Vol: 04 No. 04 July 16-2010 (Ashad-32,2067) INTERVIEW GOVINDA RAJ JOSHI is not only a Nepali Congress politician. Joshi claims he has spent 25 years in the field of education and is known for his tenure as a Minister for Education a decade ago. His decision is credited for opening up education to the private sector. Joshi, who has been the founder of three colleges and a number of schools, took the early decision to allow private medical colleges and private +2 schools while diverting government resources to public primary and high schools. Joshi spoke to KESHAB POUDEL on various issues regarding the education sector. Excerpts: You must be happy to see the flourishing of the private schools since you took a major decision to introduce the +2 education at a wider scale? When I held the portfolio of education minister, there was a traditional system in higher education. It was certificate oriented and there was no change in the curriculum for 28 years. I realized that it was impossible to make Nepali students competent by going through such a traditional education system. I started reform with an aim to provide quality to modern students. Are you proud of your decisions? Yes, of course. I am proud that the present growth of 10+2 and private medical schools is the result of the decision taken during my first tenure as the education minister between 1993 and 1995. Looking at all these issues, we introduced education policy to make Nepal self reliant. There was no academic environment at the college level. Education is an issue of universal interest. In the international level, there were 10+2 high schools, 3-year bachelor’s and 2-year master’s degrees. We introduced the +2 in education to make it match internationally. What was the purpose of introducing the new education? Our aim was to create a good environment for students from Nepal as well as aboard. For this, we would require good educational institutions. This was the reason we allowed private medical schools and higher secondary schools. There is some weakness in the management side now. The government also failed to play the appropriate role. Higher secondary schools can allow brighter poor students to go to schools. During my tenure, 16 percent of the national budget was spent on education. Our aim was clear -- the government should invest in primary level and higher education should go to private sector. We had to manipulate many schools in Kathmandu. Although TU has agreed to phase out proficiency certificate level from colleges for a long time, it is still running the classes. There is no utility of the students at the proficiency level except to bear the torch in the period of agitation. It does not have any future but the pressure is growing, How about medial colleges? During my tenure, I did not permit any medical college to open in Kathmandu valley. My objective was to allow private medical colleges to open outside the valley. All the medical colleges currently running in the valley were permitted during the period of other governments. Are you satisfied with the changes that were brought about by your decisions? Definitely, I am satisfied with the decisions I have taken. Students who learnt at private schools are definitely better in quality. Of course, the fees in the private schools are much higher than in the government schools. Children of poor parents cannot afford for private school education. It is just a problem related to the management. It is the duty of the government to create a proper atmosphere to give quality education to children of the poor. This is a weakness of the government. What dissatisfies you much about all this? Of course, we opened three universities during my tenure, including Kathmandu University, Purwanchal University and Pokhara University. But the recent trend to open more universities in the different parts of the region will ruin our whole education system. That is discouraging. What prompted you to take the decisions? I was very much worried about the politicization of education at the college level by various student organizations. Another concern was the erosion of quality of education. The third reason was to make Nepal’s higher secondary education compatible to the South Asian region as well as compatible to the world. After opening of +2 education in Nepal, the trend to send the children outside Nepal for higher secondary education came to an end. In the last few years, Nepal has produced a lot of students who are now competing with international students at different parts of the world. In the name of privatization, there is commercialization of 10+2 education. How do you look at it? Actually, +2 education is also a part of high school education. In early days, no private or government schools were ready to teach +2 courses. Few individuals showed interest to open +2. I had to coerce some schools and colleges to start the +2. My objective was clear. I wanted to open the higher education, including +2, to private sector and channel the ministry’s resources to primary and secondary education. Private sectors have invested a lot of resources. Along with quality of education, the infrastructures are also well built. Don’t you think the time has come to make +2 as a part of high school education in practice? With some ifs and buts, the Tribhuwan University will have to stop admission of the students at the proficiency certificate level. It is almost certain now that no one prefers Tribhuwan University’s proficiency certificate. Whether one likes it or not, +2 is a reality now. So far as integrating it with high school is concerned, the process has already started. Opponents of +2 education accuse persons like you for encouraging too much commercialization of education. What do you say? It is very unfortunate that those who are accusing us for commercializing the education are responsible for the worsening condition of government school system. Along with allowing private sector in education, I have also increased the numbers of teachers and government high schools. By allowing private sector in +2, I increased the government subsidy to government schools. Following my departure from the ministry, no single school is given permanent stature. There is weakness also and we need to change them. What is the reason behind your understanding that this kind of education is better? I wan to remind something to you. My involvement in the education sector goes more than 25 years. During that period I had performed various roles, including as the founder of high schools, colleges and a number of other schools. I also worked as the headmaster for more than five years in schools. All these experiences helped me to understand the loopholes and lapses in the education sector. Actually, I was inspired by B.P. Koirala’s vision when I met him in 1968 in his exile in India. B.P. suggested to me to go to village and work as a teacher. He strongly believed that without educating people it is impossible to transform society. Not only to me, B.P. Koirala recommended everyone to go to village and work in school if they really wanted to do a revolution. He thought that giving people education was more powerful than handing them guns. After my graduation in 1968 and meeting with B.P.Koirala, I returned to the village and started teaching at a local high school. What are your other experiences in education? I taught for 12 years in school and two years in college. I was the Minister for Education for five long years. I have almost spent 25 years in education. I can challenge anybody to discuss on the education sector. One needs to go deep inside the education sector to know about it. I am not claiming all but I can claim some expertise. I established high schools and colleges in my village and I taught at two colleges in Damauli. I have made personal contributions to change the education sector. I have never taught for the sake of job. I taught free of cost. I am the founder of three colleges. I don’t think you can find any politician to have such experiences. My entry to education is to transform the society and change politics. I have made a lot of success in education. Don’t you worry about the growing commercialization of education? Nobody needs to worry about the situation. What we need to do now is to make our regulatory system stronger.