Higher Education in Nepal: Issues and challenges
Education is a basic need of every society. Today education has become necessary for everyone’s life. Survival without education is becoming difficult. A better education system can enhance the social, scientific, and technological improvement of a country. The human resource development of a country depends upon the quality of education imparted in country. Higher education caters to the education in the colleges and universities. It is academically consider suitable to present distinctive feature of two stages for the purpose of clarity of concepts and avoiding duplication. Higher education is admittedly a separate stage quite distinct from primary, secondary, elementary, and higher secondary stage.
Higher education is recognized today as a capital investment and is of paramount importance for economic and social development of the country. Institutions of higher education have the primary responsibility for equipping individuals with advanced knowledge and skills required for positions of responsibility in government, business, and other professions. Quality higher education is a source of great potential for the socio economic and cultural development of the country. The nation can be transformed into a developed nation within the life time of a single generation.” Factors such as the distinctive nature of higher education institutions, international mobility of students, and teacher’s accessibility of computer based learning pursuit of research and scholarship, globalization of economy, and emerging challenges of the 21st century have a direct impact on the future development of higher education.
The purpose of higher education is not simply to impart knowledge in certain branches of knowledge; it has deeper meaning and objectives. The purpose may be multidimensional and may be termed as personal, social, economical, and cultural. Education and particularly higher education cannot be divorced from its milieu and social context. Religious, moral, historical, and cultural ethos permeates through the fabric of the educational system of a country. Public expectations about access to higher education direct concern about role that universities can play in innovation and economic development.
Challenges in Higher Education
Nepal is facing a critical period in the history, and on that account, everybody concerned with education has a responsibility for knowing what s/he is trying to do in bring up the next generation and why s/he is trying to do it. Higher education is faced with very severe challenges in the shape of various economic, social, political, and moral changes, and its future depends on the response made by its people to these challenges.
The problems plaguing the educational system of Nepal are multidimensional like population explosion, lack of resources, non participation of the private sector, scarcity of qualified man power, inconsistency in the policies of various regimes, political instability, inefficient educational management system, wastage of resources, and poor implementation of policies and programme etc. The major challenges in higher education in Nepal are as below:
> Quantity: Despite the constraints of resources, the quantitative expansion has been highly spectacular after the restoration of democracy. The institutions have not only been multiplied, the student enrolments at colleges and universities have registered exceptionally high rate of growth. In spite of quality control as well as consolidation, it will continue to grow constantly for a long time to come. The quantitative expansion is evident due to increasing aspiration of the people and social, economical, and political forces influencing the development of higher education. After the restoration of democracy, the role of higher education has been very well recognized in the development of science and technology, as well as various arenas of human advancement.
> Equity: The philosophy of social justice is very much akin to the principle of equity. It is a welcome development over the concept of inherent inequality which was sought to be explained by biological differences among individuals.The philosophy of equality of men being applied to political process, distribution of property, and productive resources is viewed as the source of inequities in society. This approach helped the development of capabilities among men through equal distribution of higher educational opportunities both in quality and quantity. The growing numbers of colleges and universities have provided access to higher education to the people in various parts and sections of Nepal. But the enrolments of students’ especially female students are relatively very small.
> Quality: Development of society not only depends upon quantity of goods and services produced, but also on their quality.It again leads to quality of life of the people and the quality of the society in general. It is rightly said that the philosophical basis of quality is the innate characteristics of a human being to attain a higher standard and the need of excellence for attaining a higher stage in the development. The scope of the idea of quality is severely limited by two widely prevailing views. On the one hand quality is a selective phenomenon and only few can attain it and on the other hand quality for quality sake or with regards to specific area rather than quality as mutually exclusive and emphasize selectively at the expense of equity.
> Student Unrest: Among the challenges of higher education is the vital role of addressing students’ unrest. The condition of higher education in universities and campuses is not satisfactory in the eyes of students. Lack of physical and educational facilities is bringing much hindrance in the way of development. Teachers are less motivated to do certain research work. Most teachers are not competent, and they are teaching in higher education institutions. They have limited knowledge about subject matter they taught and many of them have no clear idea about the subject. They feel it difficult to indulge in research work due to lack of knowledge about research methodologies and training.
The most important problems of higher education in Nepal is the political involvement of students. It is found that most students with backgrounds in humanities and social sciences, and management rather than in engineering technology, science, and medicine get involved in political activities. Therefore social or academic background is an important factor in determining the attitude of the students toward social economic and political issues. The university students should learn to think about possible solutions to this fast changing world. So in order to achieve this, the students at the university level need to get much deeper knowledge about the citizenship role in society and the new opportunities that open to the student due to economic development and technological advancement.
> Emotional Integration: Education can play a vital role in strengthening emotional integration. It is felt that education should not aim at imparting knowledge but should develop all aspects of a student’s personality. It should broaden the outlook, foster the feeling of oneness, nationalism, a spirit of sacrifice, and tolerance so that narrow group interests are submerged in the largest interest of country. Students, the future citizens of the country, should be trained in democracy, its value and ideals so that they will have sense of justice which is conducive for the development of national integration especially in the particular situation of developing countries which are striving to build up a structure of democratic living towards the prosperous, modern and just Nepal.
> Aministrative Reform:In the recent years, it is convinced that increasing attention to the problems of university administration should be given. It is noticed that despite the resources available for university expansion, they have not been able to obtain the best possible results. Further they have also begun to realize that much of this is due to lack of proper administration and political influence in administrations.Social and cultural factors, which are often ignored, are as significant as any of the purely technical factors in the formulation and implementation of administration policy. The linkages between the policy and these factors are neither casual nor limited to the contemporary period so the university administration clearly demonstrates that the success or failure of university administrative reforms hinges on the presence and absence of certain variables like; strong commitment and determined leadership; appropriate political environment; supportive social environment; types and nature of reform agents; favourable bureaucratic attitude towards education.
> Faculty: The current size of present faculty is very small according to the general international standard. The teacher/student ratio is very small even according to many third world countries standards. The quality of university education at the campuses has decreased because of the exiting faculty. Many present faculty members are teaching courses which are not their own specialization. Most of the teachers are appointed by political influence. Many faculty members in most of universities are just master degree holders with little or no practical knowledge and higher education experiences.
The salary, financial rewards and benefits for the faculty is very low according to the rising cost of living in Nepal. There is no real plan or set of rules for teaching evaluation or teaching effectiveness. Therefore appropriate action should be taken to provide an attractive and competitive faculty salary; reasonable teaching and research assignments; and fringe benefits to attract top ranking educators.
> Educational Policies: The faculty should have primary responsibilities for determining the educational policies of the institution. If this responsibility is not conferred and defined by the character of the institution, it should be expressed in legislation of the governing board. Educational polices include such fundamental matters as the subject matter and methods of instruction, facilities and support for the research work of faculty members and students, standards for admission of students, etc. The faculty should also actively participate in decisions made on other matters that may directly affect the educational policies for which it is primarily responsible. These matters include major changes in the size of the student body, significant alteration in the academic calendar, establishment of new colleges and universities or division, the provision of extension services to the community, and assumption by the institution of research.
> Academic Freedom: The right of academic freedom must be recognized in order to enable the faculty members, researchers, and students to carry on their roles. There should be the freedom of universities in making professional appointments, tenure research, salary scales, and all academic decision. Academic freedom and university autonomy are sometimes regarded as synonymous, but they are two quite different concepts, although they overlap at many points. Unfortunately a university may find it difficult to earn the academic freedom or autonomy and retain it in a new state where most, if not all, the cost of university education is a direct charge on the government.
> Courses and Curricula: The courses and curricula are not designed in accordance with the standard of higher education of the present day. It is seen that so many important and modern courses required for higher education are not taught at all. The curricula are not written in detail and are left to the professors personal likes, dislikes, interests or experience. The basic science courses are not designed well to fit the need of the students, and they are not well organized, or correctly supervised by the department. Generally speaking, there are not enough well equipped faculty and administration offices, classrooms, or engineering, science, and other laboratories for the growing student body and faculty members.
> Unemployment: While education cannot directly reduce unemployment, except by requiring more teachers, a reform of the educational system could help alleviate its impact especially on young people. In the sense of employment, the planners of higher education are handicapped in the assessment of the actual labour market needs for skills in various sectors of the economy.
> Budgeting and Financing: Central to all the foregoing is a new concept of budgeting and financing at the higher level. The conventional system of an annual budget is probably the most confusing and least understood. The concern here is with the budget as an instrument of academic planning which may promote the special aims of each college and constitute a practical means by which all university purpose may be realized ideally it must not only insure financial solvency of the university, but should also place responsibility and commensurate authority where it may be exercised most.
> Population Explosion: The fast growing population in Nepal is another problem by causing over crowding in the higher educational institution because the number of higher level institutions is deficient. The demand for the quantitative expansion of education at all levels remains one of the primary concerns because of the continuous population expansion.
Suggestions to meet the Challenges
Stress is laid on the need for improving the quality of education at every stage so that a proper foundation can be laid for advanced study in science, engineering, agriculture, and those other areas which are most closely allied to the national economic development and reconstruction of the nation as a whole. To begin from the top without reforming the lower stages is against the law of nature; it is against the law of evolutionary progress. Before any restrictions are imposed on the higher education, the earlier stages should be improved so as to produce better students for the higher stage. A critical point to be considered by educational planner is the adaptation of a multidimensional, flexible, and dynamic education system, which serves people according to their ability and aptitude and is responsive to their economic, social political and cultural needs. The new system of higher education should be flexible enough to offer a variety of courses, formal and non formal, full time and part time, correspondence and media based to fit every individual as well as the economic needs of the country.