Education of Nepal and Sustainable Development Goals
In the developing countries like Nepal, social and economic constraints have been restraining the fast and quality progress in the education achievement.
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Education is a globally and continuously acknowledged process of enhancing the capability of human beings and enabling them to keep themselves and their environment sustainable, safe and advancing forward. Education is probably one of the most sought means of developing understanding and judgment and enabling action for the purpose of driving the life and society. Education motivates people to be skilled, knowledgeable and self-reliant and play central role in smooth functioning of life and society. It enables one to be respectful, able and activated.
In the modern world we gained education through formal/informal schooling, learning life skills and observing our life and societies and reading or listening to different forms of arts and creations (human and nature).
Education in Nepal
Nepal’s education system is guided by government policies to ensure the access of each Nepalese citizens’ to compulsory and free education up to secondary level with the special focus to children, women, disable and economically poor citizens. Nepal’s education institutions is composed of government entity ranging from central ministry agencies to regional and districts level agencies responsible for managing early childhood, basic, secondary and higher education (including Technical and vocation education and trainings) and its partnerships with private institutions, professional association and donor partners.
The school education in Nepal is seriously and continuously supported by government, its donor partners, civil societies’ and professional associates and other stakeholders to make sure that each children get access to quality schooling and learning outcomes. The Ministry of Education has been implementing School Sector Reform Plan (SSRP) as a major strategic plan of the Government of Nepal (GON), to ensure access, equity and quality of education to the Nepalese citizens. SSRP is jointly supported by nine pooling and non-pooling development partners (DPs) using a Sector Wide Approach (SWAPs). The Plan aims to increase the participation of all children to high-quality school education by focusing on strategic interventions and new reform initiatives to improve the access, efficiency, effectiveness and institutional capacity of the education system. Fiscal year 2015/16 is seventh and final year of SSRP implementation, thereby completing the 7 year SWAP. SSRP will be followed by School Sector Development Plan (SSDP) 2016 July onwards with focus on upgrading quality of the education and enhancing learning achievements of the students.
Recent damage of April 25 Earthquake
Nepal’s economic growth rate is predicted to be limited at 2% per annum for the year of 2016 due to post earthquake deadlock and economic blockade by India. The impact left by devastating earthquake in education sector can’t be ignored. Around 8000 schools were damaged and 36 thousands classrooms were destructed. Among the total damages, school education received 90% and remaining in higher education and TVET institutes. Hence the government with the support of many humanitarian agencies has made prioritized effort to resume the school education services by establishing temporary learning spaces, provision of text books materials, management of debris, proper and sustainable plan for future disaster resilient school building structures and provision of psychological support and training to students and teachers.
Among the recent progress, the government has full-fledged established the National Reconstruction Authority after 8 months of the earthquake, to carryout long term reconstruction activities and rebuild Nepal by ameliorate the bad impact left by earthquake.
Global Milestone and Nepal’s commitment in education sector
Nepal has been demonstrating its commitment to various global framework and instruments recognized for education development.
School Sector Reform Plan (SSRP), which is the currently being implemented as the main strategic intervention plan in education sector, has its root to various past education programs including Education for All (2001-15) Plan of Action and Basic and Primary Education Plan (2010). The government of Nepal has shown its participation to various international global miles stone in education sector like The World Declaration of Education For All (1990), Dakar Framework for Action on Education for All (2000), Millennium Development Goal (2000), United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005), Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI – 2012), World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development (2014) and Incheon Declaration (2015).
The government of Nepal has been trying to integrate the principals of above mentioned education framework in its education plans and policies to meet the global standard of education development.
Achievements in education indicators
Some of visible achievements have been made through the SSRP in the area of access and equity, quality, exam reform and public financial management and governance, teachers’ capacity and safety as well as disaster preparedness of the school education. The share of education budget as a percentage of GDP has raised from 3.5% in 2009 to 4% in 2016. School education still receives the highest share (85% of total education budget) with 79% for basic education and 9% for secondary education. Remaining 15% is allocated for higher education, non-formal and TVET sub-sector.
The number of schools within the period of 2008 to 2015 has reached 34837 and the gross enrollment rate of primary level has reached to 96.6% in that period (against 91.9% baseline). The average pass percentage of SLC (grade 10) has been limited to 50.2% in that period. The free and compulsory basic education is under implementation on phase wise. National Assessment of student achievement (NASA) has been proved to be effective tool to measure the learning achievements of the students and helping government to make proper strategies for intervention.
Similarly the dropout rate of grade 5 has decreased from 7.4 in 2009 to 3.1 in 2014. At basic education level, about 91.4% teachers are qualified and trained (against the baseline 66% in 2009).
Apart from above quantitative progress, one of the significant qualitative reform steps of the government is to restructure the school system by amending the exiting education act so as to introduce basic education covering grades 1-8. The process has been delayed citing administrative reason due to the post-earthquake and economic blockade imposed by India. The newly established system will also pilot the secondary education from grade 9-12 in selected district.
The government is also waiting for necessary legislative changes to implement the free and compulsory basic education. More specifically, school aged children out of school and children of disabilities will not be deprived of their basic right to education through the reform plan.
In the developing countries like Nepal, social and economic constraints have been restraining the fast and quality progress in the education achievement. In addition, the recent earthquake of April 2015 added more economic burden to the government. Some of the specific challenges faced by education sector of Nepal are pointed out under different themes
- Early Childhood Education and Development (ECED): Government has not been able to address the institutional and human resource capacity gap of ECD centers spread across the district and village development committees of the country. There has been continuous effort to allocate separate earmarked budget for upgrading the quality standards of ECD centers but there has not been significant contribution to this sector.
One of the main objectives to strengthen the ECED system is to increase the share of students having ECED experience in grade 1, so the strong foundation drives their future towards more prosperity. Around 62% of the total grade-1 students have received ECED experience and the government aims to increase it.
- Lifelong learning: Along with providing non-formal education, the government is also trying to link up the literacy gain with the possibility their economic engagements through involvement in income generating activities. The effort has been made to maximize the poor beneficiaries from marginalised and rural communities.
- Access and Equity: SSRP has made significant upsurge in the primary enrollment rate but the biggest challenge of bringing out-of-school children within the school system still remains an unfinished agenda. Annually, the government hasn’t been able to create equal favorable learning environment in schools across the ecological regions, urban/rural areas including timely availability of school texts books and trained teachers, timely examination and results. To address these challenges, the government is developing the Equity Strategy which will ensure the provision of all necessary materials to children across all geographical regions.
- Teacher Management and Development: The government has realized that without the skilled and qualified teachers, there is no guarantee of quality deliver of knowledge to the children. Hence, teacher management, recruitment of qualified teachers in school on regular basis, qualification upgrading of existing teachers, deployment of teachers as per the demand of the students etc area remains under priority of government and donor partners.
- Financial Management: SSRP developed the Financial Management Implementation action Plan (FMIAP) to improve the financial management system of the Ministry of Education. Appropriate resources allocation, quality auditing and timely reporting of the financial data and progress are major concern in the financial management area.
- Capacity and Institutional arrangement:
To ensure the effective and timely delivery of the education service to the children, the capacity of each institutional mechanism needs to be enhanced from central to regional and district (including VDCs). In that direction the government is developing effective implementation tools and enhancing human resource capacity through recruitment and training but still due to various technical reasons, the process is delaying to show it visible impact.
- Accountability: Public accountability and transparency is a heated issue among the education stakeholder because it has been stressed by donors and public stakeholders that it is the prime responsibility of the government to publicize all the informations, project results and responsibilities through effective information system available online/offline.
- TVET: Though the government has clearly stated that the whole education system will be TVET oriented so as to ensure that each student have basic life skills to engage in economic activities, however the results are nominal. The availability of TVET information, expansion of TVET streams in general schools and examination reforms are some of the associated challenges for government in TVET sector.
- Monitoring: With the increased channeling of the resources in the education sector through joint effort of GoN and development partners, the need of robust and strong
- Resource Constraints: To implement the agreed and target actions made by the government for Nepal, there is need of additional resources and support from all stakeholders.
There are several other education challenges indicated by UN report on analysis of education sector globally, in which Nepal is also not free from.
Inequity and Time Poverty: There has been limited education environment for students with disability and female students as the poor government can’t channelize sufficient budget for disability friendly school infrastructures and female friendly toilets, teaching curriculum and materials in all schools. Apart from that, the poor parents limit the participation of their children in school during farming and harvesting seasons. The school participation is limited by geographical remoteness and lack of transportation roads, vehicles equally across the country.
Barrier for women and marginalized groups: Women face relatively more challenges in having access to education in developing countries like Nepal due to the socially constructed gender role including household activities. Being in trap of vicious circle of exclusion and inequality, there are more girls out of school than boys, and women are socially and culturally excluded in Nepal which required careful attentions from concerned stakeholders.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Education
In the recently endorsed SDG framework, Education has been advocated as a largely untapped strategic resource for building re-salient and sustainable societies. It has been put forwarded as a stand-alone entity to improve human living standard with direct linkages to economic growth, employment, gender equity, healthy life and creation of peaceful and resilient societies.
It has been well explained that the overall aspect of education is fundamental to promote, peace, justice and equality in the work. Various lessons has been learnt from the last decade of MDGs (2000-2015); providing stronger and sustainable pathways for upcoming SDG (2015-30) period. The citizens with higher capabilities and skills can make better choices in their life regarding economic engagements and productivity as well as promoting social values like trust, tolerance, equity and global cooperation.
Investment in Education brings improvement in social and cultural practices also. It discourages harmful practices like child marriage and early birth, and child labour. Educated family and society make fast transition from agriculture to non-agriculture and industry based economy. Educated country invests on research and technology to bring innovation and productivity so as to address the new emerging problem and needs of the country and the world.
Low level of education and skills among citizens has multiple implications. It gives space for inequality, weak and fragile economy, unemployment and low wage, exploitation and criminal activtites, foreign migration of low skilled workers and insecurity. Also weak education system make knowledge gap in disaster risk reduction and preparedness, low technology absorption capacity of citizens and slow economic growth.
Though the Ministry of Education hasn’t made reflection of SDG on the education progress and plan of Nepal (still in progress) however it would be relevant to share SDG recommendation to make sustainable improvement in education sector. The SDG recommends investing and strengthening education system by integrating the education component to broad ranges of other development areas like economic growth and employment, gender and peace, infastrastcture and health and agriculture.
The government should focus on infrastructural development friendly to gender and disability students. Along with the hardware aspects, there should be reform in the curriculum so as to promote civil and peace education, understanding of democratic norms and values like transparency, accountability etc. Every effort of education should incorporate vulnerable groups, disabilities, poor and rural citizens. Along with government effort to promote formal education, there is also role media (especially private) to raise awareness among the citizens and raise the questioning capacity for the citizen regarding their basic right to education.