ESP Project Leader Profile: Prithvi Shrestha

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

It is my privilege to be able to introduce to you Dr. Prithvi Shrestha, who has worked closely with the TESOL ESPIS over the years in his role as a leader of the IATEFL ESP Special Interest Group. In his profile, he shares information about a project in Bangladesh involving training for 80,000 English language teachers that has become a model for projects in Pakistan and India. Please see his bio below:

Dr Prithvi Shrestha is Senior Lecturer in English Language Teaching at the Open University UK. He served on the IATEFL ESP SIG committee as an editor for seven years and a Joint-Coordinator for three years (until April 2016). He designs and develops English for academic purposes (EAP) and ESP courses and materials for open and distance learners. He also produces teacher professional development materials for English language teachers who teach English as a second or foreign language (ESL/ EFL). All of these materials are technology-mediated (e.g., mobile phones). Dr Shrestha has been working in international development projects, the most recent being English in Action in Bangladesh and Teacher Education through School-based Support India (TESS-India) in India. He has led or co-led a number of research projects. Particularly, his projects have focused on EAP, ESP, academic writing, assessment and educational technologies. Currently, he is leading on an impact study of the IELTS test in Bangladesh and Nepal. He has published articles in international peer reviewed journals and recently edited an ESP/EAP book entitled Current Developments in English for Academic and Specific Purposes: Local Innovations and Global Perspectives (Garnet Education).

I would also like to add that I had the pleasure to work with Prithvi in his capacity as an editor when I submitted an article cowritten with Christopher Candlin to his ESP/EAP book above. For an illustration of my own conceptualization of leadership, be sure to check out the figure in that article.



Dr. Prithvi Shrestha
Open University UK

1) Define leadership in your own words.

As an ESP researcher and practitioner (and a former IATEFL ESP SIG Joint Coordinator), I see leadership as an ability to provide academic directions in ESP informed by research and good practices in the field at both local and international levels. It requires a number of skills and knowledge as stated by the ESP leaders on this blog. I do not want to repeat them. However, I would like to state a few that are key to the success of an ESP leader.

An effective ESP leader should be able to

  1. offer mentoring support to other members proactively,
  2. lead by example,
  3. create an environment of mutual trust,
  4. critically reflect on what has been achieved and what needs to be done to achieve the set goal,
  5. delegate tasks to others as needed,
  6. communicate regularly with all stakeholders to provide them with updates,
  7. learn from others, and
  8. take responsibility.

2) Tell me an ESP project success story. Focus on your communication as a leader in the project. How did you communicate with stakeholders to make that project successful?

I have led on a number of ESP projects in my own institution (The Open University, UK), IATEFL ESP SIG, and internationally. These projects had very distinct contexts and stakeholders. In this blog, I would like to share my experience of leading on an international project called English Language for Teachers (EL4T) which was seen as a model and followed in a number of other international projects.

EL4T as an ESP Project

EL4T was an ESP project implemented in Bangladesh and aimed at enhancing English language teachers’ language proficiency and pedagogical knowledge and skills. It was found that school English language teachers’ language proficiency was at A1 to A2 of the Common European Framework while the textbooks were up to the B1 level (EIA, 2009). In order to address this challenging situation, the English in Action project (£50m funded by DFID) was launched in 2008 and aimed to improve English language education in Bangladesh. Within the project, EL4T was launched to help teachers improve their language proficiency.

EL4T was designed by considering the English language textbooks used in schools, the specialist discourse they need to use, and the local contextual knowledge. The idea was to focus on speaking and listening skills by taking into account functional English language and structures and vocabulary of direct relevance to classroom teaching and the national textbook series, English for Today. Two sets of bilingual (Bangla and English) audio and print-based materials worth 120 hours in total for primary and secondary teachers were produced. The materials were developed to be used on low-tech mobile phones (Nokia C1) by uploading them to a secure digital (SD) card. At the time of writing this profile, the EL4T materials were distributed to about 80,000 English language teachers across Bangladesh through workshops. Given the ubiquitous presence of mobile phones in Bangladesh (Shrestha, 2012), the decision to use mobile phones as a technological tool was taken.

The project was international and involved multiple stakeholders. The materials were written by Bangladesh local experts under the guidance of the Open University UK academics. The project was managed by the EIA office in Dhaka. As an ESP expert, I had to be in constant communication with the local authors and the staff in the EIA office. Likewise, I had to liaise with local illustrators and audio recording artists to ensure that the quality and the content were not compromised and misinterpreted, especially when two languages, Bangla and English, were used in the materials. While working with the authors, it was essential to make them feel valued in the project given the potential power relationship issues and offer mentoring support. For this, I ensured that project aims were clearly explained and local knowledge incorporated into materials.

This working model has been followed in two other international projects: a British Council project in Pakistan and a teacher education project in India.

As Prithvi makes clear in his profile above, a key to the success of the project in Bangladesh was good communication.  I am also pleased to see that he provided an account of this success story in Shrestha (2012). As a researcher, I have been interested in Scollon’s (2001) nexus of practice and mediated discourse analysis. In this connection, Prithvi’s work seems to provide some very interesting sites of engagement.

Do you have questions or comments for Prithvi? Please post those below or contact him directly at his email above!

All the best,



EIA. (2009). An assessment of spoken English competence among school students, teachers and adults in Bangladesh. Dhaka: English in Action.

Scollon, R. (2001). Mediated discourse: The nexus of practice. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Shrestha, P. N. (2012). Teacher professional development using mobile technologies in a large-scale project: Lessons learned from Bangladesh. International Journal of Computer-Assisted Language Learning and Teaching, 2(4), 34–49.

About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (PhD in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is an associate professor in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career major) and has also been working in the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section (ESPIS), he has served as chair and English in occupational settings (EOS) representative, and he is currently the ESPIS community manager. He was also a member of the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) appointed by the board of directors. In addition, he has been a TESOL blogger in the area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). He has more than 30 years of professional experience working for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research on leadership communication (i.e., discourse) as a basis for leadership development was under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Christopher Candlin and Dr. Alan Jones.
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One Response to ESP Project Leader Profile: Prithvi Shrestha

  1. Khila Pokharel says:

    I assume the Bangladesh project can be replicated in many other developing countries like India and Pakistan with low-tech settings.

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