Nepal has gone through fundamental political changes since 2006: the end of the civil war and the start of peace process in 2006, abolition of the 240-year monarchy and the declaration of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal in 2008. Institutionalizing democracy has been challenging, and political stability is still very fragile. However, a remarkable milestone was evidenced in Nepal’s history in 2017 when millions of Nepalese voted in the first general election since the civil war ended and three levels of elected governments have been formed according to the new constitution since then. Nepal is the second poorest country in Asia. Among 189 countries, Nepal was ranked 147th in the Human Development Index (HDI) in 2019. It has set the target of elevation out of the list of the poorest countries in 2022. The HDI is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living. In poverty reduction, access to education and competent teachers have an important role. A growing awareness of the value of education has contributed to a significant increase in the demand for, and expectations from, public educational services. In spite of the significant improvements in access to education, many children and young people leave schools without reaching anywhere near their full potential, and without acquiring the basic skills and School Leaving Certificate (SLC) deemed necessary for raising their standards of living and the knowledge needed to effectively function in society. To improve the quality of education, Nepal’s Constitution of 2015 (Part 4, section 51, subsection h 1) addresses “making education scientific, technical, professional, skill-oriented, and employment and people oriented in order to prepare the human resources to be competent, competitive, moral, and committed to national interest”.
The main concerns are girls’ enrolment in schools, the number of girls who dropout, and their transition to a higher level of education. Although Nepal is working to improve its education system by providing wider access to education, girls from ethnic minorities and low-income backgrounds have problems enrolling into school and university. For example, only about 11.8 percent of Dalit (lowest caste in Nepal) adolescent girls are in secondary school. Beside the background issues, adolescent girls are at risk of dropping out of education due to the practice of Chhaupadi, which forces menstruating women and girls from their homes into sheds or isolated dark rooms. Although the new law in 2017 criminalized Chhaupadi, menstruation are rampant particularly in remote areas. Furthermore, Nepal has the third highest rate of child
marriage in Asia—37 percent of girls marry before 18, and 10 percent by 15. To end child marriage by 2030, the government launched a national strategy in 2016, but actions to implement the plan are delayed. Gender is still a dominant driver of disparities in Nepal. In Nepal, poverty is partly influenced by geographical and ethnic factors. Nepal consists of 125 recognized
ethnic and caste groups and over 129 recorded languages. Also, regional inequality between rural areas and growing urbanization is highly visible. In addition to this, the existing education system has been questioned for its relevance and quality as it has yet to embrace ICT and 21st century skills. All the above-mentioned indicate that emphasis should be put on improving education, promoting gender equity and promoting innovative teaching practices in different mediums of teaching, e.g. supporting the acceleration of digital education. Consequently, these set new demands for teachers’ competence and teacher education.
In response to these challenges, the Ministry of Education of Nepal (MoE – Nepal) has taken the initiative to improve education by introducing The School Sector Development Plan (SSDP). This is a long-term strategic plan (2016-2023) devised to achieve the goals and objectives of basic and secondary level education. It aims to improve the equity, quality, efficiency, governance and management and resilience of the education sector. Since the launch of the SSDP, the education sector has undergone unprecedented changes under the
new system of federal government. The authority over most functions associated to school education service delivery have been devolved to 753 local governments and the role of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) has been changed to a policy guiding, enabling, monitoring and regulatory body. Due to changed structures and implementation modalities, MoEST has initiated preliminary preparation for the development of the post-SSDP sector plan (2021-2030). The key issues in the current discussion for this reform in education are: learning focused pedagogy as opposed to teaching focused pedagogy, integration of ICT innovations in education and research, use of available big data and creation of shared information for new knowledge utilising digital laboratories. SSDP is designed to achieve the goals and objectives of the national periodic development plan and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 of ensuring equitable access to quality education and life-long learning for all. Under the new federal system, local governments are responsible for implementing SSDP
actions and have full responsibility for basic and secondary school education. The ongoing federalization process has also brought challenges for the higher education sector. Simultaneously with the administration reform of basic education, initiatives to set up new provincial universities have emerged. However, the local and provincial governments are still struggling to develop their capacity in order to manage the education system at provincial and local levels. Therefore, the existing HE sector must improve its quality, ensuring the
sustainability of its provision. New universities are not yet ready to offer sustainable and equal possibilities in the first phase indicating the need to foster collaboration with national and international higher education institutions. Finland’s Country Strategy for Development Cooperation (2016–2019/2020) includes support for Nepal’s education and school sector development, both of which are in the scope of this project. Opportunities related to digitalization in education have received attention in Nepalese reforms. These opportunities have been captured in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Education
Master Plan 2013-2017 (Government of Nepal, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology MoEST). Also, the Higher Education Policy Framework 2018 addresses a need to “develop and expand diversified access to higher education and research opportunities” as well as to “enhance higher education quality and competitiveness”. Furthermore, it notes that there is a need to reflect technological development perspectives and trends to take advantage of new possibilities in the country. The policy and directives that specifically regulate and support open education and distance learning in Nepal are the Open Education and Distance Learning Policy 2007 and the Directives on Distance Education/Open Learning Program 2007 with its third amendment (2014), which supports the cost effective approach of not dislocating teachers from their working schools. Similarly, a recent Education Policy Document, 2020 (in Nepalese language) has indicated the need for reforming the existing mode of teacher education by strengthening the pedagogical experience and focusing on ICT and 21st century skills at all levels of education.
As more educational pathways are developed, the myriad choices which students must be guided through will increase proportionately. Guidance and counselling activities are mentioned in the National Curriculum Framework (2018, 2007) but are not integrated as a part of subject teaching. The draft National Curriculum Framework (2018) acknowledges the relevance of knowledge and skills learned in school to the lives of students and the importance of learning life skills, the significance of education for employment and self-employment, as well as educational counselling as a strategy for increasing student retention in education. The unprecedented changes in climate, environment, health pandemic and other disasters have further justified the need for orienting teachers in guidance and counselling. Therefore, teachers’ knowledge and skills in guidance and counselling need to be strengthened, specifically, in applying the hope-oriented approach, providing psycho-social support, enhancing students’ motivation and engagement, and using creative and flexible methods and tools in guidance and counselling.
The improvement and implementation of The National Curriculum Framework in Nepal have been supported by Finland through the introduction of soft skills in general education and the revision of teaching and learning materials and teacher training to integrate soft skills into grades 1–10 (TASS-project, Technical Assistance for Competence-Based Soft Skills Development in School Education in Nepal funded by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs). Soft skills in the Nepalese context have been defined as personal, cooperation, thinking, innovation and business skills, which are expected to improve the quality and relevance of education. Soft skills have been integrated into curriculums for grades 1-3, which have been piloted. Results show that soft skills improve students’ learning, while also providing them with skills relevant in the labour market. Specifically, ICT, critical thinking and learn-to-learn skills are relevant to possess ownership over the changes taking place in people’s lives as well as in society. The integration of soft skills will be integrated in the higher grades (grade 4 onwards as well) in the future. Although there is a theoretical framework in place for the integration of 21st century skills into curriculum, there have been many challenges with its
implementation at local levels. Local partners especially need support to strengthen the implementation of such integrated curriculum at different levels. The enhancement of these skills demands a new teaching and learning culture with an emphasis on 21st century skills, which, in turn, requires the development of guidance and counselling skills of teachers.