Roadblock In Education Reform

 

Mukti Rijal

The private sector dominates the education landscape in Nepal. The domination of private sector in education has been always on the ascendancy. Even when the education sector absorbed the largest chunk of the national budget over the the past few years in succession it did not achieve any outcomes worth to note ,Even today the sizeable proportion of the national resources is spent for the public education.

However, it is again a bitter reality that the resources poured in financing public education have not yielded positive and effective outcomes to contribute to the development of education . The public education system management is losing trust and credibility of the people. The dwindling enrolment and attendance in the public institutions irrespective of the levels –primary to tertiary level- is a pointer to the fact that the people are no longer taking the public seats of learning seriously.

Only those who can not afford and do belong to the impoverished segment of the society are compelled to send their children to the community schools. The education system instead of equalising the divides in the society has acted as the vector of the division and fragmentation. The elites and haves are privileged to access to the best available quality education imparted by the private or the missionary schools both within and outside the country whereas the poor and have nots are forced to reconcile to the community schools where logistics and facilities are not available or not designed properly to suit to the decent learning environment.

The regulatory framework to monitor private school is also very poor and ineffective. The government has promulgated a range of directives and instruments with a view to regulating the private schools and bringing them under the purview of the law. The directives and guidelines seek not only to streamlining the arbitrariness witnessed in prescribing books but also regulating the chaos and anomalies observed in the management of the schools. Should education be corporatised and registered as a profit making enterprise is also the question raised time and again.

In this context, mention should be made of the directives issued by the Dept of Education in regard to vernacularisation (Nepalikaran) to the names of the private schools. Needless to mention, naming of the private schools has been carried out in an outlandish and brazen manner through counterfeiting the brands of the alien and non-Nepalese overseas institutes, schools and universities Many of the Nepalese private schools have donned the garb of the English schools in nomenclatures but not in substance. They have done especially to hoodwink the guardians and camouflage the parents. They have been able to lure and deceive the guardians by charging the exorbitant fees.

The government directives require that the private schools uncover the camouflages and lift the mask and coin the names of the schools to suit to and reflect the Nepalese culture, art and heritage. However, many a times government has failed to enforce the provision to ensure that the private schools abide by and follow the rules and regulations .Why the rules and regulations are not enforced but flouted with impunity is a question t raised time and again. This is the issue that could be answered only when we look at the state of political dynamics, tendencies and behaviour of political actors.

 In fact, the state policy has been captured by the political elites representing different occupational and business interests. The private school lobby is strong both at the upper echelon of political parties and national legislatures that holds the clout to deter any, moves that go to discipline them to better serve the larger public interests. Political parties are fully influenced and completely subdued by the financial clout collected and reserved by private education lobby and dare not to take initiative to rein in on their growing muscles in the national educational policy. Private schools act as the major supporter and financier of the political activities and campaigning . It was a time in the past when the

Maoists opposed to the establishment and operation of the private owned education institutions. They argued that these institutions have given rise to dual education system to the detriment of the poor and underprivileged groups of the people. They used to proclaim that they would nationalise the private schools when they won power to rule the country.  

However, the Maoist opposition to private schools and colleges got subdued and silenced after they entered the peace process and consequently ruled the country. It was later revealed that their opposition to the private schools was not based on any principle but to extract donation and extortion through threats and intimidation. Today whether it is Maoists , UMLites or Congressites the party functionaries are using the private schools in different toles and capaciitires as founders, operators, collaboraors and colluders to extract resources for their own benefits and interests.

Almost ten members of the present national legislature parliament come from private school lobby and hold immense clout to block any move that are perceived to be detrimental to the interests of the private school. Nepal has allowed the private sector to capture the very hardcore of the national education where the public sector plays the second fiddle.

Needless to say , even the liberal democratic countries like the US , Canada that are guided by the principle of lassez fairism too have not allowed an unhindered space to the private sector in the core public sectors like education and health . But in a poor country like Nepal where public funding is vital to expand access of the citizens to education, private sector has occupied the major space making education expensive and inaccessible to the poor segment of the society.  

The growing consumerism among the party leaders belonging to the radical political parties among others have churned and extracted profit from the private schools

 

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