Tuesday, 3 August, 2021

Education should produce qualified, civilised citizens


Nepal’s education is now in a transitional phase. A sort of mess could be seen in the education system, especially after the nation adopted federal system. While local levels in many districts have failed to manage the public schools properly, the government in the centre has been unable to appoint officials in the universities. Likewise, the education sector has been marred by politicisation. Meantime, the government has been introducing new policies and programmes to reform the education sector. In this backdrop, Minister for Education, Science and Technology Giriraj Mani Pokharel expressed his views highlighting the initiatives taken by the government to bring the education system in the right track during the weekly Gorkhapatra Sambad on Sunday. Excerpts:


Firstly, we are able to establish education as the infrastructure of infrastructure. The far-sightedness of the nation’s education should be to produce qualified, civilised and productive citizens. When the country has embraced federal system of governance, a kind of vacuum has been noticed in all sectors, including education system, in lack of clear legal provisions and because of our unfamiliarity with the federal system. The Constitution keeps school education under the common responsibility of local governments and federal government. Our universities are also unable to produce market-required manpower. In this context, the government has been working to introduce proper acts and policies for the development of education sector.

Policies, laws
The government has recently introduced National Education Policy-2076. This is the most managed and integrated education policy in the history of Nepal. The policy has incorporated the national framework of basic education, secondary education, higher education, technical education and formal as well as informal education.
Along with the introduction of the policy the government has introduced Free and Compulsory Education Act-2076. The drafts of Higher Education Act and Technical Education Act are ready. They will be submitted in the parliament in the current winter session. Likewise, the government has been exercising to introduce another integrated education act. The government has been introducing acts as guided by the policies. So, we are in the right track.
While leading the Education Ministry for the second time, I had committed to connecting education with science and technology. Fortunately, the Ministry for Education and Science and Technology are now together. So, giving high priority to science and technology, this government introduced the Science Technology and Innovation Policy-2076.

School Education
The education policy illustrates that the basic education up to grade 8 is mandatory for entering in any type of jobs, getting social security and other facilities after April 2028.
In the context of secondary education, education up to grade 10 is free that will be extended up to grade 12 soon. We are setting a plan that along with completion of grade 12, the students have to achieve at least one skill with them.
From 2046 to 2072 BS, people understood the quality education as delivering the knowledge in English medium. So, both the private and public schools converted themselves that way. English is essential but students also have to have command in Nepali.
Now, we are defining the quality education, according to which, after getting certain educational degree, the students have to be skillful, civilized, and capable to generate income and sellable in the market.

Private and public education
The nation has adopted three-pillar education policy--public, private and trust-based education institutions. The government is now in a mega campaign to strengthen public education. So, it has declared the decade from (2075-2085 BS) as a decade of strengthening public education. Likewise, the government has a policy to regulate and manage the private institutions properly and promote the trust-based schools.
Although the government has planned to regulate all institutions in a balanced way, some people are criticising that the government is protecting the private institutions. But the government has a clear vision that there is no requirement to restrict the private schools for strengthening public education. The government has to assure the citizens’ right to getting school education. But the guardians have rights to select the right educational institutions.
Private institutions must be complementary to public education.

Local governments in school education
After the Constitution granted the rights of school education to the local levels, it seems some confusion has been created among the stakeholders, including local the governments. Some local governments are seeking the rights to appoint teachers by themselves. But till now the Constitution recognises only the Teachers’ Service Commission for that job. Only the teachers recruited by the Commission could provide quality education as we have dreamt. Therefore, the government has been planning to extend the Commission in the State level as well.
Now, at least one education officer is deployed in each local level across the country. Therefore, in this situation, it is easy to change school education because it is easy to implement the idea and vision of education through the local governments.
Under this system, the center has been facing problem of getting required data while all local levels are not reporting to the federal government.

Technical education
The government has been setting plans and programmes to connect technology with education. Due to that, the government has been establishing at least one technical stream education in all local levels. The programme is running from grade nine to grade ten. Though we are yet to establish infrastructures for those institutions, some local governments have been running the technical stream education by selecting some model schools of their choice.
Likewise, the government has decided to establish Madan Bhandari University of Science and Technology and Yogmaya Aayurbedic University.
This era has been declared as Artificial Intelligence era. Therefore, Nepal is also planning to organise artificial intelligence international conference to go at par the global development.

Higher Education
In the context of higher education, our education system has been limited only in classroom. The government is focusing that the universities must be focused in research based education. The upcoming higher education act will give a clear outline for this.
Likewise, the government has planned to send university students having Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees to public schools as volunteer teachers under ‘Chinau Afnai Mato, Banau Aafnai Desh’ (Know your land by yourself, build your country yourself) programme.
The government will mobilise the students that way before granting them the certificates of their concerned degrees. The government has introduced the programme with an aim of fulfilling the dearth of teachers of mathematics and science subjects in the community schools. The university students will be mobilised under the programme from the starting of next academic session.
The government recently decided to provide Rs. 30, 000 for bachelor degree students per month and Rs. 32,000 for master degree students. Such students will be deployed in those schools which have a shortage of school teachers. There is still a shortage of 39,000 school teacher.
A total of Rs. 500 million is allocated for this programme. And Rs.1 billion allocated under the teaching learning grant will also be used for the programme.

University appointment
Appointment of officials, including vice-chancellors, in six universities across the country has been delayed as the government has been engaged in an exercise to fill the posts only after reaching a comprehensive agreement with the major political parties.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Chancellor of the universities, is taking initiative himself to reach an agreement with the political parties, including the main opposition. Therefore, the appointment of the officials has been delayed in an effort to appoint the competent persons in the universities. So, we can expect this time the leaders of universities will go to work along with vision.

Medical education
Regarding the medical education, the Ministry introduced Medical Education Act. The government has formed Medical Education Commission and it has started to work after getting all officials.
The provision of 75 per cent scholarship for medical students is under the implementation process.
Lately, some problems of medical education regarding the charging of higher fee were addressed in the initiation of the Ministry. Other remaining problems will resolve by the commission. So, we could see significant change in medical education.

Science and Technology
As I mentioned earlier, the Science Technology and Innovation policy was introduced after an exercise lasting for 15 years. Breaking the trends soon after the introduction of the policy, recently the government conducted a meeting of the science council. The council has formulated an action plan for the improvement of science and technology sectors.
In our school education, the students’ achievement in science and mathematics is below 50 per cent. That could not be change unless we connect science subject with innovation. Therefore, the government has been focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.
And recently, a bill on Safe and Peaceful use of Nuclear and Radioactive Materials was registered by the Ministry.

In conclusion, in 20 months in the office, I made sincere attempts to bring about some changes in education. Though delayed, the education policy and the science, technology innovation policy are now with us. Many acts and programmes are in the process of formation. The problems of temporary teachers have been resolved permanently. We all can see the changes in education within a few years. So, I humbly request all stakeholders to make their effort to change the education of the country.

(Prepared by Manjima Dhakal. Photographs by Kabita Thapa)