KATHMANDU, Oct 4: Concerns are growing among stakeholders over the proposed School Education Bill 2080, which they believe could lead to the politicization of the National Examination Board (NEB). Experts argue that the government's move to introduce this bill without consulting teachers is a cause for alarm.
One of the key concerns raised by stakeholders is found in Chapter 4 of the bill, which outlines provisions related to the conduct and management of examinations. According to the bill, a committee, coordinated by a member of the National Planning Commission (NPC) responsible for the education sector, will select the NEB chairman. This committee would also include a woman nominated by the ministry from among education secretaries and renowned educationists. The government would then appoint the chairman based on the committee's recommendation. Furthermore, the vice chairman of the NEB is proposed to be the secretary of the Ministry of Education.
This arrangement has sparked controversy among NEB officials and employees, who believe that it could undermine the autonomy of the NEB and lead to its politicization. Dr Mahashram Sharma, chairman of the NEB, expressed his concerns, stating that the current process, where the chairman is appointed by the Council of Ministers based on a recommendation from a committee chaired by the Public Service Commission (PSC), ensures impartial selection by qualified academics. In contrast, members of the NPC are appointed based on political affiliations, potentially allowing politics to influence the NEB's operations.
Raju Oliya, an officer at the NEB and chairman of the NEB Employees' Union, fears that politicization could even lead to tampering with the results of the 500,000 students who rely on the NEB for examinations. Given that many private schools in Nepal are run by political party leaders, he argues that the current system, where the PSC committee recommends the chairman and the Council of Ministers appoint them, is most effective in maintaining the integrity of the NEB.
Under secretary at the NEB, Dumbar Kumar, believes that the provisions in the bill submitted to parliament diminish the authority and autonomy of the NEB and concentrate power within the Ministry of Education. He pointed to Section 24(d) of the bill, which allows the appointment of under-secretaries of the ministry to provincial and branch offices, as a violation of the NEB's autonomy. Kumar stated that the proposed School Education Bill is not in the best interest of students and schools.
Ghanshyam Thakur, a former Assistant Exam Controller at Tribhuvan University, argues that forming a recommendation committee under the coordination of the PSC chairman for selecting the NEB chairman is the best way to maintain the NEB's dignity, given its direct impact on students' futures.
The School Education Bill 2080 also transfers responsibility for basic level examinations to local authorities, causing confusion in question paper preparation. Thakur believes that the bill's provisions undermine the authority of local municipalities, contrary to the constitutional allocation of school education responsibilities. He expressed concern that the bill does not align with the principles of federalism.
NEB Chairman Sharma criticized the bill's proposal to cancel the Secondary Education Examination (SEE), arguing that this could negatively impact the quality of school education. He stressed the importance of maintaining SEE to uphold educational standards and student learning achievements. Sharma suggested that instead of eliminating SEE, the bill should incorporate provisions for conducting provincial-level class 10 exams to ensure the quality of school-level education.
The stakeholders are raising significant concerns about the School Education Bill 2080, particularly regarding the potential politicization of the NEB and the impact on education quality. Sharma added that these concerns should be addressed through thorough discussions and revisions to ensure the best interests of students and schools in Nepal are protected.