Plight Of Public Schools

Mukti Rijal

The plight of the public schools in Nepal has worsened over the years. It is the utter imprudence and ill-conceived interest of the policy makers and government officials that has contributed to deterioration of the school education in the country. A case that is sub judice in the court speaks volume about the vested interest of the politicians and bureaucrats, among others, that have led public education system into the sad state of deterioration. The government formulated the much- awaited education regulations not very long back that relaxed and compromised on the minimum requirement for confirming and regularising the job of the teachers working on contractual basis. Moreover, the government signed an agreement with the teachers committing that they would made the regular and permanent without having to go through standard open and fairly competitive test. Even as they fail in the tailored exam, they would be compensated for in a handsome manner. This has been challenged in the court contending that it shuts out the door for the qualified candidates to vie for the teaching job which is against the principle of natural justice, fairness and established norms for recruitment in the public institutions.

Such and many other short-sighted decisions of the government giving in to the pressures and influence of the vested political interests have created adverse consequences to impair the education system in the country. As a result, the pull of the community schools and attraction of the community schools has virtually suffered a setback. The government formulates plan to launch massive campaign to help enroll students in the public schools but the result has been largely a failure. Even some community schools in the urban and semi-urban areas of the country have failed to attract and get new enrolment of students especially due to their poor teaching learning environment. Some schools especially in the Kathmandu Valley that have been blanked due to zero enrolment of the students have either been merged with the neighbouring schools or the teachers concerned have been transferred and adjusted accordingly.
The government had also proposed to provide incentives to the teachers and government employees who tend to choose to send their children to study in the government-aided community schools. The policy to provide incentives and rewards was expected to contribute not only to increase the rate of enrolment in the schools but raise the legitimacy of the educational institutions. However, it did not help much .Today it is found that teachers in the community schools irrespective of the levels send their children to the private schools indicating that they themselves have no confidence in the teaching learning environment in the schools that they are venerated, paid for and employed in the privileged and respectable position of teachers and educators. When the teachers who need to own and be accountable to the teaching and learning outcomes in the school have lost their trust in the learning effectiveness in the schools they are associated with it is almost futile to expect the improved and the quality learning environment in the public schools.
In Nepal, it was a time in the sixties and the seventies when the government-aided schools had dominated the education landscape. And education was completely a subject of government obligation. Though the reach and expansion of the schools was limited and confined to some convenient locations in the district in those days, education imparted to children in the public schools was uniform and more or less egalitarian. It means that same level and quality of education was imparted to the children no matter differences and disparity in their social and economic status and background. Public school education was a kind of equalising and leveling means as children of rich and poor, upper and lower caste groups joined in the same school and shared the same educational pedestal and facilities.
When the education sector was liberalised and opened for private sector participation especially during late eighties through amendment to the Education Act and Rules, it unleashed the unregulated mushrooming growth of the private schools both in the urban, semi-urban and even in the rural areas of the country. The private schools slowly captured the education landscape. As a consequence, the social and political elites started to disown and discard public school education on various counts. First, they let down and withdrew from the public schools, leaving them to fend off for themselves by sending their children to the private schools. Moreover, as private schools and colleges became more of a kind of lucrative business enterprises and ventures, political and social elites emerged as the key and important stakeholders for private investment in education sector. Today they can foil any policy initiatives and measures to rein in and regulate the private schools.

Public stakes
Once elites and educated group of people lose their stakes and interest in the quality of public school education, the social support, participation and pressure to ensure and maintain the quality of education in public schools is bound to be insufficient. The crux of the matter lies as to how to strengthen and expand public stakes and ownership for education as it is the core and obligatory function of the state in a democratic society. The Education Ministry proposes to increase the stakes of the teachers and government employees through incentives and motivations. However, this is not enough. The teachers both in the public schools and colleges should be sanctioned and punished if they disown the public institution and send their kids to private institutions for education. As the school education has come under the purview of the local government it is incumbent upon them to restructure and transform the education sector in the country.

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