Falling shortEducation Ministry must pay heed to serious reservations from experts and lawmakers
Earlier this month, the government formed a High Level Education Commission (HLEC) under Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Gopalman Shrestha to formulate an education policy that fits into the federal scenario under the new political context. The commission is already making waves, with the resignation of education experts and members of the commission Kedar Bhakta Mathema and Mana Prasad Wagle over a recently passed amendment to the Education Act tabled by Minister Shrestha.
The HLEC was tasked with producing a broad outline on what type of education Nepal will adopt from basic to university levels. However, whether any recommendations the HLEC makes can overcome the mire the recently tabled Education Act (Ninth Amendment) Bill has put the Nepali educational sector in is debatable.
Caving in to demands, the Ministry of Education has offered a veritable golden handshake to temporary teachers. Described by experts as a move that will be detrimental to the country’s public education sector, the amendment states that temporary teachers who were drafted before August 6, 2004 will be granted permanent status if they secure the minimum pass marks of 40. While this move deprives the public education sector of fresh teachers, it is made even worse by the fact that 75 percent of the vacancies soon to be announced by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) will be reserved for temporary teachers recruited between August 6, 2004 and July 29, 2016.
That a new education policy is sorely needed to guide Nepal’s education system, which has undergone a huge transformation, is not remiss. However, Wagle who, in his resignation stated that the amendment will ‘hamper public school education for the next 25 years’, drove home just how difficult the HLEC’s task is in the face of such ill-thought out amendments.
Nepal’s track record has been decidedly sub-par when it comes to reform commissions. Parliament is yet to pass the pro-people Health Professional Education Bill based on the recommendations of a report published by the medical education reform committee. And a commission similar to the HLEC formed in March 2015 was dissolved even before it assumed full shape because education experts Mathema and Suresh Raj Sharma refused to work under the then education minister Chitra Lekha Yadav. With such trends in mind, the formation of the HLEC was greeted with trepidation from the outset. This apprehension has been realised by the recent resignation of Mathema and Wagle.
It is essential that the Education Ministry take note of the censure and ire roused by the recent amendment Bill. Simply kow-towing to the demands of temporary teachers is not the desired path to take at this juncture. The serious reservations expressed by experts and lawmakers have to be afforded due consideration. It is the Education Ministry’s duty to formulate amendments for the betterment of the entire educational sector, and to further the work of commissions such as the HLEC. Not doing so would put Nepal’s educational sector in dire straits indeed.