Wednesday, 19 June, 2024

Education System In Need Of Change


Dr. Tulasi Acharya

What we are still practicing in the academic institutions of Nepal is what Paulo Freire calls “the ‘banking’ concept of education,” which means “education becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories, and the teacher is the depositors. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communications and makes deposits which students patiently receive, memorise, and repeat. Mugging up everything that the teachers preach in class does not help one be a better citizen and a critical thinker.

Need of research
Although there are many academic institutions in Nepal, education practices are all about preaching and memorising, and repeating and rotting. Such activities are guided by the institutions’ final exam point of view. Many classes are simply run devoid of a culture of research and learning, classroom discussions, and critical thinking. If such practices of merely memorising and learning continue to exist in Nepali classrooms, the future of the nation might be bleak.

Students usually have the impression that remembering what their teachers say can make them successful in their academic endeavours. However, the students fail to think of its adverse effect on their future career. This is either because of the fear of being beaten up by the teacher or of failing to receive good marks. Students continue to believe that each word the teacher uses in the classroom is like the ultimate truth. Neither the students want to go beyond what the teachers say in the classroom, nor do they wish to be critical of him. Thus, the students make their teachers, parents and themselves happy.

While lecturing in the classroom, the teacher should be able to deconstruct the myth and realise that the students are not there to be fed. S/he should also not feel that his/her knowledge is absolute, true, and unquestionable. The classroom culture in advanced countries helps students be critical. Most of the assignments in the classroom do not test their IQs, but their level of critical thinking and how they see the world outside the box. They are asked to read texts critically and think creatively and write, for example, a 10-page paper critically. They are asked to come to each class being prepared to discuss and present a different view and perspective, not just to deposit what the instructor said the other day.

Without making inquiries, reading critically and raising questions or making claims or arguments is not adequate. That kind of practice never gives an opportunity to everyone to be truly human. Freire writes, “Knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.”

This minimises students’ creative powers. They should be inspired to communicate.
We should opt for writing through mental process, research, outside study and observations. But we are hardly taught to look at the same piece or article from different vantage points and discuss. We are made to dance to the rhythm of the teachers’ language. We are still accustomed to what Berlin writes in his article “Rhetoric and Ideology in the Writing Class”— the “authoritarian classroom, a place where the teacher holds all power and knowledge and the students is a receptacle into which information is poured, a classroom that is loveless, arrogant, hopeless, mistrustful and critical.” We never become aware of the fact that the classroom is a place where students and teachers interact and share experiences within a social and interdisciplinary framework.

It is necessary for the teachers to teach the students to be creative, transformative, and dialogic. Teachers are required to teach students to read and write a summary of an essay, instead of writing a summary for them. Teachers must be able open a window of opportunity for students’ discussion. They should bring out problems so that students try to solve them.

Drastic changes
It would not be an overstatement to say who we are, what we are doing, and where we are heading is the result of what we have learnt in the classroom. And most of politicians, policymakers, and academicians are the products of the same education system in Nepal. Until and unless we change the concept that a teacher knows everything and student knows nothing, we cannot bring about drastic changes in the education system. What we need today is the type of education that can upgrade our nation’s image on the world stage.

(Acharya is a director of Social Science Department of NIRI based in Kathmandu.)