Student Or Teacher?

2014-04-05

The Rising Nepal

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Fred Johnson, a resident of the Bay Area in Northern California, is not a school teacher by profession. But once he voluntarily joined the Kathmandu Vidya Kunja Secondary School at Tokha Road, Dhapasi area in Kathmandu as an elementary grade voluntary teacher for a few months, several queries haunted him from day one. A son of a schoolteacher but not a teacher by profession and interest, Fred knows at least some basics in terms of methodology, content and focus in school education in the US. Therefore, there were several valid reasons for Fred to be surprised in the way Nepali classrooms were conducted.

But as he wanted to get into the system a little bit and understand some basics of the Nepali school education system, the list of his queries only increased daily. One way to have some idea of the school education in Nepal was to first go to a classroom and follow the instruction to get used to the system. And he did just that. What surprised the guest teacher was that here in the Nepali classroom, it was the teacher who made all effort to prepare herself for the class the previous night and emptied all she had prepared the next morning in front of the students.

Fred is not alone and not incorrect to think that the Nepali classrooms show a different kind of learning environment where lessons are conducted, knowledge is imparted and the teacher is the leader as well as the main actor. No teacher in Fred’s opinion seemed to make any attempt to see how much of the ‘delivered’ package was taken by the students. Or, for that matter, students only ‘received’ whatever was ‘given’ in the class.

In the classroom where the teacher alone works hard, the students will be only prepared to receive and not give. This is the paradox of our school education. Motivation and creativity on the part of the students have a much less role to play.

Education - a two-way traffic

Theoretically, it is understood that education - formal, structurally imparted or informal or transmitted in the form of skill, information and a body of knowledge - has always been with human beings from the earliest phase of his existence as a sentient being responding to his needs and concerns. Even the Stone Age man would transmit his knowledge about his surroundings, the ways to remain protected, satisfy hunger and thirst to his child or the new generation. Classroom situations - inside the walls or outside - form the context where the learning environment is, and it is of utmost importance for the students at all levels of learning.

In Nepal, we still emphasise on ‘teaching’ than ‘learning’, that is, the role of the teacher is still a very important and prime factor. So the entire population on the other side of the board is supposed to ‘learn’ from the teacher, spell-bound, speechless and attentive to every word coming out of her mouth.

This system is still looming large in our classrooms and paying a heavy toll on the way to creating a conducive learning situation where the child finds enough opportunity to participate, develop hisher creativity and contribute to the classroom environment.

The sixth goal of the EFA (Education for All) programme is to have equal access to useful education for life. This also means ‘improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognised and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numerical and essential life skills.’

Therefore the system expects education providers at all levels to use all available means to improve the quality of education, and for this to happen, focussing on the student is the only way to achieve the goal set by the EFA.

In Nepal, the government and the founding fathers of school education back in the 1950s saw the importance of teacher training. The College of Education was formed to train all the teachers of the country. In fact, this institution was even senior to the first university of the country, the Tribhuvan University. Later it became an integral part of the TU umbrella.

The irony of the situation is that proper, timely tuned and universally available training packages are still in short supply. In the 32,000-plus schools of the country, there still are a large number of untrained teachers working in the public schools. The government’s main focus is not on improving the curricula, text and performance but on making more children literate and see to it that those enrolled complete the grade and level.

The private sector

Nepal has seen another phenomenal development in the education sector - the fast mushrooming of private schools, mostly in urban, semi-urban areas in the hill and terai regions. The government has only one major responsibility for this sector - register them once they fulfill the few basic requirements and let them go scot-free in terms of management, delivery capacity and outcome.

However, the private sector contributes significantly by providing quality education to those who can afford it. For example, if the SLC examinations were conducted by two separate boards - the public and the private sectors, the outcome would be completely different than what it is today. This is because students attending a very modern and well-equipped and manned private school of Kathmandu and those from a public high school of say, from a remote village of Humla, give the same examination. This is unfortunate.

Despite the excellent performance of the private sector, there is no effective training programme for the teachers of this sector. Therefore, even here there is no guarantee that the student becomes the central focus in the classroom.

STUDENT OR TEACHER PART II

Article Courtesy: Rising Nepal