Physics Education in Nepal
Choodamani Khanal and Simon George
Nepal is a landlocked and independent democratic country with constitutional monarchy, forming an important part of the Himalayan region of South-east Asia. The population of Nepal, as per 2001 census, is 23.2 million while it was18.5 million, as per the 1991 census. Around 80% of the total population resides in the rural areas.
Scientific and technological development in Nepal has moved at a slow pace and agriculture remains the most critical sector in the economy, contributing almost half of the nation’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and the national economy has been characterized by heavy dependence on agriculture. The growth rate of the agricultural sector is declining, and contribution of the non-agricultural sector towards the GDP is increasing. The real growth rate of the GDP has remained at almost 3-4% for the last few decades, putting it at par with the population growth rate. Since 1991,
Industrialization in Nepal started in the year 1936. The early years of Nepal’s industrial history were plagued with infrastructural problems and lack of any concrete policies on the part of HMG/N. As a result, many industries had to close down. The first governmental effort to give a boost to the industrialization process started in the year 1956, when the first industrial policy for the country was formulated..
The bulk of the population stays in rural areas and is engaged in agriculture and allied activities. There is a small upper class of society, residing mainly in Kathmandu and few other district headquarters, whose living standards are comparable to those of the Western economies. The rest of the population has very modest living standards.
Nepal is one of the Least Developed Country (LDC) having $240 per capita income. This clearly indicates current backwardness of scientific innovation and the further importance of proper scientific policy for the country’s development.
Primary and Secondary Education
Primary level is from kindergarten up to grade five; lower secondary level is up to grade eight; secondary level – grade nine and ten, and higher secondary level up to class twelve. The basics of English language used to be taught, beginning only from grade 4 in public schools. The Nepalese government, however, made a law to include teaching English as early as grade 1. But, this legislation has not been fully applied in most of the parts of Nepal. This process is underway, some districts have gone through this practice but others are yet to do so. Nepal has two types of schools: Public schools which are completely financed by His Majesty’s government and the Private Schools operating on independent resources.
The school curriculum is common with respect to Science in all Public and Private schools throughout the country. Graduate science teachers are employed to teach School Science. Prescribed Standard science textbooks are used in all the schools. 40% of Science contains Physics and 30% each for Chemistry and Biology each. Final School examinations are conducted by the central School Leaving Certificate (S.L.C.) Examination Board, HMG for both Public and Private Schools Students on the successful completion of school education. However, parents and students alike are attracted towards the Private Boarding schools rather than Public Schools. Parents evaluate the quality of school education in terms of S.L.C results and students behavior. They are aware of the fact that the private schools are always better than Public schools in terms of S.L.C results. The top ten positions in S.L.C examination are taken away by Private schools. Because of all these factors, parents make special efforts to get their children admitted in 'Prestigious' Private schools. Moreover, the S.LC examination is the gateway to Higher Education. Hence, parents who are aware of the importance of education prefer to send their children to Private schools rather than public schools, even though the same textbooks and curriculum is followed in teaching and the common S.L.C examination is conducted to categorize the students. The course of S.L.C and the question model were changed in the year 2000, the contents were ratified: 20 marks for listening/speaking section is held immediately after the examination (as a practical), and the rest of the 80 marks are from the theoretical course.
Secondary Education in Nepal has been characterized by rapid growth and continuous change. During the year 1951-1997, the number of Secondary Schools in the country increased from 11 to 3322, the number of teachers increased from 120 to 16494 and student enrollment increased from 1680 to 344034. However, provision of necessary physical facilities, instructional materials, and trained teachers could not keep pace with the growth of schools and of school enrollment in the country.
The rapid growth of Secondary Education in the country over the past decades has adversely affected the quality of performance, particularly in secondary school science. During the year 1987-1997, while student enrollment figures in Secondary School increased by over 100%, quality (measured by passing percentage in the S.L.C examination) remained low (the percentage of passing students never exceeded 50%). The high rate of failure (51-75%) shows the poor academic attainment or quality of Secondary Lever Education in Nepal.
The basic objective of secondary education is to develop scientific skills in the students and the ability to look for the scientific reasons behind the natural phenomena, taking place in their daily lives and also to lay in them a foundation for advanced courses in science. More students regard compulsory science as one of the more difficult S.L.C subject, which is also evidenced by the low passing percentage in S.L.C sciences. The average marks in science in the S.L.C Examination were not satisfactory, being well below the target 40%. This may be because the current curriculum identifies mainly factual knowledge, as a result of which, the majority of teachers adopt methods which emphasize written learning, encouraged by the nature of the existing S.L.C science examination. Informal discussion with some students reinforced by the recent CERID (Research Centre for Educational Innovation and Development) study revealed that many perceive school science only as a means for the intellectual to reach higher education. Only a very few teachers enjoy teaching science as an interesting and relevant part of daily life. There should be provision to make science a lively and enjoyable subject for the average students and General population.
A look back at the secondary school education in Nepal shows that with the recommendation of Nepal National Education Planning Commission (NNEPC) in 1956 and that of all-round National Education Committee (ARNEC) in 1961, secondary Education became more organized. The introduction of National Education System Plan (NEPS) made it more need-based and application-oriented. Science was introduced as a separate subject and secondary curriculum being home science and Public knowledge. Home science was made compulsory for boys but girls could choose between Science and Domestic science. In 1971, science was made a compulsory subject for all and was considered as important as languages and mathematics. In 1981, overall secondary education objectives and curriculum were revised and science was combined with health. Science remained as optional subject until 1991, but in 1992 it was made compulsory in secondary schools with minor modifications.
Students Enrollment at Tribhuvan University
In Nepal science (Physics at higher level) is taught in two ways. One kind of syllabus is provided by Tribhuvan University as two year intermediate level, I.Sc. (higher level study after SLC), and the other is provided by the higher secondary education board as 10+2. Two parallel levels of studying Physics exist in Nepal having almost the same courses of study. The main text book is Advanced Level Physics (fifth edition) by Nelkon-Parker. The basic difference in these two levels is the distribution of the courses and nature of questions attributed. For example long questions like "Derive an expression for a time period of a second pendulum" is asked and numerical problems like "A uniform steel wire of length m and area of cross section 3x10-6m2 is extended 1mm. Calculate the energy stored in a wire (Young modulus =2.0x10"Nm-2)". But in 10+2 level, short answer questions like "Why moon has no atmosphere?" are asked but the numerical problems are of the same kind as previously mentioned.
Apart from the theoretical implication, different practical experiments are performed at the laboratory to meet the concepts and visualize the things, which is taught in theories. Most of the practical experiments are done from current electricity and magnetism, optics, sound waves, heat and mechanics. Students will test and verify important physical laws by themselves. For example, studying heat they measure the specific heat of water; the latent heat of fusion of ice etc. In electricity, conversion of ammeter into a voltmeter, the relationship between current, voltage and resistance in series and parallel circuits etc are the basic experiments.
At present the main emphasis is given to a scientific concept of problems. For this, different teaching methods have been followed. Modern method of teaching by overhead projector, audiovisual, talk programs and seminars have been exercised at private colleges and little is done in public colleges.
The standard of syllabus at these levels is similar to that in American colleges with an exposition of the concepts of physics together with the applications and quantitative manipulations. Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Optics, Electricity and Magnetism, Sound Waves, Atomic Physics (Nuclear Physics) are the major courses of this level.
So far as the teaching methods and teachers are concerned, lectures are accompanied by homework, class tests, and cross-questioning and mutual interactions. Here teachers are qualified and experienced. They can teach students at their levels after the completion of their master's degree with an excellent grade. Two years Bachelors program was upgraded to three years in the year 1997 education session and consequently, Master’s course was changed in the year 2000. 300 level courses are taught in bachelor level: 1st year, Mechanics I, Thermodynamics, Statistical Physics, Electricity and Magnetism, 2nd year: Optics, Atomic and Nuclear physics, Electronics, 3rd year: Solid State Physics, Nuclear Physics, and Mechanics. Physics courses are accompanied by labs such as: Determination of Young’s modulus of elasticity, Determination of Cp and Cv, Impedance of LCR series circuits, determination of wavelength of source by Newton’s Ring method etc..
One of the main reasons for the slow pace of science education is lack of proper funding. Being the one of the least developed countries, Nepal is facing inadequate funding in education in general and science, physics in particular. University Grants commission and Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (RONAST) have been playing a significant role in financial sectors. RONAST helps in the research based programs. The financial support has been provided by the academy for different types of research in science and technology. The professors are highly qualified in their respective disciplines and provide the best education.
Internal capacity of the Physics department for Master’s program is for 60 students per year. Student’s pressure extended additional 60 students from 2003. Students have raised their voices to admit at least one third of the total applicants. Their voice has been temporarily accepted. There are hardly any jobs in the field of physics besides teaching. Less than 10% of the physics graduates get the government jobs inside or outside Physics field, about 50% choose teaching profession while rest 40% of them try to go abroad for further studies. Amongst those who seek greener pastures, more than 90% come to the land of opportunity, USA. The students with a degree in physics have a better opportunity to go abroad for further studies. This is one of the reasons why students want to go for Physics. The political instability of the country is another major contributing factor.
Student Association of Physics (SAP) was established in 1991, Cooperative Organization, No Political Affiliation, works for progress and prosperity of physics students. Students do have their complaint to the department regarding: Insufficiency of equipment and high number of students’ pressure. They have their internal complaints to the department which they don’t reveal.
This paper sketches the overall picture of the state of education, particularly Physics education in Nepal. In the rapidly growing scientific world; it is the education that determines the level of prosperity, welfare, and security. This paper has revealed the true state of Physics education in Nepal. Let us hope that future changes in science education will build a new Nepal with less poverty and more prosperity: a new Nepal with a stable social and political order and equal opportunity for all.
Nepal in a Nutshell:
We are thankful to Professor Lok Narayan Jha, Head of the Department of Physics, Tribhuvan University, Professor Shekhar Gurung, Principal of Tribhuvan University. We are also thankful to Bhuwan Khanal, Department of Journalism, Ratna Rajya Campus, Tribhuvan University, Nepal, without his support it would have not been completed.
UGC (University Grants Commission) Annual Report 2001/2002
MOEC (Ministry of Education and Culture) Statistics and Computer Section
OCE (Office of the Controller of Examinations)
CBS (Central Bureau of Statistics) Nepal
Central Department of Physics, Tribhuvan University
Choodamani Khanal email: (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Simon George email: (email@example.com)
Department of Physics and Astronomy
California State University, Long Beach, CA 90840