24Nov2022

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Category: The Explainer – NIPoRe Blog

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Student-Teacher Ratio: Few Key Issues from Nepal

– SAMJHANA Karki

“Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another” – G.K. Chesterton

SUMMARY

Providing universal primary quality education to all is one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Various elements influence the quality of education, such as student-teacher ratio, educational content, teaching pedagogy and learning environment. This article discusses how the student-teacher ratio for primary-level schooling fares across Nepal’s seven provinces for 2017-2019.

BACKGROUND

Education is an essential foundation for a more aware and progressive society. Moreover, education is crucial in helping communities worldwide achieve higher economic growth and maintain balanced social harmony. At the same time, the overall education system and educational infrastructures have significant roles in a country’s education quality. However, a country with a sound education system and state-of-the-art infrastructures, if does not have well-trained teachers, struggles to yield good educational outcomes. For this reason, teachers also play a key role in determining overall educational efficiency.

The student-teacher ratio is one of the prime indicators for assessing the quality of education delivery. It provides us with an outlook on the strength of the educational system of the respective country. The student-teacher ratio at the primary level means the number of primary school students divided by the number of primary school teachers. Simply put, it is the average number of students per teacher in a particular school. For better educational outcomes, it is better to have fewer students per teacher as it allows the teachers to provide more attention to the needs of the students, including one-to-one personal guidance. On the contrary, a single teacher governing a class of many students can be chaotic.

According to the 2019/20 Flash Report published by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), 254,578 teachers trained 5,319,004 primary-level students in Nepal for the year 2019., i.e., a student-teacher ratio of 20.89, comparable to South Asain average of 20:1

Province-wise Status of Student-Teacher Ratio

Fig: Province-wise student-teacher ratio of Nepal for the year 2017-2019 (CEHRD, 2017, 2018, 2019)

The above figure shows the province-wise student-teacher ratio of Nepal for the years 2017-2019. For all three years, Madhesh province lags behind all the provinces while Gandaki Province stands on the top in terms of the ratio. For example, in 2019, Madhesh had ratio value 42.12 compared to Gandaki, which had a value of 12.52. Comparing these data with the national average of 20.89, Madhesh’s ratio is almost twice the value of national average and the Gandaki has almost half of that of the national average. Since the student-teacher ratio is a reverse indicator (higher the value lower the performance), Madhesh, with the highest score for all three years performs worst under this indicator while Gandaki, on the other hand, performs best among seven provinces with the lowest scores for all three years. However, on the positive side, the overall student-teacher ratio across all the provinces in on decline.

On the other hand, the highest student-teacher ratio for Madhesh Province reflects that this area has been poor in terms of having enough teachers for the existing students. To make things a bit better, in 2018, the Provincial Government launched the Beti Padhau, Beti Bachau campaign. 4,373 girls under 18 years have benefited from the scheme so far. Under this campaign, 14,000 bicycles were distributed to girls, and 100 toilets were constructed for girl students during the last fiscal year. The major issues that Madhesh faces, as highlighted by the locals and education experts, including most local-level education branches being run by retired teachers and the local education department struggling to fill all available teaching positions and frequent transfer of teachers to other schools.

Some Issues Nepal’s Education System Faces

Nepal has long faced a shortage of teachers in the remote northern districts. Even though the government has determined a required teacher-student ratio, it has not been able to send additional teachers to the rural parts of the country to meet its specified ratio. Consequently, most public schools, especially those in the rural parts of the country, have fewer teachers than required. The main reasons behind these limitations include the government’s low priority towards mobilizing more teachers in the rural areas and lower preference and commitment by the teachers themselves.

The constitution of Nepal (2015) provisions the citizens’ inherent rights to free and compulsory education for school-going children. Yet, unfortunately, a substantial number of the most vulnerable and marginalized children are still out of school. As per the Economic Survey 2019/20, over two-thirds of the students enrolled in grade one get out of the school system by the time they reach grade 12. Furthermore, as reported in The Kathmandu Post, out of 100 students enrolled in grade one, 36 leave their studies by the time they get to grade 10. Over the decades, however, Nepal has seen improvement in the overall education system. The country currently has a net enrollment rate of 97 percent. In addition, past initiatives such as free mid-day lunch, free sanitary pads for about 1.35 million girls, and scholarships for girls students from marginalized communities have contributed to lower school dropout rates. To ensure easy access to quality education and reduce the existing gaps, the parliament of Nepal has enacted the Compulsory and Free Education Act, 2018. 

Government Efforts

In the budget speech of FY 2021/22, the Government of Nepal has appropriated a budget of NPR 180.4 billion out of the NPR 1.64 trillion national budget for the education sector for the upcoming fiscal year. The government plans to adjust the number of teaching positions based on the student-teacher ratio. However, the real challenge lies in its implementation. There should be a transparent implementation and monitoring of other scholarship-related programs, including teacher vacancy matching. While government budget provision is essential, it is even more important to understand education spending and available resources to identify resource and demand/supply gaps.

Province 1 has taken some steps at the provincial level after the local elections in 2017. To ensure quality education, it has started an electronic attendance system to monitor the entry and exit timings of the teachers, established transport services, focused on research and practical-based education and merged schools as per the number of students and geography. These initiatives have created a positive impact on improving the quality of education in community schools. For instance, the number of students attending classes increased to 284 from 258 since the school started the bus facility in Rong, a rural municipality in Ilam. Similar initiatives and learnings can be transferred and practised by other provinces too.

Way Forward

Although Madhesh Province is comparatively more advanced than other provinces in terms of transportation and communication connectivity and the availability of infrastructure, available details show that this province has low education quality as it has the highest student-teacher ratio. Inefficient implementation of teacher management could be identified as one of the primary reasons behind it. Hence, the prime concern of the current and future policy stakeholders in the province should be to improve teacher management mechanisms even further. Finally, local governments and school management teams could work collaboratively to ensure safe and stimulating learning spaces where teachers are well trained, prepared, supervised, and monitored.

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An analysis of FDI statistics of Sudurpaschim Province

ANUSHA Basnet

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is defined as a “category of cross-border investment” in which an investor from one country invests in another country wherein the investor has significant control over the business it invests in (IMF, 2009). It may also involve a “transfer of technical know-how, managerial and organizational skills”. For a country aiming to expedite its development process, FDI has been one of the factors aiding the development process of Nepal especially in recent years. The government has also made provisions to make Nepal a more investment friendly country. Acts such as The Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act (FITTA) 2019 and Foreign Direct Investment Policy 2015 have been created by the government in an effort to create a better environment for foreign investors. The FITTA states that “investors need to bring 25 percent of the pledged investment within a year from the date of registration, 70 percent by the start of operation, and the remaining 30 percent within the next two years.” The Department of Industry (DOI), Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), and Investment Board Nepal (IBN) are three agencies that implement the laws regarding FDI. 

As of 2018/19, the stock of FDI in Nepal was Rs. 182.92 billion of which 48.2 percent was paid-up capital, 42.8 percent were reserves, and 9.0 percent was loans. Of the total FDI stock, the service sector accounts for 51.1 percent and the industrial sector accounts for 48.8 percent. Furthermore, within the industrial sector manufacturing, mining and quarrying industry accounts for 28.6 percent and electricity, gas, and water sector accounts for 20.0 percent of FDI stock. While the level of FDI pledge is high, the actual inflow of FDI is still low. 

Looking into the provincial breakdown of FDI statistics, we see the following numbers:

Figure 1: Provincial Breakdown of FDI figures (Data taken from NRB)

From the above graph, we can see that Sudurpaschim province has received the least amount of FDI in all three years (2017, 2018, 2019). The province received FDI of Rs. 13.2 million, 10.8 million, and 27.93 million for the years 2017, 2018, and 2019 respectively. The increase in FDI for the year 2019 can be attributed to the investment brought in for the manufacturing sector (cement industry) and information technology sector (software development industry). Comparatively, Sudurpaschim province lags behind other provinces in terms of being able to attract foreign investment. Years of lack of concrete development plans from the central government, lack of investment in the infrastructure sector and other factors such as a difficult geographical terrain have caused the province to lag behind in terms of development which has affected its current ability to seek investment. Furthermore, delays in current projects have not inspired confidence from the investors. 

However, the provincial government in Sudurpaschim has made efforts to bring in foreign investment. The provincial government has started a process to create a Provincial Investment Board in order to streamline projects that require higher investment (projects requiring investment from Rs. 1 billion to Rs. 5 billion). The government also put in extra effort to woo investors during the Investment Summit organized by the Nepal Investment Board. In terms of attracting foreign investment, tourism, manufacturing sector, energy sector, and transportation sector are few sectors that are being prioritized by the provincial government. The provincial policies and programs for the fiscal year 2078/79 has emphasized completing the ongoing projects in order to attract new investment. The recent agreement between the Investment Board of Nepal and NHPC for the development of Seti river hydropower projects also shows promising signs for the province. 

As the Sudurpaschim government has been creating ambitious plans to expedite the development process of the province, FDI will play an important role in the process. While the province has a lot to do in terms of catching up to other provinces for bringing in FDI, the steps initiated by the government show their commitment and dedication to the economic development of the province.

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Can Nepal Sustain Increasing Election Expenses?

SAMJHANA Karki

An election is a basis for democratic governance. The ways elections are conducted, including overall election financing, affect the overall performance of the resultant democracy and the related public institutions. However, the increasing election costs in Nepal is a matter of concern as it ultimately results in a higher level of corruption among the thus-elected lawmakers and officials. 

Nepal spent NPR five billion for the recently held second round of nationwide local elections on 13 May 2022. The amount thus spent for the election is equivalent to almost 14 percent of Sudhurpachim Province’s annual budget for the FY 2022/23. On a similar note, as the Government of Nepal (GoN) has announced to conduct the second round of federal and provincial elections scheduled on 20 Nov 2022, it is very likely that GoN will have to spend significant financial resources to finance the upcoming elections. As of now, the Election Commission (EC) has asked GoN to allocate an estimated budget of NPR 10 billion, equivalent to about one-third of Karnali Province’s annual budget for the FY 2022/23. This clearly shows that a country like Nepal, with very limited industries and revenue-generating activities, is forced to spend billions of rupees every five years, in an upward trend, to conduct elections at the federal, provincial and at the local levels. In addition, arranging financial resources for managing election-related security mechanisms adds additional burden on GoN. For example, the Ministry of Home Affairs has suggested to GoN that the ministry needs to recruit 120,000 Myadi Police personnels for managing security arrangements for the upcoming elections. As per the estimates, the total costs for these personnel will incur additional NPR six billion. Undoubtedly, these figures clearly show how Nepal’s elections are getting more costly with each election cycle passing.

Some past studies have shown that the actual election costs in Nepal remain quite higher. For Example, a study has found that the combined costs of GoN authorities, political parties and the candidates remained at NPR ​​131.63 billion for Nepal’s 2017 elections – held for all three levels of the government, with the candidates and their supporters spending NPR 96.91 billion and the GoN authorities spending NPR 34.72 billion. Though the election-related legal framework (the Election Offense and Punishment Act, 2017) mandates that all political parties and candidates participating in the election must submit their income and expenditure statements along with the sources of funds raised and used during their election campaign to the EC within two weeks of the election. Yet, given the whopping election-related costs and less reporting by the concerned candidates and the parties, it is certain that the political parties and candidates do not accurately maintain and report their costs of campaign financing to the EC.

On account of these figures, Mr. Bhojraj Pokharel – a former Chief Election Commissioner of Nepal – shared in one of NIPoRe’s नितिका कुरा: Policy Talks episodes that the rules and policies related to election-financing in Nepal are strong enough. However, due to poor monitoring mechanisms and the subsequent penalties, political parties and the candidates continue to neglect those terms and policies. He further stressed that the recruitment of a temporary police force in every election, can also be controlled using the available force and remaining from the voluntary participation of the youths from the local level. This can help GoN to minimize the extra coats by a large margin. Besides that, a strong civic and moral education on election and election-related affairs will definitely help make better use of the resources that are spent on elections each election cycle.

To conclude, increasing election costs in Nepal are worrying. The EC and other concerned stakeholders, including GoN, political parties and candidates should work to make future elections in Nepal affordable. As increase in election costs will have direct and indirect implications on the subsequent plans and policies, an intervention to keep these expenses within limits can definitely help all policy stakeholders in the country and beyond.

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Humanitarian Response from India during Nepal’s Earthquake 2015

SAMJHANA Karki

The devastating earthquake on 25 April 2015, with a magnitude of 7.6 Richter Scale and hundreds of aftershocks, caused a significant impact on the lives of over eight million people across Nepal. The Post Disaster Needs Assessment, 2015, published by the National Planning Commission, reported more than 8,000 deaths and property damage worth approximately USD 7 billion.

Nepal ranks 11th globally in terms of vulnerability to earthquakes. As soon as the news of the Nepal Earthquake broke, there was overwhelming commitment and subsequent support from the neighbouring countries, and India was the first to respond. It was reported that the then Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, who was in Bangkok, knew of the earthquake through the Indian Prime Minister’s tweet. India dispatched relief materials and rescue teams immediately.

The Indian government initiated Operation Maitri and launched a humanitarian mission, dispatched National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams and special aircraft with rescue and relief materials in Nepal. India released INR 96 crores (around 154 crore Nepali rupees) to Nepal for housing and school sector assistance. Under the post-earthquake reconstruction package, India allocated a grant of USD 250 million, including USD 50 million each for the education, cultural heritage, and health sector and USD 100 million for the housing sector.

When a crisis occurs, Nepal looks up to India. India, our closest neighbor, has always helped Nepal in the difficult hours. During this crisis, India provided immediate responses and timely decision-making. Furthermore, a swift emergency response was possible because of connected borders, friendly ties and institutional relations between the two nations. Close bilateral relations, including fraternal relations between the two countries’ militaries, provided the basis for swift support.

India experienced some hiccups during the support. Despite widespread help, Indian media faced a backlash for their insensitive reporting, which made the hashtag #GoHomeIndianMedia trend on Twitter. 

The India-imposed economic blockade towards the end of the year escalated the humanitarian crisis, though. Moreover, the blockade un-did the goodwill India had garnered from the support. It has left a long-lasting anti-India sentiment among the general populace. 

Disaster response is an additional dimension in Nepal-India relations. Other disasters such as floods affect both countries. They have established common mechanisms to deal with such issues, but their workings are unsatisfactory. It would benefit both countries to strengthen disaster cooperation, for it is less prone to conflict and garners goodwill for each other.

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Reflecting on Nepal-India Flood Risk Management Cooperation

JURIA SATO Bajracharya

Domestic efforts and existing bilateral treaties

Some notable initiatives are underway in Nepal. The Disaster Risk Reduction National Strategic Action Plan (2018-2030) proposes priority actions in the short-term (2018-2020), medium-term (2020-2025), and long-term (2025-2030), assigning responsibilities within federal, provincial, and local governments. In 2019, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority was also established to coordinate, facilitate, and implement disaster risk reduction and management-related functions. Additionally, the Government of Nepal has developed an integrated and comprehensive one-stop Disaster Information Management System known as the Building Information Platform Against Disaster (BIPAD) portal, which is currently being localized.

On the bilateral front, while there have been several broad engagements around river management between Nepal and India, these have been limited. The two countries have often resorted to blaming one another for their shortcomings. There are different mechanisms to deal with flooding [for e.g. the secretary-level Joint Commission on Water Resources (JCWR), the Water and Energy Commission Secretariat (WECS) that deals with trans-boundary water issues, and the Joint Committee on Inundation and Flood Management (JCIFM)]. Sadly, these engagements have remained relatively passive. For instance, flood forecasting, which includes the planning and implementation of the Flood Forecasting Master Plan, was discussed consecutively in the JCIFM between 2014-2017, but this was left off the agenda in the 12th JCIFM in 2018. Similarly, the JCWR meetings are to be held once in six months, yet only seven meetings have taken place since its establishment in 2000. Dynamic and iterative engagement is key to addressing this issue, but cooperation on both ends has stalled over the years.

At the regional level, the SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC), a dedicated body for disaster risk management, was established to build the capacities of South Asian nations and implement the Comprehensive Framework on Disaster Management for South Asia. In its power, the SDMC has developed regional guidelines, built a collective emergency response mechanism, and conducted several technical training sessions. However, the volume of such initiatives has decelerated over the past years. Despite having elements of an effective structure in place, emergency responses at the SAARC level have not been deployed in the wake of the multiple calamities in the region. As such, it has not been able to sustain a robust disaster management framework in ways that would enable member countries to build their national capacities and respond through concerted coordination. 

Shifting approach beyond the blame game

India and Nepal have long accused each other of the trans-border floods. Amidst the pandemic in 2020, the state government of Bihar blamed Nepal for obstructing flood preparedness activities. Nepal, on its part, has raised growing concerns over how Indian infrastructure and development activities along the Koshi and Gandaki rivers and along the border have hindered the natural flow of water. Progress is also compounded by the issue’s complex geographical and political nature and discontent among vested interest groups. Highlighting India’s hegemonic status in past water treaties with Nepal, many scholars have argued that treaties like the Koshi agreement (1954) and the Gandak agreement (1959) have deprived Nepal of its fair share of benefits. Decades have passed since these agreements, and any further passive leadership might impede timely action for collective and coordinated flood risk management efforts.

As we mark the 75th year of Nepal-India bilateral ties, leveraging this moment to gear focus towards the protection of lives and livelihood of the hardest hit climate-vulnerable communities – particularly in Bihar and Terai region – is crucial. Such cooperation will help further the bilateral relations and directly impact the lives and livelihood of people on both sides of the border. Formal government-to-government cooperation mechanisms for flood risk management efforts have been in place for decades with limited focus. Civil society actors, non-government organizations, and the private sector could play an increasingly important role in shifting the current narratives of transboundary disaster management negotiations. In the region, initiatives such as the Bangladesh-India Sundarbans Region Cooperative Initiative (BISRCI) have been helping the two governments manage the Sundarbans sustainably since 2011. In Nepal, the Koshi Disaster Risk Reduction Knowledge Hub (KDKH) is working to foster transboundary collaboration on disaster risk reduction and strengthen science, policy, and interlinkages. It has convened dialogue annually since its inception in 2018, bringing together researchers and policymakers to explore ways of collaboration. These initiatives play an important role as enablers in fostering bilateral dialogues and should be leveraged in furthering regional cooperation.

With climate change exacerbating extreme flood events every year, cooperation in disaster risk management will be increasingly critical to better Nepal-India relations. Climate contexts in both India and Nepal are characterized by the uncertainty of monsoon rain patterns, risks of melting Himalayan glaciers, and vulnerable low-lying coastal cities. Furthermore, losses from climate change in GDP per capita for both Nepal and India are projected to be higher than the global average of ~7 percent, with Nepal facing a potential loss of 13 percent and India ten percent in 2100.

Flooding during the monsoon season is a natural phenomenon. Nepal’s Terai region of Nepal and Eastern India face growing hazards from glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) and bishyari floods, a type of flood that occurs due to the breaking of dams caused by landslides falling directly into rivers. Many rivers originate in the Himalayas and flow to the Bay of Bengal. Koshi, Gandaki, and Karnali rivers – the three largest river basins in Nepal – enter India through Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the most populous states in India. Given the number of lakes at risk of bursting across these basins, the strong upstream-downstream flood linkages, the changing patterns of extreme precipitation events, and the cascading impacts on lives and livelihoods, cooperation in disaster risk reduction and management cannot be overlooked.

Vulnerability to flooding Despite increasing risks of devastating flood impacts annually, the momentum around cooperation tends to surface only during the monsoon season when more priority should ideally be directed towards rescue and rehabilitation. Nepal has already witnessed multiple damaging floods over the past decade – notably the Koshi flood of August 2008, one of the most disastrous floods affecting 3.5 million people across both countries. The tragedy exposed the inadequacy of current flood management systems and warned of the changing climate patterns. In recent years, Nepal has witnessed unseasonal heavy rains shortly after the monsoon in October 2021, a month that is crucial for agricultural harvests. The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development estimated a loss of NPR 8.26 billion worth of paddy crops across all seven provinces only due to the unseasonal rain and flooding. Recent flooding patterns and climate change in the region indicate flooding is no longer a seasonal concern.

This series of Nepal-India relations blog posts are published on the auspicious occasion of India’s 75th Independence Celebration.

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The Global Gender Gap Report: Has South Asia Progressed?

Sagoon Bhetwal

The World Economic Forum (WEF) annually releases the Global Gender Gap Report. WEF, with this report, helps the world leaders to understand better how their governments fare in terms of minimizing existing gender gaps. It published the first report in 2006 using indicators across four subindexes: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Education Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment. In 2021, the report highlighted that it would take 135.6 years to close the existing global gender gap. With some improvements, the 2022 report was revised to 132 years. In this blog, I will try to answer questions like: Where does South Asia stand in terms of gender parity? Have we seen growth in our region, or rather, decline?

To begin with, the WEF defines the gender gap as “the difference between women and men as reflected in social, political, intellectual, cultural, or economic attainments and attitudes”. The subindexes receive scores from 0 (which indicates perfect gender imparity) to 1 (which indicates perfect gender parity). 

South Asia remains one of the poor performers in the analysis. In 2021, the region ranked second last among the eight regions considered for the analysis, with a parity score of 62.3 percent. The region’s performance further slided in 2022 and ranked the lowest.  has become the lowest performer with the same parity score. South Asia, in the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, has improved the region’s score from 33.8 percent in 2021 to 35.7 percent in 2022. Still, this is the lowest performance out of all the regions. North America is leading the progress with a parity of 77.4 percent. Afghanistan, one of the major ranked countries from South Asia, has been ranked in the last position (of the total 146 ranked countries) with a score of just 0.176. China, another key rising global economy, on the other hand, ranks in the 37th position (score 0.741). 

In 2022, South Asia  ranks in the second last position under the Educational Attainment subindex with the score from 93.3 percent in 2021 to 93.2 percent in 2022. Under this subindex as well, Afghanistan ranks in the last position further sliding in overall score from 0.514 in 2021 to 0.482 in 2022. China, on the other hand, has here managed to rank in 120th position (score 0.936), thus ranking above Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan. 

Likewise, South Asia in the Health and Survival subindex has a parity of 94.2 percent for both the years. The score is still the lowest possible regional score. Under this subindex, India ranks in the last position (among all the ranked countries) with a score of 0.937. However, in 2021, India was just a step ahead of China (ranked last with a score of 0.935).

Finally, under the Political Empowerment subindex, parity score for South Asia has declined from 28.1 percent in 2021 to 26.2 percent in 2022. Despite this decline, the region still remains the fourth best performer in this subindex. Here, China ranks in 120th position (score 0.113), just ahead of Bhutan (score 0.093). Bhutan, as of 2022, remains the lowest performer for this subindex in the region while India is the best performer. 

South Asia, overall, has a parity score of 62.3 percent in 2022, which is 5.8 percent less than the global average of 68.1 percent. The parity score of the region was the same in 2021, against the global average score of 67.7 percent. The 2022 Report has highlighted that South Asia requires 197 years to close the gender gap in the region, far more years than that of global average. Hence, being the worst performing region in the world, it is high time that the governments in the region take national and well-coordinated regional approaches to minimize staggering gender-based gaps.

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Caste-Based Discrimination and Untouchability in Nepal: Has Nepal Progressed?

Today marks 16 years since Nepal declared itself a country free of caste-based discrimination and untouchability. Dalits, however, continue to struggle for their rights across the legal, social, and economic fronts.