New education policy ignores nearly all recommendations made by a high-level education commissionThe policy serves the interests of the private sector, which had lobbied against the commission’s recommendations, commission members say.
The government formed a High-Level National Education Commission last year to recommend steps to better the country’s education system, all the way from pre-primary to the university level. After five months, the commission, on January 15 this year, presented a 500-page report to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.
But on Thursday, the Education Ministry made public portions of the new education policy and according to analysts and commission members, it is clear that the new policy has disregarded almost all of the commission’s recommendations.
“I am shocked to see the policy. What is the essence of the commission if its recommendations don’t find a place in the government’s policies?” asked Shyam Shrestha, a member of the commission.
Private educators had objected to several of the provisions in the report, which had envisioned turning education into a service sector. The commission had concluded that private education had become a profit-making sector and had recommended that private schools be transformed from the ‘for-profit’ to ‘not-for-profit’ model. The schools would be given a decade to change their registration from a company to a trust.
The commission, according to its members, made its recommendations based on Article 31(2) of the constitution, which makes the state responsible for ensuring compulsory basic education and free secondary education for all. The commission said that leaving private educators to “generate profit”, as they are doing at present, would be tantamount to a breach of the constitution.
However, the new policy has completely ignored the commission’s recommendation on turning private education into a service sector and increasing the government’s investment in ensuring free and compulsory education for all children, said Shrestha.
“The policy only serves the interest of private educators,” Shrestha told the Post.
Private educators say that many recommendations in the commission's report were impractical. Therefore, it is only natural they were not incorporated into the policy.
“The government’s focus should be on improving public institutions, rather than controlling private ones,” Lok Bahadur Bhandari, general secretary of the Higher Institutions and Secondary Schools' Association Nepal, told the Post.
The commission’s report, which is currently with the Prime Minister’s Office, hasn’t been made public because of pressure from private educators, say commission members. Private school operators admitted that they had lobbied Oli to not give “much importance” to the report.
“We had informed the prime minister that the commission had failed to internalise the reality of the country in its report. We are glad that policy has largely addressed our concerns,” the owner of an established private school in the Capital told the Post on condition of anonymity.
The Education Ministry didn't hold consultations with education experts and concerned parties before drafting the policy either. Even senior officials at the ministry were kept in the dark.
“More than the Education Ministry, it was prime minister’s office that had a say in the policy,” a senior official at the ministry told the Post on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to talk to the media.
Presenting excerpts of the policy before the media, Minister for Education Giriraj Mani Pokhrel said that the policy will shape the future of the Nepali education sector.
“It is not mandatory to take every recommendation of the commission,” Pokhrel said in response to queries as to why the policy did not incorporate the commission’s recommendations.
Along with regulating private schools, the commission had also recommended that the government increase its education allocation to 20 percent of the total budget. Despite its global commitment, the government’s investment in the education sector is decreasing as a share of the national budget, which once reached 17 percent but accounts for just 10 percent of the country’s total spending now.