Our society loves to reward those who come in first place. Whether it is a sports competition, a talent show, or even academic performance in a classroom; we are taught and encouraged to become “first”. It seems like coming in first or winning is synonymous of being capable and successful in our society.

Of course there is nothing wrong with being competitive; however, stressing only on being first is a little strange, especially in the classrooms of Nepali schools. From the start of the formal education in Nepal, the students are given a “roll-number” according to their performance in the exams. Hence, roll-number one, or first, is considered the best student in the class while the lowest roll-number in the class is considered failure. With the exception of a handful of international schools in Nepal, this is the normal way of evaluating students.

As we all know, we all have different kinds of talents and different kinds of abilities. However, the current education system of Nepal does not allow the students to demonstrate their different abilities and unique talents.  What is the reason behind this? Perhaps one answer lies in the way the children are taught at schools across Nepal. In Nepal, a teacher lecturing and a student listening is the most popular, if not sole, methodology of teaching. Students are often told to memorize everything that the teacher lectures in the classroom. And in written examinations, students need to write down what he\she has memorized. Based on this, they are given marks and the school labels the students with “ first”, “second”, “pass”, “fail”, and so on depending on what they scored. In this current system, students will not be able to show their uniqueness and demonstrate their different abilities. A student’s uniqueness and different abilities and potentials are neglected in most Nepali schools. Rather, students are rewarded for merely memorizing what their teacher lectures. These factors hamper individuality and essentially treat the student just like a “parrot”.

Students learning in a cooperative manner rather than a competitive one. While we want the students to try to be their best, we also want them to learn to work together and to help each other reach their best.

So, how can we build an environment in the classrooms of Nepal to encourage individuality and help students achieve their full potential? The Rukmini Foundation, together with the Sikharapur Community School, are in the process of developing a curriculum called Project Based Learning (PBL), which will be introduced in grades 7 and 8 in the next school year. PBL is a teaching and learning method that emphasizes student-centered learning rather than teacher-centered learning. It allows students to work more autonomously to construct their own learning and this allows them to draw a conclusion in a more realistic way. This methodology teaches students various life skills such as  self-management, group work, logical thinking, and problem solving skills. PBL has been introduced in many parts of the world with excellent results. Sikharapur will be the first school in this region of Nepal to introduce this methodology. There is a five member advisory team to implement PBL in Sikharapur School: Kedar Nath Acharya (Student Selection Committee Head of Rukmini Foundation), Shyam Shrestha (Principal of Sikharapur School), Niroj Shrestha (Executive Officer ASC), Angelina Robitschko (Volunteer and Intern of UNESCO), and Nabin Aryal (Program Manager of Rukmini Foundation).

Needless to say, PBL may not be a panacea for all of the problems in the educational system of Nepal; however, it is a bright hope to introduce change in the classroom environment, which can help all students achieve their different potentials. In the near future, let us hope that we do not have to praise our students for being “first”, or for having a high “roll number”, but rather praise them for achieving their full potential and for developing their unique skill-sets.

Nabin Aryal
Rukmini Foundation

About Nabin Aryal

Dr. Nabin Aryal led the foundation’s work in Nepal from the inception till April 2015. He is now serving as a special adviser from his new home in Myanmar where he works with the US and Nepal Teams to provide strategic guidance for the foundation. He received a PhD in Economics from Hitotsubashi University and has been managing NGO programs in underdeveloped areas in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka and has extensive experience in grassroots development efforts.
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