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Student-Teacher Ratio: Few Key Issues from Nepal


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


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.


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.

Research Commentaries

Issues with Higher Education Sector in Nepal



The education sector in Nepal is very heterogeneous with visible differences among the existing institutions. Notably, public and private educational institutions vary widely in terms of education financing, infrastructure, quality, admission, retention and graduation rates. Nepal’s education system is very peculiar especially when available data are compared to other countries with the enrollment rates being lower than half of the global average. It can be easily discerned that higher education in Nepal is fragile and inconsistent within and beyond the system. The data discussed below suggests that enrollment rates diminish with increasing educational level. This article discusses some barriers to enroll into the educational system and some barriers to graduate in Nepal.


Higher education in Nepal is limited to a very few umbrella institutions with the majority of students still enrolled in colleges affiliated to Tribhuvan University. Although all universities in Nepal are public, three of the largest universities after TU, Kathmandu University, Purbanchal University and Pokhara University have autonomy highly comparable to private universities. Hence, these universities have to depend on tuition fees as their primary source of funding. Most of the educational grants from the government are provided to TU through the University Grants Commission. Around 3.5 percent of the total educational budget is allocated for higher education and that amount when distributed for more than a third of enrolled students is inadequate.


According to the World Bank, Government of Nepal’s spending on education as a percentage of the GDP and total budget, both are higher than the world and South Asian average. That could have been the key to increased enrollment rates in primary and secondary schools in recent years. Net enrollment in elementary schools has reached 97 percent in the last two decades and that in secondary schools is 60 percent. But the enrollment rate in higher education in 2019/20 was just 14.9 percent which is less than half of the global average (WENR) and 12 percent less than that of other developing countries like India and Vietnam. This trend suggests that enrollment rates diminish with increasing educational level.

Despite plans to increase domestic funding for education, the process of allocation and distribution of funds is ambiguous with the transition to federalism. Educational loans are available through commercial banks but the complexity of the process with high interest rates has made those schemes unpopular. Hence, students are highly constrained with access to educational financing. Thus, low federal aid and those constraints along with increasing tuition fees have made it harder for students to finance their education.

The heterogeneity within educational institutions in terms of budget translates to variation in quality of education. Publicly funded institutions are compelled to use inferior technology compared to private institutions who serve a limited population, mostly those in Nepal’s urban areas. The University Grants Commission claims that lack of standard norms and mapping of Higher Educational Institutions has made the sustainability of educational programs and resource mobilization difficult. Also, the highly centralized economy has led to the establishment of majority institutions in limited cities. For a student graduating high school from a remote district, there is a need to move to a bigger city which is an additional financial burden. So, a large population is compelled to enroll into public colleges which teach limited coursework. All these factors impose a barrier to enter the higher educational system.

Among those who enroll into higher education, graduation rate is low. Tribhuvan University, with more than 75 percent of students within the country, had a pass rate of 26.6 percent in 2015/16 and 26.1 percent in 2019/20. The National Educational Policy 2019/20 has identified irregularity in educational policy, irrelevancy of coursework in the labor market and uncompetitive and hackneyed nature of degree programs as the main challenges in higher education. The enrollment rate in the management sector is 46.37 percent with that in the STEM field being 8.38 percent. On the contrary, the STEM field is the most popular among Nepali students going abroad for higher education. This implies that either the standard of STEM education in Nepal is low or a STEM degree has less chance of landing a job after graduation in the related areas. The government plans to formulate policies where students graduating from subjects of national demand will be required to serve under government supervision for at least a year. This could be beneficial for recent graduates searching for entry level jobs. On the other hand, local governments will have educated youths working for them. Moving higher in the educational spectrum, less than one percent of total students in higher education are in post-graduate degrees focused on academia like PhD, MPhil or PGD.  Although the UGC claims that the target of publishing 85 publications in international journals was exceeded in the 2019/20 academic year, there is very limited research done in applied sciences with most publications being theoretical.

Another major problem within higher education in Nepal is internal inefficiency. This includes poor management, delayed admission and exam results and ineffective communication. Many students are forced to wait elongated periods for exam results. Even the simplest of administrative processes are tortuous. The inclusion of politics especially in public institutions has caused frequent disturbances in colleges often leading to violence. While youth involvement in collegiate government is important and could be beneficial in terms of equity and inclusion of all parties in college, educational institutions should never be a place to ignite political ideologies. The internal inefficiency along with negative external influence has exacerbated the structure of higher educational institutions in Nepal.


While there is a long way to go in terms of cutting off the barriers to enter and exit higher education in Nepal, there is some rainbow within the clouds. The share of female students in higher education has increased with 52.04 percent making the Gender Parity Index 1.9. Historically, female population has been deprived of education with all higher educational institutions being male dominated but this is a notable improvement. It is disappointing to see that National Education Policy 2019/20 lacks plans to accommodate people of LGBTQ community in education although recent movements through civil societies have apprised the government to promote diversity and inclusion within the educational sector. Resource wise, educational budget has decreased but the Ministry of Education recognizes the need to increase the allocation to 20 percent of the national budget in order to upgrade from under-developed to developing country by 2022. The National Education Policy 2019/20 plans to focus on technical education and training, collaborate with national and international institutions for research and development and increase emphasis on tourism, sports, entrepreneurship and ayurvedic and herbal education, and spirituality. The government and the Department of Education is often claimed to follow a circuitous route for a lot of reasons, most stated above, their recent publications regarding plans and policies have recognized the deficiencies within themselves, which is a good place to start.


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Government of Nepal (2021). Education Sector Analysis, 2021. Ministry of Education, Science and Technology

Government of Nepal (2021). National Education Policy, 2076. Ministry of Education, Science and Technology

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