Public education in Nepal: Inequity problems

The parents of millions of children go to work but what they earn is not adequate to sustain their families on a daily basis. Many of them do not have land or other fixed property. So‚ how can we assume that the children of these families do better in schools?

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MANA PRASAD WAGLEY
Whenever people talk about equity in education, they think it is related to gender equity. Basically, in public education, countries around the world have made their voice for girls’ education, women empowerment, and female literacy.

Achieving gender equality is still a cry, but that is not all about it. In the name of gender equality poor countries even limited themselves in gender parity, the ratio of girls to boys of those enrolled in schools. This does not even focus on the women who have never seen the schools. So, there are two major challenges to the government; one, it needs to bring everyone in the mainstream education and two, it needs to provide equitable opportunity not only for access to education but to other facilities as well. This article is mainly based on the equitable opportunities to poor children in school where they need to develop themselves at par with their rich counterparts.

One should not forget social equity while talking about equitable access to education. If your children are malnourished, having very less to eat, can they perform better in school? As a parent, you may not have enough money to feed the family but you are obliged to send your children to school. In many countries, basic education is compulsory. In this context, you must send your children to school otherwise you will be punished. So, you have to follow the rule. Will this fulfill the purpose of educational equity? Not at all.

Education does not mean the process inside the classroom alone. There are many out of school factors affecting your children’s education. For example, parental income, health facilities, balanced diet, learning environment at home, parents’ purchasing power, support to children’s education at home, distance between home and school, work load of children at household chores etc. Should not there be equity in all these aspects? If not, a nation can never claim that it has a provision of equity in education.

One can see this claim in government’s plans and programs but they are just mere showpieces only. What we are doing in this regard is that we provide nominal scholarships to girls and the disadvantaged. That is all we have done to generate equity. In the name of girls’ scholarships in public schools, girls from richer families are served more than boys of poorer families. Will this create equity that we are talking about?

These days children from affluent families join private schools whereas the weaker ones send their children to public schools. Where is the equity in education then? Has the government been able to make the public school children equitable to the private ones? It is pathetic that the government has not yet been able to create equity within the public school itself.

Education and health of children are two non-separable facts. If your children are weak in health, they cannot perform well at school. The richer families can afford expensive doctor’s services, whereas poorer ones end at the health post where it is not easy to find “cetamols”. And we make a plan of equitable access to education without considering this fact. That is the reason why the school achievements of the poorer students always remain poor than those of the richer ones. In this context, the government and the development partners must work together to find a solution to better health services for the poor school students.

Do you have enough to eat at home? This is another crucial question associated with the achievement of public school children. If you cannot afford healthy food in the required amount for your children, your children will always lag behind those who have enough to eat. We should not forget the scenario of our rural schools where children join school half-time that is only for the mid-day meal provided by the government. There are millions of children feeding on less than what they have to eat to be healthy. Their parents go to work but what they earn is not adequate to sustain their family on a daily basis. Many of them do not have land or other fixed property. Almost all of them end with some daily wages, without the facility of post-service pension or other benefits. So, how can we assume that the children of these families do better in schools?

The high dropout rate of children in our public schools is the result of these prime factors. Yet, another major concern must be raised here. What do the poor children do even if they get a degree? Studies have shown that richer children having no college degree have more quality life than poorer children with college degrees. Is not this the best example of inequity in education?

Thus, it is essential that educational planning for the poor must come up with solution to these equity problems. Unless and until a nation feels responsibility for all its children who are the future of the nation, the educated poor will always be forced to stay behind and the rich ones will consume all the facilities and opportunities available. In turn, this will help continue the system of the rich dominating the poor in the name of politics, academic degrees, high positions at work and the power of their purse. It will be wise for the government not to create a curse to the future of the poor with the power of the rich man’s purse.

source:WAGLEY,MANA PRASAD (2014),"Public education in Nepal: Inequity problems",the himalayan times,2 Jan 2014
Dr. Wagley is an educationist

photo/art courtesy: The Himalayan Times

2014-01-03 | EducateNepal

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