Quality education: The ground realities

Many things‚ such as knowledge‚ skills‚ resources‚ commitment and willingness to bring about changes‚ are required‚ and they are very challenging in a developing country like Nepal. Now we need a customer-driven education system that could promote the pursuit of excellence

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DR. SHIBA DATTA GNAWALI
Quality education is one that satisfies the basic learning needs and enriches the lives of learners and their overall experiences of living. It is judged by the contents of our students’ character, the knowledge and skills they have learned and the aptitude and values they possess. During the past decades, a lot of discussions, exercises and homework in Nepal have been done to provide quality education to the students from primary to the higher levels. Various donor agencies and countries have continued to pour in huge amounts of money in the field of education in order to enhance the quality of education. But, the efforts made so far have not been productive as per the investments. Thus, equity and quality in education have become a decade-old battle.

UNICEF, a leading agency, has presented a broader view of quality education as a guideline for all. It demonstrates a wider definition involving learners, content, processes, environment and outcomes. Actually, education is regarded as a complicated system embedded in a political, cultural and economic context, and these dimensions are interdependent, influencing each other in ways that are sometimes unforeseeable to acquire relevant knowledge, useful skills and appropriate attitudes.

There are many definitions and views in the context of quality education, testifying to the complexity and multifaceted nature of the concept. Efficiency, equity, effectiveness and quality whatever we name it: they are all synonymously used, and it is changeable as per the views of key stakeholders, local and national contexts, global and international influences, upcoming new challenges and outcomes of recent researches.

It is very important that the quality of children’s life before starting formal education greatly influences the kind of learners they can be. Many elements, such as good health and nutrition in the early childhood, psychological development experiences, regular attendance and family support for learning, contribute greatly to quality education.

The natural world and its conditions in which children live affect quality learning. The learning environment consists of physical elements — such as psychological and service delivery with quality of school facilities, interaction between school infrastructure and other quality dimensions, like availability of sufficient instructional materials, textbooks, working conditions for teachers and students, teaching pedagogy applied by teachers, availability of drinking water, laboratories, classrooms, furniture, location, etc. All these affect learning to a great extent. In the same way, class size, peaceful and safe environments, especially for girls, teachers’ behaviors, effective school discipline policies, inclusive environment (inclusion of students of special needs and disabilities), non-violence, service delivery (health service, guidance and counseling service), provision of extra-curricular activities, canteen facility. All of these factors play an important role in boosting the quality of school environment by indirectly affecting learning activities.

Today’s dominant education model of Nepal is a system based on antiquated paradigms. What students are meant to learn has often not been clearly defined, well taught or accurately assessed. We really need a curiosity-driven and self-directed learning system based on acquiring knowledge, skills, aptitude, values, innovation and creativity. The current educational models consistently limit the passionate celebration for the wide spectrum of human ability and creativity and try to fit into pre-determined boxes, extricating rather than encouraging young people’s unique abilities and talents.

Apart from system inputs, such as infrastructure, pupil-teacher ratios, curricular content, what is crucial is how it is transformed into practice. Educational processes, thus, play a vital role in producing good quality in our schools. Similarly, effective supervision of daily work and administrative support led by an able head is another very critically strong element in the process, both for teachers and for students. The management must inspire them to duties.

The present evaluation system in our country also relies exclusively on traditional paper-and-pencil tests of factual knowledge, which may promote only rote memorization. So, this system must be replaced by a scientific model of evaluation, which can reflect our students’ creativity, innovation and vocational skills. We have to sincerely strengthen our weak administrative mechanism in terms of supervision, accountability and financial support. It needs a major overhaul.

It is true that quality is at the centre of education. If we could bring together effectively all these dimensions — learners, environment content, process and outcomes that contribute to quality education — the quality of education will rise a lot.

Many things, such as knowledge, skills, resources, commitment and willingness to bring about changes, are required and these dimensions are more challenging in a developing country like Nepal. Now we need a customer-driven education system that could help us become important beacons in the pursuit of excellence.

source:GNAWALI,DR. SHIBA DATTA (2013),"Quality education: The ground realities", The Himalayan Tims,27 August 2013
Dr. Gnawali is Principal, Universal College
photo/art: The Himalayan times

2013-08-28 | EducateNepal

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