Children in rural Nepal benefit from child-friendly learning method
By Ashma Shrestha Basnet
Kavre, Nepal, 9 July 2010 - It was mid-day. The summer sun was beating down on the roof of grade one of Nabin Primary School in Kavre district. But the children, oblivious of the heat, were engrossed learning mathematics. They were having fun learning how to add and subtract using multicoloured ‘lapsi’ seeds. Lapsi is a fruit indigenous to the country, with a very hard oval seed. These seeds were developed as innovative learning material by the teachers in the school to make mathematics lessons more interactive and fun.
Nabin Primary School, like many other schools in Kavre and a few other districts of Nepal, has undergone a transformation after it adapted the child-friendly teaching learning approach. “Our school has become a happier place for the children,“ says Arjun Bahadur Khanal, Headmaster of the school. Ranjeeta Dahal, a 6-year-old first grader confirms the view. “School is my favourite place”, she says, and adds “I can play games here with my friends”
Interactive teaching and learning
The child-friendly school effort started in Nepal in 2002 in 45 government-run schools in two districts; Sunsari and Kavre. The initiative has now reached more than 1,100 schools across 24 districts of the country.
UNICEF provides training on child-friendly teaching and learning to the teachers in the pilot schools in close partnership with the Department of Education and also provides the materials necessary to facilitate child-friendly teaching and learning methods. The training provides conceptual clarity to the teachers and orients them on the intricacies of dealing with young boys and girls as individuals.
All the teachers in Nabin Primary School have undergone the training. “I have 21 years of teaching experience but learned about child-friendly teaching method only five years ago”, said Hari Prasad Khanal, grade one Teacher. He said that it was only after the training that he realised that despite his long experiences, he had not known the knack of making children grasp more of what was being taught in class.
“Child-friendly teaching helps children to learn in an interactive way,” added Mr. Khanal. “Similarly, it is also helpful to us teachers as it makes us think on how to make our lessons more innovative.” Getting teachers involved with the children and using play materials is the key to the child-friendly teaching method, according to Mr. Khanal. With the implementation of this initiative, the schools have completely changed their classroom set-up to be more child-friendly. Desks and benches have been replaced with carpets and mats. And the blackboards have been lowered to the children's level, making them more accessible. Even the facilities from the seating arrangements to the toilets, are developed keeping the children in mind.
Child-friendly teaching approach getting more popular
The child-friendly initiative is being replicated in higher grades of the schools. “When we first heard about this initiative, we were not very sure of it”, said Headmaster Khanal, of Nabin Primary School. “So we decided to try it out in grade one for a year, even though we were not too sure about it”.
With the implementation of this child friendly initiative, the attendance rate in the school increased and so did the marks attained by students in each subject. Inspired by this positive result, the school has already replicated the child-friendly approach until grade five in its own initiation. Headmaster Khanal added, “I feel proud to say that our school is a child-friendly school and my students are sharp, intelligent, and ready to face the world.”