Print Edition - 2017-06-21  |  The Collegian

Decentralising education

- Basu Dev Kafle

Jun 21, 2017-

A strong faculty, past history, availability of resources, accessibility, affordability and adoption of new technologies are major factors that need to be taken into consideration before selecting any Higher Secondary School after the completion of the Secondary Education Examination. For years, Kathmandu Valley has been the administrative and financial hub for the country and naturally its academic institutions have better resources, facilities and faculties when compared to the rest of the country.  Though we often talk about decentralisation, in the true sense, neither resources nor authority has been decentralised yet. As the resources and even opportunities are centralised, it’s natural on the part of students to want to migrate to Kathmandu for their higher studies.  Kathmandu is prefered as an educational destination because good higher secondary schools, medical, engineering and technical colleges are located here. 

Even the private sector prefers to continually invest in the centre. Similarly, trained teachers and qualified human resources are clustered within the Valley as well. 

Constitutionally, we have now adopted federalism, which gives adequate authority not just to provinces but to the local level as well. Though the implementation of federalism is yet to be fully realised, sooner or later the country will adopt federalism in practice, which will ensure that the centralised resources and authority will be allocated outside the Valley. This is applicable in the academic sector as well. 

The centre won’t always have a predominant place in the academic sector. Each province will have its own universities, medical and engineering colleges and technical education institutions. The competition at the province level will prompt investment in the education sector. And as the investment and competition increases, it will gradually uplift the quality of education all around the country. 

The establishment new academic institutions with due focus on specialisation based on the requirement of the respective provinces will boost academic excellence. The new universities will be more dynamic. Gobal practice shows that specialisaiton should be a major preference in this time and age. For instance, Massachusetts has been developed as centre for technical education, while Kyoto University is preferred to Tokyo University for its technical education as they have specialised in just one stream 

The constitution bequeaths immense authority to the local level. However, challenges remain in regards to empowering them so that they can act as envisioned by the statute. Now, experienced and trained human resource has to be deployed at the local level so that they work as per the spirit of decentralisation and help boost the quality of the education from the grassroots, which is the true motive behind federalism. 

There is an ongoing debate on whether authorising the local units to manage up to grade 12 could be a disaster. I believe that while there will be hiccups along the way; challenges mean that there are also opportunities for transformation. 

 We have adequate human resource available with long experience in the education sector that needs to be deployed at the local level. As there won’t be a district level mechanism, its human resource has to be gradually shifted to the local level. The local units will function as districts once did in the past.  This means, there won’t be significant problems in managing the transition in the education sector. As elected representatives need to prove themselves, they will work for the betterment of their localities and their electorate. 

I believe that the centre will fix the national quality framework and the provinces and local units will develop their own curriculum based on their needs. While there needs to be standard across the nation, each of the local units or provincial governments will be free to include subjects of their choice. Similarly, the Central Examination Board will set up provincial boards which will control the examination that will help maintain equivalency.

While it might be a long road ahead yet before Nepal is able to truly decentralise its education system, the mushrooming of schools and colleges in the moffusil are a definite positive. And if this trend continues, and if the government is able to adopt constructive policies to further catalyse growth, hundreds of thousands of students having to migrate to the Capital each year will hopefully soon be a thing of the past. (As told to the Post)

Published: 21-06-2017 10:13

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