Case for quality public schools


Republica National Daily

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We welcome the government decision to pave the way for 40,000 permanent teachers working in the public schools of Nepal to take voluntary retirement by offering them a golden handshake. This move is expected to go a long way in improving the quality of education in the government schools, which still continue to groom the major share of students in the country.

A recent meeting of the council of ministers took the decision to provide an amount equivalent to a pension of 12 months and maximum of five grades to teachers opting for voluntary retirement. Out of the 109,000 permanent teachers, 40,000 qualify for the scheme. Though what is being offered is not in sync with a 14-point deal reached with the Teachers’ Union of Nepal (TUN) in October 2009 when the government had agreed to provide a year’s salary and either promotion of one level or five grades to teachers opting for the scheme, most teachers are expected to eventually go for the offer after a little bit of give and take between the state and TUN. And that is the whole idea of the scheme: To lure outdated faces and replace them with a new generation of teachers. There is already a long waiting list of young, fresh and competent faces – who are more in tune with the times – waiting to fill in the vacant positions.

The state of affairs in government schools as of now is pathetic to say the least. The lack of infrastructure and the quality of teachers and subsequently the quality of education is more often than not a subject of ridicule. Unfortunately, this is happening at a time when these schools shoulder the major responsibility of nurturing the country’s young minds compared to the private schools. Compare for instance the number of students who appeared for the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examination from public and private schools: 275,751 students appeared for the Class X examination from public schools in 2009, a figure evidently much higher than the 66,881 students who appeared for the same examination from private schools. Unfortunately, however, while SLC pass percentage in private schools hovers around 90 percent, in the public schools it is just above 60 percent, which too is a recent improvement that has happened not because the quality of education there has suddenly shot up but because the state became flexible with the grades due to widespread criticism that the number of students passing out from state-run schools was abysmally low.

We hope that this decision of the government, and many more bold moves that are in the offing, will ultimately take up the standard of the country’s public schools to the next level. That is what our paper has always been advocating for. After all, it is the public schools of the country that will continue to play a big part in producing the next generation of leaders and bureaucrats – much like they have been doing until now – considering the number of students that still go there.

(The Republica Nepal)