Filling gap

As efforts to lure students begin to pay off, another crisis is looming large in the education sector. There aren’t enough teachers in schools all over the country. Mountainous areas have high teacher density but low student enrolment rates. Meanwhile, classrooms in Tarai are about to burst in the seams but teachers are in short supply. One school class in Sunsari has 376 students, another in Morang has 453 students while one in Siraha has 304. But many classrooms in 25-30 districts have thin occupancy rates. In the face of it, the average teacher-student ratio is 1:40, which, is quite satisfactory. Disparity is at the heart of the problem. Teachers like to hang on to urban areas, the preferred base being the Kathmandu Valley. It also has the highest teacher-student ratio. Unless uniformity in the ratio in each of the 75 districts is achieved and maintained through a major reshuffle, another 35,000 additional teachers as required will not be able to fill the gap.

With private players raising the bar for education a notch higher each year, teachers are also under constant pressure to upgrade their skills. The competition, however, is limited to urban areas alone. Even those trying to meet the new challenges have a hard time keeping up with new tools and techniques. It is impossible for all the teachers in the country to be fully equipped with the latest teaching tools given the level of available resources. But a reasonable

degree of training and practical experience is indispensable without which the teachers will not be in a position to perform to their full potential, and students will fail to grasp the subject matter. If quota adjustment, as suggested, is a solution, the government must seriously consider it.

The pressure from strikes and insecurity notwithstanding, education cannot be compromised under any circumstance. The exercise without adequate teachers is a flop show. Over 90 per cent of the current education budget goes to salaries alone. The government must consider new ways of supporting the sector. The Ministry of Education and Sports will do well to utilise additional funds swiftly and judiciously unlike last year when the Maoist victims’ fund was lying idle for six months after it was sanctioned. Long-term strategy to address the problem of teacher deficiency must be devised without further delay.