'Involve me and I LEARN'
From using experiential learning methods to improving the quality of education in government schools, a bunch of startups are trying to make a difference.
Edushala isn’t just an education firm, it is rather a team of engineers, marketers, IT professionals and lawyers — who are also hobbyist poets, photographers, gamers and tea-boys — sharing a passion for teaching and learning..Edushala aims to connect passionate educators with knowledge-hungry students. ’Love what you learn. Teach what you love’ summarizes the philosophy of the team
In June last year , Edushala launched a platform for real-world project- based learning for both educators and the learners by providing courses as diverse as—Salsa, Art of learning and speaking, How to excel in an interview, and Computer programming.
Edushala was setup by a group of people who returned from the US and wanted to invest in Nepal. The idea of Edushala came to Jorge Esteban and his friends while they were hanging out at Dhokaima Café, Patan.
The eureka moment came while they were discussing problems in the education sector, and what they could do to overcome the existing problems. Esteban called up Santosh Shrestha, who would be one of the co-founders and advisers for Edushala, with the idea. Shrestha immediately assented.
By June, the idea of Edushala had already taken shape. It now had a multi-roomed space in Kupondole, and a team: Abhishek Maskey, Rumee Singh, Ruchin Singh, Jyoti Adhikari and Dr. Rajat Rajbhandari, besides Esteban and Shrestha.
The organization has created a platform for educators to share their knowledge with students. Edushala is based on the Business to Business (B2B) concept, where instructors submit a course proposal, develop content and after approval conduct classes. It also uses the Business to Consumer (B2C) model to enroll students in different study programs by paying the instructors’ fees.
Edushala not only provides workspace, but also collaborates with instructors to develop curricula. The focus is on assisting micro-entrepreneurs who want to start something new. For the past five months the team has been working to develop a concept for project-based learning, which would require more involvement from the students. It also wants to encourage students to utilize the things they have learned in the real world.
“If we tell a student we’ll be providing them real world learning opportunities and not provide certificates after they complete a course, they will think twice before joining. That’s how the education system makes us think—to get as much certificates as possible, and not to focus much on gaining real world experiences,” says Esteban.
“At Edushala we encourage students to learn, and we provide them with courses that are not usually available in schools and universities. Students are genuinely interested in learning these skills, and it’s not about getting certificates,” he adds.
Nine out of ten students who fail in the SLC exam are from government schools, where four out of five Nepali students are enrolled.
Baffled by the numbers Shisir Khanal (the founder and CEO of Teach for Nepal) visited rural areas in the country to understand what was going on in the villages.
He found out that the teachers in rural areas had very limited or no training and this meant that they did not have the skills to make teaching effective.
Influenced by Teach for America, a program under which young educated people volunteer to teach in schools, Khanal decided to replicate the model in Nepal, and started Teach for Nepal in September 2012.
Since then, Teach for Nepal has been working towards extending access to quality education to every child in Nepal, and training young professionals to become outstanding teachers and leaders. It has been training people with strong academic and leadership backgrounds who never even thought of teaching, to work in government schools.
Teach for Nepal gets donations from various national and international organizations, and the teachers involved in this organization donate one percent of their monthly income to the organization.
It encourages willing business organizations to donate at least hundred rupees a day to support quality education in government schools and colleges.
“Most families with lower income have no option but to send their children to government schools, which don’t provide proper education. We are trying to build an alternative schooling system for such low income families,” says Khanal.
“We train the recruits on how to teach, and we get them to teach in government schools for two years. This way, schools get good teachers and teachers themselves get a chance to upgrade their skills and perspectives,” says Khanal.
The recruits go through various challenging leadership development programs and teacher’s training programs before they become eligible to teach. Teach for Nepal further works in developing their skills in planning, project management, communication, presentation and public relation. From engineers to social workers and science students to managers have enrolled in Teach for Nepal’s program. It currently has a team of thirty-one members who work with over 2,000 children in sixteen schools. “We believe we can end education inequity in Nepal,” says Khanal.
Nisarga Batika School
The main focus of Nisarga Batika School is to make sure that the children become better learners. “We want to encourage them to learn for their own sake and not for the sake of their parents or their teachers,” says Kamana Regmi, co-founder and principal.
Regmi is one of the nine educators comprising a team of teachers and professionals with extensive experience in the field of education that started Nisarga Batika School a year ago.
The method Nisarga has adopted is called experiential learning, under which students are taught and encouraged to take responsibility for themselves — from tying their shoelaces to clearing their plates, right from an the early days of school.
“Learning becomes a burden when young minds are made to worry about exams and report cards. The end of a school year doesn’t mark the end of their learning, but it is rather a beginning for self-assessment,” says Regmi. The academic content in the school is structured in such a way that no child is left out.
The idea behind experiential learning is to get a child who reads to go out and do more activity-based work, and to get a child who is more interested in activity-based work to read. One needs to be comfortable in all styles of learning. This will be helpful when they go into the real world, as a workspace can be very unpredictable, Regmi explains.
In addition to teaching young pre-schoolers to fifth graders, Nisarga also has a training center to conduct training programs for teachers on issues such as integrated teaching, behavioral management, language arts, and refresher training. Their goal is to introduce an approach that is progressive and child friendly to make learning more creative and exciting.
“While putting these new approaches to practice, we tend to go back to the traditional ways, because that’s how we were taught. So there’s a lot of unlearning to do as we learn new ways,” Regmi adds.
He spent a couple of months meeting people from different walks of life – from businessmen to development practitioners — to look for things to do.
However as his parents were educators, he always had a natural inclination for teaching.
This led Gonsar to start EduLift—an after- school non-profit educational training program providing integrated curriculum in career counseling, entrepreneurship and technology.
EduLift uses an integrated approach of experience-based learning. The students involve themselves in projects, which enable them to come up with ideas and implement those ideas to create solutions. “A student who was interested in technology came up with the firm’s promotional video. And I think the video is better-than what a professional would have made,” says Gonsar.
Students who come to EduLift, are mostly from economically challenged families. After joining EduLift, students have had the access to technology and had the chance to improve their English as well. These students are now able to write their own blogs and speak fluently among themselves. “One of our students, when she joined Edulift, wasn’t as confident in speaking in public, let alone conversing in English. After a few training sessions we found her conversing with her friends in English with confidence,” says Gonsar.
The organization also initiated an ’Explore after SLC’ program in order to help the recent SLC graduates decide which field they want to take up later. Instead of carrying out a formal talk program or lecture, the students involved in the programs at EduLift are encouraged to meet experts in the field they are interested in.
Despite being a non-profit organization, Edulift is trying to sustain on its own. “The organization follows its own revenue model, by charging a certain fees from the students. Keeping in mind the financial capacity of the students, the fees are minimal,” adds Gonsar. If the program proves sustainable in the long run, EduLift wants to bring the practice of experiential learning to schools across Nepal.