Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Beyond Books

For most Nepali people school is merely a means to bookish knowledge, but the teaching-learning process that takes in a modern day school goes way beyond just books. The role of a school is not simply to develop children’s literacy and numeracy skills; the primary function of schools is to prepare their students for life after the classroom. I can relate this to the “sleepover” programme organised by my son’s school in Australia.

During their time in either the third or the fourth grade, students of the school were invited to a sleepover programme that the school organised within its premises. Many Asian parents were hesitant to send their children there; more so if they had a daughter. I was curious about whether or not my son could spend time away from his parents, even if that only meant a single night, and at the same time I wanted to learn about the purpose behind the event, so I sent him off. 

This “sleepover” turned out to have a lot of hidden meaning. The school wanted to teach students some ‘risk taking’, i.e. to make students more confident, fearless and independent. The school principal clarified, “If we always remain in our comfort zone (family periphery) we may not learn those skills which we need in our later life.” 

Yes, it was a wonderful experience for my son. He spent a good time with his friends from different cultural backgrounds; I am sure they must have exchanged information related to their culture which would help to expand their horizon. In addition, he learned dishwashing, making bed and packing it up. From observing the school’s circumstances I realised that “schooling” has a broad perspective. Children do not go to school only to gain knowledge but they learn various sorts of life skills. It is absolutely true that knowledge is for life – a long term educational goal. 

On the contrary, when I look back to our context, the scenario seems different. In Nepal, students go to school to gain knowledge; and that knowledge is for knowledge’s sake, not for life’s sake. Although the curriculum has emphasised life long goals of education; in practice this has hardly been realised. 

The sleepover is just an example. There are so many other activities which schools can organise to provide students with broader learning experiences. There is a trend of educational tours in Nepali schools as well but they are limited only to “tours.” They are more for fun, and the “educational” portion of the term is often forgotten altogether. The purpose of such tours has not been clearly identified. If students were given some tasks to complete after visiting the places the educational tours would perhaps hold greater value. 

In fact, there is a very limited learning environment within a formal school setting; children can learn a tremendous amount of things from the outer world. Therefore, they must be given opportunities to go outside and explore the world. However, the outdoor activities should not be purposeless – just go out, hang around with friends, have fun, come back and forget everything after some days. Such activities should always be able to challenge students’ thinking process; students should be able to reflect on their world experiences. One way to do this is to assign them a project to complete. Then, they can have fun while achieving something towards fulfilling their life-long educational goals.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, March 2, 2018 
 [The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Nepali Time

Everybody talks about the importance of time and punctuality but in the context of Nepal people are hardly ever punctual. Whether it is a workplace or somewhere else it is a tradition to be late and say, "Nepali time." This may indicate punctuality is largely related to culture; it seems like there is an unspoken agreement among Nepali people to not follow punctuality. Therefore, if you ask someone to see you at 10:00 am for instance, the person will appear at 10:30 am by the earliest. You should not be surprised when a meeting begins at 3:00 pm which was supposed to commence at 2:00 pm.
There are, however, exceptions too; particularly in private organizations being late is not a common practice. A handful of people are still available who hate to be not punctual and such people are treated like aliens.

I am someone who has high regard for punctuality. Even if I know nothing happens in time in Nepal I cannot help but be on time and irritate myself with long waits. Whenever I am in a decision making position the first thing I demand from my team members is punctuality.

There are numerous reasons behind people failing to be punctual. Whatever they say, their lateness shows that they are unreliable and cannot respect others' time and efforts.
Quite recently, I read an article which listed a number of drawbacks to being late. One such drawback was the fact that a lack of punctuality does not make one an important or special person. It is acceptable and unavoidable to be late once or twice but being late consistently makes people unreliable as mentioned above. It does not show you value other people. Being late consistently implies you are rude and lack all consideration and respect for others as well as for the commitment you made.
If you make a commitment to do something at a certain time then you should stick to this, otherwise why be in a false position? We have invited many things from the Westerners in our lifestyles, for example, the way we celebrate birthdays has changed; we have started to observe  Christmas, Easter and Halloween. We do not hesitate to celebrate New Year twice a year. Then, why can't we learn the simple practice of punctuality from them?

We may think that by being late to an appointment we add value to ourselves, which is quite a misconception. In a modern society, people have busy lifestyles. They have set plans to do different things on a daily basis and they do not want to jeopardise their schedules to deal with your tardiness.
Punctuality is one of your significant personality traits which demonstrates you are a well-disciplined, reliable, trustworthy and committed person, who does only not respect their own time but others' as well. Next time, when you need to see someone at a certain time don't be late with the lame excuse of "Nepali time." 
(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018 

 [The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Educate the Parents

Parents have a significant role in their children’s learning particularly in early years. Therefore, it is said that home is their first school and parents are their first teachers. It is a place where they start to realise the importance of learning. For this, parents can do a lot of things together with their children. For instance, they can explore nature together, read together, cook together, and count together. They can set an example by showing children good manners and appropriate social behaviour. In fact, they support children to learn with everyday life experiences so that the latter should be curious towards learning.

Of course, the parents’ education level determines how they define learning, although some sort of social pressure is usually involved, too. Unfortunately, the community where I have been working currently has a majority of parents who have limited education and their definition of “learning” is also restricted within learning alphabet, numbers and homework alone at children’s very early learning stages.

It has hardly been three weeks since they first sent their three year olds to school and yet they are already demanding that their children should be able to do the things mentioned above. Let’s take a couple of examples.
One parent whose child has not developed her speaking skill fully comes to me and says, “Ma’am, my daughter does not have enough homework; I want her to learn A, B, C…quickly.” For her, homework means writing. The poor girl is learning to speak and the mother wants her to write A, B, C…and 1, 2, 3…Another counter argues, “My daughter knows A, B, C, 1, 2, 3 and all nursery rhymes and even some writing,” to my statement, “She is very young, so do not pressure her; let her learn at her own pace.” 

In contrast to parents’ opinions, my observation indicates that these children are learning many things after coming to school. Some examples include: to greet their teachers and friends; to wash their hands before and after eating their meals; to go to the toilet independently; to take off their shoes before entering their classroom; to follow their daily school schedule; to make friends and many more. They all have also been exposed to literacy and numeracy which they have been learning according to their individual learning capacity. Unfortunately, parents do not seem to notice their children’s development in other aspects except for in reciting the alphabet, numbers or nursery rhymes. 

Research suggests that if parents positively involve themselves in their children’s learning, the latter’s achievement level will be higher in comparison to those children whose parents do not do so. It is high time the parents were educated about what learning means in the contemporary world and how children gradually develop their learning abilities and how these abilities differ from each other. They should be discouraged to compare their child with his classmates. If parents are not aware of their role to help their children to flourish in different sectors, it will be hard for children to explore their potential to the fullest. Rote learning alone is simply not good enough for survival in the 21st century.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018 
 [The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]