Science and technology has not been the first choice of students in Nepal due to limited employment opportunities. The curriculum in Nepal’s universities is not market or industry-orientated. The teaching method is still a one-sided lecture
Despite three national policies on science and technology in the last three decades and rapid expansion in the number of private colleges and universities in Nepal, science education still lacks definitive plans and programmes. Consequently, students are less attracted to science education. The student drop-out rate in all the four years of the B.Sc. programme is alarming. Most of the students study B.Sc. to stay engaged while waiting for admission to colleges in Nepal and abroad.
Science and technology has not been the first choice of students in Nepal due to limited employment opportunities. The curriculum in Nepal’s universities is not market or industry-orientated. The pedagogy of teaching is still a one-sided lecture method. There are no molecular biology, biochemistry, nanotechnology faculty members for the B.Sc. programme in TU.
Kathmandu University, Pokhara University and Purbanchal University do not give emphasis to general science in the B.Sc. and M.Sc. programmes. They seem to cover only the applied genre. In the past few years, private colleges have had a severe impact on the science programmes in the constituent campuses. Most of the private colleges are run or owned by the university faculty, who pay more attention to their colleges than to the constituent campuses. Students are increasingly being attracted to computer and information technology courses that are being conducted without quality infrastructure and faculty members.
Without research, students cannot experience practical education. One of the significant weaknesses of the B.Sc. programme is faculty members. Most of the faculty members in constituent campuses are not up-to-date with the new four-year B.Sc. programme. The laboratories in the constituent campuses of TU are old and weak.
Many constituent campuses generally have a head (campus chief) from a non-science stream, who does not understand the importance of practical classes. There is no uniformity in the academic calendar of the universities in the country. TU has not phased out the annual academic system in the B.Sc. programme. Even though the semester system has been implemented in M.Sc., the actual spirit of the semester system is not being fulfilled.
Rather than the respective teacher evaluating the students, the traditional evaluation system is being followed. Because of this, much money and workforce are spent on conducting the exams, and students generally focus on how to score higher grades than indulge in study matters. Besides, the evaluation system is not found to be scientific in Nepal’s universities.
Frequently students have raised questions of partiality and others. The malpractice of setting the final questions (wholly based on the internal assessment questions) is widespread in all universities throughout Nepal.
Universities in Nepal should change their academic programmes in science and technology to meet the market demand, local interest, and ensure employment opportunities for the graduates. The curriculum should be revised based on a single track rather than the thematic specialisation prevailing in the M.Sc. programme. The syllabus should be categorised into major, minor and elective courses. Academic freedom should be given to the research supervisor (faculty) to design elective courses. The universities should include life science in all disciplines of science and technology to meet the growing demand of globalisation.
Universities should plan to build up individual faculty research labs. Both the number and the amount of research grants given in the field of science and technology should be dramatically enhanced, and channelised through a single door system. The government should establish a separate governing body, such as a ‘National Research Foundation’ to streamline research activities in higher education.
Some university faculties carry two jobs – in the constituent campuses of a university and private colleges. This dual job system should be brought to an end. The teaching and research faculties must be categorised and separated based on their scientific merits. To motivate the faculty in research, a separate pay scale should be implemented in higher education. Likewise, the existing hiring system of faculty should be overhauled based on the candidate’s publications in scientific journals and research grants received.
To keep academic harmony and norms intact, a separate regulation (or act) should be formulated and implemented immediately to address the examinations system and other unresolved academic matters in higher education.
All affiliated colleges should be converted into autonomous campuses under the umbrella of the University Grants Commission. Universities should be made free from the academic burden of private colleges. The administrative department in the higher education institutions should be digitalised and also modernised to optimise the existing human resources in the university. The provision of research associates should be created for the smooth operation of relevant scientific instruments in a laboratory. In the end, institutional reforms in science and technology will be possible only if there is joint and meaningful effort by all the stakeholders.
Parajuli is Professor of Chemistry, TU
A version of this article appears in print on November 14, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.