Having spent his entire career in promoting quality education, DR. BABURAM POKHAREL, founder principle of V. S. Niketan Higher Secondary School and College, has a new vision to share about Nepal’s higher education. Since its establishment by Dr. Pokharel in 1981, V.S Niketan has made remarkable achievements. It is now a leading private sector education institution dedicated to impart quality and affordable education to all. V.S. Niketan provides one roof for students from pre-primary to graduate levels. As the results of the School Leaving Certificate exams have come out, like every year, the students face difficulties in choosing the right school dedicated to their further education. Founder principal Dr. Pokharel explains what students need to do when they are in a dilemma in making a choice. Excerpts:
How do you look at the quality of higher education at the +2 level?
I can say that the curriculum of +2 is at par with international standards. Unlike in the Tribhuwan University’s proficiency course, the curriculum of +2 is updated every two to three years. It helps students to receive instruction under the best available curriculum.
What do you say about the recent trend of commercialization of +2 education? Don’t you think such a trend has been eroding the ethos of education?
A school like ours, which offers classes from nursery to higher education levels, does not have to compete in the advertisements race. We receive enough students. Only those schools, which have just the +2 level of education to offer, are seen in the ad race. Parents and students are wise enough to understand which schools impart quality education with full commitment to nothing but education.
After decades of experiments in the +2, don’t you think time has come now to make certain reforms in it?
Of course, there is the need to make certain reforms. The time has now come to make the +2 as part of school education. Globally, higher secondary is part of the school education. If we can follow the same, this will discourage unhealthy practices. Nepal’s development partners are also suggesting reforms, such as making a single board for +2 at the center and leaving the SLC to regional education boards.
What changes has the + 2 education system brought about in the country?
After the introduction of +2 education, the people living in rural parts of the country too have got the opportunity to acquire education at their doorsteps. In the past, rural students had to go outside their home village and district to acquire intermediate level or higher education. This is the reason there were high dropouts following SLC. After the introduction of +2, the situation has changed and rural people too are completing the +2 level.
How do you view the role of the private sector in education?
No one can deny the fact that the present state of quality education is the result of the private sector’s involvement and investment. In the area of +2, the government’s contribution is very nominal and an overwhelming number of +2 schools are private. Annually, the government spends more than 17 per cent of its budget in the education sector, but the +2 education receives very nominal part of it. As there is the involvement of the private sector, the quality of +2 is better than at the school level.
How do you claim that the private sector has been imparting quality education?
The recent SLC results also showed that the private sector was able to impart quality education as 90 per cent of their students passed SLC. However, the results of the government schools remained pathetic as less than 50 per cent students passed the SLC examination. Even the +2 education institutions have proved this. Teachers are more dedicated and committed in private schools. This is the reason why the pass percentage of the private schools remains higher than the public schools. The teachers in the government schools get more benefits than the private schools. This does not change the overall performance.
As results of SLC have already been published, what challenges and opportunities do you see before the students?
Following the closure of the proficiency certificate level, there is no option before them but to choose the +2 education. The schools need to assure parents that they will impart quality education. Students have enormous opportunities before them as they normally do not go to foreign countries to pursue +2. Challenges for the students are mainly in making the right choice of schools that are really dedicated to education.
How do you look at the Higher Secondary Education Board?
As an autonomous body, the Higher Secondary Board is free to make major decisions. This is one of the reasons it publishes results in time. It also conducts the examination in accordance with its calendar.
What do you say about the overall environment of the higher secondary education?
The environment at the higher education sector is good as it provides peaceful atmosphere to the students who want to pursue higher education. This is the reason guardians and students are now looking forward to choose good schools of higher secondary education.
What do you suggest for HSEB?
Although Higher Secondary Education Board (HSEB) is said to be autonomous and independent, the reality is different. There is frequent political intervention in the HSEB and it is yet to build its own institutional capability. There is the need to strengthen the Higher Secondary Education Board.
What is the situation actually like?
In a short period, the higher secondary education established itself as a good option. There are around 3000 higher secondary schools in the country. Most of the beneficiaries of higher secondary education are people living in remote parts of Nepal.
What about the V.S Niketan?
It started with 147 students and 7 teachers in 1981. The school has made a lot of progress since then. From pre-primary to high school and college, I am proud to say, we have been able to secure more than 98 per cent success. Nepal government honored it with excellent school of the year award. We are now running BBA. Our BBA program is like a hot cake. Banks are offering placements for our students even before they complete their course. Our program provides the job guarantee. Thanks to the support of parents and students, we have been able to establish ourselves as a good school.
What are the future challenges?
Politicization is a major problem. The time has come to delink politics from education. Over-politicization is badly affecting our education system. Our school was shut down in the beginning of the academic session. All the political parties need to issue commitments that they will not interfere in education and it must be made a peace zone. Political parties must issue the commitment.