Education System in Nepal: Past and Present

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In Nepal, only slightly more than half of the population can read and write, with an average literacy rate of about 54%. As a rule, men are more literate (68%) than women (42.49%). There have been dramatic changes in the approach to education, partially thanks to foreign aid, since 2004. In this article, we will approach the topic of education in Nepal — its past, present, and possible future.

It is difficult not to paint everything with dark colors, considering how difficult the economic situation in Nepal is. However, the educational programs introduced in the recent 15 years give hope for a brighter future.

Socio-Economic Prerequisites

Note! Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. Every fourth Nepalese life on € 30 a month. This country has a very high infant mortality rate. More than 50 thousand children die every year, and in more than half of the cases, hunger. Half of the surviving children are underweight.

Every third child between the ages of five and fourteen works. More than two and a half million children in Nepal are forced to work simply because the family may not otherwise survive. Half of the children in Nepal never make it to fifth grade. Out of every four girls, only one ever went to school. Two-thirds of the population have no idea about the rules and means of sanitation. 

Education in Nepal: A Darker, but Understandable Past

The educational system in Nepal is unique in its own way. We can say that in Nepal there are no children at all, there are small adults. People just try to survive every day. An average Nepalese family has an average of four or five children. One of the poorest countries in the world simply has no money to properly care for each of these children.

Education in Nepal

The major reason why schools were empty for decades is their parents being far below the poverty line. Many parents still cannot afford the books, pencils, and even lunches for their kids to go to school. Also, as it was previously said, students play the role of small adults – they start working at the earliest age, sometimes being 3-4 years old, and parents can’t afford to lose working hands and let kids go to school and do homework.

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The situation is worsened with gender and cast discrimination — girls are traditionally in a much worse situation in terms of access to education, even though they have to work not less than boys. Even worse segregation can be observed when it comes to work opportunities in the future — due to the strong economic crisis, almost all positions possible are immediately taken by men.

Women can count on finding only the least interesting and creative jobs. More than 50% of girls reaching 15 years old are not only married but have one or more kids — these factors also don’t help with education and career perspectives. One of the reasons girls give birth so early is having more helpers in the family. 

The state doesn’t help much both financially and organizationally. For example, school uniforms are obligatory for all the students, but parents often can’t afford even buying proper boots for all the kids in the family. In most cases, only the oldest son is sent to study at least something.

It is difficult to say anything definite about the training of teachers. Most of the teaching staff in the village schools are themselves without any education. There is nothing to say about the quality of teaching.

Education System in Nepal: Present and Future That Is Still Uncertain

Pre-school kindergarten preparatory education is only available in some areas. Primary education at Primary school lasts 5 years (grades) from 6 to 11 years. Upon completion, a standard intermediate certificate is issued. Then comes secondary education, which has three sub levels. 

The Education for All Company started in Nepal in 2004. Advertising campaigns were organized and a small allowance was offered to poor families to help the family compensate for the cost and loss of a helper. The results were overwhelming. Schools in Nepal, especially in the densely populated southern Nepal, began to receive girls who were not officially registered anywhere. There is no scrupulous registration of the population in Nepal, so the exact number of preschoolers was not known.

Sometimes the parents themselves cannot say exactly how old the child is. The number of children attending school has increased from four million to four and a half. The dramatic increase in the number of students led to many new problems, such as, for example, a lack of teachers, too large classes, and language problems. New premises and teachers are constantly required. Some subjects are taught in a class of 90 students. Classes cannot accommodate so many children. International charitable organizations are trying to mitigate the situation.

As you can see, the situation is getting better, but changes take too much time to have any systematic impact, especially when it comes to girls. Still, if we compare education in Nepal 30 years ago and now, we will be astonished by the progress made. With more educated people in the country, changes will go faster and will be more profound.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 pandemics slowed down the progress and left many educational projects in Nepal without financing. Local funding is not enough to continue part of the programs. Nepal officials, however, stress that they are decisive in solving the problem with education and taking harsher steps towards protecting girls and providing them with better, more equal chances in life. 

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Jitendra Sahayogee

I am Jitendra Sahayogee, a writer of 12 Nepali literature books, film director of Maithili film & Nepali short movies, photographer, founder of the media house, designer of some websites and writer & editor of some blogs, has expert knowledge & experiences of Nepalese society, culture, tourist places, travels, business, literature, movies, festivals, celebrations.

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