A discussion among three of the well-known, hardworking and insightful panelists; Mr. Sishir Khanal, Founder of Teach For Nepal, Mr. Bijaya KC, Dean of Kathmandu University and Mr. Anoj Bhattarai, Director of the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT) was held on Monday, 29 June 2020. The discussion was moderated by Ms. Nishma Dhungana Choudhary, Marketing and Public Relations Manager at Himalayan TV.
The one-hour discussion revolved around the idea as to how online learning has helped people all over Nepal at times of crisis, the challenges we are facing due to this, what an institution and the Government can do to make it accessible to everyone, and bring uniformity in Nepal. Discussion among the experienced panelists certainly helped us learn a lot and gave an insight into the solutions to the prevalent problems.
Moderator of the discussion Ms. Nishma started the discussion with the questions for the speakers.
Moderator: Mr. Khanal being the founder of Teach for Nepal that aims at maximizing the accessibility of education to the students in the rural areas of Nepal was put forth a question concerning how online learning can help these students because of Teach for Nepal.
He explained that in rural areas, internet access experienced by students is not the same. It is tough not only in the places they work at but in almost all the rural areas of Nepal. He said that they may have access to Radio or Television, but Internet access is next to impossible given the kind of environment they are at and various issues such as transportation, financial and infrastructure have affected than in having Internet access. He further mentioned that only about 17% of Nepalese can access a home-based (WiFi) that too primarily in the urban area. Therefore, the initiative is in an arduous circumstance when it comes to providing online education in the rural area.
Moderator: How KU is taking an initiative to make the Internet available to all the students?
Mr. KC mentioned the faculty in KU has taken their classes online immediately after the lockdown was imposed and it has been quite comfortable to run these classes. The issue, however, was that they had to train the faculty initially and the instructiveness of in-person classes is not the same in an Online class. Students are not able to learn and interact with their friends and teachers the way they used to in a live classroom or even in the cafeteria is not the same anymore.
In regard to the response of students when it comes to Internet accessibility, Mr. KC had to say that approximately 10% to 15% of students are unable to access learning simply because they were not in the valley, but the majority can access, nevertheless.
According to the aforementioned answers from both the panelists, we can apprehend that only those not living in Kathmandu city are inadequate of Internet access to which Ms. Nishma beautifully pointed out and asked the panelists if the Internet was only for the rich/elite of the country. Furthermore, Mr. Khanal rightly explained that there is a huge disparity among the rich and the poor not only in terms of Internet access but in terms of education in general. He concluded with an example that students in private schools (who are more likely to be rich or middle-class) are more likely to graduate SEE than those in the public school in Nepal.
Ms. Nishma said that education should be uniform and asked about the role of the institute to make education uniformly available to everyone. Mr. Khanal answered to bring uniformity, the public education sector especially should be very strong academically. Otherwise, uniformity is next to impossible.
Mr. Bhattarai added that if a student really wants to study, then they never lack education. He further mentioned that there has been a huge expansion in uniformity as we see different educational programs being conducted by the government of Nepal that provides around 500 to 1000 Nepalese a Tibetan education targeting the minorities residing in Nepal with a full ride. This, however, may not make a huge impact and bring a total uniformity when it comes to education but is nevertheless a right approach to uniformity.
The final question raised in the discussion was, “What can the government do to bring uniformity in education?”
Mr. Karki urged the government should be very transparent regarding their plans and must not hide anything from the public. He further stated the huge step can be not commercializing the private sector and that is something the government should work towards to address the existing problems. Mr. Bhattarai clarified that inaugurating new schools by the government in rural areas is the main option to maximize the accessibility of Online Learning. Awarding people regarding the importance of education and being strict with their rules can expand uniformity in the education sector in Nepal.
All in all the panel discussion was indeed very informative and was able to focus on the core problems of accessibility of Online Learning Nepal and was able to draw out the solutions as well. It was indeed an intense yet powerful discussion.