Enhancing Public Education in Nepal: Learning from Charter Schools

Public schools in Nepal have had a history of producing dismal student performance despite huge public investments. They have also been plagued by intense political infiltration, becoming active breeding grounds for political activity. This results in management of these schools becoming subject to nepotistic appointments when politics makes its way into School Management Committees. One of the most pressing concerns this creates is that teacher appointments then become subject to nepotism rather than qualification. In the absence of local elections for almost two decades, School Management Committees of public schools had become desirable positions to exert influence and exploit public funds. The course and curriculum taught in these schools have also come under fire for being outdated and poorly edited.

These realities and sub-par outputs beg questioning – particularly when seen in juxtaposition to the amount of money poured into the Nepalese public education sector year after year. In the meantime, the world is rapidly innovating new and better practices in education. A relatively new practice, gaining steady but widespread prominence, is that of charter schools. Certain charter school characteristics could be effective in making public schools more competitive.

This study aims, first, to understand the current structure and management model of the Nepalese community school system; and second, to understand what needs to change and what good practices can be borrowed from global education innovations. In this process, we have studied a number of public schools in the country and analyzed their structure and operation to understand what intervention could be applied to change Nepalese public education system for better. While there are a number of interventions under the ‘school choice’ model the world over (including voucher education systems), this study looks at the possibility of drawing lessons from the charter school movement. Could establishing charter schools or borrowing charter school qualities help our public schools? This is the question we explore in this study.

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