Transforming schools

February 10, 2018 00:38 AM Ammar Bahadur Singh


Imparting education in languages other than children’s mother tongues slowly and subtly alienates them from their culture and tradition

Private schools are facing increased criticism but public fascination towards them has not decreased. Private schools are expanding in every corner of the country. People are blindly following English medium education without considering its long term consequences. Good management system, good monitoring of students’ learning and performance, regular interaction with parents and enforcement of English Only Education (EOE) have made people more attracted towards private schools.

These administration laden academic activities are degrading in government schools. There is no one taking direct responsibility of students’ physical, psychological and academic development in government schools because of the shared responsibilities assigned to different layers of administration such as school staff, headmaster, school management committee, resource personnel and district education offices among others. 

Likewise, government schools are more politicized when it comes to recruiting qualified teachers and staffs. The tussle between political wings has directly affected administration of schools. This has already done much harm to the schools and society. Disruption and destruction of government schools continue without check. Private schools are, to a large degree, free from such ills and continue to grow without government support and facilities. 

Despite huge financial support from the donors, government schools still perform badly. On the other hand, many private schools are doing well in terms of imparting education through EOE, though they do not receive a single penny from the government.

Who do they serve? 
Private schools seem to be clueless as to why they are imparting EOE.  Who are they imparting for?  What sorts of texts and textbooks are they teaching to the students? Why are they not protecting their teaching staffs? What are the consequences of EOE? Why are they not engaging in serious discourses for improving quality of education? What are the performance measurement standards they have set in place? Private educationists need to look into these questions seriously and engage in discussion to transform private schools.  

First, private schools must rethink their EOE system. This mode of education has already deprived students from understanding local cultures, languages, literatures, art and artifacts. Language of everyday use can only help us go into the depth of societal, cultural, religious and traditional issues and practices. For example, the word ‘Shakti’ refers to both physical and intellectual power in Nepali and its mother language Sanskrit. Its English equivalent word ‘energy’ only refers to the physical power. There are thousands of such words in our local languages which are almost impossible to translate in English language.  Imparting education in languages other than children’s mother tongues slowly and subtly alienates children from their cultures and traditions. This will ultimately result in diminishing our indigenous cultures and knowledge systems. 

Second, private schools must provide decent salaries and resources to their staffs and guarantee their jobs. This is not the case at the moment. All staffs working at private schools must be guaranteed the same scale of salaries and facilities that the staffs at government schools receive. More than 60 percent staffs working in private schools are underpaid. There must be uniformity in providing resources to people working in private sectors. 

Third, there is no professional body that can write, edit and publish quality textbooks for private schools. Commercially motivated private publications are flooding the markets of private school stationery with low quality teaching and learning materials. Who decides what to include in the curriculum and texts? Are the subject matters relevant to our society and labor markets? Who edits those materials?  Neither the government nor the private schools have paid attention to this. 
Also there should be uniformity in curriculums of government and private schools. Otherwise, it will contribute to social disparities. 

There are different private schools operating for different motives and interests. They are imparting wrong and confusing information about Nepal and its cultures and traditions. Religiously motivated schools are indoctrinating the young minds from the very tender age in the name of providing mental education. Private school associations like PABSON in coordination with government bodies must work to check this. 

Finally, unless the government makes revolutionary changes in its policy of shifting all private schools into government ones, private schools will continue to exist. This is a tall order for private schools are directly related to the income generating sources of political parties and their leaders.

Reorient yourself   
Private schools should redirect their education system in understanding our own society and contributing to the development of its diverse cultures and traditions. They must stop measuring their success based on how many students they have been able to send abroad for work and study. They should focus on how many of their students have contributed for the country. 
Federal government system has brought ethnicity, culture, language and diversity issues into focus. Private schools should devise policies to promote and address this diversity. 

The author is a research assistant at University of Oslo abslight@homtail.com


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