A Trade-off Between Access and Quality Doesn’t Hold Water

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तस्बिर - एडिबी

In recent decades, Nepal has been successful in dramatically increasing enrollment of students in schools. There has been tremendous progress in education since few decades but we aren’t there yet. Despite many efforts, Nepal has failed to provide quality education for all. The enrollment rate of children in primary schools has increased to 95 percent. But many kids drop out before finishing school. Efforts to enhance education in Nepal became quite synonymous with ensuring that every child finishes the school.

Improving access isn’t enough; the quality of education is also important. But public schools in Nepal failed to ensure the quality long ago which left many people with no other options but to choose private schools. The roles of private schools have grown over the past two decades explosively. Parents prefer to send their children to private schools due to perceptions of their higher quality. But the majority of people go to public schools. Those who attend public schools are poor, from rural areas, girls and marginalized groups. The study shows 80 percent of people attend public schools. Attempts to increase access to girls are thwarted due to discriminatory norms and social practices prevailed in our society. Many parents send their sons to private schools and daughters to public schools that perpetuates gender disparity.

 

Despite many attempts and investment in the education sector, the quality of public education in Nepal is still unsatisfactory.  According to the report, 8 percent of children enrolled in grade 1 drop out citing various reasons; while 23 percent repeat the grade. Only 70 percent of the original accomplice of children entering grade 1 complete the primary level. This problem is not only confined to Nepal. Recent data by UNESCO show that 124 million children and adolescents are out of school worldwide. In South and West Asia, 80% of out-of-school girls are unlikely to start school, compared to just 16% for boys.

 

Over few decades, the surge in enrollment has exposed the scale of the quality crisis in education in Nepal. Looking at data, we have come a long way over 25 years, in terms of graduation numbers and enrollment rate. But the quality of education provided by public schools is comparatively poor. The SLC result shows that private schools are far better than public schools. Statistics depict that, in 2070 B.S 93% students have passed SLC whereas the pass percentage from public school is only 28%. The problem lies in our education system. We are providing education to students that may not be quite relevant in the present world. The world is changing rapidly but we are still stuck with the traditional way of teaching practice.

 

According to the report, around 95 percent of teachers are trained in public schools whereas it is merely 15 percent in public schools. Not only this,public school’s teachers have job security, pension, and other privileges. Despite this, the quality of public education hasn’t improved. The study shows that in public schools, teacher absenteeism is very high, almost 15 to 18 percent on average. Teachers come to school, finish the chapter one after next and complete the formality. They don’t care if students learn or not. Finding out their talents, emphasizing critical analysis are far behind. Even a fourth-grade student in public schools can’t read and write basic English alphabets. There is no regular assessment of students in public schools. While private schools bask in glory when the SLC results come out, the majority of students go to public schools. Most of the family can’t afford to send to private schools as their fees are very expensive.But the study shows that in Nepal, private sector is rising and public sector is declining.

 

The majority of the education sector is covered by private sectors now. In a developed nation, the education sector is covered by the nation and it is nation’s responsibility to provide quality education. In America, 90 percent go to public schools. Likewise in the United Kingdom, it is 94 percent and in Singapore, 98 percent go to public school .The quality of education rendered by such nations is high. But here, parents are a skeptic to send their children to public schools knowing the poor quality of education. So they prefer to send them to private schools no matter what price they have to pay for it. Data shows that the investment in students at private schools is normally 10 times higher than that for public school students. Valley private schools are 10 times costlier than public schools.

 

Increase in political interference in the education sector and corruption is one of the main reasons behind degeneration of public education in Nepal. The majority of corruption cases charged by CIAA are from education sectors. A recent report by commission shows that education is the most corrupt sector in the country going by the number of complaints filed there. According to the media report, it shows that hundreds of fake schools were established to embezzle millions of rupees released by the government for teacher salaries and allowances, administrative expenses, student scholarships and setting up the infrastructure.

The argument that there is a trade-off between access and quality doesn’t hold the water. There is a greater need for change in education policy and structure. Our education model is traditional style. This should be enhanced and updated with time. Practical knowledge should be emphasized. The public schools should prioritize critical analysis, creativity rather than memorizing. Effective integration of technology across the curriculum helps to enhance the learning process. The Government can include civil society and other concerned organizations in policy making process. This helps to improve governance of education in terms of accountability and efficiency. Besides that, it helps to respond to continuously changing needs of students. There should be continuous monitoring of public schools by Government and other concerned partners to ensure the quality of education. Above all, there should be political commitments to improve our education sectors else the world will move ahead and we will be left far behind.

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