Private Schools for the Poor

The Government of Nepal (GoN) allocated Rs 86.03 billion as education budget for the fiscal year 2014/15 (13.91% of the total budget.) Let’s try to put that into perspective. According to the article “SLC Results: Failure of the system,” Rs. 10,000 is spent per child per year on a public school. In the meantime, concerns over teaching and learning methodology, attendance of teachers, the school’s accountability towards the children and their parents, (all of which ultimately affect the quality of education) are being raised in the public domain.

Recent inspections performed at some public schools of Kathmandu and Lalitpur show that there are some public schools that have almost no students. Harsha Lower Secondary School located at Gagalphedi, Kathmandu has altogether 15 students and 4 teachers; 2 more teachers are being recruited on contractual basis. Chalantar Secondary School, Kathmandu and Lubhu Secondary School, Lalitpur have similar problems. Instances like these have directly increased the cost of running public schools. On the other hand, these numbers also indicate that people have been opting for private schools operating in their communities.

The academic study performed by Santwona Memorial Academy reveals that there are public schools in Nepal which operate at Rs 7000-9000 per student in a year. The same study also talks of low cost private schools which operate at just Rs. 4500-5000 per student in a year. So clearly, there are private schools that are much cheaper than government funded public schools. While there are private schools that cost as much as 20-25 thousand per year or even beyond, it does not take understanding of rocket science to realize that for these poor people, these outlier private schools are not the real alternatives anyway. Despite no financial assistance from government, the private schools operating from the fees collected from students are conveying better quality of education. In the last 3 years (2014, 2013 and 2012 respectively,) the success rate of the SLC (grade 10 examinations) for privately run schools has been 93%, 80% and 84% while it has only managed to be 28%, 30% and 33% for publicly run schools. This trend bears great significance to Nepalese parents who consider school’s SLC success rate as a proxy for the quality of education.

Now, if the government is really giving out funds to educate children, it is high time that they allow the parents to choose where they want their children to get educated as well. Thus, instead of funding schools which directly increase the cost per student, the government should go for a better alternative – the Voucher System. Giving out the voucher can be a marvelous scheme for the welfare of poor which could possibly guarantee the right to education for the poor. Such system gives freedom for educating children in the school they wish to study. People become more rational while choosing the school. They send their children to the best school as per their compatibility. Therefore, based on the findings of the research (aforementioned) and considering performance of public schools, a better quality can be ensured with lesser fees through voucher system. This is how children will acquire quality education, transforming them into literate, well-informed and capable human resources that can pull themselves out of the poverty trap.

Sushil Lamichhane

Sushil Lamichhane, a student of Economics works under Research Department at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation. Mr. Lamichhane is also associated with Rotaract Club of Kathmandu Metro, a voluntary youth-led organization working for professional development of youth under RI District 3292.

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