Government yet to fill teacher vacancies, even as decline in education quality is reportedAround 10 percent or 13,000 teacher positions are vacant as the Teachers Service Commission has not been able to announce vacancies for the last three years.
Several study reports prepared by the government suggest degradation in the quality of education at public schools over the years.
Along with the lack of infrastructure, the reports have pointed out the unavailability of needed teachers to be the main reason behind the deterioration in quality. Yet, successive governments have paid no attention to recruiting teachers.
There are 150,000 permanent positions of teachers in over 29,000 public schools across the country. However, according to the Teachers Service Commission, around 10 percent—13,000—of the positions are vacant as it has not been able to announce the vacancies for the last three years. The government has yet to appoint the chairperson and members to the commission.
A study report prepared by a panel led by Mahashram Sharma, a former government secretary, in 2019 had suggested that 57,056 additional positions of teachers need to be created to ensure a smooth teaching-learning process at schools. The report was submitted to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and he had assured the implementation of the recommendations.
A separate panel led by Janardan Nepal, then joint-secretary at the Ministry of Education, in 2009 had suggested that the government add 50,000 new positions from the pre-primary level to grade 12. The report was left unimplemented while the government rather went on to form another panel led by Sharma 10 years later in 2019.
“Let alone creating the new positions, even the existing positions have remained vacant,” Baburam Poudel, former director-general at the Centre for Education and Human Resource Development who was a member of the Sharma-led panel, told the Post.
“Successive governments have failed to realise that teacher availability is a prerequisite to uplifting the quality,” Poudel, who worked under the Education Ministry for over three decades, said. “No matter what plans are floated in the name of enhancing the quality, they will yield no results without teachers in place.”
The Education Review Office under the Ministry of Education, which has been assessing the learning achievements of school-level students, shows that the quality of education has degraded over the years. Eight study reports made public by the review office shows that the average achievements of the students have always remained below 50 percent, which means students achieved less than half of what their curriculum envisions.
Worse, students’ learning achievement is falling by the year. A study carried out by the review office among fifth-graders showed 72 percent of students cannot grasp mathematical concepts as intended in their curriculum while 32 percent of them don't even learn five percent of their course by the time they complete the grade. The report also presented a comparison with the study carried out in 2015 which suggested that the performance of students had gone down in four years. The average performance of grade five students in the subject, which was 500 in 2015, went down to 477 last year. The study had used a multi-stage sampling technique and Item Response Theory where 500 was taken as the mean value of performance.
A similar outcome was seen in the study of eighth-graders in the report unveiled by the review office in 2019. It showed the performance of students in mathematics slipped to 492 in 2017 from 508 in 2013. The achievement is similar in other subjects as well.
A separate report by the review office in 2019 showed a majority of the country’s public schools do not provide an appropriate teaching-learning environment which has led to poor student performance. It had pointed out the lack of availability of teachers as one major reason for an inappropriate teaching-learning environment in addition to the poor infrastructure and the absence of teaching materials.
Education experts say school education never became the priority for the government. They say that the people in leadership positions have failed to understand the country’s development is impossible without improving the education sector. Dhananjaya Sharma, a former Principal at Gyanodaya School, Bafal who is created for making the school one of the best public schools in the country says the governments have failed to come up with a long-term plan in teacher management. “It is running on adhoc decisions,” he told the Post. “I have heard education ministers talk about providing adequate teachers, however, I never saw them work. Our school education will not improve in the lack of needed teachers.”
He said that the fact that the commission is defunct for the last few years portrays the government’s indifference towards recruitment. The commission has not been able to call vacancies since the fiscal year 2017/18 as its chairperson and members retired in 2018. “We cannot call the vacancies without chairperson and members,” Dinesh Shrestha, acting executive director at the commission, told the Post.