Monday, 6 December, 2021

Assessing Student Learning Facilitation

Kushal Pokharel


ALMOST two months of this year’s academic calendar for school going students have elapsed. Amid increasing cases of coronavirus in the country, it is unlikely that schools will resume soon. In fact, educational institutions, cinema halls and similar areas of mass public gatherings will take several weeks to reopen even after the situation improves. Students have found themselves in deep confusion over the resumption of their regular classes with unverified news and controversial statements. Of late, some media ran the headline that the regular classes would resume with the beginning of Ashad which was immediately condemned by the Education Minister. The Minister has made it clear that the government has decided to give momentum to students’ learning through alternative means. However, any news or information on bringing back children to school in the near future is not official. Experts have suggested the government to assess the risk of COVID-19 in specific areas and make plans for education management.
In a bid to regularise students’ learning amid testing time, the Government of Nepal has recently issued Students Learning Facilitation Directives 2077. The document has entrusted the local body and school to identify and categorise students based on their access to information and communication technology. Moreover, the directive aims resumption of students learning through alternative means at a time when the Education Ministry has been receiving severe criticism for its indecisiveness to education management. A decision on SEE has now come which says that graduation grades would be based on internal evaluation of the concerned teachers.
One of the key provisions incorporated in the directive is the division of students into 5 different categories- students without access to any form of technology, students with access to radio and FM, students with access to television, students having computer but without internet and those with improved access to internet and ICT resources to effectively operationalise the alternative learning. Production and dissemination of audio-visual learning materials through the official website of the ministry is appreciable.
Contrary to the recent series of educational plans, policies and progarmmes including the educational components in this year’s budget, the directive has laid an emphasis on the proactive role of the local government. Ranging from the distribution of educational materials and textbooks to those students who don’t have any access to technology to maintaining the vital records of students profile and their family backgrounds, the local governments have been asked to assume a pivotal role. It seems that the Ministry wants to work closely with the Pradesh government on facilitating students’ learning.
No less significant is the role of teachers as envisaged by the directive. Apart from their own schools, teachers are required to make a detailed list of students enrolled in nearby area and provide necessary support. Meanwhile, schools have been asked to submit their weekly and monthly routine for education management in the present circumstances.
While the directive has tried to restore some faith among teachers and students, it is still a matter of ‘wait and see’ whether this will be effectively implemented. Against the spirit of the Ministry’s directive call, a bunch of private entrepreneurs, however, are hell bent on expediting student admission campaign to collect funds. In fact, private schools seem to be in a hurry to open regular classes undermining the gravity of the situation. With the news of some schools conducting entrance exams, such an intention has become evident.
Managing university education through a separate directive is also equally significant. In this regard, the Tribhuwan University has decided to conduct the proposal defense and thesis VIVA online to ensure the timely completion of their degree. The growing dilemma about the education of undergraduate and graduate level remains unaddressed. Although TU has already instructed to run online classes, student attendance is challenging let alone the effectiveness of the virtual learning. Similar to the Ministry’s directive, grouping the university level students into different categories on the basis of their technological access to provision their education will serve better to end the current impasse.
The recent directive can be instrumental in ensuring students’ engagement in learning if strictly implemented. Whether or not students attend online classes and meaningfully engage in education needs to be assessed. In case of students learning through television and radio, obtaining accurate information about the access of educational materials and their effectiveness is important. By designing a feedback mechanism to gauge the effectiveness of virtual learning, the local government can reach out to students for improving the quality of learning.

(Pokharel is a social science faculty and a researcher.