Inclusive Education: Empowering Public Education in the New Age of Communication

Pramod Dhakal, CFFN, Ottawa, Canada

Proceedings of Unfolding Futures: Nepalese Economy, Society, and Politics
Friday-Sunday, October 5-7, 2007, Ottawa, Canada


Ranked 140th out of 177 countries by UNDP in Human Development Index, Nepal suffers from chronic illiteracy and human poverty. However, attempts to rescue its 28 million people out of this situation have produced dismal results and the Millennium Development Goals set by UNDP remains an illusive promise for Nepal. While politicians and policy makers are busy selling their own policies as being inclusive, the gap between the rich and the poor, the privileged and the marginalized, and the elite politicians and the grassroots people are steadily widening. Breaking this cycle of gloom is not going to be possible unless some non-conventional and innovative approaches are used to deliver education to the people living in the economically deprived regions of Nepal. Among the many approaches proposed in the article as being important for delivering significantly improved access and quality of education to the population, two have been identified as the most significant:

  1. Making education supported and sustained by the communities themselves,
  2. Supplementing educational institutions with a common pool of knowledge-resources collected and distributed with the use of modern telecommunication, computing, and multi-media technology.

This approach necessitates mechanisms for pooling of technical and knowledge resource, economical to distribution of existing knowledge, compounding new knowledge, and creating the environment for rewarding the emergence and growth of new knowledge, innovations, and inventions.

1.0 Introduction

Nepal is a country of 28 million people, where many acute needs of the society, such as food, clean water, basic health services, and basic education, remain unfulfilled. Today, Nepal stands resolute at its state of destitution as one of the poorest and illiterate countries in the world, ranking 140th out of 177 in Human Development Index measured by the UNDP [1]. Nepal is US$15 billion away from meeting its Millennium Development Goals by 2015 according to UNDP report released in late 2006 [2].

There is a historic reason why Nepal has come to being in this state. Ordinary citizens of Nepal were prevented from acquiring formal education for centuries until the fall of the Rana regime in 1951. Once the barrier placed by the state was removed, literacy has noticeably improved and public schools have sprung up steadily. For more than three decades, until early 1980s, the quality of education delivered through the public schools was also improving progressively. However, the quality of public education has actually been in the decline for the last two decades.

Having said that, and amidst all difficulties, Nepal is also rife for a positive intervention in abating the causes of endemic hardship and social tensions. It is in the most opportune time in history for forging ahead with a mandate fro lasting peace, progress, and prosperity. Transformation is required in all fronts, but the focus should be on acquiring the endeavor of acquiring the essential knowledge necessary to carry the transformation. Some non-conventional, effective and systemic approaches are required to meet such needs. This paper explores ideas to bring about sustained changes within the public education to meet such end goals.

2.0 Why Public Education?

Research has found that education is the largest single contributor to poverty alleviation, income equity, gender equality and ethnic equality, and also to improvements of nutrition, health and longevity of people [3]. Education is the foundation for building innovative mindset, increased productivity, self-confidence, voice, and optimism of individuals and human institutions. Taking the most profound tool of empowerment – the knowledge – to the poor and disadvantaged people of Nepal is the best way to lead them towards all other kinds of empowerment and in helping them acquire specialized knowledge to address their specific social, political, and economic needs. Such endeavours can ultimately address the needs of the individuals, families, nations, and the world as a whole.

The role of education in building prosperous nations has been known to humanity for centuries. Some 2600 years ago Confucius said, “If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, educate the people.” His thoughts seem to have made profound impact in Chinese society but the most notable era of sustained progress of the Chinese society was realized in the five centuries beginning from the time of Kublai Khan (1215-94AD) who, for the first time in modern history of humankind, forced local governments to build public schools and provide compulsory universal education to all children. This policy broke the stranglehold of the power the educated elites had over the masses. This policy also eroded the support base of Sung dynasty, which was still ruling in many parts of China, and built new momentum for widespread progress and loyalty of ordinary people towards unification of China under Yuan dynasty [1]. China remained an undisputed superpower in the world for centuries to come ever since then. Five centuries later, governments in Europe picked up the responsibility for public education, while China went on dismantling its universal public education following the rise of Ming dynasty.

Scotland introduced a tax on landlords in 1633 to subsidize the education for the children of the general public but this tax was subsequently revoked. Scottish parliament re-instated the tax in 1696 only [2]. However, the general awakening brought by earlier efforts helped Scotland raise its literacy and build support for its public education system. The land tax continued to subsidize the education for the poor until a compulsory and free public education was introduced for children aged between 5 and 13 with the Education Act 1872 [2]. The lead of Scotland, and subsequent movement in the United Kingdom, for educating the children of general public made the British Empire the strongest in the world, eclipsing the old Chinese empire throughout the 18th and 19th century.

While the UK was strengthening its public education in the 19th century, the United States continued to have an education system that was accessible only to the wealthy and white population. However, in the 20th century, USA was greatly influenced by philosophers like John Dewey who viewed education as a principal tool for building intellect and for developing problem solving and critical thinking skills, rather than simply memorizing lessons [4]. People like Dewey saw the public school’s relation to society as a repair organ to the organism of society. And by 1918 all states in the USA passed laws requiring children to attend at least elementary school and 20th century belonged to the USA on account of its sustained focus on public education that was founded on community empowerment. From 1900 to 1996 the percentage of teenagers who graduated from high school in the USA increased from about 6 percent to about 85 percent [5]. Similarly college and university enrolment went up from 2 percent at the beginning of the 20th century to 60 percent near the end of the century among the age group of 18 to 24. Public education in the USA got a huge face-lift after World War II, and the post war USA surpassed every nation in educational indices. By 1960s it had removed all barriers to education to Blacks and other minorities.

Unfortunately, these last reforms came during the cold-war when ideals of social equities had started to be looked down upon in the USA. As a result blacks and Hispanics could not achieve the same level of human development as the whites. Further, the increasing reliance on privatization and market forces for everything has substantially weakened the educational foundation of the USA in recent times, although this may have been temporarily masked due to substantial injection of highly educated people through graduate schools and immigration. The 21st century may, therefore, be slipping away from the hands of the USA. Other countries are marching ahead in education, research and development indices. Countries like Switzerland, Finland, Japan, Sweden, and Germany have already surpassed USA in the categories of per-capita inventions and many other countries have produced better educational indices.

An OECD report on education published in 2005 came to conclude that “The most effective economies are those with the largest production of information and knowledge and in which they are easily accessible to the greatest number of individuals and enterprises” [6]. The same report said that every extra year of education increases the productivity of a person by 3-6%. Therefore, education is found to be the largest contributing factor in the productivity growth of a country.

Every successful country in the history of humanity has heavily emphasized public education during its rising phase and has strived to dismantle the public education during its dying phase. Common sense should, therefore, tell that for Nepal to rise in the path of inclusion, unity, and prosperity, a fair public education system is necessary. And, there is no other tool to conquer the old ills of exclusion than a single tier and mandatory public education for all children.

3.0 Causes of Poor Public Education in Nepal

3.1 Centrally controlled management

The first sign of the decline of public education emerged with the government’s decision to centralize the management of all schools in the late 1970s. The then active “Partyless Panchayat System” tried to consolidate the control over all schools. These schools were originally developed by grassroots people without any government interventions. When the schools were developed and controlled by the villagers, there was a high level of accountability and responsiveness from the staff which steadily improved the quality of education. Similarly villagers regarded and rewarded high performing individuals that brought good results. With the advent of central control of the schools, the grassroots people were rendered almost useless and the education system started degenerating steadily.

At first, people welcomed this effort because it took away their burden of maintaining and running the school through local efforts. However, as in any system of management, employees naturally had to become accountable to their employers. After the centralization, they no longer had to report to the people to retain their job; they had to please one person, District Education Officer (DEO), who was directly accountable to the Minister of Education. This top-down model of management dismantled the unknowingly but naturally practiced system that correlated rewards and punishments given to the educators with the level of “customer-satisfaction” they delivered. Now there was a fixed salary that was not tied to performance, and retaining job was as simple as pleasing one bureaucrat, the DEO or a political party in power.

Although some of the initiatives taken during this centralization were good, examples being standardization of the curriculum, methodology, and educational performance measurement. However, they did not introduce the DEOs with a controlled mandate of promoting and enforcing these positive and well intentioned measures. The DEOs were used to takeover the management and supervisory role over the schools. This centralization of the management brought nothing but negative consequences to Nepal’s education sector. In a centrally controlled system, DEOs were not able to execute their designated roles well even when they had good intentions. This is because a DEO cannot be as close to the frontline of activities as villagers themselves would be.

3.2 For-profit policies

The second wave of deterioration in public education started when the government introduced a parallel and for-profit education system in the 1990s. A handful of Nepalese children started receiving a good quality education while the vast majority do not even acquire functional literacy. This public private divide brought a great social tension manifested in the 10 years of violent conflict that ended in April 2006. The armed conflict may now have subsided but the social tension and social malaise of discrimination in education exists even today and it is like a time-bomb waiting to explode.

There are systems of production, distribution and consumption in the economic life of a society where private enterprises and free-competitions bring positive benefits. They make people more competitive and reward the innovative ones. However, to throw 5 year old children to be at the mercy of the market forces was a morally bankrupt and totally counterproductive policy. Segregating rich and the poor from the early childhood killed the growth of much required self-confidence amongst the vast majority of Nepalese children who happened to be born in poor households. This education policy, which provided unfair advantage to the people at the higher social strata at the expense of the broad-base of the population, has failed Nepal miserably. Because the policy makers and those benefiting from this rich-poor divide are the very same people, these elites are understandably unwilling to admit the negative consequences of their dreadful policies.

Today, all the wealthy, talented, and leading figures of all communities enroll their children in private schools, expanding the rich-poor divide. The quality of education determined by the amount of money the parents can afford. These parents have no incentive to support the improvement of public schools not attended by their own children. At the same time, the poor and the marginalized who send their children to the public school are unable to pay attention to their schools due to extreme struggle they have to face in securing a subsistence living. Consequently the public schools today are deprived of able leadership and management to the detriment of public education and the well-being of the whole country.

3.3 Partisan-politics in education

Initially the government used schools for partisan politics in the 1970s. This initiated a third wave of detriment in public education. Today the schools are the primary hotbed for partisan politics instead of becoming the centers of excellence on political studies. Schools from primary to tertiary level have become the victim of the governing and opposition political parties that are competing to have unfair control over the entire country. Instead of promoting, dialogue, discourse, and development of thoughts, these partition machineries are busy planting acrimony, hatred, and the art of disengagement to the opponents.

Today, most school administrators are in their assigned positions due to politically motivated appointments and not due to the virtue of their excellence in academic and administrative performances. There exists widespread apathy towards the future of public education – a tragedy to a developing nation that has a long and challenging journey ahead. Although they themselves are politically active, they resist the formal teaching of political studies or civic education fearful that the students may develop views and ideologies not preferred by the administering parties.

3.4 Social and economic factors

Pressured by the depleted ability of the rural economy to sustain its increasing population, many Nepali men are forced to work in foreign countries in the most difficult of situations. They leave behind their spouses and children in Nepal making it challenging for single parent families to provide psychological support to their children. Consequently, there is a growing number of dysfunctional families and today’s youth is left in a disoriented state in Nepal. An alarmingly large number of children are in this social trap and on the verge of damaging their future prospect permanently.

Faced with economic hardships, many parents are unable to adequately provide food and physical comfort to their children at an adequate dose. The problem of poverty is compounded with poor sanitation, poor health facilities, and poor social awareness. Consequently many children are distraught and their self-confidence is damaged long before they attain school age. Therefore, well-intentioned programs have brought dismal results because they could not adequately address these social and economic factors. The decline of the public system has left the poor in the abyss of ignorance and social alienation.

Although it is widely accepted that educational policies cannot be successful in isolation, Nepal has not designed or developed integrated, progressive and innovative social and economic policies. Apparently the government was under the illusion that opening schools to everyone will result in a more efficient and effective education system, bringing economic growth and social development.

3.5 Poor methodology, training and qualifications

Poor professional qualification and training of the teachers and academic staff create another level of problem in Nepal. Poor quality of teachers reflects upon the children directly. Poorly trained teachers are unable to inspire students and bring innovation in teaching profession. Further, the lack of mechanisms for rewarding good performance and punishing the negligent and delinquent breakers of public trust are also aggravating the problem.

The method employed in teaching the children is so archaic that it gives no incentive for children to be enthused about learning. We may have entered to the 21st century in time but our pedagogic methodologies are not far from what was there in the 13th century.

Despite many possibilities opened up by modern telecommunication, multimedia and other technologies, there is no awareness and know-how on their use. There is no research and development on making such technology economically feasible and broadly applicable to the conditions of Nepal, a country with largely poor and marginalized people.

3.6 Large class-size and poor infrastructure

Many classes in Nepal’s schools have 60 to 100 students. These large classes make it difficult for teachers to identify students with potential as well as those requiring special attention. This situation does not lend itself to a conducive learning environment.

In addition, the schools often have cold, damp and dark classrooms that are not supportive and inspiring for the learning process. Most schools lack clean water and sanitary facilities. Almost all schools lack libraries and educational resource materials.

4.0 Possible Solutions

There is general agreement among researchers, thinkers, and development workers that poverty breeds lack-of-self-reliance, overpopulation, hunger, disease, devastation, crime, war, and more poverty. Similarly social scientists say that poverty breeds fear, ignorance, lack-of-self-esteem, exclusion, humiliation, resentment, rebellion, instability, and terror. However, as Plato said, “A need or problem encourages creative efforts to meet the need or solve the problem.” Subsequent generations of thinkers have passed down a great wisdom in saying “necessity is the mother of all inventions.” This wisdom must give the imaginative societies a clue that it is possible to channel the necessities and desperation bred by poverty into energy for breeding cooperation for survival, innovation, and advancement.

4.1 Policy

The governments of the future would be able to elicit overall progress in education and consequently in society and economy. While reiterating that an educational policy cannot bear fruit in the absence of consistent social and economic policies, I would like to recommend the following policies for the governments to take into consideration when examining the issue of education:

  1. Distribution of knowledge: The federal and local governments must play a vital role in distributing the knowledge to each and every child, and adult, of the country at virtually no cost and without discrimination. Technology and telecommunication could play a vital role in this distribution process. The educational institutions would need to play a vital role in augmenting the understanding of the distributed knowledge.
  2. Production of Knowledge: Government should not control and intervene in the means of producing new knowledge and innovations. It should rather play a facilitator role allowing grassroots people to develop the new knowledge and should adequately reward the knowledge producers and innovators. However, knowledge should not be hidden from the population. A newly produced knowledge or innovation should firstly be adequately compensated and secondly be distributed freely to accelerate the production of ever growing body of knowledge.
  3. Inventions: A country should promote a culture of inventions. Further, all inventors must be adequately compensated within the country and the government should play key role in gaining international patents if they can have future implications in the world market and economy.
  4. Entrepreneurship: A country cannot make much progress unless its citizens become enterprising and productive. And there is no other greater investment than education in preparing the people to be enterprising and productive. Therefore the country’s education policy, curriculum, and pedagogy must be geared to produce enterprising and productive citizens.
  5. Perpetual School: Schooling must be a lifelong process. The current system of attending schools for some years and completely stopping for the rest of the life is less than effective and desirable. It assumes that knowledge is relatively static requiring only marginal update over time. However, this approach is good for creating humans as repository of information but not as dynamically evolving thinkers destined to create new knowledge of their own. Therefore, people should be attending schools, broadening knowledge horizons, and working simultaneously and throughout their lives.
  6. Founding on communities: For an educational system to become sustainable, it must be supported by and founded on local communities where the institutions are located; government must play the sponsorship role in funding, policy directions and quality assurance. Community participation plays an important role in inculcating learning, leadership, management, cooperation, and collaboration in the communities. The same communities can then emerge as great leaders and managers capable of managing much larger and complex systems. Further, strong local component in education helps develop knowledge of local social, cultural, and economic dynamics and the strength of local resources not possible to be developed through distance learning alone.
  7. From drops to bucket: Pooling small quantities of scattered resources and human strength amongst the population to make a large and potent pool that can be of significance and value to the world is the way to succeed as a country. Therefore when tiny islands of knowledge, inventions, innovations, and services are created by the grassroots people, an innovation-centric government must find ways to pool those strengths and use them to solve larger problems of the country, including that of educating the population.
  8. Reward and punishment: Whereas the role of organized unions could be maintained, the traditional method of reward and punishment of employees of institutions must be constitutionally altered. In a new model, there should be a scheme for performance measurements with four levels: innovators, outstanding performers, average performers, and bottom performers. Whereas the base salary may be incremented to account economy, inflation and so on, there must be special provision to openly reward the innovators and the out-performers. The bottom performers must be automatically eliminated from those particular roles or given second chance to excel in a different area closely matching to their competencies. An independent body may be created for the measurement purpose. Individuals must demonstrate continuous improvements in knowledge, performance, and skills for them to be rewarded beyond inflation on a year-by-year basis.
  9. Changing the national mood: According to a Canadian Researcher, James Mclntosh, there is an unexpected bright spot in enhancing educational performance of children. His research found that the most contributing factor in determining academic performance of a child is the degree to which parents’ attitudes toward education remained positive [7]. If parents instilled a sense that doing well in school matters, gave heaping praise when they get good grades and offered a loving push when they didn’t, children did extremely well. When this attitude was present in the parents, children from disadvantaged and poorly educated families actually did better than average. This research points that a country can reap enormous benefit by raising the level of awareness among parents the advantages of doing well in school and the benefits that will bring to their children. This is an effective public policy to be not dismissed easily.
  10. Bridging the digital divide: The 21st century is the digital age and the global distribution of knowledge and education will be done through the use of digital technology. However, today’s reality is that the digital divide between the rich countries and the poor countries is stark, seemingly posing an enormous challenge to developing countries in closing this gap. Countries also have to close this gap among their own people if they are to secure their proper place in the world. The digital divide in countries like Nepal is self evident: that between the rich and the poor, the urban and the rural, the village elites and the ordinary, the male and the female. These economic, geographic and gender divides cannot be addressed in the education sector only. This has to be part of broader policies of social and economic equity as emphasized earlier in the article.
  11. Focus on grassroots: Developing countries have long depended on the aid and loans from industrialized countries and regional powers for their development budget. However, this aid comes with political strings attached. These strings were responsible for bringing the dreadful privatization of elementary education in Nepal. At the same time, apathy towards development programs is steadily growing among the people in developed nations because the aid flowing through their governments is not producing results and often times is misappropriated. The grassroots citizenry of Nepal needs to be engaged in the development process to bring about sustainable transformation. Similarly, there is a tremendous potential ready to be tapped from the grassroots people of the developed and developing countries for collaborative endeavors.
  12. Employment centric: The current education system is designed primarily to supply candidates to the job market. In many cases the job market is limited and cannot absorb the large numbers of school leavers. Therefore what is needed is a more integrated system that will include innovation and entrepreneurialism as its inherent and integral feature.
  13. Affordability: Having institutions, tools, and technologies present in the country is not sufficient. We are seeing that technologies have been accelerating the gap between those who can afford them and those who cannot. Governments need to develop policies to make enabler technologies, the technologies that are necessary for people to acquire basic knowledge and to develop further technologies, affordable to all citizens. Without them, the progress to be made will inevitably be offset by the social discontent brought be the technology divide, which is primarily driven by inequity in income distribution. However, the situation is not all that gloomy. Given that social policies are designed for all, technologies can help alleviate the affordability problem before it even becomes an issue. Therefore, today’s Internet technologies must be adopted by developing countries to deliver education to all at a much lower cost than conventional methods.
  14. Standardization: Much work has to be done to develop innovative techniques for measuring performance of students, teachers, and institutions especially in determining the rate of improvements in quality and performance. Moreover, there has to be a standardized measure to determine the educational qualification of individuals to make it easier for them to be mobile and seek employments in distant places. Curriculum should also have two parts – standardized and flexible. The development of standardized curriculum should be part of the educational policy of country.

The policy framework requires a solid foundation of pedagogy, technology, and finance. Therefore, these themes are described here giving the same level of importance as the policies.

4.2 Pedagogy

Having educational, social and economic policies is not sufficient for delivering high quality education. The styles and strategies of instruction prepared with broader experiences, knowledge, and understandings of the personal situations, local environment, and learning goals are extremely important. In this light a number recommendations are made for making improvements in the pedagogical front.

  1. Purpose: The primary purpose of education should be to make a human that is ethical, confident, intellectual, innovative, collaborative, and enterprising. The secondary purpose is to have esteemed and self-reliant people that always adapt to the changing dynamics of the world and steer the world into peace and sustainable progress.
  2. Perpetual Schooling: A person must not study 16 hours a day for 10 to 20 years and stop schooling thereafter. Learning must be done in a reasonable dose everyday from the beginning of the life to the end. Practice and reflection is a ley element of the process of knowledge development. Although substantial number of hours may be allocated to young people on studies, it is my belief that every person should spend at least 4 hours a day in learning new knowledge, developing new skills, or on reflection throughout life. There would be a lot more innovation in the world if perpetual learning were to be practiced.
  3. Learning while doing: Studies have shown that information is better retained if students are able to apply their knowledge in practical ways. Even a young student should work so that he is always connected to his realities. But no one should work more than 6 hours a day. Whereas all farm family children today are encouraged to study more and spend less time in helping farm work, the future education must focus on learning and being educated while doing the very farm work and improving collective livelihood. These concepts are better explained by philosophers like Dewey [4].
  4. Dialogue and activity: Teaching should not be about a group of students listening to a teacher and memorizing the facts. It must be about opening the creative sphere of the human intellect. Learning process must be participatory and engaging. Not every teacher may be able to do this and a long struggle to develop such environment has yet to begin. Refining teachers’ knowledge and delivery skills through distance education and perpetual learning proposed earlier may present one option to develop teachers that could teach in a meaningful and activity based learning environment. These concepts are better presented by philosophers like Freire [8].
  5. Attitude and mindset: According to Nobel laureate researcher Edmund Phelps, progress or lack thereof of a country is defined most by the attitudes and mindset of its people and less by factors traditionally considered important like social spending, tax rates, and labor regulations [9]. It is important that people keep positive attitudes towards entrepreneurship and innovation if they are to elicit sustained progress. A separate study by Monitor Group found that, among 31 indicators they tested, attitude had by far the strongest correlation with the company growth rates. And it could be easily extended to say that positive attitude is the most important factor in making progress in any field. And, there is no better place for developing this attitude in young people than the educational system itself.
  6. Founded on local needs and knowledge: A major component of learning should be about the local nature, environment, culture, trade, society, and economy. Although much knowledge could be acquired from outside, it would bear fruit only when it is integrated with the local knowledge to bring a logical progression in society and economy from the bottom up. Learning environment should be geared towards identification and fulfillment of local needs. Learning environment should also be geared towards developing leadership, management, cooperation, and collaboration in the local communities.
  7. Distance Learning: Ever increasing amount of knowledge is required for survival in the new and increasingly connected world. Whereas the fulfillment of these needs is necessitating more educated people, developing countries like Nepal are reeling with depletion of educated people from their rural bastions where almost entire population lives. In an era of urbanization, the most plausible way to take high quality education to rural population is through distance learning means. Or else the divide between the rural and urban population will be so great that this in itself may be the primary source of social tensions.

4.3 Technology

Technology not only provides an economical platform for sharing and storing information but also a powerful platform for innovating and rendering new learning environments. Technology helps enhance the pace of growth in literacy, education, knowledge, research, and development. Technology is a tool suited to enhance the broader endeavor of eliciting education, innovation and progress. A number of recommendations are presented here on how best to bring technology in the sphere of education.

  1. Computers and network: Developing countries do not have the financial capacity and physical infrastructure to acquire, store, manage, and distribute knowledge resources. This incapacity curtails their ability to benefit from the already-available books and educational media from around the world. Only economically viable option is the use of networked computers able to pull desired information from shared electronic libraries. Therefore, computers and computer networks will play a crucial role in revitalizing the education of the developing countries like Nepal.
  2. Internet: Internet is going to be the most potent medium of communication and collaboration of people around the world. All successful ventures of the future will be using Internet as the base infrastructure for collaboration and also for production and transportation of their products and services. This information highway will easily eclipse the road highways in terms of value of goods and services transported through it around the world. Developing countries could be better off if they diverted their money used in building large physical highways into building information highways.
  3. Collaboration: University education of other industrialized countries can be accessed and adopted by developing countries. For example, MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) offers all course material used at MIT freely to anyone willing to access it [10]. Many other collaborative opportunities exist for the technologically prepared countries while the rest watch it all from the bay. It is liberating and exhilarating to even contemplate that a talented person living in the remotest corner of the Himalayas has an opportunity to pursue higher studies from the best institution in the world if there only was communication infrastructure.
  4. Digitized knowledge: There is so much of high quality digitized knowledge readily available to the world made possible by generous philanthropic intellectuals of the world. Almost all the books of philosophy written in the world can be found in one archive today [11], and all the religious books of the world can also be found in a single archive [12]. The most extensive encyclopedia ever written in the world [13] is freely available for all to enjoy. Soon enough, almost entire knowledge ever developed by human will be accessible to the remote corners of the world if countries and their people prepare themselves to receive it. This will be crucial for the explosion of new knowledge and new wave of progress in the world.
  5. Broadcasting: Perhaps the most significant technology that is underutilized today but carries a potential for revolutionizing the world progress is the technology for broadcasting information. Its enormous potential is squandered today due to a narrow focus on entertainment. However, when humanity wakes up one more round, this technology will play a great role in knowledge proliferation in the world and this technology will be used in rescuing the developing countries from their miserable state. However, it is imperative that these countries better wake up to the challenge and chart their course soon.

4.4 Finance

Policymakers of poor countries often cite finance as the primary impediment in realizing their dreams of bringing Singapore-like prosperity in Nepal in a decade. However, there are many innovative ways of to break that barrier if the country were to put its acts together. Some of the suggestions for crossing these barriers are listed below.

  1. External collaboration: There are many possibilities to collaborate with the grassroots people of the industrialized and not-so-industrialized countries of the world directly at a person-to-person and people-to-people level. However, too much energy is spent today in buttressing donor countries for money. Poor countries have become completely hostage of the donor countries and are unable to develop their independent policies. Similarly dictatorships of various colors are able to exist in the world due to this virtual slavery. Whereas the people of the world are anxious to explore and know about the world themselves, the countries are being subservient to “experts” who learn about the world and do good things on behalf of the people. This is a tragic irony but not any insurmountable barrier to break free from. The grassroots people of the world have the capacity to directly collaborate with one another and develop better world understanding and bring peace and harmony much sooner than the wealthy governments can through their military might. Money and ideas collected from the grassroots can quickly eclipse the money set aside by “money-strapped” governments of the industrialized nations and such money will be free of political strings attached today for each aid they provide. Therefore, if developing countries are looking for a genuine possibility of eliciting progress, they could do so by collaborating with the grassroots people of the world. The “how” part of this matter is broad in itself and requires a separate and substantial inquiry.
  2. Institutional collaboration: There are opportunities to collaborate at an organizational level. For example, projects like OLPC [14] and OLE [15] carry enough weight to be seriously considered by countries like Nepal. Their strength is in developing curriculums and educational programming, and technically competent people can be quickly trained through collaborative ventures.
  3. Internal collaboration: Pooling resources of communities and individuals within a single country has an enormous potential for bringing progress and building knowledge never thought possible in the past history of humankind. This is made possible by new levers of technology found in modern communication media. In an environment where new inventions, skills, ideas, and works of mind are properly rewarded, collaboration opens new possibilities never imagined by anyone of us today.
  4. Service: Modern mass communication technology has opened a wide door of possibility for the developing countries to provide all kinds of services to the industrialized countries and to countries like theirs many kinds of services from their own space and settings. Much before they can develop quality products of their own to sell to the world, they can provide quality services to the world and consequently develop necessary brainpower and knowledge to develp new products of their own.
  5. Opening the remittance floodgate: So many youth from the developing countries like Nepal work in various countries as foreign workers but they cannot live in those countries in the long run. Most of these workers are from the rural parts of the country but, ironically, the remittance money they send or bring stays in the cities in paying off massive high-interest loan they take to be able to go to those foreign countries. Remaining income of the more able ones is then spent on sending their children to the private schools in the cities. If local communities were to arrange a scheme to pool resources to provide quality education in the rural schools and keep the money within the community, they will then have opened the floodgate of the remittance money that has been blocked today at the urban centers today.

5.0 Concluding Remarks

Education is the largest single contributor to improve equity, health, longevity among people, and productivity and economic progress of the country. However, most people of Nepal are deprived of quality education for many reasons including, poor management, wrong policies, poor social and economic instruments, poor methodology, poorly qualified teachers, large class size, and poor infrastructure. Yet, the possibilities of novel forms of international collaborations, modern communication, computing, and multimedia technology have meant that if right educational policies were combined with proper social and economic instruments, Nepal can rapidly make strides in educating its population. Such educational endeavors combined with national focus on production and distribution of knowledge and development of a culture of innovation could propel Nepal into an era of prosperity. Policymakers of developing countries often cite money as their primary impediment but I must conclude this article by reiterating the age old adage, where there is a will there is a way!

6.0 Acknowledgments

The author would like to acknowledge valuable inputs made by Ms. Khatija Rambarran of Guyana, Dr. Basudeb Sharma of University of New Brunswick, Dr. Drona Tasali of Sarkatchewan Health, Dr. Durga Poudel of University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and Dr. Ram Acharya at Industry Canada.

7.0 References

  1. Jack Weatherford, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Three River Press, New York, pp. 196-217.
  2. Education in Scotland, Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation Inc., San Francisco, CA, USA, 2007 []
  3. Straight A’s: Public Education Policy and Progress, Vol 5, No. 18, Oct 3, 2005, []
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