Sunday, June 14, 2009

Private Schools in Nepal: Quality Education or Commercialization of Education

Nepal is one of the poorest countries on earth and illiteracy is a big problem for the country. In fact, almost half of the population are still illiterate and going to a school is more of a privilege than a basic human right for many people. There are basically two kinds of schools: public and private. The public schools are run by the government. ON the other hand, there are around 9,000 private and boarding schools. Needless to say that in private schools the children have to pay much more money to study. Naturally, only children of well-off families can study in these schools.
Now, a teacher’s organization called School Teachers Union (ISTU) could virtually paralyze the private schools today by calling a strike. The teachers belonging to ISTU stated that they felt that private schools were like commercialization of education in Nepal and they are against this matter. They want that the government nationalize all the private schools and a universal system of education should come in the country. They have also demanded in change of law that allows the establishment of private schools under Company Act. Instead, they want that all teachers get same salary and same facilities. By the way, I forgot to tell you that ISTU is pro-Maoist teachers’ union and at this moment, the Maoists are in power. ISTU members are now very vocal and they are planning to put more pressure on the government by arranging rallies in the country.

Private and Boarding School Association of Nepal (PABSON) does not share the same view with ISTU members. However, the member schools of PABSON have now even a more important problem to be worried about. Recently, Nepalese government imposed 5% education tax on all private schools. They have declared that they would not pay this tax. Finance minister Baburam Bhattarai is not amused with this kind of statement from PABSON. He has threatened to take stern action against any school that would not pay this tax.

Primary education is free in Nepal but I have stated that nearly half of the population are still illiterate. The Maoist government has declared its intention of No more private school just a few months ago. They want to make every school nationalized in the next two years and arrange free education for the children upto Class XII (higher secondary level). This is a lofty goal and I really wish to see whether the current Maoist government can implement it in such a short time. Well, I am not that much optimistic because no country in South Asia has been able to achieve it until now.
The supporters of private school system argue that private school can bring quality education for many children. In fact, almost one third of schools of Nepal are privately run. With some exceptions, children from well-off families study in the private schools. Tuition fee is often very high compared to public schools. More emphasis is given on English language. So, it is natural that students studying in private schools get more facilities compared to their counterparts in public schools.
There is some element of truth against the allegation of commercialization of education. Since the tuition fees are high, the owners can enjoy handsome profit. In fact, for some school owners, profit comes first and then they think of giving quality education to the students.
I have discussed both sides of issue. It is up to you to reach to your own conclusion. I just wish that a debate takes place in Nepalese media about the education system. It is the experts who should debate and discuss and help the government to formulate an educational policy in Nepal that would help the country.

(This entry was originally published in this blog on March 2009 and it is written on the context of that time.)

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