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Education sector at crossroads

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, May 19:

Despite the education sector being touted repeatedly as ‘an engine for socio-economic development’ in Nepal, it has failed to be treated with due importance and diligence.

Due to a lack of a long-term vision, the knowledge industry in Nepal seems to be rudderless at the moment. A debilitating lack of implementing capability by the government machinery, seems to make mockery of what little policy direction the sector has.

Educationists who have been involved with the sector over a period of time are of the view that despite Nepali education sector having tremendous opportunities for development, at par with international developments, Nepal has not been able to exploit it at all. The sector is beset with student unrest, deteriorating environment in schools and colleges, strikes and weak implementation of government policies, leading to an intense braindrain process.

Prof Bidhya Nath Koirala of Tribhuvan University predicts uncertain future for Nepal’s education system, which is going ‘nowhere’. The education sector has been terrorised due to increased conflict and continuous agitations at educational institutions, opined Prof Koirala.

“As a whole, the education sector is already in trouble. The government and concerned bodies need to seek alternatives, like home schooling, to avoid further anomalies in the sector,” said Koirala.

Koirala who has recently visited various educational institutions scattered across Terai and the hilly regions observed that there is no environment for education currently in such areas. Colleges and schools run barely, incurring huge losses for themselves as well as students. The whole education system is at risk, he said.

In such a situation, designing a compensating mechanism for the same is a must. Another major factor for the deteriorating education environment is that we have politicians who are unaware of modern necessities and who can use the education sector for the development of

the country, he said.

However, there are other people who paint not so bleak a picture of the education sector. Bhanu Sharma, principal of Apex College, talking about the existing scenario in the education sector said that the number of educational institutions whether schools or colleges — both private and government –- have gone up gradually and today the country is capable of producing a huge manpower at par with international standard.

“Competitive environment will usher in quality education and students no longer have to abroad for higher education, as educational infrastructure proves to be quite sound,” Sharma said.

He, however, agreed that the continuing conflict has affected education sector to some extent. “In comparison to educational institutions, students numbers are not huge enough, primarily due to insurgency, which seems a hurdle at present.”

Deepak Bhattarai, principal of Nepal Engineering College reiterated that the government should pay extra heed to educate children up-to the age of 16 years, making school education mandatory. After this, let students choose for themselves what they want to study and how, he said.

Schooling is the real basis to get higher education, he said. There is a need for a broad government vision with proper implementation of policies and programmes set aside for educational development, only then it will get a boost, Bhattarai suggested.

What is alarming is the fact that over the last 12 years, there have been 15 different governments, who have failed to either develop a long-term vision or provide any policy continuity. This has been a serious setback for educational development in Nepal, Bhattarai said.

Myopic politics alongwith the increased conflict is to be blamed for the weak education sector in Nepal, he said.

Rough estimates say, over 4,000 students go abroad for further study in general, while in engineering alone, 300 students go to India every year.

Sharma, principal of Apex College, said every year 25,000 students who complete the higher education level, join the job market.

This number is besides the students who get through the SLC standard and join the ranks of job seeker. The private sector is working hard to produce quality manpower and its contribution can be ignored, he said.

He urged the government to introduce appropriate tools to reform the education sector.

He said that grading of schools and colleges run by the private sector will help students to know the quality of education being imparted by such educational institutions. Educational tourism also holds tremendous potential in Nepal, Sharma said.

There are about 900 10+2 educational institutions, 62 public campuses and about 200 private colleges.