Contests around Education


This week three struggles around education dominated the scene: medical students' protest for unfair fees. relief teachers staging rally to demand for their permanent status and the difference of interpretations of the constitution by the federal government and local levels. Kathmandu Municipality came forward by exercise its authority. Below is the elaboration of these headlines and other important stories of the week.
 
- There was raise in the coverage of medical education with irregularities of multiple private medical education institutions covered on the front page and also was featured in an editorial. An investigative committee under Nepal Medical Council, concluded that Gandaki Medical College was found taking extra fees from students under different headings. It identified different forms of irregularities and recommended further investigation of the personnel involved in the management. Among many issues raised included receipts not given to students for extra fees, lack of consistency of fees for different students, fees collected in private accounts instead of institution’s account, fees collectedfrom student who were given scholarship as well. Reportsof Kanitpur Dental College also taking additional fees from students under different heading including internship was also reported in the media.  An editorial in the Kantipur Daily questions the delay in response from government agencieswho were reported about these irregularities for long. The committee has called for action without delay with a list of actions. 
 
The issue of delayed response by government agencies in these repeated institutional corruption cases in medical education sector raises question of the commitment of the government to crackdown on the persons and institutions involved. Although, irregularities in medical education remains one of the most covered issues in education in recent times, the increasing volume of news state that it is far from achieving proper regulations in medical education sector compellingstudents to strike for months to get a serious response from the government.  
 
- There are multiple reports of teachers’ involvement in different forms of irregularities including sexual harassment this week. A principal was sentenced to five year in jail for sexual misconduct. Reports of a teacher holdingdouble government jobs and receiving salaries from two public educational institution was also reported in the media.  Report about a teacher being held by police from thrashing a student was also reported this week.
 
- Relief Teachers’ staged a protest rally demanding for a provision to appear in an internal exam to ensure permanent status was also covered in media this week. The Temporary teachers had called to ensure these provisions in the new Federal Education Act.
 
This is a manifestation of a) ad holism and b) politicization of education sector. Government had created these temporary positions with a view to achievinggoal of universalization of education under Education-for-All programme. The idea was that creating permanent positions would entail a long-term financial obligation for the government; the need for teachers will go down with the reduction of population in the country; the need for teachers' can be achieved from the adjustment of existing teachers. The appointment was supposed to be until 2015. The demand for teachers in theory decreased but there is a large mismatch between the number of students and the number of teachers. In order to keep the kins and fraternity of political leaders and the bureaucrats this could not be adjusted. In fact there is/was no willingness to do so for obvious reasons. For the same reason, a large backlog of temporary teachers was given chance to appear in an internal exam who served for more than certain years.
 
There was a race of being popular among the parties what proportion of teachers should be allowed for internal competition to become a permanent teacher. It was raised to 75% i.e. this portion of the teachers would be recruited through internal competition. It has been obvious most temporary teachers did not score sufficiently. Earlier deal that such teachers would be dismissed from the job was compromised that they would get dismissal compensation package if they fail. They were to get it even if they failed. The issue of teachers is like a cancer in school education. The teachers' unions are united in their interest in getting their demands fulfilled as every party needs them for elections: they are the most trusted source of votes for their ability to campaign at people's level. So, each party or politician wants to keep them happy.
 
This is grossly a game of politics for cadre employment feeding on public resources. Whatever the demands of the teachers are fulfilled there is no change on students' learning outcomes of public schools. It is not likely to improve without the parents coming forward in protest. It is not likely to happen as the parties control the parents. Parents who are aware of this have their children in private schools. Many teachers and the leaders have their investment in private schools. Now the teachers do not wish to be under the preview of local governments arguing that they are not educated enough - it is guessed that the compromise will not be as easy as with one central government if the deal has to be done with 750+ local governments. 
 
- Opinion articles about the importance of parent’s role in children’s education continued this week as well. There were two different articles in the issue this week. One article called for parents not to compare children and encouraged constructive comments to support confidence. Another article called on the parents to be role modelsand the first teachers before the school. 
 
- A separate opinion article discussed about the scope and necessity of using visual medium for educational purpose. The writer discussed about the present generation’s exposure to different technologies and visual content, thus making it more relevant and effective to use visual medium to communicate with students in schools as well. Another opinion article discussed about the need for education to recognize the technological dependency and reliance of the present society. It called on education sector, to build upon technology based learning and skills to ensure job security and prosperity towards an advanced techno based economic future for Nepal. 
 
There is overly boasting and optimism in technology. One should not believe that when teachers cannot pass a normal examination, they would be well-versed in using the technology appropriately. Technology is an aid. This means it cannot replace the quality of a teacher. Often lack of technology becomes an excuse to cover the incompetence of the teacher and the management of education. 
 
- Province 3 government’s initiative ‘A nurse, per School’ initiative in 20 schools in the region was reported in the media. The program was reported to ensure higher attendance of students particularly of girls, and also was found institutional to timely prevent health conditions among students and teachers. After successful and positive response, the province government is planning to implement it in larger number of schools in the province with goal to implement it in all schools. 
 
Such initiatives link schools to other social welfare sector, thus linking broader social development with education. Such multi-disciplinary approach to mobilize school premise and to link learning with other practical and urgent requirements of the community can ensure higher participation of parents and increase enrollment of children at the same time. However, its an irony that the province government is supplying nurses whereas there is a rampant shortage of teachers. It can be another employment project for the party. Such an objective can be achieved more, quicker and effectively by supplying teachers and training them. It appears to be another short-living popularity gimmick.  
 
- Kathmandu Metropolitan City(KMC) has barred opening new private schools under company act, in the municipality after a new school education management regulation was passed by the municipal assembly. It allows new schools to be established as an educational trust or a cooperative only. It stated that it was working to convert all private schools into private trust or cooperative within a decade. It also clarified that Gurukuls ,Madarsas as non profitable organization can also be established under government funding. Nepal Private and Boarding SchoolsOrganization, representative stated that local levels should not be authorized to bar from opening private schools, calling for federal government to hold that authority. At present there are 641 private schools and 91 community schools in KMC.
 
This initiative by the local level government can be an exemplary step for many local agencies to lead in ensuring regulation of private school, and at the same time, ensure future of reliable public education institutions. Its a bold move and worth wider support. 
 
- Lalitpur Metropolitian City (LMC) was reported to have lunched two different schools that would teach in Nepal Bhasa, the traditional mother tongue of Newar community. The LMC representative was reported to be committed to increase the number of such schools to ensure the right to be educated in mother tongue. Similar innovative approaches at municipal level can be of inspiration to other municipalities while also ensuring that such innovative approached are well tested before being implemented in larger scale. 
 
The issue of FederalEducation Bill and struggle between local and federal governments about different aspect of school education was also covered in the media this week. It received multiple letters to editor questioning the intent of the federal government and superiority of the constitution while also calling for the members of High Level National Commission on Education to exert pressure on the government to make the commission’s report public. This is a serious issue and more on this can be expected in the next weeks. 
 
Multiple reports of school infrastructure in neglected state after the school got merged with other schools was also reported, calling for the local governments to have a proper plan to handover the management to the community for other social purposes to prevent damage of such infrastructure.  
 
An international news about education covered in TKD stated the rise in popularity of online education in China. It stated that with rise to access in internet and smart phone, there was a 29.7% raise in people attending online education in China in 2018 alone. 
 
A news reported about a practice to say Namaste in a public school instead of greeting in English, to prevent cultural degradation and loss of respect of native language after the school turned into English medium. The school also has made compulsory for students to wear a necklace with parents’ pictures to encourage them to respect their parents. The effort was an attempt to mitigate the impact of English medium, raising the overall social-cultural impact of English conversion of public schools.
 
'Education this Week' is a joint effort put to analyze the press coverage of education in Nepal’s print media published in Kathmandu. The main aim of this effort is to identify and explain major education issues picked up by the media and give back and foreground of the news.This, we believe, will help policy makers and other responsible people to keep abreast with ongoing concerns and discussions on and around education. EduKhabar, in collaboration with the Center for Educational Policies and Practices (CEPP) , has produced this analysis based on the news printed in Kantipur (Nepali) and The Himalayan Times (English), Dailies, Himal Weekly (Nepali) and BBC.com (international online portal) between Feb 27-March 5, 2019 (Falgun 15-21,2075)- Editor.