Monday, 6 December, 2021

Education As State Function

Mukti Rijal


The federal constitution of Nepal promulgated in 2015 has reorganised functions and structures of the state. Of the several features of the constitution, the important one has been that it has guaranteed right to education as fundamental rights of the citizens. Article 31 of the constitution guarantees right relating to education proclaiming that every citizen shall have the right of access to basic education. Moreover, the constitution states that every citizen shall have the right to get compulsory and free education up to the basic level and free education up to the secondary level from the State.

Free education
Similarly, citizens with disabilities and the economically indigent citizens shall have the right to get free higher education. Likewise, the visually impaired citizens shall have the right to get free education through brail script and the citizens with hearing or speaking impairment, to get free education through sign language. The constitution articulates in no uncertain terms that every child shall have the right to education, health, maintenance, proper care, sports, entertainment and overall personality development from the families and the State. In the same vein, the constitution in its Article 39 reiterates that every child shall have the right to elementary child development and child participation.
The constitution has sought to ensure that the right to education elaborated above should be fulfilled and realised through the collaborative efforts of the local, state and federal government. The local government - Gaupalika and Nagarpalika - have been entrusted with exclusive mandate and competence to look after basic, primary and secondary level education which is an important provision from human rights point of view.
The decentralised approach of functional allocation enshrined in the constitution places more responsibility on the local government to strengthen and manage schools and education institutions to make it possible that quality education services are delivered and imparted in an efficient and effective manner at local jurisdictions. That the local governments are mandated and made responsible to look after education up to secondary level is based on the premise that decentralised approach to service delivery is more effective and appropriate to achieve the intended outcomes from quality and competitive education.
The federal constitution thus reclaims and reiterates the axiomatic truth that education is the core public service which needs to be implemented and provided to citizens through state support and resource allocation as fundamental rights of the citizens. Education is recognised as core public service and upheld as a basic human right. It is said to be central to unlocking human capabilities. Investment in education has tremendous instrumental value as it raises human capital, productivity, incomes, employability, and economic growth.
Moreover, its benefits go far beyond these monetary gains. In this context mention can be made of the World Development Report 2018 which highlights the importance of education in this fast changing competitive globalising world. The report substantiates through data that education makes people healthier and gives them more control over their lives. It generates trust among the people, boosts social capital, and creates institutions that promote inclusion and shared prosperity. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen describes education not only as freedom but also a promoter of human dignity and a foundation of freedom, justice, and peace. In the language of Amartya Sen’s capability approach, education increases both an individual’s assets and his or her ability to transform them into well-being.
The world development report collects cases and examples around the globe to exemplify education's corresponding salutary effects on communities and societies. Education expands productivity and worth through many channels and ways, both raising aspirations and increasing the potential to realise them. Families around the world in deed make great sacrifices to keep their children in good schools, and political and opinion leaders in many countries consistently rank education among their top development priorities.
Studies have established that education makes workers more productive, gainful, equipped and competitive if they are provided on the job follow up training and education. In this regard, the World Development Report confirms that the best way to reduce socio-economic inequalities and combat poverty is to make education universal and quality based and competitive. Thomas Piketty in his book Capital In the Twenty First Century mentions that educated people are more attached to the firms they work for and they are also more effective at acquiring, processing job search information and getting gainful employment. More schooling makes it easier for unemployed people to find reemployment.
In less developed economies with large informal sectors and underemployment, education is associated with greater access to full-time jobs in the formal sector. Education leads to longer lives and enables better life choices. Education promotes longer, healthier lives. More schooling is systematically associated with higher wages. Regardless of their race, gender, or income, educated individuals they have a lower probability of having a chronic health condition. Individuals with stronger skills can take better advantage of new technologies and adapt to changing work.

However, it is disappointing to note the state of paradox in the Nepali context as contrary to constitutional promise and expectations state is losing out its role and obligation to the private sector. It is clear from the constitutional stipulation that the education is core function of the state and it should not relinquish its role and obligation. But private sector has been allowed to function arbitrarily and indiscriminately in the education sector as a consequence of which egalitarian values and social justice has been compromised. The government should therefore reclaim its role to ensure that quality education is delivered at the expense of public exchequer without any discrimination.

(Rijal, PhD, contributes regularly to TRN and writes on contemporary political, economic and governance issues. He can be reached at