Calm and Diversity as the House Passes Medical Education Bill

This week the media continued to focus on medical education though diversity increased in coverage of issues as National Medical Education Bill (NMEB) was passed  by both houses of  the Parliament despite strong resistance from the opposition. Dr. Govinda KC ended his satyagraha stating the change is strategy of agitation.   Other issues included  access to education, corruption, higher education, and innovative initiatives that made it on the front page and editorial. Issue of private schools also was raised in different news and letters to the editor this week.  An international matter about schools got covered this week as well.   

-  The NMEB struggle in the parliament got obsolete this week with the passing of the Bill without addressing all the demand by Dr. KC and strong opposition. Dr. KC ended his fast-unto-death agitation (satyagraha ) to change the strategy. Medical education still covered more than 50% of the news about education this week as well.

There were multiple opinion articles and letters to the editor on the issue mostly explaining the genuine issue of Dr. KC. An opinion article discussed the philosophical basis of Dr.KC’s movement. It highlighted that the movement wasn’t driven by any political ideology but based on personal experiences of the doctor in his  voluntary work in rural areas of Nepal and exposure to foreign countries. It stated that the movement was clearly against 'crony capitalism' in education and medical sector that has visibly crippled the quality delivery of the service impacting the right to live in dignity of many. The article further stated that education and medical services are beyond the abilities of an individual and therefore the government should take responsibility to ensure access to these services to all. Describing  present situation in where private sector is steering the policy  the author calls for citizens to take responsibility to warn and alert the their representatives to act responsibly.
There was news about students of Gangadki Medical College filing a complaint with evidence of fleecing higher fees to District Administration Office of Kaski.  

The NMEB got through the Parliament while being called for amendments  from the  civil society and the agitating doctor. Impact of this politically motivated move and its impact in the national politics is yet to be seen. Many argued publically that the Bill was in favor of few investors close to the ruling party rather than of the welfare of the people in general. Future moves of the agitating doctor will be of interest to many.  The coverage of news about irregularities still in medical colleges and the students raising the voice against it, ensures that the impact of the movement for the improvement medical education will continue.

-  An editorial in Kantipur Daily (KD) was dedicated to the issue of Higher education institution being a station for job placement for political cadres. The editorial was a follow up to the news about  Nepal Sanskrit Univeristy(NSU)’s management crisis due to the conflict between Vice-Chancellor(VC) of the university and the Prime Minister(PM). The failure to conduct Biannual Assembly has halted financial transaction for 3 months. The VC informs of no response from the PM on several requests to fix the date of assembly what's the proper term? of the university. The editorial states that universities have not been able to improve in academic front due to wrong policies that allow political interference in the institution. It argued that lack of a intervention strategy to improve universities and higher education, human resource and knowledge base required for the national development will not be achieved. It further stated that officials in the administrative position of NSU have been divided between political parties thus creating administrative deadlocks. It has also affected the convocation that has not taken place for many years. The PM who is the Chancellor of the University should be responsible and accountable. Academic institutions have not been able to prosper due to the provision appointment made by political leaders. The editorial calls to quit political appointments of in universities. It also calls the government to take the initiative to abolish the practice of having PM and Education Minister in the position of Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor to ensure qualified personals of higher education institutions.

-  Neither the government nor the Parliament has taken up this issue raised recommended by many academicians and the media in the past. While the PM calls for national development and recognizes the role of higher education institutions in it, he has chosen to ignore the cry of the civil society to make universities autonomous. The political leaders appear to fail to make decisions in favor of public good when they have to make sacrifice of their benefit. This also raises the question about the ability to improve public schools when the government has failed to improve higher education for decades.

Another ironic news to be noted covered is an incident where Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Mr. Gokul Prasad Baskota accused private schools of commercializing education in the country while attending the 13th Kavre District conference of Private and Boarding Schools Organization Nepal (PABSON). He stated English should not be a measure of quality while accusing  private schools for spreading such perception and practices even effecting the practices in public schools. He called for private school owners and investors to stop commercialization of education. He also stated that schools that were regarded as temples of knowledge have turned into hubs for business. He assured that that if commercialization of education is stopped; government will work with private sector but also warned that it might be compelled to padlock private schools otherwise.
This incident states commitment of the government over regulation of commercialization of schools. The reason could only be assumed, but it should be noted that the High Level National Commission on Education lead by the MEST recommended regulation of private schools and to turn them into not-for-profit service oriented institutions in the next 10 years.

-  Another news informed that Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) was all set to intensify the enforcement of local curriculum from upcoming academic year which both public and private institutional schools are required to follow. The local curriculum introduced to keep up with the federal system includes five subjects that include Nepal Bhasha (Newari), sustainable development, environmental education, traffic management, culture of Kathmandu and one? ancient language. The new curriculum was realized as earlier center-based curriculum couldn’t accommodate local concerns. Schools are required to select one out of the five subjects.

-  This is a commendable step that will help citizens experience the federal structure of governance in everyday life. It can only be evaluated after experience, how this will be taken by schools, teachers, parents and the bureaucracy and other levels of government in the matter.

-  International matter covered this week was an article about unusual schools from around the world in The School Times section of The Himalayan Times. Different kinds of schools that are different in their infrastructure, pedagogy, or the targeted student groups were discussed in the story. It mentioned about Train Platform School of India, established by a school teacher who responded to the needs of many children she saw in the train platform on her way to school. The floating school of Nigeria was unique in the structure of the building made of wood and water tanks that would be used as emergency shelter by the community in times of flood. Another kind of schools were bamboo school of Indonesia that ensure environment, nature and sustainability was learned through life experiences; the cubical school of Denmark that ensure open school space without classrooms to ensure creative self-paced learning experience and a school in China that was build inside a natural cave.

International news about education and schools can help inspire innovation. It could encourage teachers and patents to be more creative and open about their approach to learning and education. It should be noted that international news in Nepali media has become more frequent than the last year.  

-  Another international news this week from BBC online portal to be noted is about a call to register home-schooled children. The England's Children's Commissioner’s Report estimates almost 60,000 pupils were taught at home at any one time in 2018.

This news about increase in parents withdrawing their children from mainstream schooling by choice is an interesting phenomenon to consider while Nepal has embarked to a compulsory school education policy that plans to penalize parents who deny sending their children to a school. It should also be considered that while in England, the society has come to the acceptance that same education systems and learning environment may not be the good for everybody, societies of developing nations like ours are still trying to ensure education for all by focusing on age in school’s deeply rooted to British school system.

Other matters to consider this week were about the news of delayed supply of Braille textbooks causing additional challenges to visually impaired students. A front page news story was about students assigned by the school with authority to refuse the teachers and the students who are late not to let them in. An opinion article stated that children learn more at home than in schools urging parents to be more responsible about the impact they have in their children. It also requested parents to realize the importance of social functions and rituals as a source of lesson about discipline, social behavior and cultural values that can’t be replaced at school from classroom lessons.   

'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 (international online portal) between Jan 30 to Feb 5, 2019 (Magh 16 to Magh 22, 2075) - Editor.

Read this analysis in Nepali : संसदबाट विधेयक स्विकृत भएसँगै समाचारमा विविधता

Read last week’s analysis : Medical Education Bill continues to be the primary focus