EDITORIAL: In a state of limbo

Authorities must turn the present crisis surrounding Grade XI curriculum into an opportunity to come up with better plans to improve school education

Impulsive decisions, lack of planning and non-coordination among concerned stakeholders often result in a crisis situation when it comes to some important government undertakings in Nepal. In a recent case, the plan to introduce new curriculum, set to be introduced from the upcoming session beginning mid-July, for Grade XI has hit a snag. The new curriculum envisages making four subjects – Nepali, English, Social Studies and applied education – compulsory for Grade XI students. Apart from these, students must choose at least three more subjects. Currently, Grade XI students need not study more than five subjects – of which up to two subjects are compulsory based on the streams they choose to study. The new curriculum was planned in line with the eighth amendment to the Education Act 2016 that envisions replacing stream-based education system with the single-track curriculum for Grades IX and XII

The Curriculum Development Centre (CDC), the government body for developing curricula and textbooks for school education, has already said that it won’t be able to meet the mid-July target of introducing new curriculum. It though has plans to implement the new curriculum “in a few schools as a pilot project” from the upcoming session, it is yet to be finalised. Some stakeholders, including private educational institutes, have been objecting to the entire new curriculum plan, saying that they were not consulted when the CDC prepared the National Curriculum Framework. Then there are community schools which are ill-equipped – in terms of human resource and infrastructure – to teach students the subjects according to the new curriculum. Combine all these and we get school education staring at a serious crisis.

But Nepal’s school education has been in crisis for decades. There seems to be lack of clarity among the policymakers about school education. It’s not that reform programmes have not been introduced, but they have invariably failed to effect concrete changes. The eighth amendment to the Education Act in 2016 was also part of a bid to improve school education. Accordingly, the more than 80-year-old School Leaving Certificate exam system was scrapped and school education was redefined as education from Grade I to Grade XII. This hence needed a complete overhaul of the curriculum. However, today’s fact is the new curriculum currently is in a state of limbo. Be that as it may, this crisis has presented the authorities with an opportunity to conduct a detailed study, hold discussions with the concerned stakeholders and prepare the new curriculum that will be in the larger interest of students. Half-baked curriculum and half-hearted implementation could put students’ future at stake. There is also a need to put a focus on the community schools which are in dire need of human resource and infrastructure. Out of 28,000 community schools, only 3,000 are currently providing Grade XI-XII education. The government must look into how they are going to implement the new curriculum in these schools. The government should also step up efforts to upgrade other community schools. It’s high time the authorities realised that education is the most powerful investment in our future and the key to development.

Payment withheld

At a time when the Ministry of Home Affairs has warned of taking stern action against those contractors who have failed to complete works within deadline the contractors who have finished their jobs on time have not been paid by the government agency in Dolakha. Chief of Division Road Office Dolakha Ashok Tiwari admitted that his office has not been able to pay Rs 580 million to the 10 contractors who have finished their tasks on time. The office has to pay the amounts ranging from Rs five to Rs 49 million. The contractors have padlocked the office time and again for non-payment of the works done.

The problem lies not with the Division Road Office but with the Ministry of Finance which did not release the budget allocated for the repairs and maintenance of roads in Dolakha and Sindhupalchowk. Worse, the contractors have not paid the workers and suppliers of construction materials as the concerned office has not paid them. Withholding payment for long will create chain effects in the construction sector. In this case, the daily wage workers will be worst affected. The MoF must address this problem.