Every country has its own goal of preparing human resources for development. This is not an easy task. People have freedom to educate and prepare their children for the competitive market. These days education has been a commodity, which is enjoyed by the rich people of the globe. People who have money will get better education and this is true everywhere. Nepal is no exception.
Students and their parents are concerned about quality education. They frequently ask the question which school or college is good? Obviously there are different types of colleges ready to enroll students immediately after their SLC.
These colleges again have two big problems. One, how can they sustain financially, and two, how to motivate good students? So in the name of competition, they start glamorous advertisement campaigns, sometimes exploiting the students by making them the focus of the agenda. One can see various types of advertisement using the students of the past years in their formal school/college dress and the college owners do not seek any permission from the concerned students and their parents.
In search of quality education the parents, most of the time, are captivated by the advertisements and make their decisions accordingly. Sometimes these decisions have become fruitful, sometimes they have proved counterproductive.
Thatâ€™s why many students scoring a distinction in SLC exams sometimes score very low marks or even fail in college courses. There can be various reasons, for example, wrong choice of college, wrong choice of discipline or the subject area of study and lack of vertical linkage between SLC and upper-level courses. Whatever the case, the student will suffer.
In search of quality education students are going abroad. If one asks students studying in Grade 11 or 12 about their future plan of study ninety per cent of them will reply that they prefer going outside the country. This is testified by the long queue of students in the scholarship section of the Ministry of Education to get a â€˜no objectionâ€™ letter everyday after the grade 12 results are over. The dream of sending children to foreign countries for undergraduate studies has now been common among parents whether they can afford it or not. How can one parent not think about it when his/her neighbour sends all his/her children to the US? How can one student stop thinking about it when most of their good friends go abroad? So there is a lot of pressure on the parents in this regard.
There are some colleges and universities in Nepal, which provide quality in terms of academic achievements and in some cases employment. These institutions have limited seats where all capable students do not get admission. For example, BSc Nursing has been such a choice that thousands apply for a mere 50 seats. Where do the failed candidates go then? Obviously, they look for chances abroad. The same is true for other technical subjects.
If a student is meritorious and his/her parents have a fat bank balance, he is sure to get education in a foreign country. If the student is good but the bank balance is poor, then the student will be found struggling for quality education within the institution in which he or she is enrolled. If a student is not good enough in academic standing but the parents have enough money, again it is probable that the student goes outside the country for further education. By the time this student finishes his or her studies abroad, the students studying in their own country will be waiting either for course completion or for their results. That is why the affluent families always occupy the lionâ€™s share of good opportunities. The poor always remain poor and they will find it difficult to move ahead.
What should the country do then? Here are some suggestions. First, make a long-term plan of educating the citizens, which is directly linked with development. Second, provide enough seats in colleges and universities of those subjects, which are in great demand both nationally and internationally. Third, link higher education with employment and encourage citizens to join such education. Fourth, give education loans to needy students at nominal interest. Fifth, start a system of counselling for both the students and parents so that they will not make the wrong investments. Sixth, replicate the prototype of quality studies available in the country by establishing or motivating people to establish such institutions in other corners of the country. Seventh, give subsidy to the residents of remote areas to educate their children in quality institutions. Eighth, invest in studies, which are directly linked, with national development by providing free scholarships to meritorious students with job guarantee after their graduation. Ninth, encourage citizens to go abroad for further studies only in those areas in which Nepal cannot afford. And tenth, assure quality in each institution within the country.
Dr Wagley is professor of Education, TU