In the education history of Nepal, the Rana era (1846-1951) is almost always portrayed as an era in which citizens were denied access to (formal) education. The less than two percent literacy rate at the end of the Rana regime and the concomitant figures (related to schools/teachers/students) give credence to this line of argument. There is no denying that the Ranas in general barred their ‘subjects’ from having access to education, but this uni-linear narrative masks a number of experiments (e.g., Bhasha, Shresta and Basic education) that the Ranas conducted over the years in this sector. This paper charts the trajectory of the Basic Education System, introduced in 1947. The introduction of the Basic Education System was, I argue, a radical policy turnaround. With it, the Rana era education policy moved from keeping the masses ‘ignorant’ (by barring their access to education) to crafting the minds of the masses (by teaching them their ‘duties’).

The Ranas appropriated this Gandhian education system, I argue, to prolong their rule because they thought, among other things, it would smooth and strengthen their relationship with the new rulers of post independence India; show that they were not wary of, or against change. For the Ranas, this education system was also alluring because it was touted as ‘self-sustaining’. The Basic Education was however bound to fail for one, the philosophy of Basic Education and the idea of ‘control’ was an oxymoron; and two, there was ‘trust deficit’ as citizens were wary of all government initiatives. Eventually the Basic Education System was replaced by the ‘modern education’ after the political change of 1951.