Follow-up Study of JICA Nepal Education Programme
Buddhi Narayan Shrestha
JICA Alumni Association of Nepal (JAAN) conducted an extensive follow-up study of Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) Nepal Education Programme. It was a consultancy work provided to JAAN by JICA Nepal Office. It was the first time in the history of JAAN to conduct a consultancy work. The duration of the consulting work was from January to March 2012.
JICA Nepal Educational Survey was conducted in seven districts, namely Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, Tanahu, Syangja, Dhading and Sindhupalchok. In this survey the impact of the Japanese support in JICA Participants training in Japan and JOCVs (volunteers) support in education sector in Nepal were studied. A detail report of the education survey was prepared and submitted to JICA Nepal Office. The study has drawn its findings from three main sources viz. document review, field data and the consultative meetings with the high level officials from the Ministry of Education.
Japan’s support to major educational projects
Japan’s support in Nepal’s education sector has been a major donor support project. Different educational projects were implemented in Nepal with the support of Japan government. One of the major supports received from JICA in education sector is the support for the Education for All (EFA) program through Basic and Primary Education Project/Program (BPEP) that focused mainly in access and quality. JICA support in basic and primary education has contributed to enable children to have access to quality education. JICA has been giving priority in the sectors like basic and primary education, tertiary education, science and mathematics education, non-formal education, women education and education for socially disadvantaged people. Priority of JICA in the education sector, especially support to education for all Program (SEAP) has been one of the key areas of development assistance.
In order to support Government of Nepal to achieve the education goals of the universal basic education, JICA provided four school construction projects, namely i) Project for Construction of Primary Schools in Support of Basic and Primary Education Program (BPEP), ii) Project for Construction of Primary Schools in Support of BPEP (phase II), iii) Project for Construction of Primary Schools in Support of Education for All (EFA) Program in Nepal and iv) Project for Construction of Primary Schools in Support of EFA (2004 – 2009). Through these four school construction projects, a total of 8,768 classrooms were constructed with the latrines and the water supply systems and the resource center facilities were improved.
Nepal’s priorities in education sector
School Sector Reform Plan (SSRP) is one of the major educational projects in Nepal at present. The purpose of the SSRP is to improve efficiency in education, aiming at EFA to reach parity in gender and inclusion, and ensure equitable access to quality education through a holistic school sector approach. The SSRP aims to bring reform in the school education in the sector with a focus on ensuring quality and excellence in education. Because education has ever been a high priority of the government in Nepal. As the signatory of the Education for All (EFA), the government has its commitment to the universal primary education and various reform programs are in place to address access and quality issues in the school education in Nepal.
Objectives of the study
This follow-up study was intended to make a quick review of JICA’s contribution in
education sector. The main primary purpose of this study was to make a rapid appraisal of such contribution
and suggest strategies to continue or initiate new activities for future. The focus of this
survey was mainly on two key areas, as an impact of JICA’s educational activities. The first
was an in depth assessment of the impact made in the training programs (capacity
building) of government and other related education officials in the form of their impact in the
educational field of Nepal. The second area was to assess the Japanese Overseas Cooperation
Volunteers (JOCVs) support and its impact in schools, communities, Community Learning
Centers (CLCs) and related educational organizations. The secondary objective was to :
- review the impact of capacity building programs (training/seminars/exposure visits etc.) of government and other related education officials in education sector in Nepal.
- identify key issues and challenges associated with the JOCV and capacity building programs.
- recommend strategies to enhance the JOCV and capacity building programs as a way forward mechanism.
A set of tools were prepared for the various respondents to collect different types of data and
information associated with the study.
Educational survey team
JICA Alumni Association of Nepal (JAAN) Executive Committee constituted a Sub-committee coordinated by JAAN’s General Secretary to design the project, write proposal and manage consultancy. The sub-committee meetings were conducted at various point of time to work out the details of the project. In order to guide the sub-committee for the survey, an Advisory Committee (AC) was constituted with the Chairmanship of JAAN President.
A team of qualified professionals was sent to each district headed by district coordinator to collect the data and the study team monitored the field study for ensuring the quality of the data. Consultative meetings were also organized with the officials of Ministry of Education and JICA representatives to get their response regarding the technical assistance of the government of Japan in education sector including the JOCV and capacity building program. National stakeholders’ workshop was organised to validate the findings and collect their feedback for final finalization of the report.
During the survey 18 schools had been located in seven districts. Various stakeholders such as 21 JOCVs, 23 counter-parts, 19 Head-teachers, 15 student groups, 8 District Education Officials (DEOs), 34 institution heads and 44 Ex-JICA participants were interviewed by the District Team (Associate/Assistant) Researchers. District Co-ordinator had supervised the work of the Researchers. District field teams had organized 18 Focus Group Discussions in seven districts to make the findings more reliable and authentic.
Besides, Central Consultant Team, Project/Consultancy Sub-committee and Advisory Committee were formed to make the study smooth and timely completed. Various Forms, Interview/Questionnaires were developed to collect the field data and information. In the same way focus group discussion guidelines were chalked down for the field survey teams. At the end of the project stakeholder’s workshop was organized in the center. Various dignitaries from the Ministry of Education, Tribhuvan university, JAAN, JICA Nepal Office, JOCV, Embassy, School, media persons had participated the workshop.
The data obtained from the field and the information collected from the review of related documents were tabulated in the form of flow charts, tables and matrix to reflect and represent the intent of the study. The final report prepared was the culmination of the effort made by the study team to make it as representative and realistic of the JICA support extended to Nepal’s education sector with a focus on JOCV program and capacity building of the Nepalese education officials.
1. JOCV Program
Responses from the interview and focus group discussion revealed that the areas of contributions made by JOCVs in schools and communities are related to their commitment and dedication. Teachers in schools where JOCVs were working learned different kinds of skill essential for their profession (knowledge and skills) and culture of hard work, dedication and honesty. Learning environment was increased as compared before the arrival of JOCVs in schools. Schools were being child-friendly. Improvement in students’ health status was another visible change in the schools served by the JOCVs.
The JOCV left visible impression in the society. Awareness in gender, changes in child caring habit, food and nutrition, waste management, involvement of women in decision making process, involvement of them in income generation activities and culture of cooperation among women were some crucial examples of the changes brought due to the contribution of JOCVs.
Changes in community could be seen at the working culture, mutual respect, regularity, punctuality, sharing culture and accountability as the pertinent exemplary changes in the institutions. The students felt that they have learned some important skills from the JOCVs.
JOCVs were very positive about Nepal in general and they think that local people do understand that there are problems in the society and they need to overcome them. But there is a tendency to relying on someone else to address the problems rather than trying to do what they could do. The JOCVs who worked in the past were found to have continued their relationship with the local communities even after they went back to Japan.
2. Capacity building program for JICA trained Nepali
Nepalese trainees have attended various types of programs such as training, seminars, conferences and exposure visits. The training courses were different disciplines such as material development, use of technology, youth invitation program, health education, nutrition, primary teacher training, Montessori program, multi-media and science, Early Childhood Development (ECD), Science experiment in primary education and community management etc.
Almost all the participants have shared their experiences; back home, there was some exception, though, after their returning back from Japan. Time management, school management, culture of hard work, punctuality, team work, meeting the deadlines, work ethics, dedication to the work were some of the highlights of the sharing sessions that the participants presented in a focused way. All the participants rated the program in Japan as very successful and qualitative one. Very few participants questioned on the relevancy of the program they attended in Japan. They found huge gap between Nepal and Japan in terms of development, working environment, resource for employing learnt skills, and physical infrastructure of office where they work.
Issues to be addressed
1. It was identified that following issues should be addressed regarding the JOCVs:
a) The institution heads were not adequately consulted beforehand regarding the background and qualifications of the JOCVs. Due to the lack of enough communication, the JOCVs expertise and school/community needs might not always match.
b) There was no any formal agreement between the host institution and the JOCV providers/JICA. This has created more or less expectations gap and confusions in the beginning of the program.
c) Although there was a provision of filling out volunteer request (V1/V2) form on request basis which also acts as a Terms of Reference (ToR) for the JOCVs, the intent of such ToR has not been well communicated and understood by both the counterparts and recipient organizations in some places.
d) Some of the local communities and the host institutions had said that some JOCVs do not have relevant background in terms of their qualifications for the work they are assigned to do in Nepal. This sometimes created a kind of gap between the JOCVs and their counterparts.
e) Effective coordination among the JOCVs, their counterparts and the host organisation was questioned especially in places and organizations where the ToR was not specifically understood.
f) Stakeholders were not so much aware of the monitoring mechanism from JICA regarding the work of the volunteers.
g) District Education Office/Officer/Officials (DEO) use to say that the volunteers are not in DEO’s chain of command. They come to the districts directly from the DOE and no consultation was made with the DEO regarding their placement. This sometimes had created misunderstanding regarding appropriate placement in the institution of their choice.
h) The orientation provided to the JOCVs was not sufficient. So it would take a little bit more time for them to get adjusted to the local context.
2. Some of the issues raised by the Ex-JICA participants in capacity building training have been given below:
a) Some participants developed action plan of their activities after coming back to Nepal and wanted to implement the plan in the field but due to the lack of resource allocation from their organisation they could not implement it. Thus, resource was an issue to implement change as pointed out by the participants
b) Follow-up of the program from the host institution side was another issue pointed out by some participants. By follow-up they mean that the host institution should recognise the work they do and support them to implement the change in their work place
c) Participants have risen that the institution culture is yet another issue that plays significant role in implementing change in the organisation. According to them, the institution culture in Nepal sometimes poses problems in implementing change as there is a resistance to change among the peers
d) Politicized environment is another issue that the participants have pointed out in their response. Some participants feel that due to the high level of politics that exists in the organisation, there is no cordial environment to apply their knowledge and skills that they have learned from Japan. Frequent transfer and change in leadership create confusions to introduce something new in the organisation
e) Duration of the program is another issue pointed out by the participants. Some participants feel that the short term training was not enough to have in-depth knowledge and skills in the targeted areas as the first few days had to be spent in understanding the Japanese culture and life style
f) Some of the teachers and head-teacher participants said that the School Management Committees (SMCs) are not active enough to cooperate with them to bring change and reform in schools. Lack of team work among the SMCs and lack of resources in the public schools have been the real issues to apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills
g) The institution heads have expressed that they were not consulted while selecting the participants for training to Japan and this has created some accountability issues. Had they been consulted in the selection process, they would have been able to contribute something qualitative upon their return to the organisation.
Conclusion and Suggestions of the final report
1. In the final report, following suggestions have been mentioned regarding the JOCVs:
a) The respondents have demanded that there should be a memorandum of understanding signed among DOE and JICA at the center and JOCVs and host institution at the local level.
b) Some of the JOCVs have realised that the host institutions were not clear enough about their roles. There are different kinds of expectations in the communities regarding the role of the JOCVs. Thus, a detailed orientation in the following areas is necessary to make the program effective:
- i. A written Terms of Reference (TOR) of the JOCVs at the level of the host organization.
- ii. Orientation to the JOCVs about the education system of Nepal.
- iii. Orientation about the local community culture and local dynamics.
- iv. Orientation to the institution heads regarding the role of the JOCVs in the institution.
- v. Orientation to the local communities about the role of JOCVs in community development and awareness.
c) Schools have shown their preference to the female JOCVs. According to them, female JOCVs can offer better care for the young and very young students.
d) The host institutions and the counterparts have shown preference to the experienced JOCVs (SVs) rather than the fresh graduates (juniors).
e) Duration is another issue that came into discussion with most of the respondents. The stakeholders have said that the duration of the JOCV should be made at least of two years for those who come for short time. Short term assignment is not enough to have substantial impact in the communities since it will take some time for them to familiarise themselves with the local culture and context.
f) Review the progress of the JOCVs on regular basis and increase the frequency of regularity of field visit by JOCV coordinator from JICA Nepal Office for effective coordination among the volunteers, counterparts and recipient organizations.
g) The respondents have also requested to establish a mechanism where the JOCVs and their counterparts can come and present their experiences for mutual sharing and learning.
h) DEO officials expressed that JOCVs, especially the Senior Volunteers (SVs) working as Resource Persons, should be placed at the Resource Centres so that their expertise can be best utilised for more beneficiaries.
i) JOCV program in future should not be Kathmandu valley centered. Remote and underdeveloped areas should also be given due priority for JOCV placement.
j) The respondents have requested that there should be some mechanism for the JOCVs to share their experiences and best practices with the other teachers and stakeholders for the dissemination of their innovative and creative ideas. This can be done in the form of workshops, meetings, seminars and other interactive discussions.
k) Selection of the JOCVs should be based on their areas of expertise so that their contributions could be made more meaningful and rewarding.
2. The respondents have made the following suggestions to make the Ex-JICA participant’s capacity building program more effective:
a) Capacity building program should continue in the future with more concentration on the specific needs of the participants and the organization they are associated with.
b) There should also be a monitoring and supervision mechanism when the participants come back and work in their respective institutions
c) A written agreement should be signed between the participants and JICA with the specific post-training activities that the participants have to do upon their return from Japan
d) The visit was a little short to learn something substantial. It takes a couple of days to be familiar with the system in Japan and once the participants are used to the system in the high tech environment, it is already time to leave Japan. Thus, an in-depth orientation of the culture and life style of Japan should follow the learning visit so that there will be enough time for the participants to learn in the specific area. Regarding the in-country training in Nepal they opined that it should be required but should not be more than one week’s duration
e) Selection of the right person for the right course is very essential and they felt that this has not been seriously considered in some cases
f) The government of Nepal need to make it sure that the participants should be given ample opportunity to implement their ideas/skills/knowledge after returning back from Japan. In some cases, it happened that the participants were transferred to another office/institution no sooner than they returned back from the exposure visit
g) The participants have also requested a need of refresher training in their respective areas. This will not only help them update in the contents they learned in their previous visits, but also they can share their rich experiences they collected after their visits to Japan.
Note:- This write-up has been mainly based on the Final Report of JICA Nepal Education Survey- 2012.