As we know, the Ministry of Education, Nepal has formally approved the alternative learning system in schools in the country effective from Asad 1, 2077 (June 15, 2020) considering the COVID-19 situation and the uncertainty that looms in the field of education, among many others. This directive is named: “वैकल्पिक प्रणालीबाट विद्यार्थीको सिकाइ सहजीकरण निर्देशिका, २०७७” (Facilitation Directive for Alternative Learning System, 2077). The approval notice along with the directives on this can be found on the MOE’s website.
This directive has listed the roles and responsibilities of the different government levels and all the bodies that play a direct and indirect role in education – e.g. the schools, teachers, guardians, coordination and monitoring committee, etc. It has directed the local level to work with the schools and categorize the students as follows:
- hose who have no access to any devices (radio, television, computer)
- those who have access to radio, FM
- those who have access to television
- those who have access to computers but no internet
- those who have access to internet and IT devices (computer, smartphone, tablet, etc.)
The directive looks promising, in that, it has shown that there has been some thought process involved in categorizing the students based on their accessibility to educational materials and making plans accordingly. For example, some of the ways of making education accessible to those without any devices would be
- the local level coordinating with the state representatives and the schools to make the materials available to the students
- have the students attend schools by maintaining physical distancing
The directive also mentions that the government will be working with radio and television channels to broadcast the education programs. The Department of Education has been publishing the timetables of the programs on their website. The latest schedule for the radio and television programs can be found here. Similarly, the self learning materials for grades 1 to 9 and pre-school can be found here. The missing self-learning material for grade 8 is published here. These materials provide a guide for the students on what to learn on a day to day basis.
The MOE on a higher level will be playing a crucial role in coordinating efforts between the different bodies within the country and also collaborating with different organizations, both national and international to achieve the educational goals. It will be working with the Internet providers, including Nepal Telecom to come up with education packages that are provided free of cost or with minimal charges.
While the government has taken a positive step in this regard, there are still many challenges that will be faced. These directives are good in providing what needs to be done but the real challenges will be more prominent while implementing the “hows”. There is a need for a lot of coordination, maturity, honesty, diligence, good management, good leadership. Even with all these factors, there will be many unknowns and some failures along the way.
While we can definitely applaud the government for this initiative, they do not have all the time to wait and absorb the applause. They need to move quickly – rather fail fast and get right back up and learn from their mistakes in every phase.
In this age of the internet, families with resources will find alternatives to augment their children’s education. The true success and will of the ministry will be determined by how they adapt and come up with solutions for the most marginalized of students; including
- students whose parents cannot afford to watch over them to make sure they are attending their classes,
- students whose parents are not literate to guide them through their homework,
- students who do not have additional resources besides the limited time slots provided by the government.
It is truly a transformative time for the Ministry of Education to reimagine a radically new approach, and only time will tell if they come out on the right side of history.