Educationists say private investment in education sector will only make schools more expensiveGovernment has announced to encourage private sector investment in education in its plans and programmes.
The government has announced its plan to promote private investment in education through its policies and programmes, which was endorsed by the federal parliament on Tuesday.
However, educationists and organisations advocating for the right to education have claimed that the government’s plan contradicts the constitutional right to free education.
They say the policy promotes privatisation in education, which could consequently make education expensive.
Currently, the private sector has around 20 percent share of 7 million students studying in 36,000 schools including 29,000 funded by the government.
National Campaign for Education, an umbrella body of over 300 organisations working in the education sector, has said in a statement that promoting the private sector will lead to a compromise in the children’s right to free and compulsory education.
The campaign has suggested the government to increase its investment and share in the education sector.
“Government shouldn’t take any step towards promoting privatisation in education,” reads the statement.
Last year, the High Level National Education Commision, had recommended the government to gradually increase the government's share in the education sector, mainly at the school level. It had proposed turning profit-oriented schools into service oriented ones by converting them into trusts. Although the commission has already submitted its 500-page long report to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, the report has not been officially made public. Oli’s reluctance to publish the report has drawn criticism that his government is seeking to privatise education, against the recommendation made by the commission.
Some educationists say policy to promote the private sector could imply that the government is still not willing to increase the education budget. “The policies and programme indicate the education budget is not going to increase,” said Mana Prasad Wagle, the former dean of Kathmandu University School of Education.
The government’s share in education against the national budget has been decreasing over the last few years. The share of the education budget, which had reached 17 percent in fiscal year 2011/12, dropped to 10 percent in the current fiscal year. It is an international practice to allocate a minimum 20 percent of the national budget to education.
The Nepal government on different occasions has committed before international forums to allocate 20 percent of the budget to education, which has not happened so far.
The budget ceiling of the federal education ministry for the upcoming fiscal year is Rs 58 billion, which is equivalent to the current budget. The total budget, however, will depend on how much the local and provincial governments get. Currently, around 200,000 teachers are getting paid by the local governments from the budget provided by the federal government.
The national budget for the fiscal year 2020-21 is being presented in the federal parliament on May 28. During the pre-budget discussion, lawmakers had suggested the government to prioritise education, along with employment creation, health and education in the new budget.