"Working to improve the quality of school education"

Introduction

Teaching based solely on textbooks has been a common practice in Nepali classrooms. The assumption has been that rote memorization of the text is a necessary and sufficient condition for effective learning. On the contrary, students function best when they are able to work with material in a meaningful manner. They need interaction, active participation, hands-on learning experiences and lessons they can relate to in order to develop in a holistic way.

One can make a sweeping statement and say that rote learning and reproducing the text in the examination has been responsible for the sorry state of education in Nepal. This is why the socio/economic indicator of Nepal is falling far below the "developing" countries, and statistics of Nepal present themselves as outliers in the analysis. Boring classrooms that do not allow for active participation and hands-on learning is the prime cause of school drop-outs, uneducated and unskilled youth cannot have a productive life, or help build the nation.

Realizing that primary classrooms cannot solely depend on text books and the teacher's explanation of it in the blackboard, RBF has found it necessary to ensure that a basic set of material for classroom use is to be made available to schools that are partnering with the Foundation so that the teachers would not fall back to "chalk and talk" once they are back to their own schools. A set of basic and durable material would allow the teachers to make lessons more meaningful and fun for students. The material created by RBF is durable, reusable and essential for conceptual understanding across the curriculum. RBF believes that school must have, and teachers must use teaching materials to deliver effective lessons.

RBF's set comes in a tin-trunk, and consists of material that the Foundation has developed by itself, and material that is collected from the local market. The materials described below are considered a necessary minimum for all schools.

Materials by RBF

RBF always make sure the materials it develops are affordable for schools, and are durable and reusable. The material is also are aligned with and able to supplement the effective teaching of the content in the national curriculum.

Hand PuppetsA Set of Hand Puppets
There are sturdy 18 hand puppets made of canvas in this set. The material is durable and washable. The set contains six puppets each from the Himalayan, Mountain and Tarai regions. People are represented in their local costumes on one side of the puppet, and, on the other side are animals found in that region. The grandparents wear the most traditional and ornate costumes, (Sherpa, Bahun/Chhetri and Tharu), the parents wear less traditional ones, and the children's clothes are modern. These puppets inspire children to know the traditional costumes, the joint family structure, and about animals found in these areas. These figures are in line with the text books which talks about Nepali being divided into three such regions, and the people wearing such costumes. We hope that these major themes will develop into conversation pieces that will allow students to understand their society better.

S. #. Himalayan Region Mountain Region Tarai Region
People Animals People Animals People Animals
1. Grandfather Musk Deer Grandfather Monkey Grandfather Rhino
2. Grandmother Yak Grandmother Cow Grandmother Tiger
3. Father Horse Father Sheep Father Elephant
4. Mother Mule Mother Dog Mother Goat
5. Son Impeyan Pheasant   Son Cat Son Dog
6. Daughter Tibetan Mastiff Daughter Rabbit Daughter Duck

With the use of these puppets, we expect the students to develop their language skills, their social skills as well as creativity. Through role-plays, they can learn to appreciate diversity and the issues faced by different parts of the country. Teachers get an opportunity to go out of the text and allow students to learn through activities.

Community Set
This set is also based on the same philosophy as the hand puppets, but they consist of a set of wooden stand-alone pieces with pictures of people and animals found in the Himalayan Region, Mountains and the Tarai. The pictures are realistic and are to some extent, drawn to scale.

S. #. Himalayan Region Mountain Region Tarai Region
People Animals People Animals People Animals
1. Grandfather Yak Grandfather Cow Grandfather Rhino
2. Grandmother Horse Grandmother Sheep Grandmother Tiger
3. Father Mule Father Dog Father Elephant
4. Mother Impeyan Pheasant   Mother Puppies Mother Goat
5. Son Sheep Son Chicken Son Duck
6. Daughter   Daughter Rabbit Daughter 1 Bull
          Daughter 2 Pig

Dice
Three types of dice (0-5, 1-6, 4-9), in sets of ten allows students to get involved in quick calculations. There should be least thirty dice in each of these categories in order to have an effective set for use in the school.

Geo boards
The Geo boards allow students to learn geometry in a hands-on manner. The concept of length and area becomes very clear to students with the use of geo-boards. There is a large geo board for the teacher, and six smaller ones for the students to work in groups and practice concept taught in small groups. RBF recommends that a school has enough items for two students to work as a team in a classroom. That would mean about 15-20 geo-boards per school depending on whether there are 30 or 40 students in each class. The geo boards can be used both in the primary and secondary classrooms.

Solid Figures
A set of geometrically accurate solid figures allows young students to learn the names of the figures, while the senior students can be engage in describing them and solving problem of volume, surface area and all aspects of mensuration.

In addition to the materials developed by RBF, the additional items are incorporated in the set. These materials are carefully selected from market to enhance the goal of learning in the national curriculum. The material in the trunk is adequate for a small sized school. The schools should either purchase multiple tin-trunk boxes, or procure additional items as per needs in order have enough material for all the children to learn meaningfully.