1-7 July 2016 #815

A model government school

How does a community school in Bhaktapur achieve almost 100 per cent in SLC results year after year?
Shreejana Shrestha

All Pics: Shreejana Shrestha

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Visitors used to seeing the poor state of government schools in Nepal will not believe they are entering one, when they pass through the gate of the Medha Secondary School in Bhaktapur.

What a pleasant surprise it is to see neat playgrounds, clean toilets, well-equipped classrooms, a drinking water purification system (right) and happy, energetic children. Unlike other government schools, the teachers are all present and students have not dropped out.

Instead of squalid and dusty interiors, the classrooms here are spick and span, and are all equipped with multimedia tools for audio-visual learning. The medium of instruction is English and, most importantly, the school has secured a success rate of almost 100 per cent in School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exams year after year.

How does the school do it?

Principal Gangadhar Hada remembers that Medha was just like any other government school when he joined. The secret of its success lay in close collaboration between the principal and the school management committee.

“We hired new teachers and conducted extra exams to evaluate the students,” Hada said, “And the management committee was also interested in improving quality.”

The government provides only 20 teachers for over 450 students, but the school has hired 20 extra teachers and non-teaching staff. It provides facilities that would be the envy of even private schools in Bhaktapur: a proper computer lab and library, extra-curricular activities that include dancing and singing, and every classroom has a book corner. The school spends up to Rs 300,000 a year to provide free lunches to pre-primary students.

A Grade 10 student, Sadip Shrestha, who switched to Medha from a private school two years ago, admitted that he is getting a better education here. “I am very happy here. I like the teaching, and I never have to miss any classes because teachers are absent.”

The student body has grown, from 80 students ten years ago to 456 now. Admission is highly sought after, and more than 300 parents apply for their children to secure one of the 80 places.

Grade 10 students pay Rs 500 for extra classes to prepare for the SLC exams. By comparison, the fee for such students in private schools in Bhaktapur start at Rs 6,000 per month.

The school collects Rs 125 and Rs 250 each from primary- and secondary-level students, respectively, for facilities that include clean drinking water. Explains Hada: “The budget allocated by the government is mere peanuts, so we ask parents to contribute a small amount to the school development fund.”

Medha Secondary School is living proof that government schools need not be synonymous with poor-quality instruction. Dedicated teachers and a school management committee that works in partnership to improve quality are all that is needed.

“We are competing with the private boarding schools in Kathmandu. We can establish community schools as an alternative to private schools if all teachers and parents cooperate,” says Hada. “A teacher is the most important factor in the all-round performance of students.”

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