Education Act Amendment Focus Should Be On Quality
Finally, the government got the Eighth Amendment Bill of the Education Act through the parliament the other day. This is claimed to be a major achievement of the government as attempts to amend the act had been in vogue for the last several years. But the attempts had been failed because of the opposition mounted by the private school lobby.
Private school lobby
Needless to mention, the private school lobby is strong today, and it holds clout both in terms of resources and political advocacy. Similar to the polarity and political fragmentation in different walks of life, the private schools are organised, and have created their organisations or unions more or less in accordance with their political affiliations.
As most of the private schools have been networked into around these unions, an orchestrated voice has been articulated to oppose the government move to better regulate them. Futhermore, there is a strong presence of the private school lobby in the national legislature since the school operators themselves have accessed a berth in the national lawmaking institution. They tend to stand united and seek to scuttle attempts to regulate them in the public interest.
Whether it is to regulate the process of raising the fees by setting a minimum yardstick or standardising the curriculum and text books, discernible resistance has been mounted by the private school lobby. As a result, none of the government attempts have succeeded fully because the lobby has been able to exert influence as they have access to the corridors of power.
Despite this, however, the bill has been ratified by the parliament. In fact, it had been tabled in the parliament by the predecessor education minister but been shelved due to controversies over some provisions.
The present version of the bill gathered the support of the parties and their lawmakers only when some of its original provisions were deleted. The major provision deleted is related to the conversion of the school ownership structure from a private corporate to a cooperative. This reportedly was the bone of contention that had allegedly blocked the passage of the bill. Once the provision was deleted, support was extended to the bill in the national parliament.
The amended bill restructures the form and pattern of school education in Nepal. With this eighth amendment, the Higher Secondary Board and the SLC Board will be phased out. And the central examination board will be created to replace them to oversee school education and conduct the examination. The final and standard board examination will be conducted in grade twelve, not in grade ten as has been the practice so far.
Moreover, the examination for grade ten will be held at the regional level. Once the act takes effect, the school education in Nepal will be divided into two levels - basic
from grades one to eight, and secondary from grades eight to twelve.
Another major provision in the bill has been the option to the temporary teachers to go for voluntary exit of their job, for which they will be given a golden handshake. Similarly, those teachers who were forced to quit their job during the Maoist insurgency will be reinstated. These provisions in the bill may add a financial burden on the national exchequer if the number of teachers who are restored to their jobs is sizeable.
But it looks like that the number should be significantly less because most of those who were compelled to quit their job would already have completed the age of their retirement had they continued with their employment till this time.
Though the amendment to the Education Act was long overdue and carries some important provisions that deserve appreciation, the most important part is quality and standard enhancement of the education system. Public education in Nepal has been in a shambles despite the huge capital outlay to improve and develop the sector. European donors, the World Bank and other development partners have put in resources to develop infrastructure and for the effective management of school education.
If one assesses the output and outcome of the public education system in Nepal, one finds only quantitative expansion in terms of setting up new schools and increasing enrolment. Though this is necessary, the time has come to place focus on quality growth and development of education, which is almost nil.
There are two major impediments in fostering quality in school education, that is, poor performance of the teachers in the classroom. Accompanied with this is the obsolete curriculum, traditional methodology of teaching, especially based on rote learning. This has contributed in diminishing the quality of education imparted in the classroom.
Active in politics
Moreover, teachers are politically polarised and said to be actively associated with the political parties that take them away from carrying out their responsibilities with all sense of dedication. Though the bill intends to address the anomaly, prohibiting teachers from taking part in party politics, this will not deter them from active involvement in politics as the teachers are organised in the frontal organisations of the parties. No regulating agency will dare to penalise or sanction the teachers for their involvement in politics.
However, another appreciable provision in the bill has been the one that requires teachers to be transferred at least every two years. Though this provision is problematic enough and difficult to implement, it may actuate teachers to be prepared to face a new situation and pedagogic reality.