As the date of local election is nearing, local representatives seem busy preparing their report cards to show their achievements made during their five-year tenure. Actually, the past half-decade was crucial because during these years local bodies practised their jurisdiction under the new constitution for the first time. Results and achievements gained in this period would be considered the yardstick to assess the applicability of the constitutional provisions related to the local level government.
The Constitution of Nepal has authorised local governments to design and practise the school curriculum embedded with peculiarities of local identities. Some dozens of local government succeeded making local curriculum and have already started teaching in local schools. Of course this would be one of the recognisable achievements of those local governments worth mentioning on their report cards.
The foremost side of making of this curriculum is that it has helped identify the distinct characteristics of local areas. The spirit of making local curriculum is to teach students about the specialities of the very area, including its geography, languages, culture and social life. Identifying those specailities is inevitable. Hence, researches and studies are conducted or at least shown concern about the unnoticed treasures that particular local area own. Local intellectuals, teachers and researchers are mobilised to dig out the hitherto unrealised potentialities. Day-to-day chores of local people became matters of research and study paving the way for revitalising them. Research and enlistment of local tangible and intangible heritages by the local bodies with support of local human resources have gathered huge range of knowledge that had remained unnoticed and thought unworthy.
Let's see an example. Kasimala Paayn is a local game played majorly in the Kathmandu Valley with long indigenous history. It was almost on the verge of extinct. Except some septuagenarians, nobody knew even about its existence, keeping away the method of playing it. The Bhaktapur Municipality included this nearly lost game in its newly-devised local curriculum. All of a sudden, the game became popular among schoolteachers and students. Elderly people who know how to play the game and often play it in open squares and rest houses became gurus. Hence the traditional game is revived and indigenous knowledge is transferred to the new generation. This is merely an example of how the initiative taken to make local curriculum helps reliving the almost dead part of our social life.
Through the local curriculum, students are relating their classroom with their environs. Even teachers felt their need to revisit their vicinity to discover something previously regarded worthless.
Certainly, a five-year period is not adequate even to make a good start of such long-lasting mission, let alone their full implementation. Undoubtedly, local representatives from most parts of the country seem to have lacked basic concept of curriculum making. They are much more concerned about building up infrastructures such as roads and view towers which they think appease their voters and hence can help for their further political success. They may find it more profitable monetarily. So, making curriculum may not be in their priority.
Implementation of local curriculum is more a challenging task than making it. Though Nepal has made a stride in federal system, much remains to be done to reframe the educational system as per the federal governance structure. Hence the traditional centralised mindset is still prevalent among officials and representatives in all the three-tier of government. Local officials and teachers think all sorts of curriculum should come from the top. This thinking is an obstacle to designing and implementing local curriculum.
Training teachers from various cultural and social backgrounds is another herculean task. Teachers are the real carriers of the spirit of local curriculum and they are those who decipher it to the students. So, teachers' training is foremost part in the implementation of local curriculum. But limited experts, budgetary constraint and poor infrastructure have made it challenging and discouraging local governments to move the curriculum making process ahead.
Teachers from sundry background need patience and passion to learn and teach about certain culture, history and tradition that might even be alien to themselves. Even tough task is to teach the prescribed knowledge to students with multiple layers of diversity. It is uneasy in heterogeneous urban settlements and metropolitans.
Even some parents oppose teaching their children local culture that essentially doesn’t belong to them. For example, in the Kathmandu Valley many parents are reluctant to teach their children about Newari language and culture. Some parents even think that teaching local roots lacks relevancy in view of fierce globalisation that has melted all cultures to create a homogenous world. In many cases, local curriculum is in trial phase and mostly it is being implemented under doing and learning process. More is expected from the people's representatives to be elected in the upcoming elections. But beginning has shown the importance of (re)learning and teaching local roots.
As responsible citizens, it is our duty to ask political parties and local representatives about their achievements and prospects on local curriculum that definitely is a part of our intangible heritage per se and a conservation tool of our overall heritage and identity.
(Lawoju is a student of Political Science.)