Policy at the Centre


Kathmandu - This week the media focused on policy aspect of education. It was flooded with expected showdown in the parliament and by supporters of Dr. Gobinda KC, on the National Medical Education Bill (NMEB). It also regularly covered different aspects of the report submitted by the High Level National Commission on Education (HLNCE). 
 
- The MEB and Dr.KC’sfast-unto-death agitation(satyagraha in Nepali) flooded the media as in previous years. More than 40% of the news in education this week was about MEB and the satyagrha by surgeon Dr. KC and the activities for and against the agitation and the proposed Bill. It attracted the front pages of the media and was also a topic for multiple opinion articles this week. The showdown in the parliament was expected as this is the 16th hunger strike on similar demand by the doctor. Prime Minister was the target of many articles, and stories for having a double standard.He was regarded responsible for creating presentsituation. The Bill proposed in the Parliament is contradictory:at one hand it provisions to allow establishing private medical institutions,on the other,  it vowsto transform all private medical educational institutionsinto non-profit service oriented institutions in the next ten years. 
 
In an opinion article, referring accusations that present debate is unnecessary it argued that the present medical education policy deserved public scrutiny stating the present pro-profit interests in medical education sector as poisonous. It further stated the use of medical education for profit is a state of eternal crisis that needs social intervention from justice activists of all walks of life. Another article stated the present crisis was the lack of a vision of our political leaders for the future of education and medical sector. 
 
In our view the issue exposes weak political commitment to social welfare and socialist agenda. It also raises questions if our political leaders are not acting under the influence of funders of the political party they belong to. Denial to such possibility would be difficult to justify the rigidity of the party in power against public opinion and the risk it is taking.
 
 
Figure 1: The cartoon mimics Prime Minister Oli's statement to Dr. KC. It reads, “Your issue is the same. Mine is the same too. It will have the same disagreement. Wewill do the same (make another agreement). You will then repeat the same (fast unto death) after that.”Kantipur Daily, Magh 7 2075, Jan 21 2019
 
- The HLNCE submittedits report to the Prime Minister in this period. It was already making headlines prior to the submission and continued to make space regularly in different aspects of the recommendations throughout the period. The Minister for Education and Science and Technology (MEST) stated that the Commission has put public education as its priority. Itsuggested that no university should be allowed to grant affiliations to new colleges until the Federal and Provincial Structure for a university is laid. It has to be noted that this document was submitted just few days after NMEB was endorsed by the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Health (PCEH) that allows universities to provide affiliation to colleges if their a letter of intent was approved. The Report consisted of criteria for establishing universities, theirjurisdiction and ways to regulatethem in the context of thecountry’s transition to federalism. It recommends that all colleges affiliated at presentshould require to Quality Assurance Agencyfor Higher
Education Certificateor upgrade themselves into either‘deemed university’ or ‘deemed to-be university’.
 
In a separatenews it was reported that the Commission recommends public officers should be obliged to send their children in publicly funded schools. It also suggests that private schools be turned into service oriented institutions i.e. not making profit out of education. It recommends converting trusts, cooperatives and private schools under one system in 10 year period. It calls on preschool teachers to have a minimum +2 level (school graduate) education. To fulfill the constitutional obligation of free education for all, it recommends that all levels of governments should have a minimum of 20% budget dedicated to education. It recommends that private schools’ teachers should have the same level of salary as those of public schools. It restricts the privately run educational institution to share profit, but ratherencourages to invest it in schools itself. The High Commission also recommends a separate board for regulation of all kinds of religions educational institutions in the country. 
 
The report was followed by few opinion articles and letters to editor. Some matters also correlated the recommendations of the commission with the NMEB. The response from the government and different stakeholders of school and higher education is yet to surface in the media. It can be calculated that NMEB has been the focus of the moment and will be followed by the broader education policy which will directly be affected by the direction the NMEB takes. 
 
- Easing the educational journey of differently abled students was part of the Weekly School Times section of The Himalayan Times. It was one of a rare coverage of international practices in education. It gave information about example of accessible universities and how the special needs of differently abled students are ensured through policy and physical infrastructure in universities and academic institutions. It was coincided with an opinion article about the difficulties of differently abled students in Nepal. 
 
Media needs to provide more space to international practices to resolve similar challenges that are contextual to educational needs of Nepal. This could help disseminate innovations that would otherwise end up in re-inventing the wheel. 
 
- Former Irrigation Minister UmeshYadav came in the media for launching free tuition classes to Musahar children, in Rajbiraj Municipality.The effort was targeting more than 100 Musahar kids, who left school after admission due to poverty. Free tuition classes in two different communities were being executed by the minister and an assistant he had hired. The successful approach proves that community learning centers is a more effective approach for communities under poverty line with chronic social exclusion. 
 
The story, however fails to relate the incident with its policy intervention scope that could be built out of this innovative practice. It should be noted, that with the federal structure, local governments have well identified specific priorities of intervention towards better future.That can be well realized with proactive and innovative interventions at different levels in education sector particularly in the tarai reason, and specially Province 2.
 
- An opinion article about identifying value of indigenous languages was also covered in The Himalayan Times in the observation period. It emphasized fostering mother tongue-based multilingual education in Nepal to enhance engagement of students and stated evidence of success in other Asian nations. Based on the Constitution of Nepal (2015)’s provision article 39(5) which states the right to every child to receive basic education in their mother tongue, the article shared activities by an INGOVSO Nepal to help the Language Commission to develop a model for improving student’s quality of learning mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB MLE). It shared the approach was done in collaboration with municipality, LanguageCommission and the INGO, for adaptive teaching in child's first language in TimalMunicipality Kavre and PhidimMuicipality  for Tamang and Limbu languages respectively, in collaborationwith Head Teacher, SMC full and local resource persons. The article informs active role of language commission, while also could help inform other municipality to be informed of the approaches taken to capacitate schools to ensure MTB MLE approach.
 
- National Planning Commission is working on national early childhood development strategic plan 2019-2030, it is reported. The matter informs that the plan aims to produce bettering schooling outcomes and increase productivityin life through intervention at early age to meet Sustainable Development Goals. The strategy will recognize the psychological sensitivity at early age and will develop child friendly curriculum and develop action plan for its implementation, minimum standards for early child care centers, and coordination mechanism among different levels of government, and communities’ role. It is a commendable step towards addressing the needed coordination between different stakeholders and government agencies working to address the same group of people, age group in this particular case. It is important to see how this document will recognize and coexist with the High Level Commission’s recommendation forearly childhood care. 
 
- According to a World Development Report on education by World Bank Group and Institute for Integrated Development Studies, South Asian nations are losing 4.3 years of schooling due to poor education caused by inadequate human capital investment. It identifies that early childhood development in South Asia was very poor. It also stated South Asia was home to 40% of the world's school age population. Except Maldives, South Asian governments spend only 1 to 3 % of education expenditure in early childhood development. The report calls for attention on education at early age and to increase expenditure in early childhood development to ensure access in education for all. It is important information to evaluate the ratio of education expenditure in different levels in Nepal and to correlate it to the ratio of other countries.
 
Other news that deserve mentioning here arenews about :
 
a) the preparation of the MEST to incorporate yoga in school curriculum along with naturopathy,
 
b)5 hundred thousand Nepali Rupees’ educational loan for higher educationto students by Bhaktapur Municipalityfor permanent residents,
 
c)beginning of girl child education insurance policy in 8 districts ofProvince 2 to support newly born girl child for their education under 'Save Girls,
 
d)Educate Girls’ campaign, an opinion article about the potential harmful impact of public schools copying private schools in choosing English as the medium of instruction which could not yield the needed human resource for the nation, e)experts call for special education teachers’ license anddesignated position in schools.
 
- ' Education this Week' is a joint effort put to analyze the presscoverage of education in Nepal’s print media published in Kathmandu. The main aim of this effort is to identify and explain major educationissues picked up by the media and give back and foreground of the news.
 
This, we believe, will help policy makers and other responsible people keep themselves abreast with the ongoing concerns and discussions on education. EduKhabar, in collaboration with Center for Educational Policies and Practices (CEPP) , has produced this analysis based on the news printed in Kantipur (Nepali) and The Himalayan Times (English) from Jan 12, 2018 to Jan 22, 2019. - Editor.