The community education is at its worst. The investment of the state in education is turning into a waste. The learning capability at community schools is gradually becoming worst. Everyday people are expressing concern over the poor quality of education in Nepal. People are using the platforms provided by the social media to express their dissatisfaction. With time many things around us have changed and the rapid technological growth has altered our daily routine. Now our thoughts can travel to any part of the world within seconds. We are sharing our joys, distress, spreading humor and even expressing our positive and negative thoughts through social media. Most of us express worry about the state of affairs in the country. We share joys of families and even discuss about problems at home. We are sharing these stories on platforms of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
We talk about our professional issues and also curse politicians for all the wrongs in the country through social media. Sometimes we also react on the fake news that spread through social media. In addition to this, we also use social media to glorify and demonise people. Recently, a government officer shared a fake news that claimed the death of a former prime minister of the country. If we follow social media and debates in it, it appears that we have already lost our conscience.
A section of teachers and bureaucrats are shying away even from healthy criticism. The other section is trying to prove their loyalty to a certain political group in social media. The professional honesty, behavior and ethics are eroding day by day. Those who ‘care’ about the quality of education are much more radical. Teachers and principals of such school focus on results of SSRP and SSDP more than the quality of study at classrooms. They are attracted by the headline that says donor will stop funding. Politicians are busy distributing dreams to people. There are many talks but little works, around one or percent.
With this background, I want to share my own experience. In June, I visited a school located 800 KM away from Kathmandu. The school had separate rooms for the principal and teachers. I was in the room of the principal and the clock was ticking 10:30 am. I heard laughter from teacher’s room and it immediately attracted my attention. They were joking about a status shared in Facebook. Some were watching a funny video. When the clock ticked 10:40 am, they started going inside their classes. The ambience of the school was cordial with nice cemented building, clean toilets, beautiful gate and colour. I expressed my wish to visit classroom and requested the principal. He proposed me to visit class 10 but I requested me to take me to class one. We went to observe activities at class two.
In the classroom, two teachers were asking students to write something. Students have opened their shoes outside their classrooms. Half of the room was covered with carpet and the other half was empty. Teachers were wearing their sandals and teaching from the area without mattress while students were sitting above the carpet. The scene was complex. There were 11 students in the class. The excerpt of our conversation was as follows:
Me: What are you teaching?
Teacher: I am asking them to write something.
Me: Which subject are you teaching?
Me: What are you asking them to write?
Teacher: The text from book.
Me: Can all of the 11 write?
Teacher: (Pause) Two or three of them can.
Me: How many of them can recognize alphabets?
Teacher: (Pause) Four of five of them.
Me: How many of them can write those alphabets?
Teacher: They can write a little bit.
Me: They have finished one year of study at class one. How can they not write alphabets?
Teacher: They don’t come to classes regularly. They don’t study at home. We have to complete courses. Those who come regularly, they also don’t understand what we teach.
Principal: (Intervenes) A private school has opened nearby. Those who were talent, they left us. How can we teach everything to them?
(The clarification was sufficient to halt conversation and we left from that classroom. I continued conversation with the principal.)
Me: They will now be promoted to grade three without knowing alphabets. There will be problem if they pass in such a way?
Principal: Sir, when will this education regulation come out?
Me: I have no knowledge about it. It may come.
Principal: What is happening about temporary teachers? Will there be examination or not?
Me: I am not sure. We might know after the regulation is introduced. There might be examinations.
Principal: Many say this SSRP has failed.
Me: How can we say whether it is successful or failure? SSDP is said to be its continuation.
Principal: There are rumors that the Education Service Commission will open again?
Me: I have heard about it. But, I don’t know much.
Principal: Sir, you work in Sanothimi. You should have information.
The above mentioned conversation is just an example. In schools, teachers are more concerned about government, ministers, and district education officers than education. Teachers are concerned about regulations that are under the jurisdiction of the cabinet. I question myself are the ministers who table the regulation in the Cabinet worried about whether the teachers are doing their duty in classrooms. The education administration is worried about the quality of learning while the school administration is worried out what is happening at district education office, education department and education ministry.
Teachers, principals, parents, civil society, intellectuals, political parties all of them express their worry about the state of education. They complain and put blame on one another. But how many of them are making genuine attempts to bring out the much needed reforms. Let’s talk less and work more. We cannot improve quality of community education by expressing our views in social media. We need to work in classrooms to bring the much needed change. We are expecting from local government for some positive outcome. But, how are they going to fulfill the challenging task? Is it that new buildings will ensure reform? Or a new playground can deliver result? Or few computer sets can enhance learning? The constitution has entrusted local bodies with the responsibility of running secondary education. But a local governance act has curtailed the rights of the local government. The community education cannot improve until the level of learning is enhanced. Teachers alone cannot guarantee good learning, this is what the office bearers of the local government should know by now.