Reinforcing Centralization and Privatization

Kathmandu- This week news about policy proposals by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), and the budget on education were the primary issues that came in the media. Lack of access to schools, physical punishment, local curriculum, local government’s stand in private schools’ fee structure, student activism and infrastructure dispute, where other issues raised in the media this week.

  • An editorial in Kantipur Daily (KD) stated that the political commitment of the government for federalization of the state is limited to slogans analyzing the recent actions of the MoEST. The federal government has been reluctant to transfer the management of teachers to the local level as per the constitutional mandate. Who recruits the teachers has become the core discussion on federalization of education system. It states that federalism will suffer and the public school are likely to decline in quality until the government is clear that quality can only be ensured when authority to manage public schools are given back to the community. A front page news article on the same daily states MoEST has created policies that interferes with the right of the local governments. The proposed education policy recommends that the criteria for the determination of service, conditions, convenience, qualification, and capacity of teachers should be within the jurisdiction of the federal government. The policy confineslocal governments’ responsibility to capacity building of teachers. Local governmentshad opposed the federal government directionsto the District Education Development and Coordination Unit to appoint teachers. Federation of Teachers has been putting pressure to MoEST not to keep the role of teacher management under theperview of local governments. An education scholar concluded that federal government was failing in the implementation of federalism. He said that the central government has increased the interference through the allocation of budget.
  • Implication of the allocation of the budget on public schools was another well followed story this week. Though a news article claimed increase in the budget under MoESTto more than 17 per cent, a letter to the KD Editor stated that most of the increment goes to the increased salary of the teachers and staff in education sector and infrastructure. The government has announced the next 10 years as Community School Quality Improvement Decade, allocating Rs 8.53 billion for the program. The amount will largely be used to build 300 new high schools. It will also be used to build necessary hostel facilities at community schools in the mountain and hilly regions. The government has increased the budget to provide free lunch to more than 22 million students of community schools. The government has launched, ‘Know your nation, make your nation’ programthat aims to improve vocational education in the country.T letter to the editor stated that the budget mere popular slogan,  it fails to stand by the national’s international commitment to allocate 20% of the budget on education.
  • There were many opinion articles this week that discussed about different aspect of education. An article by the author affiliated to CEPP critiquedthe statement of the Prime Minister at the Education Fair organized by Higher Secondary School Association Nepal (HISSAN) and KD, encouraging private sector to continue investing in education promising its protection. It stated that such statement signifies a status quo in education. The statement of the Prime Minister that the private school will shut down on their own as public school start improving in quality is worrisome, as private schools prevent the needed public pressure on public schools to improve. The effect of the free school policy in parent's authority in school and the accountability of teacher to the community were also discussed. However, despite much moaning heard in the educational circle there was little outcry against the statement of the PM by so called intellectuals.
  • Another article in favor of private schools stated thatLow Cost Private Schools(LCPs) to quality education have gained momentum to meet demands that government schools have failed to provide globally. It rightly states that teachers absenteeism and lack of accountability is the most blatant issuedegradation in quality though investment of the government is increasing. The writer a researcher at Samriddhi Foundation, an entrepreneur orientatedinstitution states that the need for viability for a business model ensure that the fees are affordable to the mass. As the school depends on the fees paid by the parents, school are regulated by the mass for quality. These are smaller and more rooted to local communities as the involved are well known by the community and are not unionized, unlike their public school counterparts. It states that privatization, fosters competition and innovation, and greater level of accountability. The write argues cost difference is slim between public and low cost private schools while stating the example of Kenyawhere enrolment in LCPS tripled despite the abolition of public school fees.
  • Such a perspective is new to the media although not new in the education circle. The article rightly mentions the core issues to be addressed in public schools and defies the statement made by the PM that private are to disappear on their own. It argues that lack of teacher’s accountability in public schools can be counted upon to ensure future for private schools.If the government intends to take the path of LCPS, it should prevent the drain of resources through defunct public schools. It can even opt for grant to LCPS by allocating a school to every child (by so called Zoning) so that there is no negative impact to a nearby school – public or private. However, motif for profit schools will be profit rather than educate children. It may not be an option at least for the government that envisions a socialist future. A main issue is not this or that but how to run public schools effectively and prevent private schools having negative impact to public schools.

  • A front cover picture with a news story of 14 injured students 5 of whomhospitalize due to caning by a primary school teacher was also reported this week. The teacher has been reported to the police after the incident and is to be fired.
  • The lack of clear policy to alert the teachers and the school system with clear and strict regulation against physical and mental punishment has caused such practices to continue in schools. Only with high profile incident like these such teachers are held accountable. These news that come frequently in the media states that such practices are yet to checked in schools and stronger policy need to ensure that child friendly school is ensured beyond policy text.
  • Other matters covered this week were:implementation of local curriculum by more municipalities, revision of fee structure of private schools by Itahari Sub-metropolis.students’ protest calling in for irregularities of the head teacher and delay in text book delivery in Saptari. News about the lack of access to schools of a rural village in the boarder towards the south, forcing students to attend schools in India was covered and followed by an editorial as well. Student in relay hunger strike demanding cancelation of the exam taken by TU service commission that has been reported for irregularities also came in the media. The students have demanded resignation of the corrupt officials. The government  proposal for a University Umbrella Act and restructure University Grant Commission as Higher Education Commission as part of government’s annual program and budget was also a matter of reporting in the media. The higher education sector is already stirred with a draft bill that will prevail political leadership in the Universities.

'Education this Week' is a joint effort put to analyze the press coverage of education in Nepal’s selected 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 online portal)between May 29-June 4, 2019 (Jestha 15-21, 2076)- Editor.

Read last week’s analysis : Stirring Stories on Private, Higher and Local Education

Read this analysis in Nepali : केन्द्रीकरण र निजीकरणमा प्रोत्साहन