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Problems at Nepal’s schools

Over the last 12 years, we have visited many schools and classes in Nepal on behalf of Swisscontact and have made the same observations over and over again. The following comments were also confirmed by colleagues from the Senior Expert Corps. However, they are by no means intended as arrogant criticism, but as a basis for the efficient implementation of improvements in the Nepalese education system. We are very aware of the many problems and difficulties in this poor and civil war-ridden country, and a comparison with a Western education system is problematic.

  • In recent years Nepal has introduced compulsory education of at least 5 years. However, the school system is highly centralised and - compared to Europe - at a low level in terms of methodology and content.
  • Most teachers have not completed any teacher training. For the kindergarten 5 to 8 years of primary school are sufficient as teaching qualification, for the primary school 10 years. For the secondary level, a Bachelor or Master in the subject area and a Bachelor in Education are officially required; however, these can hardly ever be demanded. In addition, both courses are at a low level. In reality, therefore, only people with lower academic qualifications choose the teaching profession. But we have also seen many counter-examples of well-trained and highly motivated teachers.
  • There is great illiteracy, especially among women in rural areas (over 60%). The parents' understanding of meaningful teaching is therefore low.
  • These parents expect from the school as early as possible (from 3 years) a lot of written and corrected information in the exercise books of their children.
  • The government tries to improve the educational situation with the help of state schools. However, infrastructure and teaching are not comparable with European conditions.
  • In addition, there are many private schools where all subjects (except Nepali) are taught in English at a very early age. The owners of these schools often see their schools as a financial investment and therefore usually have little pedagogical understanding.
  • The lessons are completely teacher-centred from kindergarten onwards, mostly without any activity for the learners and without visual aids or learning aids. The teachers simply read and explain the contents of the very simple and faulty textbooks.
  • It is well known and accepted that teachers do not prepare these lessons. This is also understandable because teachers often have to teach at different schools for financial reasons.
  • Repeating several times (on the next day, in the next trimester or in the next school year) the contents are memorized.
  • Preparing for the term exams absorbs a lot of teaching time. These exams are designed to be memorized with many questions at a low level.
  • This orientation apparently continues until the university and is strengthened by the centrally controlled final examination after 10 school years (SLC = School Leaving Certificate). This totally centralized system has only changed three years ago. Now the provinces are in charge of the supervision of education.
  • Self-responsibility, imagination and creativity have hardly any place in the classroom.
  • The curricula, especially those of "Social Studies" and "Moral Science", are based on Hindu traditions and traditional structures of Nepalese society. 
  • These traditional subjects are now partly replaced by new subjects like "Occupation and Population", "General Knowledge" or "Life Skills".
  • The trade unions and parties have a strong negative influence on the school system and often blackmail the headmasters of private schools with threats of strikes.
  • Teachers at state schools earn sometimes significantly more than their colleagues at private schools. Nevertheless, the level of instruction at government schools is known to be much lower, the training of teachers is poor and irregular school attendance is tolerated.
  • Many teachers at public schools subcontract their teaching duties to a colleague (usually untrained), but cede only part of their salary. This enables them - thanks to corrupt school principals - to take on another job at another school.
  • Many private schools see themselves - involuntarily - as institutions for teacher training: After a few years of teaching and several good continuing teacher trainings, the teachers look for a job at a public school where they get a better pay for less work.

Dora and Urs Frey, Senior Experts of Swisscontact