Kathmandu, June 14
Many schools across the country have made it mandatory for students to learn Chinese lured by the Chinese government’s offer to cover salaries of teachers who teach Mandarin.
Principals and staff of at least 10 renowned private schools that THT talked to said Mandarin was a compulsory subject in their institutions. These schools are: Apex Life, Matribhumi, Rajarshi Gurukul, Shuvatara, Rato Bangala, Learning Realm International, Malpi City, Pathshala Nepal (both in Bagdol and Baneshwor) and United.
Many more private schools in Pokhara, Dhulikhel and other parts of the country have also made Mandarin compulsory for students, according to Shiv Raj Pant, board of trustee, founder and chairman of LRI School.
“Schools are allowed to teach foreign languages, but they cannot make those subjects mandatory for students,” said Ganesh Prasad Bhattarai, information officer at the Curriculum Development Centre, a government body which designs school-level academic curriculum. “If a subject has to be made compulsory, it is us who take the decisions, not the schools.”
Schools that THT talked to were aware of this provision, but they have simply overlooked it, as they are getting Mandarin teachers for free.
“We introduced Mandarin as a compulsory subject two years ago after the Chinese Embassy agreed to provide teachers free of cost,” said Kuldip Neupane, principal at United School.
Other schools also confirmed that salaries of Mandarin teachers were being paid by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. “We only need to provide stipend to Chinese teachers to cover their accommodation and food costs,” said Hari Dahal, principal of Apex Life School.
Chinese Embassy Spokesperson Ji Guangli did not want to comment on the issue. He asked THT to talk to the official at the embassy’s education wing. But the education wing official did not respond to THT’s multiple calls and text messages.
The craze for learning Mandarin is growing worldwide, as China has become the world’s second largest economy, offering ample opportunities to people across the globe to maximise earnings. Many Nepalis also want to cash in on this trend and thus encourage their children to learn Mandarin.
“Learning Chinese has become very essential, as China’s influence is growing worldwide. So, Mandarin will provide a competitive edge to our students,” said LRI School’s Pant.
Many parents agree with Pant. “But schools should have consulted us before making the subject mandatory for students,” said Suprabhat Bhandari, president of the Nepal Guardians’ Federation.
A snap survey conducted by THT showed that only one school — Meridian International — had called a parent-teacher meeting before adding Mandarin to its curriculum. “We have not made this subject compulsory to students as well,” said the school’s principal Prabhu Lal Shah.
Surprisingly, the Private and Boarding Schools’ Organisation Nepal, the umbrella body of private schools, is unaware of addition of Mandarin as a compulsory subject in many schools. “This is illegal,” said PABSON General Secretary Kumar Ghimire.
What is also illegal is the practice of teaching Mandarin during school hours. Schools are not allowed to teach any foreign language within school hours, according to Bhattarai of the Curriculum Development Centre. But none of the school that THT talked to has obliged despite being aware of the provision.
“We will not take any action, as schools fall under the domain of local governments,” said Bhattarai. Many local governments do not have the capacity to monitor schools, as they are still learning the ropes of the federal system, while many are reeling under the shortage of staff.
“We know children should be allowed to make choices. So, if there are volunteers who wish to teach Japanese and German, we will always welcome them,” Khyam Nath Timsina, principal of Shuvatara School said.
An illegal act
A version of this article appears in print on June 15, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.