Public Education Loses Trust

Mukti Rijal

 

The government has formed a commission to suggest measures for reforming education sector in the country. The panel has been constituted in supersession of the similar body that was reportedly yet to formally submit its report to the government. In fact, this government has its own interest and mandate to define own terms of reference for the commission in which experts seconded by it could be manned. The present government is meted out with criticism also owing to the fact that it has slashed the size of budgetary allocation given to the education sector.

Lobby
Moreover, withdrawal of education tax that was levied despite the opposition by the private schools has been viewed with suspicion alleging that the present dispensation has come under the influence of the private school lobby. The private school lobby is allegedly tied with the incumbent political party especially the erstwhile CPN- UML – the principal component of the present government headed by Prime Minister K.P Sharma Oli. Needless to say, the private sector dominates the education landscape in Nepal. Even when the education sector absorbed the largest chunk of the national budget during the past few years, the public education could not achieve any better outcomes.
However, it is an irony that the resources poured in financing public education have not yielded positive outcomes to contribute to development of education. The public education system management is seemingly losing trust and credibility of the people. The poor SEE result this year announced recently especially attributed to the poor performance of the public schools has been an indicator of the falling standard of the public schools. The dwindling enrolment and attendance in the public institutions irrespective of the levels - primary to tertiary- is a pointer to the fact that the people are no longer taking the public seats of learning seriously. Only those who cannot afford and do belong to the poor segment are compelled to send their children to community schools. The education system instead of equalising the divides in the society has acted as vector of social division and disparity.
The elites and haves are privileged to access to best available quality education imparted by 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 provided 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 instrument with a view to regulating private schools and bringing them under the purview of the law.
In this context, mention should be made of the directives issued by the Department of Education in regard to vernacularisation (Nepalikaran) to the names of the private schools a few years ago. 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 time 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 raised time and again. This is an 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 legislature that holds the clout to deter moves that go to discipline them to better serve the larger public interests. Political parties are reportedly 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.
Today whether it is communist or congress, the party functionaries are using the private schools in different roles and capacities as founders, operators, collaborators and colluders to extract resources for their own benefits and interests. Nepal has allowed the private sector to capture the very hardcore of the national education where the public sector plays the second fiddle.

Decentralisation
Needless to say, even the liberal democratic countries like the US and Canada that are guided by the principle of laissez 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. It is very difficult to say whether the decentralisation of public education service delivery through constitutional provision would make any difference to improve the profile of the public education in the country.

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