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Transforming eduction in Nepal

The Himalayan Trust UK supports education and health in the Taplejung district of North Eastern Nepal. Our key aims in the 35 schools we support are to give children the tools they need to further education and better serve the communities in which they live. The method is simple in theory, but challenging in practice – it is to train teachers to be more child friendly.

It sounds straightforward, but it has represented a big change in culture from a dry, unimaginative, not intuitive style of teaching to one that is warm, interactive, colourful and engaging. All this is taking time, but great progress is being made. We want children to want to go to school to enjoy the experience to gain qualifications, and thereby to have a chance to thrive in life.

The training programme is delivered by a Nepali NGO –  REED Nepal, with whom we have had a very fruitful partnership for some years. The training programme is led and largely devised by Rajendra. He was a secondary science teacher before taking this role. He has a natural rapport with young people and knows the heads and teachers in all the schools. He is assisted by Roma, who was able to model child-friendly teaching with great skill.

Manisha, a more recent recruit to the team shares the same skills. The 35 schools in which the REED staff implement our agreed programme of all government schools in which REED has been given permission to operate other District Education Office. The educational work of REED is highly rated at local and national level.

The day begins in all the schools with what is known as brain gym, an open assembly which in a highly disciplined way, includes physical exercise the singing of the national anthem, and in many cases the opportunity for older pupils to take the lead and give a short talk on a topic of interest.

On our recent trip, we watched one school assembly come to an end, all the pupils form two lines to welcome us to their school. There is no doubt that our visits are appreciated by the teachers and children and indeed by the local communities. Parents and grandparents are often part of the welcome.

What are the key elements of the training carried out by REED Nepal?

Firstly, they encourage teachers to create a colourful and stimulating classroom environment with teaching resources available for instance, on strings hanging from the ceiling, from racks fitted to the walls or from painted murals, which could also include some key messages.

Teachers are encouraged to smile, use the children’s names and engage with them together and individually. They should make lessons practical wherever possible.

The teachers should demonstrate as well as talk. Children should have the chance to stand up or come out front. Lessons should be varied and include written work, and also cooperative work in groups.

Classrooms should be set out in a way that allows the teacher to move around the room and allows the pupils to engage with each other. When a school has few pupils, a new scheme allows different year groups to work in the same room and individuals to go at their own pace. Above all lessons should be fun and should have pace and energy because children are most likely to learn in this sort of environment.

All this may seem obvious to us with all the advantages that our own schools have, but in Nepali schools, even where for instance there is electricity, it is not reliant. So a working computer is a rare sight and classrooms are often dark. The shadow of COVID is still present, although REED Nepal use a range of innovative ideas to help maintain education even when schools were closed for long periods.

The quiet revolution is taking place year on year as teachers who may have had little training and have themselves been taught in the old style, come to understand that children learn best when teachers engage with them individually and share the excitement of learning. We as representatives of Himalayan Trust UK are proud and delighted to see such good evidence of this transformation.

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As registered charities and foundations, we continue to work with the communities of Nepal.
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