KATHMANDU, Aug 3: At a time when universities, colleges and private education institutes are vigorously promoting foreign languages, no one seems to be concerned about saving Nepal's diverse local dialects that are on the verge of disappearing.
According to the Ministry of Education (MoE), schools and colleges are allowed to include foreign languages as part of their curriculum.
But the government maintains no data on how many schools and colleges in Nepal teach foreign languages.
“Schools and colleges are allowed to teach foreign languages as optional subjects as per the rules outlined by the Curriculum Development Center,” said Dr Hari Prasad Lamsal, spokesperson at the MoE.
Private schools and colleges have been teaching foreign languages such as Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Urdu and many more across the country.
However, students do not have the option of learning local dialects such as Maithili, Bhojpuri, Abadhi, Newari and Rai, among others.
Low enrollment and lack of record on the number government and private education institutions offering courses on local dialects hinders any effort to promote the languages.
Lok Bahadur Bhandari, general secretary of the Higher Secondary Schools' Association Nepal, admitted that the schools teach foreign languages because of their value in the job market. “Foreign language skills give students an advantage in the globally competitive world,” he said. “It is even more helpful to the students who want to study abroad,” he added.
It is estimated that some 250,000 Nepalese aged 18-24 have left the country in the past 10 years, with many of them ending up seeking permanent residency or citizenship of the country they go to study.
In recent years, the MoE has been receiving about 30,000 requests for no objection recommendations from students aspiring to go abroad. The figure does not include students traveling to India.
As per an estimate, a total of Rs 30 billion flow out of the country toward paying college fees and other expenses incurred by Nepalese students enrolled in foreign universities.
Education expert, Prof Biddhya Nath Koirala, said, “We learn English as there are opportunities behind it.”
Koirala further said that modern age is driven by the sense of utility. “Local languages and cultures should be preserved, promoted and brought to the national mainstream by linking them to the goal of utility,” he said.