The Access to Education in Nepal Sub-task Force’s position paper

NRN Skills, Knowledge and Innovation (SKI) Exchange Task Force has created a sub-task force named Access to Education in Nepal Sub-Task Force, which has taken Open University of Nepal as one of its major initiatives. The position paper of the subtask force is documented here.

Open University of Nepal

NRN Access to Education Sub-Task Force (AESTF) of SKIT Task Force (SKITTF)

Terms of Reference (ToR) and Scope

Document ID: NRNSKIT-AE-TOR

Background:

NRN Skills, Knowledge and Innovation Exchange Task-Force (NRN SKITTF) was mandated by NRN-ICC on December 20, 2009. SKIETF’s first meeting held on January 3, 2010 had created three sub-task forces (STFs) to streamline its work in three major themes. One of the themes was Access to Education STF (AESTF), which would focus on the access to education in Nepal with a special emphasis on rural, remote and disadvantaged populations. Within AESTF, three streams of activities were identified. They were:

a) E-library Initiative, which focuses on remote access to health and science education at elementary and secondary schools through E-Libraries

b) Higher Education Initiative, which focuses on access to university degrees through an institution of open and distance learning

c) Short-term Skills Initiative, which focuses on providing immediately employable skills to Nepalese youth through use of ICT

The meeting of January 3, 2010 also decided that a term of reference and scope will be prepared for SKIETF. The SKIETF will then send invitation for expression of interest to participate in those initiatives to all NCCs through the Regional Coordinators.

A Scope and ToR for SKIETF has been already prepared and available for review (Document ID: NRNSKITTF-TOR-Main). This document reports the work carried out to this date and defines the scope for this specific stream. This document follows guidelines set out in NRNSKITTF-TOR-Main, which will supersede the clauses of this document in case of contradictions.

Among three initiatives (E-Library, Higher Education, and Short-term Skills), the Higher Education Initiative portion has been reported in this document. Other initiatives are presented through separate documents (see NRNSKIT-AE-SSI-TOR and NRNSKIT-AE-ELI-TOR). Upon a close look, one would find that all initiatives are geared to rely-on and utilize the advantages offered by modern information and communication technology, and remote education methodologies, to bring improvements in the access to education for grassroots people.

Higher Education Initiative

Introduction:

The origin of this initiative has been the realization of some key issues in the access to education in Nepal, including (1) shortage of institutional capacity to meet the demand for quality higher education and more importantly in emerging desciplines, (2) inability to provide higher education opportunity deemed essential for job promotion to both governmental and non-governmental employees working in rural and remote areas, (3) family, financial and resource constraint of rural, remote, and marginalized population despite having enthusiasm to acquire higher education, and (4) inability to advance their education goals by people who go to foreign countries for short-term or temporary employment.

The higher education initiative focuses on access to higher education for the rural, remote, and marginalized populations of Nepal. Through this initiative, we seek to establish an institutional framework for (1) solving the problems of limited bearing capacity of existing institutions in meeting the accelerated demand for tertiary education, (2) producing knowledge and skills relevant for employment in the emerging society of 21st century, (3) taking the reach of higher education to rural, remote, and marginalized communities by creating a university campus that is synonymous to mass education network, (4) meeting emergent needs of citizens and society through recurrent educational advancement, and (5) providing degrees and diplomas in education to school teachers in the country to uplift the quality of primary and secondary education. We believe that to address the aforesaid issues in higher education, a high quality and standard distance education will go a long way for it removes the current barriers in access to higher education to all Nepalese.

As difficult this endeavour may sounds, it indeed is a monumental task for NRNA and other organizations that will join hand in accomplishing it.

Team:

Dr. Ambika Adhikari, Dr. Drona Rasali, and Dr. Pramod Dhakal (Team Lead) are the three original proponents of the initiative to NRNA and they were assigned to this particular stream of activities to bring initial traction in the work. The team will be expanded as we outgrow our capacity and our principal approach will be based on partnership and collaboration.

Achievements to Date:

The initial feasibility work has already begun towards that direction by way of bringing international inputs to the initiative, especially in quality assurances and sustainability. The key achievements are as follows:

1. Exchange of ideas, preliminary studies, and identification of potential of NRNs

2. Presentation of the concept at Nepal-Canada Day in January 2009 in Toronto, 2nd NRN-Canada conference in Calgary and 4th Global Conference of NRNA, in Kathmandu

3. Identification of world’s leading institutions in the field and further development of the concept

4. A day long successful exploratory official visit to Athabasca University, Canada, by delegates of Nepali diaspora on December 04, 2009.

5. Presentation of proposal to ICC and formation of SKIT Task-force in early December, 2009, formation of NRN SKITTF on Dec 20, 2009 and formation of AESTF on Jan 3, 2010

6. A day-long symposium on NRN SKITT planned for May 28, 2010 during 4th Regional Conference of NRNA

7. Securing international inputs, especially on quality assurance and sustainability

Emerging Requirements:

Developing appropriate short, medium, and long-term plans to achieve the envisioned goals is possible when we know about the plans, policies, and initiatives of key players in Nepal and of potential international collaborators in education sector. Consequently, we need to be aware of and learn about the current developments taking place towards access to education in Nepal, and we plan to do so by working with Ministry of Education. We will also explore the possibilities of collaboration with the Ministry in making this initiative a reality.

Having said that, we also look forward to establishing formal communication channels with other relevant organizations. Similarly, a number of projects are conceived within the sub-task force, where some projects are already being implemented, and some are in the incubation phase. Because of this diversity in project maturity, separate streams of works will be carried out in parallel within the sub-task force, as long as they are properly and regularly reported to STF and TF.

Proposal to NRN SKIT and NRN ICC:

In keeping in line with our current efforts, we propose the following resolution to streamline the work of STF and request that it be adopted by the Task Force:

1. That, the Sub-Task Forces will be free to communicate on behalf of NRNA for carrying out the mission stated in the proposal (and strictly for that purpose only) to establish connection with organizations of concern as defined in NRN SKITT ToR,

2. That, the STFs shall be able to engage other international organization to advance the cause freely as long as it does not enter into legally binding agreements and MoUs on behalf of NRNA,

3. That, the STFs shall be able to develop brochures, proposals, intellectual property, and property rights, jointly with other organizations,

4. That, the STFs shall involve TF and NRNA ICC to sign MoUs and to sign funding and disbursement agreements,

5. That, the TF will have unlimited number of “Associate TF” members as deemed necessary to contribute to STFs and various project streams within STFs,

6. That, TF will provide a platform for the engagement of a worldwide network of Nepali diaspora for the facilitation of the project, and the organization that brought the vision, plan, and leadership to the front will act as the executing agency for the initiative,

7. That, such execution of the ititiative will proceed as per the terms of MoU that will be developed by a joint working committee and signed by the signatories of the participating organizations.

Because of the nature of preparation required for the Access to Education task force, we propose the following arrangement for the Regional Conference of May 28-30, 2010. We hope that these arrangements will facilitate the initial process to move swiftly forward to deliver a respectable program during the 4th Regional Conference of NRNA.

1. That on May 28, TF organizes a symposium (a day-long parallel sessions), which will include a half a day workshop dedicated in brainstorming on “Development of Distance Learning Institution in Nepal”,

2. That we invite international experts on distance education, and Nepali Diaspora scholars and experts, with that objective in mind,

3. That the organizers are permitted to bring a renowned international expert in distance education, not restricted to NRN, to be the Keynote Speaker in the conference, and

4. That the organizers of the symposium are permitted to invite non-NRN and non-Nepali international experts in the convention as panellists, participants and keynote speaker.

Action Plan:

1. Send letter of invitation and expression of interest on other ideas that could compliment the work of AESTF to NRN NCCs

2. Identify key partners for collaboration and establishing line of communication

3. Prepare and release a small flyer outlining the project concept on behalf of NRNA and other collaborating organizations

4. Hold meetings with key partners and government counterparts, and formulate an initial working group comprising of representatives of collaborating organizations

5. Expand the execution team to bring-in right competencies

6. Develop a preliminary project proposal and float it among higher education experts to as many as possible

7. Bring in the NRN and international experts on May 28 symposium and hold wide discussion over the proposed document

8. Approach the President of International Coordination Council for Open and Distance Education to deliver the Keynote speech in the conference. If that could not work, invite somebody of similar stature to the conference as the keynote speaker

9. Finalise the project proposal as a collectively developed blueprint of the project and get it approved through the 4th Regional Conference

10. Announce the launching of the Open University project during 4th Regional Conference for providing leadership in this initiative in partnership with the Government of Nepal and other concerned stakeholders.

11. Formulate the plan and execute the project as outlined in the collectively developed document

12. Develop proposals and approach national and international organizations and foundations for possible grant and funds

13. Reformulate this plan based on the knowledge gained in the next six months

Expected Outcomes:

1. Establish the Open University of Nepal by 2015

2. Mobilize Nepali Diaspora contributors for educational content development and delivery

3. Offer at least five academic degrees by 2015

4. Secure communication infrastructure in 12 districts in Muktinath-Lumbini Corridor for first pilot operation of the university by 2015

5. Establish best practices and technological solutions through technical collaboration and assistance from the world-class international institutions

6. Provide quality education covering all of Nepal, by 2020

7. Establish infrastructure for producing high quality school teachers using Nepali Diaspora contributions and also within Nepal.

Acknowledgements:
The AESTF would like to acknowledge that the present outcome came to fruition through the contributions of many people but it is not practicable to list them all. Nevertheless we would like acknowledge some by their names. They include, Dr. Frits Panakoek, President of the the International Coordination Council for Open and Distance Education and the President of Athabasca University, Dr. Mohamed Ally, Past-President of the International Federation of Training and Development Organizations, Dr. Nancy Parker, Director of Institutional Studies of Athabasca University, Pamela Walsh, Director of Operations of Athabasca University, Tim Slaughter, Director of Learning Services Collaboration of Athabasca University, Terry Curtis, Past Vice-President of Nortel, Dr. Bhoj Raj Ghimire, Nepalese Ambassador to Canada, Tara Prasad Pokharel, Minister Councillor of Nepalese Embassy in Canada, Dr. Narayan Pokharel, Dr. Arbind Mainali, and Mr. Ichchha Nepali of NRN-Canada and NECASE, Mr. Ghanashyam Rajbhandari of NRN-Canada, and executive board members of CFFN, namely Dr. Govinda Dahal, Ben Wood, Pradeep Raj Sharma, Michael Casey, Geeta Thapa, and Dr. Nirmala Sharma for their respective inputs in developing the concepts.

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