SSRP: Issues and recommendations The goals to be met
There is common understanding that a good education plan is the backbone of Nepal’s future socially, politically, economically and culturally. While the SSRP is a step in the right direction, we are not out of the woods yet.
Children, who are half of Nepal’s population, want access to quality education as is their fundamental right. Meanwhile the government is undertaking a far more ambitious five year plan, to radically alter the educational landscape of Nepal i.e. School Sector Reform Plan (SSRP) 2009-2013. This is a joint document of the Nepalese Government and donor agencies, combining the Education for All (EFA) and Secondary Education Support Programs (SESP) and aligning them to meet the three year interim plan and the Millennium Development Goals.
The Association of International Non-Governmental Organisation’s (AIN) Education Working Group came forward to gather a representative sample of voices from civil society, including teachers and school management committees. The latest draft, the result of many years of work and consultation with external development partners, is very encouraging. It is a document full of good intentions with a strong focus on results, which rightly advocates for child-oriented, culturally sensitive, and inclusive education. It demonstrates the strong commitment of the Government of Nepal towards a just, accessible and quality education for all. For this reason, the Ministry
of Education and Sport deserves commendation for what it has achieved so far. Still the plan will require adequate funding, commitment and appropriate legislature as pre-requisites for effective delivery.
There is common understanding that a good education plan is the backbone of Nepal’s future socially, politically, economically and culturally. While the SSRP is a step in the right direction, we are not out of the woods yet. A broader debate is needed, particularly on whether there is sufficient funding and political commitment for its implementation and whether there is ownership of the approaches, activities and results by concerned stakeholders, including teachers.
AIN firmly believes that access to free and compulsory basic education and free secondary education is the fundamental right of each Nepali citizen. The SSR plan mentions the need for “minimum enabling environments” for education, but does not define what they would be. Norms and standards need to be clarified, such as a maximum teacher/student ratio and what quality education entails. INGOs, in partnership with national and local NGOs, have trialled initiatives like “Learn without Fear”, “Active Teaching Learning” and “Schools as a Zone of Peace” which the government could draw upon. In order to ensure compulsory education, Nepal need acts which define who is responsible if a child is out of school, what steps are to be taken, and whether any sanctions are necessary. Also legislation needs to be brought in to ensure that the recruitment and retention of teachers and head teachers is transparent and based on merit.
Decentralisation is a central component of the SSRP plan, with a lot of emphasis placed on increasing the role of Village Development Committees (VDCs) and District Development Committees (DDCs). However there is no plan to also increase their capacity and they will be overstretched without appropriate funds, human resources and management ability. Similarly, there is concern about the ability of School Management Committees to meaningfully integrate this plan into their annual school improvement plans and annual strategic implementation plan - particularly since the SSRP lacks a clear, practical implementation plan to achieve its stated goals.
Education should be given its due importance by different ministries not just the Ministry of Education, but by the Ministries of Health (particularly as regards school health and nutrition), of Local Development and of Women, Children and Social Welfare. AIN suggests discussing the SSRP with concerned ministries and the national planning commission before its approval, so that implementation takes place at local, district and national level in a coordinated and collaborative way. Similarly, the works of I/NGOs need to be incorporated into a single joint plan at district and national level, to work in synergy with the government to impact the education sector as a whole. Meanwhile, district and central government consider civil society organizations as complementary and supplementary to their work and service provisions. Accountability and transparency need to be enhanced at all levels, particularly the role of civil society as a watch dog and government as a duty-bearer.
These are just a few of the key concerns on the SSRP that the AIN Education Working Group has already submitted in a formal document to the Ministry of Education and EFA donors group for their consideration. The country has an incredible opportunity to transform and improve the national educational outcome, and to strengthen the role of the communities in the ensuring a quality education for all is not a dream but a concrete, achievable reality. Political parties, concerned ministries, external development partners, and educationists need to increase their ownership of the SSRP so we can work together effectively to deliver quality education to all the children of Nepal as is their fundamental right.
Galimberti is Deputy Country Director at CCS Italy and AIN EWG coordinator