Monday, July 22, 2024
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The Debate Over the Education Bill

The Nepali Government introduced a groundbreaking School Education Bill on September 13, 2023, after eight years of the bill being in development. This bill addresses various education-related issues, including private school governance and teacher appointments. The introduction of this bill in Parliament caused a huge debate over the provisions of the education bill.

Provisions of the Bill

The bill grants local units the authority to establish and run schools, but they must gather the necessary resources. They can decide on school mergers, upgrades, downgrades, and relocations. However, the federal government seeks to revive district-level Education Offices, suggesting reluctance to relinquish power.

Unlike the previous bill, the new one allows existing private schools to choose whether to become trusts. Previously, they were required to convert within five years, a contentious issue among private school operators. It also states that newcomers in private education must register as trusts, potentially limiting competition and favoring existing schools.

The Department of Education, renamed the Centre for Education and Human Resource Development five years ago, will be reinstated. The bill proposes English as the medium for Math, Science, and Computer Science, with Nepali for Social Studies and other arts.

Local units will manage Early Childhood Development Centers. It also sets minimum qualifications for teachers and prohibits political activities and demonstrations by teachers.

The Protest

The protest caused by the debate over the education bill began shortly after the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology introduced the Bill in Parliament. The teachers said the proposed law did not address the concerns of different types of educators and school staff. Job security would be greatly affected due to this decision. 

The member of the National Teacher’s Association suggested that entrusting the local body with school principal recruitment may result in favoritism. Instead, they proposed that candidates for the principal position should be chosen by the Teacher Service Commission.

Concerns were expressed about the draft proposal, especially regarding the appointment of local-level ward heads as school management committee chairpersons. This decision would affect the quality of education in those respective schools.

Teachers on Strike

The Agreement

The Nepal Teachers’ Federation ended the protests in Kathmandu after reaching a six-point agreement with the government. This brought the debate over the education bill to a halt. 

One point in the agreement states that there will be an expert committee, including representation from the federation, to examine teacher integration and periodic promotions. Another point ensures that the bill will include a provision to protect teachers from unwarranted actions.

The agreement also specifies that teacher transfers requires the consent of head teachers, and the transfer of head teachers will be coordinated with the school management committee.

Additionally, the agreement aims to align the contribution-based social security scheme for teachers with that of civil servants and establish a legal provision for teachers to receive various allowances similar to those of civil servants.

The agreement also includes establishing standards for private school teachers’ appointment, minimum salary, social security, and record-keeping.

While the federation has agreed to the deal, the Relief Quota Teachers’ Association has declined to accept it. They have plans to continue their protest. The relief quota teachers have been requesting either the inclusion of all 40,000 of them in internal competitions or permission to teach until their retirement age of 60.

What is Happening Now?

A bill to revise and consolidate school education law-2080 BS was presented in the House of Representatives (HoR) on the 1st of October, 2023.

The Minister for Education, Science and Technology, Ashok Kumar Rai, presented this legislation during a lower house session.

The Minister emphasized the importance of addressing the concerns of agitated teachers. He also added weight on the subject of enforcing citizens’ fundamental right to education as per the Constitution. The bill also seeks to clarify educational responsibilities among the three-tier government and improve the management of the education sector.

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