Teaching in schools, particularly teaching English is also popular amongst volunteers. This can be a great way to help improve the quality of education in community schools in rural areas in particular, where they tend to lack resources compared to private and city-based schools.
To help open windows of opportunity for employment, international business and the development of the country, most private schools in Nepal teach in English medium nowadays and many government and community schools are moving towards it. Most village-based schools however are lucky to have more than a couple of teachers who can teach in English. More and more schools are also running computer lessons but are often still largely theory based due to the lack of computers and power to run them.
Not all teachers are qualified or trained how to teach effectively to students of different abilities in the same class, or with special needs or how to keep students engaged and enthusiastic to learn. Whilst Nepal is making good progress in the education sector, particularly in the development of early learning centres, teaching methods in rural areas still tend to be quite old fashioned, with a lot of rote learning from old textbooks. So, there is great opportunity to make a difference in schools when undertaken with the right approach.
All volunteering efforts should aim to empower the local people and bring about sustainable change, that is, the local communities you work with continue to benefit from your work after you have gone. As it will be the teachers who will continue to teach the children after you leave, we suggest providing support to the teachers rather than directly to the children in most cases, for example;
- Helping teachers improve their English language skills and confidence in speaking English
- Helping them structure their lessons to build stronger engagement
- Sharing some new teaching techniques that help the children learn more effectively
- Helping teachers learn how to use computers more efficiently
In all cases, the needs of the school should be the starting point, and volunteers should help fulfil a need identified by the school themselves. Activities such as these will help strengthen the teacher-student relationship and will help empower the teacher rather than disempower them. By simply doing something that they can or should do may make them lose confidence in their own abilities, may take employment away from them, may make them apathetic or cause the children to lose some respect for them. In some cases, where part of the training is to demonstrate how to teach and interact with the children, then it may be fine to work directly with the children in the teacher’s presence.
Knowing your input will be useful long after you have gone is much more rewarding than simply teaching children English for a week and hoping that will change their lives!