Education Planning And Lapses

Prem Khatry

Education is the first best production a society can have and be proud of with a host of, literally countless, byproducts along the way. When will the time come to appreciate the reliable and sustainable plans heading towards the phenomenal development in our education system, political stability, planned economic progress leading to prosperity much talked about this year? Or, should we feel destined to see lots of spiral growths from the time of King Mahendra to the current times? There is one more or, we never learn from the past and engage fully in political bickering of the worst kind, instability in the name of ‘transitional phase in post-democratic era’ and half a dozen other pretexts that seem to keep us comfortably in Square One.
Last week, the writer talked about planning in general and focused on our very own and popular ‘haphazard’ planning culture. As if that didn’t satisfy his curiosity, here is one more focus – this time, lapses in our education planning. As always, the opinion are his own, too. Few, general and perhaps ‘small’ examples will be placed based on not just hearsay but field experience and study. First of all, a congratulatory note for the high level education commission entrusted and deployed by the government for pointing out problems in education sector, analysing all the ills that our education system has suffered for long even in the democratic age we are in and recommending fact and need based solution. The report has not been seen in public but there are rays of hope and people feel it is practical, urgent and dismisses all such reports prepared and shelved in the past.
The very first and urgent need at this time is the desired ownership claim of the contents especially its recommendation put forward by the Commission for immediate and urgent action by the government. The government had constituted this commission because its need was felt in order to bring the derailed school education system back to the right track. And recently they submitted the report.
In a feature article entitled ‘Roadmap to Bring Reform in Education Sector’ writer Babu Ram Biswakarma summarised the major features of the Commission report. Accepting the report from the Commission, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli showed concerns about the need to bring drastic change in public schools in Nepal. He said the urgent need was to improve the standard of these schools in order to see gradual phase-out of the private sector. Biswakarma in the abovementioned article says Nepal’s education is still run under the 1972 legal frames and system. Oli said – this has been a country of failures in school exams. If education doesn’t help the learners to enhance self-confidence, what good is it for?
This is the reason why proper decisions are lagging behind in giving proper direction our education system. The standard has gone down gradually and reaches a point of ‘no return’. Dr Bidya Nath Koirala, one member of the High Commission opines ‘whatever is gone, is gone, there is no place lower than the one we now are in. ‘ So, reform is the only way forward. This has been the roadmap we have worked out and handed over to the government.’
Earlier in post – 1990 era, international agencies like ADB, World Bank and other individual nations from Europe and America spent money for timely reform in Nepal’s school education. There were programmes like SSR (School Sector Reform). The loan money could virtually enslave the new born child with a load of loans to carry all life. The outcome was meager to nil. The early quarter of the century is witnessing rapid growth of private sector in education. Not only that. This sector is also able now to represent its plans and programmes through the nomination of big name private school principals, directors and chairs to the nation’s parliament. One can only guess what kind of policy would emerge from the role the private school principals and directors play in formulating police on education.
According to Biswakarma (Nepal weekly, 20 Magh, 2075), the high level commission submitted the report with 24 major points related to school reform. Education Minister Girirajmani Pokhrel said the report contains issues that are practical and doable. These can be implemented in the context of Nepal. There is expectation in the academic circle that a new law could be in the pipe line and this report will come handy in the preparation of the legal frame.
Thus far donor agencies influenced the policy making process. There were less evaluating and monitoring mechanisms at work. With the coming of the federal system of governance, it has been easier to monitor development in education sector. If this is noted by the concerned government, then reform will be effective and creative. But time only can tell as to how much budget can be allocated for education sector in these three tier government. Today the budget is occupying a very low percentage compared to other sectors.
In fact it is education that brings about changes in other aspects of our life and culture. Twenty to twenty-five per cent budget envisaged now could be a bit more than expected but even then only adequate budget can’t help the people meet their target of making the country prosperous. The government now has to give serious thought on the high level report and start planning policies on short and long term basis. Finally, we always lag behind in terms of proper policy and feasible programs. The unequal status of education in state and local units is keeping the economy and political participation in the far back seat. It is urgent that the recommendations are taken seriously and plans will start to appear focusing on the enhancement of public education.
(Former Dean of Humanities & Social Sciences, TU, and Fulbright scholar from University of California, Khatry mostly writes on cultural issues) 

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