Friday, 29 December 2017

The Parental Gift

Everyone wants their child to be brilliant and excellent when it comes to academic performance. We want our child to be well mannered, disciplined and brighter than other children we know and to achieve this goal we spend a lot of time and money. However, we rarely think about their interests and as a result, want them to engross in their studies during all their waking hours.

Do we as adults work from the moment we wake up till the moment our head hits the pillow every single day? No, we most certainly do not. We go to our designated workplace and work for a specified number of hours. When we get home, we crave rest and relaxation. We want to lie down on the couch and pass the hours doing something that gives us pleasure. At the same time we badger our kids about their homework.

The children spend at least six hours in school; they work hard to learn something new every minute. As soon as they come home, we want them to finish their homework and the next morning, the cycle begins again. Aside from the workload given by schools and study pressure created by parents, some children also have to attend private tuition classes on top of everything else. Fair enough, our intentions are good but have we ever thought about what our children are going through? The unnecessary pressure on studies that we put on children might backfire and they might become victims of psychological problems.
One of my friends who has been working as a lecturer sends her six year old daughter to attend tuition classes early in the morning and the little one has to eat in a hurry to catch the school bus before 9.00 AM. Once the girl is back she has to bury her head in books for hours to finish all her homework. After putting them under such pressure, we then boast about the progress made by our children. Basically we measure their academic ability as their only strength. However, academic results themselves do not ensure a successful life, and too much focus on them can inhibit social development and confidence. I wonder why we pay such hefty fees to schools if we have to hire a private tutor for our children. If schools cannot teach students properly and if children cannot do their homework given by schools we need to rethink what the schools are doing to our children.
Putting too much pressure on children to succeed might be counter-productive and they can feel less inspired and more threatened. Parents usually do not realize how they are killing their children's childhood for the price of their own happiness by relating children's academic progress to every other aspect of their lives.
Research studies indicate that unnecessary academic pressure to be successful might haunt children. They’ll be terrified of not doing well and as a result, they will not actually learn and succeed like they otherwise would. If your child feels inadequate due to not achieving a certain grade, let them know that you are there for them and that a grade does not determine whether or not they are a good person. Let the children be children and let them grow at their own pace. As parents you can support them by providing them with a suitable environment so that their growth will not be obstructed.
(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 
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Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Why Reservation?

The other day, one of my male colleagues asked aggressively, “Why do women need reservation everywhere? If you go to bus, there are ladies seats and in politics also there is special consideration for women. I don’t understand, why?” Yes, his question looks genuine; on the one hand we are advocating for gender equality and on the other, talking about reservation for women. These two concepts do not go together.

However, in the context of Nepal where there still exist so many cultural and family barriers for women to come out from their domestic role, women empowerment is as relevant as anything else.
The best platform to commence women empowerment is the education sector because without educating young girls, women empowerment will not be achieved even if there are many other means in practice.
Female teachers can play a key role in encouraging girls’ education. According to many research reports, female teachers are more important than male teachers for improving girls’ ability to go to school, stay in school, and learn effectively there. This is especially true in contexts where traditional gender norms make parents hesitant to send their daughters to school where they have to interact with male teachers.
The importance of female teachers in Nepali community schools was recognised as early as in the 1970s and different programmes were also put in place to increase their number at schools; but the problem was that even if their number increased they were reluctant to go to remote areas. As a result, with time there seemed to be oversupply of female teachers in the schools of urban areas and under-supply of the same in rural areas and this still has not changed much.
In relation to other levels, female teachers are demanded mostly at the primary level. It is believed that they are more loving and caring and they can play the role of a second mother figure in little ones’ lives. Their presence at schools helps children successfully complete their primary education. In addition, they can be role models to many girls.
While in countries like Nepal the argument revolves around increasing female teachers at schools the developed countries have a different issue. For instance, in his article “Male teachers needed in primary grades” Drew M. Mcweeney argues that many households in America are run by single mothers. Because of this the children of such parents lack a positive father figure and role model to whom they can relate.  So, more male teachers are needed particularly at primary grades who can provide the positive role model of a father figure for students who come from single-parent families. It is obvious that the girls from such countries do not necessarily need female teachers to get through their schooling or get empowered because in Western societies, girls and boys are given more equal treatment and educating girls is not a major issue.
Nepali girls may also reach that point one day but before that they must come out from the boundary of preset limitations. For this, female teachers are encouraged at schools so that girls can feel safe and comfortable. Women are being given reservations in politics and other sectors, even in public transportation. Once gender equality is maintained, no woman needs any reservation. At that time my colleague may find another topic to grumble over.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017 
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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Teaching Styles

I think we are all familiar with the teacher-centred teaching style that is still widely used in the Nepali education system. It is an authoritative teaching style where teachers transmit knowledge to students who act as passive listeners. What generally comes to mind when one says “learner-centred teaching style”? Obviously, learners are the focal point in learner-centred classrooms. So, they must be actively engaged in the teaching-learning activities, right? While students are active, all the teaching content and activities are under the control of teachers in such classrooms.

As long as the curriculum is controlled by teachers, how can the lessons be learner-centred even if students participate in teaching learning activities? They simply become recipients of teachers’ knowledge and wisdom. Research suggests that teacher-centred learning actually prevents students’ educational growth.
In contrast to the teacher-centred teaching style, the learner-centred teaching style encourages learners themselves to take charge of their learning; which is why it is better to say learner-centred learning style rather than labeling it a teaching style. Learner-centred lessons are focused on how students learn instead of how teachers teach. The learner-centred approach reflects and is rooted in constructivist philosophy of teaching. Literature says that constructivism is based on learning by doing and creating own knowledge rather than depending on teachers for this.
An example of learner-centred methodology would be Montessori Method, according to which teachers are supposed to provide children with appropriate environment and children choose what to learn, when to learn and how to learn. On the basis of teachers’ deep observation of students’ interests and learning pace curriculum will be developed; it is more individual-based rather than being one-size-fits-all kind of curriculum. In this way, learner-centred method is all about self-learning and exploratory learning. If this sort of learning is instilled since the very beginning, students can become life-long independent learners.
Based on these indicators, can we say that Nepali education system is learner-based? Until now, it can be seen as being very examination oriented. Even in primary level students are encouraged to study set and same content so that they can answer the examination questions in an excellent manner. Students’ individual learning needs are not addressed in almost all of the cases.
Yes, if some teachers use activities that clearly encourage students to take part in the learning process actively, such as group work, pair work or different types of games, their lessons seem to be learner-centred at the surface level but in fact they are not. It is because the teachers take a lead role to decide what to teach and how to teach. 
If we really want our children to be independent and inquisitive learners they must be provided with opportunities where they can learn from their experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, talents, interests, capacities, and needs. As literature suggests, moving from teacher-centered to learner-centred teaching style, five areas should be considered for change. They are the choice of content, teacher’s role, responsibility for learning, process of assessment, and power relationship between teacher and learners. Learners must have ownership of their own learning, contribute to the design of curriculum, and the responsibility for some levels for instruction too. Then only can we claim of practicing learner-centred teaching.        
 (Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017 
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Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Expression Of Love

A pair of doves come around the charpoy where my mother-in-law is sitting with her ailing body and follow some pigeons and sparrows. It is her daily routine to feed those birds. She has a container filled with some rice, maize and mustard seeds and she scatters the supply when the birds come near to her. Since it is hard for her to move around with a weak and aging body, it is her pastime to feed these birds and a calf. When other members of the family are away she talks to them as if they understand her language.

So was the case with the 90 year old lady Maryam when she had no one around her to listen to her stories of how she escaped from Iran to Australia on charge of being a Baha’i follower. She used to feed Magpies that came to her front yard, murmuring a mixture of Persian and English words.
This is not something that can only be seen with women that are running their final laps; I also found a middle aged lady who was deeply in love with her cockatoo. She said that she had been keeping the bird for the past 25 years and she was boasting of the longevity of the bird as it outlasts the total love life of her five lovers. “This birdie, my Wallie, knows all my secrets. She knows who I was with for how long and how I got dumped and for what reasons.”
Unfortunately, I got a call one day at midnight from that friend of mine. She was wailing and she said in her
trembling voice, “My Wallie died.” I was perplexed to hear that. Though I said some words of comfort to her I was not sure what to do after that. The lady with the bird did not come to work for three days and I with other friends raised some money to buy a bouquet and a card to be delivered to her home. It was hard for me to understand how a person can be in love with a bird so much.
After a week or so, she asked me to visit her home to see the funeral site of her loving bird. She led me to the backyard of her home and a large flower vase was filled with flowers where she had laid her Wallie. With a choked voice, she mumbled some words and I added some to show my support.
The third example may be quite exceptional in our context but the similarity I found among my mother-in-law, Maryam and my cockatoo-loving friend was that people cannot survive without expressing their love. At a young age, they generally have their children around them and it is not difficult for them to pour love to them. As time passes, children grow up and start leaving home to explore the world so that they can build their own families, their own lives.
 Once the house full of children’s incessant noise becomes quiet; to get rid of loneliness the ageing people who are left behind may turn to animals or birds for love. This may make it easier for them to cope with the reality that even though their children are not with them forever they can survive by finding a way to express their love.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017 
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Monday, 27 November 2017

Producing Best Teachers

Last week I got the opportunity to visit several community schools in Far Western and Mid Western Regions under the programme Career Counselling and Motivation, organised by JKK Foundation and has been in operation for quite a while. As with my earlier experiences, headmasters once again told me about their misconceptions regarding the redesigned SEE letter grading system.

While talking to them I felt like they were speaking out of their preconceived notion that no matter what, students who are admitted into the ‘education’ stream in grade 11 are the ones that achieve the lowest GPAs in their SEE. One of the head teachers complained, “I don’t agree with this new type of scoring system which suggests that the weakest of all students should be the ones studying education. In reality, we need the brightest students in this faculty so that they can make the best teachers in the future.”
Yes, I completely agree with the second part of that statement, but her criticism of the SEE scoring system seems unjustified. The descriptive chart for the SEE letter grading system released by the Ministry of Education clearly indicates that the minimum GPA to study science in grade 11 is 2 or “C” and in all other streams including vocational education it is 1.6 or “D+”.
In addition to the minimum GPA of 2 the students have to score 2.4 or “C+” in science and mathematics if they want to go for science otherwise they need to score at least 1.6 (D+) in particular subjects (list of those subjects is also available) if they are joining management, humanities, education or vocational streams, and the minimum average GPA is 1.6. Nowhere is it mentioned that education is the only option for all those students who score the lowest in SEE or who do not get admission in other faculties.
Another issue the head teachers raised during our conversations was the qualifications of the teachers who teach in lower grades. According to a head teacher, the secondary level teachers hesitate to go to the primary level even as substitute teachers. They think that it does not suit their particular skill set. She further expressed her frustration with the fact that the lower grades are the foundation for upper grades, so the teachers who teach these little children must have master’s degree if we really want quality education in community schools. Yes, she was right to some extent; a master’s degree may not be a possible qualification but to be a school teacher at any level a bachelor’s degree is a must in my opinion too.
My argument here is not to support the SEE letter grading system because it may have its strengths and weaknesses, but my concern is teachers’ understanding of it. What is clear from the above conversations is that school teachers need more orientation on the letter grading system so that they will understand that there is no discrimination between different streams in grade 11.
Generally, it is expected that students who choose to study science must have a greater level of academic aptitude, and thus the GPA threshold for the science stream is relatively higher. However, this is not the case in non-science streams. The concerned people should also think about upgrading early grade teachers’ qualifications to offer students quality education from a young age.
 (Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 

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Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Role Of Research

A couple of weeks ago I read two news stories related to medical sciences – one was about Guru Prasad Khanal’s, the newly appointed Rector at BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences (BPKIHS), determination to heavily prioritise research work and the other was about five KU doctors being blacklisted internationally for plagiarising research findings. While the first one gives the general public hope -- BPKIHS conducts research on more than 300 diseases and treatment systems every year -- the second one is shameful and no proud citizen can take it just like that.
Doesn’t a professional as prestigious and responsible as a doctor realise the importance of research work? How can they cheat others’ work and proudly claim it as theirs? Other people may do it due to their ignorance but this should not be the case with doctors.
In the context of Nepali people not having a strong presence in the international platform, this blacklist pushes us further backwards. One should not forget that we have got all this worldly knowledge because of the efforts of different researchers who devoted their time to create knowledge. Research is only a weapon to satisfy people’s curiosities and questions.
For instance, if our ancestors had not been curious to learn about the vast and dark sky, we would not have been able to gain the knowledge of “space” that we have now. According to Cali Simboli, without research, we would not go forward. We would be a bunch of curious humans who would leave this world without knowing the things we wanted to know. When it comes to constructing knowledge, research is equally important in all fields.
Since it is related to people’s health, life and wellbeing, medical research can be considered to be the most important field of knowledge. Its importance can be summarided in the words of the Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation as, “The high quality of medical care we enjoy today is built upon years of effort by physicians, physician-scientists, PhDs, and other medical professionals investigating the causes of and potential treatments for disease. The tireless effort of these professionals has made many once life-threatening diseases and conditions just a memory.” It is obvious that such research work must be purely original to contribute in the already available mass of knowledge.

In contrast, research is taken just as a formality in most of the cases in Nepal. Otherwise, those blacklisted doctors would not dare to plagiarise other people’s findings. In other cases, a substantial number of university students can also been seen to copy other students’ thesis and defend it as theirs. What is more ridiculous is that the supervisors or examiners also do not pay attention to this plagiarism practice. What can we say about the quality of education of that university where the Vice Chancellor himself has been accused of being a plagiarist?  
It is high time for intellectuals like doctors, university teachers and students to consider research as an entirely original study which deserves to be held in high regard. They should always remember that their hard work to find new knowledge can bring forth findings that are not only revolutionary for their respective fields, but for humanity as a whole.
(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017 

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Friday, 27 October 2017

Appointment In Samarra

Whenever I hear about someone’s death, particularly when it is ‘untimely’, I remember a Middle Eastern folk story “Appointment in Samarra” which was retold by the famous British playwright, novelist and short story writer W. Somerset Maugham. The story was further taken as a reference by an American writer John O’ Hara while using the same name as the title of his novel itself. “Appointment in Samarra” is a very powerful story that exemplifies the inevitability of death.   

Once there was a rich merchant in Baghdad who one day sent his servant to the marketplace to buy some household supplies. It was not long before the servant ran back, pale, gasping and trembling. He took some time to collect his breath and said, “My dear Master, when I just entered the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd. I found it quite strange and looked at her closely. At that moment I saw Death in that woman’s disguise who looked at me and made a threatening gesture. I was scared as hell and started rushing back without buying anything. Will you please lend me your horse so that I can ride away to Samarra where that nasty Death will not find me?” The merchant felt pity over his servant and lent him his horse happily.
Without looking back, the servant galloped away and disappeared within no time. The merchant was furious, so he decided to go to the marketplace and confront Death himself. Soon he saw Death standing in the crowd. The merchant approached her and asked angrily, “Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant who was here to buy the things for me?” Death looked at the merchant surprised and said, “That was not a threatening gesture at all; it was only a start of shock. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”
The poor servant was clueless about this arrangement and continued to think that he would be safe if he went away to the far land of Samarra. Like him, we all have that set appointment at an exact time and place which cannot be escaped. Unfortunately, we forget this and engage in so many worldly affairs as if we are here to stay forever.
During this process, we may even lose sight of ourselves and deviate from our true human nature which includes love, peace, kindness, patience and care for each other; instead, we turn towards selfishness and focus only on feeding our individual desires. Soon, the time comes for everyone to face that important appointment without our notice. When we hear about such appointments we go, “Oh, no! This wasn’t expected. It is too early.”
Is it really too early? No, not at all. As for the servant above, these appointments are predestined; they are never early nor late. So, why don’t we keep this in mind? If we are able to do so we would not be so worried about things which do not really need to be worried about. Instead, we would be able to enjoy life in full swing without having to forget our true nature.  
(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017 

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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 

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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 

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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 

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Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Qualities Of Quality Education

Recently, I read a Nepali article on quality education written by a teacher where he indicated that quality education is basically related to “academic achievement” or the best examination results at schools. His statement made me wonder if teachers themselves define quality education this way, what does the term mean to the general public? 

Quality education is very important at the present time as it is one of the seventeen UN sustainable development goals. Quality education should not only be confined to examination results; they are only one dimension. There are different indicators to define this term. Some of them which are suitable in the context of Nepali community schools include the following.

Apart from a relevant and competitive curriculum, teacher qualifications and their professional development is the most essential aspect of quality education. Teachers play a vital role in implementing educational policies so they must have up-to-date knowledge and skills to impart the curriculum content to students.
School infrastructure is another dimension. There must be spacious classrooms where students can perform different sorts of group and individual activities. In addition to this, they must have access to clean drinking water, sanitary toilets, a playground and playthings.

Classroom management is also equally important. The classrooms must not be overcrowded. Research studies indicate that the ideal pupil to teacher ratio is between 1:20 and 1:30. If the student number is small, every student will get a chance to interact with the teacher and the teacher will also be able to cater individual students’ needs. Furthermore, teachers should not be absent from their classes.

Without enough resource materials students’ learning will not be effective. They include white/blackboard with its accessories and use, textbooks, a well-equipped library and varieties of teaching learning materials.
Students’ continuous assessment is also a must to find out if they have achieved the learning outcomes mentioned in the curriculum. Teachers can use a number of ways for formative evaluation and at the end of the academic year there is a summative evaluation to upgrade students from one level to another.

Without parental involvement in their children’s learning, the process of quality education will not be complete. On the one hand, in most of the cases parents do not know much about what their children are doing at school. On the other hand, research shows that parental involvement in children’s education improves their academic achievement. Therefore, there must be strong home-school partnerships to foster student learning. 

UNICEF identifies five key factors of quality education. They are healthy and well-nourished children who are supported by their families and communities; safe, protective and gender-sensitive learning environments with adequate resources and facilities; relevant content with literacy, numeracy, life skills as well as knowledge in the areas of gender, health, nutrition HIV/AIDS prevention and peace; effective teaching learning processes including trained teachers, child-centred teaching approaches, well-managed classrooms and skilful assessment; and learning outcomes via knowledge, skills and attitudes.

This way, quality education does not only include students’ academic achievement. Instead, it combines different features by the use of which every child will be able to maximise their potential to achieve learning outcomes expected of them.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Sept. 15, 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.]

Thursday, 14 September 2017

CC Camera In School

Since the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) has been an essential component of the existing school curriculum in Nepal, many schools have taken an initiative to integrate ICT into their classrooms. In the name of ICT teaching and learning, they have also started installing closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, which are also known as video surveillance devices as they produce images and/or recordings of the area they observe.

It can be realised that CCTV cameras have been accepted very positively by school teachers in Nepal. Recently, I read an article about a community school which had recently installed a CCTV camera, and it created a sense of excitement amongst teachers as well as students. The head teacher commented enthusiastically, “Students’ achievement has improved tremendously. CCTV has contributed a lot towards the security of the school property as well as to the regularity of teachers and students.”

Even though CCTV is a relatively new addition to Nepali schools, it has already been subjected to widespread debate in Western countries because its usage in schools and classrooms has been growing with each passing year. For instance, at least 100,000 cameras were installed in classrooms and corridors across Britain in 2012. Advocates of the use of CCTV in schools and classrooms claim that it increases the school’s safety and security in terms of teachers, students and physical property. Besides, it also helps regulate teachers’ and students’ behaviour and improve teachers’ performance as well.

On the other hand, those who are against the use of CCTV in schools argue that schools are not prisons; they do not have to scrutinize teachers and students all the time. Critics claim that the school administration is directly encroaching upon the privacy of its employees and students while the controlling environment prevents effective teaching and learning.

There have been several research studies conducted to examine the impact of CCTV in schools. Among them, Dr Emmeline Taylor’s study is quite noticeable. She surveyed 24 comprehensive schools in the North West of England and discovered that 23 had installed more than 20 cameras. A finding of this study indicates that while the use of CCTV is often attributed with numerous benefits, there is no corroborating evidence. 

Similarly, a study by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) in the UK states that the purpose of CCTV in schools seems to be to spy on students and at the same time to ensure that teachers are working hard. Most of the participating teachers in this research agreed that simply the use of CCTV does not aid anything in teaching or learning.

In the context of Nepal, it may be too early to experience adverse impacts of CCTV cameras in schools. The device has been taken as a luxurious item as very few schools seem to be capable of affording this. However, in the context of enough research-based evidence available to us, it is fair to ponder. Learning theories suggest that children learn better in natural setting, so teachers are always encouraged to make their classrooms as natural as possible. How can one create a natural teaching-learning atmosphere when they are acutely aware of the constant scrutiny that they are under? There are many other ICT appliances which directly help to enhance student learning. So, why to choose CCTV cameras over other more useful devices?

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Sept. 8, 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.]