Education Taking New Turn
The Education Commission, constituted by the incumbent government, has presented its report to the Prime Minister recently. The commission formed, almost six months ago, did an intensive and elaborate study to recommend massive and radical reforms in fixing and improving the deteriorating public education system in the country. The composition of the commission was multi-hued and pluralist as it brought experts of diverse perspectives and approaches together in a body to harness consensus and coherence in pulling the education system back on track in line with the provision of the federal constitution of Nepal.
The commission comprised votaries and champions of the strong public education system together with those who had profited immensely from guarding and running the private education establishments. It was apparent that a strong lobby of political elites would fight tooth and nail to safeguard the entrenched interest of the flourishing private sector education. However, some recommendations, couched in the commission report, indicate that those who actually fought for public education system have had an upper hand to a little extent. Needless to say, the federal constitution has guaranteed right of citizens to education, and creates an obligation to the state to strengthen the public education system.
Similarly, the constitution directs the state to take initiatives to regulate and gradually reduce the role of private sector in education system of the country. The commission has outlined 24-point roadmap to reform public education system dwelling at length and churning the ways and means of revamping public education in the country. The measures discussed in the report cover the institutional, regulatory, pedagogic and technical aspects which are considered essential in building a new and renovated frame of school education system in the country. The commission report spells casts an obligation upon the state to work in making secondary education up to Grade 12 free and compulsory within 15 years. Within five years, all the schools need to be provided with qualified, competent and well motivated teachers in adequate numbers with a view to make school education substantively based on quality.
The commission recommends to make it legally mandatory to require the teachers and government employees who draw salary from public exchequer, including members of the school management committees to send their children to public schools for education .Though this attempt is not completely new since there had been attempts made in the past in some local municipalities to require the teachers employed in the public schools to admit their kids in the school but this had been defied and challenged. However, if this provision is made legally mandatory and enforced throughout the country this can contribute towards imparting ownership in the key stakeholders in enhancing quality of the public schools in the country.
One of the important recommendations of the commission focuses on enhancing the technical and vocation education which states that the government should take initiative to introduce employment oriented vocational education in all general schools within five years. Moreover, well-equipped poly technical colleges will have to be established in all provinces. The school jurisdiction will be defined and the local residents will have to send their children to the school within their jurisdiction. The commission recommends that the government should require the private schools registered under the company act as not for profit entity to change over to trust to check the crass commercialisation of the private education in the country.
The relevant aspect to note in this regard has been that the teachers employed in the public schools and members of the school management committee would be debarred from investing in the operation of the private schools. If implemented effectively, this will help in curbing the endemic practices and tendencies where the most of the public school and campus teachers have been involved in setting up the private schools to the detriment of the public institutions in the country. The commission report also recommends for specifying and fixing the educational qualification with reference to which school head masters and teachers need to be recruited. Moreover, with a view to impart training to school teachers a high level and well equipped teacher training academy should be established . Moreover, in licensing teachers, a separate council should be set up in the country to conduct licensing examination. The commission report has made it a point that the partisan politics that has made inroads and dominated school education should be checkmated to create fair and healthy teaching and learning environment in public schools.
The report strongly recommends prohibiting politics from intruding into public schools that has been responsible to foul teaching and learning atmosphere. Currently, almost all teachers are party loyalist and have even taken up key roles and responsibilities in different organs and committees of the political parties. Political parties use teachers as their organiser, mobiliser and campaigners that has cost dearly in maintaining and enhancing the education system in the country. The government had time and again sent circulars to the district education offices single out and to rein in on the teachers who have got associated with political parties as their key functionaries. But this has not been effective in the past.
The commission has made several recommendations in regard to institutional reform of the higher education. So far the prime minister has been the chancellor of universities. But, according to the commission report this needs to be changed. A board of trustee of academics and intellectuals should be created to run the universities and it should be made responsible to elect the key officials of the university. Thus, the commission report has made some essential attempts to usher transformation in the education system. However, the recommendations need to be incorporated into the federal education act which is yet to be enacted. It is expected that the government acts seriously to implement the education reform measures enshrined in the commission report.
(Rijal, PhD, contributes regularly to TRN and writes on contemporary political economy and governance issues)