Education is an important aspect of a country’s development and can have a significant impact on the lives of individuals and the overall society. It is important for governments to prioritise education and make sure that it is adequately funded and supported. It is also important for citizens to hold their governments accountable for their commitments and to advocate for policies that promote access to quality education for all.
It means the Education Ministry should be one of the important ministries of any government. But, in Nepal, political parties have just neglected it of late.
A case of neglect
After the Nepal Swatantra Party decided to pull out of the government, there is no education minister in the country. In principle, the prime minister now heads the Education Ministry, but it is apparent that this is just a nominal arrangement. This move highlights the lack of prioritisation given to the education sector by Nepali political parties.
Despite the popular commitment to improving the education system in Nepal as stated in their political manifestos, the recent action demonstrates a disregard for the other sector. This is particularly concerning given the crucial role education plays in a country’s development and the impact it has on future generations.
It is imperative that Nepali political parties prioritise the education sector, and the Education Ministry for that purpose, and take concrete steps to improve the quality of education in the country. This could include increasing investment in the sector, improving teacher professional development training, and creating a more inclusive education system that provides equal opportunities for all.
Promises vs reality
The Constitution of Nepal says education is a fundamental right. It stated that every citizen shall have the right to get compulsory and free education up to the basic level and free education up to the secondary level from the country.
Accordingly, all the parties have mentioned in their respective election manifestos that education will be made scientific, technical, skill-oriented and professional. Since 1992, when the election manifesto of the major parties are published, some of the election agenda has not been completed for three decades. However, in each election, all the political parties have repeated the same types of commitment for consecutive three decades but neglected implementation.
The major parties had promised to eradicate illiteracy since 1992. However, still, millions of Nepali citizens in the age group of 15 to 60 years are illiterate.
For example, the Nepali Congress put forward an agenda to eradicate illiteracy in 1948. In the current manifesto, it is written, “In the next five years, the literacy rate of women between the ages of 15-24 will be increased to 95 per cent, and 80 per cent of educational institutions will have access to the Internet.”
Likewise, this time, UML has included in the manifesto that the country will be fully literate in the next two years. The Nepali Congress has been supporting the current government and preparing to join it soon. The UML was a part of the government until a few days ago. But, no parties raised an issue about filling the vacancy at the Education Ministry. Without the Education Ministry has given priority, there is no possibility that their commitments for the sector are implemented.
In the political parties’ manifestoes, there are several promises that have been repeated, like community school reform, doubling investment in education and quality education, free education, quality and scientific education, eradication of illiteracy, access to education for all, and scholarships for the backward and poor citizens in their manifestos.
Moreover, the main political parties now have an agenda linking education with technology and business etc. But, none of the political parties has a detailed plan on how a budget can be increased from the current 10-11 per cent to 20 per cent.
Lack of strategy and action
But, again, you know no parties are interested to head the Education Ministry. It means they are not ready to walk the talk. Perhaps that is why no one has written on how to implement the commitments made in the manifesto, how to arrange the budget for efficient implementation of the plan, or what about the existing resources.
This time also parties put forward an attractive educational agenda in the election manifestoes, but people doubt that after winning the elections, they do not pay attention to its implementation losing people’s trust in them.
Yet, all the political parties have included educational agendas in their manifestos for the upcoming five years. Let’s hope they will be accountable for their commitment once they prioritise the Education Ministry.