Clipped wings-Approach to Teaching

A rigid hierarchy of power in classrooms grants our teachers an almost total authority over the students.

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In most schools in our country, classrooms turn into little dictatorial states ruled by teachers. There is a rigid hierarchy of power within our classrooms that grants the teachers an almost totalitarian authority over the students, a system primarily rooted in our tradition that equates the teacher with the divine. Teachers are wrongly regarded as the source of wisdom instead of mere guides or transmitters of knowledge. In addition, they also play the role of the police who look at the discipline of the students, and that of the judge who has an absolute authority over academic, moral and ethical standards.

The students, therefore, are completely at the mercy of the teachers who often use force and other methods, be it verbal or physical, to arouse fear. The practice of coercion and intimidation smothers the curiosity and the natural instinct for learning in children, making their learning experience unnatural, forced and hence ineffective.

However, we cannot lay the blame solely on teachers. Although they appear to be the primary perpetrators of the psychological violence happening in our classrooms, they are also victims, bearing responsibilities placed on them by the education system that values the curriculum and considers exams to be the sole determinant of a student’s worth. From grade one to the bachelor’s level and beyond, the teachers have little freedom but to follow curriculums preset by a small group of academicians and committee members. To use the factory analogy, as many critics of formal education have done, the teachers are the robotic arms with hammers, metal cutters and screw drivers that cast and assemble the minds of students as programmed by the system.

The culture of evaluating students by the results of their exams, whether they are percentage numbers or letter grades, is at the root of the problem in our education system. All that parents and teachers want from students is to see them pass their exams with distinction and “A” grades. In exam-centered education, which most formal education systems in the world are, teaching and learning processes tend to become uninspired and formulaic. Neither the teachers nor the students have much space to be creative and wield their imaginations.
A rigid hierarchy of power in classrooms grants our teachers an almost total authority over the students.

A person’s abilities, whether in a specific subject or general studies, cannot be reduced to a letter or a number. We cannot expect marks or grades to reflect anyone’s aptitude, least of all in Nepal where most curriculums are either out-dated or have irrelevant content, and examinations are almost never fair. The SLC, considered to be the most important examination in a student’s career in Nepal, is a paragon of futile and misguided approach of evaluation. An apt comparison can be made between the SLC exams and the tests that the Department of Transportation administers to determine the eligibility for driving licenses. Just as neither the written exam for a driving license nor the trials effectively test the ability to drive on roads and follow traffic rules, the SLC also tests the students on material barely relevant to their current or future lives. No wonder the country is always in chaos, like the traffic in the streets of Kathmandu.

We cannot get rid of standardized exams. They can be improved upon, but more importantly, we need to change our attitude towards them. Because exams can never be the perfect evaluator of anyone’s abilities, we need to learn to take them less seriously. We have to focus on the classroom experience so that students can learn and explore inquisitively and imaginatively without any shackles put on them by teachers or exams. Learning should not be regarded as a preparation for exams. In fact, learning is not a preparation for anything; it is a natural instinct that makes us human, and it is better if we keep it that way.


sourc: Rajbhandari, Kritish (2013),"Clipped wings-Approach to Teaching", republica,19 March 2013

The author is a teacher at Kathmandu University High School’s A Level division

2013-03-19 | EducateNepal


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