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Bidya Nath Koirala: Education System Blueprint of Nepal

Sustainable development goal is the much talked about and little done business in Nepal, Koirala says the reason is that we ignored the culturally sustained knowledge and skills. - Editor

Bidya Nath Koirala: Education System Blueprint of Nepal

Professor Bidya Nath Koirala is the former head of the Central Department of Education at Tribhuvan University. He has extensive experience in evaluating and auditing educational projects and institutions. These days he offers consultation on improving education at the grassroots level. In this column of Nepal Planner, he presents a 10-point roadmap for the education system in Nepal.


Education for all

GOs and I/NGOs implemented a number of programs to ensure education for all. Because of these efforts we have 76 percent people literate; 94 percent children are in school; gender parity index is almost one up to secondary level education. Even in higher education, the gender parity index has been improved.  And yet, neo-literates are relapsing to be illiterate in the absence of adequate programs. Only 1/3 children enrolled at grade one complete grade 12 meaning that we have huge dropouts. These dropouts require a systematic open education system for learning and hands-on skill. But the problem is that it is yet to be implemented.   

Crisis on education

Education is amalgamation of the ancestral, contemporary and the envisioned knowledge and the skills.  But the problem with us is that we fetched the idea that the West is best. This practice ignored the Vedic, Buddhist, and the Kirat’s home grown knowledge and Islamic adapted knowledge along with their daily practices.  This made us the knower of 1/3 knowledge. The skills that we inherited did not get a chance to be developed. The knowledge that we inherited did not get a chance to be linked up with the dominant skills that we value. The home grown pedagogy of shravan, manana and nididhyasan of the Hindus, Buddhists and Kirats are replaced; the pedagogy that Mahabharat taught i.e. learn 1⁄4 from Guru, 1⁄4 from friends, 1⁄4 from available experts, and 1⁄4 from personal experience is sidelined.


Sustainable development goal is the much talked about and little done business in Nepal.  The reason is that we ignored the culturally sustained knowledge and skills. Take the examples of passing the Puranic knowledge, culturally learnt farming system, ancestrally transferred health care system etc.  Dalan of Madhesh and Dabali of Kathmandu, Rodhi of Hills and tea serving of the Mountain are some of the sustained examples. Bonpo of Tamang, Thakali of Thak Khola, Badghar of Tharu, and Maijan of Madheshi group are the cultural rulers.  But they don’t get space in Palika leadership. This implies that we talk more about SDG and do less to sustain them through educational processes.    

Government commitment

The rulers always mention their commitment of education for all, free and compulsory education, skills for all, research in higher education, training for teachers, deprivatization of education, departicization in education etc. But they lack institutional memory and the accountability to translate the commitment into action. Among others, the low literacy rate of Madhes and Karnali Province are examples of it.     

Challenges and threats

Words are enough in Nepal. They appear in the form of policy, planning documents, and speeches of the ruling governments.  But the challenge is to translate these words into action by being rational.  For instance, the country invests about 14 percent of the national budget to the army and police force and allots 11 percent of its budget in education. Contrary to it, each of the ruling and the potential ruling parties champions for 20 percent investment in education. Interestingly none of the ruling parties implemented compulsory saving of all the people and mobilized that money for the development of the country and later on, used that money for entrepreneurship development programs.  

Our educational situation

We imported education from the West via India in the hope that it would give employment opportunities. But this truth of 1956 has been changed: the current narrative says that education turned out as a producer of unemployed and underemployed graduates. Here again a question arises about the training and education, are we seeking for training if yes, we can promote short term training and Youtube based training. If we are seeking an academic course, we can help academize the context, content, method and evaluation system. If we are looking for the blend of training and education or vice versa, we can enable teachers and students to make digital and non-digital books in place and use them.  Here I see that we are trapped in confusion.    

Neighbor support

China valued its cognitive culture to educate the people. India inherited and built on the Gurukul system of education. It also continued the British imposed education system as well. But Nepal fetched many things from the donor and the loaner countries eventually making a junkyard of many ideas. This means we failed to link our education system with the homegrown seeds. We also failed to create the culture of the fetched ideas. Semester system, continuous assessment system, letter grading system are some examples as they are yet to be implemented as that of the west.  

Supporting vulnerable communities

Nepal followed a blanket approach to support the children of the vulnerable communities. Sanitary pad for all; mid day meal for all, textbooks for all are some of the examples. But we failed to apply the concept of equity instead we introduced the concept of equality in resource constrained countries like Nepal. This approach did not do justice to the vulnerable community as they get less in comparison to what they need. For example, Dalits and the children of the marginalized community need additional support and/or their parents require a self sustained job. In both the requirements, we are yet to think.  

Success stories

Success stories are scattered here and there. Some cases are reported in the media but there has been no systematic information about the success stories of students at local, provincial and national level governments. Increased educational access to the differently able children, earning skills while learning, scholarship support for the poor children are some of the success stories.  But they are yet to be documented in a systematic way for public consumption.  

Way forward

Firstly, linking the indigenous knowledge with the western knowledge and enabling the students for a hybridized education system is the need of the day to promote glocalization (blend of local with global)  in education. Secondly, we have culturally inherited skills. They have STEAMS (science, technology, engineering, art, math, and science) together. Teachers need to recognize them and link them with the curriculum and the textbooks.  At the same time they need to provide entrepreneurship skills and compulsory personal saving to their students. Thirdly, teachers need self assessment skills and make them professional. Fourthly, teachers belong to the analogue generation and they are supposed to teach to the students of the digital generation. This generation gap between the teachers and the students needs to be bridged by enabling students to be researchers; research in the mobile, research with the parents, research with the classmates, seniors and juniors, and self reflective research. Fifthly, teachers need to be updated digitally and their best activities need to be digitally documented in the local level’s website portals.