There was a time when parents and their community played a very significant role in managing school education. These folks prepared the mud-mortar and broken stones for the wall, cut and carried the bamboo, collected hay for roofing, and within a few days or weeks, there was a neat school building on the top or in the middle of the village. In many cases, this was how the people saw the importance of education in the post-Rana period, and they did their best to bring school education to their village premises at any cost.
Then came the National Education System Plan, and with it the highly respected National Education Committee (NEC) in 1972. Many people saw NESP and NEC as two very close playmates of the partyless Panchayat system and did not want them to govern education. Whatever the political reason to dislike NESP or, for that matter NEC, the other valid reason behind the popular dissatisfaction was because the new education plan had totally neglected the role of the village elders, the founding fathers in the management of school education.
This satisfaction carried weight. In fact, it was not possible for the government to take charge and ignore the role of the locals at the local level. In more recent times, the government has partially given the role of the community back to it for the management of the school at the local level. This applies to the public sector, but as far as the private sector is concerned, the government has virtually let the management go scot-free. Hence, the private schools have to manage the participation of the parents and community in their own way.
Dividing the child
Last Saturday, Pyramid International School, Gaushala, organised a very relevant interaction workshop in Kathmandu. The theme of the workshop was: School Education and Parents: Defining the Roles and Relationships. This scribe found the session especially important, given the fact that the child today finds him/herself pulled and even torn between the two major socialising agents - home/family and school.
Obviously, the schoolchild today is a divided little human being. The big question, thus, is: How can s/he feel comfortable living this divided life and make the desired progress in pursuit of a full-fledged personality?
The main highlight of the Pyramid programme was the keynote speeches by Prof. Subarna Lal Bajracharya of TU and Gyani Yadav, former District Education Officer, Kathmandu, and now Joint Secretary, Ministry of Education of the Government of Nepal. Prof.
Bajracharya emphasised on the need to have a stronger school-parent relation and saw the individual families sending their charges to school as representatives of the community. The parents and families, he said, need to understand the nature and philosophy of the school of their choice, and when settled for enrollment, they need to cooperate fully with the school so that the child receives the kind of education the parents want and the society needs.
Yadav outlined the need for the schools and families to come closer functionally and keep the bond stronger. Many private schools, he said, see the financial aspects as being very important, and they make progress on this side. Yet other schools, he added, seem to focus on the physical as well as mental growth of the child and, therefore, parents can find such institutions useful for the overall growth of the child.
Speaking from the parents’ side, Ambika Basnet compared school education in places like Kathmandu, the capital, with Jumla, her native district. Education in a remote Nepal village in the past was not only expensive, symbolising luxury, it was virtually an alien concept as far as the girl child was concerned. The parents, Basnet emphasised, have a very important role to play in the process of educating the child. Similarly, she also suggested that private schools needed to understand the need and aspiration of the family and community.
Chiranjibi Pokhrel, also a parent, wanted the private schools of Kathmandu to keep their doors widely open not only for the ‘rich’ and lucky families but also to the ‘other, more have-nots section of the population’.
The important highlight of the parents-school relation seminar of the day was the focus on the psychological aspect of the relation, with special attention paid to the child. Sandesh Dhakal, the Director of Pyramid, outlined the major tasks the parents and school needed to perform together, in the spirit of collaboration. The child must be the focus of both the socialising agencies - the school and the families - he said and added, virtually the child spends 50/50 per cent of his/her active time in these agencies.
The MD of Pyramid, Diwas Shakya, outlined the need to study the child’s capacity, performance level, interest and attitudes in order to make him/her a person of quality.
"We do not propose to produce graduates to leave Nepal and go outside the country for employment, for any kind of job that is out there, but we want our children filled with nationalistic feeling, love for the family and the nation," he said.
In all, when schools - private or public - make sustainable and vision-oriented programmes to involve and integrate the parents’ community with the school system, the end result will definitely be something highly desirable. The private school must see that the parents are unhappy with the public school system because of too much politicisation, lack of quality, disturbed academic calendar and an insecure future of the child.
Defining the roles
Private schools are making efforts to satisfy the parents through quality education and producing good results. But there is a growing and urgent need to carefully define the role and relationship between the school and the community so that the child experiences the contribution of these two sectors in the development of her/his personality at this formative stage of physical and mental growth.
The philosophy of Pyramid could very will be an agenda for further discussion and adoption to develop a sustainable and functional relationship between the school and the community of parents.