Open University of Nepal: A Mission to Learning and Innovation and Soverignty

By Dr. Pramod Dhakal

Before the exploit of modern humans touched my mountain village, we walked barefoot on its trails, forests, and terraces, even to go to Baglung Bazaar for writing School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examination. I felt sophisticated in buying my first toothbrush while taking tuition classes in Painyupata for SLC. Radio and/or wristwatch were off-access even when studying at elite Tri-Chandra College in Kathmandu. It was a matter of status when my brother bought a radio after becoming a clerk of our village school. But no one today walks barefoot in my village, no one wears the worn-out clothes like we did, no one walks for days to go anywhere useful, and almost everyone today carries a mobile phone. Today, our village home has electricity, television, toilet, and tap drinking water. These amenities are coming near the reach of other villagers and young folks know more about technology than my brother, a school principal. The coming of the information age and globalization is changing the face of my village. However, this globalization of new era has pushed us towards greater dependency and vulnerability. Unable to find their means of survival in the country, village youths are taking menial temporary jobs in Middle East and elsewhere. Local production is diminishing and goods are imported, including food stuff. If someone were to block the supply (e.g. fuel) for ten days, most people of urban cities in Nepal would not be able to eat and there would be massive riots turning upside down. Perilous is this magical modern world for a small and poor country like Nepal that is still struggling to develop its capacity to ensure even basic survival of its people in case something unwanted happens. Should not it necessitate us to seek new ways for our survival?

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In Search of Wisdom: Rural versus the Metropolis

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The Jimirghat Bridge over Kali River had broken during the Maghe-Sankranti fair of 1978. This meant that Kali became a formidable barrier in route to Kathmandu from our mountain village. In the midst of torrential monsoon rain, on a single log canoe ferry, we took a risky adventure of crossing Kali, which was roaring with massive flood water. The risks and difficulties of our journey were overshadowed by our excitement for new experiences. Our first ever bus ride the next evening from Naudanda to Pokhara also remained forever memorable. In the evening of the third day, we took our first step to Kathmandu city, the gateway to future for aspirants. Its notable impact was a realization that we in the villages were so far behind in the race of time. Continue reading

Open University of Nepal: The Issues of Ownership, Autonomy and Funding

The momentum gathered by the Open University of Nepal (OUN) initiative has given much energy and excitement to those who are perspiring to build a futuristic university for Nepal, a university in pursuit of academic excellence and innovation. The potential OUN friends who are observing and waiting are questioning in their mind whether the fundamentals of OUN are sound. Perhaps stories of lacklustre performance of many Nepalese institutions, and the stories of foreign “universities” offering quick and easy certificates and degrees, makes Nepali aspirants weary in the first place. Naturally then, they want to be sure that certain fundamentals remain uncompromised for OUN. They want to be confident that OUN will not just be another university-business or a “diploma mill”. Therefore, much is there to tell about the lofty and inspiring mission of OUN. However, this article focuses on the questions of ownership, autonomy, and funding of OUN.

Who should own OUN? Should it be private, should it be public, or should it be in public-private partnership? Such are the dilemma that draw our attention and sometimes make us wonder and bewilder. However, these issues turn simpler once our own motivation for building OUN become clear. Our motivation has been not the profit for ourselves but a public good directed to strengthening human agency of fellow citizens, especially those who are today not able to acquire quality higher education despite having desire and talent for it. We aspire to use OUN as an agent for promoting excellence in education, research and innovation among broader Nepalese population. Continue reading

Open University of Nepal: Creating complimenting environment for all levels of education

By Dr. Pramod Dhakal, Dr. Govinda Dahal and Dr. Drona Rasali

Nepal today is sitting at a juncture of despair and hope for various historic, cultural, socio-economic, political, and other reasons. The way it is now, Nepal presents us with many areas requiring fundamental changes through interventions and improvements. Education is one such area. Research has proven that education is the largest single contributor in solving the problems of poverty, income disparity, and gender, ethnic, and wellbeing inequities. And within education there are so many areas to intervene and improve upon: early-childhood, elementary, secondary, higher, vocational, adult, continuing, formal, and informal, to name some. In this context, the Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) is partnering with the Government of Nepal, the Canada Foundation for Nepal (CFFN), Athabasca University and other worthy institutions in building the Open University of Nepal (OUN). While this initiative has generated much excitement, certain intellectual quarters are inquiring why Non-Resident Nepalis (NRNs) got involved in higher education whereas there is so much need in the basic education itself. This article aims to offers some answers as to why the Open University of Nepal is the most desirable area for NRN contributions and why it also contributes in uplifting the state of basic education. Continue reading

Diaspora: How They Matter in Education and Knowledge Translation


Nepal is emerging from a decade-long armed conflict and is in the process of writing a new constitution and reaching national reconciliation. While Nepal is seeking help from the Nepalese Diaspora from around the world in the rebuilding process, it is important to see how the Diaspora can help Nepal. Research has proven that education is the largest single contributor in solving the problems of poverty, income disparity, gender inequality, ethnic inequality, and inequality in wellbeing. This article attempts to see the role of the Diaspora in the field of education and knowledge.

Nepalese Diaspora in Early Education and Now

As countries of the Indian subcontinent were being taken over by the then British Empire, some areas that were politically, linguistically and culturally connected to the present day Nepal became separated by new political boundaries. Thus people who were freely connected previously became the early Nepalese Diaspora without actually moving, as the border itself shifted. Until the first half of the 20th century, while ordinary Nepalese were forbidden by their own government from attending formal schools, the Diaspora Nepali population accessed better educational opportunities under the British Empire. As education became slowly accessible to ordinary Nepalese with the fall of the Rana regime in 1950, the value of Diaspora scholars became apparent. People built schools and brought teachers for those schools from Banaras, Hardwar, Darjeeling and other centres of learning in India, where ethnic Nepali resided. These scholars had a significant role in improving basic education, and social and political consciousness in Nepal, even in the early days. The Diaspora-Nepal relationship has changed again in recent times due to circumstances that are beyond Nepal’s control. Continue reading

Open University of Nepal: Who wins?

By Dr. Pramod Dhakal

I was born in a mountain village in Nepal at a time villagers were establishing their first ever primary school. By the time I was in primary school, there were a number of primary schools in the region contesting to become a secondary school. In this competitive time, news broke out that Dhaulagiri Anchaladhish (In-charge of Zone Administration) was to tour in our area in two weeks time. Upon hearing the news, our villagers called an emergency meeting and decided to build a ten room school building before the day Anchaladhis set foot in the village. On the day of arrival of the high guests, all the villagers came to give a spectacular welcome of the entourage. The enormity of construction and the uniqueness of the welcome given to the officials were so overwhelming that our villagers got an outright approval for the secondary school. In turn, our villagers displaced all of their smart competitors to the sidelines. Thus the first ever secondary school of our area came to become in our village, with lessons for future aspirants of similar adventures. Continue reading

Open University of Nepal: An Introduction to the Initiative

The efforts of the last half century in Nepal have brought a reasonable access to elementary and secondary education in all parts of the country. Although challenges remain in improving the quality and in mitigating the causes of early drop-outs and poor performances, adding extra resources alone have been insufficient. And poorer and more remote the communities are, the more acute are the problems in education. The strongest missing link in improving the education and livelihood of rural and remote populations is identified as an access to higher education. Today the gap demographic differences in higher education remain alarmingly large.

Higher education has been specially removed from women, poor and marginalized groups and is largely been accessible to urban and well-to-do populations. UNESCO data indicate that Nepal has a mere nine percent tertiary education attendance of age-adjusted groups. Further, the attendance of women in tertiary education is reported at a dismal three percent. Dalits fare even worse at 0.7 percent and there are other groups of rural Nepal that fare similarly low participation. The exclusion of ninety-one percent population from higher education has been a major road-bock for the overall prosperity of Nepal and for rising disparity among people indicated by its Gini Index (47.3). It is also impeding Nepal’s efforts in social stability, peace, and human development. Continue reading

Inclusive Education: A Hope Offered by Distance Education

By Dr. Pramod Dhakal

Nepal has made some notable gains in promoting basic literacy considering that some fifty years ago the country was near total illiteracy. Today, the awareness about the value of education is at all time high, exemplified by the fact that education has become the most prolific private-sector growth industry.  Nevertheless, this growth remains in and around urban centers where most of the universities and colleges are concentrated. Consequently, the educational bonanza has been largely enjoyed by the urban and relatively well-to-do families. That should partially explain why in South Asia, Nepal has the highest Gini Index (47.3), a measure of economic inequality, as per a World Bank report released in 2009.

Access to education among women, rural, poor and marginalized groups in Nepal remains significantly limited. UNESCO data indicate that 38 percent students in Nepal drop-out before completing Grade 5.  Among those who do not drop out, the repeat rate is as high as 20 percent. Only nine percent youth enter into tertiary level education. Further, the attendance of women in tertiary education is reported at dismal three percent. The educational figures for the rural and the traditionally marginalized population are notably worse. According to Nepal Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) 2006, some 14.1% Brahmins attain higher education, while only 0.7% Dalits do the same (about 14% of Nepal’s population is Bhrahmin and 13% is Dalit). These data are indicative of the enormity of demographic divide and the work required be done to educate the population in Nepal.

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A Proposal for an Open University of Nepal for Providing Higher Education to the Rural and Marginalized People

By: Dr. Pramod Dhakal, Dr. Ambika P Adhikari and Dr. Drona P Rasali

1. Background:

Since 1951, when the country was first opened to the outside world, Nepal has made impressive strides in the education sector. The literacy level in this period has climbed from a rate of less than five percent to almost 60 percent today, with youth literacy of 85 percent for males and 73 percent for females as per UNDP data for 2007. Nepal now boasts of eight universities and more than thousand colleges. The most impressive feat is perhaps, the proliferation of higher professional education, which is buttressed by almost 20 full-fledged medical colleges and hundreds of engineering colleges. Further, in the information technology (IT) sector, the Nepali Diaspora is thriving visibly in the international job market, particularly in North America and Australia. For the relative small population size of the country, the number of Nepali IT professionals in North America compares favourably with their South Asian counterparts, except for India. Continue reading

Initiative for Open University of Nepal: An Interview with Dr. Pramod Dhakal

Dr. Pramod Dhakal with Hom Raj Acharya

The Initiative for Open University of Nepal jointly being advanced by Ministry of Education, Government of Nepal, Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), Canada Foundation for Nepal (CFFN) and Athabasca University, has been a matter much interest to many Nepal enthusiasts. Here is an interview with Dr. Pramod Dhakal, Member-Secretary of the Steering Committee -Initiative for OUN, taken by Hom Raj Acharya, Executive Director of NRNA Secretariat on December 2010.

Q: How did this concept of Open University come about and what it is?

A: The philosophical concept of Open University emerged from Britain in the 1960s. That time British economy was in stagnation and the government was facing budget shortfall. Meanwhile, the USA had surpassed Britain in scientific and innovative outputs. Increasing the research and innovation strength of Britain required that ever more people receive higher education. To serve a larger student population in an affordable way, a new kind of university, Open University of United Kingdom, was established in 1969. It introduced open admission criteria and offered programs through distance education. It worked on removing academic-performance related, geographical, financial, social, cultural and other barriers from the success path of learners. Canada and other countries also independently established similar institutions. This gave rise to a global open university movement that promoted open access to knowledge and education. This idea also quickly spread from developed countries to developing countries.

Q: Why is it called open? Continue reading

Open Univsersity Presentation

This is an English version of the CFFN presentation given at the NRN-USA Annual Conference in Louisville, Kentucky on February 20, 2010. Dr. Pramod Dhakal explains the need for an Open University, and the idea behind this initiative. Please watch below and give us your feedback.

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Click here to view on the Authorstream website.