It might sound eccentric if we say that post-modernism in education has become obsolete. The majority of students stand nowhere wondering if they got the taste of postmodernism while in their schools or colleges. The concept of post-modernism in the field of education was initiated when a broad intellectual movement started in the late 20th century. The thin line that differs post-modernism from modernism is that post-modernism challenges traditional views of knowledge and is not universal, however, inclined towards subjectivity. Modernism in education was introduced in the late 19th century and it focused on more of a rigid practice that had a teacher-oriented modus operandi.
Also, it was majorly authoritative and centralised. Whereas, post-modern philosophy in education is learning-oriented and flexible. It evolves and changes with respect to the requirement and circumstances of society. There is a plethora of philosophical perspectives on post-modernism in education. Nonetheless, being specific to Nepal’s education system, we can reflect few of the philosophical perspectives of post-modernism in education.
Constructivism can be understood with the example of an XYZ college located in Kathmandu. XYZ is one of the reputed business colleges that is into teaching entrepreneurship. They are not focused on a one-way teaching approach. However, they often conduct several project sessions and interactive activities that garner students to solve an issue. To facilitate effectively, they give an example of a company that is struggling to generate revenue. In such case, the students are asked to brainstorm over the issue, idealise and share the ideas amongst their peers.
For instance, if a company is incurring heavy losses consecutively and soliciting advice from the strategists, the college formulate interactive sessions where there is an engagement of students to identify the problem. Solving an issue could be tortuous for the students who are learning the basics, nonetheless, providing opinions and strategic feedback could add a substantial value to the company. It also encourages exchange of ideas among the students and subliminally, their social and communication skills are also developed.
Multiculturalism in post-modernism addresses cultural diversity and is instrumental in understanding the essence of several ethnic groups. Because of this approach, marginalised communities are also entertained amid a progressive learning environment. In Kathmandu, most of schools and colleges can be considered the epitome of multiculturalism in education. There have been significant efforts from the side of the government to promote multiculturalism in education. The proposal for including Ranjana Lipi in the curriculum was an intensifying effort by the authorities.
Post-modern approach fundamentally focuses on the flexibility of curriculum that should be responsive with respect to the need and requirement of the learners. If someone wants to build a career in human resources domain, spending majority of their life studying accounting and finance would not be much contributory. Potential HR professionals should prioritise on understanding psychology, organisational behaviour, labour laws, culture, and qualitative parameters. In some institutes, we can observe the implementation of post-modern curriculum, i.e., customising syllabus by formulating electives as per the interest of the learner. However, such institutes could be counted on fingers.
Another philosophy that we can get hold of is critical pedagogy which is basically the rejection of banking model of education in which the student is considered to be passive whereas teachers are supposed to be active. The banking model of education is an analogy to banks where there is receiving, filing, and storing the deposits, similarly, in this model, there is one-way deposition of knowledge from the side of the teacher only. Connecting learning with real-life situations and out-of-book activities can be used to enhance critical pedagogy.
In Nepal, we barely see the practice of critical pedagogy. Few foreign-affiliated colleges are adopting critical pedagogy as they have suitable academic setting, infrastructure and faculty. For example, in such colleges, the teachers also encourage students to participate that helps in making the learning two-way and interactive. It motivates the students to be creative. This practice depends upon the requirement of course as well. However, in some orthodox institutions of Nepal, we can observe a high level of resistance where teachers discourage critical analysis.
Despite the fact that constructivism is an effective form of pedagogy, there could be difficulties in assessment of students. As per the principle of constructivism, individual assessment is required and it obstructs the use of traditional methods such as standardised tests. Hence, personalised assessment should be used which could not be leveraged by all educational institutes because of lack of prerequisites. To make the interaction more engaging, we need to have resources like technological tools that might not be available everywhere. On top of this, adopting constructivism is a time-consuming process as rigorous planning and preparation is required.
It can be observed that an exponential number of students are enticed by international education in the current context. Adopting a post-modern curriculum approach could lead to financial losses to the university as there have been instances when a cohort did not even meet the minimum demarcation to run the classes. There are progressive colleges that are adhering to post-modernism while educating students, irrespective of hindrances. We can see project works in some colleges where they ask students to prepare an economic analysis report that will be forwarded to the Ministry of Finance before budget planning. This encourages students and also builds an assertion that their opinions are also valued.
At the same time, their research, analysis, and communication skills are also polished. Also, a connection between the youth segment and the government is also promoted. Recently, Tribhuvan University has initiated Assignment Submission System and the grading is based on presentation, critical analysis, and research papers at the post-graduate level. Therefore, we can consider it as a hopeful prospect and anticipate that the enthusiasm will be contagious.
(The writer is a lecturer at Tribhuvan University.)