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Unexpectedly, I had to travel alone to Nepal. The second student canceled the trip at short notice. With very mixed feelings, I said goodbye to my family at the airport in Zurich. What am I going to face in Nepal? Over Muscat I flew to Kathmandu.

Arrived in Kathmandu I asked myself: Am I still on the same planet? My culture shock was big. Every day I marveled again and again how the Nepali think, live, work and eat. Like a beginner I had to learn how to cross the streets. It seemed impossible and life-threatening. There are overcrowded buses, overloaded trucks, countless taxis, hundreds of mopeds and bicycles. Over time, I learned to smuggle myself from one side of the street to the other. Life happens mostly on the streets. Outside people cook, trade, slaughter animals and spent time together.

The first impression of a Nepalese school was pathetic. Three-year-old's already attend school and must learn the alphabet. The children seemed rather intimidated. However, there were also wonderful moments when they sang the national anthem in the morning or gave me a smile. I spent the first two weeks at Vidhya Sagar English Secondary School in Banepa. I taught some classes in mathematics and visited numerous teachers with the aim of giving them constructive feedback on their lessons. While teaching, it was sad to feel how dependent the children are. In most cases the teachers tell the children everything and they need to memorize it afterwards. In my lessons I tried to acknowledge the children and illustrate the contents. One student gave me a heartwarming response: Mam, you explained it so clearly, please come again! The gratitude of the children was heartwarming.

After one weekend in Kathmandu, where I visited two impressive temples, the journey continued to the second school in Dhangadhi. Dhangadhi is in the west of Nepal. The ride took a long time and took us on adventurous roads. Bumpy is just the preface. Especially a section of road between Mugling and the Terai (lowland) led along steep rocks. Huge buses and trucks drove towards us. Especially on the bridges I did not feel well anymore, just a few centimeters to the abyss. On the way I saw many monkeys, two crocodiles, countless goats, sheep and cows. People in rural areas live in small, simple wood-mud huts. There is no electricity and running water. They live mainly by agriculture - mostly self-sufficient. You feel like you traveled 100 years back in time. The goods are transported on ox-carriages and the fields are managed by hand. Incredible!

The welcome at Stepping Stone School in Dhangadhi was touching. All 1600 students were ready, throwing flower leaves and gifting us with countless flower chains. This spectacle left the long journey directly in oblivion. At this school, I mainly attended intermediate classes. Again, the goal was to help the teachers with useful tips on methodology and didactics, because many have not attended any trainings to become a teacher. In addition to the class visits, I offered workshops on the topics of motivation, group work and role play. During this time, I tried to work with teachers to develop activities, songs, games and teaching methods that they could then adapt to their lessons. I had to experience that few are really willing to implement sustainable changes. Nevertheless, I met some, especially young teachers, who were very interested. Together we learned new English songs, introduced Sudokus and new language games in some classes. With a sixth grade I practiced writing their own sentences - without copying. That was strange for the children, but they liked it. Mostly they were eagerly involved in new activities, which then led to a very lively atmosphere. It is a real challenge to teach a class with up to 50 children in a meaningful way.

The return trip to Kathmandu led across another rod along the Himalayan region. Unfortunately, the highest mountain peaks in the world hid behind dense clouds. During the drive, I had time to revel in my thoughts. The internship abroad has challenged me in various areas. You never knew what to expect the next day. Sometimes there was a strike, sometimes a teacher was absent, and I had to substitute spontaneously. Over time, I became more flexible and spontaneous. In addition, I was confronted with things that everybody would like to close their eyes from. There are still many children in Nepal who do not go to school. Five years of schooling would be mandatory, but no one controls if children actually attend school for this period or not. The conditions in public schools are pathetic. Twice I saw how children were beaten by teachers - that made me angry! Beside those negative experiences I had the chance to see a lot of wonderful and fun things. We celebrated festivals with loud music and dance. I could try on traditional dresses - a Sari and a skirt from the Hili region. I had extremely interesting discussions with two young teachers. They explained their culture, showed me their families, houses and traditions and I gave them insights into our way of life - that was fascinating.

My internship in Nepal - what an adventure and life experience at the same time! I'm very grateful to have had this chance. From the time in Nepal, I take valuable experiences for my future teaching career, as well as for life. I would like to thank my Teacher’s Training College in Chur, as well as Dora and Urs Frey for this exciting and instructive internship in Nepal.

On 27th October our big trip to Nepal started. At the airport, we - Carina and Deborah - met Dora and Urs Frey for the first time. During the long journey from Zürich to Kathmandu we were dealing with plenty of open-ended questions. What are we going to face there? How are the teachers going to react to our methods? Is the collaboration going to work? The following day we arrived, full of curiosity, in Kathmandu where we spent the next five days. We had enough time to get used to the biggest city of Nepal and to get to know the culture. Dora and Urs showed us round; we not only visited lots of historic sites but also a small hospital, at which point we decided not to get ill. After a few days in Kathmandu we adopted spontaneity as our motto.

On 3rd November our journey continued, travelling by Jeep from the capital city to Trisuli. It turned out to be a crazy drive and everybody was happy when we arrived safely in the village, which was situated in the hills.

The following two weeks we spent in this area, working in the UPESS (Uttargaya Public English Secondary School). On our first day we visited the classes and observed the teaching methods. We – Carina and Deborah – focused on kindergarten and primary school; at the end of the day we discussed our first impressions. The teaching methods we came across on our first day clearly differed from the ones we’d learned back home. We compiled our observations and discussed some useful ways of teaching which could improve the class.

The next day we started to give feedback after the class to those teachers who were interested. The following days we planned two workshops on teaching methods and motivation, continued visiting the classes and giving feedback. Furthermore we spent a lot of time in the kindergarten, which contained 40 children. There we sang some English songs with the children and the teachers, and showed them some simple games. The nursery teachers were very happy and thankful for our suggestions.

The lessons were normally held in English, even in the nursery with three year old children. The fact that some teachers didn’t feel confident speaking English, complicated the conversation and collaboration. Sometimes problems of language prevented us from getting across our feedback.

On our days off we visited the surroundings of Trisuli. We enjoyed discovering the area and were very impressed by the beauty of the landscape. However, we also became aware of the impact of the earthquake of 2015. We saw many people who lived in little huts under bad conditions without any chance of improvement. We were surprised by the pollution we found in such a rural area.

After two very interesting and instructive weeks we had to leave Trisuli. The school organised a farewell party where students sang songs. All the teachers received a certification for attending our workshops.

We enjoyed the time in this hilly area even though it was no walk in the park. We got to know very different living conditions compared to Switzerland, even compared to Kathmandu. Cold showers belonged to the daily routine, just as much as the surprise of lizards in the bedroom.

From everything that we experienced, we were most concerned by the living conditions of the students and some of the teachers. As a result of the earthquake the building of the boarding school was destroyed. The students now live in two huts, under a perforated roof and without any window glass. This led us to make an appeal for funds to build a new boarding school.

After we carried out our work at the UPESS we went back to Kathmandu for another two days. From the capital city we flew to Biratnagar, the third biggest city of Nepal situated in the plain. There we spent the next two weeks on another project at the B.K.V.M. (Bal Kalyan Vidya Mandir) school. Compared with Trisuli this school was much bigger, containing nearly 100 teachers. The living conditions were also very different from those of the hilly region and we lived in luxury.

With the aid of the list of all the teachers we four tried to visit as many as we could. We started with those who hadn’t been there some years ago when Dora and Urs previously visited Biratnagar. Basically we did a similar job as in Trisuli. Every day we went to different classes where we observed the teaching methods and afterwards we tried to give a useful feedback. We – Carina and Deborah – held different workshops.

We finished our first week with an amazing surprise. The principal took us for the weekend to the foothills of the high Himalayas where we could see Mount Everest. We spent the night in a hotel at 2000 meters above sea level; the following day the principal showed us around.

The second week started with a workshop we held specifically for the teachers of English. We tried to introduce them to some new methods and showed/played with them some language games. During the following days we visited many teachers of English to help them implement the new information. We had a successful week with many classes in which we could see some changes. Many teachers were willing to change something and we noticed their effort.

On our last Friday there was a dance competition for the students. We were invited to join the contest and watch the dancers. In the afternoon we held our last workshop together with Dora. Our topic was games. We played different kinds of games such as math games, concentration games and language games. It was a very funny workshop with a motivated audience. In an amusing way we – Carina and Deborah – finished our placement at the B.K.V.M.

Our last weekend, before we flew back to Kathmandu, was rich in impressions. On Saturday there was a pick-nick for the teachers near Biratnagar. In the early morning most of the teachers went by bus to the place and prepared all the food on the spot over a fire. The four of us and our principal arrived there at lunchtime, ate something before our journey continued to the east. After several hours by car we finally arrived in the ILAM tea area, where we spent the evening and night in the house of a friend of the principal. The house was in the middle of a tea plantation and we had the possibility to drink the tea and visit the factory with a personal tour guide who showed us the whole process from the leaves to the tea bag. That was very impressive and interesting because much of it was still done by hand.

After a short visit to another school we drove back to Biritnagar where the two of us stopped at our school B.K.V.M. to see the children and the teachers for the last time. The school was so big that it wasn’t possible to find all the teachers and children to say good-bye. However, we saw that our work there was valued and that they were very thankful for our contribution.

We are very happy that we were given the opportunity to experience this internship in Nepal. We enjoyed many rich experiences for our work as teachers but also for our own life. Working at two totally different schools in different areas we learned much about the life and the culture of Nepal. In Trisuli we saw how hard and difficult life can be. It was sometimes a big challenge to talk to the teachers and understand what they wanted to say because not all   of them spoke English very well. We could show them possible ways to change their teaching style, but also to make it clear to them that these were just alternatives and not the only way to teach. In Biritnagar we had to be careful too with our feedback, but we had now the experience from Trisuli that made giving feedback easier. The English there was not a big problem anymore and it made communication easier. We felt each day more confident to observe and give feedback and new ideas, and where possible to put them into practice.

Our six weeks in Nepal happened very spontaneously and our decisions had to be made on the spot. We made our preparations day by day. Every day could bring new surprises and we learned to live with it and to enjoy that way of life. The workshops offered a very good and important experience. The challenge was to teach or show people whom we didn’t know well new things about a special topic. The visitors of our workshops were not children whom we were used to teach, but teachers who had a longer career and much more experience as teachers than we had. In addition we had to do this in English, which is not our first language. But we saw that if we tried it out step by step it could work.

To stay and work in Nepal was such a good experience that we want to thank our Teacher’s Training College in Chur for making it possible. We would also like to thank Dora and Urs Frey for showing and sharing so much with us during our stay. We had many happy moments there.

Deborah Blättler and Carina Beeli


Natalia Crameri and Jessica SchmidIMG_5089 1

Also this year the college of education in Chur got to send two of its students with Urs and Dora Frey to Nepal. We couldn't believe our luck, when we got accepted for this extraordinary internship. Excited about the trip, we had booked our flight to Kathmandu for the end of October. The former interns and Dora and Urs themselves gave us some information about Nepal and its culture, as well as the current situation in the country. Since summer this year, the borders to India bad been been blocked and for that the import/export of goods like medical supplies, gasoline, diesel or cooking gas is almost impossible and strongly controlled. Furthermore the new constitution caused conflicts in the south of Nepal, which the whole country is suffering of. ...continue reading "Our Internship in Nepal"


In 2011, I spent one month in Nepal where I volunteered as a teacher and led teachers’ training sessions. It was in fact a very interesting and enriching experience as I had the opportunity to mingle with the local people and to get acquainted with Nepalese customs and traditions. ...continue reading "Esther Peters, PHGR: My Experiences in Nepal"

Over the last 12 years, we have visited many schools and classes in Nepal on behalf of Swisscontact and have made the same observations over and over again. The following comments were also confirmed by colleagues from the Senior Expert Corps. However, they are by no means intended as arrogant criticism, but as a basis for the efficient implementation of improvements in the Nepalese education system. We are very aware of the many problems and difficulties in this poor and civil war-ridden country, and a comparison with a Western education system is problematic.

  • In recent years Nepal has introduced compulsory education of at least 5 years. However, the school system is highly centralised and - compared to Europe - at a low level in terms of methodology and content.
  • Most teachers have not completed any teacher training. For the kindergarten 5 to 8 years of primary school are sufficient as teaching qualification, for the primary school 10 years. For the secondary level, a Bachelor or Master in the subject area and a Bachelor in Education are officially required; however, these can hardly ever be demanded. In addition, both courses are at a low level. In reality, therefore, only people with lower academic qualifications choose the teaching profession. But we have also seen many counter-examples of well-trained and highly motivated teachers.
  • There is great illiteracy, especially among women in rural areas (over 60%). The parents' understanding of meaningful teaching is therefore low.
  • These parents expect from the school as early as possible (from 3 years) a lot of written and corrected information in the exercise books of their children.
  • The government tries to improve the educational situation with the help of state schools. However, infrastructure and teaching are not comparable with European conditions.
  • In addition, there are many private schools where all subjects (except Nepali) are taught in English at a very early age. The owners of these schools often see their schools as a financial investment and therefore usually have little pedagogical understanding.
  • The lessons are completely teacher-centred from kindergarten onwards, mostly without any activity for the learners and without visual aids or learning aids. The teachers simply read and explain the contents of the very simple and faulty textbooks.
  • It is well known and accepted that teachers do not prepare these lessons. This is also understandable because teachers often have to teach at different schools for financial reasons.
  • Repeating several times (on the next day, in the next trimester or in the next school year) the contents are memorized.
  • Preparing for the term exams absorbs a lot of teaching time. These exams are designed to be memorized with many questions at a low level.
  • This orientation apparently continues until the university and is strengthened by the centrally controlled final examination after 10 school years (SLC = School Leaving Certificate). This totally centralized system has only changed three years ago. Now the provinces are in charge of the supervision of education.
  • Self-responsibility, imagination and creativity have hardly any place in the classroom.
  • The curricula, especially those of "Social Studies" and "Moral Science", are based on Hindu traditions and traditional structures of Nepalese society. 
  • These traditional subjects are now partly replaced by new subjects like "Occupation and Population", "General Knowledge" or "Life Skills".
  • The trade unions and parties have a strong negative influence on the school system and often blackmail the headmasters of private schools with threats of strikes.
  • Teachers at state schools earn sometimes significantly more than their colleagues at private schools. Nevertheless, the level of instruction at government schools is known to be much lower, the training of teachers is poor and irregular school attendance is tolerated.
  • Many teachers at public schools subcontract their teaching duties to a colleague (usually untrained), but cede only part of their salary. This enables them - thanks to corrupt school principals - to take on another job at another school.
  • Many private schools see themselves - involuntarily - as institutions for teacher training: After a few years of teaching and several good continuing teacher trainings, the teachers look for a job at a public school where they get a better pay for less work.

Dora and Urs Frey, Senior Experts of Swisscontact