Kathmandu, June 25 :
Despite the increasing budgetary support to education sector each year, the progress made by it so far has been unimpressive.
Education has been one of the top priority areas of all the previous governments. But the lackadaisical approach in implementation of these policies has hindered the development of this sector.
In the fiscal year 2003-04, the government allocated 16.2 per cent of the total budget to education. In 2004-05, it increased to 17 per cent.
Though there has been a growth in budgetary support, the results have not been
commensurate with the purported investment.
This failure in meeting set targets clearly hints that the government planners suffer from a lack of will as well as a myopic vision.
Educationists and development planners are of the opinion that budgetary allocation is well enough at the primary level but the figures for higher education are worrisome. They feel it is time to change the dogmatic approach.
Successive governmentsâ€™ lack of foresight has been well-reflected in programmes like school welcome, school enrolment, community management of schools, to name just a few.
To ensure primary level education, government launched all these programmes, which at the beginning promised a lot but as time lapsed, the programmes eventually failed in reaching their targets. These programmes attracted such a huge mass of children that infrastructure and dearth of teachers emerged as constraints in keeping school students at schools.
The situation is so complex that no prediction as to its course in coming days is possible at present. There are several causes, which have contributed to the prevailing pitiable state of education in the country.
One of these and perhaps the most important is providing access to quality education
and standardising the education system in Nepal at the lower level.
The net enrolment rate (NER) showed a considerable increment of 15 per cent from 69 per cent in 1995 to 84 per cent in 2004.
Though the NER has increased, only 76 per cent of the children enrolled in grade one reach grade five and a significant number of students continue to drop out from school before completing their primary education cycle.
Managing these dropouts is another big challenge for the government.
The increment in NER has also been uneven across the country and among different groups. As per the Nepal Millennium Development Goals Progress Report 2005, NER
in the central Terai is 23 per cent lower that in the highest area, the Western Hills. The
central development region has the lowest with 80.4 per cent among the five development regions.
Dr Vidya Nath Koirala, prominent educationist, says that investment in education
is a long-term project and primary education takes at least five years to show some impact. However, we cannot deny that there prevails systematic irregularities and strategic failure in educational investment, he said.
â€œMost of our educational projects and programmes focus on primary education and ironically this sector is suffering the most. Though studentsâ€™ enrolment at primary level has increased, but keeping them in school till they complete the primary cycle is a big challenge,â€ Koirala said.
According to Koirala another problem is absorbing the school dropouts. â€œWe do not have adequate programmes to absorb them. Providing technical education is one tool to tackle this growing number of dropouts but we do not have sufficient numbers of such schools,â€ he said. Higher education faces its own challenges. It is expensive and the rate of return on an individual is very slow, which means we also should think of creating job opportunities, he said.
To standardise our education, investing on projects like open- university could be a solution. The bureaucrats do not sound knowledge of the sector and despite our continuous effort, we have not been able to set up a single open university in Nepal, he said.
A need assessment study of 2005 underscores the need for increasing investment on the sector if Nepal is to achieve universal primary education by 2015, the second millennium development goal.
In 2005 alone the financing gap in education has been calculated as Rs 9,424 million.
To ensure quality education developing monitoring indicators for educational activities and strengthening regular monitoring is yet another important area where government needs to make better efforts.
Tri Ratna Manandhar, former dean at faculty of humanities and social science, TU argues that the distribution of budget in education sector is lopsided.
General studies that hold a major share at present are allocated very little budget as compared to technical education, he said.
Manandhar also underscored the need of managing faculty members at TU.
â€œAs distance learning gets a move on around the world, we havenâ€™t yet have one open university in our country.
The government should think of allocating some amount for this during this yearâ€™s budget,â€ he added.
No uniformity in evaluation and lack of qualitative questions in examination are
degrading the quality of our education, which is one of the most important things
we need to do if we are to bring our education at par with international standards.