Bidya Nath Koirala
We grew up in a 10-year school education system, which has now been replaced with a 12-year system. In the past, an intermediate qualification was considered more valuable than a school qualification. However, in the newly established all topics taught at the intermediate level at the time were automatically incorporated. Colleges used to devote 65 percent of resources to the intermediate level or equivalent, but this amount of expenditure could not be replicated in Grades 11-12 in the new system. Similarly, the current curriculum states that there are 12 classes at the school level. Does the transition mean that the schools have been de facto promoted? If such is the case, why are they still referred to as Science, Humanities, and Management schools, even if there are no independent departments at the secondary level?
Why are the government, school administration, the University Grants Commission, and institutions all keeping quiet about this? The Ministry of Education is currently dormant on this issue. Why haven't competent instructors and university professors been brought in to teach at the level if the schools have been promoted? Because formerly, courses taught in Grades 11 and 12 were deemed university-level subjects. In other words, what is the difference between 11th and 12th grade? Is it a high school, a college, or a part of tertiary or higher education? Nobody is accountable for the answers to these questions.
Tertiary education is non-degree education. From the point of view of American school system, it is an institution that offers vocational, technical, community, and diploma courses. So is higher education, according to the World Bank's terminology.
It neither provides vocational and technical education in grades 11 and 12 to be classified as a tertiary institution nor offers both credit and non-credit courses to be classified as a community college. Why not have university-level markers if it is genuinely higher education?
These essential concerns have not been discussed or acknowledged. Is it due to egoism, a lack of understanding, or simply because they are ineligible?
Career education creates employable labor. Currently at the school level, we do not impart any social or job skills to develop a functioning workforce. Thus it cannot be considered career education. However, it cannot be called academic education either because it lacks the foundation of higher education courses.
The practice of Grade 11 and 12th in western schools can be used as a model, where students are given the central role. Students can pick their courses, take private lessons, or attend open schools. The school's job is to administer exams to the students.
However, in Nepal, students are required to study the courses offered by a school, where schools and colleges are subject-oriented, given that the institutions provide multi-disciplinary courses. We should have followed the student-centered approach instead. HISSAN, a higher education advocacy organization, never speaks out on this subject while the government watches passively. And the vast majority of students and parents are completely unaware.
In the credit hour system, the subject matter is secondary. Students can study any topics they want as long as they are credit hours. Grades 11 and 12 will end in 64 credit hours, including some courses in the humanities, some in science, and others in management, which can be taken at different schools.
Our practice, however, has been to completely disregard this aspect while adhering to the same old integer system. To date, no school has implemented one-way credit hours. If it had been implemented, an open school model would have been instated, wherein a science student would have to attend a separate school entirely for humanities classes, and referral courses would have been incorporated. Instead, we are woefully outmatched.
Academic education is theoretical. Theoretical education is the most crucial aspect of academic education. In higher education, this is what occurs. There should be 11th and 12th-grade tertiary and community colleges to give experience in addition to education. In other words, academic education is the basis for undergrad enrolment. Those who have completed tertiary or community education cannot enroll in the undergraduate program directly. To do so, they'll need to take a few prerequisite classes. However, this hasn't been the case in our practice.
An argument can be made that we are committed to making our education conducive to Article 50 (h) of the constitution, which is “making education scientific, technical, professional, skill-oriented, and employment and people-oriented to prepare the human resources to be competent, competitive, moral, and committed to the national interest.”
Regrettably, this is only true in principle. Knowledge, science, technology, philosophy, and skill-oriented education systems have all been overlooked. The fact that most university students have neither the required expertise nor the necessary skills indicates that we have made a notable misstep.
The questions above all indicate that education in classes 11 and 12 is aimless. In theory, unanimity is required to get it to achieve its target with a pragmatic approach. The following ideas explore the next course of action:
Flexible schools imply theme shifts in which students are permitted to pursue their interests. A prescribed credit must be given regardless of the subject a student is studying.
On the other hand, flexible universities allow students to pick the topic of their interest from among the university's schools and campuses. It is necessary to determine whether or not the students are capable of doing so. It is not required for all students to be able to pursue higher education. Only qualified students should be admitted to undergraduate programs after a standard obligatory entrance examination.
Career education can be introduced for those who cannot get into universities, education that teaches skills to earn a living. An arrangement can be made to achieve alternate education equivalent to a university degree where the students can learn at their own pace through open mode. If not, the existing schools will lose their essence, and so will the one-way course's nature.
If this isn't possible, education can't be practical, scientific, or even productive. Let's break the habit of overlapping structures with misaligned goals. Let us appropriately articulate the academic and skill-oriented institutions if they are to be merged. If not, we should be able to call them apart and allow them to function independently. With the current state of confusion, no ground can be covered.
The local government should be the one that prepares entrepreneurs for the future. This is how a nation like Nepal, with a limited labor market, should think.
- Translated by Abhishek Bhandari