Inverting Traditional Teaching Method in Rural Nepal

June 8, 2018

   

I don’t remember much about my school experience. But I do remember our class field trips to Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh. The trip was more of a vacation to outer space. The trip helped me discover how to navigate the stars, get an up-close look at moon rocks and meteorites, and learn all about telescopes that were out of this world.

The visit gave my friends and me an opportunity for space exploration in a high-definition full-dome planetarium where we were taken to the far reaches of the galaxy, we explored the universe's mysterious outer limits and learned how to locate planets and constellations.

The trip to infinity and beyond exposed me and my classmates to new learning experiences that could not be duplicated inside the classroom. It expanded our mental map of the universe, and the need for the same experience is especially acute for students studying in rural Nepal.

The dreams and ambition are bountiful across socio-economic classes in rural Nepal, experience and opportunity are not. Thousands of our nation's children are denied access to quality education because the public schools do not have the resources they need to properly educate all children.

Fortunately, for Teach For Nepal Fellow (2017) Amien Shakya the barriers standing in the way of his students in the rural area of Lalitpur is not insurmountable.

"Teaching science at the secondary school levels in rural Nepal is usually a great challenge", explains Amien. "On the one hand, it is an extremely appealing subject that fascinates the children. On the other hand, it is a complex subject in which, the students are required to understand the basic astronomical phenomena – day and night, seasons, eclipses, phases of the moon and the motion of planets – one must have the capability of visualizing events and objects as they may appear from different perspectives simultaneously."

When Amien came to Bidyadhiswari Secondary School, Ashrang, Lalitpur as a Fellow, students in his class despised the topic because there was no engagement nor joy in it in the past. He began questioning his student about how this “boring science” was being taught. He received answers like, "we look at the diagrams in our textbook and then we draw them."

He realized that the students were right. The science his students were learning was boring science - science that didn't engage students in the exploring, experimenting, experiencing process. Science that says, “We are preparing you only for an exam.”

"When I was a student, science and math had always been the subjects that I found most intriguing," said Amien. "I wanted to create a class where the students immersed in an innovative, laboratory-based classroom that is at the forefront of learner-centred science."

He started addressing the issue of boring science by introducing his student to exciting science and changing their perceptions by giving them opportunities to explore science with high-level creative thinking. He exposed his kids to excellent and even whimsical science resources using e-learning software, computer games and Virtual reality box.

   

There’s a world of difference between three lines of printed text on a page and virtual exploration of space. In Shakya’s class, the student enters a virtual universe, journeys through it as an astronaut, can change his or her viewpoint and perspective 360 degrees, as the virtual universe continues to behave and operate as if they are in a real outer space. The continual motion of the planets generates day and night, seasons, eclipses, and phases-topics that are customarily hard to grasp for a student – igniting the curiosity and encouraging discovery multiplying tenfold with a virtual reality box.

“Amien sir’s class is full of rich content and tools that enhances our knowledge,” said Bijay, a student from grade eight. “He is always providing creative outlets for us and designing classes and presenting science in a more visual, memorable way.” As new technologies continue to be integrated into our daily life, e-learning, virtual assisted exercises and assessments, learning-based computer games and VR boxes are among the upstarts that could give traditional lecture-based teaching a serious makeover.

Education is based on a commitment to knowledge and understanding and the need to find ways of teaching subjects on to a new generation. And if you ask any teacher, it is no easy task getting an entire classroom motivated about drawing diagrams. But today, technology can give educators more tools to transform the classroom and traditional teaching methods.

Though public schools in Nepal still have a long way to go to ensure all schools are ready for the future of technology. Young people like Shakya are implementing them in their teaching because for them it is the pen and paper of the past, and it is the lens through which their students experience much of this universe.


  Amien Shakya is one of the 111 Fellows who is in his second year of Teach For Nepal Fellowship. Prior to joining Teach For Nepal Fellowship, he completed his Bachelor's of of Engineering from Tribhuvan University. He is currently teaching Science in Bidhyadhishwari Secondary School in Ashrang, Lalitpur. You can sponsor Fellows like him by donating to Teach For Nepal.

 

 

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