The government launched the new National Education Policy 2076 in November. With the country adopting the federal mode of governance, the policy was unveiled to make it compatible with the federal structure and the provision of education as encapsulated in the federal constitution of the country. The provision of education is included in Article 31 of the constitution. The provision has ensured the right to basic education, compulsory and free education up to the basic level, free education up to the secondary level, free access to higher education for the disabled and economically backward people, education in mother tongues and the right to open schools and other educational institutions, among others. To ensure the implementation of this provision, the government has come up with the new education policy.
Lofty goal The policy has a lofty goal of developing the country as an educational hub with provision for world-class education in certain specific subjects. Education is the core of development, without education, development cannot be even conceived of. The policy aims to produce competent, skilled and tech-savvy human resources for the transformation of the country so that the country can notch up the goal of 'Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali' by leading the country to the path of prosperity. So, the slogan of the policy 'Educated, civilised, healthy and competent human resources, social justice, transformation and prosperity' is apt and to the point. The policy stresses the development of human resources. It seeks to develop human resources keeping abreast of the needs of the country through competitive, technology-friendly, employment-intensive and production-oriented education. Today, education in the form of a bunch of theories hardly helps people. They need technical, vocational or skill-developing education so that they can make their life meaningful and contribute to the national economy. The policy envisages the formation of a higher education council under the leadership of the Prime Minister for the effective regulation and management of higher education in the country. The Prime Minister taking over the leadership of the proposed council does not seem to be reasonable. This may politicise such a council. At a time when the education sector needs to be de-politicised, such a policy-level provision may further stoke the politicisation of the education sector. So such a council needs to be under the leadership of a competent teacher or educationist with a group of other competent teachers and educationists as members or advisors. One of the prominent features of the policy is 'technical education for all'. The policy intends to provide technical and vocational education and skill development opportunities for all the interested people by beefing up the institutional capacity of the concerned agencies. Thus, the policy has emphasised practical over theoretical aspects of education. The policy has envisioned the gradual implementation of the concept of school zoning in basic education. Accordingly, specialised schools of various subjects like science, music, sports, Ayurveda and herbal medicine will be set up, operated and managed in an effective way. The policy has also envisaged the establishment of a state-of-the-art science school to give a shot-in-the-arm to science and technology. This provision is encouraging given the dismal progress in the field of science and technology in the country. As per the policy, higher education graduates will have to serve the country as volunteers in social service for a certain period of time. For this, the National Development Service will be set up to help such volunteers in acquiring practical skills and knowledge and harnessing the benefits of higher education in social service. Such a provision may be taken as a kind of thesis. There is a provision in the policy for initiating apprenticeship programmes to connect technical and vocational education. The existing organisational structure of universities will be reviewed so as to strengthen their institutional capacity. As stipulated in the policy, the government will provide inclusive and special education for disabled children to meet their learning needs on the basis of priority, encouragement and positive discrimination. The policy has fixed the minimum qualifications of teachers teaching in child care centres/classes at grade 10. The policy has ensured that the teachers and staff of child care centres/classes get at least the basic wages as per the Labour Act. The policy has stipulated that professional degrees cannot be obtained before academic degrees. And teachers will be made permanent only on the recommendation of the Teacher Service Commission. The policy aims at producing qualified and self-motivated teachers in all schools in the country within five years by paying heed to such factors as motivation, professional integrity and capacity building. It would be encouraging to note that the performance evaluation of teachers will be based on the learning achievements of students. This provision will make teachers responsible for the results of students, thus encouraging them to put in more efforts to create a better learning environment.
Reforms The ultimate goal of the policy is to bring about reforms in the education sector and materialise the slogan 'education for all', which has remained unmet for years. The country has also set a target of eliminating illiteracy within two years through formal and non-formal education. The issues that cannot be addressed by this policy will be incorporated in the Federal Education Act. As the policy is pro-active and compatible with the provision of education in the constitution, it may be hoped that the honest implementation of the policy will bring about reforms in the education sector and produce skilled human resources that can steer the country towards the path of prosperity.
(Former banker, Maharjan has been regularly writing on contemporary issues for this daily since 2000. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)