In rural Nepal, student pass rate on the 10th grade School Leaving Certificate (SLC) national examination continues to hover around 20 percent. Most students fail in English, Math and Science. There are several factors which together have compounded to yield the low pass rates. In a rural setting, majority of the population, including teachers and students, are subsistence farmers and distances are measured in the time it takes to walk between two end points. School calendar also revolves around farming activities. As a result, outside of school hours both students and teachers are engaged in household and farming chores (along with the parents), and in commuting; the study environment at home is severely lacking. At school, class sizes exceed 1:40 teacher-student ratio and teachers have to focus on imparting curriculum matter to completion in a 45-minutes class time. Teachers are unable to provide individual attention to those who are falling behind; every year these students fall further behind. Students are allowed to move up grade level even when they fail some subjects--typically in English, Math and Science. Those who can afford to pay and walk the distances can take extra tuition classes (outside of school hours) from the very teachers who teach them at school. For the rest, there is no remediation course on the subjects they fail. Over the course of 10 years, these students gradually lose their confidence as they accumulate very large knowledge gaps in their learning. Quality of schools also varies greatly.
Previous improvement attempts by the Nepalese government and other NGOs/INGOs have focused primarily on teacher training, use of volunteer educators and school infrastructure development. While these investments are necessary, they have not produced the desired results of increasing the pass rate among students.
In alignment with Education For All aim, our target pass rate on the 10th grade national examination is 80 percent within 5-years of our involvement. While this is a measurable goal, it is intended as a byproduct of our underlying focus, which is in the engagement of the students in their learning. To be able to learn well is an essential life skill.
To achieve our goals, we introduce low-cost student-centric enrichment programs, strengthen existing school committees and work in synergy with government programs, such as the School Sector Reform Program (SSRP). It is inclusive of all the schools in the village. Our commitment lasts for 10-years, in which we have 3-years of active involvement followed by 2-years of transitional handover to the local community and 5-years of followup monitoring. We also assist neighboring villages in replicating the model for their schools.
Our solutions are designed to be low cost and easy to replicate. We try to work in synergy with existing programs. Our focus is on three areas: promote student engagement in learning, professional support for teachers, and effective education partnerships within the community.
1. Promote Student Engagement in Learning (PSEL)
The student-centric learning enrichment programs are focused on the bottom-up approach; the student gains more independence and control by becoming aware of many ways to improve his/her learning. It is no longer the student just sitting in a class and expecting the teacher to do all the teaching for him/her; he/she is more engaged and empowered.
- Neighborhood Peer-Based Tutoring, Mentoring and Group Study Program
- Targeted Remediation Program
- Building a Stronger Foundation Program
- Student Leadership Program
2. Professional Support for Teachers (PST)
All the quality improvement programs focus on teacher training of some sort. Starting this year, Nepal government has embarked on an ambitious 5-year program called School Sector Reform Program (SSRP), which includes a Teacher Professional Development (TPD) program. The TPD is a 30-days training module divided into three 10-days segments, which are to be delivered one segment every year for each teacher. Each of the 10-days segment is further broken into 5-days needs-based training at the training centre, 3-days worth of take-home projects, and 2-days of auditing and counseling at the teacher’s school. However, government programs are not always implemented as planned. In order to work in synergy with this comprehensive teacher training program, we provide on the ground monitoring of the schools and make sure all are aware of the programs available to them and are participating in them. Beyond this, teachers need additional support.
- Teacher Student Assistant (TA) Program
- Teacher Coaching and Feedback Program
- Targeted Review and Remediation During Class-time Program
3. Effective Education Partnerships within the Community (EEPC)
The support of the community is essential for success. There are many committees already in existence, such as a Village Development Committee (VDC). All of the schools have their own School Management Committee (SMC) and Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Not all committees function well. The goal of this organizing is to better coordinate between the schools to standardize on common sets of best practices. In order to improve the main school (K-10), all the other feeder primary schools are included to achieve similar quality levels at all grades.