Nepal: for-profit education hits underfunded public school system

The combination of chronic underfunding and private, profit-driven interests are being lethal to the Nepalese public education system, a new study finds.

Nepal: Patterns of Privatisation in Education. A case study of low-fee private schools and private chain schoolsanalyses the growing trend of for-profit education in Nepal, where enrolment doubled between 2005 and 2010. According to the authors, Dr Bhatta P., from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, and Dr. Pherali T., from University College London, chronic underfunding of the public system is one of the main causes that have led to the surge of private for-profit education in Nepal.

This underfunding weakens public education and facilitates the entry of other providers. The report outlines how spending in Nepalese public education fell from 19.5 to 16.1 per cent of the national budget between 2011 and 2015. In addition, public spending on education as a share of the Gross Domestic Product declined from 4.2 per cent to 3.9 per cent.

Deepening inequalities

This has fuelled a surge in the availability of private education with almost one in five of all school-going children enrolled in for-profit private schools. The result is a deepening inequality and segregation of society, the study highlights, with more than 60 per cent of the children enrolled in fee-paying private schools belonging to the wealthiest social group. Girls are particularly disadvantaged, with 14 per cent more boys than girls enrolled in private schools.

Quality education

The report also reveals how the private schools it surveyed largely employ untrained teachers with a high turnover ratio, a key factor in undermining teacher professionalism. Quality education in these institutions is largely measured in terms of success rates in national examinations which is achieved by rote learning. Children’s development appears to be undervalued and not included as priority in most of the schools analysed in the report.

How to curb the trend

To curb the trend towards privatisation, the report recommends increased government investment in public education. It also emphasises the need for strong governance in the Nepalese education sector and a careful monitoring of the quality of the tuition provided in the so-called ‘low-fee’ for-profit schools. Without an increased investment in public schools and a stronger regulatory framework for private schools, quality education for all will remain far from reality in Nepal, the study concludes.

Download the report, Nepal Patterns of Privatisation in Education. A case study of low-fee private schools and private chain schools, by Bhatta P. & Pherali T. (2017) here

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