Montessori schools under legal tangle of two ministries
KATHMANDU, Aug 6: Pre-schools, widely known as Montessori schools, in the country are running in a state of legal confusion as they fall under the jurisdiction of two ministries.
Officials involved in the sector said that they have been facing various legal confusions as the school activities are totally concerning to the education ministry while they are registered under the Cottage and Small Industry that falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (MoFALD).
There are more than 500 Montessori schools in the Kathmandu Valley alone while dozens of such schools are being run outside the capital city for about two decades.
“Certainly, a legal dilemma persists regarding the pre-schools operated as the Montessori schools in the country,” said Dr Hari Prasad Lamsal, spokesperson for the MoE. “We need to sort out this problem sooner for managing them properly as per the law,” he added.
The recently amended Education Act provisions that basic or elementary education will be with one year pre-school and grade one to eight under primary level in these schools. However, the existing Montessori schools enroll the children aged between 18 months and six years.
The Montessori schools teach the curriculum divided in four classes-- Playgroup to Upper Kindergarten.
On the other hand, the government has opened hundreds of child development centers as pre-schools in the country.
However Suprabhat Bhandari, president of the Guardians' Association Nepal, describes Montessori schools as “psychological burden to tiny children and unnecessary financial load to the guardians.”
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 amount while many of them don’t pay tax at all.
When asked about the legal provisions, some of those involved in operating such institutions expressed ignorance about the related legal provisions. “We are unknown about the provision of the new education act nor the previous one. The 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, Pulchowk in Lalitpur.
The Montessori schools are unaware of the existing laws and their responsibilities to obey them. Some schools pay one per cent education taxes to the government while others are not paying it.
“We started paying 1 per cent of taxes as education tax from last year. We also pay taxes to the government as per domestic industry rule,” she further said. “I have heard that the Montessori
schools in Kathmandu district don't pay education taxes to the government,” she added. “What kind of rule is this?”
The staff of the Euro Kids at Tangal of Kathmandu said that 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 Ltd in Kathmandu while the law of the country restricts to open branches of the schools.
Bhandari questioned that whether the Montessori schools were industries or schools of education. “The government should define it clearly,” he added.
MoE spokesman Lamsal admitted that there was a legal hurdle due to duel responsibility of such pre-schools. “They are registered in the local bodies and operating under the umbrella of pre-primary education as per the education rules,” he said. “Now, we are seriously discussing on the issue planning how to incorporate them in the ongoing process to draft the Education Regulation in line with the new Education Act.”