Low school enrolment prompts government to promote mergerThe continuous downfall in the enrollment of students in schools has prompted the government to prioritise the school merger plan through the national budget.
The government has set a target to merge at least 200 schools in the current fiscal year as the number of students in the school level declined by more than 300,000 in just two years. According the Economic Survey published last week, the number of students in the school has been declining every year since 2012.
A total of 7.44 million students were enrolled from grade one to 10 in the academic year 2012 which decreased by 166,202 to around 7.27 million in the last fiscal year. The survey shows the number further went down by 150,882 to 7.12 million this year.
Education experts believe that the main reason behind the decrease in the number is thecrack down on fake schools mainly in the Tarai belt and the decrease in population growth rate also may have contributed to the decline to some extent.
The Department of Education (DoE) and the Commission for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority have found that many fake schools were in operation in eight districts of the central and western Tarai region. The DoE has already scrapped the license of such schools which were showing hundreds of fake students as well as teachers and misusing millions of rupees from the state coffer.
“Apart from fake schools, many other schools too presented exaggerated data of students to receive the Per Capita Fund. It decreased after the CIAA and DoE adopted stern measures to control irregularities,” said Mana Prasad Wagle, an education expert. The DoE has also formulated the School Integration Directive to ease the merger process. The directive has a provision that two or more schools which lack minimum enrollment of students can be merged or set up a new school or shut down a school if there are no merger options. The Education Regulation 1999 says the teacher-student ratio should be 1:50 in the Tarai, 1:45 in the Hills and 1:40 in the Mountain region.
Schools with less than 50 students up to Grade 5 in the mountains, less than 75 in the hills and less than 100 in Kathmandu Valley and the Tarai can opt for merger.
The walking distance between the merging schools however, should be less than 30 minutes according to the directive.
The Survey report shows the teacher-student ratio in the primary level is 26.2 percent, 42.6 percent in lower secondary and 30.5 in the secondary level.
The government even plans to shut the schools with recommendation from the District Education Committees if the number of students is less than 20 in the primary level, less than 40 in the lower secondary level and less than 60 in the secondary level. There are 29,477 public schools, including those handed over to the community, where over 225,000 teachers under 14 different categories have been employed.