Finding Hopes in Troubled Times – Education and Protection of Children in Nepal
- Utgitt: 2006
- Serie: --
- Type: Gjennomganger fra organisasjoner
- Utført av: Children’s Environments Research Group, consultant Sheridan Bartlett
- Bestilt av: Save the Children Norway
- Land: Nepal
- Antall sider: --
- Serienummer: --
- ISBN: --
- ISSN: --
- Organisasjon: Save the Children Norway
Save the Children Norway (SCN) and Save the Children US (SCUS) have supported primary education in Nepal since the early 1990s. It has become clear over the years that no one intervention can change a system with multiple problems and weaknesses. SC has tried increasingly to provide an integrated package of supports with the goal of creating more accountable, child-centered environments and more involved communities. This research looks at the effectiveness of these programs in two districts: Siraha (supported by SCUS),
and Kavre (supported by SCN).
The study addressed the following questions:
_ What are the circumstances, in and out of school, conflict-related and otherwise, that
are stressful for children and undermine their well-being?
_ What factors, policies, practices in the schools buffer children from these stressors?
_ How effectively are parents and communities involved in these schools?
_ How effective are these schools in encouraging children's attendance, retaining them
from year to year, and ensuring successful learning?
_ Do program school children show more evidence of resilience?
_ What could school communities be doing better to provide a protective environment for
children, to address their rights, and to promote their development as secure, confident
Information was collected from program schools (six in each district) and comparison schools (eight in Siraha, five in Kavre). The comparison schools had no program supports beyond those routinely provided to government schools. Research tools were both qualitative and quantitative:
_ Interviews and focus group discussions with children, parents, teachers, school management committee members, also with SC and partner staff and with district education office personnel.
_ An individual child tracking system recorded household demographic information, examination results, promotion, repetition, drop out or school completion for the cohort of children starting grade 1 in 2005.
_ A psychosocial scale was used with a randomly selected sample of 2 boys and 2 girls from each grade in all Siraha research schools (n=280), conceived as a way to compare the overall resilience or well being of different groups of children.
_ A classroom observation tool was designed to assess classroom environment, teaching methods and style, and children's responses to the teacher, one another and their work.
_ A standardized grade 1 test was developed so that children's learning, along with the quality of individual schools, could be more accurately assessed than is possible using school pass rates.
Save the Children’s program schools are, without question, doing a better job protecting and providing for children than other schools in their areas. There are weaker and stronger program schools, but even the weakest program schools are better than most of the comparison schools.
The program schools have more committed teachers and school management committees, their parents are more aware and involved, the school grounds are in better shape, and there are more likely to be active initiatives in place to address the numerous problems that confront Nepal’s schools. In overcrowded Siraha schools, there are smaller, more manageable grade 1 classes, and fewer underage and overage children. Both attendance and retention are better.
Grade 1 performance in all schools is low, especially in Nepali and English. Few children have a solid grasp of basic grade 1 skills and even in the best schools there is continued evidence of rote learning. However, children in program schools are doing significantly better than their peers. The effects of overly large classes in Siraha showed up clearly – children in Kavre, in both program and comparison schools, are doing significantly better
than their peers in Siraha. In Siraha, results indicate that the program has made a significant academic difference for non-dalit children, but not for dalits – a cause for concern, and a reason to reinstate dalit supports that have been recently discontinued. Children’s struggle with the Nepali language is a major factor in their transition to school and their success in grade 1 – and this appears to be related to their psychosocial well being as well. Kavre schools are handling this better, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that learning Nepali is a greater challenge for Tamangs than for Siraha’s Maithili-speaking majority. The results of both the standardized grade 1 test and the psychosocial scale showed, unexpectedly, no significant differences between ECD graduates and those with no ECD experience, despite qualitative findings pointing to greater confidence and a better capacity to cope with school among ECD children. In Kavre, the absence of a significant academic difference is probabaly related to the small sample size of ECD children. In Siraha, two factors appear to be at work: overly rapid expansion with a lack of adequate support leading to an erosion in the quality of the ECD program; and overcrowded grade 1 classrooms which have meant diminishing support for these children, a failure to build on ECD gains, and considerable discouragement for the children as they adjust to a very different reality from their more secure and pleasurable ECD experience. At the same time, the presence of ECD children in these classrooms has resulted in a generally higher level of expectation and achievement for all children – classes with no ECD children have uniformly lower results. All of these ECD-related results deserve much closer study.
The integrated program supports have been important not only in their effects for schools and children, but in the ways they have affected local community capacity. The direct support and development provided to SMC members; the more general encouragement and learning provided through the SIP process; the parent training made available through ECD; and the experience with ECD management have all provided opportunities for local
community members to build their skills and confidence in a number of areas.
Qualitative evidence points to higher levels of local participation, a better capacity (on the part of SMCs) to make use of available government resources, a more critical awareness on the part of parents, and a greater tendency to take initiative in improving the schools. There is more ownership of local schools on the part of all stakeholders, and a greater demand for accountability. Overall, this appears to be more consistent in Kavre than in Siraha, where the potential for consistent follow-up and support has been more limited. Both qualitative findings and the psychosocial scale suggest that stronger schools are in fact producing stronger children – although it remains unclear whether this is the result of the direct impact of the schools, or whether it is mediated by generally stronger communities. Despite the successes demonstrated by the program schools, there is also much room for
improvement. Attention to the following areas is particularly recommended.
Recommendations for programming
- In Siraha especially, attention should be given to finding a better balance between expanding the program and providing the support necessary to maintaining high quality. This is true for all components of this integrated program – ECD, teacher training, support for SMCs, physical maintenance, record keeping and the rest.
_ Efforts should be made to ensure the more genuine representation of women and dalits (or other excluded groups) in SMCs. There is strength in numbers, and women/ dalit members need a stronger presence to be able to draw attention to concerns within the school that may otherwise remain unrecognized and unaddressed.
_ It would be valuable also to develop a system for rating the performance of SMCs in various areas, and for determining the extent of parental and community involvement in the schools.
_ The SIP process should be regularly updated, with efforts to ensure that the selection of parents and children for this process is truly representative, and that the whole school community is informed of the outcomes.
_ Opportunities for active student involvement should become far more routine in all schools. Support should be provided to ensure that these opportunities are genuinely inclusive and respectful of children’s capacity to take an active and responsible role.
_ Since most SMCs have seen no need to develop policies on most protection issues, SC should consider developing a clear code of conduct for school personnel in collaboration with SMCs, parent groups and the DEO. Just raising general awareness on such issues as abusive or discriminatory behavior may not be adequate to change practices.
_ Better mutual support systems among teachers should be encouraged – including regular reflective meetings within schools, and opportunities for teachers from different schools to meet and discuss their challenges and successes – especially in the critical areas of active teaching-learning, and dealing with the challenges of learning Nepali.
_ Greater accountability among teachers could be promoted by establishing an evaluation system that includes input from parents and children. This could consist of a few simple questions that could be answered anonymously if necessary, and should be developed in collaboration with community and SMC.
_ More encouragement and support appear to be needed to address book and scholarship distribution. The current tendency for everyone to blame everyone else is not productive and keeps too many children from getting the maximum support. The free availability of such low cost items as pencils and notebooks could relieve a good deal of anxiety on the part of children
_ The routine use of a standardized test, at least in grade 1, would ensure that the education children are receiving could be more accurately assessed. This test could also be used as a diagnostic tool for determining where support is most needed.
_ All possible means should be explored to encourage the awareness and active involvement of parents – for instance, a school bulletin board, regular meetings whether at school or neighborhood level, the provision of parenting education for all parents, whether or not ECD coverage is available for all.
_ The possibility of developing a corps of voluntary teacher aids should be explored, especially for overcrowded grade 1 and 2 classrooms. These volunteers could take attendance, check homework, assist with classroom management and help children in and out of class. Even an hour a day could make a difference to what overburdened teachers were capable of accomplishing.
_ Consider a “welcome day” for incoming grade 1 children and parents – a day where they can be introduced to the school and teachers, and be given information that will ease children’s transition.
_ Establishing clear responsibility for the maintenance of clean toilets, the availability of water for both drinking and washing, and the disposal of waste would help to ensure higher standards of health and a more pleasant environment. Separate toilets for boys and girls should be the norm.
_ Planting trees would be another simple way, ideally involving children, to create more pleasant outdoor space that seems likely to encourage children to come to school and stay there – this in addition to the stress reducing qualities pointed to by other research.
_ Alcohol abuse among adults affects the quality of life for many children in Siraha, exposing them to family stress, domestic violence and abuse, and the wasteful use of scarce household resources. Although this is not generally seen as a school-related issue, the effects for family finances can undermine children’s chance for education and increase the risk of drop out — as well as increasing family poverty more generally, with all the attendant risks for children. Any attempt to provide a protective environment for children in this context must take this issue into account. It is recommended that it be discussed within the school community as an issue with profound effects for children’s well being and future prospects. As the situation in Nepal shifts, it is not unlikely that the problem could re-emerge in Kavre and would have to be dealt with there too.
Recommendations for advocacy
Although many of the concerns raised by this research can be addressed within the local context, there is also a clear need for advocacy at a national level, especially at this time in the country’s history when there may be an openness to change and accountability. Issues that could particularly use the weight of SC’s advocacy would be:
_ more investment in human resources to support schools at the district level;
_ changes in the national requirement for gender and caste representation in SMCs;
_ more effective and honest approaches to teacher evaluation and retention, ideally involving bottom-up as well as top-down assessment;
_ a systematic use of standardized assessment of children’s learning in the early grades in order to evaluate the performance of schools and identify areas in need of support;
_ more attention to the issue of second-language, and to ways of making the transition to school easier for non-Nepali speaking children;
_ an internship year for student teachers, as a way to provide added support within underresourced classrooms;
_ continued support for an individual child tracking system as a way of promoting reliable record keeping in Nepali schools and a better understanding of the problems they face;
_ advocacy at all levels to protect schools and children from political pressure and influences.
Unless change can be strongly promoted and supported at the district and local level, however, even an acceptance of such policies at the national level would do little to change Nepal’s dysfunctional primary education system.