Make it work

Though Nepal has allocated 17 per cent of its budget on education — probably the highest outlay for any single sector, and comparable to the education budget in neighbouring countries — the quality of education still leaves a lot to be desired. The SLC failure rate is alarmingly high, at close to 70 per cent and the educated unemployment rate is estimated to have reached 50 per cent — a fact that spells danger to the country’s peace and stability. Experts and guardians have been stressing the urgency to bring about reforms in the education system to bring down the failure rates, both at school and higher-education levels. The ten-year-old Maoist insurgency has also aggravated the problem.

The World Bank is reported to have assured Nepal of a $60 million grant for the Higher Education Project II for a period of five years. This will be yet another instance of aid in a long series of aid packages that have arrived in the name of improving the educational sector. The aid in question will come in the forms of reform grants, student financial assistance, higher secondary education, and strengthening systemic capacity. It is expected to make the campuses financially sustainable and will provide them autonomy and improve transparency and accountability. The campuses will not receive more than block grants, making it necessary for them to generate their own revenue after the project lapses.

Nepal has received huge aid for its ailing education sector. But most of the studies carried out to examine the effectiveness of such aid as well as the opinion of experts in the field hardly paint an encouraging picture. Much of the aid has gone down the drain. This must not happen again. The target groups should be the main beneficiaries, not the officials and donors themselves. Outright grants normally don’t but loans do place loads of debt on Nepalis.

Therefore, any such package is not good news in itself. It should rather be judged on the basis of its effectiveness.