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.