Focus the most vulnerable when planning for innovative approach to Education

Kathmandu - This week the media focused on the needed and ongoing innovative approaches to ensure access to education for students of different levels. Applications used and the broader scope of distance learning methods that should be considered to ensure long term innovative approach to learning was also discussed in the media. Editorial and letter to editors also discussed about the relevance of the high tech methods and called the government agencies to focus on the students from the most vulnerable and marginalized population far from high tech technologies. Some news report discussed about the formation order by the Ministry of Defense to form the committee for establishment of Defense University.

Abbreviations: MoEST- Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, KD-Kantipur Daily, THT-  The Himalayan Times, SEE- Secondary Education Examination , TU- Tribhuvan University, KU-Kathmandu University, NOU- Nepal Open University, MoD-Ministry of Defense

-    National Defense University Infrastructure Construction Development Committee Formation Order-2020 was issued by the Ministry of Defense stipulating a 13-member committee under the chairmanship of a person appointed by the government. Its members included representatives from National Defense Council, Nepali Army, MoD, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and defense experts. Functions, duties and powers of the committee are to prepare detailed project report with necessary legal, institutional, physical and human resources for establishment, operation and management of the university; make recommendation to the Government of Nepal for land acquisition to construct physical infrastructures; determine structure and operational framework of the university and college, research Centre and academic departments under the university; submit work report to the Government of Nepal; develop curricula of the university as per international standards considering national needs and formulate draft bill of the university, among others.

Lack of response from any front on this news from the media, civil society or any political body has to be noted. The proceeding of such an important academic step to ensure future of national defense should not be taken lightly and should happen through engagement of all related government agencies and stakeholders.

Figure: A student preparing for the Secondary Education Examination, taking mathematics lessons from live television broadcast_THT_20 April 2020

-    Pictorial Coverage of student preparing for the Secondary Education Examination, taking mathematics lessons from live television broadcast, at her home on the 27th day of the government-imposed lockdown amid concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus disease was featured in the front page of THT. Rapid preparation for innovative access to learning through all possible forms of technology and medium has been discussed for weeks in the media.

-    Reports stated that Higher education instructions were running through online classes. Far-Western University organized engineering classes online after coordination with Education Ministry, VC, dean and related department representatives. Student representatives of each class have been coordinating information about online classes in coordination with department and subject teacher. TU and Nepal Open University has run online classes at institutional level while Agriculture and Forestry University, Kathmandu University has also been running classes. The article states that TU has been running courses online for many years but haven’t made all classes available through distance mediums.
Figure: B Higher education institutions spontaniously taking Online classes_THT_april15-2020

-    Editorial titled ‘Alternative arrangements for learning’ was published in KD this week. Delay in responding to innovative approach may impacts academic year as well as child psychology and creativity of the students the editorial alerted. The consideration of the government should be in managing school education particularly focused on students from lower economic background, rather than higher level education and students with good internet access as they are capable to self-organize stated the editorial. The editor stated that some municipalities have already instructed schools to continue teaching through online medium and other municipalities should follow suite on the matter. The editorial calls on municipalities to build strategy based on school based survey of technology access of students. Municipality or community based TV and radio programs could be used to serve students of many schools at the same time. The editorial insisted all to focus on continuation of learning among students rather than planning for complete replacement of regular class activities under present conditions.

-    The opinion article ‘How to study online?’ discusses about different applications used at present by academic institutions and broader online learning procedures and pedagogy. It discussed about MOODLEs where an entire learning environment with multi-media contents and cross medium reference are shared in single platform specific to the course or subjects with features for assignments and assessment as well. Discussion forum between students and teachers and peers in private and in group chats can also be conducted in such platforms. TU, Ku and Nepal Open University have already been using this medium for running online courses. The Moodle can and has been used to organize regular classes as well or to mix online and offline attending regular students through same platform. It mentions that online classes are spontaneously being organized by teachers where being present online at the same time will be a necessity. It mentions some of the popular applications being used for online sessions like Zoom, Big-Blue-Button and Google-Meet. The article focuses more on new technology and application oriented information while misses to discuss on the use of already available devices and popular platforms for the purpose of learning and education.

-    MoEST informed that a committee has been formed under the supervision of VC of Nepal Open University to create guiding protocol on how to conduct teaching and learning through alternative mediums.

Time rigid and technology intense practices of Open University should be noted in this as NOU has limited itself to specific forms of alternative distance learning methods. Any suggestion limiting to high tech and time bind structures will not be applicable to present context where students, teachers, schools and local government are responding to a sudden situation under limited time for preparation.

-    A letter to editor from education expert questioned the relevance of techno solutions to the most needed students of the poor class who are likely the weakest students. Another appeal in a letter to editor called the government to consider that the private schools are of different financial conditions and to facilitate private schools as well.  

Through the media coverage on can tell that public services related to health and education that are basic for the operation of a society even in very critical situations like the world is facing right now, has become less appropriate when run through private sector. One of the important questions to explore in the media in these times would be if the pandemic will help general public rethink their position on health and school institutions and reanalyze if the alternative to bad public school should rather be better public school than private schools?

'Education this Week' is a joint effort put to analyze the press coverage of education in Nepal’s selected print media published in Kathmandu. The main aim of this effort is to identify and explain major education issues picked up by the media and give back and foreground of the news. This, we believe, will help policy makers and other responsible people to keep abreast with ongoing concerns and discussions on and around education. EduKhabar, in collaboration with the Center for Educational Policies and Practices (CEPP) , has produced this analysis based on the news printed in Kantipur (Nepali) and The Himalayan Times (English), Dailies between April 15-21, 2020 (Baisakh 3-9, 2077) - Editor.

Read last week’s analysis: Corona given opportunity to innovate Nepal’s Education System

Read this analysis in Nepali : वैकल्पिक शिक्षा योजना निर्माण गर्दा कमजोर र विपन्नलाई ध्यान दिन जरुरी

All analysis read by this link : Education This week