Controversy Over Medium of Education in Nepal: Some Milestones

Toya Nath Bhattarai

Sanskrit, Newari and Nepali were used as the languages of education during the Licchavi, Malla and Shaha periods in Nepal’s history (Aryal, 1970).During the Rana rule when Raja Jaya Prithvi Bahadur Singh of Bajhang advocated for use of Nepali language in the schools he was opposed by the supporters of Sanskrit and English medium of education. When his own father-in-law Chandra Shamshere became Prime Minister he had to be at logger heads with him too because Chandra Shamshere did not approve his ideas. (Acharya, 2013, Gautam, 2004 pp.72-78). Ranas would get their children educated by pundits, priests and Bengali teachers while common people were deprived of education (Gautam, 2004 p. 67).

In the post-1950 period the “Nepal National Education Planning Commission” in 1956 recommended that Nepali be made the compulsory medium of instruction right from the primary level of education. However, it was considered an assimilation agenda (Whelpton,p. 184) and  a great controversy over language policy among political parties followed (Devkota, 1979). The government made Nepali the medium of instruction for all schools in 1955 (Shrestha, 1993).

With the implementation of the National Education System Plan (1971-1976), Nepal’s school education became fully monolingual until 1990 (NESP 1971 p.29). The 1990 constitution incorporated multilingual policy plus right of communities to impart education in mother tongue but there was no obligation placed on the government to fund such education (Whelpton, 2012 p.117).The Interim constitution 2007 and the 2015 constitution continued the policy until  new legislation (Parliament of Nepal, 2018)  made several provisions to implement the mother tongue education policy. And the Report of High Level Education Commission 2018 chaired by education minister has recommended ways means including the obligation of government to finance implementation of mother tongue education. Thus, Nepal has prepared over the past three decades the basic policy infrastructures to implement MTB-MLE in school education.

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