Education in Nepal

Kohinoor Thapaliya

Education… Seems like a big word but is it inclusive when only certain privileged sections of the world are allowed to pursue it? Forget the world and let us start with the country we live in. Is everyone educated?  Building up a resilient nation in this competitive world is a team effort and it first starts at home. Let’s allow the people from marginalized corners of Nepal to express their perspectives concerning education based on their experiences. This might enable us, more than the bureaucratic jargon of government policies, to have a greater picture of the areas that are in need of focus. There are varied perspectives about education, and it is a difficult task to prioritize one aspect over another. There always is a potential of overlooking some aspects of education at the cost of being unable to ensure all-round development of a child.

What Education looks like in Nepal

It is a common fact that there is a huge difference between the students studying in private and public schools. Generally, the environment, mind-sets, parent’s opinion, future prospects, psychological facet and a plethora of other factors play an integral role in creating a gap between a student from a private and a public school. Several research initiatives have been undertaken in child psychology and brain development, showing that, knowledge acquired in the early years of brain development crucially moulds individuals into their future selves. On one hand, we have rested our hopes of the fate of our nation in hands of today’s children who in the future will be active in developing our country, and on the other hand, we ignore the importance of strengthening their foundations. What advancements can we truly hope for with such contradictions?

The underprivileged segment of the society work strenuously just to fill their stomach. One third of the population in Nepal are under conditions of dire poverty. A lack of basic necessities prevents them to even think about spending on education. Subsistence workers would almost find it impossible to keep money aside for education of their children since it concerns their survival needs. As per the National Review Report (published 15th July ’15), a waiver of tuition fees has been entitled as “free education” and that is it. Managing learning material, school uniform and transportation for the children of impoverished parents are some important factors that may lead to a lack of school enrolment among this section of the population. For the deprived and the poor to even realize the benefits of education is a major issue in itself. The problems of the other sections include the Nepal Education Ministry receiving bulk applications for “no objection letter.” The tendency of students leaving Nepal in order to reap the benefit of high quality education has only kept growing and a total of nearly 30,000 students went abroad for higher education during the year 2014-15.  Less than 50% of these students return home to make augmentations to the productive capacity of their own country.  Who is to blame?  What makes them leave their own home for the most part of their lives? The obvious reasons behind it are either the lack of or not being able to utilize suitable employment opportunities to earn and to fetch good and high standards of education. Tied to it are other factors such as the yearning for a lavish lifestyle overseas, etc. Such decisions are responses to the inadequacies of the system today and there is nothing wrong in it. We have become accustomed to the fact that every human being is bound by the rituals of benediction – a fact that is all pervasive in the Nepali society. But one cannot and should not overlook the country’s predicaments either.

Nevertheless, on the brighter side, there are many INGO’s in Nepal that are expending their best efforts to reduce the gap in education levels among different sections of the society. For instance, through “Teach For Nepal” – an international initiative – youth from various countries are making great efforts to help their fellow beings in isolated regions of Nepal such as Dhanusa, Lalitpur and Sindhuplachowk. They are also assisting in the development of the overall economy of the nation by helping generate an educated human resource.  As per the results of school examinations held in 2016, students from the schools where “Teach for Nepal” volunteers have taught have progressively done well compared to other public schools. Statistics show that 98% of students in 23 schools taught by the volunteers of “Teach for Nepal” achieved a minimum of 1.6 GPA which is needed to pursue their higher secondary education.  This is one out of many INGOs which works to boost the education sector in Nepal. The other INGOs working in the same sector include Educate the Children, Rural Education and Development (READ), World Education etc. We need more of these initiatives.

Education is to pass the exam and to grasp distinction... Is it so?

Cutting edge technology has made daily life convenient for every child and every individual who has access to it. Today, it is not just about sitting inside the classroom and trying to know how the world operates. However, there is little recognition of this fact in Nepal. If we are to look for real life examples in this regard, there would be plenty to quote. Just the other day, I saw a middle-aged woman who was compelling her daughter to rote learn the entire course book because she wanted her daughter to get a distinction in her examinations; because she wants her to preserve the spot of being superior and the one outstanding student in her class; because distant cousin of theirs are constantly getting phenomenal grades and his parents are so proud. Will such a mind-set on behalf of parents assist or hamper a child’s growth? Are these conditions serving the child’s’ cause to develop his/her skills and abilities and to play a more significant and relevant role in the society? Instead of assuring them of a certain prominent position, is the current culture of education even helping them get a secure job in the future? How many students who have prospered in their school days do actually pave their way to something bigger and better? There would only be a few. The teachers and their teaching techniques need to be monitored and upgraded as well.

According to Nepal Labour Survey (2015), out of 300,000 to 400,000 youths available and willing to be employed, only 5% of actually get jobs. Besides the governments’ unsuccessful rendering of education plans, don’t you think the “parroting or rote learning” culture is to censure?  This might be changing but ultimately such problems still exist. Most of the students are not keen to continue learning outside their classrooms and beyond their specific courses. This default mind-set has positive and significant correlation with the lack of quality in jobs today. As a result, the number of depressed and shattered youth is increasing after they face the fact that they lack exposure to the world outside of their classrooms.

Is this the sign of development?

 

Kohinoor Thapaliya

Kandaghari Gothatar, Kathmandu

I would like to thank “Teach for Nepal” for assisting with the needed information and materials to boost the quality of this writing and also for exposing me to the conditions of the rural education system.

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