Education has the power to transform lives. It broadens people’s freedom of choice and action, empowering them to participate in the social and political lives of their societies and equipping them with the skills they need to develop their livelihoods (UNESCO, 2010). Therefore, having the opportunity for a meaningful education is one of the basic human rights. It is a condition for advancing social justice. People who are left behind in education face the prospect of diminished life chances in many other areas including employment, health and participation in the political processes that affect their lives. Therefore, everyone should have the opportunity to have meaningful education. In line to this argument this paper deals mainly with the educational opportunities in Nepalese context, and measures for providing educational opportunities.
In this paper, firstly, presents the evolution of educational opportunity, secondly it describes the vision of educational opportunity of Nepal, and finally, it presents some measures for providing educational opportunity, with special reference to Nepal
What Educational Opportunity is for Nepalese context?
The drive for universal (primary) education (UPE) has gained momentum during last decades. Various initiatives and declarations (for example the Dakar Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals) has stressed the importance of achieving universal primary education. The millennium goals, which were agreed on in 2000, have set 2015 as the year in which universal education and gender equality in this respect are to be achieved.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR, 1948) and subsequent treaties establishes the right to education, and has the force of law for governments that ratify them. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the most widely ratified human Rights treaty, reaffirms the right to free and compulsory primary schooling (Article 28) and emphasizes child well-being and development (Article 29). As education is incorporated in Human and Child Rights, it became the responsibility of nation to educate all the children without distinction of any kind. Everyone has right to education. Similarly, half a century ago, governments around the world made a clear statement of intent on education convention Against Discrimination in Education (1960) imposed what amounts to a comprehensive ban not just on discrimination by legal intent, but on the processes that have the effect of causing discrimination (UNESCO, 1960, Article 1, Para 1).
Going forward, in 1990, from around the world including Nepal, 164 governments, together with partner organizations made a collective commitment to dramatically expand educational opportunities for children, youth and adults by 2015 for providing basic education to all the children without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, is the education opportunity to education. Nepal also made commitment to EFA and prepared a National Plan of Action for EFA. Thus, to educate all the children is the obligation of nation.
Education for All (EFA) plan of Nepal made the provision to ensuring that all children in Nepal have quality basic and primary education, in caring and joyful environment (MoES, 2003). That all children have experience of caring and joyful childhood development, primary education in their mother tongue without having to feel prejudices of cultural, ethnic or cast discrimination. That almost all adults are literate and are engaged in continuous learning through Community Learning Centres (CLCs). Provisions of verities of appropriate learning and life skill education that are contextual and directly beneficial for youths and adults are available through different modes including CLCs (MoES, 2003). This is the educational opportunity defined by EFA core document prepared by Nepal.
Global NER is 87% where as Nepal has 93.7 percent. To put it another way, globally more than 13 percent children are out-of-schools where the number of Nepal is 6.3 percent (DoE, 2009, p. 5). But the scenario of internal efficiency is painful where 63.5 percent of the total students enrolled in grade one promotes in grade two and the share of repeaters of the same grade in current year is 9.9 percent. Such a painful scenario not only limits in dropouts in grade 1-5 (70.8 %) but also in the internal efficient of primary level which is 70 percent (ibid). The 2001 census shows that Nepal’s literacy rate to be 57 percent whereas it is estimated about 67 percent. These statistic shows that a large numbers of school aged children are out of schools and they are the hard core group to be served by the Nation. Keeping this fact in the centre, Nepal has identified girls/female, children with disabilities, Dalit children, Janajati, street children, children in conflict, sexually abused children, poor children, children in prison, orphan, and children victimized from HIVAIDs and language minorities as the disadvantaged from educational facilities (MoES, 2003) which should be treated as hard core group for providing educational opportunities in Nepal.
The facts mentioned above indicate that Nepal’s school education system is facing two challenges: short falls in access and in quality as other developing countries facing (UN Millennium Project, 2005). If so Nepal has significantly accelerates the enrollment of children and improve their ability to keep children in school. Increasing access and improving in quality are mutually reinforcing. If schools cannot offer a good-quality education, parents are far likely to send their children to school (ibid). The first concern of short falls in access should be primary focus in Nepal because the concern for quality is valid when all the children have equal access in school.
What can be done for providing opportunity to education?
Non-enrollment and drop-out particularly affect the children of the poor people. Special efforts should be directed at the geographically isolated and ethnically marginalized children, child laborer in particular. Various forms of deprivation and the compulsion to work and to fight for one’s survival continue to put tens millions of children in a difficult situation without access to education. The estimates of these children not attending school vary from 100 to 300 million worldwide. Which strategies are to be deployed in order to include these children in the education system? Not enough is known of how to reach and involve this particular group of children. Unless this group is reached, this particular target of the MDG will surely not be met (See G. K. Lieten, 2004, the Status report written for the expert meeting in The Hague, September 2004). For these children, the fact of attending school in itself has many advantages which go beyond the debate of quality and beyond the debate of economic rewards. The assumed irrelevance and bad quality of education disregards many functions which education has. Schools are the only institutions that deal exclusively with children that keep children away from work and the monitor their development in various ways.
Three strategies can help get out-of-school children into school: crafting specific interventions to reach out-of-school children, increasing educational opportunities (formal and non formal) for girls and women, and increasing access to post-primary education (UN Millennium Project, 2005, p.5). The same report states that all of these strategies take into account the powerful demand-side influences that affect the propensity of parents to send their children to school.
The concept of out-of-school and disadvantages from school/educational facilities implies the solution for providing opportunity to education (Woodward, 2000). There are globally accepted measures to serve the disadvantaged peoples from the educational opportunities. According to Education for All, Global Monitoring Report (GMR) (2008) suggests that expanding equitable access, improving learning, teaching and learning and restoring education in difficult circumstances (UNESCO, 2008). Opportunity in education associated various problems. Different factors affect the attainment of educational opportunity in education. Here, some measures are listed as below:
- Assure provision of early childhood care and education programmes with health, nutrition and education components, especially for the most disadvantaged children because children having experience of early childhood development classes can perform better as compared to the children without experience of ECD. Therefore, Nepal have to concentrate its efforts for establishing well equipped ECD classes with trained teachers so that well prepared new entrant can be produced for grade one.
- Parents’ income is directly proportional to educational attainment (UN Millennium Project, 2005). Poor children are less likely to attend school. Low levels of enrollment and completion are concentrated not only in certain regions but also among certain segments of the population. In every country completion rates and central Africa, the median grade completed by the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution is zero, because less than half of poor children complete over the first year of school (ibid). Nepal is not different from this scenario. Therefore, abolishing school fees, providing enough places and teachers in school to cope with the problems of new entrants in school could be one means for bringing out of school children to school because socio-economic factor is responsible for barrier to schooling.
- Provide financial support such as scholarships, cash or in-kind transfers to children from poorer households because economic is barriers to girls’ schooling which is study highlighted by a recent research study (as cited in Political Perspectives, 2008). Nepal has different kinds of incentives for student from poor, Dalit and disadvantaged groups but researches states that the amount is not as per need of the students. Scholarships were not sufficient to cover the cost of education materials, and money was found to be misused (UNESCO, 2004); Ridley and Bista). The same study highlighted that scholarship program in Nepal was neither relevant nor efficient. In lined to this finding of the study another study highlighted that (Ridley, 2004) Poor families who rely on children’s labour and income will not be prepared to release their children for schooling despite the provision of a cash incentive if the incentive is too small (CERID, 1999). Students from low-income families are 2.4 times more likely to drop out of school than are children from middle-income families, and 10.5 times likely than students from high-income families. But there is no any research done in this type. Excessive domestic chores are also identified as the barriers to children schooling. Opportunity costs related to the work girls perform in the family are high because girls have a load of domestic and seasonal labour (World Bank 2005). In other words, to girls’ parents it may seem economically inefficient to send their daughters to school when they have so much housework. Therefore, providing sufficient scholarship and opportunity cost could be one of the means for providing educational opportunities in Nepal.
- Take measures to alleviate the need for child labour and allow for flexible schooling and non-formal equivalency course for working children and youths. Community Learning Centre (CLC) will be the best practices for the rural illiterate peoples because not only formal schooling but also work experience contribute accumulating significant knowledge, skills, and attitudes values (KSA), but as change accelerated, KSA gained in previous learning gradually became also largely obsolete (Saxton, 2000).
- Promote inclusive policies that open schools to disabled children, indigenous children and those from other disadvantaged groups. In this sense education becomes a public good and the society benefits from increased education as well as the individual. In every country completion rates are low for children from poor households. Moreover, the education income gap exacerbates gender disparities. Girls from poor households register very low levels of completion in many countries (Bruns, Mingat and Rakotomalala, 2003).
- Reports on girl trafficking estimates that 5,000 to 12,000 girls between the ages of 12-20 years are trafficked from Nepal to other countries for prostitution (HimRights, 2003 cited in Tuladhar, 2007). The Study found that majority of the trafficked girls parents (75%) are illiterate (IIDS, 2003, cited in ibid). Another study conducted with commercial sex workers found that more than 55% of the respondents were totally illiterate, only about 15% had primary schooling, and only 1% had completed the tenth grade and above (Tuladhar p. 97-109). Thus, trafficking, and prostitution, is responsible barriers to education. Therefore, establishing media and publishing policies that promote education. Provision of advocacy programs against the trafficking, sexual abusing, discrimination etc are the measure for ensuring educational opportunities for affected population.
- Create safe and healthy learning environment by recruiting teacher from ethnic, minorities and schedule cast (Dalit) along with better teacher training. Use child-friendly teaching learning environment in the classroom. This provision can be fulfill from the better teacher training program because experience, training and education are the three main mechanisms for acquiring human capital, with education being primary most individuals (Saxton, 2000). Recruiting teacher from ethnic, minorities and Dalit is the main responsibilities of Ministry of Education and producing better trained teacher is the responsibilities of National Centre for Educational Development (NCED) and Faculty of Education (FoE). There NCED and FoE should reform their teacher training curriculum for addressing learner-friendly teaching learning issues.
- Address gender disparities by increasing the numbers of female teachers and building schools close to home and with proper sanitation. It is generally more cost-effective to locate schools in relatively densely populated places, poorer families, which tend to be disproportionately located in remote rural areas, may face substantially higher costs to send their female children to school and, as a result, tend to acquire less education (Coady and Paker, 2002). In 2000, a UNICEF (20001) study found that majority of young women do not attend school when they are menstruating if there are no private latrine facilities to enable them to care for personal hygiene (World Bank, 2005 cited in UN Millennium Project, 2005). The availability of schools and latrines, and causes limited access to school and particularly affect girls, because they are more vulnerable than boys to travel long distances or study in a school with no hygiene facilities. In the case of Nepal, about 90% schools do not have separate toilets for girl (Bista, 2006). Thus this is a genuine problem affecting girl’s attendance to school.
- Provision of Open and Distance mode of eduation: Formal education system, for various reasons, is not being able to enroll all the school age children to school. The enrolled one not completing their education cycle. Access in education was denied deu to various reasons. From these scenarios, it can be argued that there are several challenges in our education system.
- Language barrier of schooling: Language and ethnicity are deeply intertwined. People who cannot speak a country’s dominant language may have less access to written and spoken sources, restricting their opportunities for employment and social mobility (Smits and Gǘndǘz-Hosgȍr, 2003, smits et al., 2008 cited in UNESCO, 2010, p. 172). Parent who does not speak the official language in which their children are being educated may have less opportunity to engage with teacher, education authorizes and homework. And their children may not grasp what is being taught if teacher do not speak their home language. This results inequalities in opportunities and become major factor in leaving behind from educational opportunities. In line to this argument let’s see some empirical examples. Ethno-Linguistic diversity creates series challenges in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Pakistan. In Balochistan province (Pakistan), for example, language barriers have a significant impact or access to education, especially for girls in rural areas, where local language is predominant. Since, Nepal is a multi- lingual country; people of Nepal speak many languages. According to Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) there are 100 caste/ethnic groups and 92 different mother tongues existed in Nepal. Those children, whose mother language is not Nepali, speak their language at home and they speak Nepali and English language in school as a medium of learning. Language becomes the distracting factors for them, this cause drop out from school. Elaborated code in class room and restricted code of language in the home is direct related to the understanding level of the children. Because of these code children cannot understand the classroom language used by their teachers (Aryal 2003). Therefore, it is suggested to recruit teachers from ethnic minorities groups.
- Supply trained teacher and provide on the job training for those who are not well trained along with providing opportunities for those who are under qualified as the benchmark qualification for schooling system because education or training raise the productivity of teachers by imparting useful knowledge and skills (Becker, 1964) and better-educated teachers can be trained for specific jobs more quickly at a lower cost (Thurow, 1975). Appropriate academic qualification is equally important for teachers because education enhances an individual’s ability to successfully deal with disequilibria in changing socio-economic conditions (Schultz, 1975) and education which include training improve productivity (Levin and Kelley, 1994 cited in Saxton, 2000).
- School environment as barriers to girls schooling: The lack of female teachers has been identified as one of the main causes of girls’ low enrolment and attendance (FAO & UNESCO 2005; ILO 1998 cited in UN Millennium Project, 2005). According to EFA Global Monitoring Report sexual violence, insecure school environment and inadequate sanitation disproportionately affect girls’ self-esteem, participation and retention (UNESCO, 2008). Textbooks, curricula and teacher attitudes contribute continue to reinforce stereotypes on gender roles in society (ibid, P. 5). At present, only few percent of primary school teachers (34.5%) are female, 4.2 percent are from Dalit and 23.4 are from Janajati (DoE, 2009) in Nepal, particularly the case in rural areas. Therefore, the numbers of female teachers from Dalit, Janajati, and ethnic minorities should be recruited.
Government of Nepal reaffirms its commitment to equal opportunity in education under international human right conventions and is obligated to act on that commitment. Efforts are geared toward this destination but could not reach as per its intention. Marginalization is being matters at different levels. Having the opportunity for meaningful education is a basic right of the children and a condition for advancing social justice. Restricted opportunity in education is one of the most powerful mechanisms for transmitting poverty across generation. Factors contributing to lack of educational opportunity are poverty, gender, ethnicity, geographic location, disability, race and other factors. Identifying such factors and concentrating efforts towards providing equal opportunities in education is great challenge for Nepal.
- Aryal, S. (2003). Jendar ra Yashko Sambandhabare Kura Garau (Lets’ Talk Gender and its Relationship). Educational Innovation 2(1) (pp. 70-76). Kathmandu: CEIR.
- Becker, G. S. (1964). Human Capital. New York: Columbia University Press.
- Bista, M. B. (2006). Status of Female Teachers in Nepal, Kathmandu: UNESCO Office Kathmandu
- DoE (2009). Flash I Report I 2067 (2009-10). Sanothimi, Bhaktapur: Auther.MoES (2003). Education for All National Plan of Action Nepal (2001-2015). Kahtmandu: Author.
- Ridley, A. (2004). Impact of Incentives to Increase Girls Access to Education. Bangkok: UNESCO.
- Saxton, J. (2000). Investment in education: Private and public returns. Joint Economic Committee Study. United States Congress. Retrieved from http://www.house.gov/jec/educ.htm.
- Schultz, T. (1975). The value of the ability to deal with disequilibria. Journal of Economic Literature, 13 (3), 827- 846.
- Thurow, L. (1975). Generating inequality. New York: Basic Books, Inc.
- Tuladhar, S. (2007). Educatin and Society. Gender and Social Change in Nepal: Educational Implications, 97-109. Kathmandu, Nepal: Education Network, Nepal.
- UN Millennium Project (2005). Toward Universal Primary Education: Investments, Incentives, and Institutions. Task Force on Education and Gender Equality
- UNESCO (2005). Children Out of School. Paris: Author.
- UNESCO (2008). EFA Global Monitoring Report 2008 (Summary). Paris: Author.
- UNESCO (2010). EFA Global Monitoring Report: Reaching the Marginalized. Paris: Author
- Woodward, D. A. (2000). Managing Equal Opportunities in Higher Education. Philadelphia: Open University Press.
-  Further see: Society and Education 2007, page 79.