Civic Education by Prof. Dr. Bidya Nath Koirala

Prof. Dr. Bidya Nath Koirala Former Head of the Department of Central Department of Education at Tribhuvan University.

Dr. Koirala has been one of the first impression of educationists in Nepal who proverb the value of open and reserve education from the outset and is persistent to establish open University of Nepal to this date. Dr. Koirala was a Professor and Head of the Department of Central Department of Education at Tribhuvan University. He has earned a long experience of evaluating and auditing educational projects and institutions.

Colleges Nepal talked with Dr. Koirala about the status of civic education in academic realm of Nepal. 

In simple words, do this, and do not do this. In the traditional society, a person used to say “Do not urinate in the river because it brings curse”; however, the people in the current generation says that urinating in the river leads to the formation of bacteria in the river. The way of spreading the message has changed in the recent days.

In a general sense, civic education is an education that educates general people on the things that are beneficial to the society and the things that must not be done by them. For an instance, urinating in public is wrong.

Historical background of civic education
From the western perspective, this education started with responsibility. However, I do not see in that sense. From my perspective, this education started right after the creation of human civilization. When the people started to understand what is right and what is wrong, this education started growing with the understanding and experience of the people. The western world believes this education is based on the time, but in my perspective, this education develops alongside time.

Current status of civic education Nepal
The Nepalese society had some sort of basic civic knowledge right from the beginning. If we take a look at the book that was published in 1950 AD, we can see that it informs people not to play the radio in a high volume, as it disturbs the people around them. And, we also have some kind of moral education in our ancient scriptures. And, these moral educations can be seen in the scriptures of all major religions. For an example, we can see that there is a belief that it’s unholy to cut the trees around the surroundings of a temple. So, we can say that the start of a civic education started from the ancient times. In terms of promoting it in the text books, the westerners started promoting these things as various subjects, such as a civic education, moral science, civil education, and so on.

Role of government on providing civic education in the curriculum
Now, the question is which government we are talking about. The religious government has promoted these things way back in the past. Before the establishment of democracy, the government back then had their own rules, and after the establishment of democracy, the new government promoted their own version of civic education. In today’s world, a child tends to ask a lot of questions. For an instance, we teach them to respect their parents, and then they say why. The problem here is that we have not been able to enhance the moral standards of kids with our education. We just tell them to do this without providing a convincing logic. And, the next problem is the contradiction in civic education. Previously, we taught kids to share and eat. Today, the schools are teaching kids not to eat anything that is provided by a stranger due to an increment in crimes. Now, we must think of how to provide civic education to the children in a convincing manner.

Effect of modernism on civic education
Yes, no doubt about it. The term “modernism” is now directly linked to the western way of life. For an instance, table manners, professionalism, way to talk to renowned personalities and all are imported from western society. The eastern way of life teaches one thing and the western philosophies teach other stuff, which has been creating confusion in the way our current generation thinks and behaves.
The traditional and moral standard demands kids to respect their teachers, but the current mentality of the students are like we have paid them to teach us, so why to respect. We can see that children are in a dilemma, deciding what is correct and what is not correct.

Our role in current Scenario
To increase the effectiveness of the civic education, we must research the value system from the perspective of different people. We must look at the perspective of teachers, students, parents, and others. After that, we must think of the center point that will convince all the groups of people for providing the civic education.

Again, we must also look at the contradictions in the way we are providing the education to our kids. The parents demand respect from their kids, which means respect based upon the age. And, the society asks to respect the knowledge and qualifications. Now, the question is whether to respect the age or the qualification of the person.
There are also some contradictions in eastern and western philosophies. For an instance, an eastern philosophy teaches a person to speak the truth in a bold manner. However, the western philosophy teaches a person to speak the truth in a humble manner without hurting a person. There is a bit of confusion on what is right now. Again, our ancient religious texts have just ordered the people do this and to do that. However, the teaching professionals focus more on the logic. Today’s generation wants more logic than instructions. So, the point here is that we should now provide education to the kids with an appropriate argument to convince the kids on what is correct and what is incorrect.

Political Change and Civic Education in Nepal 

The major problem with Nepali politics is that none of the party is involved in a constructive politics. A belief system has developed that anything can be achieved if we force the issue. The political changes have given birth to a bullying culture. However, the changes are observed nowadays. The people are asking “what after that?” And, this question is bringing a change.

The feeling of repentance is also somewhat observed among the people. But, we can still see people trying to give an order on the basis of age and position. The normal people want democratic moral standards, but there are people in higher positions who still prefer an autocratic system.
I hope that the screening process will be there, and this is the work of civic education, and it is also called a civic sense.

Impact of technology on the current civic status of a nation
There are both positive and negative aspects of technology. The technology itself is not a problem, but the way people are using the technology is creating a problem. The technology provides the solution and the information asked by the user, but the kids are using the technology in a wrong way. For an instance, a knife can be used for a productive work like cutting a vegetable or it can be used for hurting others.Technology itself is not a problem, but the current generation must be taught how to use a technology in a right way. However, we can say that technology and media are making a significant impact on the civic education in a current society.

Progress and Civic Education
There is a very high correlation between the progress of a nation and a level of civic sense among the citizens. Let’s take an example of the waste problem in Kathmandu valley. If the civilians just have the information about proper waste management, half of the work of government authorities would have decreased. Now, let’s look at the case of Japan. The citizens of Japan while traveling with a dog carry a plastic bag. When the dog excretes its waste, that citizen uses the plastic bag to store the waste, and he/she does not throw that plastic bag, even in the public dustbin, keeping in mind that the waste could trouble the concerned officials. He/ she disposes of that waste in a right manner after reaching the home. There are just the basic examples to show the importance of civic education.

In the case of Nepal, people are somewhat aware of what to do and what not to do, but the people do not fulfill their responsibilities.

Civic education is not something that you understand by reading, but the civic education is learning through practice. The current generation is habituated to critical thinking and questioning. So, the process of giving civic education should change. It should not be like giving orders like in the old days, based on religious beliefs.
The civic education must be given by backing up the statements with logic and rational arguments.

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