Nationalizing Schools in Nepal
Abstract: In fact the role of the private sector in enhancing the development of different sectors of the society can hardly be exaggerated. Especially the capital, skills, aptitudes and entrepreneurship of the private sector have always been found to be of immense importance in the economic development of any nation. However, there are debates over the commercialization and commoditization of education in Nepal. In this issue, I argue that the government should shoulder the responsibility of educating the people by nationalizing the schools and it cannot be given to the private sector whose chief objective is profit maximization. In doing so I have used critical theories to analyze the need of nationalizing schools in Nepal. and have tried to establish the logic that the schools should be nationalized and every person’s access to education should be ensured.
Key Words: injustice commoditization, exploitation, access,
Setting the Scene
Children are the future holders of the world. The future of any nation depends on the schooling of today’s students because schooling lays foundation for the holistic development of the students and it ultimately contributes to design the destiny of the nation. Hence there can be no debate in the issue of facilitating the children’s personality development with quality education and conducive and congenial environment, however, there are arguments regarding the way, process, agencies and mechanisms educating the children. It is clear that acquisition of education has been taken as a fundamental right of children and it needs to be safeguarded. The role of state in educating its people has been defined according to different policies, philosophies, times and circumstances. Analyzing the role of state in regulating the educational practices Rose (2005) states that are unable to provide quality schooling to their citizens are also those that are likely to have difficulty in enforcing quality controls and other regulations on non-state providers.
Should education be private? Should it flourish in a competitive environment among the entrepreneurs? Does education flourish by dint of the expertise, knowledge, aptitude, efficiency, capital investment, public responsibility and risk bearing propensity of the private sector? Or does it flourish by the direct governmental involvement? However when we take education as a fundamental right bestowed upon all then can the discrimination in education in any name be justified? Is education a matter to be commoditized or is it to be imparted to all with a view to safeguarding broader social interest? If it is privatized who will be morally responsible to those who possess the caliber and potentiality to flourish but lag behind owing to the lack of capacity to afford to pay for the high expenses charged by the private sector? What are the stakeholders’ responses to the differences in the status and achievement between a rich and average student and an extraordinary but deprived student? Who should be responsible for the two types of manpower created in the nation further widening the gulf between the rich and the poor? What about the unjust influences made by the private education tycoons on the education policies of the nation? Should the access to every type and level of education be for all or should it be for the rich only? This study will delve into these and many more issues with a view to identifying whether private schools should be nationalized or not?
Analysis of Schooling from Right Based Approach
Central to the right based approach is accountability and responsibility of the duty bearers and it regards educational development not as an optional activity but as a serious responsibility of the duty bearers and it emphasizes on the mandatory duty of the governments and other duty bearers to provide for the rights of individuals and to guarantee the provision of quality education. In fact there are certain differences between other rights of people and the rights of children because neither children can understand their rights nor can they claim their rights. It is, indeed, important to feel the sense of responsibility for the education of children because of their inability to grab this right for themselves. We cannot hold the profit oriented private sector more accountable than the responsible government to change this pitiable situation.
This approach does not regard schools as the option for education donated through generosity but as a right to be guaranteed and safeguarded by the government and other stakeholders. Though the government of Nepal has made different policy provisions to ensure it different loopholes, weaknesses and drawbacks are clearly visible in them. Random, unplanned and short-sighted privatization of schools and academic institutions has commoditized education and only the well off people can afford to acquire it in the commercialized world. The persisting pathetic situation of the marginalized children even after many years of exercise of privatization in education reveals its failure.
Privatization has enabled some of the investors to have a better economic condition but has not seriously taken the responsibility of bringing the children of downtrodden families to the mainstream of education. When the private sector, motivated with personal interests and desires, are imposed with responsibility of public welfare the outcome or the result is obviously hopeless.
Hence in order to safeguard the right of all the children schools need to be nationalized so that the government can chalk out and directly implement plans and policies for broader social well being.
Private schools and their social and economic impacts
We cannot ignore the fact that privatization is blooming and has also contributed to growth of economy in different nations. However the state cannot escape from its responsibility of managing the basic requirements of people with its direct and active involvement. Economic disparity itself is a social construct and no one is born poor. People are made and declared illiterate by the institutional system and mechanism. Prestige and social class are associated with the type of school attended. Regarding this issue NESAC (1998) states that the prestige of the school attended has become increasingly significant as a marker of social standing and differentiation based on economic class. The discrimination and segregation in the name of caste, creed, religion, class etc. still prevails and many have been victimized in its name. In such a context shouldn’t it be a serious responsibility of the state to play significant role in bringing justice and equality in the nation? Above all every citizen is equal in the eyes of law and every human being is naturally bestowed with equal rights to flourish and prosper. By running two types of education system in the country we are ignoring these rights and have given privileges to certain groups but have deprived the others.
Another major concern is whether education can be commercialized or not? Can it be a business? Can the highly sensitive sectors of life be given to the hands of private sector interested in private well-being? Aren’t we well aware of the artificial scarcities created by the business houses for their profit, victimizing the public? Can a poor family afford to admit its child in an expensive school with sophisticated infrastructures and well skilled and highly paid teachers? Is it a mistake on the part of the child to be born in a poor family and be the victim of the social construct? When we se the context of Nepal we find that there is always a tussle between the government and the private schools? On the one hand the private schools claim that they are providing educational service to the public and the nation and claim different privileges in comparison to other business organizations whereas on the other hand they earn a high amount of money charging high fees to the students and poor but capable and potential students with a high caliber to prosper academically cannot get admitted in their institutions. However according to Parajuli(2000) currently opening ‘boarding schools’ seems to be the dream business with middle class people feeling compelled to send their children to private schools if they wish to give them a chance of a good education.
Nationalization of schools and other institutions would assure the children’s equal access to education and would respect each one’s right to have equal facilities and opportunities irrespective of any social division. It is, indeed, crucial to stop the unhealthy competition among the private schools. They have been involved in the unfair competition of accumulating the students at any cost and earn money. They have been trying to manipulate public opinion using media. Alluring advertisements have been used to set themselves from others. Common people, as the consumers, have been severely cheated by their propaganda. In fact they are using their economic power to create the illusion that they are the trademark of quality. Talking about the context of Nepal they have come to the position of defining quality. Government has been found to be under pressure of these educational business houses in the matter of formulation of policies and their implementation. Even in the matter of paying tax they have been found to be reluctant. The government had to exercise a lot to make them ready to pay 1% service tax which other sectors of the society had already accepted. Though they have been claiming that they give scholarships to the deserving and needy students their procedures are not transparent. In many cases they are determined by the closeness with the school owners in different names. Because of this reason many of the real needy students do not get the access to their selection procedure. But in reality they are found to be charging fees with the students in different names in the middle of the session in addition to the annual fees they collect in the beginning of the session. This adds extra financial burden on the parents.
On the other hand most of the private schools do not have transparent teacher and staff recruitment procedures and policies. Firstly they opt for their relatives or people close to them in any way. This relieves them from the tension of dealing with the unknown people who can be promising and highly demanding. Such candidates can raise questions about the inefficiencies of the management, oppose the unjust rules and bargain strongly for their rights and facilities as per the existing laws and common practices. This can give them additional burden to satiate their employees. Secondly they choose submissive and low demanding employees because it can reduce the tension of reduce their economic burden and maximize their profit. Because of that reason they don’t like to recruit such candidates who are capable but have high sense of self respect and dignity. Such people either do not get the job or even if they get the job it doesn’t last long because as they cannot shape in they have to ship out. Only the ones who are honest to the authority in spite of the lack of quality and efficiency have long lasting jobs in the private schools. Thirdly they recruit the teachers who seem to be non-demanding and non-resistant to the authority.
Returns for the Labor
We cannot ignore the fact that private schools have provided employment to the large number of people and have enabled them to fulfill their needs and requirements. I have personally experienced that except for the employees in some of the counted schools many people involved in the private sector have not been getting the proper returns for their labor. In spite of that a huge mass of people still is dependent on private schools and colleges for their survival. As these institutions have been run with profit motives they obviously try to hire the best possible manpower at minimum possible cost. It has devaluated the skills, efficiencies, and enthusiasm of the skilled and educated people. People have been compelled to lose their self and pride for the sake of survival.
Similarly majority of the private schools do not give opportunities to the employees for the development of their efficiency and professionalism. Rather they have been found to be used and exploited to the optimum possible level with the minimum wages for their survival. There is no social security or any kind of insurance to the teachers and once their utility is over they are discarded. They become the victims of this utilitarian system. Private institutions do not provide pension and gratuity to the teachers. Hence from the point of view of employees also private institutions have not been found to be supportive and conducive. The future of the teachers is uncertain in the sense that they can be terminated any time not only because of their mistakes or weaknesses but also according to the whims and petty interests of their employers. They should always work in environment of uncertainty and insecurity for mere subsistence. This tends to make them yes men and they lose their dignity. Furthermore they are forcefully sacked from their institutions without any compensation when they become incapable of giving their hundred percent as per the expectations of the employers. The employers do not have any concern about their life in the old age when they become economically inactive, weak and unhealthy.
However, if the schools and other academic institutions are nationalized the above mentioned effects can be mitigated. Permanent teachers are not dominated very much because of the nature of their jobs. They get the facilities of gratuity, provident fund and pension for their retired life. They cannot be forcefully sacked without any mistakes on their part like in the private institutions. They can claim their rights according to the existing legal provisions. They can have the privilege of promotion, different kinds of leaves, transfer, different kind of trainings and different kinds of allowances. They can even get paid educational leaves and can make a significant contribution towards the educational upliftment of the students. Their dependent family members can also have a happy life and it can be an important step for promotion of overall quality of life of the people.
Private Schooling and Cultural Impacts
When we deeply analyze the cultural impacts of private schools we find that they have been detrimental towards our culture. The compulsory use of English language and their strict prohibition in the use of Nepali language clearly shows their preference of the western culture and tradition. They always emphasize on wearing shirts, pants, tie, suits etc. and give very less emphasis on the cultural costumes of Nepal that reflect our identity. Because of this our costumes have been replaced with western dress. Majority of the schools have been giving preferences to western music, dance, and performances on different occasions and celebrations in the schools. Our traditional music, dance, costumes and performances are getting least attention and it is diverting tender minds of the students towards colorful lifestyle of the western people. The introduction of western philosophies and pedagogical approaches has made us lose our oriental values of education.
Moreover I have seen that the mission schools have been involved in inculcating their own values in the students. They have created their own religious environment within their schools and it has certainly been influencing and even attracting the students. Their prayer, preaching and even philosophies have been guided by their religious doctrines and it has an alluring effect on the students. Moreover the teachers, the principal and the other staff of such schools have Christian religious posts.
The matter of concern, here, is the type of future citizens we are producing from our education system. Are we trying to produce the citizens who do not respect our own culture? Or are we trying to produce the mimic men discarding our culture and imitating the western lifestyle? Won’t it create the hybridized identity of our children ultimately causing the crisis of their identity in the future? Won’t our valuable tangible and intangible cultural heritages get deteriorated owing to the younger generation’s indifference towards them? Won’t our culture lose its worth and values making our future generations have nothing to be proud of? These and many more related issues should be seriously taken into consideration before carelessly handing over our valuable culture to the private institutions where imported culture is given utmost importance. Hence we need to nationalize such institutions and inculcate our values and wisdom in our students. If the private institutions are allowed to run with their own philosophies it can be hazardous to our cultural identity and may be a cause of cultural decline.
Dreams of Parents and Children Deferred
The history of schooling system in Nepal since the 1950s reveals the picture of continuous conflict and regular reinterpretation of the government and private sectors as education providers. It is also related to the ambitions, and interests of parents and children and the division between those who are capable of getting their schooling desires fulfilled and those whose dreams get deferred. After the early nineties the tension, anxiety and worries of parents regarding the quality of education they can manage to their children went on increasing because owing to the impact of globalization there had been a rapid transformation in the socio political and the economic environment of the country. Their major concern and anxiety were related to the future of the children in the highly competitive world with the uncertainty of status placement. People of all the classes in the society had the same sort of anxiety about the future of their children. The highly commercialized world with degenerating human values and emerging materialistic interests compelled people to ponder over the future of their offspring and they were at no cost ready to compromise with the quality and competence of their children. According to Lal (2002) private schooling, whether at elite institutions or a small school in small town, is seen by parents as a way to mediate the risks of an unknowable modern future.
Hence the parents thought that private education would be the best possible option to strengthen their children to survive and excel amidst the bitterness and harsh realities of the modern world. They have been engrossed in the trade of a dream of better job possibilities and higher quality of life. Especially in village areas the private schools try to assure the guardians that schooling in their English medium schools enhances the possibilities of betterment in life because it can open the avenues of new hope and doors of new opportunities and possibilities. According to Liechty(2003) English proficiency is simultaneously the key to a better future, an index of social capital, and part of the purchase price for a ticket out of Nepal.
But the matter of concern is whether these dreams are met or not and even if these dreams are met to what extent they are met. Apparently it widens the possibilities of better opportunities; however, it sows the seeds of inequalities and widens the gulf and differences between the social classes. When we analyze the ultimate outcomes of the products of the private schools we find that they are not as the owners advertize However the owners and the principals of the private schools always play on these concerns. Even for the low budget schools in the rural areas the selling of a particular dream of a modern, developed future and enhanced employment opportunities became a key issue for attracting the students towards their schools for admission. They have been carrying out their home visit programs alluring the parents to make them admit their children in their schools. They have been continuously emphasizing that their schools would enhance the possibility of better life enabling the children to find suitable position and place in the cities with all sort of facilities and it would also enable them to interact with the foreigners in English and it would enhance the possibility of living a better life. According to NESAC( 1998) parents across the country spend as much as they can (or more) to send children to private, English-medium schools to give them as much chance as possible of getting a job or going for further study. Yet, despite this investment, students’ aspirations are, in the main, not met. Even if they are met to what extent are they met? With the rise in pressure and interest in private education an issue related to the actual opportunities available to those who have completed the private schooling has emerged. And it is the bitter reality that the products of the private schools have not been found to be doing as much as they were expected to do in life. Because of the spoon feeding in the private schools they don’t possess the desired creativity, critical ability and analytical capacity to cope with the harsh situations and complexities of the modern world. They are usually found to be poor at innovation because of the nature of schooling.
Millennium Development Goals and Nationalization of Schools
Millennium development goal related to compulsory basic education for all has emphasized on the responsibilities of the state to ensure the access of all the children irrespective of their caste, creed, class and social status to education and has pressurized the countries around the world to refocus their educational agendas. Though the private schools have contributed a lot in educating the people without the direct involvement of the state this mission may be left unaccomplished.
Similarly educating the children can be one crucial effort in the attempt to achieve the other millennium development goals because education empowers us with knowledge and it is an aggrandizer. It makes people aware of different kinds of social evils and health hazards and makes them capable of critically analyzing the current social and political developments of the nation and the world. Above all it moulds the personality of the children who are the future holders of the world. How responsible and serious we are in the matter of providing quality education to the children determines life of the future people, their attitudes, skills, knowledge, ideas etc. Hence if we really want to bring about a sustainable and justly distributed improvement in their quality of life consistent with their aspirations we need to make the government more responsible to improve their lots.
Every child of school going age should get an opportunity to a uniform standard of education at different levels. In the foundational level of education the national values need to be inculcated in the students. To maintain uniformity at the basic level where lessons on the basics of literacy and numeracy are given, nationalization of the schools is a must. These types of attempts for skill upgradation can lead to the overall development of the country. Government’s direct involvement can make it possible and the major goals of nationalization should be equalities of opportunities, reduction of the drop-outs, improvement of the overall quality and focus on the national interests and necessities. The government should be the actor not the reactor in the sensitive matter of safeguarding the children’s rights to education and to make it affordable and accessible to all.
We cannot underestimate the role of private sector in the upliftment of different aspects of the society, especially for the economic development of the country because the capital, skills, aptitudes and entrepreneurship of the private sector have been crucial in the developmental efforts. However, there are concerns over the commercialization of the vital factors associated with human life. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure each citizen’s access to these factors and the government cannot shift this serious responsibility to the private sector whose chief objective is profit maximization.
As education is the part and parcel of human life government should be directly involved in educating its citizens. To bring uniformity in curriculum and course, to avoid the encroachment of western culture and tradition, to promote our own cultural values and norms, to control labor exploitation rampant in the academic institutions, to stop the commoditization of education, to stop two types of education for two different classes of people within the same country, to narrow down the widening gulf between the rich and the poor, to save the parents from being victimized by the propaganda of the private institutions, to reduce the poor people’s burden of high expenditure on education, to achieve the millennium development goals and to ensure the active, responsible and direct role of government for all these purposes nationalization of schools is a must. The profit oriented private sector may provide services to the public but we cannot expect it to have seriousness, accountability and responsibility in equal magnitude as the government. Hence the immediate concerns, desires and fundamentally vital necessities of the public need to be directly addressed by the government. So nationalization of the schools is indispensable.
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