Nepal:Ministry of Education puts the cart before the horse, Part 2

NOTE: Please read Part 1 of this series before commenting on this article for moderation and publishing.

Infrastructure before quality of education?

Infrastructure before quality of education?

We ended Part 1 of this lengthy post by describing a meeting with Nepal’s Ministry of Education and how they seemed to be supporting our efforts politically. Also remember we had been observing primary schools for two years in Kathmandu and had conducted a pilot programme to arrive at our conclusion that what happened inside the school related to pedagogy, teacher behaviour, values, and child centredness was top priority to catalyse changing the system.

unleashing-nepal-copyWe moved on from this infamous meeting with Dr Awasthi to return to the UK and begin an intense project to develop an extensive teacher training programme with Haverigg Primary School teachers in Cumbria. We had been encouraged greatly after reading Sujeev Shakya’s book Unleashing Nepal describing how Nepal needed to change post the civil war with the Maoists. Specifically he placed great emphasis on Nepali youth, a better education system, and moral values as critical areas for focus and investment, and our subsequent meeting with him a few months later helped to strengthen our views about the need for a greater QUALITY of education being delivered. As our programme took shape on the drawing board in the U.K. we recruited our first full time staff member in Kathmandu, Babita Shrestha, who saw an exciting opportunity to make a difference across the whole system and gave up her job as a teacher to join us. She was only 24 years old, and took a brave step before we even had anything for her to deliver. We had no office, no training room, no equipment and no materials. But ……. our intellectual capital was increasing dramatically thanks to the Cumbria teachers developing training modules with slides, handouts, and trainer notes. Our finances were improving too from both grant providers AND kind individuals who listened to our strategy for developing quality education in Nepal rather than throwing money at school buildings, school uniforms, toilets, or actually paying kids to attend school! Yes, this actually happened, but more of this later.

After we had run just one or two 5 day pedagogy based course for teachers, at great expense using a Lalitpur Hotel, we started to get numerous requests from whole schools to train the entire teaching team. We needed more staff! But we also needed to change our approach from being merely runners of courses into being school developers so within 6 months we had a total of 8 staff and a programme of “whole school development” aimed at helping the school to understand and focus on the delivery of Quality Education, the topic we were being asked about most.

However we also started to realise that our strategy was “conflicting” with that of the Ministry of Education, bilateral donors and major INGOs. Their focus via the School Sector Reform Plan was mostly on enrolment, getting more children of primary age to START school, and this was driven by the UN dictat of the Millennium Development Goals, more specifically Universal Primary Education. In fact the UN seemed to be obsessed with measurements of how many children enrolled each year of the SSRP broken down by gender and compared with previous years but with very little concern for what happened to those children on entering school or how many of them were retained year on year. Probably in their desperation to satisfy donor monitoring, the MoE actually started to PAY children to go to school and to pay girls more than boys! We think you should read that sentence again in case you don’t believe it!

So we now have a very clear situation of the Nepal Ministry of Education putting the cart before the horse, with enrolment/buildings/teacher pay/school management committee all being more important than the quality of education being received by the children inside the school. A reasonable analogy is of a restaurant owner paying more attention to the tables/chairs/cutlery/staff pay/building than the quality of food served! You couldn’t make this up in a fairytale, nobody would believe you.


Despite this we knew we were doing the best for the children of Nepal, and slowly but surely our reputation grew with schools, principals, teachers, parents, children and a few colleges as we strived to “blitz” whole schools with teacher training, management training, governance, teacher observation and coaching. Unfortunately our reputation took a nosedive with Ministry of Education, bilateral donors and INGOs ……… what could we possibly be doing wrong?

Answers on a pinhead and posted in comments please!

Next? You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs!

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15 replies

  1. As an outsider with limited knowledge of the education system I can only applaud your sincere efforts.Children have huge potentials and if they are given the right guidance they would achieve the impossible.Kudos to you and your team.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally agree with the title here; Nepal MoE puts Cart before the horse. And it is heading nowhere forward. As a member of the original NSA team I recognized how incompetent and unmotivated most our Nepalese govt teachers are and how pitiful it is that the National plan like SSRP couldn’t address such a crucial fact. Why would anyone in decision making level not understand we need a systemic change and there is a process to follow. The answer to all these is CORRUPTION Dr B.

    And to Neltachautari jee, the trainers trained by Nepal Schools Aid in 6 months didn’t need to understand the whole government programme ( which really is a chaos) rather they were more than perfect to teach children in school, they were all capable of teaching in child centred way and talk about continous professional development of self rather than talking about political issues, kitchenworks, foods, jewelleries etc in school staff room. I hope you come up with wider views after your case study.


    • A good comment Ladipma from someone who experienced all our work directly. Unless you have this experience with 200 schools it is difficult to imagine. But, the MoE needs to be made accountable for the mess


  3. Thank you very much for wishing a luck.I appreciate your valuable effort , I can sense how you are trying to push our educational stakeholders to see real educational world and how proper education will enlighten the lives of Nepalese people.Great Job


  4. Dear Dr B,

    Honestly, I have not gone through your two prior posts on this, but as someone who hails from a rural area in Nepal, and as someone who has experienced life and education of Nepal, I would say, to quote you, “their focus via the School Sector Reform Plan was mostly on enrollment, getting more children of primary age to START school” are equally important. I am not sure how you would serve quality for without having a proper table, utensils and cutlery, as those things also count towards quality measure. I right agree that there are issues and challenges that need to be fixed, but criticisms like that don’t quite justify, I think. In the context of the government losing students to private competitors, they need to fix the quality issue, and there is no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ in that regards. However, because of various reasons, SMCs, high enrollment and other logistics challenges such as building proper toilets for girl children also contribute to quality education.


    • So you would be ok eating in a restaurant of quality infrastructure but poor quality food? I think not. I do not dispute the value of infrastructure but NOT at the expense of curriculum, pedagogy, values, and this is my whole point about “cart before the horse” article. You really need to read “the whole book” and not just “the last chapter”


      • I would never compromise in quality, but I would not enjoy the food without proper ambience. And, that’s my point Dr B. Will read through the whole book.


        • Do you have children? What is your priority for their schooling, quality infrastructure or quality education? You may prefer to eat quality food in a good infrastructure but you can deliver and receive quality education sitting under a tree, or, as in my Nepali wife’s case on a neighbours kitchen floor. This of course was before she became Nepal’s first female PhD. Finally I appreciate your engaging in the debate on this, the focus of the SSRP was wrong as actually admitted by the MoE. But they were never held accountable for it by the Nepali people and unfortunately many younger Nepali who go abroad to study are afraid to speak and act objectively for fear of upsetting MoE.


  5. Dear trainer and organisation,
    I appreciate your effort to train teachers of community schools in Nepal. This will contribute some to the government of Nepal. However, your half a dozen trainers in about 6 months cannot find the reality of the whole government programme. I think it is too early to criticise the government initiatives and activities without your indepth research. I have been writing my case study about various teacher training, technology integration in teaching and learning, various supports from national and international bodies. I find all the way from top to bottom only criticism. Have you been to the rural schools or just trained teachers in star hotels? I would appreciate if you become native responsible to the ground. There are many organisations working over 2 decades, supporting the country. It is to be accountable. The programmes are not easy to launch in such rural context of Nepal.
    While publishing such articles, it is necessary to refer to authentic documents. It is not a daily newspaper that reports road accidents first and then investigation report later.


    • Thank you for your lengthy reply, it is rare for someone to take the time to reply so thoroughly.
      You are right saying that 6 new staff couldn’t “research” something like this in 6 months, ………… so they didn’t!
      If you read all three articles fully you will see that our work in Nepal was conducted over 10 YEARS. We worked in 200 of the poorest schools in Nepal, and with 2000 teachers and about 15 communities of parents. The first two years work and research were conducted by 3 experienced PhDs including myself and my Nepali wife. Our first two staff before the other 6 were recruited had 5 years primary school teaching experience each in Kathmandu and Dhading, both had MEd qualification. Our work was NOT conducted in 5 star hotels, this only happened for the first few courses as we had no training centre or office of our own. Approximately 50% of our work was conducted INSIDE schools coaching teachers and demonstrating best practice in the classroom for them, in fact teachers got a 3 months coaching programme to follow up their training courses.Finally a two year formal research project was conducted with KU and under my personal supervision defining, measuring, developing quality education in Nepal which you can request a copy of from our website.
      As you can see your assumptions about our work were NOT correct. You can disagree with the findings but NOT with the duration or methodology which was accurately described in the three articles.I suggest you read all of them more carefully.


    • Dear Neltachautari jee,
      Thank you very much for taking deep interest on replying on such a serious matter.However,I felt very surprised when we people rarely welcome the criticism for good things.First thing is non of the well educated people will write anything in the social site without any job done or prior experience. So,it would not be sensible to give feedback unless you have any idea on what journey a person had ? I absolutely agree that it’s not easy to bring change or launch program in our remote country and I am working in far and mid western region of Nepal
      I am totally aware of it.But ,it’s not just remoteness that has affect education , it’s all about the attitude of we Nepalese People, Our work ethics and system which has not helped us to raise ourselves towards quality education.So I would say we have to accept the criticism if that is for better future of our children and our country.We should try our best to do something remarkable . AND I GUESS YOU KNOW THE REAL SITUATION OF CONCERNED STAKEHOLDER

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you Shikshyan, I sense you have written this based on some deep personal experiences and we are grateful. You are extremely accurate on two counts. First there are many educated people who comment on social media with a very shallow level of experience. Often they have gone abroad to study too. Second it is exactly the work ethic of Nepali teachers and educationalists that is causing the absolute mess in the education system. But they don’t like having the mirror held up to them. Good luck in your Mid/Far Western Education work.



  1. Resources – Nepal Schools Aid
  2. Kathmandu: New school marks the end of a UK charity. | Tales Of Mindful Travels

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