Future of our nation is in Students’ Quality Circle*

Lekhnath Sharma Pathak

Secretary, QUEST-Nepal & Lecturer, Central Department of Linguistics, Tribhuvan University

This might sound just like any other academic kind of statement that is overstated, or like the clichéd claim that ‘children are the future of our nation,’ which actually means nothing at all. But Students’ Quality Circle has the power to translate this dream into reality. The whole philosophy of this approach is rooted in concrete here-and-now kind of pragmatism rather than abstract idealistic speculations. SQC movement has a vision of producing citizens who are SMART and GOOD. Smartness implies competitiveness and excelling over others whereas goodness implies serving others. Practitioners of SQC know of all this. But for someone new to this movement, it might be worth telling how it works.

Like minded students of a particular class in a school form a group, what we call circle. The term ‘circle’ is important. In linearity there is somebody ahead and someone behind the one who is ahead. In circularity, there is no first and last. Everyone is equal. The first lesson students learn (without being explicitly taught, of course) is that everyone is equal. The lesson of respect to human rights and equity begins from here.

The circle sits down together to identify problems of and on their own. This is done by using the technique of brainstorming. Be it whether the teacher is too strict, or the seniors bully juniors, or the school premise is dirty, or there is no one to guide with homework at home, or the parents’ quarrel or TV as a nuisance to study are all problems that irk  students at home or in the school. This is an easy way to start, as anyone can talk about the problems around oneself. Ironically, this does not work with adults. What adults learn is to hide their own problems rather than share in a group. Children are yet to fall into this trap. So it’s useful to teach them early that it’s a good thing to talk about your own problem. It’s important that children take up only that problem which they can solve on their own initiative and which is under their control, not the one which is beyond their control to intervene and solve.

It’s not easy to solve all the problems which have been identified and listed. So the problems have to be narrowed down. The problems are voted and the one which gets highest votes becomes the common problem of the entire group. This is democracy at work. They learn the way of building a consensus and working at a common problem unanimously. This is exactly what adults strive at in many circumstances but end up in strife.

Now it’s time to get things done. Solve the problem, that is. The students get down to identify the causes which have led to the problem. The causes may be within their control to check or outside their control. All the causes are identified and root causes targeted – the causes when removed will minimize or reduce the problem. This is done by using brainstorming, survey, research and is presented using Ishikawa or cause-and-effect diagram.

In the next stage they think of the countermeasures which will reduce or remove the problem. Again the research cycles of brainstorming, incubating the ideas, more research begins till they come out with and exhaust the possibilities available. And set down to implement the countermeasures. This may be done by undertaking different activities like raising the awareness about the problem and intervening on their own. The process does not stop at merely implementing the solutions or countermeasure to the problems. It starts another cycle of cross checking as how much the problem has been minimized as a result of implementing the countermeasures. This completes the cycle of problem solving.

One cycle ends finally, with making a presentation of the entire activity in 15 minutes. The presentation is done using complete illustration of the work done. The presentation highlights also the tangible and intangible benefits children got out of the whole enterprise. Besides having solved the problem they undertook to solve, the benefits include the spirit of team work developed, learning to respect others’ views and listening to others, taking initiative, becoming responsible, learning about lateral and creative thinking, developing communicative skills, learning the basics of research and scientific way of problem solving, leadership skills, confidence building, public speaking and overall developing of an all rounded personality. All these and many more life skills develop naturally. That the problem gets solved is merely a by-product of this whole process, the end-product is the evolution of a child into a complete human being.

If we can get SQC done in all the schools of Nepal in each and every corner of the country, it won’t take us long to have a generation of citizens who will be equipped to take up any problem of the country and society on their own and solve them in such a way that it won’t recur again. Once this movement succeeds in schools, this will go up to colleges and universities and finally to different spheres of professions. So instead of merely Students’ Quality Circles, we will be able talk about Youths’ Quality Circles, Women’s Quality Circles, Politicians’ Quality Circles, Teachers’ Quality Circles, Doctors’ Quality Circles, Engineers’ Quality Circles or Managers’ Quality Circles. Likewise Quality Circles in all the spheres’ of our activities.

And it’s not impossible to it make happen. In Nepal, this movement is led by Prof. Dinesh Chapagain who has a committed team under QUEST-Nepal and which organizes Students’ Quality Circle Convention every year which we celebrated last year in Galaxy Public School on November 26-27 and this Year in 2010 we are bracing up to organize 13th International Convention in Nepal from November 1-3 . SQC spirit is also reflected in the working spirit of QUEST-Nepal in collaborating as a team with likeminded organizations like PABSON, NPABSON, NJS, FNCCI, NQPCN and NELTA. We are also looking forward to work together with other organizations and institutions who are working in the areas related to children and education. SQC needs to become a national reality if we think of creating a real New Nepal.

21 thoughts on “Future of our nation is in Students’ Quality Circle*

  1. Certainly, we need people that are both SMART and GOOD. Many smart people are threatening the world simply because they are not good – and many those who are really good are contributing nothing because they are not smart. The SQC campaign seems to be the opportune concept for Nepal and needs to be made popular as soon as possible so that ‘they learn the way of building a consensus and working at a common problem unanimously’. Why is Nepal in doldrums? Why is our country poor? Why are we not able to develop the nation that is replete with natural resources? We certainly do lack something: ‘the spirit of team work, learning to respect others’ views and listening to other, taking initiative, becoming responsible, learning about lateral and creative thinking, developing communicative skills, learning the basics of research and scientific way of problem solving, leadership skills, confidence building, public speaking and overall developing of an all rounded personality.’

    Yes, ‘the earth’s greatest treasure lies in the human personality,’ as is said in the creed of JCI, a worldwide federation of young leaders and entrepreneurs. I think we should focus our attention to develop human personality. If we want a better nation in the future, we need to plan it right now, with our children – please forgive my use of cliché: ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’. Hope SQC emerges as a tool to assuage the ailing condition of the nation by developing children in the desired way.

  2. Mr. Pathak’s writing made me think very seriously about how we teachers rarely integrate subjects like motivation, self-directed learning, passion for learning, relating education to larger problems in society, and personality and learning styles with the teaching of content knowledge. Even those of us who do care about these abstract forces that guide us or our students tend to limit them to our own understanding and not let students discuss and integrate them in their learning. I am just beginning to research and learn more about SQC, but I think that this idea has great merits/benefits for effective education/teaching–even though, like anything else, it also seems to have its own problems.

  3. Dear all,
    I agree with Shyamji and thank you Lekhnath sir for bringing this SQC at the forefront. SQC really transforms a person and I have seen this happen in some schools in Nepal. My son has also participated in the SQC activity and I have seen a big change in him since he joined SQC. Let’s spread this to as many schools as possible and as LNP sir said we can have many other quality circles through which we create good and smart citizens who will eventually take the responsibility to address the challenges ahead rather than depending on others.
    Thank you very much.

  4. Good Article by Lekh Nath Sir. Congratulations!! QUEST-Nepal declares the commencing of 13th Intl. Convention 2010 in Kathmandu on SQC this November 1-3. Brochure available to view details @ http://www.questnepal.org.np Note: Contact Person for schools and teachers: Lekhnath Sir. For SQC Alumni: Himal Gautam.
    I am bringing in another professional sister organisation to work together: Peace Education Network, Nepal (PENN) where Lekhnath Sir and I are together again. We can coordinate our efforts once again with the Peace, Human Rights and Civic Education perspective through PENN. Good luck to readers of NELTA CHAUTARI. Best wishes: BN Sharma, PENN Email: penn.nepal@gmail.com

  5. Thank you all for the comment on this posting. I appreciate the endorsement of SQC by Uttam Gauli, Shyam Sharma and Ganga Ram Gautam. The words coming from the ultimate authority in NELTA – the President himself is very encouraging. I have been making all attempts to link NELTA and SQC. There is so much for mutual growth and learning. SQC can become a thriving activity for NELTA if it takes it up.
    I appreciate Shyam’s interest in the SQC movement. He himself is a quality person – who fits in the category of SMART and GOOD. We have been witnessing this in his attempts to contribute to the growth of NELTA. Thanks Uttam ji. It’d be great if you could implement this in your branch. I’m there to help you in this.
    Thank you all.

  6. What an interesting set of polarities in the recent Chautari and group discussions. I was struck in the Chautari articles of links between them, of Laxman’s expectations of his teacher and his question ‘why no change?’, Bishnuji’s concerns over the quality of teaching and the difficulties involved in upgrading knowledge, and then Leknath’s focus on student discussion as a way of developing all-round cognitive competencies, especially of critical thinking, a crucial area illustrated in the discussion between Razima and Shyam. All new ideas are fraught with difficulty. I wonder how the illiterate parents in Bishnu’s posting would respond to student democracy? From my many discussions with teachers and stakeholders, especially in rural areas, any change of methodology is viewed with suspicion. There is a big social challenge: is society ready for democracy in the classroom– and with the additional benefit of extending language (Nepali and English) by encouraging a different kind of thinking.

    I completely agree with Leknath on the importance of programmes like SQC to encourage linguistic formulation of ideas, in an age appropriate way. Circle time can start with KG children, in a simple story and discussion, with both topics and language being extended according to developmental level. (Refer to work of developmental psychologists Piaget and Vygotsky.) In UK, we are encouraging both creative and critical thinking programmes. Some are based on the work of Reuven Feuerstein who developed content-free thinking programmes, one is called Philosophy for Children, P4C, based on the work of Matthew Lipman. Some people were outraged at the idea of children ‘doing’ philosophy, but it is simply a structured way of unpicking an issue at the level the children are at at the time and extending both their thinking and their language. How can we be expected to develop our own language, let alone a foreign language, without widening concepts. .

    I do see a challenge in introducing critical thinking, as with ELT, that students like Laxman will have expectations that teachers, through no fault of their own, cannot meet, for all the well-established reasons which Bishnu pointed out and that continue to frustrate us. This again could lead to divisiveness with a good methodology not filtering down to all teachers. But the issues discussed by Razima and Shyam I think are crucial in understanding how we can be influenced, especially by the media, into inappropriate thinking. We (in UK) have just been through a most interesting election, and we now have a coalition government. This is new territory for most of us. What was most difficult was trying to understand the issues through all the media hype, especially newspapers some of whom were shockingly partisan and who insulted and abused individuals in pursuit of selling copy. The biggest cry from the electorate was to give us the truth! In the end it is not clear if there is any truth, and if we do not have the ability to think critically we will just be pulled along with the tide of someone else’s will.

    I hope that out of these discussions comes a sense of common purpose. That regardless of our various backgrounds and experiences, locations in the world, and good intentions, albeit sometimes ill-judged or unwelcome, we can continue the dialogue that will enable us to stand in a shared space and not on the self-protective fringes. Nelta is a good place, where local can meet global, in a spirit of openness and empathy, and where we can operate as individuals not as representatives of unwelcome ideologies.

    1. What is the fact that we are getting challenges is the more gap between teachers, technologies, ELT & students. Critical Thinking, Critical Literacy, Creative Thinking,Creativity and some other terms are frequently produced by the mouth of ELT teachers but exactly how they can be actualized in our content nobody cares about it. Talking about BRAC University, they have stricted their professors and scholars to go in depth research on Critical Thinking and after a long research the Curriculum and contents have got the strategies of Critical Thinking.
      I agree with Mrs. Miller’s statement and i hope that the the common plateform for common ideas will come in one conclusion to bring in the ELT classroom.

  7. SQC seems to be quite appealing to me too. I had heard of it but did not know how it worked in classrooms. The idea seems to be encouraging for teachers to get their students involved in circles and worked for addressing their own problems. We have been nourishing a bad culture that students should always compete, should be ‘first’ in the class, in schools, in districts,and so on. The list continues. My wife always recalls her experience of her childhood: her father always said that she had to be first in the class otherwise she had no room at home. She was more worried for the position rather than learning and knowledge. We always have incidinets of students committing suicide being ‘not-first’, ‘third-division’ or ‘failed’ in their exams. I see that SQC is quite useful to develop a sense of cooperation, team building and equality among the students. We need to get rid of the hierarchy of competitiveness.
    As Kate pointed out, it is challenging to make our classrooms more democratic in our contexts. Hopefully appropriate training for the teachers as well as for the students will further our commitment for better pedagogy. Following Kate, I would also add parents in the list.

    1. It used to be the same to me. It is an extra tension than learning something useful in the classroom, family and so on. But your thought by this website will encourage to all students who think so.

  8. I’m impressed with the discussions going on in this issue. Actually tools and techniques used in SQC can be used in other fields too. Some time back, when I talked about this in NELTA Central office, some teachers were sceptical that it’s difficult for students to learn such advance stuff. He was speaking from a preconceived notion he grew up on. Our students are doing fantastic jobs. The adults are simply taken away by the kids. The idea is to install this practice right at the beginning.
    Last month we conducted a Facilitators’ Training in St.Xavier’s school , Jawalakhel where the we had overwhelming number of teachers wanting to learn more about it and spread this in their schools.
    This is spreading outside too. In India, CMS Lucknow is spearheading this. In fact it fanned out from there.
    For Kate’s information, the 17th International Convention of Students’ Quality Circle will be convened in the Kingston University, in UK. David Hutchins, is the Director General for UK, Prof. Richard Ennels and Andrew Powell from Kingston University are deeply involved in this. They will be presenting in the 13th International Convention that we are convening this time in Nepal.
    We have every hope that it will open up a new dimension in academia. There is no language barrier and resource barrier to it. Anybody can initiate anywhere with any age group with least resources. It’s the approach and the application of the scientific tools and techniques of problem solving.
    It’s not that easy to practice and make it happen.It needs lot of effort. First is to make people understand. Everybody, who hears of this idea loves it and is drawn towards it. But to become a practitioner and keep it sustained is a tough job.

  9. I wish a very happy deepawali to NELTA choutari. Its a very good platform for getting exposed to various English language practices .As about SQC,its really beneficial to the students involved in it .The discussions carried out here has made me think of using this at my School at Surkhet Horizon Academy in Surkhet .I used to talk about the term SQC at my school but it was not carried out properly .This discussion has guided me and given some insights into the matter .Thank you so much for this kind of
    discussion. It is more or less similar to the critical thinking methodology making students find solutions to their questions through discussion method instead of depending on the teachers’ authentic solution in the classroom . I agree with Ganga sir that it should reach the youth ,the adult ,the old and others but a clear cut strategy should be made to put it into practice in real field as Lekhnath sir has pointed that it is not an easy job .It needs patience ,handwork and learning .It can be done for it is connected to the noble cause of building the future of tomorrow through today’s students . Thank you. Bimal Nepali-Ex Surkhet Nelta Chair.

  10. I am deeply grateful to the readers and colleagues in this choutari. The write up that was posted over a year back is still drawing interest. This shows there is something in SQC. In fact, SQC is a complete package which includes all the issues like critical thinking, team work, developing language skills etc. which are quite common themes in ELT and other fields of academia. Officers Department of Education, Ministry of Education,GoN are also getting interested in this. The best thing is it canbe practiced in a well resourced school and quite underresourced school or college as well. Language is also not a barrier.You can do it in any language be it English or Nepali or even in any mother tongue.You just have to learn the systematic problem solving approach, tools and techniques that we teach and then you can adopt it to your own situation. More and more schools are getting drwn to this and we have already trained over 1000 teachers and the schools in over 200 schools. But we are yet to see the results as it will take time for it to go deep down into the academicians and institutions and also among students to make it their way of life. But I am extremely excited and optimistic about its contribution that it can make in the academics, society and nation building. I am going to Kingston University, London, UK as a Visiting Fellow from June 6 for two weeks. One of the things I will be doing there is also sharing Nepal experience of SQC with the students and faculty in Kingston University. This university is in the way of making SQC its culture as it makes preparation for the hosting of 2014 International Convention on Students’ Quality Circle. We, in Nepal, hosted the 13th International Convention in November 2010.
    BRAC Univerity of Bangladesh, a leading institution there is putting up SQC in their regular program.
    Thank you friends for your lively discussion. Let’s work together to establish SQC in academics.The best and easy way will be to use the approach, tools and techniques of SQC for the professional development of teachers by forming Teacher’s Quality Circle , practice among themselves and teach it to the students to suit their cases.
    Let’s keep the discussion going and implementing this in the schools.

  11. Dear Professional Friends,
    On my personal initiative, I recently visited and met Prof. John Jay Bonstingl, reknowned International Education Consultant and Quality philosophy expert and writer of a latest publication ‘Schools of Quality’ who promises to be in Nepal again soon. He lives in Maryland, Columbia and we made it a point to meet at Washington DC on Aug. 24th, 2011. I also met Prof. Syed Ali, John Hopkins University who is again an eminent Education Expert in ‘Quality and Leadership’ on Aug. 25th, 201 in Glenmont, Virginia. Both were overjoyed by this meeting and we will hope to have them in Nepal. While trying to promote Peace Education in schools, we three decided to integrate Quality and Peace Education together for the next decade through our organisations. The short but very eventful conversation, we had with each other, enlightened me that Nepal needs now able leaders and we educate the youth with a newer philosophy of Qualitative Leadership. I thank both the Gem Professors for their time and value given to me, a Nepali Educator, seeking for advice and collaboration for ‘Quality and Leadership backed up with Peace Education’ for the next decade.
    BN Sharma (Acharya)
    Peace Education Network-Nepal (PENN) and
    General Secretary

  12. Happy Children’s Day ….. on the commencing celebration of International Day of Peace, September 21st. This year’s theme from the Secretary General of UN is – ‘Make your Voice be heard’. BN Sharma, President, PENN.

  13. This is really a quite interesting and innovative approach the article by Lekhnath Sir has made advocacy and raised awareness among NeltaChoutari readers across the globe. Comments on the article are evident for the fact that it is really appreciative. The approach, no doubt, brings democracy in the classroom and teaching learning activities. However, this needs to be translated into action in our classroom, family, training children and other concerned places.

    The article will surely develop the different life skills like leadership skills, capacity building, team works, good communicative skills and the like that our traditional teaching methods and prevalent ones fail to do it.

    The ELT personnel, Education Experts and those concerned need to put the things into practice to promote learner centered learning. Let’d bring the change as the change is called development.


  14. Thanks for this very enlightening article and the comments that followed. I am currently embarking in introducing the concept of quality circles for the students in our university. This site is a very interesting benchmark for what I intend to do. More power and many blessings.

    1. I am happy that the article that I wrote for this blog some three years back has emerged as the most read/commented article. This shows readers are on the look out for something new, concrete and workable that can bring a substantial change to our academic and professional world.
      I would like to thank the readers and also my friend Ghanashyam, the founder editor of the Choutari who had asked me to write on something new and the area I was involved with. Thank you all.
      I wish the readers great days ahead. Happy New Year 2014!

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