Positive Mindset and Attitude are the Essential Prerequisites for Progressive Education

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Aksharaa School, situated at Pepsikola, Kathmandu, has a team of experienced and dedicated faculty members who impart quality education to the students. The school adopts a student-centered approach to education and focuses on developing the overall personality of its students. It emphasizes extracurricular activities and encourages students to participate in various clubs and societies, such as music, art, and sports.

Anju Bhattarai, a dynamic personality in education field, is the Principal at Aksharaa School and Aksharaa Kindergarten. Initially, she joined the school as a teacher and taught the students in a different way, involving them in a participatory approach. Later, she knew later that the methods she employed formed the best ways of teaching and learning. She has shared her view on progressive education with College Readers. Excerpts:
You are advocating progressive education in its true speed. How would you love to define progressive education?

Progressive learning is simply learning by doing with others by experiencing and by being enthusiastic. Students have a lot of expectations and interests. To fulfill their expectations and interests, they need the help of teachers, who act as facilitators creating the required environment furnished with sufficient resources. The main impediment to this approach is the traditional belief in rote-learning and the tendency of giving more importance to textbooks and academic validations. In simple words, progressive education is when children learn innovatively in their own ways by collaborating with others creatively.

What are the advantages you find in progressive education as compared to the traditional one?

In progressive education, students engage more in learning, whereas in traditional education, teacher’s involvement is higher. In progressive education, the innovation, creation and leadership skills of the children are nurtured while the traditional approach is mostly focused on rote learning. Even if we tend to establish a pure progressive environment, Nepal’s curriculum, its objectives, and originality are far more different. For that reason, no school has fully achieved progressive education. Achieving progressive education generally means being emotionally intelligent and socially significant. Providing full progressive education to our children leads to their positive personal development.

 We all came from traditional education backgrounds. How hard is it to find skilled resources to lead progressive education?

Obviously, it’s kind of a challenge to find skilled human resources from the ones who have perceived traditional education. Even in the new generation, students most likely don’t want to claim that they want to be teachers. Because the job earns a meager income and the respect a teacher receives is negligible, teaching as a job option has stopped being attractive these days. Progressive education creates a positive mindset and the eagerness to learn new skills is enhanced every day. If the students have a positive attitude towards learning new skills and building their minds, the teachers can also adapt to the environment along with students. To develop skilled manpower, we need to provide training to the teachers. Teacher’s meetings should be frequently organized in the schools. Positive mindset and attitude are the essential prerequisites for progressive education where both teachers and students should be highly enthusiastic in learning something new every day.

Are there some factors that we can adapt from traditional education and mingle with progressive education?

Of course there are.  In general, we call our approach a blended one. Single philosophy never suffices for an effective class. Establishing progressive education requires the incorporation of every approach that has been tried, tested and found effective. We cannot completely discard the traditional approach because it is a part of our identity. We should blend it with new technologies and values and try to make it more effective.

 Traditional education only leans on imparting theoretical knowledge whereas progressive education considers culture and attitude too as parts of education. How are these attributes applicable in your institute?

Culture, technology, nature and ethos should be carefully balanced to develop a progressive educational environment. These four portions help students to gain full progressive education. At ours, we are trying our best and are putting all efforts to provide progressive education to our children. We cannot call any of the Nepalese schools fully progressive. To conduct a fully progressive class in a classroom of 30 students, we need to make 30 different lesson plans because we have 30 different learners. As we have our own limitations, we can take only 2 or 3 lesson plans in a classroom at a time. But we need to provide 30 different choices for 30 different creative students which is definitely quite difficult at the moment in our country. Still, to give our best to the students, we work in an approach. We provide different hands-on activities and so on. But the thing we mostly focus on is the child-centric environment approach to teaching. Before going through a chapter, we collect prior knowledge from the students and let them research about it themselves. Secondly, we are working very hard on students’ personal development. We get to find out how intelligent our students emotionally are, how socially significant they are and how cooperative and collaborative they are. We organize several events and activities to discover the innate natures and talents of our students.

Parent education and the contribution of parents are considered crucial in progressive education. Why is this important?

Parents, teachers and students should definitely work together. The main supporters of the students are parents and the school community. The parents play a very vital role. It’s very challenging when parents consider academic validation the most important parameter to gauge the progress of their children. Time management by parents for their children is also very important. There should be a connection between school and parents’ interaction. We also give spiritual education to our students. We even teach Sanskrit and impart knowledge about different cultures. Our society has no professionalism. Values like honesty, moral beliefs and rules too are challenged from time to time. It is the parents who can best ensure the upholding of these values, and they should teach such things to their children at home. Our life consists of two different degrees: formal degree and informal. Formal degree includes our certificates and academic validation whereas informal degree includes life skills. Parents need to shoulder the task of imparting the latter skills to their children in collaboration with the school.

 Time management has been an uphill task for parents these days. They have the mindset that if they pay fees for their children the entire responsibility is that of the school. What is your take on this?

We can understand the busy schedule of parents. Almost all the families are nuclear families these days. But the parents should consider their career along with their children’s progress. They should try to interact with them and get to know the tract record of their performance. Children’s moral education plays a significant role in their life, says Vandora. All these concepts should be taught to parents. We conduct parent education thrice a year in our school. We try to contact and interact with them as frequently as we can.

The number of students going abroad for higher education is declining gradually. What, do you think, are its reasons?

In the past, there were a limited number of options like St. Xavier’s College, Budhanilkantha School and so on. The major parameters that make a school good are pedagogy, healthy environment and teachers’ training. Before we didn’t have such things. We didn’t even have large buildings for schools. We settled in a small compound. In contrast, India had large buildings and was better in other parameters. That is the reason why everyone used to run towards India for better quality education. But, now in Nepal also, we have choices and places. The students who are resilient and have a positive attitude and mindset can go anywhere in the world and live with convenience. But those staying back in Nepal and acquiring higher education are not worse either. Those who move abroad for reason even rank top in foreign schools where there are a lot of competitors.

Progressive education is more expensive as compared to the general one. Can we work on it and make it cheaper?

For operating progressive education, we have to get experience from it and work in research too. For this approach, we need resources. If you look at government schools, they have enough budget, large buildings and so on. The same is not true for private schools. But that does not mean we have to make education expensive. We can work with local resources to process the approach. In this process, teachers are also learners.   If we implement all the requirements, everyone can be engaged in this approach. The only problem for the slow progress of this approach is the traditional mindset of the parents and the government’s irresponsibility.

Is the future of Nepal’s education from this approach bright? What is your point of view?

Education is essential for everyone. To gain quality education, we need a positive mindset. In the past, I didn’t know about progressive education. When I was a teacher in a boarding school, I used to collect feathers of hens and cocks from the poultry and some colors too. Then, I used to make art from them and teach my students. After all this, I immediately thought of establishing a school and giving quality education with life skills. I also feel that education field has the safest and most secure future.

What are the factors parents should consider while searching for a school for their children’s quality education?

Academic knowledge can be easily gained through technologies in this generation. Children can earn degrees by being home-schooled too. But for quality education, the school’s environment, its core values, its vision, mission and its objectives should be observed. This is not the era of competition; this is the era of collaboration. Private schools are always alleged to be craving for profit, but the real question is if the spending from the parents is worth it. At last, the most significant aspect is culture or manners. Schools should take education as a selfless service whereas parents should give their children the right amount of attention and time.

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