Education in Nepal

Historical Perspective:  Primary and Secondary Education in Nepal

   Nepal has faced a great number of challenges throughout its history in creating and maintaining a sustainable education system. Numerous changes in government over the decades and a crippling civil war from 1996 to 2006 have both made this difficult situation almost insurmountable at times. 2015 was a devastating year for Nepal, as the catastrophic earthquakes in April and May as well asthe five month long trade blockade in September nearly ground the economy to a standstill. Nepal's presence in the list of the twenty poorest nations on Earth certainly adds to those challenges by keeping the rate of success low, if not in negative territory. Still, there has been progress made over time.

   Elementary and secondary education in Nepal has always struggled to gain stability, more so than many other developed or developing nations. In 1951 Nepal established a cabinet government system, ending a century old hereditary monarchy rule. The National Education Planning Commission was founded in 1954, the All Round National Education Committee in 1961, and the National Education Advisory Board in 1968 in order to implement and refine the education system.  In 1971, the New Education system came into operation as an integral part of the Fourth Five-Year Plan (1970-75).  

   Although the government of Nepal was relatively successful in establishing new schools, the quality of education remained low particularly in remote regions where the majority of the population lived. Due to the regional variations, providing uniform text materials and teacher training was inadequate.  Rough terrain further inhibited management and supervision of rural schools.  A struggling economy and dramatic differences in culture further constrained school attendance.  Children were generally required to work in the fields in order to help support their families.  Students began school at ages nine or ten and more than half left school after completing only one year.  School for female students was not considered a requirement and was unfortunately viewed as unnecessary.  The enrollment rate of girls was far lower than their male counterparts.

   Primary education at government run public schools was made free of charge in 1975 and the national government took responsibility for providing school facilities, teachers, and educational materials.  Primary school was compulsory for children age 5 to 10.  Secondary education began at the age of 11 and was divided into lower and higher secondary education levels. The Ministry of Education was responsible for supervising the national education public and government subsidies for private schools.

   In a national assessment of the education system in 1987, the curriculum was greatly influenced by models from the United States.  The system was developed with assistance from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  The National Education Plan designed a framework for a universal education plan.  The plan highlighted reading, writing, and arithmetic, while instilling discipline and hygiene in the primary levels and character formation, positive attitude toward manual labor, and perseverance in the lower secondary level.  In the higher secondary level, education stressed manpower requirements and preparation for higher education.

   The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG), established in 2000, included a goal devoted to providing universal education for all residents has been slow to start in Nepal primarily due to the unstable government and subsequent reformation of the national government.  In the MDG 2008 report, Nepal claimed that 9 out of 10 school aged children were now enrolled in classes.  However, major challenges are still factors for most children in Nepal including the quality of education, cost of education, gender disparities, and drop-out rate.**

   In recent years, the predominance of private schools has dramatically increased the level of education available to Nepali children. The quality of the faculty and the curriculum in private schools are far higher than that of the government run schools. But this higher level comes with a price, requiring a tuition to be paid for each student. Although inexpensive from the point of view of a developed nation, these tuition fees are often well out of the reach of most Nepali parents. This is where WWEP's sponsorship program comes into play.

   The mission of WWEP is to provide financial assistance and educational opportunities to communities and schools in both underprivileged urban areas and remote rural regions through collaborative partnerships with local and international educators, governments and industries.  Despite major challenges stemming from poverty, lack of accessibility and decades of political struggles, Nepal has the potential to provide its children with proper and sustainable education.  WWEP is committed to assisting Nepal with the fulfillment of this potential.

 **DFID Millennium Development Goal 2 Factsheet, December 2008

Photo: Bidur Bhattarai

Photo: Mitrata Nepal Foundation

Photo: Uniglobe SS High School

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All photographs on this site created by Steve Mannshardt, unless otherwise noted