Education in the federation of NepalA robust discussion concerning the future state of education under a federal setup in Nepal has kicked off at a two-day international conference, organised by the Higher Institutions and Secondary Schools’ Association Nepal (Hissan).
A robust discussion concerning the future state of education under a federal setup in Nepal has kicked off at a two-day international conference, organised by the Higher Institutions and Secondary Schools’ Association Nepal (Hissan).
Currently being held at Park Village Resort in Budhanilkantha, educators and educational experts are presenting papers under the theme of ‘Quality Education in Federal Nepal’. Several dignitaries including the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, British Ambassador to Nepal, HE Richard Morris, MP Gagan Thapa attended the inauguration ceremony, where the PM, speaking to the audience, said that Nepal is at a historical juncture and welcomed the initiative taken by Hissan to identify the challenges of decentralising education to the provincial level.
Before the inauguration ceremony, a series of papers which outlined the current problems in the education system, were presented. Dr Bhagwan Koirala, professor of surgery at Institute of Medicine, cited that medical education has come a long
way as compared to 1978 when Nepal had its first graduating class of doctors. At the time, the class size was 25; last year, 2,500 medical students received an MBBS degree in the country. “However, there is only opportunity for 500 MBBS graduates to continue post-graduate studies in Nepal,” Koirala said in his paper, “The country is losing valuable manpower.”
Koirala also claimed that it was high time to rethink the role of the Nepal Medical Council, and outlined the burning issues in the medical sector. “It is necessary to immediately figure out if medical schools should operate for profit, and to address the question of how to properly regulate medical licensing, as the government agency has not been able to meet the WHO standard,” he said and clarified that an HPE ordinance has been drafted that has tried to resolve the issues at hand. “The ordinance is a start, but not the ultimate solution,” he added.
After Koirala, professor Yubraj Sangroula, the principal of Kathmandu School of Law, presented a paper with a polemical undertone, which indicted the State and universities alike for neglecting legal education in the country. “Modern legal education began only in 1999, Nepali department heads have to run the legal education, and NGOs and INGOs have captured the judiciary,” Sangroula claimed, “The dismal state of legal education is reflected in the fact that many, including the ones present in this
conference, consider lawyers to be responsible for converting black money into ‘white’.
If the legal system is to be fair, then the legal education will need to teach its students to become lawyers for the poor and the disfranchised. For this, law has to be considered a technical, vocational profession of dignity.” He also outlined the fact that the federal structuring will create a demand for 5,000 new lawyers, for which five new law schools have to be established immediately.
Similarly, professor Bidya Nath Koirala, from the Central department of Education, TU, lamented on the divide created by the separation of private and public systems of education in the country.
“Public schools provide education to the masses, whereas private education have caused a greater class divide in the society,” Koirala said, and also offered some solution as the country attempts to incorporate the constitutional provision of the right to education in the mother tongue. “Since there are 123 languages that are being spoken in the country, it will be difficult to provide education in all the languages.
But primary education can easily be possible in the mother tongue and then the students can slowly transition into the donor language. Alternatively, an interactive app could be developed that will help students continue learning in their mother tongues.”
All the speakers identified the problem of lack of public-private partnership in the education sector and appealed to the audience, which composed largely of educators and government officials, to make space for the increase of financial investment in the education sector.
Since the aim of the conference is to chart a framework for education under the federal set up, international education experts also shared the lessons they learned while setting up decentralised education systems in their home nations. Dr Katak Malla, a Swedish educator of Nepali origin, shared that when Sweden adopted a decentralized education network in 1990, a lot of disparity was created in the outputs from the schools as they were governed by different structures and principles.
As a consequence, the schools had to be re-centralised. Eventually, a provincial level education was set up with a monitoring agency that set up a framework to insure the quality of the schools. “I urge you [the educators] to carefully study Swedish and other education models so that a similar problem does not occur in Nepal,” Malla said, and also pointed out that there is an immense problem in the education system worldwide as education has not brought harmony and peace. “Federal structuring demands that we look into the philosophic side of education,” Malla said, echoing sentiments expressed earlier by Bidya Nath Koirala.
Whereas, another international expert, Dr Andrew Lee of Sheffield University, UK, expounded on the necessity to have a disaster management education in Nepal. “During the Gorkha Earthquakes, there were incidents when children who were in the field, ran and hid inside the building,” Lee said, “It is of paramount importance to teach children how to react during high-risk disasters and also to increase evidence-based practice for disaster management.”
On the first day, the papers presented in the conference, along with the discussions have identified the question of making room for variation in the education model, while preserving national unity, as one of the primary concerns as the country steps into the federal set up. Along with it, experts wrestled with various ideas that can expand the private-public partnership in Nepal.