Using textbooks in the classroom is not a big problem but limiting the learners only to the textbook and teacher-centered lecture method has been outdated and unable to fulfill the needs and demands of the 21st century learners
School education is supposed to build a foundation for learners to lead a successful professional life.
However, the existing Nepalese educational system is based on traditional textbook, teacher-centered lecture-based method, low-resourced, low-tech, large classroom contexts where learners get rare opportunities for independent learning in the classroom.
These are common challenges that learners encounter in Nepalese classrooms which represents the microcosm of multilingual, multicultural, and multi-religious society of Nepal.
Diverse population of learners with their diverse needs, interests and learning styles demand a wide range of activities to address them for optimum learning which has always been a huge challenge for teachers.
There is no significant amount of learning although students spend about thirteen years of time (Nursery to Grade 10) in school, and there is a huge amount of investment of time, money and effort of parents, teachers and students.
Similarly, teaching in pin-drop silence and textbook-limited teaching has paralyzed learners in Nepalese classrooms for long.
They are overburdened with the need to learn the classroom contents by heart which are rarely applied to real life issues.
If we see the history of Nepalese education, it has been developed from the root of Gurukul Education System (GES) where learners used to be taught certain knowledge and skills under the guidance of their gurus (teachers) with the purpose of preparing them with particular knowledge and skills to be applied in their practical life.
However, it is found that its practical part is missing today since students rarely get the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in their practical life. As a result, graduates lack different knowledge and skills required in the market.
Therefore, the voices of dissatisfaction are heard frequently from different stakeholders – parents, teachers, school leaders, administrators.
It is also not the case that no efforts have been made to improve the situation but significant change has not occurred. Students’ learning achievement is measured on the basis of how much s/he can memorize the contents and write in the exam.
But it is useless unless and until students can apply the knowledge and skills in their practical life.
ABI is a pedagogical approach that includes a variety of hands-on activities — research-based, games-based, art-based, inquiry-based, literature-based activities as per the learners’ needs in a collaborative way.
The main concept of ABI is based on the common notion that children are active learners rather than passive recipients of information.
If children are provided opportunity to explore on their own using multiple resources and technology, learning is maximized. Moreover, it becomes meaningful, joyful and long-lasting.
As learners are engaged in prolonged engagement in experiential learning and practical works with learning by doing and construct the knowledge on their own, the teachers’ job becomes easier and more comfortable.
Similarly, students get excited by the opportunity to be involved in the new way of learning – the practical application of the classroom contents and knowledge in the real life situations.
By engaging students in the various practical activities in real life situations, they get the opportunity to develop not only the in-depth understanding of the contents but also various life skills — communication, creativity and critical thinking, collaboration and cooperation, research and technological skills, leadership and management skills, and entrepreneurship skills which are essential in the 21st century global market.
The government has made Continuous Assessment System (CAS) which requires a variety of activities for its implementation but teacher-centered lecture method provides rare opportunity to assess the students’ learning.
In traditional Nepalese educational practices, the textbooks are regarded as curriculum so teachers are more focused on teaching contents prescribed in the textbook. As a result, curricular objectives are shadowed.
So actual learning is not taking place. What students are supposed to learn they are not learning.
In such a situation, ABI can be an alternate to transform the traditional practices in which curricular objectives lie at the center and fulfillment of them is the main target. The textbook can be only one of the many resources but not all in all.
Students, in ABI, are provided with a wide variety of resources for in-depth understanding of the contents.
Teaching learning is focused on the knowledge and skills that students are supposed to develop.
Using textbooks in the classroom is not a big problem but limiting the learners only to the textbook and teacher-centered lecture method has been outdated and unable to fulfill the needs and demands of the 21st century learners.
Therefore, ABI can be an alternate and inevitable for transformation of the Nepalese school educational practices and can make it more scientific and appropriate, enabling the learners to face the challenges of the 21st global market.
Devkota holds an MPhil in development studies from KathmanduUniversity; Giri is doing his MPhil from Kathmandu University.
A version of this article appears in print on August 23, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.