Education in Nepal Need to change traditional model

Bidur Prasad Upadhyay:

Nepal is committed to achieve the goal of “education for all” set in the Dakar Framework of Action for literacy mission, and to fulfil the mission of poverty alleviation. But this cannot be achieved unless the education sector gets due priority. Education does not mean only literacy programmes, but also transfer of knowledge to improve communication skills, capability to improve the environment and utilise scarce resources for the development of the nation. Recently, the government has started improving all aspects of education to ensure excellence in education.

Keeping this in view, Education for All 2004-2009 — a five-year strategic programme — is developed in the context of the10th Five Year Plan covering all levels of education such as community education, adult education, primary education, education for re-skill, re-training employees, etc. But, the implementation of “education for all, at any time, anywhere” programme is a challenge as it covers diversity of learners and goals.

In this connection, technology is a saviour to meet the demand of learning and to create new possibilities of provision for this programme, as it recognises learning of knowledge as a social and economic activity. Though since the last plan period education has assumed a top priority in implementing literacy for all programme, our literacy rate is still only 54%. Hence, it is a challenging task to raise the literacy rate to 100% by the turn of the mid-century. Besides, the global economy places new demands on our citizens, who thus need more skills and knowledge. Equipping people to deal with these demands requires a new model of education and training a model of life-long learning. A life-long learning framework encompasses learning from early childhood to retirement. It is crucial to prepare workers to compete in this global world. Ultimately, it will support to develop confidence in the workers and will enhance social cohesion, reduce crime and improve income distribution.

The main strategy adopted by the 10th Plan to fulfil the education objective is the decentralisation of management of local schools by transferring the management to school committees at the local level, thereby changing the role of the district and central level agencies to that of a facilitator, monitor and evaluator rather than the controller. The strengthening of the school monitoring and supervision system, mitigating social, cultural and financial barriers is to ensure easy access to education. Promotion of vocational courses and private sector involvement in extending basic and middle level technical education are also important agendas of the education sector. So far, more than 1000 schools have been handed over to the community, however the outcome of this programme has not been evaluated yet. Besides, the government has adopted the policy of integrating technical education in secondary level with the aim of improving vocational skills so that students could involve themselves in economically gainful activities through self-employment. This programme is expected to help increase equitable access of the disadvantaged and the poor in technical and vocational stream.

Also, ICT-based education provision is one of the major issues facing us. The government is keen to explore this area by framing policy for ICT and for Open University system, but this master plan is yet to be developed. Due to this, poor students and researchers are suffering. Moreover, technological delivery system is distinct from face to face delivery methodologies used in the old learning delivery system. This necessitates creation of national information infrastructure integrated with global information infrastructure to meet the learning demand, thus providing universal access, creating facilities for life long learning, adopting user-centred learning technologies, development and deployment of new learning products, and adopting collaborative learning arrangements. This may help to modernise the curriculum, which can check self-serving interest, domination, and control of the university institutions, thus paving the way for globalisation of educational delivery, higher quality assurance etc.

The deep-rooted hierarchical caste system, domination of ethnic groups, prejudice and superstitious beliefs, and the predominant patriarchal value system have been the main elements of social and gender disparity in Nepal. Without eliminating these disparities, it will not be possible to have equality and equity in education. Also, the objective of reducing poverty can only be achieved if female capability is enhanced, and marginalised groups are brought under poverty reduction programmes.

Since higher education now has to become dynamic as never before, an orchestrated increase in our efforts and inputs has to be made for future development and expansion of higher education. The challenge for Nepal is to provide a broader range of opportunities to acquire skills, knowledge, and competencies for more of its citizens. It is not possible to extend life-long learning model with the traditional mode of education; a system driven by the need of the learners must emerge. The government is now working to prepare legislative framework in order to regularise and promote education activities. This legislation is expected to remove hurdles in education and make Nepal a destination of academic pursuit in the region.

Prof Upadhyay is chairman, UGC