Major overhaul necessary

  • Interview Bidhya Nath Koirala
- Ekantipur Report
Major overhaul necessary

Apr 7, 2015-Despite significant increase in school-level education funding, performance of students is going down every year.  A government study conducted on over 44,000 students from grade eight shows that their learning achievement has further deteriorated in two years. Binod Ghimire from the Post caught up with educationist Prof Bidhya Nath Koirala to discuss about the country’s education system and the dwindling performance of students. Excerpts:

The National Assessment of Student Achievement (Nasa) carried out by the Education Review Office shows that the performance of students has significantly gone down. What does it signify?

This is a reflection of the diminishing tendency of reading habits in students and also the decreasing commitment of teachers. Teachers have developed a tendency of blaming students by pointing out their socio-economical conditions, culture and language. In a country like ours there is no chance of having students from a same class or society in the classroom. Therefore, the teachers should take it as an opportunity to learn intercultural issues and develop pedagogy accordingly. But our teachers have failed to fulfil their responsibility which has been reflected in the Nasa report.

The per-capita investment for students is increasing but their performance is deteriorating. Why so?

In general, an increase in investment brings a positive impact. However, when it comes to education, investment alone does not boost the quality. There is a study carried in around 90 countries across the world which shows that there are different factors that affect education quality. It shows that various factors have different results. Therefore the same system doesn’t fit all. The report shows that investment in fact has brought positive results in some countries, the system of reward and punishment in some, and a strong regularity mechanism in other countries. But it is yet to be determined which system works in our country as all efforts to bring changes have yielded negative results. Above all it is the teaching technique that determines the achievement of the students.

But there are also some exemplary public schools which are performing excellent.

I believe that teachers can bring the necessary changes if they want. The teachers, mainly the senior ones, from such schools have a sense of responsibility and commitment towards their job. They take it as their sole duty to teach. Schools are also performing better for they have a strong watchdog mechanism in place. A sense of competitiveness among schools, too, has worked in some cases.

The Nasa report shows that the average performance of students is somewhere around 40 percent. What is the international standards?

There is no such standard. The achievement is assessed keeping 100 as the full marks, therefore the more the better. And, I believe that the learning achievement can be attained to 100 percent. There is a policy that teachers must analyse the performance of students and find out the reason behind their poor achievement. It has asked them to provide remedial support where necessary. But we generally do not see neither of them in schools here. In this backdrop we can’t expect to improve students’ performances.

In addition, we also have problems in assessing the students. There should be an assessment based on the curriculum, but in our context textbooks are above the curriculum. The curriculum gives a broad sphere to learn but the textbooks decrease its scope for learning. If students answer from outside the textbook it is taken as a wrong answer, which is technically not the way to assess students’ performance. I think our situation is not going to change unless we overhaul the current teaching style.

The government claims that over 95 percent of teachers from public schools are trained. Why hasn’t it been reflected in their teaching?

Teacher training has been a complete failure. The National Centre for Education Development has been providing nine different types of training and officials from the centre themselves agree that the training has not been up to the mark.

The modality of training should be reversed and should target how teachers would be able to make their students understand the readings rather than imposing a pre-conceived idea. There should be a collaborative effort between teachers and trainers to find the right solution. For example, if teachers relate the science involved behind cooking food while teaching in a classroom, it will help students to learn a number of theories in physics and chemistry. This is known as practical education.

The other problem is the generation gap between teachers and students. Students, at present, want to learn through uses of technology while our teachers are not used to them. Students want to learn in a playful manner while our teachers prefer students to remain silent in the name of maintaining discipline. Therefore, the deteriorating performance is a collective reflection of all these factors.

 

Published: 07-04-2015 09:01

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