Keep politics out of schoolsPoliticisation has compromised the quality of education.
The politicisation of Nepal’s academic institutions has been going on for years. Yet, there are no signs of improvement. People have lamented the deteriorating quality of education in public schools, they have also cried foul over the profit-making agenda behind private schools that are supposedly better at providing education. While there are some schools that are doing well, they have little incentive to perform consistently. Sunkuda Secondary School in Bitthadchir Rural Municipality in Bajhang is an example. A mere five years ago, the school had topped the list of Bajhang’s best-performing public schools. Come today, its position has slipped. The reason: The school has been gripped by the politicisation of education. This is wrong and such practices must be corrected immediately.
In Sunkuda School, it was the formation of a school management committee that created tension between the school authorities and the guardians. The guardians, who send their children to school in the hope that their kids will learn and grow to be a wholesome individual, have been having serious reservations about the chairperson of the school who they believe was appointed through a rigged election.
What is happening at Sunkuda is but one example where the politicisation of education has compromised the quality of education. And the continuous failure of the public education system has generated cynicism to such an extent that it is hard to find someone who believes that it can be improved in Nepal. The Education Review Report shows a downward trend in the quality of education imparted in public schools. For example, a 2018 survey revealed that the performance of eighth-graders in mathematics and science had dropped considerably in 2017 as opposed to 2013. Every year, when the SEE results are out, it is usually private school students that outshine pupils from public schools. What’s more, while the constitution has given full autonomy to the provincial and local governments to decide their curriculum, how they manage the teachers and when to take the exams, the federal government usually tries to curtail that autonomy.
According to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2018—Learning to Realise Education’s Promise—the primary reasons behind the downfall of public education in the developing countries include pupils’ lack of readiness to learn, teachers without the required skills and motivation, poor school management skills, and inadequate school inputs failing to match the education expansion drive.
Simply said, politics and education do not mix well. They need to be mutually exclusive. The current trend of reducing public schools to vehicles for implementing political mandates might be beneficial in the short run for the individuals involved; but in the long term, it will prove to be self-defeating for the country.
With the government pushing the agenda of Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali, now is the best time to reform the country’s education system. Education is a cardinal pillar for attaining prosperity. Quality education helps produce competent human capital who will in return offer their valuable expertise in the service of the country. There is a chain effect. But envisioning so demands far-sightedness—a quality that successive governments have failed to demonstrate.
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