Historically, private education was meant to produce social elites who could preserve and advocate distinct religious, social and cultural values. However, in the last few decades, global educational agendas and neo-liberalism are the two major push factors that have led to privatisation in education. UN programmes, such as Education for All and the Sustainable Development Goals, put pressure on countries to fulfil their commitments. But countries like Nepal are not capable to meet them, hence privatisation in education prevails.
While privatisation provides immediate remedies, however, academics and practitioners are divided on whether they fit the purpose of education today.
In the last three decades, Nepal has experienced a massive proliferation of private schools.
According to the Ministry of Education, 15.8 per cent of all enrollment at the basic education level (grades1-8) are in private schools and 29 per cent in higher secondary schools. In Kathmandu, nearly 70 per cent of the pupils attend private schools. These private schools are delivering much higher quality education to the students compared to their public counterparts. However, most private schools operate like profit-oriented business firms.
They are exclusively funded by parents, and the governing bodies do not regulate their fee structures. These private schools have challenged the country’s capacity to deliver equitable education, based on social justice.
There are major differences between public and private schools in Nepal. First is the language of instruction and communication. In private schools, pupils and teachers are encouraged to speak in English, while in the public schools, Nepali is used. Secondly, public schools have little resources, especially in the rural areas.
Thirdly, teacher motivation in public schools is lower than in their private counterparts, leading to teachers’ absenteeism and lower performance.
Fourthly, parental pressure on public schools is lower because parents of private schools have a much greater stake in their child’s education.
Privatisation of education in Nepal has resulted in high tuition fees, large class sizes, less qualified teachers and parttime (non-committed) teachers.
Most of the resources are allocated for marketing with attractive school buildings and well-furnished classroom while encouraging temporary contracts, low salary and long working hours for the teachers.
A version of this article appears in print on May 10, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.