Private school lobbyists and lawmakers have stood against the legislation on restructuring school-level education, a major part of the multi-billion School Sector Reform Programme (SSRP) adopted six years ago.
They have even warned of stalling the process if their concerns are not addressed. Over four dozen lawmakers from different political parties in the Legislature-Parliament, who have direct investment in private schools and colleges, have sought to incorporate their demands. If the government bows to the pressure, the very objective of the reform that aims to make basic education free for all and restructure ownership to make it less profit-driven will be undermined.
The government last week tabled a bill on the eighth amendment to Education Act-1972, which envisions restructuring of school education, phasing out School Leaving Certificate examination and paving the way to open only cooperative schools. Once the bill gets endorsed, the present provision of operating schools under private ownership, with the registration at the Office of the Company Registrar, will be cancelled. As a result, it will become mandatory that schools are registered as cooperative.
This, however, does not apply to private schools that are in operation before the law comes into effect. It also envisions ending the decades-long problem of temporary teachers, as they will be provided with “golden handshake” based on their service period.
According to records at the Bill Section of Parliament, 37 amendments have been registered by lawmakers so far. Most of them have investment in private schools and colleges. Nepali Congress lawmaker and Chair of Higher Secondary Schools Association Nepal Umesh Shrestha, former chairman of Private and Boarding Schools Organisation Nepal (Pabson) Baburam Pokharel and Geeta Rana, former chief of NPabsan, are among those who have registered amendments.
They have expressed serious reservations about school registration, the provision of free and compulsory basic education and formation of a Central Examination Board (CEB). They are also against ending the Zero-Plus Two system, in which many institutions have been running only the two-year school-end programme. The bill makes it mandatory for Plus Two colleges to run secondary schools.
Karna Bahadur Shahi, chairman of the Association of Private Educational Institutions of Nepal (Apein), an umbrella body of over a dozen associations of private colleges and schools, said, “We won’t cooperate if our concerns are not addressed. The government has overlooked our investment and contribution.”
He said that private school operators would concentrate their effort on building pressure on Parliament. A full House discussion on the bill has been scheduled for next week. The incumbent government has tabled the bill to implement crucial provisions of the SSRP that was adopted in 2009.
Similar bills that were earlier tabled twice could not be endorsed due to lobbying from the private sector.
The SSRP envisions restructuring the school level education at basic (grades one to eight) and secondary levels (grades nine to 12) from the existing primary (grades one to five), lower-secondary (grades six to eight), secondary (grades nine to 10) and higher secondary (grades 11 to 12) levels. Similarly, the Higher Secondary Education Board will be replaced by the CEB, and SLC exams will go regional while central assessment will be held only in grade 8.
Source: An article by Binod Ghimre, Published in The Kathmandu Post on 03-01-2016