High quality must be assured so that the degrees provided by Open University will fetch a market value
The Open University Bill-2015 endorsed by the Parliamentary Committee on Women, Children, Senior Citizens and Social Welfare on Wednesday, was finally tabled in Legislature-Parliament yesterday.
This bill has the support of most lawmakers. Open universities are universities that are open to people, even living in far-flung areas or those who cannot attend university regularly.
Unlike the traditional universities, they offer distance education through reading materials and guidelines given or sent to students who mainly study at home and most of them award undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.
These days, the use of the Internet is also being increasingly used for the purpose. The objective of open universities is to make higher education accessible to all people.
The objectives of open universities include: closing the gap in higher education through open and distance education, taking tertiary education to the doorsteps of the rural and marginalized people who live far from city centres, or those who suffer from financial constraints, or to anybody such as teachers and government and private employees who are not in a position to pursue a degree from a traditional university for any reasons, to offer an opportunity for Nepalis working abroad to continue their education.
The Bill tabled in Parliament has avoided creating too many posts, even doing away with the need for rector, whose responsibility will be looked by the vice chancellor.
Lecturers, professors and other staff will be appointed on need basis, whose number would be far less than that for a traditional university.
According to Ranju Kumari Jha, chairperson of the parliamentary committee, experts not involved in politics would be appointed to the various posts in these universities bringing to a halt the trend of making political appointments.
However, the proof of the truth of the statement should be tested in action. The vacancies will be filled by a Vacancy Fulfillment Committee instead of by a service commission.
The demand for higher education is very high and has yet to be met.
The existence of open universities can be expected to contribute significantly to that end. Women in particular remain in the villages due to family obligations and financial limitations. They will also get an opportunity to pursue education through an open university.
After the Bill is passed, the Nepali people could very well take higher education in their home itself and also their community and they do not have to travel to cities and foreign countries in search of higher education.
In this the Non-resident Nepalis’ Association’s Open University of Nepal Initiative Task Force has done commendable work by working together with the Ministry of Education since 2011 to bring the Bill.
That it has taken such a long time to bring the Bill is a pity. However, the Bill has been tabled in Parliament and discussion on the bill will commence.
It should be seen that the Bill becomes a law soon. But the value of Open University will lie much in the quality of education and the rigour of the examinations.
Therefore, high quality must be assured so that the degrees provided by Open University will fetch a market value at par with those provided by traditional universities.
A total of 9,353 schools in 59 districts were destroyed while 1,200 students and 68 teachers were killed in the devastating earthquakes in 2015.
Children of these districts have been deprived of education due to lack of physical facilities and classrooms. The National Reconstruction Authority (RNA) has estimated a total cost of Rs. 10 billion to rebuild the schools damaged in the natural disaster.
So far the government has been able to set up only 8,000 transitional learning centres in 31 districts.
Education and health facility should get top priority in the affected districts. If the students cannot attend schools due to lack of classrooms they will not be able to lead a normal life in the future.
Their childhood will be spoiled for want of education. It was the NRA’s duty to quickly reconstruct the schools so that the children can pursue their studies.
It is quite disappointing that the reconstruction process of only 44 schools in Gorkha, Lalitpur and Kavre has begun with financial support from Japan and ADB.
The government should have started rebuilding the schools much earlier using its own resources.
A version of this article appears in print on June 03, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.