Public school mergers gaining pace

Published On: August 17, 2016 12:50 AM NPT By: Bishnu Prasad Aryal

KATHMANDU, Aug 17: The government has adopted the policy of merging public schools instead of uplifting the quality of individual schools.

According to the Ministry of Education (MoE), a total of 1,339 community schools were merged with nearby schools by the end of the last fiscal year (July 15, 2016). There are 29,630 public schools across the nation. The government spends around Rs 100 billion annually in the education sector.

There are a total of 35,223 schools including private ones in the country.

Nineteen public schools in Tanahun district and 13 community schools of Kaski are in the process of merger, said the DoE officials.

"Private schools, which constitute 20 percent of the schools in Nepal have accounted for 80 percent of the good results in the School Leaving Certificate examinations in the recent years."

At a time when quality of education is deteriorating at community schools, they are compelled to go for merger, said the MoE officials.

"It is a critical situation that dozens of public schools in the country are compelled undergo mergers due to poor enrollment and increasing attraction to private schools," said Baikuntha Aryal, spokesman at the Department of Education (DoE). "Another reason for students leaving public schools is migration of rural people to urban areas. As a result, the number of students in the community schools in rural areas is gradually decreasing," he added.

Aryal said that the government has set two basic criteria for school merger. "The schools with zero enrolment or poor enrollment will be merged with nearby schools. This will save resources," he said. "Several schools which are only on paper in the Tarai districts or those under investigation by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) will be forced to undergo mergers."

Among the total schools merged, a third are from the Tarai districts of Rautahat, Sarlahi, Mahottari and Siraha. These schools are under CIAA investigation over misuse of government funds and for inflating student numbers purportedly to demand more grants from the government, said the government officials.

"We have planned to implement the School Sector Development Program from 2017 in order to promote the quality of education in public schools," said Dr Hari Prasad Lamsal, spokesperson of the MoE.
However, the donor-funded reform program, which concludes in 2016, failed to improve the quality of education in the community schools.

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