Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. An estimated 31% of the population is below the poverty line. Up to 65 percent of the population is illiterate. The government has taken steps to address the problem of illiteracy by introducing free education from grades 1 through 6 in formal public schools, as well as committing itself to giving free education up to the secondary level.
The level of education in these public schools is often very poor. An isolated, agrarian society until the mid-20th century, Nepal entered the modern era in 1951 without schools, hospitals, roads, telecommunications, electric power, industry, or a civil service. The country has, however, made progress toward sustainable economic growth since the 1950s and is committed to a program of economic liberalization. Nepalese children daily encounter the demoralizing effects of poverty combined with the social bombardment of globalization and tourism.
In Nepal, many children suffer from malnutrition and disease, which affects their health for the rest of their lives. Intervention in early childhood through education supports building the strong foundation these children need for later life and educates their parents on the emotional, nutritional, and educational needs of their children. Despite these initiatives, there still exist severe problems within the educational system in Nepal. A high percentage of the country’s 60 ethnic groups do not benefit from free education due to social prejudice and geographical restrictions.
Additionally, the education offered is based on curricula and methodologies that are outdated. Founded on a mixture of old Nepalese and Indian systems with a strong British colonial influence, they are often far removed from the people’s needs and cultural history. More importantly, there is no provision for early childhood education for children up to age 6.
In Nepal, not all children have the luxury of attending school. From primary school age, they are often considered old enough to work and to help support their family. Girls, not considered to be of intellectual value, are often entirely denied the benefits of an education.