June 9, 2016
Education is an essential public good of the citizens. A welfare state is bound to deliver quality education to all so that an equitable condition is created and the degree of disparity be minimised. Skilled and competent human resources are the key to a countryâ€™s overall development. South Korea and Japan offer glaring examples to this end. Both rose to the rank of economic powerhouses from the debris of wars because of their educated and skilled workforce.
South Koreaâ€™s case is even inspirational. It lacked natural resources and capital to launch its industrialisation drive. Its labour force used to go abroad in droves in search of work just like the Nepalese youth these days. But Korea had able human resources that played a vital role in the countryâ€™s mesmerising economic growth.
Taking the cue from South Koreaâ€™s success, Malaysian leader Mahathir Muhammad also made huge investments in education that paid off in the long run.
It is sad to note that Nepalâ€™s performance in the education sector is not up to the mark. Constitutionally, education is the fundamental right of the people. But the constitutional promise hardly squares with the facts. The government spends over a hundred billion rupees on education annually. But the poor School Leaving Certificate (SLC) results show that all the money invested has gone down the tube. Over 60 per cent of the students in the public schools usually fail in the SLC exams. This bleak result should be an eye-opener to the politicians and policymakers.
Here is another bad side of the story. Students who graduate from public schools and colleges find themselves in the slow lane when it comes to competing with those coming from the private educational institutes. This has led to the creation of two classes of citizens – one more competent and another less competent and mediocre.
Today, the moot question is how to make the public schools deliver better results. There have been efforts to reform them, but they have come to naught. In order to revamp the underperforming government schools, one lawmaker had floated a radical proposal at a discussion organised to solicit the stakeholdersâ€™ views on the Education Bill.
Ramhari Subedi, a legislator from Kavrepalanchowk, demanded that political leaders, civil servants, teachers and employees of public enterprises have their children enrolled only in government schools. â€œThey should be declared unfit for their job if they refuse to send their offspring to public schools,â€ he argued.
According to him, the quality of public schools deteriorated after these big shots and employees admitted their wards to the expensive private schools. He also demanded a halt to the trend of opening party-wise unions in the schools. He suggests another harsh measure: if the teachersâ€™ performance is not up to scratch, they should be given marching orders!
His proposal is sweeping but merits attention. If the top politicians and authorities send their wards to public schools, this will make the latter responsive and accountable towards the people. High-profile parents demand quality, discipline and good performance. This in turn forces the government to build better infrastructure and appoint qualified teachers. Once these requirements are met, the public schools will undoubtedly start to deliver surprising outcomes. But, Subediâ€™s drastic proposal could not find space in the Bill, which was approved by the parliament on Saturday. Was it an absurd idea fit to be dumped?