My parents were both teachers, and my childhood was full of rich and diverse learning experiences. To me the world was a fascinating place, full of new things to discover and find out about. I was able to listen to and read many books, full of interesting tales, information, pictures and dilemmas. I was able to try things out—to play games, make things, do experiments, give my opinion, have debates, and write stories and essays.
I believe this is what quality education should be like. Schools should be places where children are given a wide array of information and experiences to help them build new ideas and skills, and make sense of the world.
Quality education should be fun and rewarding and include all types of learners. It should spark curiosity and interest, and open up a world of new questions and ideas for students and their teachers. Children should be guided towards thinking for themselves and be able to apply, explain, and question what they have learnt. They should be motivated, confident and eager to learn.
In Kaski, Volunteer Service Organization (VSO), the organization that I am affiliated to, has been working with teachers, the District Education Office, and School Management Committees to help improve the quality of teaching and learning in our focused schools. This has included running training courses on child-centered teaching methods, developing play-based Early Childhood Development (ECD) rooms with structured and free play activities throughout the day, and co-teaching and modeling ways to use resources, games, and activities in the classrooms. We have also purchased some basic learning resources--information books, flash cards, counters, science equipment, etc that enable lessons to come to life and be more interactive and fun.
It has been great to see teachers become more confident to try new ideas, adding their own activities to lessons, and supplementing basic text book content. They are asking more questions of their classes to check and develop understanding, and children have become more confident at answering questions and participating in class activities. Lessons now nearly always contain a class-work activity, where all children have a go at it in their notebooks or with a partner or group. This includes answering questions, completing sentences, solving mathematical problems, summarizing what has been learnt by completing a diagram or table, matching words to their meanings, etc.
The classroom environment is very important, and we have been able to purchase notice boards so children’s work can be displayed easily and changed regularly. We have also been putting up information posters for children to see and for teachers to use in their lessons. We intend to continue this work and ensure that classrooms are rich and interesting places to study in: bright, attractive places full of ideas, information, and resources. It is also important that school environments are clean, safe and attractive, and we have been working hard to ensure that school buildings and grounds are kept tidy and well maintained and that adequate toilet facilities and drinking water are provided.
Quality education must be well organized. Alongside teachers, we have been busy cleaning and clearing out old shelves, labeling resources, and finding the best ways to arrange and organize resources so that they are easily accessible and used regularly. We have also supported schools to start using their libraries (if they have them) regularly by giving all students time to read books and encouraging teachers to use books in lessons.
Classrooms should be rich and interesting places to study in: bright, attractive, full of information and resources.
Of course, quality education also requires good management and parental and community support. We have run a number of workshops on leadership and management, and have been looking at ways to encourage parents and community members to become actively involved in school life and decision making.
For the coming year, we plan to set up ‘support centers’ in three of our schools, focusing on teaching English, Mathematics, and Science. We hope this will enable schools to share the good practice they have developed, and will allow education staff throughout Kaski to visit the centers, receive trainings, and see real working examples that they can use in their own schools. We also feel this is a good way to ensure that our work is sustainable.
Everyone has made me welcome in their schools, and been really open to trying new ideas and approaches. Quality education requires good teamwork, and I am hugely grateful for all the hard work put in by the schools and the patience shown by the staff whilst I struggled to master Nepali! Dherai dhanyabad sabailai!
The author is an Education Volunteer