Status of Teaching-Learning in Nepal- Shak Bahadur Budhathoki | 2021-09-24
Shak Bahadur Budhathoki
Globally, the quality of teaching and learning has been a major agenda as it is incorporated in the Sustainable Development Goals. In line with this, the government of Nepal has framed School Sector Development Program (SSDP) to be effective from 2016 to 2023. Thus, the policy document lays much emphasis on improving the present state of teaching and learning in schools by various means. While the national and international discourses concern on quality of teaching and learning, the story at the ground level is somehow different in the context of Nepal.
In recent years, it is often underscored that the quality of teaching and learning in Nepali schools has gradually declined. In particular, this issue gets prominence especially during the SEE (Secondary Education Examination) results. Although new systems of evaluation – letter grading, continuous assessment system (CAS), etc have been introduced to assess students’ learning outcomes, little improvements have been realised as a result of such initiatives. There are a number of factors at play behind this state of affairs.
One of the constraining factors for the poor teaching and learning is poor standard of students. In discussing with teachers, they frequently point out that majority of students are poor, below average range. The students have not learned what they had to in their respective grades, especially in the early grades. Consequently, as they reach higher grades, they confront challenges. According to the majority of teachers, they have to teach very basic issues, beginning from their early grades. Hence, this makes teacher exert extra efforts, that is necessary and mandatory to improve the students’ learning. The real question, over here, is how many teachers will be able to do this properly? Will they work harder to improve students’ performance or teachers will lose their confidence out of nowhere and leave students as they are? How many teachers will take responsibility for doing good work for students?
Furthermore, teachers point out that the Continuous Assessment System (CAS) implemented in the school level was the sole reason for the present state of affairs. Since students could easily be promoted without any learning as such, they stopped reading and writing. At this point, what teachers seem to have missed is the meaning of CAS – students need to be practically assessed on a regular basis about the learning progress they make, and based on which they will have to be upgraded. However, this level of communication seems to have failed to take place from policy makers to frontline service providers – the teachers, school administration and school governing bodies. Consequently, this basic sense of CAS has hardly been understood at the school level making it a failure in many cases.
Similarly, the primary focus on examination – especially on national examinations, instead of giving heed on real learning from the early grade – has been the reason for poor teaching and learning. Because the major purpose has been to do better in SEE, school system and teachers hardly focus on doing good in the elementary level. For instance, coaching, tuition, and extra classes are arranged only for grade ten students with hostel facility in most schools during the examination time. However, this sort of exertion rarely takes place in the lower grades. Therefore, as the focus has been only succeeding in the examination, real teaching learning little takes place in the schools. One of the research projects of Martin Chautari in 2016/017 investigated the relationship between examination and classroom teaching learning process. The findings proved the fact mentioned above showing that the pattern of examination questions drive our everyday classroom process significantly.
The other factor is our teaching workforce – the elderly teachers, in most cases, seem not to budge. Contrary to this, the majority of youth teaching workforce have been impressive me in many ways: they are dynamic and ready to learn and adapt new ways of teaching learning methods in the classroom. As pointed out by head teacher and SMC (School Management Committee) chair of a school, the elderly teachers have been the major reasons for the poor learning outcomes in particular grades. While looking at the learning achievement of the grades those teachers taught, it was just below fifty percent than the average learning outcomes of other classes. It clearly proved that elderly teaching workforce is hardly going to solve our long standing challenges of quality teaching and learning in schools.
In discussing about quality of teaching and learning, the focus has been rather one sided – laying emphasis on teachers, students and classroom processes, instead of pointing out systemic challenges that is inherent in our curriculum and policy makers. In particular, our curriculum mainly focuses on developing lower cognitive faculties of students and it is evident in our questions for national examinations. Therefore, policy makers need to realise that the pattern of questions currently being asked hardly works out, and improving this will have implication for the classroom dynamics of teaching and learning. In case, this is done, teachers and students might redirect their teaching and learning activities making it more a stimulating experience.
There is also a need to work on improving teaching and learning from early grades, reorienting and strengthening the system. The elementary grades need to have sufficient number of teachers, who are well trained and qualified, Bachelor’s Degree at least.
The focus of teaching and learning in the early grades needs to be holistic development of students. In doing this, school system should support creating conducive environment for teachers and students, providing teaching materials, monitoring the teaching learning process, conducting deliberations with stakeholders about how to improve students’ learning outcomes, and having proper plans in place to achieve them. And this needs to be backed by policies adequately that are prepared by federal, provincial and local level governments.