Private sector: New paradigm in Nepali education
The ultimate goal of education now is developing a society of knowledge-based economy and leveraging mankind towards a better and comfortable life. It is a continuous process to meet the ‘essence of knowledge’ which is enlightened and harnessed to bring about a positive change in our beliefs, values and thoughts. And universities are the primary source of that knowledge. But our universities have yet to begin the process of transforming the ‘essence of education’ into ‘knowledge’. This challenge has remained for the last three decades. Our policy-makers, educators and universities have not yet realised the need of a paradigm shift in the ‘essence of education’.
Our universities must think about developing ‘entrepreneurship’ within the university system (curriculum, teaching methodology and evaluation system, incubation, etc.) and basic guidelines and principles (thereby creating a society of knowledge-based economy). On the other hand, the universities must be prepared to compete globally. University education must focus on research and innovation.
But since our universities are highly politicised and fragmented, the authorities have not been able to address the existing problems. Except curriculum designing and conducting examinations, nothing concrete has been achieved. Moreover, most of the students and teachers have become victims of the political unrest. This has created educational anomalies among the universities, turning them into breeding grounds for political activities. We have also lost our priorities in trying to demolish established practices in the name of radical changes. We are developing a stone-throw culture and undisciplined intellectual society among the teachers and students. As a result, the universities are mired in uncertainties, leading to deterioration of quality in education. The country, in turn, has to accommodate hundreds of thousands of unemployable, low-esteemed graduates.
We can achieve the expected outcome only if the whole community of academia and other stakeholders are devoted to their tasks. Enterprising initiatives, ideas, research and innovations can lead the universities to academic excellence. All universities should make a vision for at least 20 years. The students, researchers and faculty should get access to latest technology. Moreover, the government and various forums of scientists, professionals and experts should be able to utilise the result of the research works.
Educational entrepreneurship can be initiated by developing high-standard infrastructure and teaching resources. Universities can attract researchers, scientists and educationists to develop the best academic institutions and research centres and can incorporate private academic institutions and industries for the benefit of both the parties. They can develop business incubation centres for joint research and training.
Government-funded universities should also promote competition and academic excellence in their constituent and affiliated colleges. The government should develop existing colleges in specialised subjects in all 75 districts. The total budget of the 75 model colleges should be provided by the government for a period of 10 years, along with long-term bank loans with low interest rates for development of infrastructure, learning resources and other academic facilities. Likewise, donor agencies such as World Bank, UNICEF and UMN can
support such institutions. The government should set aside up to 50%
of TDS and income taxes paid by private institutions for development fund for model colleges. There should be
a separate wing under the Ministry of Education (MoE) to manage such institutions. In this way, the government colleges can develop leadership, entrepreneurship and competitiveness.
In order to make them financially sustainable, such colleges can take entrepreneurship in providing banks loans to meritorious students from poor family background, under-privileged classes and remote districts. After completion of their studies, the university should give them priority in employment opportunities in government, private sectors and overseas so that they can pay back the loans.
Approximately, Rs 75 billion has already been invested in private institutions. The annual outflow of capital from students going abroad is about Rs 5 billion, whereas the annual revenue from private academic institutions is around Rs 30 billion. So educational institutions, particularly the private ones, have been successful in mobilising the capital within the country.
With a view to developing entrepreneurship and private sector’s initiative in higher education as well as to meet the challenges of WTO commitments in allowing foreign investments in education sector, the government should formulate a separate Education Board for Private Institutions under the MoE for effective management of institutes of higher education.
Sharma is CEO, Himalayan White House International College