Extract from an interview with educationist Chaitanya Sharma.
What created the present chaos in our education sector?
We are reaping what we sowed in the 1980s. It was then that the privatisation of education began, which accelerated in the 90s. Education was over-commercialised. Private institutions totally ignored their social responsibilities and the government failed to regulate. Over the years Nepal has received generous aid for education and the government spends anything betwee 12 to 15 percent of the annual budget on education, but none of it was used properly. In my calculation, every Nepali shoulders Rs 2,000 of the education debt, yet there's very little to show for it. Politicisation weakened public education.
What are the main problems?
We need a more realistic education policy. Education is also about practicality-policy should be guided by practicalities like human resources the country needs backed by good management and effective implementation. In our context getting an education is equivalent to landing a blue-collar job. Young people get frustrated when they fail to get a job. Our education fails to teach creativity and doesn't cater to the needs of the students. As a result so many youths migrate abroad for menial jobs.
So, how do we reform education?
We should be able to decide on the kind of education policy we want to adopt, and then discuss practicalities like management, monitoring and implementation. We also need to review our examination system. We teach the children for 10 years and evaluate their abilities in three hours, which is very impractical. If school level education is in a bad shape, then tertiary education is even worse. Nobody pays attention to how many students appear for university exams and how many pass. If you bar the technical institutions, only 15-20 percent of the students get through university exams. People discuss SLC results because the exam has been made into an 'iron gate', a source of stress and terror for students as well as parents. Unless primary education is systematised, investment made in the higher education will be wasted. There is a gap between those who attend public schools and those who go to private ones. It is just an illusion that expensive private schools offer better education. Most of them concentrate solely on good exam results-killing all creative instincts.
Political instability and over politicisation is further destabilising education. Everyone has their own agenda: the state, students, parents and teachers.