Mana Prasad Wagley and Umesh Raj Regmi
The quality and reliability of education in Nepal has been marred by pursuits for individual benefits. There are certain rules and minimum standards or norms for every academic activity, whether it is conducting examinations, providing new affiliations, running classes, admission, checking answer-sheets, or publication of results. For the purposes of this article, all activities in the education sector that contravene established norms have been termed ‘academic crimes’.
Books and teachers
Let us start from the distribution of textbooks in schools. This matter has been greatly politicised by the Curriculum Development Centre, Janak Sikshya Samagri Kendra, and Sajha Publication, who constantly blame one another for the mess. The victims have been schoolchildren. Of late, the media has even reported that a few unauthorised agencies have been involved in printing government books illegally. Children do not receive the books on time, or in some cases, never get them at all. In the Eastern hills, for instance, students did not even get to see their textbooks on agriculture until the very last moment in the run up to the School Leaving Certificate examinations. Despite directives issued by the Department of Education, one can easily find guess papers, capsules, solutions, and uprooted writers’ books everywhere in the market. They find a place in students’ schoolbags even before the prescribed and authorised materials get there.
Another academic crime that is worth mentioning here is the irregularity of teachers both in schools and constituent colleges. Though we cannot generalise this fact, this puts our students at a great disadvantage. Weekly or monthly rotation of teachers in school (khetala shikshak) and teachers on secondment to partisan political activities are widespread. Similarly, teachers in universities are involved in various businesses, paralysing their classes for months. In constituent colleges, even renowned full-time professors can be found working elsewhere, saving their university jobs for a pension. They neither regularly conduct their assigned classes nor do they complete their courses on time. No authority dares to take action against them simply because they are attached to one major political party or the other.
In the same context, appointing people to plum university posts based on the strength of a political party in national politics is another academic crime. This offense is repeated by the chancellors and pro-chancellors of the universities concerned. The trio or the duo holding top positions divide amongst themselves the posts of dean, director, principal, campus chief, heads of the research centres, and assistant campus chiefs, promoting the worst of teachers. Where in the globe do we hear of a system that promotes a lecturer without a PhD and lacking publications in academic journals to the position of an associate professor or a professor? This is precisely what happens.
Exams and licences
The next unforgivable academic vice is witnessed during exams. Annual examinations at the university level are often delayed or uncertain. This affects the future of the students as their results are a prerequisite to gaining admission at a higher level elsewere. Many students have thus lost opportunities to get scholarships because of the delay in the publication of results. Further, internal and/or practical examinations have been rendered worthless, either by awarding marks randomly to examinees or due to the halo-effect—the tendency of being biased towards a person based on the impression they have on you. A teacher trainee in practice teaching—a compulsory practical examination in the Education faculty—for instance, sometimes gets good marks even without ever having taught in a real classroom with a daily lesson plan. In this case, both the trainee teacher and their supervisor may be at fault. Examination is, therefore, losing its reliability and validity.
Giving permission to open new campuses, even those without academic and physical infrastructure, is another issue of grave concern. The problem is even worse in case of medical colleges. In part, students are also to blame for this state of affairs. Many theses submitted in the universities are either copied from Google, called ‘Google theses’, or bought from the market where ‘criminals’ openly advertise prepared theses. No wonder, most graduates are unemployed. They have the certificates but no capability at all.
Going back to schools, the elections of the school management committees (SMCs) are similar to national elections where partisan politics takes the frontseat. Why so? Because this is an opportunity to manipulate the Per Child Fund (PCF) and the vacancy of teaching positions. Talking of teachers, those who were newly-appointed last year were not able to attend the schools they were assigned to due to the protests of these SMCs. Is this not a crime? That is the reason the education sector holds more than 60 percent of all financial irregularities reported to the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority.
We do not mean to imply that the entire system and eductation sector is at fault. Still, the cases we discuss above are only a few irregularities that have crippled our education system.
The education sector, as a whole, continues to face moral questions and problems related to under-funding, lack of quality, mismanagement, politicisation, and poor access to education at all levels. To do away with such educational crimes, academic institutions should not be allowed to become a beehive of political activism. Educational anarchy has to be discouraged by all stakeholders in education and the government needs to stand firmly for good academic governance in the country. For its part, the Education Ministry should remain accountable. Until and unless these academic crimes are eradicated, the development of our nation is next to impossible.
source: Mana Prasad Wagley and Umesh Raj Regmi (2015),"Crimes in education", The Kathmandu Post, 26 March 2015
Wagley is an educationist and a professor of education while Regmi is a lecturer at Tribhuvan University
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