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 

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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 

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Sunday, 10 September 2017

Secret Of Staying Young

Penelope Cruz
Once I read an interview given by Penelope Cruz, a famous Spanish actress and model where the interviewer asked her why she wanted to go back to university despite having a promising acting career at her disposal. I still remember her response to this question; she said that if she went to university for her studies, she would feel young because learning makes one feel young and energetic.

One of my cousin brothers who is a university professor also has a similar view. He told me that he never feels old as he needs to deal with a young bunch of students on a daily basis and in their company my brother has to be one of them to fit into their discourse, to learn about the contemporary topics or to get a membership in their group. His position will be renewed every year with a new set of students. This makes my cousin more enthusiastic and eager to deliver his lessons in a new manner too.

I also think that as long as one is ready to learn things which keep changing regularly, they do not feel old or one’s growing age does not determine his fading youth, instead a lack of interests towards learning indicates that the person’s growth has stopped as well.

In this context, I remember one of my workmates who had spent more than two decades working in different fields. His extensive work experience may have been a reason behind his reluctance to learn new skills or knowledge that his new position would demand. To encourage him, one day I said, “Sir, this office provides us with a lot of learning opportunities, so we should learn new things which help us to produce quality work.” Contrary to my expectation his response greatly surprised me, “How long should I learn? I have spent all these years in learning and what to learn now?”

It was as if he had learned everything he needed or he knew all the things in this vast universe. At that time I thought he did not want to grow further now, meaning he got old. Soon after that, it became clear that he could not cope with the challenging office environment and he quit his job.

Doubtlessly, a positive attitude towards learning is one of the major keys to success. If one wants to fit in this globalised and dynamic world they should never say “No” to learning. The concept of ‘lifelong learning’ also justifies this fact. In the simplest of terms, lifelong learning is defined as, “the provision or use of both formal and informal learning opportunities throughout people’s lives in order to foster the continuous development and improvement of the knowledge and skills needed for employment and personal fulfillment.”

Therefore, in my opinion learning is an essential part of life. As long as you are a passionate learner you will feel lively and young but once you start feeling unwilling towards learning you stop living purposefully too. Learning helps you keep going.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017 

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Saturday, 2 September 2017

Everyday Heroes

Usually, we see heroes as special people who do incredible things and win people’s hearts. So, they must be a celebrity. A simple dictionary definition of a hero is “a person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal.” And obviously they must be popular.

However, it is not always necessary that one should have special qualities to be a hero. Everyday heroes are just as ordinary as any one of us but they do something extraordinary and get noticed. Even if they do not get noticed it does not matter to them.
Photo: The Kathmandu Post

For instance, a couple of weeks ago a school girl grabbed the public attention by her genuine gesture towards humanity. It was a rainy day and the streets of Kathmandu Valley were flooded. Sujana Gole, a ninth grader, was returning home from school when she saw a man in a wheelchair, who was stuck on a flooded street in Bauddha. Without losing a second she rushed towards the man and started pulling him out to rescue him. A photojournalist was there right on time to capture this moment with his camera, and this photo created a ripple on social media. Regardless of whatever people commented on her great deed it was not a big deal for Sujata. She made it clear in an interview, “I was just doing what I felt was the right thing to do at that moment.” 
Similarly, there was a recent news story about a 24 year-old-girl, Sarita Maharjan, who happily donated her liver to her father who had serious complications with his liver. Sujata and Sarita were lucky as the media noticed them and publicized their inspirational stories. On the other hand, there are many other people in our society who do great things but such things never get acknowledged. For example, a mother in a family performs a lot of duties to make the family happy and functional; she takes care of every member’s needs without expecting any reward, praise or fame in return.

Everyday heroes possess some fine traits. They do not have any hunger for publicity; it is their instinct which pushes them towards helping others; they think they are doing ordinary actions to express kindness, courage or love but these actions wind up having an extraordinary impact on other people’s lives.

A Stanford University professor, Philip Zimbardo, conducted a study on 4,000 adults and found that 20 per cent of them qualified as everyday heroes. For him, such heroes had helped others during a dangerous emergency, taken a stand against injustice, or sacrificed for a stranger. According to Zimbardo, “Heroes are ordinary people. You become a hero by doing an extraordinary deed.” 

As humans we all have the capacity to be an everyday hero. Looking at our current situation, for instance, several parts of the nation are suffering from flash floods and landslides. All the volunteers working to help the victims are heroes. They choose to travel to the flood affected areas in order to try and make a difference in others’ lives, even though they are putting their life at risk by doing so.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, August 18, 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.]