Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Making the most of available time, resources

The education sector in Nepal has been dogged by frequent bandhs and internal conflict this year.
As the budget day approaches, the education sector hopes for some relief. But given the short time that the finance minister is getting and the ad-hoc nature of the budget, it is unlikely to propose any radical change.
However, expectation levels have been raised a wee bit, following the appointment of the experienced Bharat Mohan Adhikari as the finance minister. Adhikari is remembered for his budget during the nine-month long CPN (UML) government, led by the late prime minister Man Mohan Adhikari.
This time around, however, there might not be enough time for him for a comprehensive review of the budget, most of which has already been inked by existing bureaucrats.
Despite all this, the education sector has high hopes from the budget. One of its key concerns has been the steady outflow of students to foreign countries in search of quality education.
Nepal’s educational sector is mostly donor funded, with most donors concentrating on primary and basic education, where the social rate of return is higher because it builds up 'human capital'.
In contrast, the middle-level and higher education sectors suffer due to lack of money and resources. The government must now take a holistic approach to education and direct enough resources to build up quality manpower in the country. This in turn can power the nation’s economy to new heights and lead to new levels of development.
Ready examples before the government are India, China and Brazil who have greatly benefited from their intelligent investment in education. Technical education has also been playing a very important role in developing countries, giving them a power to leapfrog the development process.
Although, there may not be any magic wand for the finance minister, he may still revamp, redistribute and relocate existing funds more profitably.
Post-1990, the educational sector saw a rapid, albeit undisciplined, development in Nepal. But despite the rise of numerous educational institutions, the Tribhuvan University remains the most sought-after college.
Cost of education, which is very low in TU, is still one of the most important factors for a majority of students. Quality often takes a backseat to cost.
The quality of education that the innumerable private schools and colleges are providing today is questionable. But their relevance and importance cannot be denied.
Private schools and colleges have sprung up because government institutions have failed to meet the demand and deliver on their mandate.
The government today spends roughly 15 per cent of the total budget on education, a large chunk of which is spent on teachers’ salaries. On top of this, the distribution of teachers is not proportionate in districts. Politicisation of teachers is yet another big thorn on the side of education.
All these problems of resource crunch and lack of quality control are further vitiated by the Maoists, who are abducting students and teachers in large numbers from remote districts. When law and order breaks down so severely, it is questionable whether any amount of planning or investment can improve the situation.

Broken Promises
* Decision to hand over schools to communities, not done.
* Promise to give employment to 4,000 unemployed literate youths, not done.
* Establishing trade schools for the promotion of vocational education under the joint investment and management of government, local municipalities and and the chamber of commerce, not done.

Current State
Education allocation: Rs 15 billion 470 million.
No of universities: 05 (TU, KU, MSU, PU, Pokhara U)
No campuses under universities
under TU (constituent + affiliated): 61 + 222 = 283
under KU (constituent + affiliated): 1 + 11 = 12
under MSU (constituent + affiliated): 12 + 12 = 24
under PU (constituent + affiliated): 2 + 65 = 67
under Pokhara U (constituent + affiliated): 2 + 26 = 28
Total (constituent + affiliated): 78 + 336 = 441