Kathmandu- History books state that the practice of monitoring schools started in Nepal during the tenure of Jangabahadur Rana in 1910 BS, when Durbar High School was established in Kathmandu. He appointed one principal for the school and another supervisor to look into the quality of education. Later in 1998 BS a post titled inspector of schools was created in the country. Various institutions were created in the first and second decade of 1950’s and 1960’s. A special project was set up in 2028 BS to ensure effectiveness of school monitoring. It had even allocated the proportion of inspectors and schools and focused on monitoring of schools. There were school inspectors for monitoring primary, lower secondary and secondary level education. The foundation of the existing school monitoring is based on the legal provisions introduced in 2028 BS.
However within the last four and a half decade, Nepal has witnessed several political tides. There have been numerous changes in the education and administration. Many projects have been implemented and at least three commissions have submitted different recommendations for reform in the education sector. However, only few recommendations of those commissions were implemented and critical ones were ignored.
There have been concerns over inaction of school inspectors. There are complaints that many inspectors do not reach to schools on a regular basis. There are press reports which suggest school inspector visited a rural school once in a decade. It appears that the school inspectors and teachers have failed to fulfill their responsibilities by working together. The reason behind creation of a post of school resource person was he/she would understand the problems of teachers, schools, classroom, and students and contribute for reform in the school education. However, it appears that the post has not been beneficial. The resource person is forced to carry out other tasks instead.
It is said that the post of school resource person was created due to poor professional performance by school inspectors. Initially it was a part of an educational project however now it has been implemented nationwide. In recent years, the school resource persons have a track record of a poor performance. They have only monitored handful number of classrooms, have not adequately provided feedbacks to teachers and supported for their professional development. Our research from districts shows that some resource persons are highly competent however their respective districts are yet to take advantage from that capability. We could not find a single school that initiated reform due to intervention from a school inspector or a resource person.
Their role has been limited to daily and regular activities of schools. But they have not played any role in improving the quality of learning and overall development of schools. Responding to an article published in edukhabar.com, a large number of teachers noted that there was no need of the position of school inspector. Some of our interviews with experienced school inspectors found that there are pressures against them to turn blind eye to the wrong activities within schools. Any intervention on wrong activities by them, school inspectors, told us would yield negative response from schools. Experts opine that some teachers are responsible for promoting bad practices in schools. We are not trying to protect school inspectors. We are trying to highlight a syndicate which is acting together for personal benefits rather than professional development of schools.
Do we require school inspectors now? It is a major question facing the school level education today. It is the responsibility of the government to decide what type of bureaucrats it requires for implementing its policy related to education. However, it has to set up a system in place for overseeing the school education which now falls under the jurisdiction of the local government.
The local government should have a clear approach on monitoring and supervision of schools. They should check whether classes are regular in public schools or not. In addition to it, local governments must know what is happening inside their school, classroom and what teachers are doing and how it is impacting the students ability to learn. Local governments should decide whether they require a school inspector or other resource person. Officials at the local government themselves can also take up the task but since they have a broader responsibility, they should set up a mechanism to look into the important task.
Such mechanism should encourage good practices and have a critical approach to those which are not complying with rules and regulations. They should also help spread best practices and increase awareness. There is a must to promote accountability.
The local government should take up the supervision and monitoring task to prove their commitment for fulfilling education related responsibilities. Many teachers have directly supported the elected representatives so there might be a conflict of interest when elected representatives visit school and monitor the activities of teachers. However, that should not be the case. It is the duty of the local governments to properly supervise education by reaching out to every school within their constituency. Stringent monitoring may make them loose some votes but they will gain overwhelming support from students and their parents if the quality of education improves in the community. Action is a must to improve the quality of public education in Nepal.
The officials of the local governments should interact with teachers and the principals of public schools and guardians to find a way for problems. In the past there were always grievances that the centralised educational system made the quality of education poor. If we still wait for the directives of central government and seek only support of the central level officials, the quality of public education would never improve.
The supreme personalities for improving the quality of education are teachers. But they require support from the government. A mechanism that promotes good practices and discourages wrong actions is a critical need. Now local governments must expand their presence in schools. They should pay interest on the grades students are achieving in examination. The quality of education will not improve just by making remarks or talking pictures, only action can bring the much needed change.