Nepal is a country of great natural resources and beauty, one that is literally and metaphorically dominated by the influence and culture of the great mountain range, the Himalayas that are located in its midst. Mount Everest, which stands 29,025 feet tall, soars above the terrain and influences all life in Nepal and has shaped the county’s character and culture. As the culture of the great mountain Chomolungma dominates the Nepalese people, the other traditional mountain of influence in the country has been from its key ally and neighbor India.
The landlocked country of Nepal, approximately the size and shape of Tennessee, is bordered by Tibet to the North and is surrounded by India on its other borders. The Himalayan mountain range encompasses approximately one third of the country and includes eight of the world’s highest peaks. The population of Nepal is approximately 26 million with more than half of the population living below the poverty line. It is a country that is multi-ethnic and with diverse dialects spoken across the primarily rural terrain. Agriculture and tourism are the primary economic mainstays for the citizens of Nepal. Eighty percent of the Nepalese people follow the Hindu religion making it the most Hinduic nation in the world. After many centuries of rule by absolute monarchs, including the reign of the powerful and pro-British Rana dynasty from the mid 19th century until 1953, in 1990, Nepal became a constitutional monarchy.
Although much progress has been made in the educational system in Nepal over the past 30 years, many challenges still remain. Despite recent efforts the educational system of Nepal remains largely urban biased. With roughly 84 of every 100 children in Nepal living in remote villages with minimal infrastructure and limited government funding, the primary challenge facing the Nepalese people is the ability to meet the educational needs of the population outside of the capital city of Kathmandu. With the annual influx of tourists, the official language of the Nepalese people, Nepali, has largely been replaced by English in the educational and the economic arenas. The lack of computer access and knowledge in most of the country is a major obstacle in the future educational and economic prospects of the Nepalese population. However, with the recent implementation of the 7th amendment of the Education Act, the government in Nepal has undertaken a restructuring and decentralization of the primary and secondary education system in an effort to channel funds, empower, and consolidate local school districts to increase the enrollment rate for both boys and girls.
The educational system in Nepal is based primarily on the Indian education system which is modeled after the British system of education. The Ministry of Education (MOE) oversees the planning and coordination of the educational system and funding is provided primarily by the government. Primary education is compulsory and begins at age 6 when a student enrolls in a Primary School which is 5 years in length (grades 1-5).
After completion of Primary School, a student on an academic track would enroll in secondary studies which include 3 cycles. Lower Secondary School is 3 years in length (grades 6-8) and upon completion a student would proceed to Upper Secondary school which is 2 years in length (grades 9 and 10). A national level School Leaving Certificate (SLC) Examination is conducted at the end of grade ten upon completion of Upper Secondary studies. Successful completion of Upper Secondary School and award of the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) would then lead to enrollment in Higher Secondary School (on the academic track) which is 2 years in length and leads to award of the Higher Secondary Certificate for students enrolled in a general Higher Secondary School. Higher Secondary School study is also offered at Tribhuvan University, the University of Kathmandu and at Mahendra Sanskrit University (Sanskrit stream). Completion results in award of the Proficiency Certificate (Tribhuvan University), the Intermediate Certificate (Kathmandu University) or the Uttar Madhyama Examinations Certificate (Mahendra Sanskrit University). Currently the government of Nepal is implementing a restructuring plan which includes a phasing out of the Proficiency Certificate in an effort to align all branches of higher secondary education and shift responsibility to the Higher Secondary Education Board.
Technical or Vocational education begins after completion of Primary education which concludes at the end of grade 5. Students may elect to enroll in a Basic Technical School for a 3 year program which concludes with the award of the Training Level Certificate. They can then enroll in a Middle Level Technical School for a 4 year program which results in the award of the Craftsman Certificate. Technical or vocational education is also offered upon completion of the Secondary Leaving Certificate at the end of grade 10. Students holding the SLC may enter a Higher Technical School for a 2 year training program which results in award of the Technical School Leaving Certificate. Those choosing to study electricity, plumbing or mechanics would complete 3 years of study which concludes with the award of the Technician Certificate.
Upon completion of Higher Secondary School study a student may elect to enroll in a university for further post-secondary study leading to a bachelor’s degree. There are five institutions of higher education that provide the majority of educational programs at the post-secondary level (Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu University, Mahendra Sanskrit University, Purbanchal University and B.P. Korala Institute of Health and Science). The University Grants Commission allocates the budget for institutions of higher education which is dispersed through the Ministry of Education (MOE) and each university is autonomous.
The bachelor’s degree may be 3-5.5 years in length depending on the field of study. The bachelor’s degree in most fields is a 4 year program of study with the bachelor’s degree in Sanskrit being 3 years in length and the medical and veterinary bachelor’s degree being 5.5 years in duration.
Second and Third Cycles
Completion of a bachelor’s degree may lead to further higher education and enrollment in the master’s degree program which is 2 years in length and requires one year of National Development Service. The Master of Philosophy is 1 year of study beyond the master’s degree and requires completion of coursework, examination and dissertation. One to two year Post-Graduate Diplomas are also offered after completion of the bachelor’s degree. A Doctor of Philosophy is offered after completion of the master’s degree and is a 3 year program of study.
After completion of the School Leaving Certificate (SLC), Higher Secondary Schools offer a 2 year Certificate of Education program for training primary school teachers. Bachelor’s degree programs in education are offered at the university level for training of secondary school teachers. Tribhuvan University offers a 2 year Master of Education program and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Education for the training of higher secondary teachers. Also, university level teachers must complete the Master of Education course.
There is no formal distance education in Nepal. Technical training programs are also provided by the various governmental agencies and ministries in fields such as telecommunications, aviation, surveying and tourism. These are non-formal studies that lead to vocational and employment based certification.