An increasing number of students are abandoning private schools after the government introduced higher education and technical scholarships for students from government schools.
Apekshya Devkota’s father runs a private school in Surkhet, and she studied there till Grade 8. But she has transferred to a government-run high school even though she comes from a well-to-do family. What attracted her were the scholarships and incentives that students who graduate from state-run schools are entitled to.
“I have heard that going to a government school has many advantages,” says Apekshya, “besides, I like the teaching and atmosphere here better than the private school.”
Janak Shahi, whose parents had sent him to a private school in Surkhet has completed Grade 8, and also decided to return to a government school in Kalikot. His family had migrated to Surkhet during the conflict, but he now sees a better future in a state-run school in his own home district.
“If I get good marks in SLC from a remote district of Karnali Zone, I will be assured of a scholarship anywhere,” Janak says, “that is why I came back.”
The government’s new policy sets aside scholarships and a quota for high school graduates from remote areas in government-run technical and higher secondary schools. The Surkhet District Education Office has reported a reverse exodus of students to government schools.
Sabina Dahal graduated with distinction in SLC from the state-run Jana Secondary School in Surkhet, and was immediately accepted in the MBBS program of the Patan Health Science Institute. She is following her senior Kuber Khadka who received the same scholarship last year.
School Principle Yam Bahadur Shrestha explains: “The fact that they both got good marks from a government school helped to get scholarships. And it is an outcome of the government’s decision to prioritise state schools.”
As the word spreads, more students have been attracted to government schools. The three big government schools in Surkhet town has about 500 students who quit private schools. The government schools also teach in English from Grades 6-10, which has added to the draw for students.
“The main pull of private schools was that they offered English instruction, but when that became available also in government schools, it convinced more students to leave,” says Gehendra Dahal of a high school in Itram.
This has reversed the trend among parents, who used to shun state schools because of lower standards and lack of English. Says Janak Shahi: “Getting a distinction in SLC from a private school in the city carries the same weight as getting a first division from a government school in the Karnali. That is why I came back to Kalikot.”
The SLC Exam Centre’s new software also disallows students from filling out exam applications from two centres, thus stopping the trend of students studying in private schools and giving exams from government schools. This is the other reason students are changing schools.