The government has moved to introduce ‘nationalistic’ education. In areas controlled by the Maoists, the people are getting a taste of ‘people-oriented’ education. During the non-party Panchayat rule, a paper ‘Panchayat’ was prescribed for the schools to turn the students against multiparty parliamentary democracy and to extol the ‘virtues’ of the Panchayat system as the best suited to the Nepali soil and clime. Some other non-democratic regimes have made similar experiments elsewhere, but almost all of them collapsed, including the Panchayat system. Not surprisingly, the present effort in Nepal is being widely seen in similar light.
Introducing a ‘nationalistic’ education implies that the existing system is inadequate. Does the new plan mean to include in the syllabus propaganda material that promotes a certain political
ideology, the leadership of a certain individual, family or party at the cost of others? If this means patriotism, the nation and the people will be better off without it. But history has lessons that imposition cannot make converts. However, if ‘nationalistic’ education means correcting distortion of historical and other facts and putting restrictions on the teaching of things in Nepal under foreign syllabuses that may give the students a wrong impression about history, geography and values, particularly those relating to Nepal, then it will be welcome. But children of some of the holders of high office are enrolled in schools at home providing foreign syllabuses, let alone abroad.
Producing blind followers cannot be the goal of any education worth the name. Education seeks to instil in the students universal and eternal values like discipline, truth, love and compassion. It enables them to think clearly and independently, and to be good human beings. In today’s world, technical and professional subjects rightly occupy pride of place as these expand one’s horizons, further human knowledge, produce employable people, and take the country forward. But there is no need for a separate syllabus to promote what an unrepresentative government considers ‘patriotism’. What is required instead is a new orientation to our education to enable the Nepalis to survive and prosper in today’s fast-developing and highly competitive world.