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The landlocked country of Nepal rests in the Himalayas and borders China, India, Bangladesh, and Bhutan. Nepal has a population of 22.4 million, 44 percent of whom are under the age of 15 years. As the country continues to grow at a rate of 2.4 percent per year, the percentage of youth under 15 in Nepal will most likely increase. With a gross national product of $220-$250 per capita and 35 - 45 percent of its population living below the poverty line, Nepal is classified as one of the world’s least developed and poorest countries. Problems for children and women are greater in the midwestern and far western regions and in the mountains, where poverty is most acute, services least accessible, and gender discrimination most manifest. These regions are also at the center of political turmoil and violence, which has exacerbated poverty and hampered the delivery of basic social services.

Despite this bleak statistical picture, Nepal is also one of the world’s greatest tourist sites for mountain climbing and hiking. Eight of the world’s ten highest peaks, including Mt. Everest, sit in Nepal and attract westerners on a regular basis. The United States established official relations with Nepal in 1947 and has kept friendly relations with the country since that time.

            The country of Nepal has only recently experienced democracy. For years, the country was under the rule of the Rana family, which feared an educated public. Before World War II, several new English middle and high schools were founded in some villages, and a girls’ high school was opened in the capital, Kathmandu. In the villages, public respect for education was increasing, largely as a result of the influence of returning Gurkha soldiers, many of whom had learned to read and write while serving in the British army. Some members of the high-caste families began sending their children to universities in Nepal or India, and it was some of these students who realized how oppressive the policies of Rana rule were; they initiated anti-Rana movements, which eventually led to the overthrow of the Rana in 1951.

            After the 1951 revolution, efforts were made to establish a national education system. Formal schooling in modern times was still constrained by the economy and culture. Children were generally needed to work in the field and at home, and educating females was viewed as unnecessary. In 1975, primary education was made free, and the government became responsible for providing school facilities, teachers, and educational materials. The curriculum in Nepal has been greatly influenced by United States models and was developed with assistance from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Primary schooling was compulsory; it began at age six and lasted for five years. 

            Despite these efforts to improve education for all, caste differentiation still influences access to education and especially to quality of education. Also, education remains largely urban-biased; the majority of education institutions are found in urban areas. Consequently, if families want their children to advance, they have to send them away to urban areas. Because sending children away is so expensive, this practice further increases the educational divide between the elite and others. As a result, 58% of Nepalis are illiterate, including 72% of women. That despite a remarkable growth in literacy rates and educational institutions in Nepal over the past ten years.

In addition, education has been hampered recently by the violent conflict between the Nepalese government and Maoist rebels who have been waging a campaign against the constitutional monarchy since 1996.  More than 10,000 people have died in the fighting, with many civilians caught in the crossfire. The increasing defense budget has left education a casualty.

            Today, the country continues to work diligently to urge its leaders to do more to provide education for all. During the 2004 World Bank Global Education Week, 20,000 letters were written by children from all over the country and sent to the Prime Minister. Also during this week, maps were prepared to show the number of children, by gender, who were missing education in Nepal. As this dedication to education continues to spread throughout the country, it is hoped that quality education for all children will continue to improve.


Primary Education:

The Ministry of Education (MOE) coordinates education activities throughout Nepal. The Ministry is responsible for educational planning and management as well as in improving service delivery systems across the country. According to the Department of Secondary Education (which includes the department for primary education), the aims of education in Nepal are to produce healthy citizens who are: familiar with the national tradition, culture, and social environment in daily life; aware of scientific issues; creative, cooperative, and industrious; and able to contribute to economic development. The National Education Goals are to: nurture and develop the personalities and inherent talents in each person; instill respect for human values, and the will to safeguard national and social beliefs so as to help develop a healthy social unity; help the individual to socialize, enhancing social unity; help the individual keep his or her identity in the national and international context and to help him or her lead a socially harmonious life in the modern world; assist the modernization of the country by creating individuals able to manpower for its development; teach the thoughtful protection and wise use of Nepal’s national resources; and to bring those who are underprivileged into the mainstream of the nation.


Detailed Review of the Education System in Nepal

Pre-higher education:

Academic Year: Classes from July to June

Structure of school system:

  • Primary
    • Type of school providing this education: Primary School
    • Length of Program: 5 years
    • Age Level: 6-11
  • Technical Elementary
    • Type of school providing this education: Technical School
    • Length of Program: 4 years
    • Age Level: 11-14
    • Certificate/Diploma awarded: Training Level Certificate
  • Lower Secondary
    • Type of school providing this education: Lower Secondary School (Grades 6-7)
    • Length of Program: 2 years
    • Age Level: 11-13
  • Technical Secondary
    • Type of school providing this education: Middle Level Technical School
    • Length of Program: 4 years
    • Age Level: 14-18
    • Certificate/Diploma awarded: Craftsman Certificate
  • Upper Secondary
    • Type of school providing this education: General Secondary School, Sanskrit Secondary School (Grades 8-10)
    • Length of Program: 3 years
    • Age Level: 13-16
    • Certificate/Diploma awarded: School Leaving Certificate, Uttar Madhyama Certificate Examination
  • Higher Secondary
    • Type of school providing this education: Higher Secondary School
    • Length of Program: 2 years
    • Age Level: 16-18
    • Certificate/Diploma awarded: Higher Secondary Certificate, Proficiency Certificate (in universities)
  • Technical
    • Type of school providing this education: Higher Technical School
    • Length of Program: 2 years
    • Age Level: 16-18
    • Certificate/Diploma awarded: Technical School Leaving Certificate, Technician Certificate (after 3 years)

School Education:

Primary education in Nepal lasts for five years (Grades 1-5). Secondary education then comprises three cycles: three years lower secondary (Grades 6-8), two years upper secondary (Grades 9-10), and two years of higher secondary education (Grades 11-12).  On completion of upper secondary school, students sit for the School Leaving Certificate (SLC). Sanskrit secondary level students sit for the Uttar Madhyama Certificate Examination. Higher secondary level education has four streams: Humanities, Science, Commerce, and Education. At the end of these studies, students sit for the Higher Secondary Certificate. The same level of education is also being provided by the Tribhuvan University (all four streams), Kathmandu University (science stream) and Mahendra Sanskrit University (a separate Sanskrit stream). Students enrolled in Tribhuvan University sit for the Proficiency Certificate, those enrolled in Kathmandu University sit for the intermediate examinations, and those enrolled in Mahendra Sanskrit University sit for the Uttar Madhyama examinations. Technical education may start after Grade 5 when pupils can study at Basic Technical Schools for three years to obtain a Training Level Certificate.

Higher secondary education has recently been introduced as an upward extension of secondary education and will be implemented in a phased manner. This will lead to the phasing out of the Proficiency Certificate level courses at university level, shifting the responsibility to the Higher Secondary Education Board. Tribhuvan University has already initiated the process of phasing out this level to higher secondary education.

 Teacher Education:

Higher secondary schools offer a two-year secondary program after the School Leaving Certificate leading to a Certificate of Education. This is the formal program for the training of primary school teachers. The Ministry of Education also organizes primary teacher training programs, and the Faculty of Education on behalf of the Ministry conducts some programs. There is also a radio education teacher-training program. The minimum qualification required for these programs is a School Leaving Certificate.

Lower Secondary teachers follow a two-year course after the School Leaving Certificate. Tribhuvan University offers a two year Bachelor’s degree program and a two year Master of Education and Postgraduate Diploma. The University of Kathmandu offers a three to four year Bachelor’s degree program in education Source: MOE.


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