KATHMANDU, Aug 22: The Ministry of Education has altered a provision in the bill on right to education that would require private schools to provide completely free education to at least 25 percent of their students.
Earlier, a draft of the bill prepared by the Nepal Law Commission had made it mandatory for private schools to provide free education for at least 25 percent students in each of their classrooms. Various private school owners had been lobbying hard to change the proposed provision. They have now succeeded in stopping the government from increasing the number of seats they have to set aside for scholarship students.
The Right to Education Bill registered in parliament by the Ministry of Education on Tuesday has just given continuity to the existing provision of allotting 10 percent of seats in private schools for scholarship students.
“The provision was watered down by the Education Ministry itself prior to tabling the draft bill in the cabinet for its endorsement,” a highly-placed official at the ministry told Republica. The bill had been pending at the ministry since May despite the fast approaching deadline for endorsing all laws related to fundamental rights.
The new law, however, will make it mandatory for private schools to publish a notice seeking open competition for the free education quota of 10 percent. Private school owners have so far been accused of providing such scholarships only to students whom they favor.
Meanwhile, the new bill has also removed some facilities proposed by the law commission for students pursuing primary level education at public schools. The commission’s draft bill had proposed that students enrolled at public schools would get their course books, school dress, day tiffin, stationeries and primary health treatment for free. The local governments would bear the costs from resources provided by the federal government.
But the new bill has removed the free tiffin, dress and stationeries. The bill says that local units can provide dress and stationeries only to students from families under the poverty line. According to sources, such provisions were whittled down by the cabinet meeting on Sunday. This facilities were meant to attract more students to public schools.
The bill being introduced in accordance with the fundamental right to education as envisaged in Article 31 of the new constitution has proposed free education up to the secondary level for all citizens. Secondary level is defined as up to class 12, and the responsibility for secondary education is proposed to be handed over to the local units. The bill also makes primary level (up to class 8) education mandatory for all citizens.
This is not the first time the government has made changes in educational law to favor private schools. Earlier, it had waived the existing 1 percent tax on private schools. This move was widely criticized as favoring a profit-making sector. The 1 percent tax had been introduced mainly to bring the private schools into the tax net.