Act on educationSuccessive governments have pledged to pass a Federal Education Act, but it has not happened.
Progress is not possible without an emphasis on education. It is, without a doubt, one of the pillars of social progress. It determines the course of the country for the foreseeable future. And any negligence in providing the appropriate resources will have ramifications in areas that may only be visible with the benefit of hindsight. Before we go on to appropriate those resources in a meaningful way, what the country needs are sound policies that it currently lacks. A Federal Education Act has long been overdue; but with each new government, all we have had are assurances and pledges.
The slow lingering pace of the bureaucracy has affected all aspects of life in Nepal, and more so the devolution of power. Very recently, Minister for Education, Science and Technology Devendra Poudel pledged, like many of his predecessors, to prioritise promulgating the Federal Education Act. In all seriousness, this is the fifth minister who has made a pledge to devolve matters to the provinces. Although there is a provision under Schedule 8 of the constitution that allows local governments to manage the affairs of secondary school education, it lacks the authority to determine its path and set its target.
A top-down approach in dealing with education will prove to be detrimental because the local government is far better equipped with the ground reality in dealing with local issues. They are the ones who would better understand the needs of the pupils and the teachers alike. And besides all that, it is the spirit of federalism that calls for such devolvement. Power is best exercised when it seeks to serve the cause. Therefore, the federal government would, in reality, be doing itself a great favour in delegating responsibilities to the provinces to achieve a common goal that is to raise the quality of school education for the masses.
It would be stretching the situation to say that it is all downhill at the moment. But why delay something essential and rewarding for the populace? In the absence of legislation, any action taken at the local level can be overridden by the centre. And the federal government in the past has issued circulars to local governments forbidding them from making laws until the centre passes an act. Such steps are nothing but a breach of trust the people had placed on the authorities when promulgating the constitution.
Illiteracy is a problem that has plagued South Asia. And if we are to better our prospects, education is the one vital subject that we need to cater to by carefully drafting policies that will enable the institutions to flourish, and the stakeholders to benefit manifold.