LUMEN Issue 22 - December 2021 | Page 26



Journey across Faith , Service and Community

The SJI-HES Professional Development Project

When SJI was first introduced to Himalayan English School ( HES ), the latter was known as the school with no postal code . Situated in the high altitude mountain area of Rasuwa that borders the Tibetan plains , HES , in the remote hamlet of Thambuchet , is a community school with a mission . With a staff of 10 Teachers ( including the Headmaster ), HES supports the learning aspirations of the Tamang Tribe ; an indigenous community that depends on subsistence farming and odd-jobs for a living .

It took SJI six months to establish a constant line of communication with HES . With limited or no internet connection , HES , in the first half of 2021 , was struggling with the aftermath of COVID- 19 , amidst the many challenges brought about by a landslide in Thambuchet . Plans were sketched through WhatsApp . Hopes were nurtured through emails whenever HES had access to the internet . Ideas about professional development were strengthened through trips to the ASEAN Regional English Language Centre , a bus-ride away from SJI ’ s campus at Malcolm Road . There were moments of doubts and nervousness about the outcomes of such a project during this time of uncertainty . Yet , pictures and videos of Tamang Children making the two-hour bare-footed journey to school in inclement weather and rough terrain gave the SJI team the faith to carry on . By the end of June , SJI , with advice from retired academics from Singapore ’ s National Institute of Education ( NIE ), developed the following module for HES English Educators :

Teaching Reading through Task-Based Learning Benchmarked against Reading Education modules taught in global institutions such as Teachers College , Columbia University and Institute of Education , University College London , SJI ensured its Professional Development module would encourage Nepali Educators to explore new ways of integrating tasks while developing reading skills . A ‘ Letter of Intent ’ was signed by the Principal of SJI , Fr ( Dr ) Adrian Danker and Headmaster of the HES , Mr . Balkrishna Shrestha on 21 July . After an online orientation session a week later , HES Educators began work on the aforementioned module . With no opportunity for the SJI Team to conduct the module at HES , HES Teachers used Zoom and WhatsApp to learn , to interact , to aspire . Be it on the roof of the School or huddled together in front of a battered laptop struggling to court limited telecommunication signals , HES English Teachers , rejecting any offer from SJI to pay for data banks , persevered to make the best of this module despite their numerous struggles .
Supported by a team comprising Mr Andrew Koh and Ms Elizabeth Mosbergen ( IBAM English ),
Mr Karl Lee ( FPAM , Director of Learning ) and Ms Felicia Chew ( FPAM , History ), the ‘ Teaching Reading through Task-Based Learning ’ module was conducted by Mr . Karthickeyen Govindaraj , a Senior Teacher who oversees the professional development of English Educators at SJI . Navigating through the module that lasted for two months , participants were introduced to a number of topics . Such topics included the ‘ Principles of Task-based Language Teaching Methodology ’, ‘ Assessment of Reading ’ and ‘ Designing of Reading Lessons ’. While laughter , chatter and intense interest about Reading Education defined each Zoom session , HES Participants did have their fair share of struggles . Not understanding critical terms , let alone battling with a poor facility in spoken English , the Tamang Teachers of HES were thrown into a world where pedagogy is seen as an informed science . There were occasions when HES Teachers would feel demoralized , questioning why English should matter to a tribe that struggles with Nepali in the first place , given how Tamang is the tribe ’ s lingua franca . Not all questions had the best answers . Yet , hope was sustained by reminding participants how English , as a global language , opens up numerous opportunities to the Tamang people . Moreover , participants slowly but steadily learnt how language learning can be nurtured through creativity , positive emotional experiences and an understanding of space . By the end of August , HES participants completed the study of six topics , apart from attending two workshops on multiliteracy practices . September was spent on completing an Inquiry Project where HES participants had to conduct and subsequently , video-record a task-based reading lesson they had conducted . The participants were supported by Teacher Mentors from SJI . Such interactions between HES Educators and SJI Educators allowed both mentors and mentees to understand how theory is translated into practice , with a focus on how task-based learning in the English classroom constantly evolves .
On 5 October , Mr . Balkrishna Shrestha , Mr . Bam Bahadur Shah , Ms . Manju Tamang and Mr . Tapendra Chunara graduated from the module . On the day of their graduation , Ms . Mosbergen did a presentation on Home-School literacy practices . Video recordings of participants ’ task-based lessons were played on Zoom for Educators and School Leaders from SJI , HES and NIE . When the E-Certificates were issued to participants , no one on Zoom would have missed the party-like jubilation at both SJI and HES ; only confetti and multicoloured balloons were missing from the festive-like atmosphere that defined the happy atmosphere in two schools , separated from each other thousands of miles away . Amidst speeches and teary eyes , SJI and HES bade farewell to each other , with the promise to work together again in 2022 .
As a Lasallian School , SJI continues to realise the dreams of Saint John Baptist de La Salle . As the School develops projects to support and develop educators in Asia , the lived experience enjoyed by both SJI and HES Educators is a reminder of how teachers are prime agents in the learning of a child . SJI ’ s Professional Development courses are contributions to the Singapore Teaching Practice . As Singapore continues to be a trend-setter in the field of Education , SJI will continue to develop teacher agency .
This page ( top ): A frontal view of Himalayan English School
This page ( bottom ): Children of the Tamang Tribe