Multi-grade Teaching in Nepal

Grade combination, using other resource persons available in the area and better seating arrangements could be some of the strategies to ensure student-centred and activity-oriented Multi-grade Teaching in schools.

 Shambhu Prasad Lohani The rapid expansion of primary education during the last few decades and the goal of universalising primary education have increasingly drawn the attention of educational planners in Nepal towards the multi-grade teaching system. The mountainous topography of the country has created a severe problem in transport and communication. The rapid growth of population and migration have added to the number of school age children, while the paucity of resources has compelled the government to cut down on the number of teachers. And the low per capita income of the country cannot support the expensive educational set up. In the face of these constraints, multi-grade teaching (MGT) is emerging as a viable concept, and various ways and means of formalising MGT have been demanded.
Concept of MGT
Various factors like the big range in the age of students in one grade, decline in the enrollment in some schools (especially in the hilly regions), reduction of staff, lack of adequate classroom space on the one hand and the intrinsic merit of MGT in peer-teaching, opportunity for individual initiative and the possibility of running the classes smoothly even in the absence of teachers (which so often happens), on the other, have encouraged the formation of a multiple class teaching system. Since a single class teacher can handle several grades at a time, MGT is a palpable reality in the Nepalese context.
Some of the major reasons for the institutionalisation of MGT in Nepal include Nepal’s geographical configuration, cost effectiveness, efficient teacher’s use, migration trend, teacher’s absence and the goal of universalising primary education. An MGT school in Nepal at present and in the foreseeable future will be especially necessary in the rural areas, particularly in the remote localities where people’s educational awareness and literacy rate, the density of the population and the economic status of the people are comparatively lower.

MGT is a viable system in Nepal not merely for its cost-effectiveness but for its academic effectiveness, too. It is a strategy to improve the quality of education by creating meaningful interactions between students and teachers, and students and students, and also by making individualised teaching feasible and possible.
On the basis of a number of surveys, studies, research and workshops conducted so far in the country, the following major aspects of MGT as it is practiced in Nepal can be enumerated.
Different MGT types like two grades combined into one; teacher for individual help; one teacher in three different grades in three different classrooms; teachers moving from one group to the other; only one group engaged by the teacher while the other groups do self-reading.
  •  Teacher-centred classroom teaching;
  •  A few student-centred activities;
  •  Annual system of student evaluation;
  •  Monitoring system

All or some of the points mentioned above are in practice in schools. However, teachers are not very happy with the situation as it now exists, and the general reactions of the teachers are as follows:

  • Difficult to teach two classes at a time, to evaluate and maintain discipline;
  • Lack of relevant instructional materials, necessary physical facilities, relevant curriculum and teacher training;
  • Many challenges like lack of facilities, amenities and incentives along with difficult professional responsibilities for the teacher;
  • Teacher absenteeism and lack of a tribal teacher

However, most of the teachers have solved the most critical classroom teaching problem by adopting different kinds of seating management.

Suggested strategies

Grade combination, using other resource persons available in the area and better seating arrangements could be some of the strategies to ensure student-centred and activity-oriented MGT in schools.
Other recommendations include pre-service and in-service teacher training; production of training materials package and more teacher incentives; production of student’s instructional materials jointly by experts and teachers; better physical facilities; working out a more relevant teaching method like team teaching; curriculum design and evaluation; establishment of consultancy centres and resource centres; and regional, national and international exchange visits of MGT teachers.
MGT needs to be effective and must flourish in the Nepalese context. However, the important inputs required will be basically related to research, programme development, extension services, material resources and feasibility studies.These are priority inputs, and national and international agencies need to focus on supporting and creating these inputs so that MGT can successfully operate in Nepal.

source:Shambhu Prasad Lohani,gorkhapatraonline (The author was formerly with the National Centre for Educational Development (NCED), Nepal)