KATHMANDU, Aug 11: Montessori schools in the country, also known as pre-schools, are operating in a state of legal confusion as they fall under the jurisdiction of two different government ministries.
Officials involved in this sector said that they have been facing legal confusion as school activities are entirely the concern of the Ministry of Education (MoE) while the schools themselves are registered as cottage and small industries under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (MoFALD).
There are more than 500 Montessori schools in Kathmandu Valley alone and dozens more are operating outside the capital since about two decades back.
"Legal dilemma persists regarding the pre-schools operated as Montessori schools," said Dr Hari Prasad Lamsal, spokesperson at MoE. "We need to sort out this problem soon."
Under the recently amended Education Act, basic or elementary education comprises one year of pre-school, with grades one to eight coming under the primary level. However, the existing Montessori schools enroll children aged between 18 months to six years.
Montessori schools teach a curriculum divided into four classes-- playgroup to upper kindergarten.
Meanwhile, the government has opened hundreds of child development centers as pre-schools.
The Montessori schools generally charge fees ranging from around Rs 5,000 to Rs 30,000 monthly per child. But some of them pay taxes in very insignificant amounts while many don't pay taxes at all.
Asked about the legal provisions, some of those involved in operating Montessoris expressed ignorance about such provisions. "Government officials told us to register with the local bodies and we did so," said Ratna Singh Rajbanshi, founder of Joy Bells Playgroup & Pre-school at Pulchowk, Lalitpur.
"We started paying 1 percent education tax from last year. We also pay taxes to the government as per domestic industry rules," she further said.
"I have heard that the Montessori schools in Kathmandu district don't pay education taxes at all," she added. "What kind of rule is this?"
Staff at Euro Kids at Tangal, Kathmandu said they were operating under the franchise of Euro Kids International Ltd, India. "We are not registered here," they said. There are four branches of Euro Kids International in Kathmandu although the law of the country restricts the opening of such branches.
Suprabhat Bhandari, president of the Guardians' Association Nepal, describes Montessori schools as a "psychological burden for tiny children and an unnecessary financial burden for the guardians."
He questioned whether Montessori schools were industries or educational entities. "The government should define this clearly," he added.