Government's Reluctance to Reform Public Education

Kathmandu - In the past 7 days, the news was around two major events; the High-Level National Education Commission Report and murder of a Headmaster. Other news were related to the reopening and closing of schools surrounding COVID, Inclusion and access in the education, higher education and many more.

The High-Level National Education Commission Report was made public by the majority members of the Commission with the help of National Campaign for Education - Nepal (NCE - Nepal) and Global Action Nepal as the Government refused to make the report public despite several requests from the Commission which the Governmnet had kept hidden for almost two years was reported in the news. In the report, the Commission has made several recommendations to the Government to bring reforms in the education sector. The MoEST has recommended action against the two Non-Profit Organizations for misusing the logo of the Government and publishing the report without approval from the Government. The 13 members who made the report of the High-Level National Education Commission public had in response urged the government not to take action against the NGOs publishing the book report. The media had claimed that the Government refused to make the report public as education mafias have pressured the Government no to bring changes in the current policy. An editorial also stated that the incident was another proof of the government's indifference to public education reform. 

In a country with a socialist-oriented constitutional system, the government should not fail to implement the report in favor of public education reform especially when the so-called Left and Socialist parties are in power. One of the major responsibilities of education is to create equality among different classes but the present private and public system of school education is rather contributing to divide. 

Figure 1 A pictorial report of the students going to school at Shivaraj Municipality-3, Kapilvastu district posted on 2nd December 2020 in Kantipur Daily. It also stated that the Municipals had started to reopen schools depending on local context evaluation after Municipals were given the authority to make decisions in the matter. 

Much news on the Headmaster of Saraswati Basic School in Miklajung RM, Morang District accused of spying, killed immediately after being kidnapped by the Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal was reported. 

Politics and Education are interrelated. Political system influences the educational system and mechanism of a society. Education is considered as a strong political tool for making citizens to follow the current notion of establishment. The news of Headmaster has reminded the time of Maoist Insurgency and the involvement of teachers. This is also an example of public school teacher being politicized. With the growing concern over political interferences in schools of Nepal and environment of fear among the students, parents and teachers, the debate over politics in school need to be raised. The discourse on school as politically neutral space should remain among the primary concern for the reforms in education sectors. Otherwise, we cannot assure that this kind of incident will not occur again in near future.

In Pandemic, reopening and closing of schools were also reported as usual in the media. The news on School reopening in Lalitpur Metropolis, RMs of Kalikot, Biratnagar Metropolis, Tarakeshwor Municipality (Kathmandu District), Soru RM (Mugu District) and remote areas of the Far-West Region where health care supplies were scarce was reported this week. The Aathbisekot Municipality, Rukum West was reported running schools seven days a week and cancelling winter vacation in their Municipal. However, Schools in Dashrathchand Muncipality and Dillashaini RM of Baitadi District closed again due to increased risk of COVID infection was reported in the news.
Kathmandu Metropolis has prepared a textbook on local subjects titled 'Yeh Dey Mhasike' to be taught in the community and institutional schools as a compulsory subject from Grade 1 to 8 under it. Meanwhile, 'Ramro Nepali Vyakaran' of Grade 5, a Government-prescribed textbook for lower secondary level defines women as 'helpless person' has sparked outrage and debate, according to the media.

There was also the news on Durbar High School in Ranipokhari has now become the first choice of students among the community schools. Whereas, students of Laxmi Secondary School in Badimalika Municipality-7 of Bajura District have locked 10 teachers inside the room on Sunday morning due to irregular classes and non-availability of textbooks on time.

The news on Inclusion and Access in Education were also reported in the media. There was the news story of border side village in Kailari RM-7, Kailali District, where 55 children of the village go to Saraswati Shisu Bidhamandir, India as there is no school in the village and they have to cross Mohana River to go to the nearest school in Nepal side where there is no bridge until this date.

One of the news reported on the difficulties of managing sanitary pads and girl-friendly toilets in the community and private schools of Bajura Districts. 

The news also reported that students with disabilities were out of contact after they returned to their villages after COVID Pandemic. The news reported that Schools and rehabilitation centers have not been able to get information about the situation of students who do not have access to phones and the internet.

Sweaters were distributed to the differently able students in Rangeli Municipality, Morang District and the foundation stone laid for the construction of dormitory building for the Deaf Basic School in Siraha District, reported in the news.

In Higher Education, TU campuses were also reported to resume physical classes suspended after COVID outbreak. Mid-western University is preparing to form its own 'Security Unit', reported in the news.

Other news reported that the dispute regarding the examination for the post of associate professor conducted by TUSC for various study institutes and faculties has reached the court. Dissatisfied with the results, 26 candidates have filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking annulment of the result published by the Commission on Nov 11. TU campuses were also reported to resume physical classes suspended after COVID outbreak. 
The news reported that the NSU has demanded to improve the educational sector of the University and gave one week ultimatum to the VC to implement the agreement which was done two months ago. Whereas, students were reported protesting against the deadly attack on Associate Professor of TU by NSU cadres saying that justice has not been served even two months after the attack.

Other news of the week are: Ranjit Singh Disale announced as the winner of the Global Teacher Prize 2020, transformed school attendance among the surrounding tribal community from two per cent to 100 per cent in his intervening years; Two-day conference on ‘Shaping a human world: Global Perspective on Higher Education’ organized by Nepal Open University and Morgan State University of the USA; NEB preparing to make public the results of grade 12 within a month; Technical education started in Rolpa District's remote village Jailbang; The Non-Government Doctors left in a state of despair due to limited seats set-up by the Medical Education Commission in MD and MS; APF School established in Banke District; Nobel Medical College fined the students for late payment of fees during the Pandemic; Studying in Sydney's Rural areas for easy access in PR. 

'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), Dailies and online news portal SetoPati, NayaPatrika and My Republica between 2-8 December, 2020 (17-23 Mangsir, 2077) - Editor.

Read this analysis in Nepali : सार्वजनिक शिक्षा सुधारमा सरकारको बेवास्ता