More ad- hocism, whimsical decisions


Kathmandu - This week education got covered in multiple editorials: policy issues of eligibility of exam at secondary level, restrictionsfor undergraduate education abroad, case of compulsory Chinese language classes in private schools. Corruption cases at SEE level, higher medical education, and TU Service Commission (TUSC) examination were also raised in the media this week. Multiple cases of questionable practices in private boarding schools also were reported in the media. Case of physical punishment made it in the media this week as well. 
 
(Abbreviations: MOEST- Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, TUSC-TU Service Commission, KD-Kantipur Daily, THT-  The Himalayan Times, , SEE- Secondary Education Examination)
 
- An editorial from THT stated fallacy of MOEST for not informing the schools in advance about the policy to bar students from attending SEE with bad results in grade 8. News reported that schools were suddenly notified of this by the government years after the exams were held. The editorial mentions that the education system of the country was run on an ad hoc basis at every level in every dimensions. The new grading systems have created total mess in primary and secondary level as teachers, students and guardians are not familiar with its evaluation process. It mentions that many donor driven projects to improve public schools have cost a lot to the government but have notimproved the quality of public schools. According to officials, more than 4,000 grade ten students from Kathmandu alone would not be eligible to sit in for the Secondary Education Examination (SEE) next year (2020).Tas they had failed to score the minimum “D+” in the grade eight exams. According to a decision taken by the National Curriculum Development and Evaluation Council (NCDEC) on January 31, 2018, a student has to score at least a D+ (1.6 GPA or 40 per cent in the numerical marking system) in the compulsory subjects  in class 8.  However, even those who had scored less than D+ were promoted to grade 9 as their results would be published months after their school resumed for grade 9 classes. The future of tens of thousands of students will be at stake due to this directive as such students will already have lost three academic years by the time they register for SEE.
 
- A front page news covered that the government had barred students from pursuing non-academic courses abroad, as it makes plus two must for going abroad for studies. MoEST stated that only the students who have completed grade 12 or equivalent would be given a ‘no objection letter’ to study abroad if they intend to pursue academic courses of bachelor’s level or above. Nepali students, who wish to pursue non-academic courses, like vocational education or language courses in countries such as Australia and Japan, will not be allowed to do so from now onwards. This is curtailing the rights of high school graduates to make choices stated the news. MoEST was reported not to issue the 'no objection letters' even to those who wish to pursue technical and vocational education, language courses and academic bridge courses only if students provide evidence to substantiate to get enrolled in a university to pursue academic courses after completing vocational or language courses. Academics have commented that there wasa lack of public consultation with stakeholders before the introduction of such a provision.An editorial called to annul the decision as it curtailed the right to education.
 
The above two incidences are the fine examples of two whimsical decisions on education made by the government. 
 
- A news that Mandarin being made mandatory in many schools was reported in the front page this week. Many schools across the country have made it mandatory for students to learn the Chinese language lured by the Chinese government’s offer to cover salaries of Mandarin teachers. "Schools are allowed to teach foreign languages, but they cannot make those subjects mandatory for students,” reported Ganesh Prasad Bhattarai, Information Officer at NCDEC - the government body that designs school-levelacademic curriculum. The media report mentions this illegal as NCDEChas to approve which subjects are to be made compulsory. It also states teaching foreign language in school hours is also illegal. The news was followed by an editorial stating schools are allowed to teach foreign languages, but they cannot make those subjects mandatory for students.  
 
- The media reports did not raise the issue when English was taught without approval. It accepted as being superior to other foreign languages. Of course, funding by the Chinese Embassy raises questions but we have not questioned when full-fledged English promotion is carried out by the British Council.  Perhaps, it would have been an uproar if the same was done by the Indian Embassy The reports do not even mention the right of parents what subjects to choose for their children and provision of 20% curriculum every school is entitled to design and teach. While globalization gets its roots to the Nepalese society, smarter choices to learn from multiple foreign languages should be made accessible to school students to make the students more competitive, while also ensuring benefits to the nation through increased communication between societies beyond Anglican world. One reason why Nepalis have not been able to take advantage of the industrial advances of China in comparison to India is for the lack of access to language. Similarity of the languages spoken along the northern border with Tibetan, access to Tibet is relatively already easy. If we were to be take advantage of Chinese tourists, learning Chinese would be an added advantage.  
 
- 'New bill curtails Dalits’ right to education' stated activists in another news. The Bill to Integrateand Amend Some Education Laws stipulates that higher education will be free for indigent people, including dalits and differently-abled persons. The Bill stipulates that indigent people under the category of Dalits and differently abled people, who lack means of livelihood, and those whose income is less than the amount fixed by the government, shall qualify for free higher education scheme.It does not mention exclusively dalits. A dalit rights activist said as per the definition of the Bill, no dalit would qualify for free education scheme because it would be difficult to prove that dalits had no means of livelihood. “He further said even an indigent dalit may hold a small plot of land. It may not be adequate, but almost all dalits have their own means of livelihood. The constitution stipulates that all dalits have opportunity to free education with scholarship from primary to higher education, but this bill proposes to provide this opportunity to only indigent dalits.
 
- Other news this week where about corruption and irregularity in medical education as MBBS entrance exam in BPKIHS- B.P. Koirala Institute of Health Sciences got interrupted due to internal affairs. Further details about the irregularity at the TUSC examination was published in the media - as answer sheets also got examined. Some reports of students being abused by school authority and local government was reported this week as well as schools where shut down to bring them to a program in Mahottari Rural Municipality.  A report of principle involved in physical punishment in the name of disciplining students got reported this week as well. In another news Early Childhood Development (ECD) Education teachers have submitted a twelve point memorandum to the mayor of Bhaktapur calling for equal salary to the level of primary teachers, asking to make SEE the academic qualification to bea teacher at Primary level, annual training opportunities, and to maintain a teacher pupil ratio 1:15 among other demands. 
 
'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 BBC.com(international online portal)between June 12-18, 2019 (Jestha29-Asar 3, 2076)- Editor.
 
* Apology for spelling on headline. 
 
Read last week’s analysis : Worrying Chaos