Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Education for All

The Nepal government has set a number of strategies to ensure the access of all children to basic education under ‘Education for All’ program by the year 2015. The program aims to guarantee the right of education to all including those from the ethnic communities, minorities and linguistic groups, and to eliminate gender and social disparity.

Another scenario, particularly noticed in public schools, is that teachers do not go to school regularly, even if they go there, they do not go to their classrooms, if they enter the classrooms, they do not teach. It is also heard that teachers go to school by rotation in most of the villages. Instead of teaching they ask students to do their personal chores. Against this background, it is almost impossible for a child to be educated in a proper way.

There is no doubt that education is a basic foundation for development of all sectors of the country. It is only possible through the means of education to end social, political and economic disparities that exist in a society. Only education prepares skilled and quality human resources, which a nation desperately needs to change its gloomy appearance into brighter one.

The program is concerned to provide primary education through formal education whereas ‘child education’ and ‘adult education’ are given through non-formal education. To cater such services the country does not have enough trained teachers which could be the greatest setback to achieve the goals by stipulated time frame. Presently, the percentage of trained teachers is only about twenty.

An educational survey report shows that the current enrollment rate of primary level students is 81 per cent, and the goal is set to make this rate 100 per cent by 2015. Similarly, the literacy rate is also assumed to increase from 48 per cent to 75 per cent and the rate of trained teachers from 20 per cent to 100 per cent.

The government has introduced a special scholarship scheme from this academic year to encourage children towards education. Particularly children from the families, which have not acquired primary education, will be provided a stipend at the rate of Rs. 500 per student per annum. More than 100,000 children from the target group are estimated to be benefitted through this scheme.

In the same way, provisions have been made for providing a scholarship to girl students from the economically vulnerable families including all children from the dalit community, backward indigenous communities and children from the families living under the absolute poverty line. Along with this, 50 per cent of girl students who are studying in community primary schools throughout the country will also be provided a scholarship of Rs. 250 per student per year.

Decentralization and school-based vocational assistance have been taken as the principal strategies for bringing about improvements in all aspects of quality education. The long term plan aims to increase access to education and to establish special scholarship mechanisms for disabled and students with special education needs. In addition, children’s learning needs are decided to be fulfilled through the adoption of inclusive education.

The local community could play an important role in making the schools autonomous, capable and effective. In this regard, a program has been worked out for consolidating the capacity of local communities for enhancing their efficient management. On the basis of achievements gained by the community-managed schools, the government also has a plan for handing over the management of schools to the community. Two main objectives of this strategy are to strengthen the role of the community and to enhance quality education.
However, it is a great tragedy that Nepal has been suffering a lot due to political instability. And education sector is one which is affected the most by such an unstable situation. The existing schools have been closing down, student dropout rate has been increasing, and teachers have also been quitting their jobs because of insecurity, fear, ongoing conflict and violence. A study report on the other hand indicates that there are still more than 6,00,000 children of 6 to 10 year old age group who are deprived of accessing primary education.

At the planning level everything looks fine, but when a question of implementation is raised many problems appear. An entire success of the “Education for All” program depends on the level of dedication of all stakeholders – the government, all the organizations working in the field of education, parents, teachers and students themselves.

The government must have strong follow up mechanism to achieve the above mentioned goals. The concerned ministry and related offices must be fully aware of what is really happening in schools, if teaching-learning is going on there or something else, if deserving candidates are getting a scholarship or if invested money is being used correctly. The problematic areas can be identified through regular follow-ups. If the problems are detected on time and solutions are provided promptly, then implementation side could be more effective.

In contrast, only introducing different programs and not trying best to implement them efficiently and successfully can be a great waste of money, time and energy. Eventually, “Education for All” may remain just as a slogan instead of this turning into reality.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Sunday, May 30, 2004) 

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I would appreciate any and all suggestions on making improvements (as long as they are viable).