Friday, March 25, 2011

Crippled curriculum

After being obliged to study the standard content-heavy curriculum that the Nepali education system offers, students ultimately have an opportunity to make their choices after SLC. But then come the overwhelming challenges of what follow next. With limited options, both in terms of studies and vocation, the Nepali school education system is undoubtedly not helping the youth of the country to prepare for their future careers. 

 “We first have to change the school education structure to address the issue of youth career development,” says BN Sharma, academic advisor of Private and Boarding School’s Organization, Nepal (PABSON) Central Committee and central advisor of UNESCO Federation of Nepal.

 The process of producing skilled human resource starts from the school level itself. Nepal is the last country left in South Asia which considers the 10th standard as the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) when it should have been the 12th standard. According to Sharma, Nepal’s education system, which still follows the traditional curriculum and is rigid, is contributing to the poor performance of students, and he thinks that the huge gap between the curriculum of SLC and +2 is further aggravating the problem.

According to the Global Education System, an international standard for 12 years of schooling and four to six years of university education, career-based curriculum should be started from the 9th standard, and students should be able to study technical, vocational and mechanical subjects as optional subjects. Sharma explains that if the system of incorporating skill-based curriculum starts from the 9th grade and continues till the 12th, in four years, students will be trained in their respected fields and will be skilled enough to get jobs.

According to Nepal Government’s School Sector Reform Plan (SSRP), the government is planning to make the 12th standard as the SLC threshold.

However, Bidya Nath Koirala, coordinator of M Phil in Education at Tribhuvan University, believes that the first thing to improve our education system is by improving the way we teach. He said that the country needs motivated and self-regulative teachers and students who are willing to learn and make a change.

“This is one of the most important reforms needed in the education system of Nepal,” Koirala says. “I don’t believe in the curriculum because it’s always getting old. What we need are teachers who can update the curriculum and the way they teach.”

But a 2010 report by UNESCO titled “Learning: The Treasure Within” defines the foundation for better education as based on four pillars — learning to know; learning to do; learning to live together; and learning to be.

Experts like Sharma, who have been in this field for a substantial time, see the fourth pillar—learning to live together—missing. But apart from the new principles floated by various organizations, the country’s ability to adapt to the changes also seems to have hindered the progress.

According to Hom Kumar Thapa, central president of Nepal Institutional Schools Teachers Union (ISTU), Nepal’s education system is still based on the Education Act of 2028 BS (1970/71). The curriculum, which was prepared in and for the then Panchayat era, is still in practice.

“We’ve gone through a lot of political changes over the years, but our education policies haven’t been developed according to the changes, and some of the courses aren’t even relevant now,” he said.

With the mushrooming of private-sector schools, though they follow the government’s curriculum, these institutions have also incorporated their own modules of learning so that students are exposed to new ideas in changing environments.

Sharma explains how the private sector may have a problem since this new curriculum on technical and vocational education requires huge investment. So he says that the government has to partner with the private sector for another 30 years from the present state of economics of the country.

“There should be a PPP (Private Public Partnership) where the formula is that the government invests in physical infrastructure and the private sector manages the curriculum,” he explains.

But apart from the curriculum, teaching practices also need to be upgraded, experts say.

Thapa notes that our education system emphasizes on rote learning, and students are judged on the basis of the three-hour examination which isn’t even credible.

“Education should be made professional, and we should therefore develop a grading system since students should study with the aim of not only scoring big numbers but to upgrade their education status,” says Thapa.

He also adds that the country’s educational system doesn’t have textbooks relevant to the syllabus that helps in producing the kind of human resource that the country is in dire need of. Moreover, students have less room for creativity with fragmented academic information.

The country doesn’t even have the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) which is required to develop and provide employment for the skilled human resource.

“NQF doesn’t exist in the country which is why we’re failing to produce educated, critical and skilled manpower,” explains Mana Prasad Wagle, Dean, School of Education, Kathmandu University.

Under NQF, there are two types of education: One is formal education which includes school and college education, and other being vocational education.

Therefore, Wagle explains that in order to help the youth to build up their careers and provide them better employment opportunities, the Ministry of Education should first build up NQF.

“There should be an open-door policy where students should have the choice to have both vocational and formal education. Unless an NQF is framed, we aren’t even in a position to talk about career development in the country,” he says.

There are many subjects that need to be offered that are connected with the basic needs of the country. Wagle further explains that the government must first plan for technical, vocational and mechanical studies initially in order to upgrade our education system and to better prepare students for skilled jobs. Only then a green revolution and an industrial revolution can be possible in Nepal.

Sharma puts it about the current state of affairs: That the country is offering more white-color jobs and that we’re producing graduates but with no skills.

“Just getting a degree is of no use, and the idea that students should get jobs only after graduation is outdated,” he says.

 source:republica,NISTHA RAYAMAJHI, 26 March