Privatization of Education

Good or bad?

Published On: January 23, 2018 12:30 AM NPT By: Dr Chandra Sharma Poudyal

Dr Chandra Sharma Poudyal

Dr Chandra Sharma Poudyal

The contributor for Republica.

Huge portion of government expenditure comes from foreign aids and foreign donors are promoting privatization of education. 

Privatisation of education is not confined to Nepal. It’s a worldwide phenomenon. But our trend in Nepal is unique compared to other countries in that privatization followed partly due to a neo-liberal policy adopted by different parties governing the countries at the different time and also partly due to a global dispersion of neo-liberal agenda via World Bank and International Monetary Fund. 

There seems to be hidden agenda in promoting privatization of education in developing country like Nepal. Although never clearly stated, western powers seem to be doing so in the name of quality education. And most political parties promote this sometimes covertly and other times overtly.  

Nepali Congress, for example, stands for privatization while Maoists appear to object to it but they have never taken effective steps to stop it. All this is because a huge portion of government expenditure comes from foreign aid and foreign donors are promoting privatization. So the parties do nothing other than just pretending to protest. This suggests that Nepal’s educational policy and development is influenced by external environment.

Private vs public

The debate over whether private education is better than public education and vice-versa is going on for quite some time. Some consider education as public goods and that everyone should have access to irrespective of their ability to pay. This school of thought argues that it is the responsibility of the state to provide free education to all. Others, who advocate for private education, argue that parents need to be given choice and they will do the rest. It projects parents and students as consumers and education providers and teachers as producers.  Many educational experts have claimed that educational responsibility has been transferred to private sectors because of rapid growth of private sector involvement in education. They claim that private sectors have contributed in education access and also reduced poverty in developing countries of Asia and Africa. How is this possible when private schools are only accessible to children of well-off parents? Most private schools are located in urban areas where mostly well-off people live. Though private educational operators claim to provide scholarship to the needy people, this is done largely based on merits. This raises the question: Who do private schools really serve?  I partially agree that private schools have contributed. In Nepal, private schools initially started because of government inability to provide educational access to growing populace.

Failing system

Most educationists believe that private schools are flourishing mostly in developing countries because of government failure to improve education system. This holds true to Nepal as well. Parent’s perception on public education, in terms of success rate of students in certain national level examinations and students’ ability to speak English, is rather negative.

But this is the situation elsewhere as well, mostly in developing countries of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Parents of these developing countries including Nepal feel themselves proud in spending money and sending their children to private schools. They hold that public schools are not performing as per their expectation. Parents expect their children (especially at the primary level) to be able to read and write. And at the secondary level, they want their children to pass with good grade.  Because of lack of a regular teaching and learning environment and English medium instruction in government schools (while these are present in private schools), parents think government schools are failing.

What next?

We cannot expect to completely remove private schools. Yes, private schools are charging lots of fees but I doubt government can provide education to growing population and satisfy parents’ need only through public-school system. 

When there are no private schools, those who can afford will take their children to neighboring countries like India. This will take a lot of money out of the country.  This situation makes private schools in the country as a necessity although they are not operating as per the government regulations. So the government should strictly monitor these schools and make them abide by government rules and regulations. They should not be treated as above the laws.

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