COVID impact in education continues

Kathmandu -  This week news covered about the implementation part of School Operation Framework-2020 and some international news were also covered in the media.  Infection of 32 students in same school in Humla, forcing closure of all schools in the district was also reported.  News about school dropout, increase in drug addiction due to Covid caused school shutdown, beginning of grade 12 exam, underuse of higher education funds, Manmohan Technical University to focus on curriculum of ship and railway engineering were also covered this week. 

Many news in the media continued to report that the government has given authority to the local levels to reopen schools under the ‘School Operation Framework-2020’. The framework gives authority to all the 753 local governments to allow schools under their jurisdiction to reopen or shut as per the COVID-19 situation and the capacity of schools. The news also further reported concerning that the task of reopening seems very daunting as school management committees of each private or public school are required to hold meetings with stakeholders, including guardians, activists, local clubs and leaders before deciding to reopen schools. Moreover, each school management committee needs to provide details about how many students can be kept in the school when social distancing measures are adopted, the number of teachers, physical infrastructure and sanitation and hygiene facilities, among others. 

The recognition of the fact that local government and school management committee members are in better position to make decision of school operation, in the school operation framework, is a positive output of the pandemic. Question still remains if this recognition will be considered after the end of the pandemic. At present, the federal agencies have been compelled to transfer these authorities to local agencies by the pandemic.  

A news on 32 students infected from coronavirus who were living in the same dormitory of the school was reported in the front page of Kantipur Daily. Educational institutions across the district have been closed after the spread of COVID infection among the students of Mahabuddha Secondary School in Yalbang of Namkha Municipality. The principal of school was reported stating “About two months ago, Mahabuddha started school by testing the PCR of students and teachers from outside. Masks were made mandatory in the classroom”. However, they had to stop classes after seeing corona infection in the dormitory, stated the news.

Figure: Picture of students wearing mask in the classroom of Mahabuddha Secondary School in Yalbang of Namkha Municipality before the closure, as 32 students were found COVID positive. (photo posted in 20 Nov 2020 on Kantipur Daily)

The news on Closure of schools pushing students into drug addiction was also reported this week. The news reported that more school going students have started taking drugs after schools shut down for more than seven months following the outbreak of coronavirus in Rautahat. Head teacher of Durga Secondary School located at Thada tole of Chandrapur Municipality was reported stating that around eight to ten students drop out of school due to drug addiction every year.

The news on start of Grade 12 exams was also reported this week. The National Examination Board (NEB), after a long halt due to COVID, had devised a new protocol allowing students to take the exam for 40 per cent marks. The protocol allowed students to sit for the exam at their own schools, while the exam hour was also reduced to 1.5 hours from the previous standard time of three hours. As for the remaining 60 per cent marks, NEB will provide 40 per cent marks on the basis of the marks obtained in Grade XI and schools can provide the remaining 20 per cent marks on the basis of internal evaluation. Regular examination was reported to be held until December 1. Another news also stated that health desk was made compulsory for all exam centers to ensure health services and test needs. Another news on Grade 12 examination reported that out of 4105 exam centers, 617 centers did not have email facilities so the question paper had to be printed and sent. President of NEB was quoted stating that while the debate of online studies and online examination going on, lack of access to infrastructure is making difficult for the implementation. Another news reported that Tribhuvan University has started taking exams which have been suspended for eight months taking health precautions amidst the pandemic. COVID infected examiners will be kept separate and those who could not come to exam center will take the exams later on the basis of COVID infection evidence, stated the news. While an opinion article stated that students are prone to cheating in online classes and that honor code or honor system could be very effective in solving the problem. Honor code is a set of rules or ethical principles governing an academic community based on ideals that define what constitutes honorable behavior within that community.

This week an opinion article on less candidates passed in the written examination for the selection of associate professor in TU than the required positions continued by questioning the quality of present higher education system. The article further stated that the curriculum must be changed timely and made contextual to make higher education research and employment oriented. The article further suggested that TU needs to change requirements of teacher over time dividing the teaching profession into four levels, such as lecturers, assistant professors, associate professors and professors. Another opinion article again concluded that political intervention was primarily the cause of degradation in TU’s overall academic performance.  It also shared that a decade reform plan for 2020-2030 is ongoing within TU where structural reform has also been highlighted. 

A news in the front page of Naya Patrika Daily reported that the research centers of some universities have become inactive due to lack of budget while the amount for higher education reform project provided as a loan by World Bank was about to be returned as the money could not be spend.

A news stated that Manmohan Technical University established by Province-1 government will start their teaching-learning activities from the next academic session. The article also further reported chief executive of the university stating that it has been decided to operate east-west railway in the country therefore, the curriculum of ship and railway engineering was being developed. 

A news stated that the United States remains first choice for international students. The news quoted the2020 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange informing that although the total number of Nepali students declined by 3.8 per cent in 2019, Nepal still ranks 12th worldwide in the number of undergraduate and graduate students combined.  

An international news coverage by media stated that thousands of people joined a protest led by high school students in Bangkok, called for education reforms as well as demands of a broader movement pushing to remove the government and curb the powers of the monarchy. The news also had details about student protesting against sexual abuse in schools and called for gender equity and safety in general.

 A news in business section of Kantipur Daily reported that Qatar Airways has launched a special program for students worldwide to assist the students in their educational journey.

'Education this Week' is a joint effort to analyze the press coverage of education in Nepal’s selected print and online 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), and  NayaPatrika between 18-24 November, 2020 (4-9 Mangsir, 2077) - Editor.

Read this analysis in Nepali : शिक्षामा कोभिडको प्रभाव निरन्तर