Old plan, new planThe Ministry of Education has recently endorsed the School Sector Development Plan (SSDP) for the development of school education as per the spirit of the new constitution.
The Ministry of Education has recently endorsed the School Sector Development Plan (SSDP) for the development of school education as per the spirit of the new constitution. The ministry introduced this policy after its earlier School Sector Reform Plan (SSRP) expired in August. As mentioned in its
recently approved SSDP, it is in a preliminary stage and a lot of work still needs to be done before it can come into force. First, the Core Document, which will identify the policies and strategies required to restructure school education, needs to be prepared. For that, the ministry will undertake a consultative process with professionals, experts and concerned stakeholders at district, regional and national levels. After collecting feedback from them, the ministry will come up with an Approach Paper, which will be developed as the fundamental document for the SSDP. After that, the ministry will start the implementation process.
Though some new objectives have been included in the SSDP, such as education under a federal set-up and reconstruction of school buildings damaged by the earthquake, there is not much difference between the SSDP and the SSRP. Most of the plans and programmes such as Education for All, Secondary Education Support Programme, Community School Support Programme and Teacher Education Project are the same as they were under the SSRP. Similarly, increasing access to and enrolment in schools, restructuring school education and improving the quality of education still remained topmost agendas as in the past. In fact, the SSDP is just the continuation of the unfinished work of the SSRP. So it is fair to argue that the SSRP could not achieve its goals, which gives reasons for donors to be sceptical about the new plan. Given the performance under the SSRP, it is doubtful if the newly formulated SSDP will meet its stated goals within a short period of seven years.
Focus on quality
An underdeveloped country like Nepal, which has long been struggling to graduate from its status of Least Developed Country (LDC), does have to face huge challenges to attain development goals. With regard to the SSDP, political instability, prolonged political transition, lack of political determination, ineffectiveness of state mechanisms, inadequacy of government budget and absence of legal provisions in education are some of the major obstructions to the plan’s success. Furthermore, dependence on the donors for the cost of the projects due to the government’s limited funding is another factor that hinders the implementation of the plan.
It will be wrong to say that the country has not had any reforms in education since the introduction of the first National Education System Plan in 1973. The government has done substantial work in the past, and the country’s increased literacy and enrolment rates are a result of that. When the literacy rate was low in the past, the government had only focused on quantity. But now that a lot of progress has been made towards that end, the focus now needs to shift to quality in education.
In the absence of quality education, we lose the whole purpose of education, which is to provide learners with capabilities they require to become economically productive, develop sustainable livelihoods, contribute to peaceful and democratic societies and enhance individual well-being. Unfortunately, in Nepal, there is a substantial difference in the quality of education provided in private and public education institutions. For instance, if you compare the SLC results of students studying in private and public schools, you can clearly see the blatant inequality. Government schools’ performance in SLC has been miserable for years despite huge efforts made by the government to improve the quality of education in public schools. The government has not come even close to bridging the gap between private and public education systems over the years.
Why do the two education systems differ so much in the country? Why do the people in general prefer private education institutions to public education institutions? The SSDP should find the answer to these questions. To bring about the expected results as sought by the SSDP, the government must seriously focus on raising the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of the public education system.
With the promulgation of the constitution, and after last year’s earthquake, new challenges have emerged. Ensuring the rights guaranteed by the constitution, making legal and structural arrangements in line with the federal structure, reconstructing school buildings and creating a conducive environment for the children affected by the earthquake to go to school are some additional goals incorporated into the SSDP. The feedback provided by the concerned stakeholders and the performance of the government will determine whether the the new plan will succeed. Work should be done scrupulously according to a well-defined framework to achieve the goals. Otherwise, the new plan will follow the trajectory of the old one.
Khadka is the chairperson of Prakriya Nepal, an NGO working in the field of health, education and consumer rights