Curriculum Development Centre has recently unveiled the national curriculum structure heralding a new turn in the policy and structure of school education. In a bid to make the curriculum student-centric, the latest framework has developed a course with practical education components from early childhood development to grade 12. Among the major features of the curriculum include the provision of an integrated course from grade 1 to 3 and unitary course from grade 9 to 12. Authorities claim that the curriculum framework is based on critical review of global education practices and has been tailor made to cater to national aspirations. In this regard, the curriculum also intends to contribute for the graduation of Nepal into a middle-income country by 2030 according to one of the senior officials at the centre. The national curriculum structure comes in tandem with the spirit of the new constitution, existing education act and regulation, previous reports of the education commissions and periodic development plans. Fresh provisions in teaching of grade 11 and 12 which has now become a part of the school education need some close scrutiny. Eliminating the system of a particular discipline or stream based education, the new arrangement lists 3 compulsory subjects as English, Nepali and Social studies in the 11th grade and Life Skill in the 12th grade along with English and Nepali. It allows the flexibility of choosing other 2 subjects from different categories of optional subjects. The framework is flexible in terms of institutional transfer including the change in the subject chosen. For instance, students have the right to transfer to different institutions in 11 and 12 and a subject chosen in 11 can be dropped and next subject can also be opted in 12. One of the interesting provision is that students who choose physics can also learn psychology if he/she desires. While the actors of the new curriculum framework have stated that there were adequate stakeholder consultations and inputs sought from the larger education fraternity, dissenting voice against the recent framework has already surfaced. Particularly the omission of ‘ Maths’ under a compulsory course in grade 11 and 12 have invited severe criticism. Since this subject has been placed under optional course category, professors of Maths have publicly expressed their dissatisfaction over the recent move. Not only this, they have also alleged the government of not seeking their views during the framework development process. Some Maths expert have criticised that the government is trying to impress the donors by showing impressive exam results by removing Maths on the pretext of being a difficult subject. Similarly, one of the professors has expressed his dissatisfaction over including his name as expert in the committee without consulting with him. Making it clear that he has never attended any meeting related to the framework development, he has lamented at the government decision to put him in the list of experts without prior consent. The framework could have come up with more policy clarity as it what it really intends to achieve by imparting the new curriculum. Some pertinent questions have also emerged: Are the concerned teachers and school managers adequately informed of the latest change and they will embrace the new format easily? How can the government ensure the availability of qualified human resources to teach some relatively new subjects at grade 11 and 12? What about the views of the outgoing school students towards this change? Will it really address the career aspirations and fulfill the vacuum of national development? It is important for the government to address the genuine concerns pertaining to the removal of ‘Maths’ as a compulsory subject even for those who choose science related courses. The framework can be further revised taking the views of prominent educationists, parents, teachers and students. In fact, the ultimate aim should be to provide an education that is suitable to the soil as well as fit to the regional and global context. Although it appears that first few years of implementing the framework will be daunting, the government has no option but to go for it and expect a decent outcome in the passing years. Coupled with the task of preparing the students for national and global world of work including nurturing the values of integrity, professionalism and perseverance, the national curriculum framework in the beginning needs to earn the faith of the entire education fraternity. In this regard, dissemination works at the local and provincial level will be instrumental to inform the general public about the new curriculum structure.
(The author is a member of the Social Science and Research Faculty at NIMS. He writes regularly on contemporary socio-economic and political issues.)