Rob Grande's blog from Nepal

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Rob Grande. First week in Nepal Feb 7, 2015

NOTE: Christine Stone is an American teacher who has lived in Nepal for decades. She is deeply active in education in Nepal, including having author of some of the textbooks now in use. A 2012 edition of the ECS magazine in Nepal carried this biography. [1]

Christine - Rob Meeting notes

▪ Christine said that the biggest problem facing Looma is content. She said that in order to pitch Looma to the government, it has to be a ready to go device with all the content already on it; don't rely on teachers to add their own content. Due to the size of the classes, interactive content that requires individiual participation would not be good, such as games. The best content would be an english text to speech synthesyzer, a questions and answers app, and most importantly, content which supports the text book, such as hyperlinked photos and videos to pages in the books. She introduced me to an educator Thapa who apparently has just tons and tons of material for education. According to her, this might be exactly what we need to round out Looma.

▪ Apparently, schools will finish class very soon (beginning of march) and wont begin again until April 15th. Additionally, it is unlikely schools will want to test Looma so close to the finals period. While this timing is very unfortunate in terms of testing Looma, it provides a firm and reasonable deadline to have Looma 2 software done.

▪ According to Christine, rural schools do not have internet, but almost all places have 2G or 3G coverage. It would be worth seriously investigating upgrading Looma to have 3G capabilities.

▪ Christine said that the biggest problem with education is lack of content as well as teaching methodology. Talking to Christine, I get the impression that the teaching method is really abhorrent. All teaching is by rote, and kids are never asked any questions. All explanations are given in purely algorithmic terms without a single intuitive explanation. Even something simple like a picture of different types of elements for chemistry would be a great help to these students.

▪ In Nepal (and lots of Asia), students are not permitted to ask the teacher questions. Questions are viewed not as inquiry into subject material but rather questioning the authority of the teacher's knowledge. This is compounded with the fact teachers may not know the answer to a question which would lead to serious embarrassment.

• As a side note, I have been reading a book entitled Fatalism and Development in Nepal. The book states that in Nepali culture, education is not seen as a means to learn a skill which could lead one to a more productive/lucrative profession, but rather as an indicator of social status, or class. Education is not actually seen as a means to a better status, but rather it is the end goal itself. To be educated is a symbol of class. Therefore, many educated people in industry will adopt the mentality that since I am educated, I shouldn't have to do the work; some other lower class individual should have to to it.

• This mentality is detrimental to development and education, and should be fixed somehow subtly through the method in which content is portrayed in Looma

▪ While older teachers may have bought their position, the younger teachers are genuinely passioante about education

▪ Christine mentioned that reading is learned by the teacher reciting words and the students repeat, so illiteracy is a big problem. A story book app in which content is read one word at a time, until the teacher presses a button, would be helpful

▪ Christine said that question games involving teams might be too much. A class based answer might be easier to integrate into teaching style

▪ Christine said that math is presented as rote and algorithms, no intuitive explanations. This would be great to improve

▪ 80 percent of students fail the government assessment test in government schools.

▪ Christine said that most rural villages will not have even a single computer for children to use after class, so the idea of content which is accessible to students without teachers is not good for now. For private schools, the children may have computer clusters or pads, and then the idea of making some looma content which is intended for single student use would be good

▪ In order to get government support, its really important to emphasize that looma supports the government cirriculum and is an aid to it. It does not try to introduce new material or radically different teaching methodologies. Some key words for proposals are “child-friendly” - arousing and inspiring children, attractive and interesting, motivating

▪ Christine said that recording teacher training videos on Looma is not overly beneficial as teacher training is usually interactive

▪ Christine said there is teacher training in doloka in april and that I could come and bring/present the loomas

Analysis

• The types of content that looma has need to be rethought with the educators in the loop.