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Editorial: Whole lotta gray

Cleaning up the muck in education sector

IN a worrying sign of the state of education in the country, it has emerged that over two dozen reports prepared over the years for the development of education sector, at the cost of billions of rupees, have been gathering dust at the Ministry of Education. Multiple explanations have been offered to account for this.

Some educationists have blamed it on the ‘Nepali tendency’ to institute a probe committee which is given a few months to investigate a particular problem.

But by the time the committee comes up with an investigation report, the government will have changed. The new government brushes aside old investigations and starts its own. This cycle is repeated ad infinitum.

Others are of the view that the main problem is with the corrupt and dysfunctional education bureaucracy. Of course, while it is arguable which of the two problems is bigger, the two are certainly interrelated.

A couple of examples of shelving of important reforms should suffice to give a measure of our unaccountable education establishment. In 2000, the government prepared a report on systematizing the School Leaving Certificate examinations at the cost of Rs 180 million. After the expenditure of such a colossal sum, the Ministry of Education (MoE) did not even make the report public.

Similarly, different reports on regulating private education were submitted to MoE in 2003 and 2004, but none has been brought to the implementation level so far.

As is the case with other vital sectors like health and energy, the education sector is highly politicized, the appointments in its top echelons subject to intense political lobbying. This means that the guardians of this important sector are often political appointees who have little knowledge about the field of education.

These cronies of various political parties are more interested in securing the interests of their political masters than making a genuine contribution for the improvement of the education sector.

In this connection, the demand of some educationists for the formation of a non-political education commission to carry out recommendations of past (often costly) studies is worth considering.

The institutional problems within the MoE need to be tackled too. The public is far from assured with the functioning of the ministry as news of mismanagement and corruption continue to trickle out—on publication of school textbooks, implementation of primary school reform program, and a whole host of other issues.

Most notably, former Minister for Education Ram Chandra Kushwaha was forced to step down in 2010 for accepting kickbacks in recruitment of public school teachers. There is no reason to believe that the muck in the system has been cleaned up since. One of the main allegations at MoE has been that it is beholden to donor interests and often fails to examine the suitability of projects they promote, which might not be fit for Nepal.

But since MoE officials tend to work in a silo, far from public scrutiny, most of their shortcomings never come out. Without urgent reforms, the ministry’s ill repute as one of the most corrupt and dysfunctional bureaucracies is unlikely to improve.

It is long past the time that the files gathering dust at MoE saw the light of the day. But just dusting off old files won’t be enough, what is rather needed, by the look of things, is a shakeup of the whole education establishment.

Source: Republica Daily


Published on 2012-10-01 01:23:01

About nirjanasharma

Nepali Journalist.

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