News of children studying under open roof has stopped attracting the attention of the government authorities. We have become immune to the issue, it seems. Nepal government and World Bank are investing 1.03 trillion rupees from 2018 to 2022/23 on school education under the School Sector Development Program (SSDP). The government allocated 10.27 percent (131 billion rupees) for education alone in the current fiscal year. However, our public schools are in poor shape, severely hampering overall learning of children. School children from Chepang community—one of the most marginalized ethnic groups in Nepal—of Dhading district, for example, attend the school that has no roof over it. Worse still, teachers, including the principal, remain absent most of the times. And no teaching and learning activities take place throughout the whole day. When it rains, the school is closed. When it is too hot or too cold, the classrooms do not protect students from extreme weather. This is only one case at point. A number of schools in the country share the similar plight: poor infrastructures, high rate of teachers’ absence, unavailability of books and stationeries and so forth. As a result quality of education is deteriorating.
Countries around the world are investing in and innovating their education system. They have upgraded public school infrastructures. Many of the Scandinavian countries are phasing out typical examination systems, allowing children to experiment and explore their learning interest at an early age. Group work, group learning and experiential learning are being reinforced. In an age of Artificial Intelligence (AI), it is imperative that countries think beyond typical job market and start preparing their population for the jobs that are yet to be created in this century. Our public education system obviously needs rapid overhaul. Our children have started going to school but they are not learning much. The widening gap between the public and private schools only worsens income and other forms of inequality. A new Oxfam report says the richest one percent created 82 percent of wealth globally last year. This inequality is seeping into our society as well. And at the heart of the issue lies affordable, innovate and creative education for all.
Public schools in every ward and villages across Nepal became an important tool in ensuring that children attend school. Now the difficult task is to make sure that these children learn in classrooms. We have yet to learn how to do just that. It will now be upon our local, provincial and federal governments to work in sync to make sure our school systems prepare our children for the unknown future. The typical rote learning and outdated examination systems won’t produce the kind of resourceful and smart manpower needed to give the push to our economy and the society as a whole. The time is now for us to seriously look into our education system and start talking about ways to mend the issues within. We should not shy away from learning from countries that have made excellent segue into futuristic learning systems.