The very moment we impose a system of semi-government kind of mechanism, there are chances of ruining quality education. Investments are made to bring positive results, not failures
There is a saying, ‘If school education gets organized, it directly contributes to determine the future of the nation”. There are certain things in life that we never experience and overcome. For example, the accident we never try to experience. Education system and its impact are similar. There should be adequate consultation and research while forming the new policy and programme to address the dynamism in education system.
In our context, we have been going against this conviction while making amendment in the Education Act 8th Amendment 2072. We can find the trend of preserving the talented/intelligent students by providing scholarships and security of future jobs. Developed countries having strong and successful education system and setup have a policy of luring foreign talent and intelligent students through different scholarship schemes. But, the marginalized students study in private schools (named institutional schools) in scholarship quota, they are prevented from appearing in the scholarship examinations provided by the government of Nepal for higher studies. The existing Education Act ensures such provisions. Lawmakers and educational stakeholders do not speak against such discriminatory laws. These issues have never been the part of discussions. It’s a pity to talk and not address the issue of inclusion and prosperous democracy.
There is a clear vision and mission of the recently issued Constitution of Nepal that education is the right of every child. There is also a provision that school education must be free and compulsory and accessible to every child. To avail the accessibility to more children for quality education, the institutional schools have been set up throughout the country, and at present the occupancy of institutional schools is almost 30%, including pre-schools and +2 education. Without addressing these schools, it’s next to impossible to implement the policy of quality education in schools. As per the national standard, the quality of education is at least shouldered and maintained by the institutional schools.
Government has invested a big sum on school education. Despite all efforts there are almost 5% children who never see the face of schools. On an average, 3,000,000 children get enrolled in primary education and drop out and only 500,000 students appear in the School Leaving Certificate Examination (SLC). Government must act to overcome such a situation and prevent their rights from being violated. Here, we need to determine whether the presence of institutional schools contributes to fulfilling the target of right to education. In connection with such rights we need to define free education. In the real world there is nothing free of cost. There was time when institutional schools were not in existence, wealthy and capable parents used to enroll their children in neighboring countries for quality education. I don’t think that a modern democratic country can make a boundary on that and make it compulsory to go to a specific school for education. In order to get employment and preserve national wealth and make education a hub and destiny, the presence of institutional schools is a positive factor. Therefore, while setting the goal of education public-private partnership, free education must be redefined.
The challenge of the Constitution is to institutionalize the federal structures. It has ensured autonomy and self discipline. But the spirit of MoE and the proposed amendments to the Education Act seem to be guided towards a complete control mechanism. If we really go for the quality education there should be proper practice of autonomy. Teachers and principals must be empowered by giving them certain targets. In the new amendments, there is the provision of appointing the members of the examination board, high level education commission at the centre and districts by the ministry itself. They have been completely neglected in the new amendments. School education must bring pre-schools in the mainstream of school education and boarding facilities must be established in order to enrich the quality of education in public schools. Double standards in education system can never remain for a long time. And, autonomy and self discipline are the integral part of an education system for its quality. It must be institutionalized.
The crux of inclusive democracy is to explore the possibilities of options. The newly introduced provision of cooperative management of institutional schools could be a better option. But at the same time it cannot substitute for schools running under the Company Act and others. The concern for quality education is the source of a sense of responsibility that lies among principals and teachers. Hard work prevails in institutional schools because of their ownership by their management. That ultimately creates an environment of care with a human touch to the children and maximum utilization of the available resources. That is why parents are attracted towards institutional schools. The very moment we impose a system of semi-government kind of mechanism, there are chances of ruining quality education. Investments are made to bring positive results, not failures. By ignoring this fact total education system cannot flourish. It is time for collaboration, understanding and respecting each other to bring consensus among educational stakeholders for guaranteeing the quality of education to every child.
A version of this article appears in print on February 23, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.