Formal education alone is not enough for social transformation. People are learning even informally. In this way, learning in an easy way on one’s own time is done by an institution of informal nature. One of them is the community learning center, which is now run with limited government grants and community support. The development and expansion of such informal educational institutions can be taken as a cornerstone for socio-economic transformation. Non-formal education has been promoting culture, customs, manners, development, and protection of human civilization since ancient times.
The sages and sages of the mythological period are not the product of any school but are the product of the teachings of religious organizations of an informal nature. The history of formal education is not as long as informal. From time immemorial, formal education has been the product of proficient scholars produced from non-formal education. Therefore, non-formal education is the mother of formal education. The curriculum of formal education, the structure of the educational institution, classroom operation time and age of study, etc., have narrowed the scope for acquiring knowledge and skills. While non-formal education is characterized by the need, desire, and demand of the time which can be achieved at any suitable time and place.
In today’s 21st century, science and technology are rapidly evolving and expanding. In some respects, the subject of formal education has become obsolete in order to bring prosperity by making maximum use of modern technology. There is no alternative to developing and expanding systematic and accessible non-formal education to live a successful life by constantly updating one’s existing knowledge and skills. The formal and informal two wheels of the chariot of education are complementary to each other.
Non-formal education has a relentless contribution to discouraging and reducing some of the distortions, inconsistencies, and damages are seen in formal education. Because the starting point of non-formal education is literacy, from which human beings acquire competence by modifying, refining, and empowering their abilities. As her income increases, her children will have the opportunity to get an education in a comfortable family environment. Their school attendance and achievement level are undoubtedly high. Therefore, to overshadow non-formal education in any sense is to push back the pace of development.
An average of 3 percent of children in the school-going age group still do not have access to schools, with daughters and the majority of the poor and backward castes. The Community Learning Center can be a starting point for bringing those children in the community into continuing education through schooling, with many examples of helping their parents become self-reliant by becoming employable through awareness-raising and income-generating skills through literacy programs. Naturally literate and educated parents take the lead in educating their children.
The main challenge of formal education is to motivate the children who have come to the school to get continuous education by keeping them. Community learning centers can be seen as a powerful alternative to address the negative trends in formal education, such as dropouts, absenteeism, and low pass percentage. Because reading classes can be conducted by arranging a library in the community learning center. On the one hand, it is seen that 66 percent of the students enrolled in the primary school have reached the lower secondary level and only 21 percent of the students have appeared in the secondary education examination.
Similarly, out of the 1.6 million students enrolled in the primary level, about 600,000 reach the secondary level, out of which about 500,000 pass the SEE examination and only about 400,000 pass. Thus, it is a bitter truth that millions of children have dropped out of school without even passing the SEE. Thus, a community learning center can be a powerful alternative to making skilled manpower by providing continuous education and training to the manpower who are deprived of formal education for various reasons.
According to the 2068 census, Nepal’s literacy rate is 65.9 percent, of which males are 75.1 percent and females 57.4 percent. Nepal still has 34.1 percent illiterate population and 38 percent below the poverty line. In order to support the development of the community by providing literacy, continuing education, and functional education for these people, the Government of Nepal has set a target of establishing 205 community study centers at the rate of one in each constituency during the Tenth Five Year Plan (2059-2064). 66 community study centers were established.
So far, more than 2,151 community learning centers, including those opened at private and government levels, are in operation. The Eighth Amendment to the Education Act has removed the confusion of legal ambiguity that has been faced in the past by including community learning centers.
In order to manage and regulate community learning centers, the Non-Formal Education Center had in the past implemented the guideline 2062 on the operation and management of community learning centers. Community Learning Centers are being set up under the government’s program with financial support from the government. There is a provision that permission can be given if any school or association asks for permission without getting any financial grant from the government. According to the concept of opening community learning centers, the government has a policy of establishing one center in each VDC and one in each ward of the municipality.
It is a fact that the Community Learning Center (CLC) has an important role to play in achieving the goals set out in the National Education Policy (NSP), 2076. CLC has a key role to play in achieving the goal of developing a lifelong learning culture through informal, alternative, traditional and open education by making Nepal a fully literate country. NEP’s Strategy 9.4 states that formal, informal, alternative, and open systems will be adopted to ensure access to relevant and quality basic and secondary education for all.
Strategies 9.14 and 15 to make literacy non-formal education and lifelong learning linked to profession and business, social life, and participation, as well as mainstreaming traditional education and expanding access to alternative and open education to increase access to school education. Priority should be given to strengthening CLC’s management and role.
The management and maintenance of the Community Learning Center (CLC) was formerly the responsibility of the local body. Items 11.3.3 and 4 of the current Education Policy specify the responsibility to operate, monitor, evaluate and regulate the formulation of laws, plans, and programs on non-formal, alternative education, and lifelong learning, continuing learning, and community learning centers. CLC’s scope and responsibilities are wide. CLC needs to be developed and expanded as a common institution for conducting all programs related to non-formal education.
Although the local government has a major responsibility to make the Community Learning Center (CLC) resourceful, the role of the state and federal governments is equally needed. For a limited period of life, the permanent nature of formal education is used by educational institutions to acquire knowledge and skills, but the non-formal nature of CLC is useful for acquiring lifelong learning. Therefore, it is prudent for the government and stakeholders to focus on strengthening CLC, the only non-formal educational institution.
Author: Babukaji Karki