The dawn of the twenty-first has experienced an unprecedented progress in science and technology. Every aspect of human life is transforming from traditional to modern. Amid this change, the essence of education is never a subject of question but the approach of education often goes through several debates in the academic community. Especially in Nepali society, ideas and opinions on the nature of Nepali education could be heard and read on social media. As such, hundreds and thousands of Nepali students are boarding aircrafts every single day in the name of higher education. What is leading Nepal to lose its manpower in such an unusual way? Is it simply the matter of opportunity or the quality of education or something else? Shilash Thapa Tamang of the SahityaPost had an opportunity to explore the different issues of current education from the children psychology to the brain drain problem with Mr. Subas Neupane, the Co-President of National Private and Boarding School’s Association Nepal (N-PABSAN). Mr. Neupane is also the chairperson of Apex Life School, Kathmandu and has a long experience in Nepali education. Here presented the interview:
Being an educator and a very keen observer of education system for many years, how do you perceive the present education situation of Nepal? Is it progressive or drifted away from the mainstream education?
If you look at the history of education in Nepal, this land has a very long history of education dating back some 2500 years in the era of Buddha. It is said that universities like Takshashila, Nalanda, and Bikramshila were there to impart education to the people of this land under 60 various disciplines. But in the meantime, it seems Nepali people were detached from education for centuries owing to various reasons. The revolution of 1950 and especially 1989 brought a huge transformation in Nepali education. Political leaders realized the essence of education. A lot of positive changes took place. Government and private schools boomed out making education easily accessible to Nepali folks. Yet, I think we still should march a long way to meet the competent manpower required for today’s global market. Learning outcomes of community school and private school also vary as a result of which the quality of education is not uniform all across Nepal.
Education in Nepal also tends to emphasise traditional rote-learning while keeping creative writing and literary reading at margin. Do you feel our school students are missing an important aspect of learning that is creativity?
Yes, a pathetic situation indeed. Language has four aspects of learning: reading, writing, listening and speaking. But we do not seem to be maintaining balance between these four. Our children are neither appropriately good in English nor in Nepali. Regarding children’s literature, we have failed to sow curiosity of reading literary books in our young minds. Students are so occupied by electronic gadgets that reading anything besides their text book is accidental. Language teachers could help to resolve this problem. They should encourage our students in creative writing and help to mine the treasures of literature. Schools should also prescribe literary books for students along with their text books. This can really enhance the creativity of our students and bring reading habits in them.
There also seems a socially constructed hierarchy among the subjects. Under the pressure of some force or false belief, students are not usually studying subjects of their genuine interest. What do you think is the reason behind this mass psychology?
What I think is, today’s generation always looks for immediate result. Modern technologies have made everything quick and spontaneous. They severely lack patience and our children are the worst victim of the same. People today are driven by market value. Here I duly remember Howard Gardner’s concept of multiple intelligence which says that every child is born with some type of intelligence. But we mostly see children directed to pursue the subject of market value without really knowing whether a student best fits in that particular subject or not. There was a time when the crowd ran after medical science, then commerce and now information technology. I am not saying that one should not consider market value but merely in the name of market value, let no child remain ignorant of their inborn talent. Any subject can generate market value if one does justice to it. When a child’s intelligence and the subject are in tune, passion is automatic, patience is natural and pleasure overflows. Opportunities come on the way and life becomes melodious.
But this untiring discussion about discovering a child’s natural intelligence and its application look contrasting. A child spends most of his active hours in school and is governed by many rules, regulations, formalities and instructions. Isn’t it in opposition to the natural development of the children? How are the schools assisting the children to unearth their intelligence?
A very importing issue indeed. School education is so significant that it is the foundation for any academic journey. A child’s initial perception of life and world is shaped in school.
Here, I agree the fact that any boundary will influence the natural growth of a child. In traditions sense, some necessary rules and regulations are created to maintain discipline, still it is a hindrance to child’s natural growth in some respects. We still have traditional approach of teaching and learning that heavily relies on rout learning, lecturing method and a significant stress on discipline. They all oppose a child’s natural growth and development. It is very important to make a shift from instruction-based learning to experience, inquiry, project and research based learning. And only doing so, we can help our children identify their real strength. I tried a lot to bring all these methods in practice, but many parents still have traditional hang over and they only look for good marks. Unlike traditional one, our evaluation system also needs to be based on Continuous Assessment System (CAS) that would assess a child’s everyday performance of different activities from interaction to critical thinking. I always say that education in this twenty-first century should be linked with three things: life, world and technology. Hence, education should aim to bring harmony between human activities, ecosystem and technology.
Let’s now come to brain drain, one of the major problems of our country. Today we see our students in an urgent hurry to apply for foreign countries right after their school education. It seems they are mentally inclined for foreign study during the school days. Numbers of Nepali students in countries like the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan and Korea is increasing day by day? Do you take it as a matter of achievement or loss?
Definitely a great loss. What would they do in the country when the overall atmosphere is not favourable? At once, quite a large number of students used to get enrolled in Tribhuvan University but today our students are reluctant to study in Nepali universities. Everyone is aware of the lack of employment opportunities in Nepal. And who knows not about the politicization in education? Traditional approach of evaluation and delayed publication of result are another troubles. Partly, globalization is also a responsible factor. The concept of global village has made the exchange of human resources at an accelerating pace. But more than the influence of globalization, Nepali society is also driven by a sense of competition in reaching overseas. The psychology of our society is so structured that getting visas of developed country is conceived as a mark of prestige in our society. Even parents are also catalysts behind this brain drain problem. So for all these reasons, we are forced to bid farewell to our creative minds at International Airport.
What picture do see in next couple of decades if the current situation doesn’t improve and the pace of brain drain keeps accelerating?
A very dreadful future. I think the country will face a great scarcity of manpower. Only the senior citizens, physically disabled, and those poor and helpless people will be dwelling in the country. It is a high time now to think this issue seriously at policy making level and take necessary actions to prevent the country from that desolate future.
What sort of impact is seen in the schools of Nepal due to this wave of study abroad and foreign employment?
Honestly I must say, especially in private schools, parents often complain that the school could not retain its teachers for long term. It is the direct impact of this very foreign employment trend. We never know when they get visa for abroad and leave the country. So the teachers get frequently changed. It is not in our control. I think there will be a great crisis of teaching manpower in next couple of years. It’s painful to say that there might be some vested interest to sabotage the education of Nepal. Our universities are already a victim and now the schools are susceptible to the attack. Unless Federal Education Act come into action, the situation will worsen.
You are now in an executive position of N-PABSON. What would be your effort to combat with such a harsh reality in Nepali education?
N-PABSON is an organization of private schools. Our prime aim is to uplift the education quality of Nepal and produce competent manpower for the global market. We also aim to build professional teachers and secure their life so that they don’t have flee the country. We are always ready to assist government to combat with the present situation. But government is not able to utilize our resource and long experience in educating. Instead, private school is often accused with many charges. Roles of private school nation building should not be denied. In fact, it is because of the private school, the community schools are in constant pressure to uplift their quality as well.
Finally, what is your message to the students, teachers, parents and all the stakeholders of Nepali education?
The world is constantly changing along with the technological innovations. Today’s education has begun to experience a paradigm shift. So we must act accordingly. Educational institution should make their teaching materials as relevant as possible. Teachers should be devoted to their subject and they should not regard themselves as an ordinary being. Parents should try to understand the spirit of the today’s education and cooperate with the ultimate purpose of the school. If the coordination between these parent, school and teacher is maintained, we can control the present challenges to a greater extend. Besides, it is the government’s law that directs the future of the country.