Transforming Education

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Bini Dahal

Considered as the backbone of development, the education sector has continued to evolve over the years in Nepal. While people’s access to education has increased significantly, the same cannot be said when it comes to its quality. There remains a big room for improvement and this has been clearly highlighted by the High Level National Education Commission’s report. Five years back, the Commission had come up with a comprehensive report recommending measures to improve the education sector in the country. But it was never publicised by the government and was kept under the carpet for years.

However, the incumbent government has taken the initiative to make the long-awaited document public. One of the key recommendations of the report is that it proposes converting private schools into trusts. Other major suggestions include facilitating private sector investment in education and increasing education budget to minimum 20 to 25 per cent of the budget or in GDP terms, at least 6 per cent. With a rising level of private sector investment in education, this sector has become highly commercialised today. Most private schools operate under the Company Registrar’s Office and are focused on making profits. 

It has been reasoned that changing private schools into trusts is to prevent teachers and school staff from getting exploited and ensuring that they are paid well. The report recommends such a conversion be made within 10 years. The commercialisation of the education sector is also not in tandem with what the constitution provisions. Referred to as a fundamental right, the right to education highlights that the state is responsible for providing compulsory and free education up to the basic level and free education up to the secondary level. These provisions put the government in the forefront when it comes to imparting free education up to secondary level. It is worth mentioning that this recommendation does not sit well with the private sector operators. And this is the reason why the report was not made public immediately after its inception. 

Talking about budgeting, despite being an indispensable sector, news reports have shown how the government spends only around 11 per cent of its budget on education. As the report suggests, over the years, stakeholders have continued demanding that the government allocate 20 per cent budget for the same. With our commitment to fulfilling Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 4, increasing education financing is a quintessential measure at present. Regarding the recommendation on government facilitating private sector investment, this is essential for the overall development of education. 

The support that the private sector provides can help create a synergy between the two major stakeholders. This is something that the constitution envisages under its state directives. Besides these key recommendations, there are other equally important suggestions that have the potential to bring about transformation in this field. Minister for Education, Science and Technology Sumana Shrestha has said that positive and contextual suggestions incorporated in the report would be implemented by the government.

A single report has shed light on the areas where the government can put its energy and effort to make necessary reforms in the education system. It is the responsibility of the government to take all the concerned stakeholders into confidence and make sure that the report is implemented effectively. It mustn’t be guided one particular interest group and their interest. The state’s efforts must be centred around public welfare.

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