Pandemic paving paths for teaching-learning innovation


Kathmandu - This week the news on the appointment of Agriculture and Forestry University (AFU)’s major positions; public call for the post of Vice Chancellor (VC); student unions’ involvement in protests; opinion article on expectation of long term impact in pedagogy by Covid and announcements of school reopening for physical classes in Kathmandu were reported in the media. 
 
- The news reported that the Prime Minister and ex-officio Chancellor of AFU has appointed the Registrar, Chair of its Service Commission and the Dean of the Faculty of Forestry. Another news reported that the Recommendation Committee of Kathmandu University (KU) has invited applications for the post of Vice-Chancellor asking the incumbents to send their resume. The report also stated it was for the first time that a public application has been called for the appointment of a VC in KU.
 
- A news article stated that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the conventional education system in 2020, introducing virtual teaching-learning methods in Nepal. The pandemic paved a path for the educational institutions, from schools to universities of the country, to move on with a new way of teaching-learning, the article stated. To ensure the same level of engagement from teachers and students in virtual class some academic institutions have started experimenting in four aspects - content creation, content delivery, learners-engagement and learner’s evaluation. Universities are also experimenting with different tools to track students' performances and sincerity of their attendance, it had reported.
 
Picture: A physical fitness trainer kicking a student as a form of punishment while they work out at a forest area near Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu reported in the front page of The Himalayan Times on 12 January 2021. Although they don’t appear as normal students, expression of such behavior of a tutor even in a public space is an indicator of the fact that the society has not grasped the essence of the case against physical punishments. 
 
- An opinion article stated that the educational outcomes are related to family income. It’s proved that poverty decreases a child’s readiness for school in aspects of health, family life, schooling and neighborhoods it stated. It also referred to studies reporting that children from lower income score significantly lower in vocabulary and communication skills, knowledge of numbers, copying ability to concentrate and cooperate with other children than those who come from higher income families. 
 
The opinion article grossly failed to identify the fact that the lack of confidence in the lower income students' families can also be linked to the inequality prevailed in the society. It can also be noted that the assessment of students should be just and equally fair to all students, while the assessment that encourages and rewards students of certain backgrounds, can also be questioned as a systemic failure, if such evaluation methods are discouraging the students that it should have been supporting the most. In fact, in the words of the pioneer American Education Administrator’s words it is the education that should ‘equalize the conditions’ of the people. 
 
- With decreasing cases of coronavirus infections in Kathmandu valley, schools in Kathmandu district are likely to resume classes from next week. The schools in coordination with agencies concerned are preparing for physical classes stating that long time interval closure of the schools will have severe impacts on the student's learning process. The schools were also under pressure to reopen as the online classes, and radio and TV-based alternative classes did not prove effective, the news had reported. A news article stated that though a proposal has been submitted to the Council of Ministers with the conclusion that the current academic session may be completed by cutting off next year's leave, no decision has been taken yet.
 
- The news reported that Tanahun’s Byash Municipality has allocated Rs 12.6 million to provide mid-day tiffin to the students of Community Schools in the Municipality. Budget will be allocated to provide the tiffin to the children of Early Child Development Centres (ECDs) and students from Grades I to V of the Community Schools in the Municipality. Some 4,500 children are said to benefit from the program. 
 
However, to think of attracting children with tiffin without improving learning is a flaw. Without ‘food for their minds’ children just don’t get interested nor parents will be interested to send their children to schools. 
 
- A news piece reported that the National Medical College, in Birgunj had deprived students of examination for not paying the fee. Two students who were studying in government scholarships were barred from appearing for the MBBS fourth year examination, for non-payment of Rs 751,000 in additional fees.
 
Most private schools and colleges use method of depriving students from exams or threatening families to deprive their children from exams, which is a mental torture to the students in itself.  While private institutions claim their actions to run their institutions, they should not terrify students in the name of administration. Alas! the public has not moved to build the pressure to have a good public education system in place but has been negotiating with the profiteers to get their children ‘educated’ This act alone can represent how privatization of the school system and education is a flaw and can result in students to perceive the entire society through an unfair, unequal lens, thus further contributing to creation of an unequal future.
 
- An opinion article that dramatized the involvement of private school operators in Nepali politics was also published this week. Titled ‘In the business of education’ the article had quoted a private school association representative stating "Now we have to go to parliament ourselves and make the kind of law we want. Otherwise, our business will be shut down.', in reference to a dramatized discussion resulting in private schools collectively investing to send representatives in parliament. Of course, this is not a new idea - in the past there have been such explicit efforts. Already now, many leaders of the parties right or left have their stake in the private educational enterprise - direct or indirect. 
 
- Among international news covered this week about education, installation of vending machines for do-it-yourself COVID 19 test kits in University of California, increasing dropout rates in schools of the Philippines due to ineffective and inaccessible methods of alternative learning in the pandemic period was also reported. Another article stated with several examples that American teachers were responding proactively to find ways to help students make sense of a political incident of Attack on US Capitol, to bring the discussion among students. The report stated the proactive response of teachers to real time events, and the flexibility of the curriculum, that is not hard wired to lessons and chapters making it impossible for teachers to bring current affairs in the classrooms. The role of bringing mass media content as a part of curriculum and a tool for education needs further exploration for Nepal. It will help students relate the morals to real life events and also help students to be vigilant on everyday affairs and the media.
 
Abbreviations: 
COVID- Corona Virus Disease, RM- Rural Municipality, TU- Tribhuvan University, KU-Kathmandu University, AFU- Agriculture and Forestry University, MoEST- Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, TUSC- Tribhuvan University Service Commission, NGOs- Non-Governmental Organizations, TUSC- Tribhuvan University Service Commission, CDC: Curriculum Development Centre, ECD- Early Childhood Development, SEE- Secondary Education Examination, SC- Supreme Court, VC- Vice Chancellor, NEB-National Examinations Board, US- United States of America

'Education this Week' is a joint effort to analyze the press coverage of education in Nepal’s selected print media published in Kathmandu (Online scanning was stopped due to the shortage of staff time from last week - apologies with the readers). The main aim of this effort is to identify and explain major education issues picked up by the media and give back and foreground 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) between 6-12 January 2021 (22-28 Poush, 2077) - Editor.

Read this analysis in Nepali : शिक्षण सिकाइलाई नवप्रवर्तनको बाटोतर्फ डोर्‍याउँदै महामारी