and Newsletters regularly. A strong team of ELT experts led by Prof. Govind Raj Bhattarai has undertaken this responsibility for the last 5 years. The newsletters provide information to the members about the activities of NELTA and short and practical ideas which can be used in the ELT classrooms. The Journal helps them to learn the current ELT practices. Such publications not only give them new ideas of ELT practices but also encourage the members to write their experiences and share them with the other members.

NELTA has a plan to publish adequate supplementary learning and teaching materials of the following types in the future:

-         textbooks

-         readers

-         workbooks

-         teacher guides

-         teaching materials

-         research reports

-         other supplementaries







English Language Teachers’ Resource Centres

Adequate resource is a precondition for quality ELT instruction, research and teacher training. NELTA wants to serve its members by establishing resource centres in various parts of the country. As mentioned earlier NELTA has so far established 7 resource centres; one in Kathmandu and 6 in the branches. Half of the branches have ELT resource centres and we hope that similar resource centres will be established in other branches also.








As said earlier, NELTA serves its members through the branches and the branches spread from Mechi to Mahakali. In such context all the members from the far distance can not come to attend the Annual Conferences in Kathmandu. Therefore, in order to provide opportunity to the NELTA members in the branch level, NELTA organises Mini-conferences at the branch level in which members of the branches participate and share their experiences. In such conferences speakers from the NELTA Centre, foreign speakers and the local NELTA members make their presentations on the different areas of ELT.







Material Dissemination Seminars

The aims of such a seminar is to familiarise the participants with the useful ELT materials available in the resource centres and the British Council Library, and to tell them how they can have an access to such materials and how they can use them. It is expected that by using such materials, the teachers will be able to improve their own grasp of the language and their teaching strategies.







One-day Workshops

NELTA conducts one-day workshops in various parts of the country. In these workshops presentations are done on the current ELT issues and practical ideas in ELT. We have done a number of one day workshops in the Centre and the branches. The branches also conduct such workshop at the local level and discuss the problems and issues in ELT.








NELTA very much welcomes the collaboration with the institutions of similar interests in order to promote better ELT in Nepal. Very recently NELTA in collaboration with the Ministry of Education has prepared recurrent Primary English Teacher Training Package and upon their request NELTA also conducted Master Trainers Training (MTOT) for 3 groups of master trainers.



NELTA has also started collaboration with SNV Nepal in conducting the SLC examination orientation teacher training in 25 places of Nepal.



Similarly, NELTA and Room to Read have signed an MOU to establish libraries in the schools which are located near the NELTA branches. NELTA branches provide teacher training and Room to Read provides books to the schools and the schools manage the library. This scheme has already started with NELTA Dolakha, NELTA Nawalparasi, NELTA Nuwakot and NELTA Dhangadhi. The scheme will be expanded to the other branches also.



Thus, NELTA is willing to collaborate not only with the government organisations but also with the NGOs and INGOs which are working in the ELT and its related areas.







Future Directions of NELTA

The government has started English from grade one. NELTA, as an association of English teachers, has now a big responsibility to discharge. In this regard we would like to partner with the government to assist in the state curricula of the English courses and collaborate with the government in affairs. We would also like to establish NELTA as an authentic resource pool, human and materials required for ELT. We all are optimistic that with the generous support of its well wishers, with the directions of its advisors and the active participation of its members NELTA will maintain its professional spirit and help its members grow professionally.










1.     Allwright, D. (1991) Exploratory Teaching, Professional Development and the Role of a Teacher Association. A paper in the English teachers’ conference in Havana, Cuba.

2.     Sarwar, Z. (1994) The Role of Professional Organisations in Teacher Development. A paper presented at the second NELTA conference, Kathmandu, Nepal.

3.     Ur, P. (1996) A Course in Language Teaching. Cambridge. CUP.

4.     Wallace, M. J. (1991) Training Foreign Language Teachers: a Reflective Approach. Cambridge. CUP.


 Mr. Gautam is one of the founder members and currently the  Vice-President of NELTA.



*This article was published in one of the previous NELTA journals.

Comments (1)

AndyHB said

at 6:51 am on Feb 3, 2009

Good to see a potted history of the organisation. Whilst I was involved in the creation and development of the Pokhara branch alongside Narayan Uprety, I hadn't appreciated quite what had happened earlier in the process.


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