In order to bring the desired change in the delivery system of school education, there is enormous amount of task in front of the planners at the top to the school managers and the classroom teacher at the bottom. For a country like ours, the task is challenging to say the least. Government resources and the machinery have multifaceted tasks to take into consideration and setting the priority is not easy.
There is an urgent need to educate nearly 46 per cent of the population. Then the supply of trained teachers across the schools of the country is also a Herculean task. Social inclusion, equity, gender and a child’s right to education are tasks to be completed in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) and EFA (Education for All) by the year 2015. The issues of quality and supply of manpower for development plans, among others, are the dream agenda for the mainstream public education system in Nepal.
But the other stream - the private - is committed to working in these areas, and there are visible signs of success, however limited they might be. Compared to the government or the mainstream education system, the private stream has more articulated goals and objectives, missions and mechanisms. The issue in question is that it caters to a much smaller percentage of the population nationwide.
A timely event
Early this month, the House of Rajkarnicar, in collaboration with four national and international organisations - Kathmandu University, BELMAS (British Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society), PABSON and HISSAN - organised a three-day training seminar entitled "Governance and Management of Educational Institutions" in Kathmandu. The seminar had three prominent leaders - all head teachers in UK schools - as facilitators and key speakers, and several Nepali scholars, educationists, ministry officials, professors and executives as local experts.
The participants were school/college principals, directors, chairpersons and other high-ranking school officials, numbering more than seventy. The themes of the papers ranged from curricula and delivery, quality control and assurance to regulatory provisions to organisational structure, human resource management to labour relations. The British speakers were active members of BELMAS, an umbrella organisation of schools in Britain and a British version of HISSAN and/or PABSON of Nepal.
The Nepali speakers came from different management backgrounds - government, private enterprises and independent work. The British experience in the field of management and leadership in school education was the driving force behind the training and discussion sessions.
The speakers emphasised on the need to update the skills of the teachers. "If you don’t, you are not teaching, you are cheating," said Sanjit Subba, one of the speakers. He laid emphasis on the need to make the teaching and learning environment conducive so as to ensure quality in education and added that only value added teaching can change the teaching and learning environment.
He also urged the participating leaders to prepare a school development plan as a blueprint to achieve the goals set by the school and involve the local population to form school support groups. This was not only valid but also a statement with meaning and significance at a time when we are seeking inclusion in the class and in the management of schools.
Child as focus
The child sitting in front of the teacher in the class was one of the central themes in the seminar. Every child has potential to excel, to contribute significantly in the class. We always want a ‘motivated’ child. In fact, it is the teacher, equipped with available resources, who needs to be equally ‘motivated’ to impart what he or she has in the resource kit.
In our context, now the private sector is coming up with focus on this reality. Yet, there are a lot of other issues associated with this theme. The school can succeed only if a child-centred learning environment is promoted. Even in the private schools, we often hear about physical punishment, other abuses and mismanagement of all kinds. This training seminar gave new insight in this regard. Those who participated in this have the responsibility to disseminate the major outcomes of the event.
The British experts were clear and concerned about the ‘curricula’ to be used in the classrooms. A curriculum is the blueprint for any level of education to be imparted to the student. In Nepal, it is issued by the government or an authorised institution as a ‘constitution’ of the country. Therefore, there is little the teacher can do in terms of modification, manipulation and change. More importantly, the teacher or the school is not involved in the process.
In Britain, on the other hand, it is the student who is the focus whose needs are addressed individually in the curricula. It can be and should be developed to tailor the needs of the students to steer them through their career needs, to shape their overall personality.
David Williams, one of the experts, emphasised on the need to address student ambition, look into his welfare, focus on his capability, and ensure these features as important aspects of what David termed as ‘school culture.’ The final mantra he said was that every child matters.
The message was clear - a class may have variation in ambition, student capability and student needs. Thus a readymade, rigid and concrete ‘delivery package’ may not work for all. Individual catering is the need of our time. Self esteem and self respect are key factors in a learning situation, and there should be no ceiling and/or limit on children’s learning capacity. David mentioned and argued that only a conducive and creative learning environment could develop ‘leadership’.
Jane Black, the head teacher of Roseland Community College, UK, spoke on strategy in the classroom where the teacher has to create an environment to let all the children speak but give the first opportunity to those who are shy. Making them leaders is the challenge of the teacher, and only a teacher can change the nature of the students participating actively in the class. A clear-cut behaviour policy is what the school has to adopt and implement, Jane noted.
In all, the three-day training seminar made its mark on the participants. Most importantly, the UK-based trainers not only shared their experience with their Nepali counterparts but also showed their willingness to cooperate and contribute in the future. This was very happily taken by the participants.
HE the British Ambassador, who distributed the Certificate of Achievement, expressed his satisfaction on the contribution of BELMAS and the experts.