Misguiding education policy against constitutional provision

Kathmandu - This week review of the recently release national education policy 2019 and controversies about its contradictions with constitution was covered in the media through different editorials, news, letters to editor and opinion piece.  Another policy that got considerable space in the media was of Karnali Province. Karnali Province has launched its 'Bank Account for Daughters, life-long security ‘program. The policy ensures funds for each girl child which she will receive at the age of 20 under the condition that she is not married and completes her secondary level education.

A editorial regarded this as an indigenous idea never thought out by the federal government. News on access to teachers with physical disability continued to be followed up through this week as well. Articles and editorial on news about failure of the state to make education inclusive for children of minority community was also published this week. A news story covered about the lack of access to secondary level education in rural Nepal forcing students to either quit or repeat classes.

A letter to editor mentioned to not extend the age limits of teachers from 60 to 63year old as appealed by teachers. An opinion article discussed about the case of insecurity to teachers in public college and the impact of unchecked incidents in education while calling for human rights committee to investigate such cases. An opinion article had also discussed the failure to create school environment for students to learn to ask questions, and the impact of it in limiting students’ analytical and research abilities.

Abbreviations: MoEST- Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, TU- Tribhuwan University, IOM- Institute of Medicine, TUSC- TU Service Commission, KD-Kantipur Daily, THT-  The Himalayan Times, PM- Prime Minister, CTEVT- Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training, KMC- Kathmandu Metropolitan City, SMC- School Management Committee, VC- Vice Chancellor

-    The recently released National Education Policy 2019 has drawn controversies as it contradicts the provision of the country’s constitution. While the constitution states that every student should have the right to free education up to Grade XII, the policy envisions provision of free education only for public school students up to Grade VIII. “The education policy is not in accordance with the constitution. Education should be free for all up to Grade XII,” education experts where quoted in news reports. The education policy states that secondary education rights are given to the central government against the clear provision to handover school education to local government in the constitution.  The monitoring of school level education should be done by local levels as it will be easier to report problems,” another educationist was quoted.

The current policy has given top priority to security of private schools as provisions make education service-oriented by ensuring security, protection and promotion of private sector in education the media reported. The policy has not said anything about schools run under education guthi — both in terms of monitoring and regulation. The current education policy states that subject teachers will be appointed within five years while experts demand for urgent recruitment of subject teachers.  “The policies should not contradict the constitution.

If policy contradicts the constitution it will become illegal. Such contradictory laws are made to fulfill vested interests and give away control of the sector. Anyone can file a writ petition against it. The court can invalidate it,” an advocate was quoted in the news. “We are not moving towards socialism. It is fostering private schools and helping them earn money. What the government should do instead is provide equal opportunity to all for quality education,”  the report quoted experts involved in High Level National Commission on Education, that had submitted a report to the PM.

-    Karnali Province have launched its 'Bank Account for Daughters, life-long security' program. It will be applicable for two daughters for the same parents. The estimate is that by the age of 20, the children will get two hundred thousand rupees but the family needs to ensure that the girl gets secondary education and does not get married prior to the age of 20 years. Editorial mentioned that Karnali Province’s policy will end selective abortion, gender-based violence, child marriage and to encourage the parents to send their daughters to school. The editorial regarded this an indigenous idea never thought out by the federal government.

-    Most community schools in Dhankuta were found to be charging fees from students in the name of English medium education though the government has declared free education up to secondary level while the authority concerned chose to stay mum reported the media. The schools also charged students for providing educational materials such as copies, pencils, among other materials. The schools also collected fees from students to pay for water and electricity bills and salary of teachers managed through private sources. Principals had informed that the fees where taken as per agreement with the guardians due to lack of sufficient fund from government to execute plans made together with parents. The media also stated that number of students increased in community schools after the schools introduced teaching-learning activities in English medium.

The coverage of additional money raised in community schools usually makes in the media without sufficient analysis of the contextual reality and the relevance of the policy in ground. The free education policy should not limit the aspirations of better education in public schools by adults i.e. teachers and parents. The policy to restrict parents from adding additional funds in the school would halt parents and SMCs attempt to experiment with innovative approaches to improving quality beyond government funded strategies.

-    A news report titled ‘schools face difficulty retaining children from Musahar, Bantar minority communities ’ was followed by an editorial. A teacher had stated that his long experience state that it is difficult to convince parents of children from these communities to get their children enrolled at schools. While student was quoted stating “We do not understand the lessons. During school exams we do not know how to answer the questions. So, there is no reason to go to school,” Editorial mentioned that there are many reasons why children drop out of school, and they are not limited to illiteracy among the parents and poverty at home. The attitude of the teachers towards the Dalit children could be a prime factor. Given the family environment back home, such children need extra attention and encouragement if they are to perform at par with their better-off classmates.

-    There were many news coverage about impact of intense winter in school attendance in the mountain and plain region of Nepal. This particular picture represents the lack of ability of the schools system to respond to the contextual reality. Asking students to be seated in the ground in such snow covered ground could cause health hazards and could have been omitted realizing seasonal circumstances. The central governed mind set and lack of self-determination among school administrations is one of the impacts of the long history of nationalization of schools, that the present government is reluctant to give away even when the constitution ensures it.

'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 and Himal Weekly(Nepali) between Dec 18-24, 2019 (Poush2-8, 2076) - Editor.

Read this analysis in Nepali : संविधानको मर्म विपरित शिक्षा नीति

Read last week’s analysis : Government unveils National Education Policy

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