Quality Education : Our Need and Commitment
Education is a process of learning, teaching and training to improve knowledge and develop skills. It has a very important role to play in shaping, molding, sharpening and directing an individual, the society and the nation towards the attainment of the described goals. It is true that if the condition of man is to be progressively ameliorated education is to be the chief instrument in affecting it. According to Nelson Mandela, education is a most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world.
Quality is defined as the standard of something when it is compared to other things like it. It helps know how good or bad something is. It is a feature of something that makes it different from something else. Quality has to be made into its concept and execution. It involves a strong desire for improvement.
A quality education is one that satisfies basic learning needs and enriches the lives of learners and their overall experiences of living. Quality is always the results of high intention, sincere efforts, intelligent direction, and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives. It should encourage students to become a job creator rather than a job seeker. Quality education, thus, empowers learners with the knowledge, skills, attitude, behavior and spiritual values necessary to their all-round development. It also brings forth intrinsic reverence for life and a passion for learning.
It is true that for quality education we need quality learners who are wealthy, well-nourished, ready to learn and supported by their families and communities; quality environments that are safe, protective, gender-sensitive and provide adequate resources and facilities; quality contents which are reflected in relevant curricula and materials for the acquisition of basic skills; quality processes through which trained teachers use child-centred teaching approaches in well-managed schools and skillful assessments to facilitate learning and reduce disparities; and quality outcomes that encompass knowledge, skills, and attitude and are linked to national goals for education and positive participation in the society.
If we think about these ingredients of quality education in the context of Nepal, many students, who are especially in the rural areas, do not get basic needs and norms and standards of physical elements in their schools. The value of education to them is a matter of least priority. Students from such disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds are low performers and drop-out rate is also very high. Unless their socio-economic conditions are improved, their dreams for quality education will always remain unfulfilled. The government has given its responsibility to the Local Management Committees to run the public schools which are politically influenced. They are discarded by the state and their class is advertised by the state only to obtain funds from donors, which are actually, used somewhere else. So we must improve their conditions first in order to provide them quality education. Both of them are co-related and one leads to other.
Today's dominant education model of Nepal is a system based on antiquated paradigms. All the stakeholders such as school leaders, educationists, parents, teachers, students, businessmen, industrialists, statesmen of great breadth of vision etc. are not actively involved in policy making processes. What students are meant to learn has often not been clearly defined, well-taught or accurately assessed. What we need is curiosity- driven and self-directed learning system based on acquiring knowledge, skills, aptitude, innovation and creativity. The current educational models consistently limit the passionate celebration for the wide spectrum of human ability and creativity and try to fit students into pre-determined boxes, extricating rather than encouraging young peoples' unique abilities and talents. So to improve this system we have to properly harness students' innate creativity through fascinating teaching-learning activities. Our aim, therefore, should be helping them learn how to learn by cultivating their imagination for a world of constant change. We should be free from our exam-oriented, rote-learning based, spoon-fed, teacher-centred and donor-driven education system. The present system which is full of "academic sinkholes and drop-out factories" is not suitable to our need at all. There is no doubt, political and economic instability, that has been leading to discontinuity in policies and programs, must be avoided.
These problems especially represent a catastrophic failure in the public education system where the government invests a huge amount of money but continues to yield a lower literacy rate. We must cease to accept mediocrity, negligence and think sincerely about our responsibilities to our children.
The government of Nepal cannot supply necessary subject teachers and sufficient funds to schools and available teachers are too irregular in most of the government schools and the given financial support is also misused and the rule of law is only limited to books. Poor supervision and lack of accountability and strong political influences are the main factors, which have paralyzed the nation in every field. Ongoing professional development programs from the government such as regular training, refresher courses, orientation trainings, seminars, workshops, technology related trainings are not arranged on regular basis to keep teachers abreast of new knowledge, skills, pedagogy and practices in the related field. From this year the evaluation system of education in Nepal will be totally based on letter grading system that may make students unimpressive.
Now we need a customer-driven education system that could help us become important beacons in the pursuit of excellence. The key to success is to involve the right-people at the right level in the right part of the organization at the right time. But we have failed to do so. As a result, the academic world of Nepal is out of control and direction. For quality education, we should have healthy and motivated students, well-trained teachers and effective teaching methods, adequate facilities and materials, a relevant curriculum with a smart evaluation system and an encouraging environment. But it is discouraging to recall that the hate, bigotry, and injustice that are inextricably tied to our society are obstacles for quality in education. The government of Nepal must be committed to bringing changes in education to widen our students' horizon; develop their appetite for learning; enable them to live to the full by reengineering it as per the global context. The dictionary of our experiences is much more worth than any dictionary of borrowed ideas. Nepali people hopefully will be looking for a day when quality education would be one of the things they could always be proud of.
(Dr. Gnawali is the Founder Principal of Universal College, Kathmandu.)