EDITORIAL: Time to change

The various factors that have been slowing the progress of the education sector, indeed leaving a mess in much of it, should be factored into the new education policy

It is high time that the education system in the country was revamped. To this effect, the Ministry of Education is all set to form a National Education Commission to draft a new education policy. The Commission would accomplish its task within four months of its formation. People from all walks of life would be selected as members of the commission and not only political leaders and education experts as was done in the past. As education has also a major role to play in development it is mooted that the Commission would include experts in the field of information technology, economics and development. The new Commission would be the fifth one in Nepal. It is appropriate that such matters should be discussed by all the stakeholders as to who should be in the proposed new commission.

At present, there is a state of confusion particularly in higher education. Education has become highly politicized. The semester system has been introduced on piecemeal and there are plans to do away with the yearly system. It would be wise to do so as students would not miss a year. They would be enabled to take the examinations twice in a year saving them six months if they failed their examinations. Moreover, the standard should be set for Bachelor level classes. In some countries it takes three years to pass this level while in others it takes four years to do so. Thus, it would be in order for all the educational institutions to stick to either three years or four years of classes, preferably to the latter, which is largely prevalent in many developed countries where Nepali students go to study in large numbers. Moreover, the academic calendar of other countries where many students go for further studies after their Bachelor’s should to taken into consideration so that the students do not lose time in joining the classes abroad. Students prefer to study abroad if they can make it as the public education system leaves a lot to be desired. The country stands to lose due to this because of the loss of productive manpower. The education policy should reflect the present political transformations and strive to provide quality education which is lacking at present.

There is also a challenge to do away with illiteracy and make all the citizens educated. They should also be provided with the necessary skills. The country would benefit immensely from the skilled manpower. Moreover, attempts should be made to retain the gifted students here by creating a conducive environment as far as possible. Education is a fundamental right of all the citizens. As such, the State should also ensure that all the children have access to schools. Meanwhile, the various governments have been stressing cent per cent literacy; indeed significant progress has been made in this area. But the retention rate of the literate is also something to be taken into account. The various factors that have been slowing the progress of the education sector in the country, indeed leaving a mess in much of it, should be factored into the new education policy so that appropriate measures are taken to do away with them, such as politicization of the education system and educational institutions.

Going solar

The government’s plan to illuminate streets with solar-powered lights is a welcome step in this electricity-deficit country. Indeed, this plan has moved another step forward. The Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development has asked the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, all sub-metropolitan cities and municipalities to invite proposals, by mid-March, from citizens’ organizations with a view to involving them in the programme based on public participation. The ministry plans to install solar lights covering 710 kilometres of roads in various municipalities and VDCs. The Fiscal Budget for 2015/16 has made provisions for this.

In KMC, the distribution of the cost of solar-powered street lighting among the government, local bodies and consumers will be in the ratio of 60, 25 and 15. This ratio will apply to other places with slight modifications. Roughly, it costs one lakh rupees to install a single solar-powered streetlight. This programme is expected to save six megawatts of electricity. With the crippling blockade exposing Nepal’s vulnerabilities solar power should be greatly expanded as sunlight is free. In the past few years, the cost of installing solar lights has gone down significantly.