Junita Karki, the Principal of Imperial World School, has been trying to establish a holistic development center in the education field for the past few years. The school mostly focuses on the holistic learning process and has been passionately offering rich curricula formulated on the basis of real reasons for learning. Exciting and functional curricula have serviced children quite well, providing them with a relevant opportunity to enhance their capabilities and skills.
College Readers has captured her view on progressive teaching-learning approach and efforts of Imperial World School for quality education. Excerpts:
You are advocating progressive education in its true spirit. How do you understand progressive education?
Progressive education most primarily emphasizes child-centric education. Looking back to the history of Nepalese education, we, in the past, focused more on conventional learning where the whole approach concentrated on teacher-centered learning. Teachers were more likely to transfer knowledge from textbooks alones. It’s something like banking paragogy, where the teacher works as a medium and students act as receivers. Banking paragogy is simply a one-way teaching and learning process where students are regarded as passive learners. In contrast, progressive education focuses on child-centric education and works with teaching pedagogy. Basically, in this process, children learn hands-on activities by using their sensory organs practically. Normally, we understand learning as preparing for life. But learning itself is life. So, better than thinking about upcoming years, a student should live the present life with meaningful learning. The main benefit of progressive education for a student is to develop problem-solving skills. Instead of just receiving a formal degree after passing out, one should receive all the life skills t through conceptual learning. Overall, progressive education focuses on both academic excellence and development of life skills.
As far as Nepalese Curriculum is concerned, we certainly cannot apply 100 percent progressive education. Undoubtedly, traditional education is followed side by side. How can we distinguish the features of progressive education from the traditional one?
It’s really very challenging that at the end of the day the students of grade 8 and 10 should obviously take their board examination for academic validation. And we are not against it but we are trying to implement authentic examinations. Learning should be collaborative and project-based. Similarly, assessment should also be progressive. But assessments are still running through traditional approaches. To match the two, we should adopt the innovative teaching pedagogy and focus on authentic assessment. At the end of the day, the most important thing about the children is their conceptual understanding. Conceptual understanding will help the students to express their knowledge in the examinations too. So, rote learning should stop.
Back then, we used to achieve education without the actual support of our parents. But now, we talk much about parents’ education and their contribution in progressive education. Why is this important?
Firstly, in this teaching and learning process, a school cannot be only site to help the children. The role of the parents also plays an equally vital role. We call learning ‘collaborative’ where parents, teachers and students should be enthusiastic and supportive. The ultimate goal for all of us is the success and bright future of our children. To complete the objective, parents and school should work cooperatively and collaboratively. The best way to be cooperative as I’ve observed is the interaction between the parents and the school.
We need to create a healthy and welcoming environment in the school where parents can share their opinions and see their children developing in their performance. So, communication is very significant. There are some parents in the society who have a mindset that if they pay the fees for their children to their respective school, the overall responsibility of the children goes to the school. But this is completely wrong. Close monitoring and time management are some terms which should be understood by the parents.
Education used to be thought of as the primary means of acquiring and passing knowledge. But today, people opine that education should also include knowledge of technique, attitude, innovation, and application. To what extent have you implemented these attributes at your institute?
If a student comes to a school just for contentment and exceling academic performance, I personally think that such a student does not even need to go to school because we’ve got various new technologies for this. A school is such a platform where a student can identify and sharpen life skills while working on the academic side. We are initiating an approach of teaching pedagogy which is very important. Teaching pedagogy is one of the important aspects that every school should focus on. There are two dimensions to this: Human dimension and non-human dimension. The human dimension includes the professional development of a teacher whereas non-human dimension includes the environment and structure of school, providing the resources to the students so that they can develop risk taking abilities.
How much do our students, who perceive progressive education, benefit globally?
Like I already said, our objective is never to make our students rote learners. Our objective, instead, is to develop life skills and make our students competitive so that early on, they become innovative and creative, and sharp in communication skills and critical thinking. Collaboration is also very important for students. Because of these four abilities and skills, I feel we’re giving them progressive education and they’re benefitted globally too.
At last, what message would you like to convey to the parents and the students?
I’m really fascinated by John Dewy’s philosophy where he talked about constructive learning which says we cannot gain practical knowledge by just sitting in a confined room or by reading a book. To get the intended positive transformation, we need to get out of the confined rooms and learn life skills practically and push ourselves for innovative practical learning.