Educational infrastructure in 2004: Nepal had 26,277 schools; 6,018,806 students; and 147,677 teachers, 32.9 percent of whom had formal training. Basic education consists of three levels: primary (grades one to five), lower secondary (grades six to eight), and secondary (grades nine and 10).In 1989 higher secondary schools were introduced for higher education preparation, and by 2003 there were 789 such schools. Institutions of higher education included eight public and 114 private technical schools, one polytechnic school, and six universities in 2001. The overall number of education facilities has grown, but most are in urban areas. [Source: Library of Congress, November 2005 **]

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): 12 years; male: 12 years; female: 13 years (2017) School life expectancy (SLE) is the total number of years of schooling (primary to tertiary) that a child can expect to receive, assuming that the probability of his or her being enrolled in school at any particular future age is equal to the current enrollment ratio at that age. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020]

Free primary education was introduced in 1975. Schooling is compulsory for five years, the duration of primary school. Students who continue their studies move on to either technical school (8 to 10 years) or general secondary school (about 7 years). In 2003, the student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 36: 1; the ratio for secondary school was about 35: 1.The same year private schools accounted for about 14.7 percent of primary school enrollment and 27.8 percent of secondary enrollment. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

Gross enrollment: Primary school in 2005: 114.5 percent; in 2019: 142.1 percent; secondary school in 2005: 48.1 percent; in 2019: 80.2 percent
Out of school children, primary age in 2004: male: 250,291 (36 percent); female: 427,047 (64 percent) ; total: 677,338.
Out of school children, primary age in 2019: total: 103, 384
Gender parity index from gross enrollment ratio, primary: 1
World Bank 2020]

School Attendance:
Attendance in early childhood education: 51 percent.

Adjusted net attendance rate, one year before official primary entry age: 83 percent.
Adjusted net attendance rate, primary education: 74 percent.
Adjusted net attendance rate, lower secondary education: 50 percent.
Adjusted net attendance rate, upper secondary education: 47 percent.
Completion rate, primary education: 82 percent.
Youth literacy rate (15 — 24 years): 92 percent.
[Source: UNICEF DATA 2020]

Schools and enrollment in the early 2000s
Number of Primary Schools: 22,218
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 3,447,607; Secondary: 1,121,335
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 113 percent; Secondary: 42 percent
Teachers: Primary: 89,378; Secondary: 36,127
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 39: 1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 96 percent; Secondary: 33 percent [Source: Manoj Sharma, “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

Creation and Growth of the Nepal School System

In 1950, Nepal had 321 primary schools enrolling about 8,000 students; 11 secondary schools with 1,500 students; and one small college and a technical school with a combined student body of 250. The country then had no educational facilities for girls, and the few who were educated were either privately tutored or had studied in India. Literacy was negligible. [Source: Cities of the World, The Gale Group Inc., 2002]

When Rana rule ended, in 1951 Nepal launched a program to create a system of universal primary education, greatly supported and developed through USAID efforts. By 1994, 40 percent of the Nepalese adult population was literate (male: 55 percent; female: 25 percent). Approximately 65 percent of the Kathmandu Valley population was literate. This figures reflect both the importance attached to education and the relative ease of creating schools and education facilities there as opposed to the mountains and jungles of the Terai. In 1994 there were 21,100 primary schools with 3,195,000 students (of whom 1,260,000 were girls) and 81,500 teachers; 4,800 lower secondary schools with 680,000 students and 15,750 teachers; 2,200 secondary schools with 414,000 students and 11,100 teachers.

In 1996, the school system in Nepal had an overall enrollment of over 4 million students of which 77 percent were primary students, 17 percent were lower secondary students, and 6 percent were secondary students. In 2001, primary school enrollment in was estimated at about 70 percent of age-eligible students; 75 percent for boys and 66 percent for girls. Secondary school enrollment in the same year was about 43 percent of eligible students; 49.8 percent for boys and 37.4 percent for girls. About 12 percent of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. It is estimated that about 80 percent of all students complete their primary education. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

Educational System in Nepal

In the early 2000s, while the education was not compulsory throughout the country, Nepal was committed to providing free universal education from grades 1-10. Under the Ninth Five-Year Plan, compulsory primary education was implemented in five districts of Chitwan, Ilam, Surkhet, Syangja, and Kanchanpur with the policy of extending free compulsory primary education all over the country gradually.

Primary education (grades one to five) typically begins at the age of six and and lasts until age 10 years. Lower secondary level comprises grades 6-8 (three years). Upper secondary level comprises grades 9 and 10 (two years). The School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examinations are held nationally at the end of grade 10. Since 1992, the higher secondary level of grades 11 and 12 have typically been provided by private schools.

Education in grades 1-10 is free in Nepal and available to all. The language of instruction in public schools is in Nepali, which is the mother tongue of slightly over one-half of the population. Under a 1954 plan, a national school system with a single curriculum began replacing traditional schools. English schools often have their own curriculum.

Establishing English as a Language of Schooling

Under the Rana-British rule, between 1846 and 1951, the ruling Ranas initially educated their children through English tutors. Manoj Sharma wrote in the “World Education Encyclopedia”: “ In 1854, Rana Jung Bahadur opened the Durbar School in Kathmandu to serve the needs of the Rana family and other Nepalese elite. This preference established the supremacy of the English education over the traditional Sanskrit-based education, a trend that has since continued. The School Leaving Certificate (SLC or grade 10) examination for Durbar School used to be conducted by the University of Calcutta, India until 1934 when the Nepal SLC examination board was founded.” [Source: Manoj Sharma, “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

Jang Bahadur Kunwar, later known as Jang Bahadur Rana, was the founder of the Rana regime. He decided to give his children an English education rather than the traditional religiously oriented training. In 1854 Jang Bahadur engaged an English tutor to hold classes for his children in the Rana palace. This act tipped the balance in favor of English education and established its supremacy over the traditional type of Sanskrit-based education. In 1991 English education still carried a higher status and prestige than did traditional education.*

Jang Bahadur's successor opened these classes to all Rana children and formally organized them into Durbar High School. A brief shift in government education policy came in 1901, when Prime Minister Dev Shamsher Rana took office and called for sweeping education reforms. He proposed a system of universal public primary education, using Nepali as the language of instruction, and opening Durbar High School to children who were not members of the Rana clan. Dev Shamsher's policies were so unpopular that he was deposed within a few months. His call for reforms did not entirely disappear, however. A few Nepali-language primary schools in the Kathmandu Valley, the Hill Region, and the Terai remained open, and the practice of admitting a few middle- and low-caste children to Durbar High School continued.*

Schools in Nepal in the 1960s and 70s

Formal schooling in modern times was still constrained by the economy and culture. Children were generally needed to work in the fields and at home. Many students began school late (at ages nine or ten); more than half left school after completing only one year. Educating females was viewed as unnecessary; as a consequence, their enrollment levels were far lower than those of males. Regional variations often hindered the effectiveness of uniform text materials and teacher training. Although the government was relatively successful in establishing new schools, the quality of education remained low, particularly in remote regions where the majority of the population lived. Terrain further inhibited management and supervision of schools. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1991 *]

Most schools operated for ten months of the year, five and onehalf days a week. In the warmer regions, June and July were vacation months; in the northern regions, mid-December through midFebruary were vacation months. All schools in Kathmandu closed for winter vacation.*

In 1975 primary education was made free, and the government became responsible for providing school facilities, teachers, and educational materials. Primary schooling was compulsory; it began at age six and lasted for five years. Secondary education began at age eleven and lasted another five years in two cycles — two years (lower) and three years (higher). Total school enrollment was approximately 52 percent of school-age children (approximately 70 percent of school-age boys, 30 percent of school-age girls) in 1984. Secondary school enrollment was only 18 percent of the relevant age-group (27 percent of the total boys, 9 percent of the total girls). About 72 percent of all students were male. The Ministry of Education supervised the finance, administration, staffing, and inspection of government schools. It also inspected private schools that received government subsidies. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1991 *]

At the of the Rana era in the 1950s it was estimated that only 5 percent of Nepal’s population could read and write. Since that time the government has put a great emphasis on education and getting the population to read and write. By the 1960s the figure maybe reached 10 percent. In the 1990s it was about 30 percent of the population.

Schools in Nepal in the 1980s

As of 1987, Nepal had 12,491 primary schools, 3,824 lowersecondary schools, and 1,501 higher-secondary schools. There were 55,207 primary, 11,744 lower-secondary, and 8,918 higher-secondary school teachers. Primary school enrollments totaled 1,952,504 persons; lower-secondary and higher-secondary enrollment figures stood at 289,594 and 289,923 persons, respectively. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1991 *]

Curriculum was greatly influenced by United States models, and it was developed with assistance from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. The National Education Plan established a framework for universal education. The goal of primary education was to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, and to instill discipline and hygiene. Lower-secondary education emphasized character formation, a positive attitude toward manual labor, and perseverance. Higher-secondary education stressed manpower requirements and preparation for higher education. National development goals were emphasized through the curriculum.*

The School Leaving Certificate examination, a nationally administered and monitored high-school-matriculation examination, was given after completion of the higher-secondary level. Those who passed this examination were eligible for college. In addition, some communities had adult education schools.*

In the early 1980s, approximately 60 percent of the primary school teachers and 35 percent of secondary school teachers were untrained, despite the institution of a uniform method of training in 1951. The Institute of Education, part of Tribhuvan University, was responsible for inservice and preservice teacher training programs. Beginning in 1976, the institute organized a distancelearning program — electronic links between distant locations — for prospective teachers. Developments in telecommunications will provide new educational options.*

Teachers in Nepal

Teachers are generally poorly paid and trained. In Nepal, only 31 per cent of the teachers have received professional training, compared to 48 percent in Bangladesh and 36 percent in Afghanistan. But some progress has been made improving this situation. [Source: Rupak D Sharma, Asia News Network, February 2008]“

Manoj Sharma wrote in the “World Education Encyclopedia”: “In 1996 there were a total of 114,051 teachers in the public sector; 82,645 were primary level teachers, 16,281 were lower secondary level teachers, and 14,585 were secondary level teachers. The teachers at the primary level must complete proficiency certificate level (PCL) in education, and a two-year program offered from Tribhuvan University or its equivalent. The courses taught include English language education, Nepali language education, mathematics education, science education, health and physical education, population education, history education, geography education, economics education, political science education, and vocational education. [Source: Manoj Sharma, “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

“Teachers at the lower secondary and secondary level must complete a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.), which is a three-year program with one additional year of practical training. The program covers, in addition to the subjects of PCL, educational management, primary education, nonformal education, educational technology, early childhood education, special education, educational planning, and curriculum evaluation. For administrative positions, completion of a Master of Education (M.Ed.) is usually required. The National Center for Education Development (NCED) provides in-service training for primary school teachers through its nine primary training centers. Some private teacher training centers affiliated to NCED conduct pre-service teacher training. The salaries for teachers in the public primary schools in 2000 were between NR 4,000 to 6,000 per month, and for secondary teachers, between NR 5,000 to 10,000 per month.

“Several groups and unions of teachers have emerged over the past few decades. These groups have held close alliance with political parties. Two major teachers associations are the National Teachers Organization (NTO), affiliated with Communist Party of Nepal/United Marxist-Leninist (CPN/UNL), and the Nepal Teachers Association (NTA), affiliated with Nepali Congress Party (NCP). In addition there are smaller associations affiliated with the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and the Nepal Sadbhavna Party (NSP).

Schools During Civil War with the Maoists (1996-2006)

During the Nepal civil war from 1996 to 2006, the limited, shaky education system was devastated by the activity of Maoist rebels. Schools were shut by general strikes and threats from the Maoist rebels. Private schools were closed by strikes organized by students demanding lower tuition. The Maoist rebels set up their own governments and schools in some localities. As of 2002, the Maoist rebels had set up “people’s governments” in 22 of Nepal’s 75 districts. In areas they controlled, the rebels ran schools and set up courts. They collected taxes and appointed their own self-declared chiefs.

Maoists introduced their own curriculum to their schools. Students were forced to observe a moment of silence rather than singing. In some places the Maoists came to the schools at least once a month and took away students for days for indoctrination sessions. The teachers in these areas were still paid by the Nepalese government. The teachers were asked to pay the rebels 5 percent of their pay as a tax to the rebels. During “emergency fund-raising” drives the rebeks asked the teachers to fork over an entire month’s pay. Teacher were often threatened or intimidated by the rebels. Some were killed. Many quit and fled. As a result many rural schools closed.

The Maoist rebels were accused off using child soldiers and abducting children to fill their ranks. In some cases children were kidnaped at school and forced to attend three-day-long “democratic people’s education” camps. Some joined the rebels voluntarily after being promised enough to eat. A representative of the National Coalition for Children in a Zone of Peace told AP, “It is distressing to hear repeatedly of more and more children being shot and blown up by bombs and explosives, being taken by force from their homes and schools. Many families sent their children away to places beyond the reach of the rebels so they would not be taken by the rebels.

The Maoist rebels seem particularly keen on attacking schools that offered a “bourgeois education.” A guard at an English-language school in an upscale neighborhood in Kathmandu told the Asahi Shimbun “They put a gun to my head and forced themselves in” and then blew up the school libraries and a set fire to a classroom filled with computers.” The next day they bombed the administrative offices at Tribhuvan University, Nepal’s top university. Afterwards 4,700 schools in the Kathmandu area were closed as a precautionary measure.

The Maoist rebels called “bandhs” (general strikes), forcing schools and businesses to close, shutting down domestic flights, and keeping vehicles off the roads. To enforce their blockades they burned vehicles and planted mines. Pro-Maoist student groups organized strikes that shut down schools, demanding that private education be abolished and all private schools be nationalized.

Teachers' Strikes Shut Schools Across Nepal

In 2019, Gulf Times reported: “Temporary teachers in Nepal shut down schools across the country, demanding that their contracts be made permanent, with protests affecting around six million students. An organization representing 40,000 temporary teachers began a series of strikes on Sunday. On Monday, protesting teachers clashed with police in Kathmandu, which left several teachers injured, according to local media. [Source: Gulf Times, March 5 2019]

“The demonstrators are protesting an education bill that proposes only 20 percent of temporary teachers at government- and community-run schools will be made permanent. Previously, the government filled 70 per cent of vacant teaching positions with temporary teachers, who were given permanent contracts, and positions were filled based on internal competition, said Khem Raj Adhikari, a leader of the protesters.

“But the new bill proposes making just 20 per cent of the positions permanent, leaving the rest to be filled by temporary teachers, he explained.Ministry of Education spokesman Bishnu Prasad Mishra said his office had urged protesters to end their demonstration and hold talks with the government. ‘It will take some time before the bill is passed by parliament. We have assured them we will address their grievances,’ he said. The temporary teachers were hired by schools across the country after permanent positions went vacant over the years, according to the spokesman.

School Life in Nepal

The academic year typically starts in Srawan (July-August) when the government's financial year starts. The Nepali calendar year is based on Bikrami Samwat (BS), which is different from the English calendar. For example the year 2001 was 2057 BS until March 2001 and then changed to 2058 BS in mid March. There is some pressure to start the school year in Baisakh (April-May) to allow the tenth grade students to have one complete year before their SLC examinations.

The schools, particularly in remote rural areas, are often in very poor condition. They are crowded and the books and writing ,materials are in short supply. It is not uncommon for 40 to 50 kids of a wide range of ages to be crammed into a single classroom, Often times there is no school or the school is in such poor condition that classes are held outside.

The school are often located on ridge tops or hills. Often children have to walk an hour or more to reach. School often begin around 10: 00am and finishes in the mid afternoon. Children are expect to do their chores before and after school.

Teachers are poorly paid and the emphasis is on rote learning. Free lunches are offered as a way to attract children, especially girls, to schools. A shortage of girls' restrooms can sometimes force female students having their periods to walk more than a kilometers to find a secluded spot. There has been an emphasis on school construction and improving existing facilities. "I have 180 in my classroom," one student told the Los Angeles Times. "It can be quite difficult to hear the teacher." [Source: Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2011]

Nepali is the main language of education, administration and commerce. It also serves as a lingua franca and a second language for the Nepalese that speak other languages as their first language. For many Nepalese, Nepali is a secondary language after the language of ethnic group or region. This puts groups that don’t speak Nepali as their first language at a disadvantage in education and civil service positions. Language can be a divisive issues in Nepal. Modern English education began in the 1850s. There is little or no consensus among teachers and practitioners on whether to follow British, American or Indian variants of English, or allow the development of a Nepal-specific variety of English. Colloquially Nepalese English is known as Nenglish (a term first recorded in 1999), or, less commonly, as Nepanglish (2000) or Neplish (2002). [Source: Wikipedia]

Primary and Pre-Primary Education in Nepal

Manoj Sharma wrote in the “World Education Encyclopedia”: Until 1992, there was no official preprimary level of schooling and the very few private nursery schools that existed were mainly in the urban areas. Under the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1992-1997), Ministry of Education introduced a total of 781 Shishu Kakshyas (nurseries) in 40 districts. The Ninth Five-Year Plan has a lofty goal to increase the number of Shishu Kakshyas to 10,000 by the end of 2002. [Source: Manoj Sharma, “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

“Primary education typically starts in the first grade with the minimum age of entry being six years. Completion of primary level ordinarily requires five years of schooling. However, entry at minimum age and five of years of schooling are not mandatory requirements to complete primary school. Children who could not attend primary school at the age of six years can enter into the third grade through completion of a nine-month course of a nonformal primary education program, popularly known as Shiksha Sadan or OSP (out-of-school program). The Nepalese government has formulated this plan under the "Basic and Primary Education Project" (BPEP) and given it the top priority in its Education Policy as a means to reach girls and other disadvantaged children.

“In 1996, there were a total of 21,473 primary schools with an enrollment of over 3 million primary students and 82,645 primary school teachers. In 2000, the enrollment in grade one was almost universal for boys, but only 84 percent girls were enrolled. The enrollment starts to decline in later years of primary school, many repeat each grade, and the completion rates of primary school remain dismal. Almost 63 percent of the students enrolled in first grade drop out during primary education. Only about 37 percent complete their primary education between the ages of 5 and 13 years. Only 10 percent of children who are enrolled in first grade are expected to complete primary school without repeating any grade. The reasons for high dropout and repetition rates include the workload of household chores, particularly on girls; irregularity of school functioning; poverty; physical distance; low perceived relevance of education to daily work and social lives; caste and ethnic discrimination; neglect of mother tongue for many communities; and under-aged children, particularly in the first grade.”

Secondary Education in Nepal

Manoj Sharma wrote in the “World Education Encyclopedia”: “The second official level of education is the lower secondary level that typically begins at age 10 in the sixth grade and lasts through the eighth grade. Earlier, between 1951 and 1971, this was known as the middle level and consisted of sixth and seventh grades. The National Education Commission in 1992 defined the objective of the lower secondary level as "preparing morally and ethically upright citizens possessed of an appropriate level of knowledge in subject matters such as Nepali language, mathematics, and science." In 1996, the total number of lower secondary schools in Nepal was 5,041 with 726,300 students and 16,821 teachers. In 1996, only 26 percent of all children aged 11-13 were enrolled at the lower secondary level with the enrollment of girls being a little less than 19 percent. In 1996, the promotion rates at this level were fairly good with over three-fourths being promoted to next level each year. Repetition rates were below 20 percent at all the three grade levels and dropout rates were below 12 percent. [Source: Manoj Sharma, “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

“Until 1992, the secondary level, comprised of the grades 9 and 10, was the final level of schooling in Nepal. The secondary school enrollment in 1996 was 290,143 with 2,654 schools and 14,585 teachers. At the end of grade 10, a national level SLC examination is conducted by the Higher Secondary Education Board (HSEB) based at Sano Thimi. The net enrollment rate in secondary school in 1996 was a little over 17 percent. This implied that among all 14- and 15-year-old children only about one-sixth enjoyed the privilege of education.

“Since 1992, Nepal has started the higher secondary school education system consisting of the grades eleventh and twelfth. The Higher Secondary Education Board (HSEB) conducts the national examinations. The higher secondary level is available in specialized areas such as science, management, humanities, and education. The system is based on the system prevalent in India and is popularly known as the ten-plus-two system. In 2000, there were 657 higher secondary education institutions, a large number of which were based in relatively affluent urban areas and were managed by the private sector. The National Education Commission (NEC) had recommended the opening of such institutions in remote and rural areas and focusing on five areas of general, professional, technical, polytechnic, and Sanskrit education. However, these recommendations remained largely elusive as late as 2001. In 2000, there were 42,000 students enrolled at the plus-two level.

“In the 1950s, vocational training was introduced in the lower secondary classes, and it was described as prevocational education. At the secondary level, almost 25 percent of the curriculum consisted of vocational training. In addition, a vocational branch was also introduced to facilitate secondary school graduates to directly enter into the job market after SLC. The vocational subjects included agriculture, agronomy, horticulture, poultry, animal husbandry, dairy science, fishery, industrial electrical installation, furniture and metal work, building construction, and bamboo work. In the early 1980s, vocational education in secondary schools began to be curtailed and secondary schools were no longer viewed as terminal institutions for vocational training. In 2000, vocational instruction through secondary schools was treated as one subject with a weight of about 14 percent and minimal emphasis on skill acquisition.

“Since the 1980s, the government has established technical schools in different regions of the country. Initially there were seven such technical schools, six in the public sector and one in the private sector. The courses offered at these schools were at the lower secondary (those who have completed grade one through five and are above 15 years of age) and secondary levels (those who have completed seventh grade and are over 15 years of age). The courses offered were for three years duration, followed by one year of on-the-job training. The six public sector schools were: a mechanical training center at Kathmandu that focused on general mechanics, electrician, and sanitary fitting; a technical school at Jumia that focused on building construction, health, and agriculture; and a uttarpani technical school at Dhankuta that focused on agriculture. There was also a technical school at Jiri that focused on agriculture, building construction, and health; a technical school at Lahan that focused on agriculture and building construction; and a technical school at Sano Thimi that focused on motor mechanics, general mechanics, general fitting, agriculture, cutting, and tailoring.

“Since 1990s, the technical education at the secondary level became the responsibility of the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT). International assistance further strengthened the infrastructure in nine technical schools and a tenth grade SLC diploma was required to enroll in these schools. In 1998, stipends were being paid at seven of these schools that ranged between NR 300 and 475 per month. In addition, the CTEVT also has trade schools and 118 private technical training institutes. The trade schools offer courses of as short as one year, and as long as two and a half years. The trade and affiliated technical schools also conduct skill-oriented short-term training courses and these last between two and eight weeks. Besides the Ministry of Education and NGOs, other ministries such as labor, women and social welfare, industries, tourism, communications, and water resources also provide vocational training in related sectors.

Types of Schools in Nepal

In Nepal there are both public and private schools. Education in private schools is expensive and typically affordable only by the elite. Most private schools have English as the language of instruction, and many also utilize computers in the curricula. In 1995, there were 3,077 private primary schools, 2,417 private lower secondary schools, 1,370 private secondary schools, 332 private higher secondary schools, and 132 private tertiary schools. At the lower secondary and secondary levels the numbers were proportional to the public schools.

Traditional schools (pathshalas) provide a classical education emphasizing languages, particularly sanskrit. Tibetan Buddhist gompas (monasteries) in Himalayan region have traditionally provided education for Tibetan-related people, usually boys who were monks and studied to Tibetan Buddhist religious leaders. English schools are modeled after those in India. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

Many Nepalese students attend private schools in the belief that public education does not provide adequate education. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 14.7 percent of primary school enrollment and 27.8 percent of secondary enrollment. The rate is higher now. In the early 2000s, there were around 8.500 private schools with 1.5 million students in Nepal. Families paid about $5 to $19 per month for tuition, which was a lot for some low-income families.

The education system has been so privatized that a huge learning gap has opened up those that can afford private schools and those that can’t. The facilities at private schools are noticeably better. Many families try to live in Kathmandu where they have access to the best schools. Children at these school dress in crisp, clean uniforms and study in English and Nepali.

There is huge discrepancy between private and public schooling a major social injustice. Uttam Sanjel, the founder of Bamboo School’s for the poor told AFP. “There are two kinds of schooling. The public school students do not know how to speak in English even when they leave school. The private school students can send emails to their parents from grade two.This is not how it should be. It is wrong because it will create two kinds of citizen.”

Elite Schools in Nepal

Budhanilkantha is a boys boarding school in Nepal traditionally funded by the British government. It has been attended by many members of the royal family and the Rana clan. Even so it is known for its tough, discipline-oriented and Spartan conditions. Students have numbers and sleep in a dormitory.

Kathmandu has a British school, a French school, a Norwegian school and the Mount Genius English School. The Lincoln School, a private coeducational day school founded by USAID in 1954, provides an educational program from kindergarten through grade 12 for students of all nationalities. Enrollment averages 250 students and usually represents more than 30 nationalities. Approximately a third of the students are American and up to a quarter Nepali or Tibetan. [Source: “Cities of the World”, The Gale Group Inc., 2002]

According to “Cities of the World”: “The school is administered by an American-recruited and-trained principal who directs 30 full-and part-time teachers, 20 Nepalese teaching assistants, and several native language teachers. Facilities include 21 classrooms, an auditorium, gymnasium, library/instructional center, computer center, music room, outdoor reading areas, and a 2½ acre athletic field.

“The Lincoln School curriculum is based on the U.S. public school system of education but more recently encompasses an internationalized curriculum to reflect the needs of the diverse student body. Instruction is in English. Kindergarten is a comprehensive school preparation program. Grades 6 to 8 are departmentalized, with students moving from one subject teacher to the next for languages, mathematics, social studies, science, and computers. A variety of extracurricular activities also are offered, either by teacher specialists or regular staff. The high school students follow a similar program but are even more mobile according to their broader curriculum needs. Nepal studies, including language and culture, is offered, and the trek program takes students in grades 5 to 12 into mountain villages for up to 14 days in the fall or spring. Students in all grades bring their lunch from home, as the school does not have a kitchen.

Poor Quality Nepalese Public Schools and Their Poor Students

Rupak D Sharma of Asia News Network wrote: “At the library of Sishu Shishu Kalyan Primary School in Bharatpokhari, around 10km from scenic western city of Pokhara in Nepal, a drawing hanging on the wall shows a cigarette and a cross on top of it. The title of the sketch warns: “Don’t Smoking”. This gives a hint of the quality of English that the primary school is offering. Ironically, the state-owned Shishu Kalyan has recently changed its language of instruction from Nepali to English to compete with private schools in the locality, which were attracting more students due to their English medium courses. The initiative taken by this school — where most of the government-run institutions fail to adapt to change as long as they get state subsidy — is praiseworthy. But what kind of products will it generate is a big question. [Source: Rupak D Sharma, Asia News Network, February 2008]

“This low quality of education is feared to take a toll on the children of poor families. As is known, most of the students attending public schools belong to economically disadvantaged families. These families do not even earn US$1 a day and thus cannot afford expensive private school education. Low quality education in this segment means imparting knowledge and skills that will not get recognition in the market. In today’s knowledgebased society, where people can also generate self-employment through the education, low quality education will ultimately force them and their families to stay in the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

“Another important feature of the students belonging to economically disadvantaged families is that they are first generation learners whose parents have never attended school and do not know the true value of education. If these first generation learners do not see tangible benefits of formal education, they, like their parents, will not consider going to school a worthwhile mission. This may increase their chances of dropping out of school, Rakha Rashid, education specialist of United Nations Children’s Education Fund (Unicef) tells AsiaNews on the sidelines of United Nations Girls Education Initiative (Ungei) Global Advisory Committee meeting held recently in Kathmandu, Nepal.

“So who should be blamed for this situation?. A study conducted among 400,000 students in 3,000 schools worldwide concluded that “while school quality is an important determinant of student achievement, the most important predictor is teacher quality”. In Nepal, schools located in difficult terrain and schools attended by linguistic minority groups suffer from lack of trained teachers. But in some cases it is also apathy of teachers. In countries like Nepal, public school teachers usually draw more salary than private school teachers and are at times better trained than private school teachers. However, their performance seems to be lagging behind mainly due to their focus on their private businesses rather than on school work.

Bamboo Schools for Nepal`s Poor

AFP reported from Kawasoti, about 200 kilometers west of Kathmandu: When Uttam Sanjel began giving reading classes to street children in the Nepalese capital in the 1990s, he had little idea what his small teaching scheme would one day turn into. This month, the 35-year-old Kathmandu native who was once an aspiring Bollywood actor, opened his tenth school in Nepal and revealed ambitious plans to provide affordable education for all children in the Himalayan nation. [Source: AFP, August 27, 2009]

Between 2001 and 2009, Sanjel “built up a nationwide network of schools that offer an education for just 100 rupees (1.40 dollars) a month in one of the world's poorest countries. They are built using only the cheapest materials — earning them the nickname “bamboo schools” — with funds donated by local businesspeople and charitable organisations. “I want every child to benefit from my schools,” Sanjel told AFP after hosting a colourful opening ceremony for his latest addition in this village in western Nepal. “No child should be left out of school because the family can't afford to pay for education. “When the current political turmoil is over in Nepal, we will need educated people to build this country.”

“When Sanjel built his first school in 2001, Nepal was in the grip of a 10-year civil war between Maoist rebels and the army in which at least 13,000 people died. The conflict ended in 2006, but political stability remains elusive and more than half the population still lives beneath the poverty line. Nonetheless, education is highly prized and many families scrimp to send children to fee-paying schools that offer classes in English rather than to the Nepali-language government schools.But a private education remains out of the reach of many in the Himalayan nation, where the average annual income is just 470 dollars.

“Sanjel said he wanted to offer a better alternative to the free government schools in Nepal. Bus driver Dol Raj Subedi is sending his eldest son to Sanjel's new school, and says he wishes he could have had the same opportunity as a child. “Driving is hard work. I am not very well and my back hurts a lot,” said the 37-year-old, who earns 150 rupees a day. “If I was educated, if my parents had sent me to school, I think it would have been different. “All I care about is good education for my children. This new system of education in my village has helped me to get that.”

Sanjel has won awards in Nepal for his work in the education sector, but he admits he did not excel at school, and says he never considered teaching as a career option. He spent seven years in Mumbai trying to realise his dream of becoming a Bollywood star before returning to Kathmandu where, finding himself at a loose end, he began teaching classes for street children. “I thought only a couple would show up. But around 100 children took part and started learning enthusiastically. I was overwhelmed,” Sanjel told AFP.

The experience inspired him to start the first of his network of schools — called Samata, or Equality Schools, on the outskirts of Kathmandu with just 100 students. Now, that school alone educates 3,500 pupils and in all, Sanjel has 18,000 children in his care. “There were hardships along the way,” he told AFP. “At one point I hid inside a toilet cubicle for two hours because I did not have money to pay the construction contractors. “I was not able to pay the teachers' salaries for three whole months and it was always difficult to pull together enough money to pay the staff. But if you are persistent, you will succeed.”

The Bamboo Schools were still going strong in the mid 2000s. In 2014, Samata was the largest chain of private schools in Nepal with 38,000 students, 75 per cent of them girls, in 19 districts across the country. The branch In Kathmandu offered undergraduate and postgraduate courses. At that time 1,500 students had graduated from Samata with the School Leaving Certificate and enrolled in higher education, with some becoming doctors, nurses, chartered accountants and journalists. Because the tuition is so low the institution struggles financially. It often has a hard time paying its staff on time each month and a large proportion of its shoe-string budget goes towards renewing the annual land leases. Donations keep the school going but they are not always sufficient. Sanjel he has to take out bank loans to keep the schools running.

Nepal Makes Yoga Mandatory for Schoolchildren

In 2020, Nepal made weekly yoga classes mandatory for schoolchildren — the first country in the world to do so. The government said it was part of an effort to promote health and exercise. Some Muslims and Buddhists felt is was part of an effort to promote Hinduism. Reporting from Kathmandu, Rajneesh Bhandari and Kai Schultz wrote in the New York Times: “A group of Nepali teenagers sat cross-legged at Bagmati Boarding School — palms up, eyes closed, sinking into the floor with each breath. An instructor began walking the students through meditation and vigorous physical exercises, culminating in a series of head and shoulder stands. “Yoga has really helped me care for myself,” said Abhiyan Bhatta, 15, who said he struggled with knee problems for years before enrolling in yoga lessons at the school in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital. “I have healed my pain.” [Source: Rajneesh Bhandari and Kai Schultz, New York Times, March 16, 2020]

“Hundreds of thousands of elementary and junior high students will enroll in a new, weekly yoga course. Along with math, science, the Nepali language and English, the revised curriculum will teach students about the history of yogic thought, along with lessons on Ayurveda and naturopathy, a kind of alternative medicine that promotes self-healing. “Yoga is our ancient science,” Giriraj Mani Pokhrel, Nepal’s education minister, said in an interview. “We want students to learn it, and we think this is the right time.”

“School yoga programs have caught on around the world. In the United States, hundreds of public schools allot time for students to practice deep-breathing techniques and stress reduction exercises. In India, Nepal’s neighbor and a birthplace of yoga, some colleges and government schools already require students to take such courses, though it is not a national policy.

“But the new yoga requirement in Nepal has invited criticism in a region where the exercises are seen as inscribed with religious and ideological meaning, and increasingly intertwined with the rise of Hindu nationalism. Muslim groups have resisted chanting “Om,” a sacred sound in Hinduism, or performing the sun salutation, which they argue violates the monotheistic nature of Islam.

“In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has pushed a Hindu-first agenda, sun salutations and Sanskrit chants. The far right has yet to find the same foothold in Nepal, a secular democracy with a large Hindu majority...Nepal’s Muslim activists said they would protest the mandatory yoga course if students were required to do the sun salutation, a sequence of 12 poses dedicated to the Hindu god Surya, which government officials said was part of the new curriculum. And school administrators said they were still trying to figure out how the course would work in practice.

“The country is short on qualified yoga instructors, they said, and the government did not consult teachers before announcing the new class, which will replace physical activities and games like “hide the handkerchief.” “Making anything mandatory that relates to one particular religion is against the spirit of the Constitution,” said Nazrul Hussein, a former president of the Nepal Muslim Federation. “We cannot do the sun salutation and they should not link religion with health.”

“Nepali officials pointed that the government that changed the curriculum is led by the Nepal Communist Party, not by hard-line Hindus. They noted that only students in grades four through eight would be required to take the yoga class, and they said its focus was on promoting an active lifestyle. Older students can take the course as an elective. Ganesh Bhattarai, the director of Nepal’s Curriculum Development Center, the government body that designed the class, said it was not meant to favor any particular religion. Chanting “Om” is not part of the course, and students can skip the sun salutation if they feel uncomfortable, he said. “This course is for mass education,” he said. “Content against any religion is edited out.” Some students said they were ready for the new addition to their school day. As the yoga lesson ended at Bagmati Boarding School, the 30 or so students adjusted their uniforms, scribbled in notebooks and laced up their shoes. “I am so excited for this class,” said Shristi Tamang, a 14-year-old student. “Yoga is the art of living.”

Free Lunches Attract Students in Rural Nepal

In the district of Dailekh in rural Nepal, parents often struggle to send their children, particularly their daughters, to school. Now nutritious lunches, provided by the Government and supported by the World Food Programme (WFP) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), are providing an incentive for local girls to get an education. The WPA reported: “Seven-year-old Smriti walks an hour to get to school every day. For her and her friends who make the long journey from a small village in midwestern Nepal. [Source: by Sikha Thapa World Food Programme, September 6, 2016

“Poverty and food insecurity are widespread in Smriti’s district of Dailekh, as a result of high food prices and a series of natural disasters. Vulnerable families are forced to skip meals or sell their assets in order to buy food. The literacy rate, at 52 percent, is far below the overall national rate of 81 percent. Very often, parents struggle to feed their children or send them to school.

“School lunches give children the energy to get the most out of school. The National School Meals Programme, run by the Nepalese government with support of the USDA and WFP, helps struggling families by providing haluwa, a nutritious Nepalese dish made of fortified cereal, to over 190,000 school children across the country each day. The programme includes a focus on girls since many, even when they do attend school, struggle to combine their studies with the burden of household responsibilities. Educating children, particularly girls, provides a major step towards ensuring inclusive development, reducing poverty and discrimination, and improving food security.

Poor Children at One of Kathmandu’s Best Schools

Frankie Taggart of AFP wrote: “The gates of one of Nepal’s top private schools swing open and 20 children who hope to be the doctors, lawyers and scientists of tomorrow spill out into a smart Kathmandu suburb. But while their classmates come from the country’s wealthiest elite, these children were rescued seven years ago, dirty and sick, from a cowshed on the edge of the capital. “I want to be a pilot when I leave school. I’d like to study science at university, maybe in France,” says Rita Bhandari, 14, who is in the top two percent of her year group at the prestigious Gyanodaya Bal Batika School. [Source: Frankie Taggart, AFP, April 19, 2012]

Like her 19 friends, Rita was handed to traffickers in impoverished western Nepal by her family in the hope of giving her a life away from the brutal civil war then sweeping through the countryside. The children’s journey from the remote district of Humla saw them end up on the unforgiving streets of Kathmandu, where children are sold as sex slaves or forced into back-breaking labour in brick factories and mills.

“Their salvation came when they were discovered by Irish businessman Gene Lane-Spollen and his wife, Maura, who were visiting Nepal and heard about a group of children living in a cattle shed. “It was a cold March day and there was no sign of the children because it was dark,” said retired Coca-Cola executive, Gene, 64, who is based with his wife in France. “We went upstairs on a ladder and there was no light, no windows upstairs at all. When your eyes got used to the dark you could see something and then we realised the barn was full of kids. “There was one big string across the room with all the clothes chucked over it and there was nothing else — not even any straw on the floor.”

“Gene and Maura took all 20 children — who were then aged between three and nine — and set up a charity to house and educate them, enrolling the group in a local school to teach them to read and speak English and Nepali rather than their tribal language. “Over the course of the next couple of years we found the children were developing a real sense of ambition or competitiveness among themselves, even though they lived as a big family,” Gene said. The couple return frequently to monitor the pupils’ progress after appointing carers to instill a regime of study and discipline that has seen the youngsters catching and then even overtaking their more affluent classmates.

“Rita’s success is all the more remarkable given her start in life, losing her father in the 1996-2006 Maoist civil war and having to leave her mother and younger brother and sister behind when she was sent to Kathmandu. “Gene is like our godfather,” she told AFP. “He changed my life.” Most of the students have never been back to Humla and they get to ring home just once every other month, but many talk about returning one day. “I will go back to my village and I will try to develop it. I want to help other people by establishing a school,” said Basanta Budhathoki, 15. Chand Rai, who runs the home with his wife Menuka, says he feels “blessed” to be the group’s surrogate father. “My family is here. It’s not work, it’s living here with them,” he said.

Rai said the children were not treated differently by their more affluent classmates at school as they have earned respect by being good at sport and lessons. But he admitted problems occasionally arise when they see their richer friends enjoying cinema trips and other privileges. The children rise at 6: 00 am for prayers before their chores, and study for an hour before school. They are allowed an hour to unwind after classes but then it’s back to the books. “If there is an exam the senior boys will study until 10: 00pm or 11: 00pm,” said Rai. It is the strict routine which sets the home apart from other care centers in Kathmandu, where children are left to their own devices and often end up back on the streets. But it is not cheap: accommodation and schooling costs for the group costs around 2.8 million rupees ($35,000) a year, with Gene and Maura covering most of the expense and donors making up the rest. “If they have good food, good medicine, good management and a good school, there’s nothing to stop them,” said Gene. “They can be whatever they want.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Nepal Tourism Board (, Nepal Government National Portal (, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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