Many educationists always talk of a “good school”, or a “model school”, but what exactly does a “good school” mean?
In many parts of the world, schools have turned out to be a lucrative business, and many people have left their jobs to start one. This has resulted in the privatization of one basic right of the child: the right to education. This has left the children of low income earners and the poor in government schools, while private schools have become a reserve for the rich. Not all are in it for the money, as some go out of their way to make their institutions exemplary in terms of quality. For the latter, the question that follows is, “what is quality education?” and “what is a good school?”
Recently, there was a conference on “Quality Education in the Classroom”, courtesy of the government of Nepal, Department of Education and Rato Bangala Foundation in conjunction with civil society. The International Conference, the first of its kind in Nepal, brought together scholars from far and wide to demystify this buzzword “quality”, and how it can be made a reality in classrooms. The conference culminated in the “Kathmandu Commitment on Quality Education”.
Going back to the subject in question, every school wants to shine and be in the lead when it comes to providing quality education. However, this has been far from reality owing to a number of factors, e.g. low motivation, inadequate teaching-learning and financial resources, and overemphasis on scores. As an educator with a specialization in Early Childhood Learning working for VSO Nepal in Myagdi, I can attest to the fact that quality needs us to do more than what we are doing. I strongly believe in investing in the early years as a foundation for future learning. The reason we are not getting “there” is because there is inadequate investment in Early Childhood Education. The situation is dire and something needs to be done.
At the school level, there are three key stakeholders: teachers, parents, and students.
“A teacher affects eternity,” it is said, and therefore, teachers should be given consideration as we push forward to more meaningful learning. A teacher should be someone who is committed, passionate about his/her work, and has the best interests of the child at heart. A teacher should see the child as who s/he truly is, and look beyond race, ethnicity, caste, religious background, socio-economic status, size, and even gender. A teacher should nurture children’s inborn abilities and talents by providing a rich, stimulating environment that allows children’s potential to blossom and flourish.
It is not a question of covering the topic of the day, rather it’s about a holistic approach where children, during their stay in school and classrooms, are provided with opportunities to understand and develop themselves emotionally, socially, mentally, and language-wise, among other ways. This calls for individuals whose motivation goes beyond monetary gain. Teachers must be focused on building a stronger society by producing useful citizens with a myriad of skills who are capable of contributing positively to the health of the nation.
Secondly, it is high time parents were sensitized towards their key role in the process of teaching and learning. Their duties go beyond sending their children to school; they also need to contribute to decision making and extending support to further learning at home.
At the center of all this is the child, who has a young mind and is curious and creative, and who comes to school eager to explore and learn. Every morning I walk into school, I am moved by the willingness of these very able learners who, given the right environment and resources, can invent, create, discover and acquire knowledge by themselves. Knowledge acquired thus can turn out to be more permanent than what is acquired through textbook teaching. Through supportive parents, experienced, ambitious and motivated teachers, and visionary leadership, children can reach their full potential and access limitless opportunities.
A good school encourages children to think, invests in staff development, has classrooms which are a buzz of activity by both the teachers and students (classrooms as workshops for learning), inculcates the value of independent learning where students initiate and take charge of their own learning, displays children’s work in the classrooms, has classrooms with resources displayed and readily available for use by the learners, has resources made by both the teacher and students, and last but not least, shapes the character of learners.
This, with the government living its promise of “schools as zones of peace” will see Nepal scale to higher heights beyond the norm of rote learning.
The author is a Basic Education Volunteer, working for VSO Nepal in Myagdi