Thanks to lax regulation and haphazard planning in the educational sector, Kathmandu Valley is witnessing a boom in Plus Two colleges, which experts say is a matter of concern.
Government statistics show there are around 400 higher secondary schools in the Valley, which account for more than 15 percent of all such schools in the country.
This concentration of schools in Kathmandu means fewer quality schools in the districts and fewer choices for students there, says education expert Vidya Nath Koirala. "Consequently, a large number of students are compelled to migrate to Kathmandu for quality education. Their migration to the Valley further caters to the mushrooming profit-oriented private schools."
Unofficial estimates show that around 50,000 students flock to the valley right after the SLC results come out every year. Students look for better higher educational institutions, despite high costs involved.
"Students from districts outside the Capital could have received better education at a lower cost in their own region had the government prioritised educational institutions there," says Koirala.
Students and guardians concede that Kathmandu-centric education has made higher education unnecessarily costly.
"We have no alternative but to send our children to Kathmandu despite the cost," Amar Lamsal of Bardiya. His two SLC graduate sons have joined a Plus Two college in New Baneshwor.
Manoj Paudel, a student who came to the Capital two weeks ago for higher studies, feels stressed by the costs he had to bear before getting entry into a college. "I have already spent Rs 10,000 on bridge course and entrance examinations in different colleges," he says.
"I would not have come here had there been a better school in my locality," says another student Sanjay Yadav, who is spending Rs 4,000 per month on room rent alone.
The cost has sent some students back home. Umesh Mandal, 17, is one of them. "I have decided to return to Banke as I felt my stay in Kathmandu would put too much of an economic burden on my family," says Mandal.
On an average, the two-year higher secondary level study costs a maximum of Rs 180,000 in the faculty of science whereas humanities and management streams cost Rs 100,000 to 150,000, respectively. Besides, the high inflation rate and skyrocketing prices of essential goods have increased living expenses dramatically.
"Fees and living costs are too high, not only for students from middle class families but for everyone. Still we have no other option," said Uttam Shrestha of Jhapa.
Shrestha, who sold some cattle to pay for his daughter's education, feels proud to have gotten his daughter admitted to a 'sophisticated' college in Kathmandu.
Experts agree that students in the districts have no choice but to turn to the schools in the Valley. "Schools with specialised courses like science lack proper infrastructure and quality teachers at the regional level," said Koirala.
"Unlike the schools in districts, those in the Valley maintain unholy nexus with the Higher Secondary Education Board to guarantee their students' good performance. There are irregularities within the HSEB."
The only solution, says another education expert Mana Prasad Wagle, is to regulate college licences.
"College licences should be issued after population mapping and there should be regular monitoring of the quality of educational institutions," says Wagle.
"Unfortunately, corrupt regulatory bodies take bribes, grant licences and let schools off the hook even when they make mistakes."
(Source: The Kathmandu Post: July 7)