If we are to develop Nepal to take her to the same level as her neighbors, we must revamp, improve, and upgrade our higher education system. This is an article by Dr. Khagendra Thapa
Time to Revamp Higher Education in Nepal
Dr Khagendra Thapa
Education, basically, means the practice of acquiring knowledge, instilling forms of right conduct and achieving technical and professional capability. It includes the development of skills along with the achievement of one’s physical, mental and social development.
Education is understood to be the primary factor for the cultivation of a civilized society. It is also responsible for progress in practical fields to enable each educated individual of society to make a living. Its purpose is also to prepare individuals of society to be self-sufficient. Moreover, education of the various practical fields produces productive citizens who can contribute greatly to the creation of wealth for a nation.
Education provides people with the tools and knowledge they need to understand and participate in today’s world. It helps to uphold the human values that add to individual and collective well-being. In addition, education forms the basis for continual intellectual improvement. It inspires self-reliance and provides the skills needed to participate in public deliberations. Moreover, it makes people self-confident and aware of opportunities, rights and responsibilities. Education empowers people with the information and awareness needed to promote acceptance, tolerance and understanding among people.
Education is generally seen as the foundation of society which brings economic wealth, social prosperity and political stability. In addition, it is a major aspect of development of any modern society since if there is a dearth of educated people then society will stop its further advancement. Therefore, government should pay serious consideration to education and support it economically and morally. Nepal cannot develop and be competitive unless it upgrades its higher education to the same level as her neighbors. Without the educated population, Nepal’s dream of successful democracy will remain a mirage.
Education is the best investment for the people because well educated people have more opportunities to get a job which gives them satisfaction. Moreover, educated people command respect among their colleagues and they can help in the development of their country. Smart people spend their time and money and sometimes even their health to raise educational level because they know that education is their passport to the future and for tomorrow.
If higher education can be made available to students from diverse backgrounds, it can become an instrument for progress toward democratic objectives. Moreover, increasing participation from diverse groups does not just mean more people from diverse backgrounds in university. It is also a way of creating a more inclusive society. By encouraging students from all backgrounds to come to university, universities can do more than almost any other institution to improve social mobility and justice.
Additionally, higher education is most crucial- especially to those who want to practice a better career that offer a higher salary. In brief, higher education helps – gain knowledge, improves skills, widens vision, and makes one more competitive. The presence in society of groups of competent persons is a powerful force for improvement. Engineers can help build and maintain infrastructure, lawyers can advance the cause of formal justice, while doctors promote health. Teachers prepare the next generation, while scientists make discoveries that echo throughout the world. Because of the political turmoil and inability of the political leaders to understand the nature of higher education, the state of higher education in Nepal is in total disarray to put it mildly. If we are to develop Nepal to take her to the same level as her neighbors, we must revamp, improve, and upgrade our higher education system. We must be willing to accept and adopt drastic paradigm shift. While revamping our higher education system, we must keep in mind the diversity of the population, sparsely distributed inhabitants, and difficult terrain.
However, an academic institution cannot be a breeding ground for development of future political leaders who learn how to mislead others for their personal gains. These kinds of leaders have done nothing for the country and it is an exercise in futility to expect something good from those who lack ethics and moral values.
It seems our college students are misguided and misled due to lack of learning environment and lack of advice from the faculty as well as the administration. It is very unproductive and harmful for students to go on strike for every little demand they have. There should be a common understanding as to what can be achieved with the limited resources and what is the optimum way to use the resources so that students can gain required knowledge and skills needed to either get a job or continue with their further education. However, an academic institution cannot be a breeding ground for development of future political leaders who learn how to mislead others for their personal gains. These kinds of leaders have done nothing for the country and it is an exercise in futility to expect something good from those who lack ethics and moral values.
Responsible political parties must not use these young people as tools to advance their political agenda. By doing so, the political parties are destroying the future of the vast majority of these students. One does, however, acknowledge the fact that some of these students will gain influential position within the party and thus ensure the replacement of the corrupt leadership. It is not a bad thing for students to be socially and politically active but do not do so at the expense of their education. They could be involved in such activities outside the Campus. But do not take some political party’s agenda to the Campus and bring about polarization and dispute among students. Religion and politics cause polarization among people. Therefore, these issues should not be brought into Campus unless it happens to be part of the curriculum such as a course in political science or religion.
In order to improve and upgrade the whole higher education system in Nepal, the following steps should be taken:
- Students form the most important component of the higher education because it is meant for them. They have a great stake in it in that their whole future depends on how they perform in their studies.
- In order to ensure that the students succeed in the curriculum of their choice, there must be strict admission criteria. Perhaps, each institution can give an admission test if there is lack of any other measurable criterion.
- Those students who perform poorly must be expelled from the university and there can be no exceptions.
- The faculty must have strict attendance policy. Any student missing 10% of the classes should automatically fail the class. Any student involved in breaking university property (must be held accountable and must pay for the damages) and disturbing other student’s education process must also be immediately expelled from the university.
- There should be a time frame for a student to complete a degree. For example, a student must complete his or her master level degree in four years otherwise s/he will be denied continuation in the program. It will force students to concentrate on studies and filter out those who are there just to practice their political activities.
- Any violent activities on the part of students will result in their immediate expulsion from the campus and those who destroy campus property must be made to pay for its repair or replacement.
Curriculum is the second most important component of an educational institution since it defines the nature and the scope of education provided by the institution. Therefore, a curriculum must have the following components:
- Each program of the college or university must have its well defined objectives. It must clearly state as to the nature and scope of the program and when a student receives a degree what kind and what level of knowledge, skills, and understanding a graduate will possess.
- In addition to the objectives, each program must also specify a set of outcomes of the program. The program must also specify as to how each outcome will be assessed. For example, for each major topic the method of assessment such as homework, quiz, or test or even lab work must be specified.
A plan for continuous improvement of the curriculum must be included so that new knowledge is incorporated and old and useless information is deleted.
Faculty also constitutes a very important part of the higher education. There must be adequate number of well qualified faculty to teach the students in the program.
- Students should be given the opportunity to evaluate the faculty performance at the end of each course. The evaluations should be made available the following semester. This will serve as an input for faculty to improve in their performance.
- Non-tenured faculty should go through rigorous evaluation both through colleague evaluation and student’s evaluations.
- There should be post-tenure evaluation for faculty to ensure that they are keeping up with their subject matter and not negligent in their responsibilities. Promotions and merit raise should be given to only those faculty who excel in their performances.
Facilities and Support
Depending on the nature of the program, there must be adequate number of class rooms, computers, laboratory and equipment available.
In order to maintain the academic standards, Nepal must establish accrediting agencies (perhaps under Ministry of Education) which can monitor and accredit programs as well as educational institutions under well defined criteria. Faculty and other professionals may be willing to serve voluntarily in accreditation work. Perhaps, Non-resident Nepalese (NRNs) may be willing to help in this area.
Integration of Institutions of Higher Learning with Higher Secondary Schools During the seventies and eighties, Nepal used to have something called National Development Service (NDS). Nepal should revive and expand this program and require six month of service for undergraduates and one year of service for master’s level degree. Majority of these students could be sent to teach in schools throughout the country. In order to increase mutual understanding among people of different regions and different cultures, they must be made to go to places which are unfamiliar to them. For example, student from Mahotari should go to Doti or a student from Dhangadhi go to Taplejung.
How about the Courses?
The faculty teaching a course must specify what are the outcomes of each course? In other words, what would a student completing the course expect to learn in the course? The course outline must list all topics covered in the course. In addition, the faculty must specify as to how the course will be assessed. It will be the responsibility of the faculty to complete each and every topic specified in the outline. The course outline must reflect what is specified in the program outcomes and objectives.