I’ve been teaching for a few months now and in that time have been thinking about education and schooling in Nepal. Here are a few thoughts and observations…
Tri showed me this comic a few months ago about the teacher-parent relationship in the past versus now.
The way the cartoon describes 1969 is a somewhat accurate (although exagerated) description of the parent-teacher relationship at the school I teach at and (I think) in Nepal in general. When a kid does something wrong or isn’t doing well in school, a parent is called in, there’s a discussion, and the parent often expresses his/her disappointment to the kid. Sometimes it’s more than disappointment. I’ve seen parents get really mad at their kids for not doing well and yell at them for not listening to their teachers. I’m sure that parents get mad at teachers too, and they must have disagreements, but I’ve found that for the most part, parents listen carefully to teachers and respect their opinions. This is pretty different from the model I grew up with in the US. I’ve never taught in the US, but I was a student at a public school. Not only do parents blame teachers for failing students, the government does as well. With new reforms aimed at fixing inadequacies in the school systems, it’s often the teachers who suffer. I don’t think the Nepali model is necessarily the answer, but it’s good to see teachers really getting respect. I think there’s probably some balance between the two extremes that would work best.
Public vs. Private
I like working at a private school. The curriculum is great. Extra-curricular activities are well-funded, and parents are heavily involved. But it has also made me appreciate public schooling. The thing about a private school is that if a kid is a trouble maker or not doing well in school, he/she can be kicked out. The school may try very hard to prevent that from happening, but ultimately they make the decision about it. Public schools, on the other hand, have to accept every child in their district: the studious pupils, the troublemakers, students with disabilities, students who are poor and those who are rich. Of course, many districts in the US are already segregated racially and socio-economically, but at a public school, there’s still a greater likelyhood that students come from a range of experiences and backgrounds. The idealist in me likes to think that this helps to foster tolerance and appreciation for difference.
Attitude Towards Education
One thing that I love about teaching here is the Nepali attitude towards education. The students’ families at the school I work at are very involved. Parental willingness to help out at school, go on field trips, organize events, etc. is actually one of the criteria the school looks for when accepting students. The parents there may have particularly strong feelings about the importance of getting an education. However, I’ve met Nepalis from many different parts of Nepal, from different ethnic groups, in different economic situations. Again and again I hear and see a similar attitude towards education in parents and kids: that school is one of the most important things and no matter what, you must try your hardest. Whether it’s the kids whose parents drive them to school every day or the kids who walk two hours both ways to attend. In the US, many people believe that getting an education is important, maybe one of the most important things in life. And I think that the great majority of people want their kids to attend school, but there’s no wide-spread push to do your very best and to attain the highest degree that you can.
A New Perspective
Becoming a teacher has given a new perspective on schooling. Being in Nepal and getting to know how education works here is one thing, but I think just being a teacher has given me a new perspective on how teaching and learning work and also on my own education. It’s definitely made me more empathetic towards my previous teachers. Teaching is not an easy job. I come home exhausted from work sometimes, but I find it immensely satisfying. There’s no “best way” to teach a child because students vary so much, but I am learning that some methods work better than others. Although I don’t think I want to continue to be a classroom teacher in the long run, I think I’d always like to teach in some capacity. The process involved in learning is so fascinating, and I’d like to continue in a career that allows me to explore and understand it better.