I have just spent the past 90 minutes with an inspiring man. Nothing like "that" (before the gossip goes around!) but this is a contact who does teacher training in Nepal and who has visited UK schools. We were put in touch through a mutual contact in the UK and arranged to meet this afternoon. I was very interested to talk to him about teacher training in Nepal. The discussion over tea and iced coffee was wide ranging and varied. We discussed what I have observed in the school and how I can approach giving training and also the general state of Nepalese Education and how it needs to change. I don't want to say "improve" because much of what I have seen is great but there is a need to modernise and to embrace other methods. There is not a culture of inspection (stick) or improvement (carrot) to drive up standards and head teachers do not have the power to hire or fire their staff. Teachers are relatively low status here and not paid handsomely and there is no "stick" to make them try to take steps to change their practices, most of which come from when they were taught themselves and have not changed since.
It was interesting to find out that there is no fiction used in Nepalese teaching with the exception of the odd poem. Every text has to have a basis in fact and a moral - for example, there was a poem today which was being used for a competition but it had a large number of flower names in and the final teaching point was not the poem per se but the flower knowledge contained in it. The children are presented with facts and factual situations and not immersed in fiction or fantasy. Thus they end up with a rich general knowledge but not the ability to lose themselves in a book for pleasure.
Harihar - the man I met - is involved in writing children's books in Nepali and local languages through a project called Room to Read. They are slowly starting to develop fiction materials for children in their native languages. I did question with him the value of so much of the teaching being in English. The books used are quite archaic in language and not being in the local language means the children are reliant on new vocabulary and the teaching points are lost in translation.
It has been an eye opening day all round. Having observed at the school for 4 days I took the opportunity to talk with the headmistress at the end of the morning today. Having done so I feel a lot happier about my role at the school and the direction that the training should take. At the subsequent staff meeting I was able to speak with the whole staff and they asked for help with children who are falling behind (SEN) and how to help them emotionally. Having thought about it I am going to introduce circle time to the children and staff as a forum for discussion about cultural and emotional issues. This is going to be very different from what they are used to but I think, in3 weeks, I can only touch the surface of what is a long term project.
Harihar has invited me to his school at Sanga, about 20km outside Kathmandu. I will be staying the night and have some time to look round the local area as well as seeing the school he teaches at (a police boarding school) and hopefully a rural school. It's a wonderful offer and I am really looking forward to it. This will probably be next weekend.
At school today there was a definite change of emphasis - as the English teacher put it,"fun Friday". It's only a half day so I started with English language puzzles in the library, Nepali poetry with class 2, Maths using pistachio nut shells to multiply and finally social studies about greeting guests. I was with the younger children whose English is not so good but was able to communicate with them ok. After the staff meeting and lunch with Kiran and his family (daal, rice, fish, two vegetable curries, one made with a vegetable only found in Nepal and India) I walked back a different way and ended up in a Thanka (Buddhist art) shop talking with the owner and artist Bibek. He showed me some exquisite thanka and the one I really liked he priced at $180!!! This is rather more that I can afford but I have promised to go back to talk with him again. Then the customary tea at the Swotha Kiosk and time at home to read and relax.
I have also put my laundry out in the supplied basket and am looking forward to it returning in 1 1/2 days! There is a washing machine but I would like to give work to the local community and the price is probably less than £10 for a full wash and iron so I think it is money well spent.
Off out for Momos for dinner then I don't have to get up in the morning. I need to decide what to do tomorrow as it is a free day so dinner with my guide book I think.