School Education At Local Level
The school education has been devolved as the responsibility of the local level government. The Constitution in its schedule VIII makes it specific that basic and secondary education fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the local government. The Local Government Operation Act, 2017 in its section 11 makes an elaboration of the schedule 8 and enumerates competencies of the local level government in regard to, among others , management, regulation and administration of the basic and secondary level education . According to the section11 of the Act, local governments are endowed with the authority to map out the needs and establish schools at the local level to meet the school needs. Moreover, the local governments reserve the authority according to the law to form school management committee, recruit, transfer and dismiss the teachers.
But in order that the local governments are enabled to exercise legally entrusted functions, there is a need to develop local administrative, financial and managerial capacity of Gaupalika and Nagarpalika. Though the resource crunch has been said to be the major challenge of the local government to discharge their function, the proper, efficient and effective utilisation of the available resource is also equally important and deserves to be well emphasised. In fact, the public expenditure, allocated for school education, is consumed mostly by the salary provision of the teachers whereas learning outcome is poor and cannot, therefore, justify the outlay made in meeting the remunerations for teachers . In fact, education has been the major priority issue in Nepal and policy planners are always harping on the need for making education competitive and development oriented.
However, political meddling in education sector has given rise to several problems and crunches undermining the prospects for quality development in the sector of education. Strikes are often resorted to serve political ends. As a consequence, the question of ensuring teacher accountability has been important in achieving the quality of education. But, this is not only the case in Nepal but much talked about issue in developed countries like the US, Canada and the European countries. The teachers do oftentimes resist the measures introduced by the government to reform education seeking to make them accountable to the learning outcomes .We can take several cases from our own context when teachers seek to foil the plan to make them engaged and accountable to students . We can cite, among others, the examples of the TU attempt to introduce semester system in its constituent campuses which was primarily opposed by the teachers. Though they have now reconciled to the semester system, their reluctance is quite evident in the way they have responded to the system. In this regard, we can refer to the teachers’ strike staged in Chicago city not very long back as reported in the media when the city’s Mayor introduced the some measures to make teachers’ performance result-oriented and effective.
If the learning outcomes or curves of the students are better enhanced, the teachers will score better in terms of performance ranking if poor he or she will be held accountable and sanctioned accordingly. What prompted the Chicago Mayor to push the reform in achieving learning outcomes in the school provoking the wrath of teacher union, according to the news published in the media, had been poor learning outcomes of the children in the city schools. The teachers in Chicago city are among the best paid in the US but the performance is said to be deteriorating compared to the standards and quality in other cities. The state of affairs pointed out above in the US city of Chicago, though the context vastly differs, resembles to the problem we have been faced with in our country. Though all the public institutions are in a shambles in the country, the public education sector looks relatively worse. The best schools are counted from among those managed by the private hands whereas the old public schools endowed with historic legacy like Padmodaya, Bhanumadhyamik Vidyalaya , previously known as Durbar High school founded during the time of Chandra Shumsher have sunk into oblivion.
Though the school education up to lower secondary level is almost free, and the students passing out from the public schools are given preferential treatment and incentives in their pursuit of higher education especially in medicines and engineering, the dwindling attraction and interest of the guardians to send their children to these schools underscores the need for dispassionate introspection into the situation. By all standards, the salary structure and perks given to the teachers for the public schools is higher and more secure when compared against the remunerative provision at the private schools. The demands articulated by the teachers working for the private schools from time to time to raise their salary and perks at par with the public aided school teachers is itself an indication of not so poor salary structure fixed for the community school teachers . The school teachers working for the public schools are treated more or less at par with the civil servants and when there has been a rise in the salary of the civil servants, a corresponding increase of the salary and perks of the teachers is also announced simultaneously. It is time we made teachers accountable to their job.
In fact, the constitutional provision to devolve the function of education upon the local government constitutes a big leap forward for decentralised delivery of the education services and makes teachers accountable to their performance. But the problem lies in the partisan oriented local politics and dynamics that can further muddy the education if the care is not taken to insulate politics from education at the local level. Furthermore, the crux also lies in the capacity and orientation of the local governments to work for an enhanced quality and effective management of the school education pursuant to the constitutional mandates and provision.