The government should rethink the recently passed education Bill and make necessary amendments.

The recently passed Bill by Parliament on Some Nepal Acts related to education and sports has generated controversy, though it was unanimously passed by the House of Representatives (HoR). There is no use making laws if the parliamentarians cannot reflect people’s aspirations through the law they make. The education-related Bill drew the youth’s attention who believe in quality education. Its other aspect is directly related to providing equal employment opportunities to the qualified youths.

In this connection the agitating students were trying to draw the government’s attention as the Bill was being discussed in the HoR’s Social Committee. The government didn’t hear their voice and passed the Bill, thereby undermining people’s wishes while trying to serve their own narrow political interests. On the contrary, the students were not foolish enough to accept the Parliament’s decision at the cost of their career and future. Thus, they have continued to build pressure on the government to amend the Bill before it is approved by the Speaker. Many District Education Offices were locked up, besides the Teachers Service Commission, Department of Education, Tribhuvan University Central Office and the Office of the Controller of Examinations, among other educational institutions across the country. The reason for the students’ ire was the Bill’s provision to make all temporary teachers permanent without any serious screening process.

The Bill states three points regarding the process of making temporary teachers permanent. The first one is the provision for temporary teachers appointed before Baisakh 10, 2063, to compete among themselves for the remaining permanent vacancies under the teachers’ quota. The second point is more contentious. It seeks to provide opportunities for permanent employment to those displaced by the permanent teachers in 2061/62. It also wants to make all contract teachers of the Basic and Primary Education Project permanent. The third point being that teachers working for over five years in temporary positions will be provided incentives if they do not succeed in passing the exams according to the provisions of the Bill. All provisions of the Bill aim at making the remaining temporary teachers permanent. This, in fact, barred the qualified youths from entering the teaching profession. Around 400,000 youths have been waiting for the advertisement of jobs to come out. They have a teaching licence and have been screened through written examination of the Teachers’ Service Commission. In other words, all the licence holders are trained professionals. Unfortunately, Parliament passed the Bill without any provision for the qualified youths to compete for teaching jobs. The process of assignment of temporary teachers is even more disputable as most of them have been political appointees. The ministers and parliamentarians in the past had their cadres appointed as temporary teachers without any screening. They did not think it important that these teachers should be trained and hold licence as per the Education Act and Regulations. In this way, law-makers breached the laws. This is one of the key reasons why Nepal’s education system is weak and the country’s SLC results are so poor.

This time, too, the politicians wanted to make all these teachers permanent without considering the future of 6.2 million school students. Among the working teachers, 14,000 are still being investigated for possession of fake certificates by the Commission for the Abuse of Authority (CIAA). Moreover, the government had already fulfilled the demand of teachers’ organisations to advertise for the posts of permanent teachers through internal competition three years back. With that provision, 50 per cent of working temporary teachers were made permanent. Now the government is trying to make all the remaining temporary teachers, altogether 17,000, permanent. This is the reason behind the students’ stir. Now the situation has been settled through an agreement between the government and the agitating students. However, the law needs to be revised by the HoR.

The government should rethink the law and make necessary amendments before the HoR passes it. The revision should consider people’s equal rights for employment. Some marks for working temporary teachers should also be allocated. For example, if the government makes objective criteria of 200 marks for permanency, one mark per year can be allotted for working temporary teachers. For the rest of the slots, they must compete with fresh candidates. For those who have 15 years or more of experience, the government can give them options of retirement with an incentive package or allow them to compete with fresh candidates. This provision can also be made for those who have crossed 50 years of age. Moreover, the status of Teachers’ Service Commission should be akin to that of the Public Service Commission. These provisions will motivate more youths to take up teaching jobs.

Dr Wagley is professor of Education, TU