Nepal | January 23, 2021

Prosperity dreams: Education is the key

Ganesh Bist & Dinesh Khanal
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Our education system needs an overhaul. Unless we change the system as per the requirements of the country with emphasis on practical and research-based education, the prosperity slogan will face  severe challenges

Illustration: Ratna Sagar Shrestha/THT

One of our acquaintances recently appeared in the intermediate level examination (science faculty). He was waiting for the results. When asked what his immediate future plans were, he replied: “I will join diploma in the engineering of the CTEVT (Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training) because it will help me get a government job.”

He is just a representative character which shows Nepali youths’ fixation with “government job”.

In Nepal, the government allocates 70 per cent of the educational budget for technical education—like the one imparted by the CTEVT—and the rest goes to non-technical education sector with the aim of producing self-employed and skilled workforce.

In other words, the government targets to build a workforce that is competitive enough in the public and private sectors in national and the international labour market. However, rather than establishing start-ups and creating new private sector jobs, Nepali workforce is racing towards limited and somewhat routine jobs in the government sector.

Is our education system really competent enough to meet the target of government?

Our prime minister and political leaders have now been using every single opportunity to peddle the slogan of “Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali”. But what seems to be missing is whether we have indeed internalized what all the essential factors that will ultimately contribute to making Nepal a prosperous country. To be more specific: have we acknowledged the importance of the type of education a developing country like ours needs to produce self-employed and skilled labours? Obviously, there are a lot of challenges ahead to achieve the target.

One of the major challenges is curbing the increasing number of drop outs.  In the present scenario, various researches of different concerned authorities demonstrate that students’ dropout ratio is in increasing order. Before the completion of secondary education, about 70-80 per cent of students are out of school. In addition, the situation is more miserable in higher level education: only 2 per cent of students attend the university education. This dropout rate is either because of students are not getting what they want to learn or they don’t feel their life secure after 25 years of formal education.

Furthermore, in Nepal, around five lakh youths, along with those dropout and those who have completed formal education, enter the labour market every year. Nonetheless, only around 50,000 among them get an efficient job in public and private sectors collectively.

The next hurdle is the traditional and outdated contents taught in our educational institutions. Several wings of Nepali education have not been able to achieve their respective goals. From pre-primary school, whose goal is to make students free thinkers, to universities, whose aim is to make students contribute to research, their respective objectives are not being met.

In reality, pre-primary schools are teaching students what teachers want (to teach) and universities are just providing degrees rather than producing a quality workforce. Medical institutions are failing to produce quality doctors. And the same applies to engineering faculty, the CTEVT and so forth. This monotonous and unproductive education system that does not create a suitable platform for self-employment and innovation is making the whole country dull and slow.

Nepal has been lagging behind when it comes to providing practical knowledge and exposure to the students, thereby providing minimum time to innovate and experiment.

A new study from Georgetown University’s center on education and workforce finds that over the past 25 years, more than 70 per cent of college students have worked while attending school. But in our country the scenario is different. Organisations don’t want students as part-time workers because they think part-time workers are not productive. Then students in Nepal also do not want to work because of various reasons. For example, a student pursuing BBA or MBA won’t work in a restaurant. Even if students want to take part-time jobs, colleges will stand as an obstacle; for the general belief is it might affect students GPA thereby tarnishing the image of the institution. Additionally, parents do not let their children work because they feel their children are not “mature enough” to work. In Nepal, students spend their first 25 years only on acquiring formal education. This means Nepal is losing the most productive labour hours.

There is no denying that Nepal is lagging far behind in economic development. So we need to learn from different nations, economists, and specialists about the significant role education can play in equal and sustainable development. The education system should be changed with the changing requirements of the country. It should be more practical, or emphasis should be given to formulation and implementation of policies that support technical and skill-based education.

Universities should focus on research and development of different socio-economic phenomena of society. Entrepreneurship and start-up culture should be promoted in business colleges and other educational institutions. Only after that can the “Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali” slogan materialise into reality.

A version of this article appears in print on October 31, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.

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