An Open Letter to My Grade IX Students

– Himal KC

Dear students,

Today, I am writing to express my joy, satisfaction, and our class’s success in particular. I am writing to express how pleased I am to have completed a minor but important task successfully. This task would not have been completed if you had not actively participated. If we had started with your textbook, I would have been staring at you for failing to get you to understand the meaning of a simple word. We challenged our traditional approach and began our journey to discover exactly what was required of us.

Dear students, learning vocabulary is one of the most important aspects of learning a language. Most of you probably don’t recall when you first learned to speak your first language. I want to mention the fact that while calling your parents, you made a lot of mistakes. Being so small at the time, you did not feel embarrassed. Spada (2007) claims that children younger than three years old do not speak in grammatically correct sentences. Children pick up language because they are not aware of their errors. Their primary goal is to tell their elders what they need. According to Nicholas and Starks (2014), Language learning cannot be skill oriented. Children do not learn their first language as you are learning English now. They only focus on words to communicate. I hope you understand the fundamental concept of language learning.

I wanted to share my reflection so that your juniors will be motivated to learn English in the coming academic year. Your success story can inspire others who are struggling to learn basic English words. Sharing reflection can support both the teacher and the students. Reflection is an integral part of the learning process (Hedberg, 2009). I am sure you have understood why I wanted to share my reflection.

Now, let me remind you of how we began our first class this academic session. In class, I assigned a simple task. Except for your two friends, you all struggled to read the text. I was devastated and couldn’t figure out why you were so poor at reading. I told you to put the book down, but I could see your unhappy faces. You had to be wondering how I was going to finish your course at the end of this session. But you knew what I was going to do when I wrote 50 words on the whiteboard. Because the words had short spellings, you all seemed excited. When I asked you to spell and pronounce the words the next day, only ten of you could. That day, I was upset with you because you couldn’t pronounce words like ‘us,’ ‘use,’ and ‘as’ correctly. You looked comfortable when we repeated the words.

What was the turning point in your vocabulary-learning journey? I believe it was the day I announced a spelling contest in our class. I gave you 100 useful words for the spelling contest. We hadn’t touched our books in 25 classes. You were shocked when I named the groups ‘translation,’ ‘comfort,’ ‘communication,’ and so on. You must have realized why I named the groups in that manner. I wanted you to remember a word without having to think about it. On the day of our first spelling context, I was overjoyed. It was a proper spelling contest with a tie-breaker. We spent five periods on the spelling contest, and in the end, a tie-breaker was required in the final. You all remembered the words quickly. You picked up the spellings and uses of words.

Now, at the end of this letter, I want to share some important vocabulary-learning tips with you. I believe you recall what I said after the spelling contest finals. I advised you to use the words in your writing to help you remember them. You wrote a short paragraph that contained a few grammatical errors but don’t worry, you will learn basic grammar later. I must remind you that learning grammar is also important. Sound grammatical knowledge makes you smarter. We will have fun in our next class. Goodbye for now.


  • Hedberg, P. R. (2009). the Reflective Manager. Journal of Management Education, 33(1), 10–36.
  • Nicholas, H., & Starks, D. (2014). Language education and applied linguistics: Bridging the two fields. In  Language Education and Applied Linguistics: Bridging the Two Fields.
  • Spada, N. (2007). How Languages are Learned. Issues in Applied Linguistics, 15(2).

Making Students Work Smart: My Signature Pedagogy

–  Anouska Poudel

In my one year of teaching English literature to children in grade seven, I learned more than I thought I would as a teacher. After growing out of my school years and losing my sense of childhood, I had forgotten how interactive and bright children are. I had forgotten how intelligent and creative they are. I believe that the most important thing I learned is not to judge people younger than me based on their lack of knowledge, but rather as people who have an understanding of the world. George W. Bright claims that one of the largest barriers teachers face in understanding children’s thinking is prematurely concluding what the children comprehend based on their answers to one or two problems (Bright, 1996). This is so true about my earlier understanding of students.

According to Shulman, there are three fundamental dimensions that professionals must keep in mind; and they are to think, perform, and act with integrity. He describes signature pedagogies as forms of instruction that come to mind about the preparation of members of particular professions (Shulman, 2005). Pedagogy organizes the fundamental ways to educate future practitioners for their new professions. He claims that pedagogical signatures can also teach people a lot about “the personalities, dispositions, and cultures of their fields” (Shulman, 2005). Distinctive signature pedagogies must be invented for the field of education to study ‘educational practice, educating students, and preparing them for distinctive forms of professional practice’ (Olsen & Clark, 2009).

I was assigned to teach Jane Eyre and a few poems and short stories from Oxford Reading Circle. I was told to teach the version of Jane Eyre that was abridged by Maple Press,  and they had a version at the school. However, the circumstances were not in my favor and before they provided me with the book, the school had to close down due to COVID-19 protocols. We were stuck to our laptops for an unknown period. It was my first time teaching, so I was rather intimidated.  But I knew the book.  I had my interpretation of the novel and, most importantly, I knew what kind of a teacher I was expected to be.

I started the class by introducing myself. I told them my interests and highlighted the hobbies they would be interested in, such as watching Japanese Anime, movies about Superheroes, fantasy novels that I devoured, and art. I know from experience with other children that they will listen to the teacher only out of duties to the school, and not out of interest. And sometimes, some children do not even feel that kind of responsibility for such duties. I wanted them to listen out of interest, and sharing those things had done the trick. Turning the video on for our online classes was mandatory, and I saw the children perking up at this news. I saw that they had accepted me and were now listening.

I asked them to introduce themselves and they shared everything with me. Even the shy ones were able to tell me about their hobbies without feeling the fear of being judged. I gave each one their own time even though we were short of time.  Once the children seemed comfortable in the class and knew that the environment in my class would be friendly, I proceeded to introduce the book to them.

The first thing that I noticed when I was told to teach Jane Eyre was that it had a lot of themes that the children would be unfamiliar with. It was a completely different country set in the Victorian era, something they might not even have heard of. I assembled a bunch of videos that I showed them to introduce the era, the aesthetics that people preferred, and the social context of the author. This is the link to the video in the picture:–HwdI8&t=26s

Some of the videos were short enough, so I showed them in class.  So, instead of making it a task that was difficult and required full attention, I told them that they could play it in the background while they drew or played a video game. Because of this, I realized that many of the children had actually listened to the videos and knew what I was talking about when I talked about how the Brontes were brought up. I liked to give the children 5 to 10 minutes to answer some questions that I could put forward about those. Some of the questions are as follows:

      1. What do you predict the story of Jane Eyre is going to be about based on the videos?
      2. What do you think of the clothes that these people are wearing?
      3. What important lessons do you think Charlotte Bronte can teach you?
      4. Do you recognize the culture of this time as similar to your own?

I asked the students first to write directly to me in the chat box so that none of them copied each other’s answers. Then I asked them if any of them were interested in reading their answers aloud. Many of them were. I also made a habit of listing the people who raised their hands to speak up. This way, I was able to segregate the students who were willing to speak up and those who were not. For the first few days, I allowed students who were not confident to speak up to stay silent. I did not want to force them into situations where they were not comfortable. But after a few classes, I called their names and asked them to read their answers. They were hesitant at first, but when they realized that their own interpretations were allowed in the class, they became more comfortable with the idea of sharing.

I was introduced to the idea of ‘world Englishes’. It was very interesting and liberating as much as empowering. The term ‘Englishes’ is meant to symbolize the alterations in structure and role of the varieties of the English language that are used in linguistically and culturally distinctive contexts. It symbolizes the vast range of literary creativity coming from these distinctive contexts (Kachru, 1996). English had long become a tool or a weapon to colonize or to help colonize countries around the world. It is a very post-colonial school of thought that allows us to make English our own and not a language that was used against us as a weapon. English has become the key to employment and thus financial empowerment in the state and private sectors (Rahman, 2002).

Because of my familiarity with the discussions about world Englishes, I do not focus on accents. I believe that if their speech is understandable, there is no reason to change the way a person speaks. For me, the focus became on the individual pronunciation of the words because these were still children who were ages eleven to thirteen. They were still confused about words like imminent and eminent, insure and assure, effect and affect, and so on. Because of this, I made the children read a few paragraphs. Many of the children loved reading aloud and, thus, raised their hands a lot, but there were also children who refused to volunteer. So I whipped out my list and called the names of the ones who had not raised their hands to read. I did not interrupt when they made mistakes in pronunciation but while I was explaining, I would emphasize the words that were difficult to pronounce.

In my experience, teachers in Nepal believe that the more homework you give, the better it is for the child because the child will be too busy to be distracted. I experienced this as a child and I was told this by the coordinator of the school. He insisted time and again that I should have given larger amounts of homework that required a longer period of time to complete. There were two particular reasons for which I completely disagreed with this idea.

As much as I believe in hard work, I also believe in working smart. I do not believe that writing six pages for a question is the best way to learn for children of this age. For one thing, their knowledge system is not as varied as a person with a master’s degree and their stock of vocabulary is too small to fill up such long pages. They end up copying everything from the book, from their friends, or from the Internet.

The second reason was: If a child dedicates almost twelve hours of their day to school, how will they develop other skills that they require to become a healthy-minded adult? I remember that as a child I was fortunate to have a school that ended early in the day, where I finished my short but exciting homework quickly and dedicated my time to my hobbies. This allowed me to become all right there and discover my passion for writing. It allowed me to grow a completely different skill that I use properly to this day.

As a result of this, I did not resort to giving extensive homework or assignments to the children. Rather than that, I gave out fun little activities that they could do as Generation Z. There were some assignments I gave:

      1. List the differences between a woman of the Victorian Era and women of today. (Pictures are optional)
      2. Draw Jane as a child using the descriptions from the book.
      3. Compare John Reed to another fictional character you know from other books or movies.
      4. Imagine you were Bessie and write what you would have done to Jane when she cried in the Red Room.

I gave each assignment a gap of three days so that they could discuss them with their friends. When I received the finished assignments, I checked for copied answers. If there were any, I asked them to do them again or they would not be graded.

This article is a reflection of how I prepared and performed in a classroom to teach seventh graders the book, Jane Eyre. Looking back at the activities and the interactions I have had, I am very satisfied with the amount I have been able to teach.


    • Bright, G. W. (1996). Understanding Children’s Reasoning. Teaching Children Mathematics, 18-22.
    • Dinkmeyer, D. (1961). Understanding Children’s Behavior. The Elementary School Journal, 314-316.
    • Kachru, B. B. (1996). World Englishes: Agony and Ecstasy. The Journal of Aesthetic Education, 135-155.
    • Olsen, K., & Clark, C. M. (2009). A Signature Pedagogy in Doctoral Education: The Leader-Scholar Community. Educational Researcher, 216-221.
    • Rahman, T. (2002). Language, Power and Ideology. Economic and Political Weekly, 4556-4560.
    • Shulman, L. S. (2005). Signature Pedagogies in the Professions. Daedalus, 52-59.

[Ms. Poudel is pursuing M Phil at School of Education, Kathmandu University.]

How I Developed My Signature Pedagogy

– Ramita Deuja

I was really fascinated when I heard the phrase ‘my signature pedagogy’ from my professor for the first time in my M.Phil. third semester class. Enthusiastically, I made myself clear about what it meant. I understood it as a unique pedagogical invention that we have been practicing in our workplace. Other might have used the same technique but not the way I have been using it. Then I started reflecting on my own practices. I could not assure myself whether the practices that I used long back were my own. So, I started visiting my recent strategies. To be honest, I have been trying so many new strategies to motivate my students. Among all the strategies, I find the strategies of writing a daily diary as a tool for writing improvement is the one that I could claim I have been using differently. Besides, I could claim it to be giving positive results. Aren’t you curious to know, how I started, applied, and brought a positive change in students’ writing skills?

You may not believe me if I tell you that I started diary writing without any plan. It was truly unplanned! I vividly remember the day; it was raining gently during summer. I entered the class confidently. However, it was not well planned.  I asked the fifth grader, ‘How many of you like to enjoy the rain?’  In no time, almost everyone raised their hands. I told them that we would go out and enjoy the rain just for 30 seconds. The class was filled with laughter and excitement. Shouting and running, my innocent 5th graders flew to the paved area close to our upper ground just beside grade five. They tilted their heads to the sky and drank raindrops with full enjoyment. You can’t even imagine how excited they were. Neighboring students stared at me with lots of questions. I took them inside. You are much aware of students’ traits and reluctance, aren’t you? Well the next day, I was a little scared that any parents would complain about the act I conducted.

You must be surprised why I am explaining the incidents. That day I taught nothing. No homework from the textbook. So, I asked them to write a diary of that particular day. The following day, they handed me the original, creative writing with detailed explanations about all the excitement they experienced. I read some of the writing. Stunned, loved, and felt sorry all at the same time. Stunned by their creativity mainly in titles such as ‘The best day’, ‘I drank rain water’, ‘wonderful day’ and so many new words. Loved the way they thanked me for giving them an opportunity to enjoy rain for the first time. Finally, sorry for being too late to realize their need and interest. I dropped the book instantly and decided to share their writing. I stimulated those who didn’t write at home. I helped a few struggling students. I made some of my students help their seat partners finish the task.

The next day, I told them to write what they did, learned, and felt. It was going well. However, I decided to write a sample. So, I wrote my own diary including all the excitement that I collected with them. I skipped all the everyday stuff like getting up early and drinking tea. Then, I asked them to follow the same pattern. Most of the students followed. I reminded a few of them the next day. Every day, I encouraged them with feedback on the same issue time and again. Most of them committed mistakes in the use of tenses. I wrote the words correctly on the board. Patiently, I continued the same activities for a week forgetting course completion and exam. They documented their experience of, ‘Shopping Day’, ‘Outing day’, ‘Swimming Day’, ‘Result Day’, ‘Sad day’, ‘Picnic Day’, ‘Children’s Day’ and so many days. Most importantly, their outstanding word selection to address the diary overwhelmed me; ‘My lovely diary, My cutie, My dear bestie, and Good Night with Emoji. Reading their diary, I realized they have now made the diary their best friend. They shared all kinds of emotions without any hesitation as in the sample. Most importantly, Emoji they made in each writing revealed a visual representation of their happiness. The boy on Children’s Day was so happy about getting chocolates and prizes, whereas others represented their feelings through Emojis.

Diary writing continuously for a long time, sharing their writing and positive feedback stimulated them to write whenever they felt something interesting. I realized the strategy really worked when one of the parents shared that her son doesn’t go to bed until he writes in his diary. Most interestingly, they did not allow their parents to read their writing. But they wanted me to read it in the class as I often read with voice modulation, which I feel they loved. Besides, the students’ happy faces and their excitement to share their writing, I sensed, were the evidence of my success in all the activities I did.

You might be astonished by the way they learned to write. They dramatically learned language skills and aspects in an integrative way. They develop creativity and critical thinking in their writing. They learned to use new words and phrases. They became attentive enough to grasp words and phrases from friends’ writing. They felt free to ask the term to express in English. Some of the students even mixed the languages. I accepted it, to encourage them to write. Similarly, I developed the concept of past tense words and sentences through their sentences. However, I paid less attention to the grammar aspect. I addressed the immediate grammar-related issues. Diary writing practice familiarized them with the V-2 form of most of the words we use in our everyday conversation.

Finally, I love to state that the pedagogy I developed is my signature pedagogy. Although some of the ELT teachers practiced the strategy earlier, none of them to my knowledge may have used it continuously for a long time with the same commitment to change learners’ writing traits and skills together.

[Ms. Deuja is pursuing her M Phil at School of Education]


Two Different Critiques

This post presents two pieces of critical reading of a single text, a short unpublished story. The first was written in the Fall of 2020 and the second in the Fall of 2022. The purpose of including these texts is (i) to show how different readers respond to a text differently, and (ii) to explicate the polysemic nature of a narrative representation.

“Deconstruction of Male-Female Binary”

– Gunaraj Nepal

Take a moment to think about your child who was born as a girl and is now grown with an unusual genital. What would you do? You would do all the usual things to keep her female, right? And you would keep all the unusual things about her secret. The story “The Prize for Unbecoming” deals with the rupture in the concept of gender defined by patriarchy as physical and cultural reality and takes physical union beyond the dichotomy of ‘male’ and ‘female’.

The story is set in a traditional, patriarchal society. The writer seems to be well-informed about the roles for men and women defined by patriarchy. It revolves around Rita turned into Ram Prasad later by her parents. As presented in the story, she was a girl child at her birth but grew with unusual features identical to those of a boy. It can be argued that society wants to see people with fixed gender, so Rita’s unusual growth into ‘boy-like’ was unacceptable. This led her parents to change her name. The change in the name gave Ram Prasad the privilege of being absent from the village until he passed the secondary exams and later. This was a voluntary exile for five years which he would not be able to do as Rita. And again it is “he” who wished to marry the girl he loved. The parents agreed to allow him to marry a girl though the people continued to talk about the biological relevance of their marriage.

Though the story is very brief, it has the power to evoke a lot of responses all at once. A colleague from my department said that this is a story about transgender’s thirst for love. Another colleague said it is all about the cursed family where only the male can bring happiness. And yet another colleague said that this is a surrealist story about genetic or gender change. Still another colleague added that this is deconstruction of males’ genitals that are no longer needed to make a female happy. I think that it is possible for any individual to have some of the markers for one sex and some of their markers for the other sex, thus deconstructing the binary opposition of male/female on which patriarchal constructions of sex and gender identity rely.

Two things kept me wondering about this story: first, its ending with no supporting clues or context; and second, its title which deconstructs itself. Any reader can notice it. Its abrupt ending offers a great deal of scope for the reader to think and reflect. The story shows that Ram Prasad remained in exile for five years, which raises a lot of questions in the reader’s mind.  Where did he go? What did he do? Did he undergo any surgery to make himself “smart to manage” life with his girlfriend Laxmi? Secondly, it is not clear to me why the writer has this title because it tends to support the notion of “becoming”, not ‘unbecoming’ as the title stands. I see a move to the ‘becoming of a male’, who goes to live in exile, falls in love, and marries a girl of his choice. So, it is “becoming” because traditional gender constitutions have been broken to allow Ram Prasad to live smartly with his wife, in a society that does nothing but live in wonder looking for the biological relevance of such a relationship.

The story begins with Rita’s unusual growth as a girl and ends with her role as Ram Prasad who knows how to smartly live with the bride. It has a stylish end: “It’s all about being smart. It’s about being smart to manage,” which keeps the reader in speculation. This leads critics to interpret the story in multiple ways: a story about transgender’s thirst for love, about the cursed family seeking happiness, about genetic or gender change, and about deconstruction of males’ genitals. However, I see it as a deconstruction of the binary opposition of male/ female on which patriarchal constructions of sex and gender identity rely.

[Mr. Nepal is pursuing MPhil at KUSOED]

“Gender Transitioning Should No Longer Be a Taboo”

– Bhaskar Subba

Gender transitioning, an idea originated in the West and now a fundamental right, is a current popular buzz phrase. A Canadian actor Ellen Page, who had a whirlwind Hollywood ride from ‘her’ – excuse my using a feminine pronoun – breakout role in Juno, rather unexpectedly made the headlines when she shared a post on Instagram saying that she was a transgender. Many were struck dumb by this sudden announcement while there were some who simply stood by her, feeling proud. Now, she goes by the name Elliot Page. At least in terms of their gender discovery, I see no difference between Ellen and Rita. Assumed to be a girl child by her parents, Rita, all of a sudden, metamorphoses into a boy, following her unusual genital growth. GENITAL GROWTH, which, if I might say so, is A NON-EXISTENT MEDICAL CONDITION. It is hard to believe, but I am taking this medical condition with a grain of salt.

Actually, the story of Rita is common, not unusual in any sense. She was born as a girl, but unlike Ellen, who needed much courage and time to reveal her sexual identity, dismantles her false sexual identity at an early age after an unusual genital growth. However, it was not easy for her parents to accept the fact that their girl was actually a boy.

As time goes by, some weird things start to happen to Rita’s body: a mustache and a beard grow, her voice breaks up and a menstrual cycle stops. When she is in sixth grade, she makes her first strong demand to her parents, asking them to either take her out of the school that she was going to or send her to a distant school. However, in the story nothing has been mentioned as to why she makes this demand. Perhaps, it could be due to her feelings of embarrassment over her physical change that was taking place. Whatever the reason is, her parents agree to fulfill her wish. The new school gives her a new identity: Rita becomes Ram Prasad, a resounding triumph for him, if you will.

Another turning point comes into Ram’s life when he finds his soulmate, Laxmi. To get married to her was not an easy affair for him, a daunting task, I would rather say. However, with his parents’ approval, he ties the knot with her. But what follows after his marriage is a self-imposed banishment. For some reasons, the couple had to stay away from their home. After five years of staying away from his home, Ram along with his wife Laxmi returns to his village, strong and impervious. His relationship with his wife, one that deviates from the conventional social norms, begins to circulate and a climate of malicious gossip takes root. But such gossip miserably fails to bother them, being completely unsusceptible. Both put up a strong fight against those who spite and hate them and eventually emerge victorious.

Would Rita be able to assert her sexual identity if she was in a completely different situation? According to the story, Rita’s parents have three children including her. She is the only child who is born healthy while her two sibling brothers are deaf and dumb. By an odd quirk of fate, her siblings being unable to hear and speak turns out to be a blessing in disguise. One might wonder how it is so. Imagine if all three children were healthy, would Rita be treated any differently by her parents? That would not have, you might disagree with me, given Rita an advantage that she had. With two healthy boy children, her parents’ behaviour towards her would certainly have been different, making her feel unacceptable. She would have suffered total neglect. It is plain that her parents listen to her and readily honour her wishes because she, although being out of ordinary, is better than her two sibling brothers because she is in full possession of her faculties. That, I think, is the reason why in spite of all odds she is able to be herself.

While the story may possess a simple plot, its narrative lacks a multitude of crucial components. One of them is that we are not told where and when the story takes place. As we know that in any story a setting is extremely important as it provides the reader with context on the time, place, and environment that the story takes place in. Without a context a meaningful interpretation is not possible so that is why I am uncomfortably compelled to say how I actually feel about the story is purely based on assumption. Considering the two names of the antagonist − Rita and Ram Prasad – the story might well have taken place either in countries like Nepal or Bharat. If so, then it is necessary to look at historical context of gender issues, which include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

In the beginning, you might have noticed that I have described the idea of gender transitioning as Western origin. Upon witnessing the Western world’s exhortation for individuals, especially those residing in countries like Nepal and Bharat, to combat gender discrimination, I am struck with the realization that both the residents of these nations, who may have unwittingly neglected their rich cultural heritage, and the Western proponents of gender equality are in need of enlightenment and education. Homosexuality and transgenderism had been completely acceptable for thousands of years in ancient Bharat Barsha until the invasion of Bharat by the Mughals and the Britishers. For example, Shikhandi, who was born as a daughter to Drupada, the king of Southern Panchala, became a biological male after agreeing to a sex exchange with a Yaksha. Similarly, had the act of transitioning one’s gender been considered a social taboo, Arjun, who underwent a transformation from male to female following the curse imposed by Urvashi, may have been hesitant to pursue such a course of action, fearing ostracization or being labelled as deviant. Numerous additional instances serve to exemplify the fact that Sanathan Dharma instructs its followers to display reverence towards all, regardless of their individual sexual orientations.

To the best of my knowledge, any matters pertaining to gender that may be deemed problematic are a direct result of the influence exerted by Abrahamic religions. The holy scripture Bible openly denounces homosexuality, and if you read Leviticus 20:13, which says “If a man lies with a male as with women, both of them have committed an abomination,” then it will not take long for you to realize where these problems have come from. Likewise, in the Quran the prophet lord rebukes the people of Sodom and Gomorrah saying, “Do you commit abomination such as no people in creation ever committed before? You practice your lusts in preference to women, you are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.” Most conservative followers of Abrahamic religions still have complete contempt for those people who do not fit into a biological definition of male and female. Some are very discreet – they simply do not want to run into trouble − while others are openly against LGBTQ. For example, the richest state in the world, Qatar, which held the greatest event FIFA World Cup 2022, was in the headlines for its stance on homosexuality. According to their Sharia Law, homosexuality is haram.

I am not saying that a person like Rita is not subject to discrimination and hatred in countries like Nepal and Bharat, where Sanathan Dharma is still widely practiced. What I am trying to get across is that we are the ones who are asked to see beyond sexuality, color of skin and caste. Our Sahastras proclaim Aham Brahmasmi, which literally means I am Brahman. The sole purpose of life is to realize that we are not just a heap of flesh and bones, but soul, according to Sanathan Dharma.

The unfavorable perception that is held regarding sexuality is not inherently ours, but rather a construct that has been imposed upon us. Abiding by the principle of “Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma,” which espouses the belief that everything in existence is a manifestation of the divine, we strive to recognize the presence of God within all beings, thereby rendering all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, inherently worthy of acceptance. As a result of this outlook, it becomes apparent that Rita’s gender transition should not to be viewed as a noteworthy topic of discussion, particularly by those who belong to Bharata Barsha, the light of the world.

[Mr. Subba is pursuing Master’s studies at KUSOED.]


My Learning Experiences at KUSOED

– Khem Raj Bhatta

Excellent counseling services, quick and responsive staff, and dedicated and cooperative faculties inspired me to join a research degree (M.Phil.) at Kathmandu University School of Education (KUSOED). A wonderful academic journey at the University has been very gratifying for me. I would like to share my learning experience in the following parameters.

The ICT-equipped classrooms at the University were interactive enough. The well-experienced, dedicated, and cooperative facilitators and the professors have always worked tirelessly to expand the student’s horizons of knowledge and understanding. I realized the real sense of rigorous research training in our M.Phil. classes. Rather than reading and writing for the examination, what I found at KUSOED was the culture of giving more priority to the individual as well as group presentations, which side by side developed reading and writing skills. The conducive academic environment at the university and its inspirational professors motivated me to explore different areas of ELE (English Language Education).

There were three classes in a week for the MPhil Academic routine. Each class was of three hours including a short refreshing tea break. Mostly we had to involve in topic-wise individual as well as group presentations. It was great to be a commentator for a colleague’s/ friend’s presentation in the sense that being a commentator provides an opportunity to get insights on other topics in detail.

When I reflect now, I realize that enormous series of presentations within a course absolutely developed our presentation skills and in-depth understanding of the topic/content. Moreover, guest lectures from distinguished scholars from home and abroad also enriched our knowledge and experiences. The classroom teaching and learning, as far as I can recount now was more practical rather than traditional and exam-oriented.

KUSOED has equipped me with several academic and personal qualities. Through rigorous lectures from the course facilitators and classroom discussions, I got deep insights and an understanding of research methodology, especially qualitative research methods. As a result, I feel confident in conducting small-scale qualitative research.

Steinar Kvale’s book Interviews: An Introduction to qualitative Research (1996) helped me not only take formal interviews for research, it also has been helpful for interacting with people in day-to-day life. This is a great asset for me. The regular classes that I took at KUSOED enabled me to write on various topics related to English Language Education. Apart from the theoretical knowledge on subject matters, I also got insights on conducting seminars and writing and presenting papers.

To sum up, my learning experience as an M.Phil. scholar at KUSOED has been very rewarding and productive to make my future academic life more prosperous. I am always grateful to the KUSOED family.

[Mr. Bhatta recently completed MPhil from KU School of Education]

The So-Called First Batch Tag

– Indira Fuyal

Reminiscing about the day I went to Kathmandu University in August 2014 just to dig into the details about the new program Business Information System and ending up with the enrolment at the end of the day, now feels like a “roller coaster ride” to me. That day I gave up all my academic plans which I had heaved for the past two years and made a decision to spend my four valuable years in studying the things which I never imagined I would opt for. I attempted and strived to get into the medical education field through scholarship for those two years which indeed resulted out to be an unattainable part of life for me. I just went on and on with the rhythm of try and try until you die track without realizing my valuable time and effort. So it was almost time for my track to break the ice; which happened unexpectedly and changed its way the day I visited Kathmandu University.

The vivid flashback of what, who and how I got motivated to study the program is brain-intriguing. Honestly speaking of the motivation factor, the semester wise course offering was the major one. But then again my mother was not fully supportive on my decision to join this program because she wanted me to study medicine which I had always dreamt for or at least an engineering course. Yet, I was able to convince her with the fact that whatever course I study I can do better in that field. Also, the head of the department and other faculties explained clearly to her about the benefits and future prospect of the course. I might have been tempted to go to Kathmandu or elsewhere for my undergraduate studies. But I saw that studying in a university close to my home had greater rewards. First, I was at the central campus, along with more than 3500 students from the programs of engineering and science, which was a huge community for befriending networking. Second, I could save a lot of time for my studies and other natural activities.

Resting under an umbrella of the Humanities and Management Unit (HMU), which in those days was under School of Engineering, this program Bachelor in Business Information System appeared alien to Kathmandu University ‘Central Campus’ because it was the first management program being taught there. All the other management programs were taught at the Kathmandu University School of Management. There began the so-called BBIS first-batch tag which made our class proud as well as isolated sometimes. We often went through the hardships of letting other departments know about our existence followed by the dilemma of the academic calendar. As per KUSOM calendar, our internal and end-semester exams were completed one month before engineering and science programs. This revealed the true genesis of a management program. However, our classes were resumed earlier when all the other departments were on a semester break. It was one of the most unacceptable in the eyes of youngsters like us because, perhaps vainly, we wished for a homogeneous calendar and identical treatment.

When I recall the days about my department and its activities, a blended feeling of happiness and frustration flow together. Some days, especially during the first year, we were frustrated about being excluded in the central campus activities and some other days were about the dissatisfaction of imbalance between course curriculum and lack of teaching resources. Despite the dissatisfaction coming and going, we enjoyed the combination study of management, information systems and information technology along with the study of social science and humanities. This perfect blend worked out to provide us a broader and better insight of the world, society, business, information technology and life as well. At the end of the day, those clashes and set offs drove great to shape up the unity among students and faculty members. Most of us were not financially much unprepared to start with, but the University provided us fair amount of financial aid as one of the key motivators in our studies. I received 50% exemption in my tuition fees, and worked hard to retain the facility throughout four years.  This also gave me an opportunity to provide practical managerial service (in return to the aid) to the University.

BBIS was a happy family, always ready to face challenges and imprint a bookmark for the upcoming batch. We understood that HMU had its own share of challenges making us feel comfortable at a time we carried the mixed feeling of alienation from the School and exclusion from the activities of central campus. We grew up empathizing and adjusting, making sense of the annals of limitations borne by all past and contemporary first batches in the University. I am glad to note that HMU, which had taken up this arduous assignment to launch BBIS in KU central campus by welcoming us, evolved into the Department of Management Informatics and Communication and got administratively relocated to School of Management. This happened with BBIS program as the key propelling factor. The batches following us have got a more consolidated, expanded and motivated guardian department functional under the parent School.

Talking about the current status of the BBIS program, it has grown to four batches after us. This triggers an extraordinary feeling to my heart making me realize the true meaning of adversities and blisses experienced during the formative days of our program. How BBIS marked a history in KU central campus? An exact answer to this question is difficult to assess but it is overwhelming to know that the awareness level about the program and its existence among the people around has increased since we graduated. People seem to be mindful of the importance of interdisciplinary courses like BBIS in university education system. In the initial days, for being run in the morning hours, BBIS was almost immune from the disturbances of the campus. Our calendar ran perfectly well while our counterparts at dayshifts were continually delayed by more than a month to start and end the semesters. It makes me slightly uneasy now the succeeding batches are facing occasional disturbances on campus.

A year ago the department invited me to speak in an orientation program to the new batch regarding my experiences about this program and its future prospects in the professional world. Decently, I was thrilled to share with them my experiences, those ups and downs and how this program led me to professionalism.

Ultimately, I want to remember the dedication, belief and everlasting assistance our professors as well as visiting faculties had upon the first batch. Even though many of us were confused and worried about our unclear future after graduation, they supported us in every hurdle and took this program to the next level. Bravo! Our batch is doing great after graduation. Some of us are working in financial sector, IT companies, banks, semi-government companies while some of us are pursuing post graduate studies here in Nepal as well as abroad. I feel honoured to wear the “so-called first batch” tag on my life which redirects me to a huge collection of memoirs and knowledge within me.

[Ms. Fuyal is an alumna from the first cohort of BBIS program at Kathmandu University]

Know Thy Mentor

A Conversation with Prof. Bivek Baral

– Anusha Gyawali, Shephalika Dhakal and Saugat Bastola


How was your journey as a student?

I was an above-average student during my school. I was more interested in developing my general knowledge than deeply burying myself in the textbooks only. Apart from interest in science, I had interest in paleoanthropology, anthropology, history, and culture.  I enjoyed my primary and secondary school days with a number of achievements in academics, quiz contests, debate competitions, and sports. Happy schooldays also had some exceptions of nasty incidents, with one of the notorious teachers of mathematics whose severe corporal punishment led me to lose my interest in the subject. It took very long to regain my interest in that very important subject. This incident made me realize that if a teacher is not good enough, a student goes through what I had experienced.  After I overcame the mental trauma, I was a fine student again.

Is there something you wish you knew when you started college?

When I started studying at KU, I was almost halfway to my Bachelor of Commerce degree. Soon after I completed my ISC, there were no other options to study engineering except in Pulchowk Campus, which had B.E. program in civil engineering only. Another option was to go to India to study other streams in engineering. But I was in a great dilemma whether to go there or not. Before deciding about joining KU or even knowing about the engineering program offered by KU, I was studying BCom in Biratnagar with the advice of my friends, to ultimately become a chartered accountant. I didn’t know about KU. The condition at that time was not as today. Newspaper was the only way to know about admissions notice. The first batch had already been enrolled when I came to know about KU and I decided to continue BCom.  However, somehow, I knew that I was not born to be a CA as my deep interest was to pursue my career in engineering or architecture. Basically, since I was a late starter at KU, I had enough consideration about my future career, studying at KU was a well-thought thing.

Do you consider any of your teachers as your mentor? Could you share one memorable experience with that person?

I consider my mother with my father in the background as my mentor. She gave me various books — widely available and inexpensive Russian translated books on literature, astronomy, and anthropology. Generally, mothers are the first mentors for everyone. However, whatever character I have and whatever knowledge I have today on various subjects is due to her persuasion to read.

Among many, one whom I consider my school-time mentor, was Jibanath Dhamala. It was he who nurtured my interest in general knowledge and trained me to become a quiz master of Biratnagar. I remember an incident in class 6 when he guided our team to compete in a quiz contest with various schools and clubs of the Eastern Region. We were the winner despite being the youngest lads. I saw in his eyes the sparkle of happiness and satisfaction. He was happier than all of us in the team. In building my overall personality, he provided me with the first stepping-stone.

What/Who inspired you to become a better version of yourself? In what ways has he or she helped you?

Even after my undergraduate studies, I was a passive person, without a strong ambition for my future career and studies. We had a teacher duo of Chemistry in KU at that time, Durga P Acharya and Rupak Aryal. Durga sir was my teacher during my first year and Rupak was a senior. Both of them had a very strong urge for academic enhancement. They would constantly remind me to aim high and try for further studies. At that time my horizon or wish to study was limited to getting admitted to a good engineering institute in India. They however constantly motivated me to look beyond and persuaded me to apply to the University of Tokyo, which was among world’s top 10 universities. Rupak provided me with all the academic materials to write a competitive proposal for the application. I worked hard and was successful in obtaining the prestigious Monbukagakusho scholarship to study at the University of Tokyo. I think this to be the biggest turning point in my life. I started believing in myself and started believing that hard work is the only key to success. Had I not had the duo’s motivation, I wouldn’t have been where I am now.

Could you tell us about any incident that led you to choose a specific direction in life? Were there any mentors involved in the decision-making process?

I would like to again mention the duo for creating such an important transition in my life. I was an engineering student of the second batch of a newly established university. The university, with all sorts of limitations in engineering education, tried to provide us with the knowledge that it could. I did not have enough confidence to compete with the graduates of other countries. I used to think that the world had gone much higher in the field. But the duo always encouraged me to dream higher and go for it. “It would be great if you go to some technologically advanced country, learn and serve your nation with the learnings after you return.” I still remember these words which actually forged a turning phase in my life.

A teacher, a professor, PhD Supervisor or whatever I am today, I do consider myself being a blueprint of Professor Robert Raine, who was my Guru in New Zealand. By seeing him, I came to realize what an ideal teacher is like. I tend to motivate my students the way he motivated me and also nurture the strengths the way he did mine. It is obvious that a student may not perform well every time. Even in such situations, he never lost his patience. He used to consider every work of mine as our work. His behavior directed me to make my personality even stronger.

What is the role/impact of the first few batches in the growth and establishment of academic programs in a university? What is your observation about Mechanical Engineering in particular, and other engineering programs in general?

In KU there was a trend to hire young faculties amongst its own graduates. There were and are many faculties who studied undergraduate in KU. All of them contributed their heart and sweat to uplift the quality of education in KU, expand physical infrastructure and introduce new undergraduate and postgraduate programs. Mechanical Engineering faculties including myself, Sunil Lohani, Biraj Singh Thapa were from the pioneer batches. We, along with other faculties who joined in later years, have been continuously associated with the department since graduation and working our best to provide quality education in mechanical engineering. There are similar examples in other departments as well. However, the instance of contribution of mechanical engineering graduates of KU is highly significant.

In those years the students used to sense some paucity, the paucity of infrastructures in KU in comparison to those of Pulchowk Campus. Though there was not a huge difference in time of establishment of the mechanical labs in these two organizations, the lab at Pulchowk was much more advanced. To make up for the shortage, the way the alumni contributed was very appreciable.

What first got you into the teaching profession? Did your passion for teaching change over time?

During my final year of undergraduate studies, I started thinking about my career and prospective direction. My teachers, Bhola Thapa and Brijesh Adhikari, suggested that I think about my career in academia and motivated me to apply to KU after my graduation. Teaching, which needed constant learning, was my passion. It was my passion then and my passion has not changed at all over time. It has rather got stronger. My passion always makes me work hard when I teach or supervise and I am always motivated to motivate the prospective engineers.

Do you try to connect with every student you teach? How do you assess the students that require the most attention?

I do try to connect with every student in many possible ways; that is by knowing them with their names, their academic performances, their strengths and weaknesses. I refer to their past academic records and accounts from their previous lecturers. This enables me to adopt certain methods in teaching and mentoring which makes them perform better. I try to personally connect to each individual possibly. I provide them with my contact information, so that they can connect with me when they need my guidance. Without making them feel that I am giving them more attention because of their weakness, I try to approach them.

How much do you value relationships with your students and what part of it do you value the most?

I greatly value the relationship with the students. Afterall we are under the same professional fraternity. The only difference will be that of the number of years of experience. I feel that there are always human values in any relationship. It is also true about teachers and students. In my relationship with the students I emphasize mutual trust, respect, affection, care, guidance and gratitude.

What is the best part of mentoring?

Mentorship is needed basically for your own better version. Good mentorship is that if you are good at something, you will be better at that. Seeing any individual I mentored, at a level uplifting and being capable on their own, provides me an immense satisfaction. Once, a student used to score rather low grades. I tried and was able to motivate him enough. Surprisingly, he secured very good marks in my subject and later did great in other subjects as well. When the mentorship you provide reflects through the increased capability of the mentee, it is the best part of mentoring.

Do you have a favorite success story for one of your students?

There are a lot of them, actually. I had a student who now runs manufacturing industry. His company has been recently involved in the construction of hydro mechanical system of hydropower projects of 5- 20 MW capacity. There are more than a few of these examples.

But the most memorable one was a student who went to the US for higher studies. After his graduation he applied for a job there and then gave me a call after he got it. He thanked me because, apparently, the things he was asked in the job interview was mostly what he had learnt in the bachelor’s level. He said he just recalled it from when I taught him and answered those questions.  It felt like a precious reward for my work when a student I had taught 5-6 years ago remembered me and my lecture which was very useful to him to secure the job.

As a hostel warden, you might have had opportunities to connect with students in a much deeper level. Can you share with us any mentorship roles you performed while you were the warden of the KU boys’ hostel?

I was actually not a good mentor as a warden. The reason might be that I myself was very young at the time. The hostellers were young, too. In those days, being a good hostel warden was all about being strict. I didn’t have much experience either. I wasn’t really aware of the whole concept of mentorship. I did fulfill my responsibilities, but in hindsight, I could have done so much better.

I think I need to admit that I did the job just for the sake of doing it. I couldn’t do any noteworthy work in terms of mentorship. But I didn’t know any better.

“University now and then”: will you comment on this based on your perception, struggles, and experiences?

Our university has definitely grown in terms of infrastructure, number of students and programs There’s no doubt about it. But I feel that much of the growth is only in the “hardware” part. The “software” part of the university is still the same old version. The attitude towards academics hasn’t improved in a way it should. It might sound harsh but it is the truth.

In 2004, there was a university in Bhutan that had just started running an engineering program. In 2013, they came to KU to learn the experience of KU in engineering education. They wanted to know how we grew over the years. Recently, in February, I went to the same university and taught there for about a month. I can say from what I saw that they have been doing better by their commitment and focus on technical education. The quality of delivery in KU hasn’t changed as much as it should have considering the amount of resources available at present. We still have a lot of room for improvement.

How are you different from or similar to your mentors?

When I was doing my masters in Japan, I had the opportunity of working with a mentor. But I didn’t really adopt much of that mentorship experience in my methods because mentorship there is still authoritative. It was mostly about following instructions and there was hardly any practice of arguing with anything the mentor said.

In New Zealand, however, it was completely different. My mentor was a graduate of one of the most prestigious universities of England, and it totally reflected on his mentorship approach. He always motivated me and taught me to highlight my strengths. He asked me to believe in myself. Whenever I said something based on some other references, he always nudged me to develop my own opinion on the matter. And when I showed some reluctance, he constantly reminded me to believe in myself. He gave me confidence and my method of mentoring at present is mostly based on that experience.

Do you have something you wish you had done differently?

Not really. I am satisfied with everything I did. Everything has come to me at the right time. I don’t really have much regret about what I did or didn’t do. I am happy with everything that happened and where it has led me to.

In your point of view, what might be the attributes to become a mentor?

Speaking from my experience, the connection between mentor and mentee should be the key attribute. The mentor has to be a professional, but he or she also should be able to maintain a human connection with the mentee.

This should be better in the context of Nepal because our culture itself considers that human factor. For an ideal mentorship, the connection is the key part. There is a saying that ‘Ph.D. is like a marriage’.

Apart from this, a mentor should be able to highlight the mentee’s strengths. Rather than just criticizing the mistakes and failures, a mentor should focus on a motivating environment.

So, yes, the key attributes for me as a mentor would be the ability to maintain a good connection with the mentee, highlight his strengths, and motivate them.

How does the work environment affect mentorship?

The work environment has major effects on the whole mentorship process. If I were in a better environment, I feel that I would have been more creative in the way I mentor my students. The connection is simple. If I am motivated, I will be able to motivate others better.

As a good mentor, the pressure and limitations I have must not reflect on my behavior towards the student. There is that part as well. But the work environment, definitely, shapes the mentorship ability.

Currently, I am in a position where I also have to, in a way, advocate the management’s roles and responsibilities in making a better work environment to the leaders of this University. I do this as the member of the University Senate. Once the working environment becomes better, it will resonate to the lowest level. I will be better able to motivate my students and they will also benefit directly.

Mentors don’t have to be necessarily a best friend, parent, or coach. What is your point of view in the statement? Can anyone be a mentor?

As I have already said before, I see my mother as a mentor. She laid the foundation of my interest in various subjects. But not only friends or teachers, anyone can be your mentor.

Rupak Aryal, the one I mentioned before as well, was a chemistry teacher. I was a mechanical engineering student. So, there was no link in our career path. Yet during our commute to university, we found a way to speak and connect with each other. He had a positive mindset. As he was senior to me, he used to share his experiences regarding his career. The things he said have influenced me and the path I choose in many different ways.

So, yes, your mentors need not necessarily be a parent or a teacher or a friend.

Mentors, or authority holders in general, are sometimes misunderstood by the students. Do you agree with this? Are there any incidences that come to your mind when you try to comply with this statement?

Yes, I do have experience regarding this. I recall a particular incident during my tenure at SWC. As you are familiar, there is a lot of student politics in the SWC. A student from environmental science was a bit of a hardliner. He mistook the suggestions I gave him and even threatened me. I was also a bit dissatisfied, but I didn’t lose my composure. I simply told him that he would not understand the things I am saying but, in the future, once he gains the experience, he will subscribe to what I was talking about then. Not so long ago, I met him in a forum and he was apologetic about that incident.

I don’t have these kinds of experiences with students of mechanical engineering because they are like junior colleagues and friends to me. As a teacher, there will be some disagreements. Sometimes, I might be hard on them, some other times a student might argue with me. These are part of the learning and mentorship process. I normally don’t even remember these arguments let alone hold a grudge against any students.





COVID-19 Pandemic and Its Impact on Working Women

– Dr. Rajani Shakya

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused catastrophe all over the world. It has flipped over lives of several millions of people. It has badly affected economies, and brought our hectic daily lives to a standstill. COVID-19 pandemic is not just a health issue but an unanticipated shock to our societies. Although we are yet to experience its full impact and aftermath, this worldwide threat has already created large uncertainties among all of us.

The Government of Nepal imposed strict lockdown on March 24. Before this pandemic, we were all pretty much occupied in our regular academic activities and many more. But for the last several months, we have been staying at home around the clock with families. It’s a life time experience which none of us have ever made. With the fast-paced life we had hardly got enough time previously to spend with our families. This period has given us the deprived family time generously and brought family members closer.

Practice of working from home has advanced during the pandemic. This is a good practice, especially for women who find difficulty getting out of home for work due to various family obligations. One can get improved work-life balance and can take proper care of kids. This shift to working from home gives women much flexibility to their work. Continuing such practice in universities is not appropriate every time but wherever possible depending upon nature of work, if it could be practiced, it could make life much easier for women staffs. And if you work sincerely, come out with desired results, then it doesn’t matter whether you work from office or home.

This lockdown in an overnight has made every working woman a full-time mother, cook, cleaner, caregiver and many more as family demands. House-helps are also unavailable during this time due to travel restrictions. It has now been more than six months but we, working women, are still struggling to establish a balance in the shared responsibilities. We are heavily juggling professional duties and domestic tasks. Earlier, we used to reach home at around 6:00 pm from office, then we entered the kitchen for the next job awaiting us. We could focus and plan very clearly what to do next at each of these workstations. Suddenly the boundaries that demarcate workplace from home are lost. In these days we are multitasking; we are in the kitchen and also in a meeting; sometimes helping kids with their homework and also checking students’ assignments at the same time. Home schooling has been added to our daily chores list at home. There is no leisure time to think and plan what to do next.

Indubitably, making balance between family responsibility and professional responsibility is very essential. Most of us may be lucky enough to get family support so that continuing work from home is possible. Still there are interruptions now and then, especially if you have small kids at home, and it may be hard getting the same result as being physically present there at the workplace. As it sounds easy, it is not simple to be a work-from-home mom. Though work-from-home concept gives women flexibility of the timing of work but many of us may find it even harder. In our male-dominated society, taking care of kids, other family members and home is considered a responsibility primarily of women. Over here many of us still live in larger joint families, so we also do have responsibility to take care of elderly family members. All these impose additional obligations on women, even when both women and their spouses are working from home during the lockdown. We can find many women who have reduced their duty hours or even left their jobs simply because they have to accomplish all their household chores, and look after their children. We could still find a deep rooted patriarchy in our society.

Even in modern families there are gender disparity to some extent. From the very beginning women are considered as a  homemakers and mothers and men as primary wage earners.  This mentality hasn’t changed much even today. We still find lack of support system for women. In many occasions their occupancy in domestic tasks may conflict with career demands which lead to women delaying their up-gradation in higher positions. We can find increasing number of working women now a days. But advancement of women in higher authority positions or decision making position has not kept pace with this rise in number. In our workplace most of us are competing with men who have to do far less at home. It’s not that there are exceptions, but in majority of households, it’s the women who find difficulty managing time for their professional growth. In academia also a dip in productivity of women has been reported across the globe. In this pandemic it’s reported that the number of publications from male authors is growing faster than the number of female authors. So, it’s the problem not only of this country. It seems that globally women are lagging behind to some extent during this period.

Having said this we also can seem lots of female health care professionals; doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other doing outstanding work during this difficulty time as a frontline responders. They have left their family back at home, stayed whole day and night at hospitals for caring sick patients. Their sacrifices are extremely appreciable and remarkable. In the amidst of the coronavirus pandemic we have seen that nations led by women have been more successful at containing this disease.

There are lots of obstacles in the way up for women in our society. Getting higher education, coming out of home for career, achieving success one has dreamt is still not so easy for women in our region. But one she gets an opportunity she can show that she is no less than the male counterpart. Being incredibly resilient and task-focused a woman can make significant impact and lead to success of any institution or even a country.

[Dr. Shakya is Associate Professor and Head at the Department of Pharmacy]



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