The Evolution Of Education In Nepal
Education has been an important aspect for the majority of the Nepalese society, despite being on the back foot in many other regards. However, it has always remained a structured affair. Generally, primary level of education start with grades 1–5, lower secondary and secondary levels of grades 6–8 and 9–10 until you reach the dreaded “iron gate”. Grades 11 and 12 are considered as higher secondary level and the Higher Secondary Education Board (HSEB) supervises the schools.
Results, more specifically marks attained, go hand in hand with the definition of schooling and education. Parents and teacher enforce it upon the students and most children chase distinction throughout their academic lives. But does that encompass the essence of learning, what the education system theoretically stands for? And if it does, is it solely confined to what you learn from the books? Where does that leave the ones who are born to sing, act, carve art from stone, and create things from wood?
Education is undergoing reforms for the better, and it’s high time things change. We discuss the changing scene of academics in Nepal with two of the several institutions who are slowly adopting the new rules of education: Karkhana and CG Education.
KARKHANA REINVENTING EDUCATION FOR THE BETTER
KARKHANA as an educational institute, steps out of the norm by focusing on skill and personal creativity rather than the numbers on the report cards. And their focus on establishing the notion that the world is malleable is just what the stringent world order seems to require. Instead of depending on good grades, KARKHANA encourages interdisciplinary thinking, because that is just what the modern world needs: the skills to invent the future.
To elucidate what that means, we chat with Mr. Pavitra Gautam, CEO at Karkhana.
Let’s talk about the current education system of Nepal. What do you think needs to be done to improve it?
Theoretical knowledge is important, I agree. Children need to read the books and learn basic things and know what specific things mean. But, that is not the soul definition of gaining knowledge and it’s not nearly enough. In Nepal, we are focused so much on marks that learning is no longer fun for students. It is a boundary in which they must always do what is expected from the parents and the teachers and the education standard, which puts a lot of pressure on children. And after weeks of memorizing things and purging it onto the exam paper, it ends there; in most of the cases a child doesn’t even know what s/he learned for a whole year after the exams. We all have seen cases where a person with good grades is still unemployed because we are not taught about what the future holds for us and this is because failure is deemed as such an embarrassment. The pressure to not fail has ruined our confidence from a young age.
So, things should be balanced, the education system should also focus more on the practical aspects of life and that failure is a learning process not an embarrassment. Learning can be fun and children can specialize on things they are interested in without telling them that science and math has a larger scope than literature or history. This perception brings out a huge gap in the employment industry when most of the students are taking up subjects expecting to get a well-paid job to later realize that things become obsolete with time and learning is a never ending process.
What kinds of activities are planned at Karkhana for the kids enrolled in the program?
We have two programs for students here one is the Karkhana Innovators Club in which we have 70 students who come here every Saturday for three hours and then they learn about designing, electronics, photography, animation and so on. Right now we are focusing more on space technology and they are learning to make their own antennas and wireless speakers. We have laser cutters where children make their own designs and see them turn out the way they wanted to. We have regular workshops on skills like jewelry designing and making and we also focus a lot on team building skills.
Our second program is Bee Creative where kids go to schools and take classes and we also create fun filled activities where learning is a happy event. We give students a practical view of what they learned in the class. To name a few, if it is a physics class we teach them to build balloon powered cars and other activities involve riddles that needs decoding to get the answers.
What are the obstacles that you had to overcome in the process of establishing Karkhana in Nepal? How did you overcome it?
Finding people with matching perception was difficult. The people who we need help from and who need to understand us the most came through the traditional system and sometimes this creates misunderstanding. The support we need from the education sector is not up to mark. Not to forget, the constant political insecurities and strikes also create a problem but at the end of the day we have to be resilient and keep doing what we do.
At first, it was also very difficult for us to find the working staff here as well but we were fortunate enough to get amazing team members here at Karkhana who are skilled and talented and we are all here work together and it has been a pleasure working with these amazing people. We are still in need of more staff but we are working on it through a project called “maker mentor”. A Maker Mentor could be anyone between the age of 18 and 24 who is open to new experiences and eager to learn new skills and work with kids between the ages of 8 to 14. It is an opportunity to engage and nurture young minds through hands-on fun practical activities. The program begins with a free design challenge on different allocated dates and the selected ones, will get an opportunity to enroll in the Maker Mentor Program that lasts for 6 months. As a part of the Maker Mentor Program, everyone selected will be also invited to a two day Maker Mentor Workshop at Karkhana.
What sort of response did you expect from the public and how has the response been?
The response has been amazing. We didn’t have a perfect idea of what the response would be because when we started we didn’t know we would turn out to do all these things. The parents are happy because their children are excited to come on Saturdays rather than staying home and watching TV or playing games. We get constant feedback from students and parents and the schools we are involved in, and we try our best to make it more fruitful and fun for the children.
What differentiates Karkhana from other schools? What are the specialties?
One thing we do at Karkhana is that we teach students how to handle constructive criticism because we don’t think you have to be the best at what you do. We adhere to the model of Learning,
Unlearning and Relearning. We need to keep up with the time and new ideas come up every day and keeping up with the trends and learning new things is a necessity. What you learn today might not be applicable in the future and you will have to learn something completely new that is in lieu with the times.
To instill this concept, we have created a favorable learning environment where there are no strict rules, no seating arrangements in rows, students sit in a group, and they sit alone when they want privacy. We also have the best teachers who are diverse learners themselves and are not fixed in one role. To elaborate further here is a model of how Karkhana is operating where the making is the core value. Students first choose the subject they are interested in from the STEAM Model. After that, the 4C’s come into play which includes the personal skills of the student and how they can individually perform in a group. The TMPI model then encourages the students to make things in a fun way.