School management and government’s conflict hit the teachers

Kathmandu - This week the media covered further on the ongoing development in the private schools and private school teachers’ conflict and disagreement with the government regarding fees. It was reported that the private schools’ association decided to halt all virtual classes due to financial limitations. It was followed by warnings from private school unions to restart virtual class and pay the required fees to the teachers who have been working for a while for virtual classes. To carry out youth vocational training programs through a one-door system, the government is all set to establish a Technical and Vocational Education and Training Fund.

Abbreviations: MoEST- Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, KD-Kantipur Daily, THT-  The Himalayan Times, SEE- Secondary Education Examination , TU- Tribhuvan University, KU-Kathmandu University, NOU- Nepal Open University, MoD-Ministry of Defense, PABSON- Private and Boarding Schools Organizations, Nepal, NPABSON- National Private and Boarding Schools' Organization(NPABSON)

-          The news reported this week on private school associations’,(PABSON and NPABSON) decision on closing all the online and distance medium classes from July 16 due to the dissatisfaction with the government. They have been demanding minimum fees for alternative education which the education ministry had ignored. They also clarified that the classes would be conducted only after the government permits to conduct classes physically. They also decided to give unpaid leave for teachers and staff and mentioned that the salary of April to July will be provided only after the opening of schools. The private school operators (Management) had been warning the government about closing the virtual classes demanding fee collection for virtual classes. 

Private school operators had stated that the schools should be allowed to raise fees as no subsidies were given by the government to private schools to maintain the cost of school operations for organizing classes in virtual medium. A press release stated that the ignorance of the government over their demands has forced the private schools to cancel all virtual class operations. While another news stated that the private school teachers’ union had warned the associations to restart online classes urgently. The Union stated that the decision to close virtual classes was done without the consultation with teachers. At present only public schools and virtual classes run by ministry and local governments are operating. A letter to the editor stated that the demands from private schools weren’t clear, and called on the private schools to be specific about how much percent of regular fees they plan to raise from parents. Their demand from the government to pay for the cost of operation, or the permit to raise fees in times when schools were closed is unacceptable, it stated. The letter to the editor also expressed sympathy towards private school teachers expressing they could be considering switching professions due to the present crisis. 

-          On the other hand, a letter to the editor stated that the teachers of public schools were reluctant to start classes in alternative mediums. It shared exemplary efforts by some schools and teachers assessing students in rural setup as well. It also shared that the public school teachers were reluctant to follow the directives of the government to attend schools from June 15,Ashar 1. It reported some schools and local governments also produced material for learning in alternative mediums.  

-          In a bid to carry out youth vocational training programs through a one-door system, the government is all set to establish Technical and Vocational Education and Training Fund,  the news reported. The Fund aims to avoid duplication in technical and vocational education and training programs for youths and operate them through an integrated channel. It was reported that the National Planning Commission has already prepared an approach paper for the establishment of the fund. A taskforce, coordinated by NPC members, had prepared the paper. The taskforce comprised joint-secretaries from 10 ministries. Despite multiple programs being run by the government for youths, the expected result still remains a far cry and the fund will help to yield better results it stated. The Fund’s Directive Committee will be chaired by NPC vice-chair and its secretariat will be based in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

-          A letter to the editor called on the schools to be operated soon. It also reported that international studies suggested that long shutdown will force students from marginalized communities to quit education for work or result in early marriage from female students. It suggested that schools should run with social distance practices like in many other countries like Sweden. It suggested schools to be given the authority to decide according to its local context. 

-          TU has stated that exams of different programs will be conducted from September. The structure of the exam hasn’t been fixed yet and if necessary exam could be conducted in alternative medium like home center or online exams. 

-          An opinion article stated that the need of the present time is on vocational education and skill based knowledge. It stated that it will require coordination between ministries related to Agriculture, Forest, Health, Youth, Infrastructure and transport beyond ministry of education to make courses meet the specific needs of the society and ensure appropriate skill learning for students.  

This week, international news about youths taking the lead to teach children in rural setup by establishing tree schools, for those without internet access was also covered in the media. Establishment of Technical and Vocational Education and Training Fund can also be taken as a positive indicator that the government is taking skill based learning rather more seriously. Some news about schools being exposed to natural disasters like floods and landslides was covered this week. School should have been a safer place for any circumstance or the risk of disaster.

Government needs to assess the vulnerabilities of schools and preparedness of disasters in every community, as schools have been used as a community building in many cases like this time it has been used as quarantine. Most of the time, schools are positioned in the cheapest and most inappropriate areas as well. Recently organized voices of private school teachers and the developing disagreement between private school operators and government regarding school fees has been the focus of education coverage in the media. Most of the coverage has been critical of the way private school operators are responding in this situation. It exposes the problems like growing inequity and accessibility, which were always there, when profit based institutions take the task of building up the perspectives of the upcoming generation. Will the media continue to be critical of these private institutions’ practices post-Covid is something to follow up on. 

'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 between 15-21july, 2020 (31 Asar-6 Shrawan, 2077) - Editor.

Read this analysis in Nepali : सरकार र विद्यालय सञ्चालकको द्वन्द्वमा पिल्सिदैं शिक्षक

Read last week’s analysis: Schools to open in zones with no or nominal Covid cases

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