Although the government has prioritized girls’ education, it has been failing to achieve the expected targets. Gender parity is a crucial aspect of inclusive education, but despite legal provisions, data shows that the goal has not been fully met. Additionally, despite introducing various programs to ensure 100 percent retention of female students, the government has not been able to get the expected success.
Sabita Dangal, the director of the Center for Education and Human Resource Development (CEHRD), said girls’ enrollment is still below the target. Speaking at the British Council Nepal’s sixth educational conference, she noted that the target of 85 percent enrollment set for the 2022-23 academic year has not yet been achieved.
According to CEHRD, the net enrollment rates for basic levels (Grades 1-5), (6-8), and (1-8) in the gender parity index is 0.99 as of January 2023. In the secondary level, the rates are 1.01 in (9-10), 0.93 in (11-12), and 0.98 in (9-12). Last year, the net enrollment rates for basic levels (1-5), (6-8), and (1-8) were 0.99, 0.98, and 0.99, respectively. In the secondary level, the rates were 1.01 in (9-10), 0.93 in (11-12), and 0.98 in (9-12).
In the fiscal year 2021-2022, the enrollment rate of girls in basic levels (1-5) and (6-8) grades was 48 percent, while it was 49.3 percent in grades 9-10, 51.7 percent in grades 11-12, and 50.3 percent in grades 9-12. In the fiscal year before that, the enrollment rate for girls was 49.7 percent in grades 1-5, 49.9 percent in 6-8, and 49.7 percent in 1-8. Similarly, the enrollment rate of girls was 50 percent in grades 9-10, 53.4 percent in 11-12, and 51.3 percent in grades 9-12.
Difficult to retain
The government has introduced girl-friendly programs to improve retention rates. While there have been some positive results, the government’s ultimate aim is to eliminate the problem altogether. Despite a high percentage of children having access to school enrollment (over 97 percent), issues with dropouts and repeat classes continue to complicate the issue of access to education. The retention rate for female students in Grade 8 was 76.6 percent in 2015-16, but has since improved to 83.5 percent, although still below the target of 97 percent. According to Dangal, the overall retention rate for female students is good. While the percentage of girls not enrolled in school was 10.6 percent in 2015-16, it has come down to 4.9 percent currently. The government had targeted to bring it down to zero.
Several studies have identified various reasons for high dropout rates among female students, including having to care for younger siblings, child marriage, and high school fees. A study conducted by researcher Shudarshan Sigdel entitled ‘The Situation of Girls in Marginalized Communities’ also highlighted irregular attendance as a significant challenge. Chepangs make up about 44 percent of the population in Benighat Rorang Rural Municipality in Dhading district. The school enrollment of the Chepang community is 90 percent. However, the dropout rate among Chepang students is high. According to the study, the school dropout rate of Chepangs is around 40 percent all over the country.
According to Talik Chepang, the assistant principal of Shankhadevi Secondary School, around 60 percent of students who drop out are female.
The government has implemented scholarship programs for girls. According to CEHRD, the government has allocated a budget for scholarships for all girl students in Karnali. In the current fiscal year 2022-2023, the government has allocated Rs 656.8m to provide scholarships to 1.55m girls, which is a reduction of nearly Rs 50m from the previous fiscal year. The decrease in allocation may be due to the high school dropout rate among girls. In the previous fiscal year, there were 1.66m girl students in Karnali. Additionally, scholarships are provided to girls of other targeted groups at the basic level.
Inclusive school reforms
According to the Consolidated Equity Strategy, 2014, inclusive education provides an opportunity for children from diverse backgrounds, abilities, and social and economic classes to learn together, respect each other, and appreciate their differences.
Nepal has demonstrated its commitment to education for all, Millennium Development Goals, and Sustainable Development Goals through participation in various national and international programs and conferences. The constitution of Nepal mandates free and compulsory basic education, as well as free secondary education. Additionally, provisions have been made for free education for marginalized groups and people with disabilities. The constitution also guarantees the right to education in one’s mother tongue and encourages the establishment of educational institutions by communities.
The proportion of female teachers has also increased over the past seven years. According to Dangal, the proportion of female teachers in basic level has increased to 47.4 percent in 2021-2022 compared to 38.8 percent in 2015-2016. The government was looking to raise the proportion to 50 percent. Similarly, the proportion has increased to 20.4 percent in secondary level from 14.1 percent in 2015-2016.