Local govts failing on education

Published On: August 12, 2018 02:30 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

One of the reasons the local governments were endowed with sweeping powers in matters of health, education and infrastructure development, among others, was the belief that they know the local realities better than other institutions and they would be able to handle these basic ser-vices more reliably than provincial and federal governments. The idea in itself was not wrong. For long, our school education system functioned through top-down approach. Whatever was decided at the center was imposed on the local levels. Curriculum was framed by the central au-thorities often without taking into account learning needs of the people on the ground. The fram-ers of the constitution granted local government the rights and powers ranging from managing schools up to grade 12, promoting quality of education, transferring and appointing temporary teachers to scraping or merging poorly performing schools; and most importantly, designing the suitable curriculum. It has been just one year since the local governments started to exercise those powers, it might be too early to say they have failed on these fronts but the preliminary reports show they have not lived up to expectations of people and the spirit of the constitution when it comes to delivering on educational issues.

Local units have not been able to manage school education up to grade 12. Facts speak for them-selves. There are over 34,000 schools including more than 5,000 private schools in all 753 local units across the country. Of this, public sector covers around 80 percent while private sector con-stitutes about 20 percent. But results of grade 10 have shown that about 80 percent pass rate is covered by private sector while only around 20 percent result has been achieved by public sector. This shows most local units have failed to fulfill their responsibilities of promoting public school education. Guardian Association of Nepal claims school management is deteriorating like never before. Evidence shows, barring exceptions, local units have not done anything substantial to promote school level education.

Our local governments are yet to be equipped with required resources—physical, budgetary and human. But given the political will, we can make local governments efficient in promoting public education system. If monitoring teams are formed comprising political leaders, education experts and other stakeholders, they will be able to look into the educational issues. Education Division at the local units can also take initiatives to improve school education. Based on need, the local governments can demand additional resources from the federal government to make public schools deliver quality education. If lack of expertise in exercising constitutional powers is the hurdle, the federal government can arrange for orientation programs for the elected leaders at lo-cal bodies as to how to handle education issues. This does not seem to be happening at the mo-ment. As a result, focus of the elected local leaders seems to be directed at filling the vacant seats from among party loyalists and transferring the teachers who do not belong to their political groups. Local governments must be made efficient enough to deliver on their responsibilities granted by the constitution. It will otherwise raise questions on their need and even legitimacy. 

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