Monday, 30 April 2018

Shared Space

A pair of sparrows had really been causing troubles for me for about a month. My husband pulled down their nest several times with the hope that they would change their location. It must have been their nesting time and we hoped that they would go somewhere else if we got rid of their nest. But they did not budge and kept swishing around as if we were encroaching their space.
Just this morning, I felt pity on these creatures and suggested my husband to tie a sack underneath the nesting place so that the dust does not bother us. Ours is a kind of old design house consisting of wood, cement and corrugated roof. It was too bothersome when I moved to this house recently as we have to share this with pigeons, Indian mynah and sparrows. I was shocked to hear that even a snake was found in the ceiling a few years ago. 

My level of dissatisfaction reached breaking point when I saw the birds untiringly rebuilding their destructed nests. “Can’t they build their nests in a tree? So many trees are around here,” I asked my husband. “No,” was his reply. Some of the bird species are very close to humans and they want to build nests in houses, he explained. I pondered over the statement and concluded if these creatures are so close to humans, why I am angry over the system?

However, it is frustrating when the pigeons slip off the corrugated roof in the middle of the night. Their droppings all over the verandah are a headache for our maid. She has millions of complaints over the poor birds. My anger over the tiny birds turned into curiosity and I wanted to know about the sparrows. When I googled, I found that World Sparrow Day is a day designated to raise awareness of the house sparrows and other common birds to urban environments, and of threats to their populations.

From Vedas to Bible, sparrows are mentioned as different symbols. If we look into world culture, sparrow occupies a significant space. Ancient Egyptians considered sparrows sacred. They believed sparrows caught the souls of individuals who passed away. Thus, sailors, before going on their journey, would tattoo the image of a sparrow believing that, if they died in the course of their journey, these birds would carry their souls away to the afterlife.

In Indonesia, sparrows are considered a good luck charm. They are of the belief that if a sparrow enters somebody’s house, either someone will get married in the family, or it will be an occasion to celebrate the birth of a new child.Similarly, in Chinese culture, a sparrow is considered to be auspicious. It is a symbol of spring and happiness. If a sparrow nests in a Chinese family’s house, they will never disturb the bird because it is thought to have brought in good luck to the family.

In this way, a little sparrow is identified as a sacred bird to good luck to even Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love. After encountering all this literature I have stopped grumbling over these birds and I hope I will soon be able to maintain harmony with them. After all, they need human shelter to their survival and as a human I should support them.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, March 30, 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 ]

Friday, 30 March 2018

Motivation Matters

At school, my son had a keen interest in management studies and would often talk to me about the intricacies of managing a business. Some of the things he brought up never stayed with me; accounting fundamentals and the different types of inventories did not really interest me. However, the area of motivation was thought-provoking. 
Theories of motivation formed a common ground between my son and me. It was something under the wide umbrella of psychology that connected the fields of education and management. As it turns out, being able to subtly manipulate the behaviour of individuals that you are responsible for - be it as a teacher or a manager - is quite a handy skill to have. 

Herzberg’s dual-factor theory particularly piqued my curiosity. Herzberg theorises that there exist two groups of factors within a workplace: factors related to job satisfaction and a separate set of factors that, in their absence, can lead to dissatisfaction. To simplify, some factors in the workplace can motivate workers to perform better, whilst others contribute to a worker feeling content with their job but do not encourage workers to increase their level of performance. 

My understanding of Herzberg’s theory may be more simplistic than that of a management veteran, but it seemed to me like the factors that lead to job satisfaction were mostly intrinsic, whilst the other set of factors were extrinsic. This idea of ‘motivational’ factors being closely linked to intrinsic satisfaction would actually go quite a way towards understanding the differences I observed in Australian and Nepali students. 
In Australia, I noticed that students in primary school classrooms seemed to be a lot happier, and in many ways, a lot more engaged than students in the same setting in Nepal. The smaller, more activity-based teaching-learning dynamic probably contributed to this, but applying Herzberg’s ideas to the context of the classroom gave me new insight.

Students in Australia are introduced to autonomy from very early grades, and are progressively given more freedom when it comes to choosing the ways in which they learn the topics taught in the classroom. Effort is always rewarded, and it is this effort that Australian schools prioritise when it comes to recognition -- not raw results alone. Australian schools were, and are, adept at tapping into students’ intrinsic satisfaction to motivate them and thus boost morale. The same cannot be said for the vast majority of schools in Nepal. 

Schools in Nepal, even today, are usually designed as factories. You put the students in, and a mechanical one-fits-all teaching-learning environment exists all the way through from primary to Master’s level, the output is considered to be students’ performance on exams. Autonomy is out of the question; students are spoon fed and encouraged to score more in examination. Just like a factory, the only thing counted to be results. Efforts, creativity, and the ability to take on challenges using new approaches all take a back seat. The focus is mostly on extrinsic factors.

When trying to bridge the gap between our education system and those of more established countries, then, it seems imperative for us to also consider reforming the ways in which we train our educational professionals to motivate students. Before chasing results, we must ensure that students enjoy the process of learning in the first place. Prolific results will inevitably follow if we are able to maintain a high level of motivation in our classrooms.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, March 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 s

Saturday, 24 March 2018

The Tuition Trend

"Chhori, tuition padhna jane bela bhayo! Chhito thik para,” I heard my neighbour shouting at her 5 year old daughter, Laxmi, who had come back from her school hardly about an hour ago. I was amused to learn about the little girl’s daily tuition.

Out of curiosity, I called Laxmi to my place the next morning. I asked her what she was leaning at school. She immediately replied, “A, B, C, D…” Then I wrote A, B, C, D…down in the exercise book and asked her to read them aloud. Without looking at the letters she mechanically recited them. Then I pointed at them randomly and asked her to tell me what letter I was showing. She stared at me blankly. Laxmi, who goes to a private school every day and in addition takes tuition regularly, cannot even recognise the initial letters of the alphabet. 
It is not only Laxmi who suffers this way; there are a lot of children in our community who share Laxmi’s fate. 
What is more troublesome is that schools themselves recommend parents to send their young children to additional tutoring; the teachers who teach at the schools are also the ones that offer additional tuition. 
I wonder what those teachers teach the whole day at school if they must again invite the young children to take tuition from them. There is a worldwide debate regarding primary school children being given homework. Our schools are busy giving students the extra burden of tuition on the top of lengthy homework.

A lot of research studies suggest that primary school students do not need homework as such because what they learn in school is enough for them at this stage. In addition, they spend long hours at school, so they need to spend some quality time at home after school. They may want to spend their time with parents or they may want to play with their friends or whatever else. The crucial point is that they must have some free time.
In my opinion, this private tuition trend, particularly for young children, is an extra financial burden on parents and an unnecessary barrier between young children and quality time away from rigorous academic study. If teachers cannot teach what they have been expected to teach at school itself, then what’s the use of sticking to that profession? They must realise that they are not made for teaching and look for other options. 

These days, children’s independent learning skills have been emphasised. Schools must be able to prepare independent learners in a way that helps them become life-long learners as well. Independent learning is possible when an individual is able to think, act and pursue their own studies autonomously, without the same levels of support they receive from a teacher at school. In this scenario, what is the feasibility of private tuition?

Osama Sajid is absolutely correct when he says, “After-school tuitions are a handicap…Once a child develops the habit of getting spoon fed by tuition teachers, his intellectual abilities begin to decline. He no longer strives to find solutions to the problems he faces in his studies, but instead looks towards the aid he expects to receive in the evening,” after school.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, March 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.]