Compulsory education in Nepal: Yet to take off in earnest

The MoE must have a strong co-ordination with the Ministry of Local Development so that provisions can be made to motivate poor parents by providing them jobs in local development activities. No parents will be ready to send their children to school at the cost of their survival

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The concept of compulsory education goes back to times immemorial. Plato, the disciple of Socrates, is given the credit when he popularized the concept of “compulsory education” through his book “The Republic”. However, as literature mentions, “Every parent in Judea (the land of Israel and Palestine representing the southern West Bank and northern Negev desert in Israel) since ancient times was required to teach their children at least informally.” According to this history, one sage named Joshua ben Gamla established a formal Jewish education in the 1st century. He initiated the establishment of at least one school in every town and declared formal education compulsory from the age of 6 or 7.

Later, a system of universal compulsory education was started in Mexico as early as the 15th century. In the early 16th century, a German monk and a Professor of Theology Martin Luther advocated compulsory schooling with a view that every human should be able to read the Bible. The Holy Roman Empire adopted this idea and the Parliament passed a legislation of compulsory education around the end of 16th century. Scotland also comes in with one of the reform-based thoughts on education since the early times. In early 17th century, it commanded every community to establish schools revising its old thought of schools for the children of high class family only.

This was later reflected in the Education Act in the same century with a provision of funding through land-based tax. In the late 18th century, Austria and Hungary introduced compulsory primary education. United Kingdom introduced compulsory primary education after the enactment of Elementary Education Act in the middle of the 19th century. The United States of America adopted the European model of compulsory education in the middle of 19th century starting from Massachusetts and made it mandatory for all states as early as the 20th century.

With this brief history, let us discuss the scenario of compulsory education in our neighboring countries. In China, the Law on Nine-Year compulsory education came into effect from1986 which was customized to local conditions. India passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act in 2009 making education free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 to 14. All the SAARC countries have made an attempt in this direction. Although now in a pathetic condition, Afghanistan ensured the rights of free and compulsory education at all levels in its 1964 constitution. In Bangladesh, the Education Act of 1990 made education compulsory for children aged 6-10. Bhutan does not have compulsory system but it ensures the right of children to education and provides 11 years of free education from pre-primary to grade ten. The Constitution of Maldives 2008 states: “It is imperative for the parents and the State to provide children primary and secondary education”. The Constitution of Pakistan states, “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children aged five to sixteen years in such a manner as may be determined by law.” This was later reflected in the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2012. Sri Lanka made education free as early as 1938, and in 1998 it passed a law to make education compulsory for children from the age of 5 to 14.

Now, talking about Nepal, we have not yet been able to launch compulsory primary education in our country. Immediately after the democracy in Nepal in 1951, the Nepal National Education Planning Commission recommended to the government for compulsory primary education in its 1955 report. In our interim constitution we can see the provision to be made for free education but not compulsory one. Two years back, in the budget speech, the Government of Nepal announced compulsory education for grades 1-5 but it never came into existence.

Compulsory education around the globe has been backed by penalty for parents who do not send their children to school. But, they have also made measures to motivate parents. In our context, the government statistics reveal that the school non-going children is only 4.7 per cent of the children between the ages of 5 and 9. The MoE must understand that these belong to the hard-core poorest group which needs special package.

The parents do not send these children to school simply because they are instrumental for their subsistence. These children are engaged in household chores so that the parents can go to work and earn. It is equally true that many of these children work and earn for their homes.

Thus, the MoE must have a plan to pay the opportunity cost to the parents in order to attract their children to school. For this, a fund can be created at the local level and the local government can be made accountable for bringing all the children to school. It is the accountability of the government that has to be fulfilled first before implementing any law to punish the parents. The MoE must have a strong co-ordination with the Ministry of Local Development so that provisions can be made to motivate the parents by providing them jobs in local development activities. No parents will be ready to send their children to school at the cost of their survival.

source:WAGLEY,MANA PRASAD (2013),"Compulsory education in Nepal: Yet to take off in earnest", The Himalayan Times,3o Sep 2013
photo art courtesy: The himalayan times
Dr. Wagley is an educationist

2013-09-30 | EducateNepal


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