Nepal’s education system has long been pointed fingers at—enrollment rates, dismal performances, and education-market mismatch are just a few points of accusation. We said that the public schools lacked infrastructure and quality services and we also said that private schools charged too much for the services they provided. While we continued to raise concerns over the kind of education system we have, the government went a step further and put a ban on the registration of new private schools. Their usual sense of reasoning brought forth these replies—private schools have been growing like mushrooms; we have enough schools already, we need to focus on strengthening the existent public schools—well of course!
The ban on registration has meant that no new schools have been registered for quite some time and that many hold school licenses so that they can sell them at premium rates. Adding to the artificially hiked prices of schools are the additional costs pertaining to the Institutional School Criteria and Operations Directive 2013. Following the directive (which is mandatory) means that the schools need to undergo a lot of infrastructural changes—the size of classrooms to playgrounds as prescribed—all of which cost money. And the only way through which such private schools can make money is through hike in fee. The fees, however, has been regulated by the government as the Supreme Court has passed a decision on the price ceiling for school fees.
If these were not enough, private schools have to comply with end number of contradictory regulations. Private schools, as such, can be registered as a profit making company as per the Company and once they are registered they have all legal rights to make profits. If only the government stopped interfering then and there. Sadly, it does not. The same schools as per the Education Act as required to provide scholarships to a certain percentage of their students. Provided that most schools do not have problems complying with the same; just that to regulate every bit of their operation seems too strangling to an entity. The Company Act allows schools to be opened in any location deemed necessary for business while the Education Act asks the same schools to follow a lot of procedural requirements when it comes to choosing a location (taking permission from two neighboring schools is included in the deal). And taxes are an altogether different ball game. Schools pay 25% income tax as any other private company as per the Company Act and on top of that the government levies 1% as Education Service Tax. There is no clarity over whether the government wants to treat private schools as profit making companies or service oriented organizations. This this ambiguity has translated into laws that have repercussions on the operations of private schools.
With these many contradictory policies in place; with the kind of regulations that exist—it sure is a climb up steep hills for any school that wants to provide services at competitive prices. And yet, they say that we need no more schools (probably in the light of their capacities in not being able to monitor existent schools).
Krishnan holds dual degrees--in law and sociology. Currently, she works as a Research Associate at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation.