Schools have 10 years to convert into trust, private school operators object to the move


The Kathmandu Post

Jan 9, 2019 : The High Level Education Commission in its final report has extended the duration for private schools to convert into “trust from company” to 10 years from seven years as proposed in its preliminary report earlier.

The commission, formed five months ago, finalised the report on Tuesday. The move is part of a government plan to set a “broad education policy” in the country.

Concluding that the operation of private schools in the present form will be against the spirit of the constitution, which ensures free and compulsory education to every citizen, the commission has recommended that they be operated under trusts. This, according to the commission, will stop commercialisation in school education.

The report, to be presented to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Friday, says the transformation process of private schools from for-profit model to not-for-profit will commence in three years, while they would be given a decade to change their registration from company to trust.

Former education minister Ganga Lal Tuladhar, a member of the 24-member commission, told the Post that the duration was extended to ensure conformity to the provision outlined in the Free and Compulsory Education Act.

The Free and Compulsory Education Act envisions that every citizen should attend at least primary education by mid-April 2028. This three-year window will also mean more time for the government to gradually increase its investment in school education, Tuladhar added.

Commission members say their recommendations are based on Article 31(2) of the constitution, which makes state responsible to ensure compulsory basic education and free secondary education for all. They claim that leaving private educators to “generate profit”, as they are doing at present, would be tantamount to breach of the constitutional provision.

Apart from making private schools run under trusts, said Tuladhar, the move will make private schools service-oriented. The report has also floated dozens of suggestions to strengthen public education, he added.

Currently, private schools have around 20 percent share in the entire school education, where around 7 million students are enrolled from pre-primary to grade 12.

Private schools operators, however, have objected to the government plan.

DK Dhungana, senior-vice chairman of Private and Boarding Schools Organisation Nepal, said the government either should nationalise their schools paying compensation or allow them to operate the way they have been operating.

“We will be compelled to resort to protests if government endorses the plan to run our schools under trusts,” he told the Post, adding the members of the commissions have wrongly interpreted Article 31 (2) and Article 51 (h) of the constitution.

Private schools operators say rather than attacking their schools, the commission should work on ways to restructure public education in the country.

But Shyam Shrestha, another member of the commission, said the commission’s recommendations focuses more on enhancing the quality of education in public schools, which have 80 percent share, than just changing the legal status of private schools.

Hiring head teachers on contract after evaluating their performance, increasing education budget to at least 20 percent of the national budget as per government commitment and ensuring that every child gets basic education in mother tongue are the major recommendations of the commission, he said.

Despite its global commitment, the government’s investment in the education sector is decreasing compared to the national budget. The share of education budget which once reached 17 percent now is down to just 10 percent.

Allocating at least 20 percent of the national budget or 6.5 percent of the national GDP in the education sector has been the global practice.