HIGHER EDUCATION IN NEPAL; TRUTH AND CHALLENGES

Khagendra P Bhattarai, Associate Professor, Patan Multiple Campus

Historical Background

Modem higher education in Nepal does not have a long history. It started with the establishment of Trichandra College in 1918 during the Rana regime. The college followed the courses of Patna University of India and the teachers also came from India. The examinations were conducted and published by Patna University. After Trichandra College some other government colleges like Padma Kanya College, Patan College and Durbar College were established. Later community colleges also came into existence in the Kathmandu valley as well as outside the valley. Some prominent community colleges were Nepal National College (now Shankar Dev Campus), and Amrit Science College in Kathmandu, Thakur Ram College in Birgunj, RR College in Janakpur, Mahendra Morang College in Biratnagar and Tribhuvan College in Palpa. All these colleges followed the courses of Patna University. In 1948, to impart Sanskrit education the National Sanskrit College was established. It was affiliated to the Sanskrit University in Banaras, India and offered Uttar Madhyama (Intermediate Level), Shastri (Bachelors level) and Acharya (Masters Level) courses.

It was only in 1959 that Tribhuvan University was established in Kathmandu and Nepalese were proud of having a university of their own which designed the courses of study, conducted examinations and published their results. After the establishment of Tribhuvan University both the government colleges and the community managed colleges got affiliated to T.U. The government colleges were fully funded by the government but community colleges were managed by communities with small financial support from the government.

But there was a big change in education policy in 2028 (197fl; the New Educational System plan was introduced and all the community colleges were nationalized and brought directly under T.U. The government adopted the policy that education was the responsibility of the state and this policy had a tremendous impact on the nation. Some educationists, teachers and students were against the New Education System Plan but the government was fully determined to introduce the new plan and it did. But the New Education System Plan could not improve the quality of education, it rather deteriorated it. The assessment and semester type examinations were a total failure; examinations could not be controlled and run fairly; the authorities could not control mass cheating. Some students did not hesitate even to threaten teachers to obtain better marks, even when they had not done well.

There was a student agitation in 2036 B.S. (1980), with educational and political issues; Nepali students wanted democracy in the country and reform in education and were in the streets for many months. The government and the university could not control the agitation, and to pacify this, the late King Birendra formed a commission on higher education in 1980, which brought about major changes in higher education. Until then there was only one University-Tribhuvan University, but the commission recommended multi-university concept; private and community colleges were allowed to be run again, and there was the emergence of 10+2(3) 3(4) + 2 educational structure. The certificate level education was suggested to go to higher secondary schools from universities. Assessment and semester system of examination was abolished and annual system was introduced. After this we found some gradual change in the field of education in our country. The Higher Secondary Education Board was established in 1990 with a view to phasing out certificate level education from universities.

Objectives of Higher Education

Some principal objectives of higher education are as follows: To impart higher education to the people as per the need of the country;  To preserve and develop the historical and cultural heritage of the nation; To promote social and economic justice;  To alleviate poverty; To produce man power competent enough in the global context; To accumulate, advance and disseminate knowledge; To encourage and promote research in the fields of arts, science, commerce as well as vocational education; To help the university students build their character through the medium of higher education

Universities at Present

After Tribhuvan University, Nepal Sanskrit University was established in 1986; Kathmandu University was established in 1991; Purbanchal University was established in 1994; and Pokhara University came into existence in 1997; and Lumbini Buddha University was established in Lumbini in 2005. There are two academies which have been functioning like universities; they are B.P. Koirala Institute of Health Science at Dharan, and National Academy of Medical Science at Bir Hospital in Kathmandu. There are also many affiliated colleges to different universities. In this way at present in Nepal there are 6 universities, two Academies, and a number of affiliated colleges.

Tribhuvan University

Though there are six universities more that 90% burden of higher education has been taken by Tribhuvan University. This is the biggest and oldest university, which has 60 constituent campuses and about 300 affiliated campuses. It has 182835 students, 5970 teachers, and 6997 administrative and support staff. The university has been geared towards the modernization of Nepalese society through higher education. The university has five technical institutes 1) Institute of Agriculture 2) Institute of Medicine 3) Institute of Engineering 4) Institute of Forestry 5) Institute of Science and Technology; four faculties 1) Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences 2) Faculty of Management 3) Faculty of Law 4) Faculty of Education; and four research centers 1) Centre for Economic Development and Administration (CEDA), 2) Research Centre for Educational Innovation and Development (CERID) 3) Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS), 4) Research Centre for Applied Science and Technology (RECAST).

Nepal Sanskrit University

Nepal Sanskrit University was established in 1986 to modernize Sanskrit education in the country and preserve our age-old values. It is the second university in the country and its central office is in Dang, Mid-western region of the country. It has 12 constituent and 14 affiliated campuses; it has 2319 students, 372 teachers and 399 administrative staff.

Kathmandu University

Kathmandu University, established in 1991, has 2 constituent and 11 affiliated campuses; it offers courses on Science, Engineering, Management, Fine Arts and Medicines. Ph.D. and M. Phil. programs have also been started by the university. There are about 5162 students, 206 teachers, 82 visiting faculty and 181 administrative and support staff.

Purbanchal University

Purbanchal University was established in 1994. The university with its central office in Biratnagar has the faculties of Science and Technology, Management, Fine Arts, Law, and Education and there are 5 constituent and 80 affiliated campuses. There are altogether 7666 students, 43 teachers and

122 administrative and support staff.

Pokhara University

Pokhara University, established in 1997, has the faculties of Humanities, Management, and Science and Technology and has 2 constituent and 25 affiliated campuses. There are altogether 4666 students, 44 teachers and 85 administrative and technical staff. It has started M. Phil. programs in some subjects.

Lumbini Boudha University

This university, established in 2005, has just started running classes with a few students.

Commissions and Committees

Various commissions have been formed at different times for the development and reform of education in Nepal. The National Education Planning Commission, which was the first of its kind, was formed in 1954 after the dawn of democracy in 1950 in the country. After this, six other commissions and committees have been made and they are: The National Education Committee in 1961, The National Education System Plan 1971, The Royal Commission on Higher Education 1983, The National Education Commission 1993, The High Level Education commission 1992; and The Higher Education Task Force, 1999.

Higher Education in the 10th Plan

After the dawn of democracy in 1950, the country has embarked on the path of planned development and now we are in the stage of the 10th Plan. In the 10th Plan, the main objectives of Higher education are: (a) to contribute to poverty reduction by developing quality professional workforce, and knowledge and technological base capable of supporting economic growth; and (b) to promote equitable access to higher education. To achieve the above mentioned objectives the following strategies have been adopted:  To increase cost sharing;  To provide scholarships and loans to meritorious and needy students;  To move away from grant-based staff positions to block grant funding; To provide autonomy to T.U constituent campuses;  To establish an Assessment and Accreditation council.

The 20 year vision plan made by T.U a few years back has been geared to meet the objectives of higher education as mentioned in the 10th Plan.

Higher Education Project (HEPI) and Reform in T.U.

Tribhuvan University, with the assistance of the World Bank, has already completed the first higher education project, which started in 1998 with its reform agenda. Decentralization policy has been adopted by the university and this policy has delegated the power of central authority to the campus administration. A campus development and management committee has been formed with the involvement of teachers, administrative staff, guardians, local leaders, educationists, donors in every decentralized campus. There are 18 decentralized campuses and some technical institutes and campuses have started receiving block grant. In a decentralized campus, a collective decision making culture has developed and the Campus Chief is accountable not only to the central office but also to the Campus Management and Development Committee (CMDC). It has also nurtured a sense of ownership on the part of the stakeholders.

Though the decentralization policy has made some contributions to improve the academic and financial status of some campuses, there are some limitations to it. It is said the policy of decentralization has not really decentralized the authority of the Central Office.

Second Higher Education Project 2006 and Reform in Higher Education

Now we have before us the Second Higher Education project, which is being implemented with the assistance of the World Bank. The first higher education project was confined only to the reform of Tribhuvan University (T.U.); but the second project aims at reforming higher education as a whole. It covers all the universities and even higher secondary school education board. The goals of the project are as follows:

Improvement of financial sustainability of T.U. by providing incentives; Improvement of academic quality and financial sustainability of T.U. decentralized and autonomous campuses; Improvement of academic quality and financial sustainability of small universities; Improvement of quality and financial sustainability of community campuses.

To facilitate the phase out of Proficiency Certificate Level (PCL) from universities; To strengthen the capacity of University Grants Commission (UdC) and Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) to manage higher education.

University Grants Commission has taken all the responsibility for the implementation of the second higher education project.

The project aims at giving autonomous status to some T.U. campuses. Stakeholders participation in management, administrative autonomy, academic autonomy and financial autonomy are the basic principles of the policy of autonomy. The autonomous campuses will be given more power than the decentralized campuses. The management committee and the executive committee will be made at the recommendation of the campus itself. There will be more participation of stakeholders in the management committee. The campus can frame by- laws and code of conduct for teachers and administrative staff. It can appoint teachers and administrative staff on a fixed term basis and fix their salary and remuneration. It can fix the tuition fees and other fees of students and make provision of scholarship for teachers and students. It can make agreement with other similar national and international organizations or parties for the improvement of the campus. It is also allowed to frame curriculum as per the need of the market and administer examinations for the campus based programs after approval from the central office. It is expected that the policy of autonomy will increase a sense of competition arid the gap between the constituent and affiliated campuses will be bridged; and that it will stimulate campuses to improve academic standard and financial sustainability.

Challenges

Despite the governments efforts from time to time, no concrete policy has been framed on higher education so far; now we need a clear-cut and concrete policy of the government to make a new Nepal in the aftermath of Peoples Movement II; Politicization of higher education has been one of the serious problems that our universities have been facing. Almost every political party in Nepal has a student wing as its sister organization and students organizations are often used by the parties for political purposes, Sometimes even for petty interests. In every political movement or activity schools and colleges are frequently and badly affected. When there is a change in the leadership of the government university authorities are also changed, sometimes leading to the destabilization of the university. Sometimes even teachers associations do not confine themselves to their limits.

There should be understanding between political parties to depoliticize education; Our universities are not in a position to make timely revision and improvement of the courses of study because of the lack of resources. Timely revision and improvement of courses taking into consideration the fast changing world of knowledge are immensely required.

The improvement of academic quality in higher education is a big challenge to us. We have already become a member of WTO and in the changed global context we must be competitive to survive and meet the national requirements.

The examination system of Nepalese Universities should be improved and modernized; it should be made scientific. The central system of examinations especially in T.U. should be decentralized in the process of reform.

There has been a growing demand for M. Phil. and Ph. 0. degrees but universities have not been fully able to run programs to meet the growing demand.

Universities should provide training, orientation and research opportunities to teachers to update their knowledge but university teachers in Nepal hardly get such opportunities and they follow the traditional method of teaching. In the changing context they should be trained, updated and encouraged to introduce new teaching methods in the classroom.

Access of girl students to higher education is very poor; it has to be increased.

Poor, brilliant and needy students from the marginalized, dalit and janjati groups should be encouraged to acquire higher education for social and economic justice. There should be a special provision for this.

Despite several endeavors and decisions made by the government and universities, we have not been able to phase out certificate level education from universities. - -

A strong and visionary academic leadership is the need of the day at every university.

Conclusion

We need to reform our higher education because it is very important for the development of the nation. It has lately been realized that a nation can develop and prosper even without natural resources if it has competent and educated manpower. Japan and Switzerland are taken as examples to substantiate this.

In a very short history of higher education, we have made different experiments. In the beginning there were only government colleges, and later the government allowed community colleges to be run. In 1970 all the colleges were nationalized but after a few years it was realized that the state could not take all the responsibility of education and no we have three different kinds of educational institutions - government funded, community managed and institutionalized (private). We are not yet clear as to what the higher education policy is; there are confusions and uncertainties. Maoists are against the privatization of educational institutions and now they are in power. We do not know what will happen in the future, but what we know is that the country needs a clear-cut education policy to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The author is also a former General Secretary of Nepal Council of World Affairs, Nepal. Text courtesy: NCWA magazine-ed.

 

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Comments

  • Posted on - 2010-10-01    by     minkee karn
  • purbanchal university is too late in publishing result in time and so mean no scholarship at all for the students who deserve it and negligence in results so mean so we must look after it
  • Posted on - 2009-09-14    by     Aleena
  • a good article precise,to the point.Thanx sir it is really helpful for my research work.
  • Posted on - 2009-01-05    by     Hari p bhandari
  • its good but should explore more idea
  • Posted on - 2008-05-20    by     rajan
  • Its a beautiful article and thanx sir I got a lot of help from the article so that I could add up something to my report as well.
  • Posted on - 2008-04-06    by    
  • i found that the concise and comprehensive article about the higher education of nepal was meant for me. As a student of higher educatin research here in Kassel, Germany, i am often in need of such reading materials to cite from. i am thankful for this author, and would like to ask him to attempt reports on funding channel of higher education institutions and research activities too in nepal. international researchers are in dire need for such source materials.