HIGHER SECONDARY EDUCATION
VOL. 06, NO. 02, June 22, 2012 (Ashar 08, 2069)
Education For Profit
Although highly commercialized, the Higher Secondary School Education (HSSE) has transformed Nepal’s education system as a whole. Despite unstable government policies, the private sector has been investing huge amounts of money to cater to a large number of students. The question deserving some brooding is: are private schools providing quality education at all or just making money from their venture?
By KESHAB POUDEL
With the announcement of the results of the School Leaving Certificate exams, advertisements of various higher secondary schools offering courses for the new graduates are flooding the market. To lure the students, higher secondary schools are making every bit of publicity effort.
With attractive hoarding boards in various nooks and corners of the city and floods of advertisements of various schools in newspapers, radio and television channels, private investors are now selling education as a good venture to maximize the profit. Out of 495,998 students who appeared in the SLC, 208,235 or 47.16 percent students passed this year.
More than 3000 higher secondary education institutions are now competing to lure the over 200,000 students. There are three different types of higher secondary schools in the country. Although higher secondary education is a part of the school education system in other parts of the world, this is still regarded as higher education in Nepal. This is the reason Higher Secondary Education Board issued permission to three different institutions to run +2 education.
Along with high schools, there are +2 colleges. Some university affiliated colleges are also running +2 systems. Mostly 10+2 higher secondary schools are commercializing the education. Out of 3000, a large numbers of higher secondary schools are community schools attached with high schools. However, students prefer get admission to colleges or +2 schools.
“The government has already prepared a bill that will change the present education system making up to 12 as school education,” said Kishor Thapa, secretary of Ministry of Education. “This is the only way to end the existing bad practices in higher education.”
Although the government has floated the idea to cancel the SLC board by allowing the higher secondary education board to conduct the final exams of school education, the idea is yet to materialize. In the context of the growing influence by private investors in the +2 education and increasing hobnobbing of politicians and private investors, changing the present education system will take a time.
“We are persuading the government to make +2 a part of high schools. Private and boarding schools are ready to support the government to improve the quality of school education,” said Dr. Baburam Pokharel, founder principle of VS Niketan School and president of Private and Boarding Schools Association of Nepal (PABSON).
Although the thrust of education should be to impart quality education to the students and produce manpower which can meet the requirements of the country, the situation is different here as most of the private +2 schools in urban areas are concerned with business. Luring students through advertisement, these schools charged huge amounts of money from the students.
Education experts argue that Nepal’s higher secondary education turns merely into a money making venture. Those who invested the money have already made huge profits by attracting others. “Some school owners are making +2 education as a noodle producing factory,” said Krishna Kanta Parajuli, chairman of CANVAS international school.
Private investment is not bad at all given strong regulatory authority with monitoring capability. Thanks to private investment, the quality of education in Nepal has improved a lot including stopping Nepalese students going abroad for +2 education. “ After introduction of higher secondary education system in Nepal, we have been able to change the mentality of parents who used to send their children in foreign countries after completion of SLC,” said Dr. Pokharel.
Higher secondary school education completely relies on the private sector investment and the present trend of commercialization is the outcome of this trend. Although many community schools are also running +2, they too do not receive any subsidy from the Ministry of Education. This is the reason the qualities of education in community schools and private schools are different. Had the government created a strong regulatory authority and provided some sort of subsidy to recruit highly qualified teachers, the present scenario would have been different.
Following the publication of results of SLC, Nepal’s media is flooded with the advertisements of various private Higher Secondary Schools with commitment to offer the quality and competitive education to the students. In the race of marketing, community schools are nowhere.
“10+2 is a hundred percent private sector is investment. Education should not be commercialized as today. Government does not have regulatory authority. Had the regulatory authority set up norms for education including fees, the situation would have been different,” said Dr. Tirtha Khaniya, former vice chairman of the Higher Secondary Education Board and the member of the National Planning Commission. “Commercialization should be stopped in 10+2 and one must preserve reverence to the education system.”
When Nepali Congress led government under Education Minister Govinda Raj Joshi introduced 10+2 as a replacement for redundant proficiency certificate level from Tribhuwan University, he fought tooth and nail with communist factions and teachers associated with left front. His team of higher secondary education reforms led by Dr. Tirtha Khaniya survived several physical assaults from students wings and leftist teachers. Ironically, now leftists or their sympathizers, control over 70 percent of higher education of institutions in Nepal. And those, who opposed this system were charging Nepali Congress with selling education to private company, are now the major beneficiaries.
“UML and UCPN-Maoist sympathizers have virtually destroyed the revered education being a partyto commercial interests. Mant attached the name of their leaders in commercial purposes tying the institutions with their late comrades like Pushpa Lal Memorial, Manmohan Memorial, Madan Bhandari Memorial. Even former minister Devi Prasad Ojha, who held the education ministry during the CPN-UML rule, is now running Morgan, a highly commercial higher secondary school.
Tragedy of education
At a time when higher secondary schools are competing with each other to pull the students, the suicide of 12 girls after failing SLC exams has sent a shock wave. With a hype in the media about passing SLC as if that was the greatest achievement, psychologically everybody sees SLC certificate as a panacea for the beginning of new life.
Although the failed percentage in bachelor’s level and higher secondary education level is much higher than in SLC, there are rare cases of suicide at these levels,”said educationist Dr. Khaniya.
Psychologist Dr Ganga Pathak blamed their demanding parents for the suicides of these girls. “The girls may have committed suicide due to pressure, and the accompanying guilt, of not being able to meet the expectations of their parents,” Dr Pathak said.
She also said that giving undue importance to SLC piles up pressure on the students. “The students would have appeared in hundreds of exams and passed them before sitting for SLC. The fear of SLC, however, takes over and they cannot perform well in the exams,” she explained.
She also blasted the system of giving marks and opined that grading system should be embraced.
To date, the higher secondary schools- rural and urban, remote and near, or affluent and poor, all are given affiliation by the Board on common preconditions like the basis of teachers, physical facilities and economic resources. Therefore the social justice seems somewhat neglected.
As there is no system of giving permission for the processing of schools on the basis of mapping and possible reports, the schools given permission by the board do not have the desired amount of students in them.
Nearly more than one thirds of the higher secondary programs are not attached with secondary schools. This affects a lot in the development of a psychology that higher secondary education is also a part of school education.
The programs of 10+2’s that are affiliated by the Higher Secondary Education Board are much more than that of community based T.U. affiliated campuses.
Mostly T.U. campuses are limited only in the cities and headquarters of districts whereas higher education programs are distributed not only in the urban areas but also in the rural areas and the villages. These types of programs are very useful in removing the imbalance of educational opportunities. But before starting these programs the burden of infrastructures.
“There are 3383 higher secondary schools. In 2068/069 alone, 88 school received permission,” said Dr. Hem Kumar Misra, Vice Chairman, Higher Secondary Education Board. “We are concerned with commercialization,” said Mishra. “It is said that education is a lifelong process, but the basic education that one gets during the formative years definitely contributes to the shaping of one's future and outlook. This is where the school and high school education assumes importance.”
Following this outcome, Government of Nepal decided to introduce the Higher Secondary Education Act, which came into effect in 1989 A.D. Later, as stipulated in the Act, the Higher Secondary Education assembly was constituted under the chairmanship of the Minister of Education.
Subsequently Higher Secondary Education Board (HSEB) was established in 1989 under the Higher Secondary Education Act. The board is involved in running the 10 + 2 system in the country. Nepal National Commission of Education 1992 recommended the importance of the 10 + 2 structure in the education system and viewed it as the first step towards specialization.
Incorporating extra two years in school education was a change in the existing educational structure aiming at meeting the middle level manpower and imparting necessary knowledge and skills to the students pursuing further education.
The higher secondary education in Nepal, is nothing more than the result of globalization, a need to come in terms with the global markets when the world is turning into a global village, and the countries, borderless.
Education Is Becoming A Business: Parajuli
KRISHNA K. PARAJULI, chairman of CANVAS International College, has been in the teaching profession for a long time. Parajuli spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT on various issues related to challenges before higher secondary school. Excerpts:
How do you view the present state of higher secondary education?
Higher secondary education or +2 is now commercialised to some extent. But, this is purely a service oriented sector with scholarship for the students, imparting quality education within the country and producing high quality students as required for the overall development of the country.
Do you believe the +2 education is serving the interest of a large number of students living in the remote parts of Nepal?
Going through the present scenario, we have to accept the fact that the +2 education is now very much commercialised. This is now very much a business as more businessmen are coming to invest in the +2 education. It is unfortunate that higher secondary education is now controlled by businessmen. You can see any Tom, Dick and Harry opening a higher secondary school.
How can this situation be improved?
It is easy to improve the situation. If a criterion is developed making it mandatory to involve academic persons in school, the present unhealthy practice will be minimized.
Don’t you think it is against the constitutional right to limit investment?
I am not saying, stop the private investment. My argument is that it is not like opening a noodle factory or a noodle business.
What is your general impression about +2?
It is a good education system and it helps to reduce the number of students going abroad for higher secondary education. What we need now is to revere education. That is all.
Govt Not Helping Schools: Pokharel
Dr. BABURAM POKHAREL, founder of VS Niketan Higher Secondary School, is the president of Private and Boarding School Organizations of Nepal (PABSON). After the results of SLC exams, private boarding schools are in the news again. Pokharel spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT on various issues. Excerpts:
How do you explain the present state?
Private and boarding schools have been providing education to one thirds of total students. It is very sad that private and boarding schools continue to live under the clouds of uncertainty.
How do you view the advertisement race at present?
It should not have been done. But, you cannot stop people from choosing to advertise. Parents are aware about the education institutions. For instance, reputed schools have already stopped spending huge money in public advertisements. Schools like VS Niketan believe in imparting quality education. We don’t believe in business or commercialization.
Then, who is spending such money?
Mostly unknown schools opened with business purposes are doing so. Those who believe in quality education cannot cross their limits. Members of PABSON are aware about this.
What about the government. Doesn’t it protect you?
Don’t talk about giving any protections. The government remains to be more of a destabilizing factor. Other groups do things in an illegal way but the government destabilizes us through legal ways. The work of every education minister seems to destabilize the education institutions.
How do you view the policy of the government?
Policies and regulations are full of contradictions. There are too many negative perceptions about the private schools. What the society, the government and the guardians forget is the contribution made by private schools to enhance the quality of education as per international standards.
What are the implications of destabilization of private and boarding schools?
The first impact is in the quality of education. After the opening of private boarding schools, Nepalese parents virtually stopped sending their children to Indian schools and parents were satisfied sending their children in private board schools. It saved billions of rupees going out of the country.
What is the state of private boarding schools in the country?
There are 9000 private boarding schools with 1.5 million children enrolment as against 29000 public schools with 6.6 million students. Private sector is annually saving over 16 billion rupees of government coffers by providing employment to tens of thousands of people.
How do you justify the current level of commercialization?
Education is not a means to commerce. Education needs to remain as a public service domain. It is not a business. However, it is the government policy that is responsible for the present state.