The situation of Nepal’s education sector, particularly public education institutions, is deteriorating at present. The government’s reluctance to endorse the proposed Higher Education Act, an umbrella act governing the development of higher education, is a major obstacle to the effective implementation of an education model that would promote quality education. Politicians appear hesitant to work on this policy document and as a result, if the parliament delays this act, several universities will suffer, which will create long-term problems in the higher education sector.
Politicisation of the education sector is the crux of the problem. Vice-chancellors and rectors in universities are selected through backroom negotiations among political parties, who fight for bringing in their own loyalists. Another serious concern, which is not being addressed properly while establishing new universities, is maintaining balance among the three ecological regions—Tarai, Hill and Mountain.
Education planners and authorities have been working on a separate act that would favour the establishment of new universities without intensive background research. The proposed universities in Kanchanpur, Surkhet and Chitwan districts, for instance, are not distributed equally among the three belts, which will have serious impacts on ecology and demography in future. Tribhuvan University is a good example of how a university’s products and by-products can have serious impacts on the original inhabitants of a particular area. Kirtipur is a Newar locale, but the rapid migration of students from different corners of the country to this area since TU’s establishment in 2016 BS has displaced Newars and created conflict among the local residents.
This case is just the tip of the iceberg. Establishment of universities in the Terai belt, along East-West Highway in particular, will sow a seed of similar conflicts in the coming years. This happens when universities are not established according the needs of a particular area. Most of these universities don’t even meet basic criteria, like the total number of students required or necessary infrastructure. An example is Mahendra Multiple Campus in Nepalgunj, which was upgraded to a technical university even though it doesn’t has the minimum number of students.
At the same time, the government hasn’t shown any interest in upgrading Prithvi Narayan Campus, which is one of the largest campuses of the country with adequate students and resources. This happened because politicians from the Tarai have more influence than those from the other regions.
A clear policy for the promotion of technical and vocational trainings also needs to be formulated now, to which the authorities concerned haven’t paid attention. The Technical Education, Vocational Education and Entrepreneur-ship Training (TEVET) policy is pending in the parliament for approval since more than seven months ago.
Technical, vocational and entrepreneurship training is lifeline for younger generations, who are keen to migrate to countries like Malaysia, South Korea and Dubai for employment. Equipping youths with education and skills they need would allow them to find good jobs, and ensure that they are well paid and professionally treated.
Several donors are also working in this sector and providing trainings on their own, but it is hardly enough, as the government is unable to monitor their work because in absence of a regulatory mechanism. Although a proposal for the establishment of a technical and vocational training council, to be led by Prime Minister to monitor this sector and make the donors accountable by implementing a single-door mechanism, has been forwarded, no progress has been made so far.
The country needs to be clear about its goals and targets and what it wants to accomplish within a distinct time frame, but unfortunately, this determination appears to be lacking among the authorities, including the government, non-government, educationists and development partners. The technical education sector is among the government’s least prioritised fields in terms of investment and policy-making.
As told to Pragati Shahi
(Khaniya is a former member of National Planning Commission)
(The Kathmandu Post)