06/27/2008, 00.00
NEPAL
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Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu and Catholic schools to be integrated into Nepal’s education system

by Kalpit Parajuli
There are thousands of confessional schools where religion is at the heart of the curriculum. Nepal’s government is now ready to fund such schools but on the condition that they incorporate the state curriculum. Monsignor Sharma says the Church is set to create new Catholic schools.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Confessional schools will be recognised by the state and receive public funds but must in return adapt to a national curriculum. This change does not pose any problem to Catholic schools, which are among the best in the country, but not so for all confessional schools which must implement major changes.

“Small amounts of money have been released for the first five grades in elementary schools for a total of NPR 12,000 (US$ 175) for institutions with less than 100 pupils and NPR 24,000 for those with 100 to 200 pupils,” Jiwan Sharma Paudel, deputy director of the Department of Education (DoE), told AsiaNews.  And some schools are already implementing the government curriculum and making suggestions on ways to improve it.

The curricula in madrassas (Islamic schools), ashrams (Hindu retreats) and gumbas (Buddhist monasteries) are very much religion-oriented. In order to facilitate their incorporation into the school system, the government has accepted that grade 5 exams will incorporate confessional educational programmes but pupils will eventually be able to opt for grade 6 in any certified school.

According to official data, some 82,624 Muslim students are registered in 832 madrassas, especially in the southern part of the country along the border with India; 6,512 young Buddhists are educated in 236 monasteries and 1,382 Hindus attend 40 Gurukul Ashrams. DoE sources suggest however that the real number of madrassas tops 3,900 and that there are more than 1,500 gumbas.

This said, “Catholic schools are the leading mainstream school” to provide “standard education.” Most of their 7,000 or so students “are Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim,” Mgr Anthony Sharma, apostolic vicar to Nepal, told AsiaNews. And irrespective of religion boys or girls in Catholic schools are treated the same way.

With the end to the Hindu monarchy, Catholics want to set up new schools, first of all in Dhanghadi, in the far western corner of the country.

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