‘Nationalistic’ education Gap between policy and implementation

Vijaya Chalise

Mere policy cannot achieve value-based and scientific education until the mechanism is more effective.

The government is all set to formulate a new “nationalistic” education policy and the Ministry of Education has constituted a committee to revise and reform school curricula. Obviously, education is a holistic process to bring out the best in the individual including nationalistic feelings along with the capacity to face challenges in real life. Therefore, it should be nationalistic. The present education system too has given ample weight to this and, like in many developing countries, we too have not forgotten this aspect of nationalism. Even the present curricula give importance to the preservation of societal values in early educational experiences from the primary to the secondary level. Against this background, “the need for revision regarding nationalistic education” and the concept of “nationalistic education” are obvious. But, experience shows that the weaknesses lie more in implementation than in the objectives of the present education policy and curricula based on it. Yes, we do have plans, policies and programmes. But the responsible agencies and institutions rarely bother to carry them out. For example, the Curriculum Development Centre revises school level syllabuses and prepares course books for schools accordingly. These syllabi and course books are mandatory for all the schools in the country. But we also find that most of the books being taught in many schools are those prepared outside the country promoting different societal and national values.

The fault lies with the Nepali officials who compromise patriotism for the commission they receive from foreign publishers. Many of our education inspectors might have encountered embarrassing textual matter time and again, but they too are not willing to check this. Therefore, mere policy, whether we revise and polish it again and again or not, cannot achieve our objective of value-based, scientific and nationalistic education until we make our mechanism more honest and effective. The tension between preservation and change has clearly been reflected in the educational theories and practices in our context too. However, in the age of globalisation, the debate—whether education should aim only at preserving past identity or at catching up with a fast changing world, too—is significant. Consequently, it would be wise to find a balance between the ideological imperative of transmitting inherited culture and traditions to future generations and catching up with the world through scientific education. Education aimed only at nationalistic conception is not sufficient to compete in the modern times. It also needs to be competitive, scientific, modern, democratic and secular. The philosophical and moral foundations of education need to be re-assessed. The aim of education should be the rational and cognitive development of children that helps them to develop critical thinking, analysing, evaluating, and judging faculties.

However, because of the lack of a long-term vision our educational policy seems always to be in an experimental stage. Consequently the main aim of education always seems to be rudderless. The curriculum reform has become one of the main agendas whenever there is some political change. We never realise that the educational policy should be based on long-term vision and it should be implemented continuously. Policy remains the weak point where one cannot even recognise it as a single system. We forget that the true hallmark of a vision to guide the destiny of a nation is integration mission, goals, strategies, and principles. Even the existing policy, lacking long-term vision, is not carried out properly. These days experts are debating whether the youth should continue to be guided by the same 20th century art and practice of teaching and university academic disciplines. This calls for the policy-makers to transform themselves into millennial planners. Nepal should seek an overhaul of the system with urgency. The school and university curricula have not been renewed for a decade. Such curricula cannot provide excellent education, which is necessary to make people who receive it competitive in the job market. Education is fast becoming a market commodity. The new centres are rarely concerned about government regulations and overall national education policy. Foreign schools and colleges, even though banned or unrecognised in their own countries, are growing in Nepal. There are no sets of parameters for this new business.

Quality is still judged only in terms of foreign language skills and results in year-end examinations based only on the cognitive area. But this ignores other critical components of comprehensive education such as emotional aspect. This excessive dependence on the examination system has weakened creativity that the present day’s societal condition demands. It is doubtful that emphasis on producing mere academic degree-holders would enable our youths to compete in today’s world.

Chalise is executive editor, Gorkhapatra