Creative Education For Children
Dev Raj Dahal
The debate on educational reforms has surged worldwide. This reformist passion has been heaped on Sustainable Development Goals and children’s right to education. It is absurd to believe that children are juvenile and they need to be educated with books’ knowledge and enforce harsh discipline to mould their character founded on a taboo of silence. Many teachers, tormented by their ignorance, think that children are not capable of imagination and self-identity. They put them in the shadow of rote learning less fit for liberty. Others versed in child psychology have proven that children show impulse of curiosity to rekindle delight in learning. Wise teachers argue that children can feel the context, draw pictures, diagrams and cartoons, stir feeling and emotion, do caricature, write poems and relish mindfulness. They do have intelligence to know the progress of things. They possess interest in learning in a good environment and faculty to judge good and bad. Still others measure children’s learning ability by the score they secure in school exam, sports, arts, essays and poetry competition. Ironically, most of Nepali adult students in schools fail in social studies paper for their retreating interest in humanities such as literature, political science, culture and history and control unsocial desire of life.
Many teachers and parents, considering oneself authority of knowledge, force children to follow their advice. They prize those children who perform better in exam. Those obtaining low grade are transferred to normal schools out of bitterness. In wealthy families, parents hire tutors for extra teaching of children at home. They assume that childhood is a crucial period of learning. They, therefore, burden them with bagful of books and tedious home works, wield pressure on them to passively cram ideas and impose strict obedience. When children are given no space for imagination, reflection and freedom they lose creative desire, develop a culture of silence and nurse a sullen character. Educationists affirm that self-activities of children, where parents and teachers become only engaged facilitators, intuitively develop their learning curve, inspire them to reason with them and become smart. Perfection of mind, sprit and impulse is crucial to build their civic virtues and tend the habits of inquiry enabling them to link the meaning of words in the context of life and connect rights to free will. It seeks a balance between inner revitalising power and outer pursuit. Deprivation of Nepali children from essential needs, rights and welfare affronts their dignity as person. There are certain problems in children’s education in Nepal that needs to be sorted out.
First, as merit system has become competitive parents and teachers do not know its costs which have warped the life of children under strain impatient to find the new pivot of learning. Emotional instability of Nepali youths is the outcome of improper socialisation during their pre-school and schooling stage and suppression of their personal experience by either tradition or reason. Subject-centric education hardly cares for the taste and interest of children. The Nepali parents’ dream of converting children successful in their future seizes their childhood privileges and an ability to use artistic inner drives. Private school management often advertises the successful students as a role model in the mainstream media to attract the enrolment of more and more children the rationale of which is only wealth accumulation. This success is largely measured by marks they secure, not on the basis of overall cognitive, social and emotional development, which is a virtue for good citizen. Like in party politics, they mould mind, body and spirit of children to shape their future in a linear direction. The government sets rules for its support. The lack of openness of children toward the future limits their great hope for good life.
Second, market-oriented model of education in Nepal with the separation of public and private schools has produced two kinds of citizens. Poor parents have less money to pay unfair amount of fees for their children in private schools which maintain certain educational standards. Private schools have become status symbol for many Nepali parents. This has discriminated children of public schools, obstructed the realisation of their talent and negatively influenced their career prospects in the future. Barring some exceptions, public schools in Nepal are in desolation with less priority to hone fullest chance of harmonious life. Management boards are the recruiting ground of political parties of various hues and, therefore, partisan wrangling affects the useful learning environment. The binary mode of education is a strategy to block the social mobility of the children of lower classes. Even community schools have suffered from divisive politics.
Children of many poor and less cohesive families are engaged in domestic workers, street children, face abuses during political strikes and develop a propensity to indulge in social vices. Their role of throwing stones to security agencies in every political strike will continue so long as political power in Nepal is divorced from ethical consideration and accountability. Such a propensity will obstruct the transformative reward of education. One can see the effects of bifurcation of education in Nepal: emotional distance between the two types of products separated by geography, income, access and gender and the gap between career and character building. Educational inequity for different set of children, bumpy socialisation and unmatching opportunity create diverse cognitive orientation about life. It is a strategy to reduce the quality of public schools where majority of poor families send their children. Political control of teachers and management helps to endure social inequality of Nepali society where servants produce another generation of servants to serve elites—native or foreigners. This has cut the rights of poor children to become equal citizens. This condition reflects the failure of Nepali polity to offer equal freedom, opportunity and justice for all its citizens.
Third, children of poor families have less access to exposure to modern science and extra-curricular books, tools and activities which can widen their prospect. For better life outcomes they need cognitive gains and practical skills. In a struggle for existence, only four options for the product of public schools during adult life exist-either migrate to India and the Gulf region to earn livelihood, brain drain, join vociferous politics and even bureaucracy to attain social mobility. Brain-drain is the gross loss of national social investment. Unions of teachers and students in Nepal do not have concrete vision for educational reforms as they are the wing of fractious party politics and are caged by partial frames, unable to capture the liberating values of citizenship and human essence. They feed politics which is instrumental in nature. And the outcome is: continuation of fox politics without any public purpose and public duty. The target of elite private schools is to absorb youths in big hotels, banks, tourism, management, commercial enterprises and communication through social networks and fill the need of trained personnel in the well-off nations. Educational reforms from early childhood socialisation to school education can become a gateway out of inter-generational poverty of those born in poor families with only disadvantages in their lives. This requires reflective learning and praxis in Nepal and building its capacity to spread opportunity in society. Only civility and justice for all can create a civic culture whereby citizens of all hues live together in peace and remain linked by bonds of trust and hope.
Fourth, Nepal needs holistic approach to education for children, an approach that connects educational institutions to reform family, community, society, politics, cultural industries and economy, give children a new aspiration to experience the nation’s heritage and history and community leaders’ public-spirited virtue; share experience of life in the social context; and hone up an ability to become inquiring, active citizens in the future. The traits of individual personality are not derived from innate human nature. It is shaped by nation’s overall social, economic and political condition. It is crucial to make private education affordable while public education useful. Children-centric view entails an improvement in educational standards to bridge the gap between the private and public schools. The rising atomisation of Nepali family, divorce rate and one-parent socialisation has deprived children the needed love and care from parents and grandparents so that during adult life they pay back inter-generational duty and do not abandon them to elderly care centres or religious places. If parents want their posterity to become successful, not truthful and responsible, it is their fault.
Children would feel wounded by the shame of their parents if they discover that their parents just pour money to schools and coaching instead of extending adequate affinity, care and love to them. In this context, family-based educational environment has to be cultivated in Nepal through the changing employment structures, costly life in urban milieu, altering gender patterns where both male and female have to work and residential problems. Family-friendly education is important to acculturate children and induce periodic social change, a change which is so vital to expand the social mobility of poor frozen in a lack of choice, agency and resources. Education, health and community development strategies must espouse reflection from children’s angle and nurture their enduring self-discovery. The question is: how can children of marginalised families engage in developing their potential in active learning, freedom and gain equal opportunities?
The government, private sectors, civil society, community and family need to develop a common educational vision and policies that can evolve along the line of social justice. Nepal needs an educational vision that can transcend partisan politics and adapt to a new social stratification brought by technology, citizenship equality and humanitarian values to harness knowledge to wisdom. Amitai Etzioni rightly says, “Revaluing children requires reducing the parenting deficit”.