Thursday, April 14, 2011

The English Medium

Some government schools of Kavre are improving their teaching and learning environment as they gird themselves for competition with private schools. They have started classroom instruction in English. They run nursery and kindergarten for kids. Eleven high schools provide older students and teachers with wireless access to the Internet. Guardians receive progress reports of their wards after regular tests and assessments. Libraries and labs are other priorities. All this is a laudable outcome of a local initiative which has now grown into a network of 53 schools in the south of the district. It involves 393 teachers and 9,908 students. The network has enlisted support from government agencies, non-government organisation officials and education experts. Well-known educationist Kedar Bhakta Mathema praised the initiative after he, along with other experts, visited a higher secondary school of the network. The school is becoming a centre of learning to challenge the efficacy of private schools, which are taken as synonymous with being English medium.

Nepal’s education system draws criticism as producing two classes of people, mostly thanks to the language of instruction. English medium, that most private schools brag about being good at, sells. English school products are a proud lot of people, forget about whether they have a very good command over the English language, or not and a very good grasp of the subject matter, or not. A cursory look over the newspaper advertisements of vacancies shows how much in demand the English school products are. On the other hand, Nepali medium public school graduates are a low profile lot because they do not have the fashionable English school testimonials to dangle. Therefore, few go to Nepali medium schools as their first choice. The national language has lost its value. When teachers, students and politicians turn public schools into a battleground of their partisan interests, the little scope left there for learning and teaching is lost. The picture of a typical public school is a poor building, with congested classrooms, outside which is a balcony, where a lady teacher is weaving a sweater, and her male colleague is cracking jokes in class hours.

The Kavre experiment, at its best, can be developed as a model bridge between the two classes of learned people of Nepal. Its incentives should help retain students in the public schools and lure prospective others to join in. Quality public education will be an exemplary achievement in itself. But ‘English’ is not quality. The precondition for quality is a commitment to developing an appropriate teaching and learning environment, where teachers, students, learning materials and aids are properly mobilised. Given financial and human resources, change can happen if well meaning people devote themselves to the cause. Sustaining the change, however, is a Herculean task.

source: risingnepal