The Nepali educational scenario: Changes are imperative

The new education minister of Nepal should start working on providing autonomy to the local authorities and making them accountable to the students and their parents. Should not we provide national performance standard guidelines for each subject?

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MANA PRASAD WAGLEY
Every time a new government takes over, a new education minister appears in the Ministry of Education. There s/he works for certain time, follows the age old tradition and disappears. People outside would be expecting a good educational leadership from the minister. But the expectations turn sour as instead of a better educational deal, the scenario further deteriorates. Sometimes it is observed that the new minister is put in a state of confusion by the experienced administrators and managers within the ministry. The novice minister is compelled to follow what they say just to sustain the tradition. This is one of the reasons why the common people are deprived of experiencing any remarkable change, let alone the transformation, in education in the past several decades. As a result the minister is made or rather confined to some inaugural speeches, signing some donor-driven agreements, conducting some formal meetings, issue age-old directives, visit here and there and meet people around. All these activities speak of “where is the leadership of the minister?”

Therefore, the first and foremost thing, the education minister should do is to set priorities in education. S/he should not forget the development plan, the core education document, the human resources plan, past agreements made with development partners, commitments to the international community, recent research reports on educational issues and problems, the manifesto of the concerned political party plus others. This may take a couple of months for the new minister to be oriented with but affording that much time would yield desired results in the future. S/he can also be briefed by the MoE senior administrators like the secretary and joint-secretaries but that briefing alone would not be sufficient for a position like the Education Minister. Basically the administrators have already set a traditional work structure and since they have been habituated to it they become the resistance factors for any change. They feel comfortable the way they have been working and are always afraid of changing the pattern that asks for extra effort from them.

We have seen that a new minister picks up some joint secretaries of the ministry and asks them to direct him/her the way to proceed. And this remains the fact within the MoE as age old tradition. This becomes worst when the minister trusts only those joint secretaries who are in line with her/his political ideology. And it is also true that the first and foremost thing the minister is interested to know is about the vacant positions in the education system so that party cadres could be positioned there. This tradition within the ministry has crippled the whole system keeping the priorities in the back benches.

The education minister should understand that s/he is not representing only the political party but the nation as a whole. Maintaining the rule of law should be the first priority. The implementation of Education Act and Regulations must first be monitored to make the system workable.

At a time when the total education system is defunct, what can the minister expect by working in the same system? This indicates that the new minister should either improve the current system of working or change the system to a new one. The law says one thing and the practice is another. For example, look at the interruption of partisan politics-based organizations in education; are they legally valid in terms of the Education Act? If the new minister follows the same trend to accept all nuisances of the ideological-based organizations, people can expect nothing in educational sector during her/his term.

can their students remain competitive in the global market? Not only the education ministers, the head of the government and the head of the state also prioritize student performance as major goals of education. They trust their local government and provide autonomy to them to run the system. The federal government takes charge only of policy formulation, monitoring, evaluation and research. They do not employ teachers from the centre, neither do they decide what textbooks to teach in schools. They do not even control school budget from the center. The headteachers and the School Governing Boards are made accountable to the local government and the local authorities are made accountable to the provincial government. The federal government prepares guidelines for minimum standards making them mandatory to be performed by all.

The new education minister of Nepal also should start working on providing autonomy to the local authorities and making them accountable to the students and their parents. One example, should we continue printing all textbooks at the center and distribute them to all schools? Should not we provide national performance standard guidelines for each subject to each school and make them free to select textbooks from the market to meet those standards? From the federal systemic point of view the new minister should immediately start the concept of delegating implementation authority to the local government so that the transition from today’s context to a context after the constitution is made would be smooth.

source:WAGLEY,MANA PRASAD(2014),"The Nepali educational scenario: Changes are imperative", The Himalayan Times,4 March 2014
photo/art courtesy: The Himalayan Times
Dr. Wagley is an educationist

2014-03-04 | EducateNepal

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