Abolish Private Education? [Republica Respost]

Published Jan. 2, 2019

To truly counter arguments about abolishing it, private sector education must rethink its socioeconomic roles in the new national context, creating robust models of faculty development.

The private sector in Nepal’s education has always been controversial, including in national policy discourse. A currently hot-button topic is whether it should even exist or if it should be gradually abolished.

In response, instead of focusing on what to do about problems undergirding the “attack” on its existence, its leaders tend to go on counter-attack, offering no substantive social vision.

Public education is criticized as well, its sustainability questioned as often. “TU is dead,” said the title of an article some time ago here. “Unacademic activities of academics,” said that of another one, in Nepali, mixing up facts and accusations in the essay. Continue reading

Of “Course”

When we take a course, as we do while traveling or for getting an education, we expect to move along a linear path, with milestones along the way, to a certain goal of experience or learning. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a course, as someone pointed out while I was doing a presentation at the Consortium on Graduate Communication summer institute at George Mason University recently. I was presenting on a modularized and student-centered graduate writing course (the subject of this post), and a colleague said: “No, this is not a course! It is essentially an online writing lab!” I think the lack of structure, especially a linear structure and control by the teacher, prompted her to say so.

A course, as a path, or as a curricular/pedagogical framing, occupies space (physical in the case of travel and intellectual and social in the case of education). But, more significantly, the expectation of linearity, of following a certain order of actions or goals, makes temporality override the spatial dimension of a course. It is not going through/over certain points in any order that makes it a course: it is the particular sequence of the points, the linear design, the timed nature, that gives it structure and certainty. There are the scope/coverage and associated goals, but they are bound in time, and the instructor uses deadlines to help/force students to cover that scope, to achieve the goals that he or she has set for them.

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Expats and Experts [Republica Repost]

Published Sept. 11, 2018

Diaspora scholars shouldn’t use criticism as a default position in scholarly conversations, especially if the larger objective is to develop better understanding of issues, create more opportunities for contribution, and foster relationships between scholars/institutions in and outside Nepal.

Earlier this summer, an august group of Nepali scholars from across North America had gathered in Toronto, Canada, for a conference focusing on higher education in Nepal. The presentations were diverse, the conversations rich, many stories about long-term commitment and significant achievements of Nepali scholars and experts quite inspiring to listen to. I was delighted to read positive reviews of the conference and profiles of diaspora experts in the days and weeks that followed. I cannot overstate the importance of networking and sharing of ideas among Nepali diaspora scholars in a major world region where there are some great universities. The diaspora Nepali community must be lauded for organizing such events. And I am excited to learn that more academically focused conferences are taking place among Nepali diaspora scholars, including conferences at home that bring local and outside experts together. Continue reading

Multilingual Monday [Republica Repost]

Published in Republica on February 21, 2019

Whether they start a Multilingual Tuesday program or one called Matribhasha Mangalbar, it is high time that private schools advanced multilingual competence among their students

A colleague who is the principal of a prestigious private school in Kathmandu called me recently to share good news. “We have now implemented a one-day-a-week multilingual policy in our school,” he said. “Our students are very excited, and so are we.” Another colleague, also a principal, said that he has convinced management and started communicating with parents about implementing what he prefers to call “Matribhasha Mangalbar”—or mother-tongue Tuesday.

It is high time that our private schools provided the resources, or at least began by creating the environment to honor the fundamental reality of our multilingual, multicultural society, to improve the quality of teaching and learning, and, most importantly, to prepare future generations for greater success in life and society. Deliberately promoting, if not systematically teaching, multiple languages has many benefits, as I will discuss in this essay.

Troubled roots

Private schools have historically viewed English (only) as a means of advancing “modern” education, creating “access” to knowledge of science and technology, contributing to Nepal’s entry into “global” economy, delivering “quality” education of or for the “elite” and so on. The idea of defining private schools by using English “only” for instruction in all subjects was, unfortunately, outdated in educational scholarship by the 1990s, exactly when Nepal’s private schools exploded in quantity, with a good number of them improving their quality as well and many others helping to increase access for the broader population.

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Welcome!

My name is Shyam Sharma, and this is my blogfolio.

Linked on top are pages about my work, and on right are links to some of my professional networks. Blog posts are below, starting with some of my favorite posts. I write about international education and students, new media in writing studies, cross-cultural rhetoric and communication, and critical pedagogy (which can be filtered by theme from the right). I will appreciate any comments/feedback on blog posts.

Thank you.

Shyam Sharma
Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director
Program in Writing and Rhetoric, Stony Brook University (State University of New York)
New York, USA, 11794


Recent book (Routledge)

Using qualitative data collected from more than twenty universities across the US, Writing Support for International Graduate Students describes and theorizes agency- and advocacy-driven practices, programs, and policies that are most effective in helping international students learn graduate-level writing and communication skills. It uses compelling narratives and cases to illustrate a variety of program models and support practices that fostered the students’ process of academic transition and success. Employing an ecological framework, the book seeks to advance academic conversation about how writing scholars/instructors and program administrators, as well as other academic service professionals working with this student body, can formulate policies, develop programs, and implement practices that best help these students grow as writers and scholars in their disciplines.

I share a few notes about the book here.

Helping International Students Transition and Succeed – I

This is a reblog of a post that I wrote for RhetComp@StonyBrook, a blog that I started and facilitated for a year (2013-14) for the Program in Writing in Rhetoric at my university.

Part I: The Big Picture

Moving from one academic context into another, including in the case of academic disciplines and even levels, can be challenging for any student. But transitioning from the educational culture of one country to that of another altogether can add a whole new set of difficulties. In this post, I would like to highlight how significantly difference in educational practices affect international students’ academic transition and success. Continue reading

Helping International Students Transition and Succeed – II

Part II: Specific Suggestions

In the first part of this post, I highlighted some general difficulties that international students face during their academic transition, focusing on the challenge of understanding/implementing new ideas, assumptions, and approaches about learning and teaching in a new academic system/culture. Originally written for writing instructors (but relevant for any professors), this follow up entry offers specific suggestions for helping int’l students with learning writing in particular and with their academic transition and success in general.

Here’s a 2-page .pdf version — feel free to share.

Encourage International Students to Learn about the Big Picture Continue reading

Dangling Degrees — [Republica Repost]

Published in The Republica on Jan. 25, 2018.

“I am yet to make it,” said a scholar at a regional public university, referring to the doctoral dissertation he wanted to complete. “It’s very difficult to find time.” The word “banaune” in his sentence struck me because one doesn’t really sit down to somehow “make” a dissertation. It also reminded me of various recent conversations—and questions—about the “production” of scholars with advanced degrees, or dangling the “Dr.” title in front of their names, as many scholars themselves cite as the reason to get the degree.

Advanced degrees require extensive research, such as for the master’s and doctoral theses, and these projects demand extensive review of current and relevant knowledge in the discipline, intellectual positioning and proposition of new ideas on the topic of choice, collection and analysis of primary and/or secondary data, and problem-solving or theorization from the research. Some disciplines also require the presentation of new models or methods, designs or products, as modes of advancing new knowledge. As such, while graduate degrees are a means for advancing new knowledge, they also require institutions to provide their students and scholars the foundation of skills for problem-solving, presenting new ideas, and learning through experience and experimentation at the undergraduate level. Unfortunately, we have neither the foundation nor structure we need as yet. Continue reading

Scale what?

I was recently participating in a webinar about a MOOC-style first-year writing course, and a few words kept confusing me. Content. Delivery. Scale. . . .  Especially the last one stops me in my tracks.

SCALING?

When Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Edmund Hillary climbed Mt. Everest for the first time, they weren’t doing numbers. They were undertaking a superhuman challenge. It was a qualitative matter. It was a matter of inspiration. Making the impossible accessible. Showing that someone could actually do it. Redefining success. “Because it was there.” It, the mountain that had killed countless people for trying. They were scaling the un-scale-able.

“The real value add[ed] of higher education,” says Joshua Kim, writing on Inside HigherEd,  “cannot occur at web scale. It can only occur at human scale.” That scale occurs “where a skilled and passionate educator interacts directly with a student to guide and shape their learning.” As Kim adds, in an article meant to debunk myths and criticism of open, at-scale online education (not a critique of it), “[o]pen online courses at scale expose just how valuable, essential, and irreplaceable are our tight-knit learning communities. Never before has the teaching efforts of a gifted, knowledgeable and passionate instructor . . . been as valuable and as essential.” Online education at scale has to somehow find ways to substitute one-on-one and/or face-to-face human interaction, decreasing the time and attention given by an educator to learners who can ask questions, feel the presence. In a writing class, only some things can be scaled without fundamentally compromising learning. Continue reading

Some Notes on IGS Book

For any colleagues who can spare a few minutes about my first major field research-based book project, which is about how American universities support international graduate students with their academic transition and success, here are a few notes.

First, here is the brief blurb that I sent to the publisher:

Using qualitative data collected from more than twenty universities across the US, Writing Support for International Graduate Students describes and theorizes agency- and advocacy-driven practices, programs, and policies that are most effective in helping international students learn graduate-level writing and communication skills. It uses compelling narratives and cases to illustrate a variety of program models and support practices that fostered the students’ process of academic transition and success. Employing an ecological framework, the book seeks to advance academic conversation about how writing scholars/instructors and program administrators, as well as other academic service professionals working with this student body, can formulate policies, develop programs, and implement practices that best help these students grow as writers and scholars in their disciplines.

Here is a brief excerpt from proof copy.

Continue reading