Friday, 31 March 2017

In the Name of Montessori Education...

Accidentally, I happened to scan through a notebook of a little girl who attends a renowned Montessori school in Kathmandu, and I was greatly surprised by what I found. The notebook was full of academic words like zoology, biology, botany, domestic animals, wild animals, amphibians, reptiles to name some, and her parents were asked to read the vocabulary belonging to those groups with the child. That notebook made me ponder, "Is this Montessori education? Do parents pay all that extra money and send their children to Montessori schools just to train their children in the same traditional rote learning? What is happening in our country when it comes to Montessori education?"
The Montessori method of teaching is defined by a dictionary as, "a system for teaching young children, in which the fundamental aim is self-motivated education by the children themselves, as they are encouraged to move freely through individualised instruction and physical exercises, accompanied by special emphasis on the training of the senses and the early development of reading and writing skills." This definition mainly emphasises children's self-learning without excessive control from adults.
The Montessori curriculum was developed by the Italian educationist Maria Montessori which is based on the philosophy that children can grow and develop very well if left to do so without too many restrictions, but with an orderly environment that promotes their efforts at being independent and critical thinkers. Teachers' role in such a classroom, therefore, is to create a suitable environment and observe how each and every child learns so that they can find out students' interests and learning styles; this will guide their future learning when they enter the school.
Furthermore, the objective of Montessori education is to encourage children to take care of their needs, take
responsibility for their learning and be independent learners. So, they must be provided with complete freedom, for example, to choose books, playthings or even their friends. Teachers only monitor them closely so that they can direct the children's learning towards the right path.
Another aspect is that unlike conventional education systems, homework is not a part of Montessori education as Maria Montessori says, "We cannot know the consequences of suppressing a child's spontaneity when he is just beginning to be active…It is like the sun which appears at dawn or a flower just beginning to bloom. Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child to open up himself to life.”
Doubtlessly, the schools which are well-informed about the philosophy of Montessori education may be educating the children in the correct way, but at the same time, it is not true that all the Montessori schools in Nepal are aware about the principles behind the Montessori method as the above example shows. They seem to be following the same ineffective conventional teaching methods which encourage rote learning.
Therefore, while sending their children to Montessori schools, parents should not be fascinated by the name alone. They must set aside enough time to do their own research about such schools and their ability to truly provide a Montessori education.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, March 31, 2017 under the name, What is this?) 
[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, 29 March 2017

Gratitude Unpaid

We encounter many instances in life where good people appear from nowhere just to help us and disappear so fast that we do not even get a chance to say “thank you.” When I think of such incidents, I always remember one where I missed an opportunity to express my gratitude to someone.
The story goes back to some 15 years. The plane from Biratnagar to Kathmandu was delayed by 5-6 hours. I and my two year old son were supposed to land in the afternoon, but it was night when we finally got out of the Kathmandu airport.
It was the time of Maoist insurgency in the country, so airport security was tight. Because of that, people who went to receive their relatives were not allowed to go up to the arrival area. They had to wait at the entrance gate of the airport down the road.
Although we could get a taxi from the airport, we did not because my husband was waiting for us at the entrance gate. Consequently, holding my child’s hand and carrying our baggage, I started walking in the dark. Surprisingly, I saw no passengers like me walking on the road. I thought, ‘Never mind. It is the airport area, so it must be safe,’ and kept walking.
Then, out of the blue I heard a soft voice, “Ma’am, are you alone?” I looked back and saw a shadow of a gentleman. I replied, “Yes. In fact, my husband is waiting for us down the road.” In a serious tone he again intervened, “Look ma’am, this area is not safe. I’m worried about you and I can’t allow you to walk alone. Let me think about how I can help you.”
 Hearing him I got scared. Silly me, I did not realise a lingering danger at all. My inner voice commanded me to trust that stranger and wait for his move towards our safety. Soon, a vehicle belonging to Budda Air appeared at our sight. The man stopped it and asked the driver to drop us off at the gate.
 Even though I was extremely grateful to that kind stranger, I forgot to thank him as I was filled with an unknown fear. Analysing his responsible behaviour I assume he must have been some high-ranking police officer at the airport, but I will never know for the sure.
Every time I remember this incident, my heart is filled with gratitude and joy. At the same time I regret missing the opportunity to express my gratitude.
It is said that gratitude expressed in words is superficial gratitude, but I strongly believe that sometimes words can also bring about miracles. Therefore, if you are grateful to someone who has done you a favour, no matter how big or small, and you forgot to say “thank you” at that very moment, you can still do so now. It is never too late for such things. Expressing gratitude is a gift from God to human beings; so why be stingy when it comes to using it?

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, March 24, 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.]

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Oh, Really?

Usually a couple feels proud to identify as the ‘better half’ of one another. The definition of ‘half’ in the Oxford Dictionary is “either of two equal or corresponding parts into which something is or can be divided.” Similarly, the Free Online Dictionary defines it as “one of two equal parts that together constitutes a whole.” This means that one part is incomplete without the other to be the whole. Thus ‘better half’ demands two individuals to be compatible, thinking the same things, talking the same things, liking the same things and doing the same things; otherwise how could they become two halves?
 In reality, every individual is different and complete in themselves. So why expect two people to be identical? Individual differences should be celebrated and co-ordinated in a good relationship. In his book, Healing Relationships, Lama Choedak Yuthok, a public speaker and Buddhist teacher, says that if an opposition party is good, it can keep a government ‘honest’; a partner can perform the same role. This saying makes a lot of sense. The beauty of a good relationship shines only when both parties accommodate each other’s views, not when each person is trying to impose their own views upon the other.
One of the many reasons behind turbulent marriages may be a misconception of ‘better half.’ One may think of being incomplete without the other, so they try to bring the other into their terms and conditions to be the ‘whole.’ Sometimes this tug of war can break their relationship irreparably creating inside them ‘holes’ after ‘holes.’
To avoid this situation, everybody should always keep in mind that they are complete in themselves. They do not need anybody to be ‘whole’. However, the company of another person helps them to explore and expand themselves. When a ‘positive terminal’ and a ‘negative terminal’ of two batteries are matched electrical energy is produced; two positives or two negatives can never give us that energy. Likewise, when two different individuals who may share some interests and differ in others, come together they can do many wonderful things, such as to create a deeper meaning to life, to learn to love unconditionally, to forgive, to keep promises and much more. In addition, they can share family responsibilities together.
Therefore, in my opinion it would be more sensible to identify a ‘better half’ as a ‘better opposite.’ According to the Oxford Dictionary, the meaning of ‘opposite’ is ‘having position on the other side of somebody.’ Referring to Lama Choedak Yuthok above, like a good opposition party which keeps an eye upon every movement of the government, and offers correct advice when the government goes wrong so that it can get back on track, a real partner tries to show those aspects of their partner which cannot be seen by the person in question.
So, two people in a committed relationship can contribute greatly to understanding ‘ownself’ at a deeper level, by being each other’s mirror and one taking care of another’s invisible side. Such a relationship will be rich, sustainable, flowing and inspirational, which helps to strengthen the positive aspects of spouses while mitigating their weaknesses. In fact, they can be ‘complements’ rather than ‘halves.’

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, March 17, 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.]

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Rethink Youth Migration

Migration for foreign employment appears to be a serious problem in Nepal these days. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the number of migrants leaving Nepal for work is increasing every year. For example, a total number of 527,814 people left the country in 2014 alone. Most of these people were youths. As we know, this group is the most energetic and productive when it comes to building the nation. When they are still young and can contribute a lot for their country, they leave in search of employment to fulfill their mere basic needs. Again, a majority of them are unskilled or semi-skilled, so they land in manual labour which may not be their intention while leaving their motherland.
On the surface, this kind of migration may look good as it brings in a lot of remittance to the country. According to a report made public by Nepal Rastra Bank, Nepal received 5.5 billion US dollars as remittance in 2014. It was a significant increase from 4.3 billion US dollars in 2013. However, at a deeper level, this may not be of much favour to our nation.
For instance, such migration is inviting a lot of problems in families as they are rapidly breaking down. The divorce rate has increased. Children are being deprived of parental care. Parents are dying to see their children. Trust between husbands and wives is being weakened. Villages are full of old people and children.
It is equally important to consider that life in a foreign land is also not easy. Manual workers need to work very hard, but they get paid meagrely. As a result, it takes them years just to pay their debt which they had taken while leaving the country. The worst case scenario is sometimes they even lose their lives for unknown reasons; leave the accidents in the workplace aside. Every now and then we read news stories about workers who went to sleep fine, but then never woke up.
Gradually, the lack of youths in our country has started to reflect its adverse effect in the labour market as well. Recently, I read a news story about there being a massive lack of human resources in the leather shoe industry. A similar story stated that in the lack of sufficient human resources, modern agricultural systems have also been affected.
Therefore, it is high time we rethought about youth migration. They should remain in the country; in the absence of the most energetic and productive segment of the population Nepal cannot prosper to the fullest. There have been several instances where migrants have returned to the country after being fed up with foreign employment. These people have found success in self-employment; but self-motivation alone is not enough.
The government must take actions to create job opportunities for them so that they do not have to think about leaving the nation simply in search of bread and butter. Migrant youths should be integrated into the mainstream development process. The country needs them for sustainable economic growth. In the lack of this force, Nepal has already started to experience difficulties. This situation should not be lengthened more.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, March 10, 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.]