Now that school enrolment in Nepal is approaching 100%, attention has turned to upgrading the quality of instruction and keeping the curriculum in tune with the times with a stronger focus on science and mathematics.
This is because STEM education that integrates science, technology, engineering and mathematics in experiment-based learning is now needed in everyday life, and in every profession.
With the convergence of technology, all appliances and applications need hands-on technical experience. However, most education in Nepali schools is still light years behind with rote-based text book learning of stultifying and irrelevant content.
“A focus on STEM education can unleash students’ creativity, and it begins with small steps,” explains Irina Sthapit who was involved in STEM education in Nepal is now at Stanford University. “Hands-on STEM learning is not about fancy equipment, but how we can use the simplest of materials to encourage students to think and create. “
Sthapit used paper cups to make rudimentary robots that could make sketches, and says STEM instruction is missing an ‘A’ for art, and the acronym should actually be STEAM. She says future careers will depend on students being fluent with technology, arts and humanities, and they have to be able to adapt for jobs of the future.
Robotics Association of Nepal’s Manoj Lekhak agrees: “Even if students make simple lamps, they can learn about electricity, design-thinking, and create useful products.” Starting schooling with the basics of science, technology and mathematics can radically improve learning. And adding ‘art’ in STEAM encourages students to enhance their 4Cs: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication.
By working on projects like designing automatic street lights using photoresistors, or wearable tech with solar-powered LEDs, school-going children come up with solutions for real-life problems such as load-shedding and energy efficiency.
In recent years, research has shown that STEM education must start early, from primary school or even younger, to lay foundations of necessary thinking skills and learning culture.
The Nepal government has been talking about creating child-friendly schools, which also entails an engaging learning process. But in most government schools, especially in remote areas, teachers are unable to align learning with experimental activities, and are often unaware of the latest technological advances. Moreover, there is pressure on them to finish a rigid course for the supposed supreme measure of success: exams.
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