Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Crazy Queries

Career counselling is not an integral part of the current school curriculum in Nepal. I have found a lot of youths have a tendency either to study the subjects of their parents’ choice or to succumb to peer pressure without considering their interests. As a result, most of them may not do well in the subjects they are studying because they feel they ‘have to’ as their interests are not involved.

After all, an American self-help book author Oliver Napoleon Hill was right when he said, “No man can succeed in a line of endeavour which he does not like.”  There are mainly three exit points during general stream schooling years in Nepal – at the end of grade 8, 10 and 12 respectively because students need to choose optional subjects in grades 9, 11 and after grade 12. At these points, they need career counselling at an extensive level which helps them to get an opportunity to study the subjects of their choice and excel in them.
As a career counsellor, I particularly encourage such students to identify their interests and abilities so that they can develop those interests into a career later. In the process of counselling, while some students ask really genuine questions and at the same time I have come across the strange queries which make me wonder if the students actually know what exactly is involved in career counselling. Let me describe some of their queries which do not fit within the scope of career counselling.
The most frequently asked question is, “I don’t want to study, what should I do?” Another, “I always think about girls, so I cannot concentrate on my studies, what should I do?” The third question comes, “What is the answer of this question (related to their course content)?” Similarly, “I always want to watch movies, what should I do?” The list of such questions goes on and on and it feels like the questioners misunderstand a career counsellor as a panacea who solves all sorts of problems just like that.
Available literature suggests that the main role of a career counsellor is to help students identify their interests, skills, talents and abilities and inform them about the career options presented to them. This helps students make informed decisions while choosing their areas of study which will eventually lead them to their future career.  
In this way, the career counsellor guides students towards enhancing their self-understanding instead of offering instant answers. Furthermore, career counselling revolves around students’ strengths and their ability to take advantage of such strengths. As I mentioned, my focus is also on such things.
The questions posed above reflect negative mindset of a typical bunch of students which they may harbor from our cultural practice which focuses more on negative aspects than positive ones. Their queries also indicate the importance of career counselling at our schools. If the students knew about the essence of career counselling, they would never come up with such irrelevant questions in the first place.
(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017 

[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.]


Friday, 13 October 2017

Montessori Vs. Kindergarten

Recently the term “Montessori” has been spreading rapidly in Nepal particularly in urban areas, which was confined to only the Kathmandu Valley until very recently. In most of the cases, I have heard people interchangeably using “Montessori” and “Kindergarten” education. In other cases, people name a classroom as “Montessori” but follow the same traditional instructional approach.

While it is good to introduce new teaching approaches inside classrooms, at the same time there should be a clear understanding about the approach in question. For instance, “Montessori” and “Kindergarten” are two different concepts and they should not be used interchangeably.

Even though in our context both of them are used to mean the pre-school education, they are based on the different philosophies. Let’s see some of the differences.

The main difference between these two systems is that Kindergarten is simply a level of education that is present in all formal schooling systems whereas Montessori is a medium of instruction that is very specific and not all schools adopt this method. Usually Kindergarten is the year before first grade but most of the schools in Nepal have split this into two years – naming them Lower Kindergarten and Upper Kindergarten.

The pioneer of Montessori education is an Italian educationist Maria Montessori. A Montessori curriculum focuses on student-centered or student-led lessons and activities because it is believed that every child has different learning needs and learning styles. Therefore, the Montessori system uses an open approach and children are allowed to be creative and express themselves in all aspects of their education, such as physical, mental, linguistic, emotional, social and even spiritual. 

Teachers in Montessori classrooms create an environment where children learn freely; they choose their own activities and materials. This way, teachers have a very limited role and their main job is to observe and supervise the children, which helps them to define their learning progress. In a nutshell, the Montessori Method encourages children to learn at their own individual pace without teacher interference.

On the other hand, a German pedagogue Friedrich Fröbel developed the concept of Kindergarten which means “garden for the children.” As mentioned above, all Kindergarten classrooms do not necessarily implement Montessori instruction; in such classrooms the learning environment is structured where the lessons and activities are teacher-centered or teachers decide what to teach and what activities to be used. Teacher’s role thus is pre-defined and they usually follow the set curriculum and the same techniques for all students without paying too much attention towards individual differences.

There is not a problem whether to follow Montessori Education or Kindergarten Education but the problem arises if one replaces one term for another without being aware of their underpinning theories. Furthermore, it is also not wise to use the Montessori model of education while following the same traditional teacher-led curriculum.

Obviously, both of these systems have their pros and cons. For example, while children enjoy learning freely in a Montessori classroom in a pre-school, they may experience difficulties once they are promoted to a more structured primary classroom and this may hamper their learning progress. Similarly, directly coming from a more natural and freer home learning environment, the new preschoolers may not easily adjust in a quite formal Kindergarten setting. Hence, it is better to clarify one’s ideas and follow which system suits them better.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017 

[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, 11 October 2017

Hunger For Praise

We love words of praise irrespective of the truth they carry. However, we need great courage to find out if we are addicted to such words of validation. Recently, a gentleman called me and asked in an excited tone if I had read an article he had published in a magazine. I wondered how I could access the magazine which was not readily available on the market. To console him, however, I thanked him for his wonderful deed and I promised to read his article. To my dismay, the man immediately offered to come to my place with the magazine.

He read out the nearly five page long article in a breath and asked how it was. I could clearly sense that he was not ready to take any criticism at that time; instead he wanted to hear all the good stuff Hunger For Praise
about him and his writing. The gentleman is just an example. The majority of people in our society have a hunger for praise. They do not want to hear anything against them or their work. A long time ago I read a story about a king.

All that king wanted was to hear good things about him. So, he had appointed a group of people whose job was to simply praise the king from morning to evening and they got paid for that. Although those people knew the king was cruel and his citizens did not like him they had to say how generous the king was and how dearly people would love him. Eventually, his ‘admirers’ got fed up with their fake job and decided to forsake the king.
The king waited for them impatiently the whole morning but when none of them appeared even until the afternoon, the king was furious and started to inquire about them but unfortunately nobody could tell him their whereabouts. Gradually, the king’s condition began to deteriorate; he lost interest in everything; he would lock himself inside his suite the whole day. He stopped talking to people and soon the poor king died.

This way, the hunger for praise can be very dangerous. Why don’t people understand that healthy criticism is much better for them in comparison to incessant praise? They cannot tackle their weaknesses easily. They think that whatever they do is the best and they continuously look for others’ approval for that.

As long as such people are surrounded by bootlickers they believe that these people will never leave them alone but when they become powerless their so-called fans disappear within no time and their condition may be like that of the king.

If someone really produces a good body of work, this will shine sooner or later; they do not need to seek others’ approval for this. On the other hand, you should be careful of those who always extend comforting words to you; doing this they most probably have their vested interest of taking advantages from you and when they realise you are not of any use to them they will change their route.

Instead of paying too much attention towards other people’s approval if one is focused on their work, and developing their confidence through a habit of taking criticism positively, life becomes a lot easier. Observing the gentleman above, I came to this conclusion.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 

[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.]