Schools are allowed to teach foreign languages, but they cannot make those subjects mandatory for students

It has come to light that quite a few up-market schools, both in the Kathmandu Valley and outside, are teaching the Chinese language as a compulsory subject to the students, unknown to the government and other stakeholders. Learning Mandarin outside the school hours might have been alright, but doing so during school time makes it illegal. And the schools, by introducing the subject without first taking a prior permission fromthe Curriculum Development Centre (CDC), seems to have taken the government body for granted. Only the CDC is in a position to decide which subjects should be made compulsory, not the schools. Majority of the schools didn’t even consult the parents at the time of introducing Chinese in school. Neither is the Nepal Guardians’ Federation nor the Private and Boarding Schools’ Organisation Nepal (PABSON) aware of the inclusion of the Chinese language as a compulsory subject. The umbrella body of private schools has termed the practice as illegal, but remains yet to be seen how and whether it will take up the issue seriously with its constituent members. What is also obviously illegal is the practice of teaching Mandarin during school hours because schools are not allowed to teach any foreign language within school hours, according to the Curriculum Development Centre. But none of the school has obliged despite being aware of the provision.

Schools are allowed to teach foreign languages, but they cannot make those subjects mandatory for students. It is the Curriculum Development Centre that decides, not the schools. Schools that THT talked to were aware of the legalprovisions, but they have simply overlooked it, as they are getting Mandarin teachers for free. A school principal has been quoted as saying that his school introduced Mandarin as a compulsory subject plainly because there was a subject teacher available for free by courtesy of the embassy. 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.However, the issue here is not so much about learning the Chinese language, but the way both the private schools and the Chinese government have circumvented the CDC to introduce the Mandarin as a compulsory subject. More than anything else, the private schools seem to have introduced the Chinese language because the salaries of the teachers are paid by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu.

It would do the schools a lot more good if they followed the government provisions that govern them. This makes it easier for the government to carry out its responsibilities as it is not in a position to monitor what all the schools are doing across the country. Moreover, under federalism, the jurisdiction over the schools – right upto class 12— now lies with the local government, which is trying to grapple with its enormous responsibilities on all fronts. The CDC, the Local Levels and PABSON are expected to work in concert to ensure that schools are accountable to their actions and that shrines of learning respect the laws of the land, not flout them.

Tree plantation

Lumbini Development Trust, Rupandehi Division Forest Office and Bhairahawa-Lumbini-Taulihawa Road Expansion Project have joined hands to plant as many as 47,700 tree saplings along the Bhairahawa-Lumbini-Taulihawa Postal road section, which also connects Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha. The tree saplings will be planted along the road to make up for the loss of those trees felled while widening the road. A total of 1,908 trees were felled at the time of the road expansion. Rupandehi Division Forest Office said 46,500 tree saplings would be planted on either side of the road as per the plan.

As per the provision of the Forest Act, it is mandatory to plant 25 tree saplings for each fully grown up tree felled to construct a road. Thus, a total of 47,700 tree saplings have to be planted on the roadside. The drive is a welcome move as it will not only help maintain greenery on the road, but also add beauty to the road, which is the gateway to Lumbini from Bhairahawa, where the GBIA is being built. Buddhist pilgrims and other tourists will enjoy travelling on the road once it is widened and covered with trees.