Organiser: Samriddhi Foundation
Moderator: Mr. Sakar Pudasaini, Co-founder, Karkhana
Venue: Hotel Yak & Yeti, Durbar Marg, Kathmandu
On the 14th of March, 2018, Samriddhi Foundation hosted an Econ-ity dialogue at Hotel Yak and Yeti, Durbar Marg on enhancing public education in Federal Nepal. The dialogue focused on alternatives for policy reform to enhance public education.
As the Constitution of Nepal stipulates that all citizens have a right to get compulsory and free education up to a basic level, education has become one of the country’s largest sectors in terms of population covered and budget allocations. The fiscal year of 2016/17 saw the Nepalese government allocate NRs. 116.36 billion to education sector out of the total budget of NRs. 1.048 trillion rupees—a historical allocation for the education sector.
However, as shown by national statistics, public education has fallen to its lowest level in recent years, rendering the gap between educational performance of community schools (public) and their institutional (private) counterparts bigger by the year. School Leaving Certificate (SLC) – often seen as an important indicator of school performance shows a massive divide between the performances of the two kinds of school.
Considering the results that public education of Nepal has been delivering, the fact that a large part of the annual budget and huge finances from other sources (like NGOs/INGOs, parents, individual donors, community, local businesses, rents and other income generating activities) go to public education makes it imperative to question the efficacy of current model of delivering public education in Nepal.
The changed governance structure of the country offers a new opportunity for the local government to step in, and introduce that structural reform in public education to make a big departure towards enhanced public education. The fact that they are closest to the ground means that they are the ones who can best ensure efficient allocation and use of resources. The Constitution of Nepal, 2015 also confers the power of regulating basic education upon local governments. Therefore, local governments have the legal mandate necessary to make the structural reforms.
Given this background, the consultative dialogue aimed to engage sectoral experts on a discourse on practical structural reform options for enhancing the quality of public education in Federal Nepal. The gathering was expected to contribute to that very discourse, at the table then, beyond the walls in the days ahead.
The event was attended by some of the leading educationists of Nepal as well as representatives of various government agencies (from federal, via the Ministry of Education to the local governments and the soon-to-be dissolved District Education Office), private educators and civil society actors working on education sector from across the country.
Samriddhi Foundation opened up the discussion by making a brief presentation of the current state of public education in Nepal. The deliberation also touched upon some of the practical policy actions taken by countries around the world successfully on reforming education sector for enhancing their public education sector. It also included various potential models of collaboration between the government and the private sector towards the said shared goal. While the mere fact that a certain system has worked in country X or country Y does not necessarily mean that it will work in Nepal as well, and that Nepal would need its own home-grown solution to its problems was stressed.
The spokesperson of the Ministry of Education shared that the situation of public education in Nepal was not as bad as it was perceived by everyone. While there are lags in many aspects such as network, participation, infrastructure as these are not up to date as compared to other countries, he opined that Nepal should not forget that it had come a long way. He urged participants to not just comment on negatives but appreciate what has happened of late. Even though the curriculum is strong, the translation and delivery are major issues for Nepal. He added that we should not just focus on students but also focus on the stakeholder community that ranges from head teachers, teachers, staffers as well as people in the community. He opined that training for teachers is nearsighted and inefficient as it is recruitment-centric and not based on the long term holistic development of teachers. He added that the structure of the government is currently federal and the local government would have to face a lot of challenges while taking up new responsibilities in the future.
Some other participants shared that teacher recruitment has been the main problem. Others suggested that the local governments focus on building a positive culture and conducive policies that would activities that stand to enhance the quality of education.
Senior educationist Dr. Bidyanath Koirala shared his opinions on three major pillars the new education system. On governance he held the opinion that the main goal was to clarify whose responsibility public education is, under federalism, and give them the freedom to exercise their right towards the goal of enhancing public education at local level. For teachers, he shared that they should themselves be given the responsibility to identify and demand what type of knowledge they needed to build their own capacities. On fincancing of public education in the new system, he shared that the local government has already been assisting around 30% in the expenditure of the education, and in that sense, they have some knowledge and experience in running and funding public education. He urged all stakehodlers to make the highest use of all the technologies we have access to today to make curriculum, books, websites, blogs and applications that local governments and communities could avail from easily available to them. He iterated that Nepal should harvest best cultures from around the world now, give ideas to the local government and communities, and give them the freedom that is mandated to them by the Constitution to work.