‘Growth of private schools in Nepal has not closed the gap between richer and poorer students’

KATHMANDU: A new report launched at Institute for Integrated Development Studies (IIDS) in Mandikhatar, Kathmandu provides a comprehensive and invaluable analysis of the role of non-state actors in the education system of Nepal, and across South Asia.

Produced by UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report and Institute for Integrated Development Studies (IIDS) Nepal, the study Who Loses, Who Chooses, reveals the inequalities in education experience and learning outcomes which have resulted from a rapid growth in the private education sector.

There has been rapid growth in access to education in Nepal in recent decades. If late enrolment is included, 95% of children reached the last year of primary school, meaning Nepal almost achieved universal primary completion within a generation.

As across the whole of South Asia, where private education has grown faster than any other region, much of this expansion has been in privately provided schools. Half of children in pre-primary and one quarter of students in primary and secondary education in Nepal attend privately funded schools.

But the Report warns that education quality is suffering. Learning levels are growing more slowly in South Asia than in the rest of the world. Only 39% have minimum proficiency skills in reading by the end of grade 5 in Nepal.

It calls for greater oversight of the quality of all schools by the government, whether schools are state or non-state provided. It notes the prevalence of unregistered madrasas and Buddhist and Hindu schools in Nepal. Up to 3,000 madrasas may be operating unregistered.

Priyadarshani Joshi, GEM Report senior policy analyst reflects “Governments need to collaborate with the range of private and other non-state schools and universities in Nepal to ensure fruitful regulations and financing across the full system.”

The report acknowledges that Nepal and India prohibit profit making in education in the country. However, it notes that the rise of private education has increased financial burdens on households all the same. Household incomes currently account for 63% of total spending in pre-primary education.

Due to stigma regarding the quality of state education, individuals are more likely to invest in and support private industries. The report finds that in two districts, even the ‘best’ public schools struggled to attract students from wealthier backgrounds.

Growing competition in the labour market has also resulted in an increase in the demand for private tutoring. It cites the positive example in Nepal of regulations on tutoring for other countries in the region, including the quota for tutoring for marginalized groups, the caps on fees and the necessity of a government permission for private tutoring classes to be established.

Nonetheless, as with tutoring across the whole region, the Report warns about the practice continuing to widen education gaps between the richest and poorest.

Five policy recommendations are provided to enhance the quality and equity of education in South Asia:

1. Fulfil the commitment to make 1 year pre-primary and 12 years primary and secondary education free. Most countries in the region are not nearly reaching the necessary minimum funding to ensure free access to education.

2. Set quality standards that apply to all state and non-state education institutions and improve state capacity to ensure their implementation. Governments should work to establish universal standards for quality of education in both state and non-state schools to promote more equitable outcomes for all learners. Governments should dedicate funding to frequent school inspections and assessments to ensure parity across sectors.

3. Establish common monitoring and support processes that apply to all state and non-state institutions through a system of clear and standardised regulations on teacher training, curriculum, and testing. This will help to ensure that students in all education systems receive a more equitable education.

4. Facilitate the spread of innovation through the education system for the common good. Mistrust between governments and non-state actors has negatively impacted both standardisation and student performance. Governments should recognise good practices used by non-state actors and work to incorporate them into public education systems.

5. Maintain the transparency, inclusivity, and integrity of public education policy processes. Open communication between all actors should be prioritised, with the common goal of increasing education quality and access of all learners at the heart of discussions.

Fiscal Nepal |
Friday November 11, 2022, 11:43:25 AM |

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