Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Complaint Makers

Research suggests that children’s learning is aided by collaboration between the school and parents in order to educate them. Unfortunately, people in some communities in Nepal still believe that it is not their responsibility to work with their children’s school for the sake of the children’s welfare. They, instead, think the school should take sole responsibility for the training of their wards. Therefore, the parents are looking for opportunities to find faults in the school system all the time. 

It, of course, is a parental right to make complaints if they are not satisfied with any of the programmes that the school runs; some of their complaints can absolutely be genuine for the school’s further improvement. However, one does not deny the fact that there is a group of parents who love to speak against the school incessantly in vain. I prefer to name this bunch a “chronic complainers.” 

There are many examples of nonsense complaints supplied by these chronic complainers that I have experienced and I can present some of them here.

Let me begin with a mother whose three-year old daughter has not developed her speaking skills to the same level as other children in her class. The mother enters the school furiously and blames teachers, “They have not taught my daughter to speak fluently!” This complaint stuns me. I try my best to convince her, “It entirely depends on individual children to develop speaking; some learn this skill early and some a little late and children’s spoken language (mother tongue) fully develops when they reach the age of five.” 

Even though she listens to me, by observing her facial expressions, I can sense that she is doubtful. She may be thinking, I guess, how come this happens! Other children at her girl’s age can speak and why not her daughter? The school must not be teaching appropriately to make her child speak fluently.

Another parent, whose child’s learning ability is quite slow, grumbles that she has changed her daughter’s school three times (please mind that the girl is just six years old) but teachers at all three schools are the same because they cannot teach her daughter properly. Changing schools time and again, the poor lady cannot understand that her daughter will learn gradually and at her own pace; instead she thinks it is the school’s duty to make her child a quick learner in the blink of an eye and that the school teachers are useless if they fail to make that happen.
The third parent comes to school complaining about the fact that he teaches his five year old son until 10 pm every night, yet the teachers cannot teach him correctly as he is unable to do his homework. This complaint makes me wonder why the father wants teachers to teach his son to do his homework if he himself is so dedicated to teaching his son. Can’t he see that the boy needs time to develop his academic skills?

What is more surprising is that it has not even been three months since their children have started school this session and the parents want them to be academically superb. In contrast, I can observe how hard these little ones are trying to fit into a completely new environment whilst trying to learn different things at the same time.

(Published in The Rising Nepal on Friday, June 22, 2018 under the title "Beyond Textbooks 
[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 ]

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

More than Textbooks

Even though the school curriculum in Nepal has emphasised the holistic approach to teaching, it has rarely been realised in practice. The holistic approach mainly covers children’s development in physical, mental, emotional, psychological, social, cultural and spiritual dimensions. This approach focuses on preparing students to meet any challenge that they may face in life and in their academic career. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, teachers must be able to integrate these aspects together.

If you observe any typical Nepali classroom, you can find a teacher focusing more on students’ academic excellence. I think it is a privilege for someone who gets the opportunity to observe the same thing in different contexts so that they can compare on the basis of firsthand experience. I am privileged to have had the opportunity to observe both the Nepali and Australian education systems closely. This has helped me explore differences between these systems. While talking about the holistic approach, an example from an Australian primary school may provide an insight into how this approach can be integrated into the school programme. This dates back to the time when my son was studying in Grade 5 at a state school in Victoria, Australia. I used to go to his school every day to pick him up. He used to share his school experience with me on the way to home. One day he was telling me about what he had learned at school. 

He informed me that Mrs. G., his teacher, taught them about physical and mental changes that the senior primary school students (Years 5 and 6) were going through. He said at this stage their mood is zigzagging, not quite a straight line like it used to be when they were younger due to their changing hormones. It is natural to get angry at this age and it is also natural to be unfocused on parents’ questions. He further added, sometimes, to be forgetful is all right as well. He was trying to justify that whatever he would do that I did not like, was not his fault, instead it was his stage that compelled him to do so. At his stage, swinging mood was normal but not to feel that way was absolutely abnormal. My son was in fact telling me about early teen-age psychology. After listening to him I asked, “What do children expect from the parents or how can parents support them?” He snapped, “You should not bother me if I look tired or stressed. Parents let their children deal with their tension themselves. If children need parents’ help they themselves approach parents; not vice versa. If we feel tense, we can release this tension by hitting the pillow or some soft surface.” 

I reckon this personal story is of high educational value. Students’ well-being is a part of the holistic approach to teaching and to let them know about their age-specific psychology is very important. This helps them to learn about themselves and to cope with the challenges they will face in their life whether it is academic or non-academic in nature.

Schools in Nepal hardly address such issues; they focus largely on teaching lessons contained within prescribed textbooks, which will prepare students to perform well in their examinations. However, academic proficiency is but one among a myriad of aspects when it comes to educating the young minds.

(Published in The Rising Nepal on Friday, June 8, 2018 under the title "Beyond Textbooks 
[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 ]

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Encountering Death

It happens when you least expect and no matter how old your loved one is, when they die you are always caught by surprise – I read this somewhere and I related quite strongly to this saying once again (the same happened two times before when I lost my parents within a time span of 15 months) a couple of weeks ago.
The day was as ordinary as the earlier ones and my mother-in-law was in a jolly mood. I chatted with her for nearly two hours that afternoon. Her health was also in a stable condition. Four months ago we had nearly lost her; but her strong willpower helped her to survive a massive heart attack at that time.
She had a lot of stories to share with us which were from different places in Nepal and Bhutan where she travelled with her family in search of a better life, particularly for her children.
Being a working woman, I could not afford to spend a lot of time at home but whenever possible I would sit with her to listen to her recounts and the very day she would leave us, we were oblivious about the upcoming death; we were simply going about our day and having fun with her.
It was half past ten at night and she did not feel so good; because of complications with her heart, she would usually get impatient during nights, so we failed to give other thoughts to her long cough; after half an hour she was no more. It was like a nightmare and I found it very hard to accept this reality. No matter how much I tried not to believe that my mother-in-law was not with us any longer I could not reverse this truth.
On the one hand I was shocked and on the other surprised. I had never experienced death so closely being physically present. What surprised me more was that death could come that easily. My mother-in-law was speaking and we, family members, had gathered around expecting her to get better soon but God had different plans for her. Secondly, normally I would not go near dead people; if I saw someone's funeral procession a kind of chill feeling would run throughout my body but my mother-in-law's lying body did not give me any such feelings. I went near to her, observed her peaceful face and even touched her. At that moment I realised that if you are emotionally attached to someone you do not hesitate to be with their dead body too.
My mother-in-law's sudden death made the statement, "Live like each day is the final day of your life," more real and meaningful. I started to think, "What would one do if he knew that he was going to die that very day?" Clearly, he would not keep ill feelings towards others. He would drop all negativities, such as anger, greed, jealousy, hatred and so on. His heart would be full of nothing but love. How wonderful it would be if we were free from all negative thoughts and feelings and would internalise peace, beauty and all the love available in this universe?
Is it possible? I would say, yes, of course. We all know that we will definitely die one day, if not today. So, why waste our precious time engaging in the things that we generally don't like or enjoy? 
(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, June 1, 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 ]