Interview | Prof. Dr. Bal Chandra Luitel

Dr. Bal Chandra Luitel, (PhD) is a Professor of Kathmandu University. Educated in Nepal and Australia he has worked in Nepal, Australia and Portugal. Prof. Luitel is a transformative education researcher. His interest lies in employing multi-paradigmatic research design to outline the problem of culturally decontextualized mathematics and science education.Dr. Bal Chandra has been working with a number of Nepali teachers and educators who examine their lived experiences as students, teachers and teacher educators.His program enables education researchers to engage with new analytics arising from dialectical, metaphorical, poetic and narrative logics and genres as a means for conceiving, expressing and implementing vision of mathematics and science education in Nepal.

Q) What is STEAM education? Why is it important?
STEAM Education is an approach to integrating humanities with STEM disciplines, thereby developing an engaged, meaning-centred and productive educational activities around Science, Mathematics, Engineering And Technology areas. Over the period of last 20 years or so, the workplace context of STEM disciplines has demanded the integration of arts as a means for innovation and creativity. STEAM Education program aims at producing educational practitioners and researchers who will be the torchbearers of these perspectives.

Q) In what ways are STEAM teachers or specialist better than the regular teacher? What makes them apart?
STEAM Education enables teachers and teacher education to go beyond the boundary of the given disciplines, thereby creating a space for engaged, productive and meaning-centred educational activities in their area of expertise. There may be great regular teachers as well, but STEAM Educators will be developed as social entrepreneurs who work for cause of improved educational activities around the difficult-to-change-disciplines. Our vision of STEAM educators lies in the principles of participation, collaboration and productivity. They won’t just do the regular course at the university, they will also develop STEAM Education leadership through their research and other scholarly activities.

Q) What are the teaching methods of STEAM curriculum? Is Kathmandu University the only one in this practice of teaching?
Kathmandu University in general, and its School of Education in particular, is the rightful place where educational innovations have been taking place since the establishment of the School. Although we cater to a very small group of competent and experienced educational professionals, our pedagogy of reflective practice is real, authentic and applicable in our everyday lives as educational professionals. STEAM Education curriculum utilizes a host of recently developed pedagogy embedded in transformative learning in which we invest a great deal of time and resources in enabling the learner to pursue her/his professional goals.

Q) From STEM TO STEAM we need to add art and design to the equation? From Kathmandu University’s regulation under which faculty does it actually belong K.U school of arts or K.U school of education in your opinion and why?
While we make a shift from STEM to STEAM, we need to develop art as a tool and as an approach. I myself have used arts-based research and pedagogy in dealing with science, mathematics and technology teachers. Likewise, we have developed an excellent relation with Center of Art and Design. The program will be housed in the School of Education because this a program for teacher educators and educational practitioners. As the primary intent of KU is to become creative and innovative higher educational institution, KU needs to develop more and interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary programs in days to come. STEAM Education is one of them.

Q) What qualities and requirements are actually necessary for a new student to take this academic program at Kathmandu University?
They should have completed Master’s degree in STEM-related disciplines, such as Science, mathematics, technology, Engineering, Statistics, Mathematics Education, Applied Mathematics, to name but a few. They need to secure 2.5/4 CGPA (or Second Division), thereby demonstrating their potentials to develop as scholar-practitioners.

Q) What are the job opportunities of graduates and post-graduates of STEAM education? Which is the most deserving sector for them in your opinion?
There are plenty around. In a years’ time, there will be a visible drive towards developing more engaged and meaning-centred STEM program in higher education and school education. Our research suggests that STEM programs are ripe for transformation from disengaged, transmissive and teacher-centric disciplines to problem-centred, context-driven, and creative enterprises. STEAM Education will be very helpful for those teacher educators who wish to venture into this newfound path for educational transformation.

Q) What is the duration of STEAM education? Is it a new dawn of modern day education that is practiced throughout the world?
The MPhil program is of 1.5 years full time study. Many universities have started offering this and we are the first one in South Asia. It has been coming up as a cutting-edge perspective of educational practice and research. Kathmandu University School of Education has been a place of innovation as we started Master in Sustainable Development while similar programs were rare in our region. We have taken STEAM Education with the same potency of making us in the forefront of innovation.

Q) Can this form of education help to build a bridge between secondary and higher education? Can the necessary groundworks start from junior level to higher level?
It certainly does. STEAM Education is a perspective that connects learners with a host of access points offered by Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. We do not treat anything as disciplines rather they are treated as access points. The same principle goes with the learners in primary/basic education as they develop inventiveness and creativity. Our prospective MPhil students can focus in their areas of practice.

Q) Do we need more education programs like this in the coming future or is this enough?
This is not enough. We are planning other programs around the theme of STEAM Education.

Q) What is the best testimony of a holistic learning? Do you apply it inside the classroom?
My way of doing this is very easy. I do not just focus on cognitive side, but look into affective dimensions as well. Reflective practice pedagogy enables me to learn with/from my students. I continue to build my identity not just as a teacher, but also as a learner. Likewise, my students also develop themselves not just learners, but also scholar-advocate for the transformation of educational landscape of Nepal and beyond!

Interview with:
Prof. Bal Chandra Luitel, PhD
(S-Science T-Technology, E-Engineering, A- Arts, M-Mathematics)

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