University of Tasmania
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Perceptions of key stakeholders about the school curriculum and its relationship to teaching and learning in Nepal

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posted on 2023-05-27, 09:03 authored by Gurung, GB
There is a growing research interest in investigating the influence of the curriculum on student learning in culturally diverse and developing country contexts. The relatively low academic achievement of students in public secondary students has always been a major concern of Nepalese school education. The mismatch between idealised and principled policy and curriculum goals and attainment levels is marked and substantial. This study sought to explore issues around the school curriculum and its relationship to teaching and learning in three public secondary schools in Nepal with a focus upon learning outcomes and school retention. The study also explored factors affecting curriculum development and implementation. The structure around which this thesis has been prepared was guided by a conceptual framework based upon three dimensions of the curriculum: the intended curriculum, the implemented curriculum and the attained curriculum. The framework was further underpinned by a Trialogue pedagogical model which sought to ensure triangular interpretations and representations of students, teachers and the particular approach domain adopted to enhance student learning. The study employed mixed methods to investigate the influence of the school curriculum in reference to the suitability of curriculum and textbook contents and their interconnections to academic achievement. There was a parallel exploration as to how consistent and congruent the different dimensions of the curriculum are in Nepal. Qualitative data were obtained from key curriculum stakeholders through face-to-face interviews and focus group discussions that incorporated their perceptions and lived experiences in connection with curriculum development and implementation. One school from three different districts of Nepal ‚Äö- Parbat, Myagdi and Chitwan - was purposively chosen on the basis of representation of students from diverse cultural and ethnic/indigenous communities. Separate focus group interviews were conducted with teachers and students in each school. Subsequently, the school principals and the parents were interviewed along with curriculum experts from the Curriculum Development Centre (CDC), Kathmandu. The study used two separate survey instruments to gather quantitative data to explore the attitudes and perceptions of students and teachers in relation to school pedagogy and curriculum. The survey used a five point Likert scale. The qualitative data were analysed thematically through coding. Cross-case analysis and triangulation processes were adopted to enhance the credibility of the findings. The quantitative data were subjected to descriptive statistical analyses based on the mean as a measure of central tendency and standard deviation as a measure of variability. Frequency distribution of the responses was used while analysing and discussing the results of the surveys. Further, a two week long classroom observation was conducted to investigate the impact of student generated representations as a pedagogical intervention. The study used a concurrent mixed methods approach whilst collecting and analysing the data. The key findings of this study suggest that although the objectives of the Nepalese secondary school education seemed progressive and had good intentions in terms of acknowledging cultural diversity and local contexts, at the level of execution, the curriculum and textbook contents paid limited attention to multiculturalism and local contexts. The key stakeholders of school education indicated that they had little or no involvement in the curriculum development process. The findings indicate that contemporary school praxis in Nepal is understood by the participants of the study to be largely influenced by centralised convictions and assumptions about the curriculum. The paradox is that despite the pluralistic and progressive words of the Nepalese policy statement of educational aims, the lived experiences of the major recipients of the curriculum ‚Äö- teachers and students - reflect a lack of capacity to shape learning experiences to particular contexts. Six major themes emerged from the qualitative data that appear to have some influence on student learning in secondary schools in Nepal: the effects of a centralised curriculum and centralised education system; the effects of context and, specifically within Nepal, social, economic and cultural diversity and multicultural ambitions; political instability creating a lack of education policy continuity and follow through; compromises around curriculum content and the interests of different stakeholders in curriculum development; the obstacles provided by the existing assessment systems; and teachers' content and pedagogical knowledge and their capacity to implement and enact curriculum intentions. The findings of this study reveal that if the factors mentioned above affecting curriculum development and implementation are properly recognised and reviewed by key stakeholders in positions of authority, a more consistent congruence of intended, implemented and attained curriculum could be attained in securing better learning and achievement outcomes. Overall, however, the findings suggest that curriculum choices and textbook content selection autonomy could usefully be delegated to the local level, aligning a greater element of professional autonomy to teachers consistent with the recent political restructuring of Nepal into seven different provinces to cater for the needs of diverse ethnic/indigenous cultures. There was an agreed consensus that new and innovative approaches to learning and assessment techniques are required in Nepal to enhance learning experiences and outcomes for students. Similarly, educational institutions can stay away from political activities and interferences that might have affected education in Nepal. This study suggests that some governmental interventions could help promote equity in education providing additional assistance to the children coming from poor and marginalised communities. This study represents a distinctive contribution to the field of the school curriculum of Nepal. The country is experiencing social, political and economic transition in adopting a more federalised system of governance. Insights from the study could be of some significance while developing school curricula that address the changing social and political context of Nepal. The 2015 constitution has placed a greater emphasis on decentralisation of political authority to provincial and local government bodies. Hence, the findings of this study have the potential to contribute a better understanding in relation to the involvement of key stakeholders in devising the school curriculum and textbook development process and aligning them more appropriately and sensitively to local contexts.


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