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Arun Sharma

In today’s knowledge-based economy, its creation, dissemination, providing needed job-related skills relevant to an individual’s career choice, fulfill her cherished personal growth and meeting societies needed to create needed man power is the best gifts society can provide to the individual and itself. Quality in life comes from the quality of people and good education contributes to that quality living. “The quality of a nation depends upon the quality of its citizens.” American Commission on Teacher’s Education). Hence, building that quality in products and humans becomes a paramount task for any society for its progression.
“The essential purpose of education is to prepare everyone to acquire the knowledge, talent and resources and make them available in the task of nation building.…. The goal of a university is to transform the society. It is expected to develop the personality of the stakeholders.” (Joseph Benjamin)

I taught in Nepal for about 6.5 years in recent past. Coming from corporate technological environment as an engineer this was a new yet, a rewarding and refreshing change for me. I discovered teaching is not only about sharing knowledge, it’s also about challenging their thought processes and provoking them to explore beyond what they foresaw. Alongside raising inquisitiveness of my students, it also was acontinous  learning process for me. I discovered teaching also is about germinating, sprouting, fostering curiosity and creativity, motivating them to reach newer horizons and, to help them explore ongoing challenges pertaining to life related questions as well as society’s. Of course, it also is to push them to understand/excel in theories and practices and prepare them for newer pursuits. The futuristic challenges that are waiting for them are far beyond our present vision that we can visualize today, just as it was building semiconductor devices for me was, four plus decades ago in the Western world. I am glad to be a team member in this critical path for carving a better tomorrow through generations and dissemination of knowledge. I do believe strong theoretical foundation and contemporary skills (language, math, and computers, humanities) are good staring points for younger learners.

I notice there were numerous challenges we faced routine in Nepal -bandhas called upon by political parties, bandhas organized by students where they protest for disciplinary actions, rules, question papers, grades received also not only students but also by teachers and their various Associations. Whether it is justified or not, is not subject of this debate; however, I have raised the issue of not following basic ground rules. How about the social responsibility as to why WE all including students throw rubbish on ground or our waterways? Why our lands, rivers and limited number of parks we have are so heavily polluted? I asked a well revered past Vice Chancellor of one of the largest universities in Nepal, why we (collectively) failed to teach basic civic duties? The answer was quite vague- it was a duty of primary schools and parents. Why and where did we go wrong? We must ponder and correct for better tomorrow is needless to say. Water, air and soil are important to life, is no brainer. Then, where did we go wrong? In developed societies parents and primary schools teach basic civic duties. WHY don’t we?

We must think where this responsibility began- the answer is rather very simple-of course parents and teachers jointly but inaction it is so complex. We must ask why we have failed. And, what can be done as not much change is seen in last ten years I have been here?
The role of a teacher is not only significant but is critical as well! And, a teacher’s skills, knowledge must be continuously updated. As “The quality of their (student’s) education depends more than upon any single factor, upon the quality of their teacher.” (American Commission on Teacher’s Education). “If the teachers continue to improve themselves then there is value addition in education.(Feigenbaum-1951) “We have enormous responsibility for ensuring teacher quality well into 21st century if we recruit promising people into teaching and give them the highest quality preparation and training.” (Bill Clinton)

Goal of an academic institution is to prepare its citizens for its present and future needs (self and society), provide foundation on values that they will cherish in their lives, provide necessary skills to manage lives efficiently, decision making skills and including self -development. In the words of Audrey Hepburn “A quality education has the power to transform societies….” And that transformation improves lives- economically, socially and spiritually.

So, now we must ask ourselves what the areas we must work on. The list may be very long but the key components are:

Work-life, social skills improvements, ways and means to derive self-satisfaction, creating value for oneself and by deploying various quantitative indicators for measurements, (employment statistics, values for society, contributions-ideas, entrepreneurship, research papers, patents, copyrights, product introduction, knowledge/technology transfers). The concept generation is equally critical such as: Knowledge creation; creating a culture to foster Creativity, Problem Solving skills, Skilled manpower, Enhance understanding of society, life, and nature. These are incremental steps in teaching/learning process, the highest order being research and newer explorations including creativity and innovation.

An academic institution is expected to provide opportunities for self-learning, self-reflection, articulation, ability to think critically including self-analysis(beliefs, emotions, assumptions, evaluations). Develop professional skills- computer, design, manufacturing, medicine, surgery etc. Methodical observations (critical, subjective, objective), documentation, story- telling, inference drawing and, motivation for reflective thinking is equally important.

Taking a critical look at Nepal’s teaching/academic environment, a Nepali student with exposure to foreign and Nepali teachers has following comparative comment.
– “…in the approach of teaching between lectures from foreign universities and those from my home university. I found their sessions very interesting. They had skill on how to make students listen. And that included humor, example-based deliveries, discussions and participation of the student themselves. And, no doubt they have got the approach of starting from simple idea, discussing it and going to the depth. In contrast … I have found the lectures from Nepal failing to attract the attention of students … Lack of humor, I guess, is the reason why students cannot keep on listening to monotonous speech…And there is lack of sharing of personal experiences, videos, examples and occasional participation of students themselves in the discussion. And while the foreign way of teaching starts from simple idea, Nepalese way of teaching starts with complexity and ends with complexity. Lecturers MUST be able to make it appear simple so that pupils can perceive easily the basics and then discuss about the complex part or even research about it.”

I have wondered why he decided to paint all Nepali teachers with one brush as there are many good teachers here as well. However, one fact I do know that the difference is in most cases an American teacher gets into teaching because of his academic interest, whereas for Nepali teachers that may be only choice available to her. That in itself may make a difference in the quality output is my educated guess.

For me as a teacher it’s quite exciting to be learning new ideas every morning to be shared with younger generations on the next hour or the day. It is also about taking challenges and preparing young minds for future, exciting newer frontiers in technology, robust product building and the in art and science of management. No university in Nepal, India and even USA (the countries I was educated) had prepared me personally for building quality products, manufacturing, developing new semiconductor devices, technology transfers or technical management that I had to vigorously pursue for the corporation’s goals and objectives and in turn help advance societies and mankind with futuristic innovative products. That endeavor continues on advancing forever. Preparing and challenging younger minds for tomorrow is about building on strong theoretical base with exposure to skills and techniques of recognizing problems/opportunities, prove theories experimentally, investigate, look for solutions with multi-dimensional approaches, decision making, project handling and acquire the ability to draw valid conclusions, making corrections as needed, monitoring progress, measuring them and come to comprehend the appreciating critical value and complexity of art in science and science in art in applications as well as in decision makings. This part is even a newer awareness for me even though I have had the privilege of working in global leaders of technologies and product innovations. I have come to understand the critical role of technology transfer and adding quality to every endeavor we undertake. These are newer credos and mantras I recite as a go along in this new journey of teaching profession.

Much work is needed to develop, revise and, refine curriculums. And in building quality on teaching/learning by motivating, energizing younger minds, developing effective techniques, teaching soft as well as hard technical skills, documenting standard procedures and, formats in report writing and, building honesty, accountability and, credibility in the works we perform. To say these are challenging and, daunting in not at all an overstatement. However, I am glad, honored and excited, to embark and move forwards towards these goals and create milestones. I am excited to continue to walk on this journey of creating newer frontiers of knowledge with creativity, innovation and exploration for newer, better, brighter tomorrow for Nepal, my birth-place, my home after spending four decades away from my home. In the least I can make serious attempt in these valued, critical tasks. There are numerous challenges as we can see, however we MUST begin the journey in providing much needed quality in education.
Arun Sharma, is an engineer, teacher and a writer.