Research-oriented education the ‘need of the hour’

2018-02-25

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A two-day international conference identifies evidence-based and research-oriented teaching and learning as the way forward as the country’s education system transitions into a federal set up

On the second day of the international conference, Quality Education in Federal Nepal, several experts expressed concerns regarding the current education system in Nepal, and a lack of evidence-based and research-oriented teaching and learning was identified to be one of the primary causes of the "crisis in Nepali education". Organized by the Higher Institutions and Secondary Schools' Association Nepal (HISSAN), for the first time in their institutional history of 22 years. the international conference brought together education experts, school and college operators, and promoters at a single venue to discuss the prospects and challenges of the Nepali education system as it gears up to decentralize into a federal set up.

The first speaker for the day, Professor Steve Tee, from Bournemouth University, UK, emphasized the need for technology-enhanced teaching/ learning processes and said that a globalized world requires educational institutions to "recognize students as consumers." Whereas, Professor Pramod Bahadur Shrestha, presenting a paper on technical and vocational education, criticized the attempt to commodity education and urged the need to "reintroduce humanities into the technical fields." Shrestha argued that it is vital for medical students, for instance, to also pursue philosophy because "a doctor is not just treating a disease, s/he is treating a human being. The gap between procedure and patient is very wide and needs to be filled."

Another speaker, Dr. Ramesh K Adhikari, shared the dilemma of being a medical teacher. "In Nepal, a single person is a teacher, researcher and a medical practitioner. There must be a clear demarcation of the roles and a space has to be created for different roles because a good researcher does not necessarily make a good teacher"

Similarly, Dr. Radhe Shyam Pradhan, a Professor at Tribhuvan University speaking on the state of management education, pointed out that Nepal's management studies is sub-standard because "it isn't rooted in research." He also suggested that despite the fact that commerce education has shifted from being an alternative to becoming the preferential choice for many it still lacks local management case studies, which hampers a student's ability to grasp important concepts. He, along with all the other speakers, echoed that lecture-based teaching is ineffective as it does not encourage critical thinking among students.

 In a similar vein, Professor Edwin Van Teijlingen, who has worked in Nepal for the past 10 years in various capacities, said that data from the last decade shows that teaching and learning in medical schools is not research driven. "Only 47% of the teachers in medical schools have con-ducted research," Teijlingen said, "The ratio of male-female researchers is also highly disproportionate. That needs to be addressed immediately if the education system is to be inclusive." Similarly, other presenters spoke for 15 minutes each, outlining the areas of potential and concerns in the education system. After each speaker, the floor was open for a question-answer session, which saw enthusiastic participation. One audience member said that one of the problems with the education sector is the lack of an ethical value system, as a way of asking his question to a speaker "How do you change the mindset of parents who force their children to study medicine solely because of the financial prospects attached to it?"

One of the participating audience member, Moti Ram Phuyal, the promoter of Kutumba College, Boudha, welcomed the organizers bringing so many experts under the same roof, "However, they crammed so many presentations in so little time," Phuyal shared, "As a result, the speakers only managed to scratch the surface before their time was up. There has been a lot of diagnosis and limited attempts to analyzing a solution and a future path. Nonetheless, the contrast made by the international speakers was very helpful. Hopefully HISSAN will provide more space for in-depth conversations in the future."

The two-day conference saw 300 educators attend a packed roster of 46 different presentations by Nepali and international education experts. The first day of the conference saw speakers in the likes of Dr. Bhagwan Koirala, professor of surgery at Institute of Medicine; Yubraj Sangroula, the principal of Kathmandu School of Law; Bidya Nath Koirala, from the Central Department of Education, TU; and Dr Katak Malla, a Swedish educator of Nepali origin, share their views regarding the challenges and opportunities for the Nepali education system. On the first day the papers presented in the conference, along with the discussions, identified the need to make room for variations in the educational model, while preserving national unity as one of the primary challenges as the country steps into the federal set up. Experts also wrestled with various ideas that could expand the private-public partnership in the education system in the country.


The Kathmandu Post