Still a lot to learn

  • Reducing the disparity between public and private education should be the government’s main concern
- Kahar Singh Khadka, Kathmandu

Jun 14, 2016-After a long and intense debate over the education bill, Parliament has recently endorsed the eighth amendment to the 1972 Education Act. The major amendments to the act are the phasing out of the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examination and the ‘Golden Handshake’ offer to the temporary teachers. 

Although people are not very hopeful that the amendments will bring about overall development of the education sector, the amendment has at least succeeded in addressing a few issues that have long been pending. The issue of temporary teachers remained unresolved for a long time. And the teachers who were forced to quit their job during the Maoist insurgency feel relieved, as they are going to be reinstated in their previous position. 

Terminating the SLC examination system, which existed over 80 years, and upgrading the high school level to grade 12 is another breakthrough. It is a positive step towards making our education system on a par with international standards. Questions had long been raised over the relevance of the SLC exams. Many people believe that SLC was one of the reasons behind the existing disparity between private and public education, as some private schools have used the SLC result of their students to lure more students. Additionally, from this year, the government has decided to adopt the grade system; students will receive grades instead of marks from this year on. 

The recent amendment to the Education Act has also changed the registration process of schools. Until now, schools have been registered under the company act. When the bill was pending in the legislature, maximum efforts were made to bring all the schools under cooperatives. But such efforts did not succeed. As per the new amended law, schools now have to be registered under private and public ‘Guthi’. A few other new provisions have also been made to the newly enacted law pertaining to school education. 

There are divergent views on the recent amendment to the Education Act. Some argue that this amendment has only focused on technical aspects, as it has simply categorised the grade, level and testing process of students for school education. They claim that it has not been able to address the issue of how to improve the quality of education, especially in public schools. However, there are others who are fully supporting  this new enactment, saying that it is a good initiative towards the betterment of the education sector. 

Private vs public

We all know that we have two types of education system—private and public—but there is little similarity between them in terms of access, equity and quality. Reducing the disparity between the two types should be the main concern for the government. Public schools of the country have been struggling for years to provide quality education. The first National Education System Plan was introduced in the same year as the Education Act 1972. Still after 44 years, the country has not seen tangible changes in public education. Literacy rate has increased over the years but the dire state of public schools persists. 

In Nepal, the performance of public schools is not satisfactory in comparion to private schools. That is why most parents who can afford it prefer to send their children to private schools. Thus, while the country has made significant progress in school enrolment, public schools are witnessing low enrolment. Many public schools are undergoing mergers due to lack of students. Poor infrastructure, limited financial sources, lack of trained and experienced teachers, irregularity of students, absenteeism among teachers are some of the problems plaguing the public schools in the country. Things are worse off in rural areas and earthquake affected-districts. And in many mountain districts, students have not yet received their textbooks even though the academic session has already begun. 

Private schools are better in terms of infrastructure, facilities and competitive education. Every year, above 80 percent of the students from private schools passed the SLC exam with good results, while the results of public school students have generally been miserable.  

Bridging the gap

Although private schools have been providing better education, they have been charging exorbitant fees. Most private schools of the country have not abided by the fee ceiling set by the government. All private schools are required to get their fee structure approved by the District Education Office. But this requirement is not strictly followed. Private schools in the country have usually focused on profit-making rather than being service-oriented. They look more like business houses than educational institutes. 

Therefore, just amending the Education Act is not enough to bridge the gap between private and public education, which is the actual need of the hour. When it comes to the quality of education, drastic measures are needed to reform public schools. So the government must come up with concrete plans and implement them to make the community schools as competitive as private schools. Without this, the country’s education system will continue to suffer.   

Khadka is chairperson at Prakriya 

Nepal, an NGO working in health, 

education and consumer rights

Published: 14-06-2016 08:58

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