‘Textbook-free Friday’ initiative welcomed but also doubtedTeachers at community schools voice fear the plan may disrupt academic environment.
The Kathmandu Metropolitan City has come up with a ‘textbook-free Friday’ drive and asked community schools in the Capital to implement it. As part of the pilot project, students in 56 community schools of the city’s 89 schools, will be going to school on Fridays without books or bags, learn essential life skills and engage in other extracurricular activites.
Educationists, teachers, guardians’ associations, and other stakeholders have welcomed the announcement, but doubt its effective implementation, cautioning that this should not be just a publicity stunt.
The City is launching the pilot this Friday with a Rs20 million fund, according to Sita Ram Koirala, chief of the Education Department of the metropolis.
As part of the initiative, students from grades 9 to 12 will learn optional short-term courses on 10 topics including agriculture and urban farming, cosmetology, carpentry and wood-carving, culinary arts, fashion design and clothing, electrical wiring, disaster preparedness, mobile and electronics repair, plumbing, stitching and sculpture.
“Each of these courses is optional and will run for 90 hours,” Koirala said.
He said 26 companies have applied to train the students. “We are at the final stage of selecting CTEVT-certified trainers, who will impart students practical skills,” he said.
Speaking at a function in Kathmandu on Monday, Mayor Balendra Shah said the City devised the training to include skills to meet household needs. “Such skills were an integral part of the ancient Gurukul education, but we totally ignored them in the name of Western education and this has led us nowhere,” Shah said.
Meanwhile, students up to class 8 will engage in various extracurricular activities for both mental and physical growth, according to Koirala. He said students will engage in a variety of activities including essay writing, music, and poem recitation. Also, they will learn hands-on skills such as digging fields, growing plants, weeding, and garbage disposal techniques.
At a time when Nepali students are overburdened with textbooks and assignments at home, the City’s new decision is being appreciated by the public while educationists, guardians, and even the school operators are unsure of its sustainability.
Many of them shared their doubts with the Post if the City will execute the plans successfully. Suprabhat Bhandari, chair of the Nepal Guardians Federation, said he had long been lobbying the government to base the curriculum on ‘life skills’.
Bhandari, however, said such courses should be interesting and should not burden the learners more.
An educationist, however, said they are not happy with the City’s decision because it can’t be implemented until the school’s overall infrastructure is upgraded.
“This seems more like a publicity stunt from Mayor Balendra Shah because our community schools aren’t equipped to implement the plan as they lack basic elements,” said educationist Binay Kumar Kushiyait.
Community school operators say the municipal decision looks good but they want more details about this new drive.
“We learnt about the new decision just two days ago, and the City asks us to implement it from this Friday,” said Shiva Raj Adhikari, the principal of Durbar High School. “We are in confusion, as we have no modality nor lab.”
Other community school operators also say they have no idea how they can manage the calendar and new instructors and readjust credit hours.
Based on the Curriculum Adjustment Framework prepared by the Curriculum Development Centre, students from grades 1 to 3 will have 690 hours of classes in total while those from grades 4 to 10 will have 848 hours.
The government mandates at least 1,024 class hours in 190 days of an academic year under normal circumstances.
Meanwhile, teachers at the community schools worry about the possibility of parents not sending their children to school or making them work at home presuming they don’t have to study on the particular day, as most of the students at community schools come from poor economic backgrounds.
“We feel this is necessary but we are not sure if this really works,” said Adhikari.
Natikaji Maharjan, principal of the Bafal-based Gyanodaya Secondary School, also agrees with Adhikari’s point of view. Imparting ‘life skills training’ to students aided with new technology is the need of the hour, he says, but KMC’s decision was quite hasty.
“We have 400 students in grade 9. For instance, to teach beautician training we need a lab, which we don't have. We need time to categorise students to choose their favourite subjects,” said Maharjan.
“We would not be worried much, if we had the infrastructure ready,” said the principal of the noted community schools in Kathmandu.
School operators also expressed their confusion about what the existing teachers will do on Friday while the schools have to arrange huge human resources and other logistics to run such courses.
Sita Ram Koirala, chief of the Education Department of the metropolitan office, however, assured the school management that no one should be worried about it saying that the City has already made necessary manpower ready.
“On Friday, we will be mobilising technical staffers to all schools and they will be taking an hour-long class on the opening day,” he said. “For extra-curricular activities, the schools themselves should take the initiative.”