Student’s retention at all the levels of higher education has been decreasing overwhelmingly in the last few years. The decline is posing question to the future of national development as most of these students, concerned authorities claim, are going abroad for employment.
When admissions for the new session for grade 11 begin in higher secondary schools across the nation, a lot of students enroll. But they deplete away in the second year. Dipak Subedi, a teacher at the Lalitpur based Prabhat Higher Secondary School for the past 13 years, claims that he has been observing the trend among his students for the past half decade.
“Students without respect to the financial background, either rich or poor, are are desperate to leave country,” Subedi said adding that these students either go abroad for education or in search of employment as migrant workers.
Elaborating on his personal observation of the student dropouts at the college, Subedi further add that most of the students remain absent after the Dashain-Tihar holidays. “Students utilize the vacation to get their passports and visas readied for going abroad. This trend is common equally in students from all financial classes.”
Subedi’s observation matches with the trend reflected in the Nepal Economic Survey. According to the survey, a total of 516,166 students were enrolled in grade 11 and 12 during the year 2013-14 but this number went down to 453,597 in 2014/15. The number of dropouts is even greater at the university level education. While 678,037 students were studying in various universities across the nation in 2013-14, this numbers dropped down to 480,891 a year later.
In terms of percentage, higher secondary school drop out percentage stands at 12 percent while the percentage at the university stands at 30 percent per year. Of the existing nine universities across the nation, the rate of drop out is higher at the Tribhuvan University (TU).
Most of the students who study at Tribhuvan University come from the middle class families, of which a majority earns for their education claims Subedi adding that “It is rather compulsion than a choice for middle-class students to join TU and other universities.” Along with TU, other universities with higher drop out rates are Mid-western University, Purbanchal, and the Nepal Sanskrit University.
Around 200,000 students dropped out of TU within a year. It was left only with 405,341 students in 2014-15 though the numbers stood at 604,437 in 2013-14. The drop outs were from its constituent as well as affiliated colleges.
Prof. Hira Bahadur Maharjan, whose four years term as TU’s VC came to an end just last week, pointed out youth’s flow to foreign countries for employment as well as education as the primary factor behind the huge drop out rate at TU. Apart from these, he pointed out the adoption of semester system by the university as the factor that brought down the enrollment rate at various levels, including in the universities Maser’s courses.
Former VC of TU Kedar Bhakta Mathema while expressing serious concerns over the growing number of drop outs claimed that TU needs to grow trust among the students. “Universities have lost their trust among students. Deeply rooted politicization in universities has seriously jeopardized their reputation as academic institution. The trend of making political appointments to key positions of the universities should be stopped,” Mathema suggested for improving the universities education standards.
VC appointment still in limbo
Appointment of VC to the seven universities has not been finalized. Minister for Education Chitra Lekha Yadav had formed a committee to recommend VCs for the seven universities. But even after one week of its formation, the committee has failed to come up the recommendations.
Coordinator of the committee Rameshwar Upadhay informed that a full-member sitting of the committee has not yet taken place for discussing the issue. The committee is assigned the with the responsibility of recommending name of the VCs to the Ministry of Education, which in turn will table the recommendations to the cabinet for approval. This is scheduled to complete by the end of next week.
Among the existing universities, the Nepal Economic Survey data reflected that this year the Kathmandu University, Far-Western University and the Agriculture and Forestry University have witnessed slight growth in student enrollment than previous years.