Mission Kerala (II)
The writer feels it relevant to discuss some issues of school/college education at home and at the other end, Kerala, India, in order to see the issues comparatively. This is important also because we share many aspects of life in common and see at each other’s face with great sense or respect and friendship. Many Nepali school and university students receive their education in Kerala. Many Keralans also play significant role in the private education sector in Nepal.
Let us talk about education and politics. In Kerala nobody – teacher, staff or student – is serious about the political waves and currents as far as it does not affect their own institution or, for that matter, their own academic life. Big political news, hardly if ever, impresses or impacts their daily routine. Life goes on smoothly in academic institutions when political players are busy rattling their teeth or playing their role. This reminds the writer of his university days in the US universities. It is not easy to find out who is Democrat and who is Republican in the departments. They criticise the president only when he brings policy to manufacture more guns and fighter aircrafts at the cost of research fund.
Just think of the scenario here at home. Dy P M and Minister for Education is credited to have manipulated the issue of on-contract school teachers and made them permanent regardless of the fact that a large percent of them was failures, absentees and disqualified by the system. Thousands got permanent tenure closing the opportunity for the new comers and talented ones for years to come. What will be the impact of their performance in the class? What would be the quality of students when teachers come from poorest background? Only one thing these youths do well is carry a political party bag carefully and in style and worry much to attend the leaders’ parlors than the class and the needs of the students.
In fact, if they had adequate pedagogical and practical knowledge, they would pass the exams in the first place. Since they have none, the Dy PM was certainly well advised to be at hand to rescue the substandard lot of teachers with his kind and considerate gesture to induct them all at one slot thus closing the door for the lot of competent, fresh and committed candidates. He, as the Education Minister, failed to realise the long term effect of the already fast sinking boat of school education in Nepal.
No wonder the former VC of TU Kedar Bhakta Mathema resigned and relieved himself from the duties assigned him to improve the deteriorating condition of public education in Nepal. The government is already protecting and promoting almost mafia style private schools mushrooming and multiplying by day. Lately, they had even their strong representation in the nation’s Parliament. This upcoming election is expected to bring several more principals in the new parliament.
Take one example from the last week. In the Koilari-Tilathi area of Saptari District, Nepali Congress found its stage at the local Janata Secondary School complex to hold an election rally there. The school closed after tiffin and party cadres began to pour in to prepare the stage for their leaders, including a sitting minister – to make one million promises, vomit half a million poisonous accusations on their competitors and walk out satisfied and winner that it was their day, after all. Election rallies this time are full of such dramatic performances. The principal of the said school also made his commitment speech in favor of the candidate wishing him well and expecting some tangible benefit from the party and the candidate.
Back to Kerala and the Faculty of Education across the greater Tiruvanthapuram area. The writer had limited time and plans this time to visit many places. But in few teachers training colleges there were programmes especially designed to welcome the international guest, the writer. They were planned to be seminars and interaction programs. Titus II of Thiruvalla, the host institution which collaborated with CTE Kerala Chapter, had chosen the topic ‘Catalyzing Women Empowerment for and Egalitarian Society.’
The writer had a specially offered role to play – inaugurate the programme and make a keynote speech for the participants and organisers. But at times he also had other chores at hand – preside over sessions, play evaluator or take part in panel discussions. The writer intends to use his insight to pick up some papers out of scores to highlight on the main theme. First of all, a large percent of presenters were females - professors as well as graduate students.
Some graduates had prepared small team of two or three to compile and present the papers. They would take turn in responding to the queries from the participants. They all did it smartly as they wrote and spoke standard English and also had learnt the skill in the class about paper writing and presentation. In that part of Kerala, there exists a chain of Convent colleges specialising in teacher education. In fact, Kerala wants to remain in the top position in the education sector. That goal is rooted in the colleges like Titus II located at Thiruvalla. It was a Diamond Jubilee year for Titus II and several others are either busy celebrating the same or will wait one or two years. That is, the State of Kerala initiated a move to equip the state with teachers training colleges in the leadership of the Church.
Finally, Convent colleges have left no stone unturned in promoting teacher education applying latest methodology and technical knowhow. It is not unusual to meet young teachers – both male and female – holding Ph D degrees and proficiency in both writing and oratory in seminars and workshops. It would be wonderful to watch them in action – in classes and in the community. But time did not allow doing so during this visit. However, CTE Nepal will continue traveling to the south in order to be acquainted with what the CTE Kerala is up to in collaboration with a host of colleges and universities.