Routine Matters – why getting the school timetable right is important

Writing the school timetable – what lessons are taught when and by who – is an enormous, complex and time-consuming task in most schools. So much so, that many schools in the West now use sophisticated computer programmes to do the job for them. The reason for the complexity is that there are so many factors to consider in writing a timetable that benefits both students and teachers – the number of hours each subjects gets each week, the needs of part-time vs full-time teachers, the need for occasional double periods etc. As a result, schools have different timetables each day to accommodate all the factors.

Most government schools in Nepal have found a clever way around the complexity of timetable-writing, which is simply to avoid the complexity entirely and write a timetable – or ‘routine’, as it is called – which stays the same every day of the week. This bluntness makes the job relatively easy, but it comes at a price; there is little thought for what is best for the students. In fact, the main consideration is to ensure that teachers are either free for the first or last period (lesson) of the day, so that they can arrive either late or early. That’s right, in most government schools, if the teacher is free for the first period (i.e. is not timetabled to teach a lesson), they do not need to arrive until the second period, and if they are not timetabled for the last period, they can go home early.

This year however, we wrote a very different timetable. It is still the same every day of the week, but we took a whole range of other factors into account, and since we expect all our teachers to arrive at 9.55am and stay till 4pm, it doesn’t matter whether they are free first period or last period. The picture below is a screenshot of all the factors we took into account when writing our routine – the most important one being to make sure certain groups of teachers were free (i.e. not teaching) at the same time, so that we could have regular meetings to help them plan their teaching. And further below is our final routine / timetable.

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