When people in Nepal wanted to change their trajectory and determine a new destination, the idea of ‘new Nepal’ was warmly welcomed. This dream infiltrated the mind and heart of every Nepali, giving rise to hope and also highlighting how Nepal was craving for change that then seemed both viable and achievable. However, the journey now seems to have lost its momentum and we as a nation are fumbling to find direction. In this tedious and slow journey, the new Nepal fervor is losing its gleam, with some of us wanting to abandon the journey and others hoping it would reach its logical end. But very few of us are actually trying to dig out the roots of the obstacles and fix the problems.
The issue of federalism has become a hard nut to crack for all political leaders. The unrelenting priority given to federalism has undermined many other issues that beg for larger attention. Moreover, political polarization with scattered voices and demands has aggravated the already dismal political scenario. However, apparently efforts are being made to strike a deal and break the deadlock; solution to the problems is being sought behind closed doors, while the grassroots is being overlooked. However, if the dream of new Nepal is to materialize, the solution has to be sought from ground level practices and experiences and not behind closed door talks in five stars and resorts.
I believe the Gordian knot of Nepal’s quandary lies in the pedagogy (the art or science of teaching) that is widely practiced in Nepal. The rote-learning pedagogy still dominates teaching methods and principles in Nepal. From kindergarten to high school, Nepal’s teaching method places students only at the receiving end and considers them as empty vessels that need to be filled with knowledge in a teacher-centric learning process (Freire 1996). In other words, students are kept out of the process of knowledge formation while they should actually be co-partners with the teacher in the learning process and eventually, the co-creators of knowledge. But in contrast, students in Nepal spend most of their academic life being passive receivers, absorbing everything that flows from the teacher to them.
In addition to that, our current pedagogical environment strictly prevents students from growing up in an environment that best suits them. Given that students grow up in a strict rule-based environment, it is highly unlikely that they can fully explore their potential. More unfortunate is the fact that authoritative classrooms have constricted students from freely holding discussions among themselves, thinking critically and looking at and questioning issues through a different lens.
For instance, in Nepal when a history teacher portrays Prithvi Narayan Shah as a brave king launching brutal attacks and even slicing off the noses of enemies for the cause of unifying smaller principalities, our pedagogy directs students to just swallow the lesson and glorify Shah’s war against smaller princely states. It fails to stir our students to think or ask if Shah can be tagged a terrorist or a power-hungry king who just wanted to expand his kingdom. These products (our students) that will determine the future of Nepal are molded in autocratic classrooms, leading them to lack critical thinking ability, team work skills and shared decision making capability.
Hence, as we complain about our leaders’ incompetency and our country’s mess today, we fail to spare a thought as to what made our leaders so inept. If we connect the dots and look back, it all boils down to the environment we were raised in. The socio-economic and political ills that our country faces today can be, to a large extent, attributed to the pedagogy we have been embracing, and the people who have caused these problems are the products of the very autocratic classrooms we encourage.
However, now that Nepal floats in transition, it is the right time to question and alter this system. The teacher-student equation should be transformed in such a way that students not only learn from the teacher but are also a part of knowledge formation. In order to make students the co-creators of knowledge, Nepali schools should encourage ‘democratic classrooms’ where students take more ownership of and responsibility for their own learning. Teachers, meanwhile, should evolve from being class dictators to facilitators.
What we need today is a positive citizenry ready to work together for a common goal with determination. Hence, it is time to change the pedagogy that rules the classrooms of Nepal.
Such a classroom environment will then encourage students to create ground rules, values and norms for their own learning. When students develop a sense of belonging to the classroom, they are more likely to interact, engage in discussions and contribute to the learning process. This will also allow students to think in a variety of ways and arouse them to ask questions. Further, a democratic classroom will increase students’ motivation and broaden their horizons as they get an opportunity to work as a team and dabble in diverse thoughts.
Thus a democratic classroom would eventually nurture students to be active citizens and prepare them to participate in a democratic society. Moreover, products of such an environment would understand the value of team work, be ready to accept diversity of opinions, and have a problem-solving attitude. What we need today is a positive citizenry that is ready to work together for a common goal with determination and, hence, it is the exigency of the hour to change the pedagogy that looms inside the classrooms of Nepal.
Also, the essence of new Nepal should lie in all Nepalis being able to think and act differently rather than all Nepalis being ruled under a new structural mechanism. It is largely through the products of a better pedagogical system that Nepal can get novelty. Only when the products brought up in such an environment are injected in our society will we see our transformation into a new Nepal. Therefore, ‘we’ as well wishers of new Nepal, should now seek the solution of the current crisis in what may not seem to have immediate links but in fact, is the crux of the problem.
The author is doing his MA in Political Studies at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University