National Seminar on Promoting and Ensuring Permeability in the Education System of Nepal: A Path to Progress

Initial vocational education and training
Asmita Manandhar18.01.2024
KATHMANDU, 17 JAN 2024 – The National Seminar on Promoting and Ensuring Permeability in the Education System of Nepal, held on 17th January 2024 in Kathmandu, marked a significant milestone in understanding international experiences and advancing discussions on contextualising permeability in Nepal's education system.

The seminar was organised by the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT)/National Skill Testing Board (NSTB) in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and supported by the Nepal Vocational Qualifications System Project – Phase II (NVQS P-II). NVQS P-II is a bilateral initiative between the Government of Nepal (GoN) and the Government of Switzerland. Swisscontact, Swiss Foundation for Technical Cooperation, provides technical assistance to the project on behalf of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

The event highlighted sustained efforts in implementing the NVQF by designing and implementing TVET courses at a higher level (NVQ Level 6 and above) in line with the NVQF, aiming to provide an attractive progression pathway to the young people in the country.

Mr. Tek Bahadur Malla, Director of NSTB
Mr. Shiva Kumar Sapkota, Joint Secretary of TVET Division at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology
"This is a historic event for all stakeholders who have been working on implementing the National Qualifications Framework."
Mr. Shiva Kumar Sapkota

He emphasised that very important and intensive discussions took place at the seminar on legal frameworks, policies, regulations, and coordination to build a permeable system in Nepal.

What is a permeable education system? 


Permeability, in the context of education, pertains to the ease with which learners can transition between various levels or types of educational pathways. A permeable education system is characterised by the presence of multiple pathways that facilitate seamless student mobility, allowing learners to enter, exit, and re-enter education at any point. Such systems are designed to accommodate the diverse needs, ages, and aspirations of learners.

Within education systems, permeability exists in varying degrees. A fully permeable education system is one in which each education level and type offers at least one programme and provides progression routes for individuals to move from any starting point to any endpoint within the system. This comprehensive structure extends beyond formal education, recognising learning experiences outside traditional school settings.

In contrast, despite the endorsement of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) in Nepal, the current education system lacks permeability, hindering smooth transitions within the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) path and between TVET and general education. The NQF classifies qualifications based on a set of levels derived from learning outcomes, with NVQ levels reflecting the expected knowledge, understanding, and skills of certificate or diploma holders. This framework enables learners to choose their interests in higher education, fostering progression pathways and permeability between General Education and the Technical and Vocational Education and Training stream.

The existing TVET programmes have not been officially equated with the NQF. Both programmes share a common entry requirement of a secondary education examination (grade 10), leading to a situation where pre-diploma graduates spend an additional three years at the diploma level, mirroring the duration for those entering directly from Grade 10.

Furthermore, there is a notable absence of pathways for diploma graduates to pursue higher-level programmes within the TVET path or transfer to academic university courses. This lack of transferability hinders the ability of individuals to seamlessly transition between different educational levels and types. This challenge can potentially be alleviated through the implementation of a Credit accumulation and transfer system, where Credit serves as an indicator of the volume of learning required by a programme, usually expressed numerically and linked to Notional Learning Hours (NLH) learning time.

Therefore, the practical difficulties in progressing between general academic education and TVET render the latter less attractive compared to the general education path. Addressing these permeability issues is imperative to create a more flexible and responsive education system that effectively caters to the diverse needs of learners.

A strong TVET systems can boost youth employment and economic development

The event featured distinguished speakers and experts who provided valuable perspectives on international experiences related to permeable education systems. The event took off with a presentation from Prof. Dr. Ursula Renold from ETH, Zurich. Dr. Renold emphasised the importance of a strong technical and vocational education and training (TVET) system for boosting youth employment and economic development, presenting global best practices and ideas for Nepal.

Prof. Dr. Ursula Renold from ETH, Zurich
"Nepal is a rockstar when it comes to a permeable framework. We have worked in many countries, including the USA, and I can say that Nepal has the most progressive framework in place, and there has been progression towards its implementation."
Prof. Dr. Ursula Renold 

According to Dr. Renold, a permeable education system provides "access," allowing individuals to move from any starting point in the system to any endpoint. It also creates "opportunities," ensuring that all pathways, including TVET and academic programmes, lead to the highest level of education and training through various progression routes.

In a broader sense, permeability involves procedures to recognise prior learning (RPL), enabling adults to re-enter the formal education system and obtain credentials. Dr. Renold underscores the significance of a fully permeable education system to make the TVET sector attractive and support economic development, as many programme graduates will eventually enter the labor market.

Following Dr. Renold’s presentation, Dr. Anoj Bhattarai, CTEVT Director of Curriculum and Equivalence Division, discussed ongoing efforts to implement a credit accumulation and transfer (CAT) system in the TVET sector in his presentation. He also elaborated on how stakeholders from the TVET, General Education (GE) in secondary level, and Higher Education (HE) sectors can collaboratively address the identified issues and challenges.

Similarly, Mr. Raju Shrestha, Under Secretary at the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology outlined higher education efforts aligned with the National Qualification Framework (NQF) and Mr. Nilkantha Dhakal, Director of CEHRD, shared progress in non-formal and alternative education, focusing on RPL in their respective presentations.

Following the presentations, guided discussions with facilitators and presenters as panel members allowed for interactive and insightful exchanges. Mr. Subas Subedi, Team Leader for NVQS P-II, facilitated the panel discussion, providing an opportunity for stakeholders to delve deeper into the issues surrounding permeability in Nepal's education system.

Dr. Anoj Bhattarai, CTEVT Director of Curriculum and Equivalence Division
Mr. Nilkantha Dhakal, Director of CEHRD
Mr. Raju Shrestha, Under Secretary at the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology 

During the panel discussions, the panelists discussed how different entities within the MoEST can move forward for a more permeable system of education. They also agreed that implementing the National Qualifications Framework is crucial not only to bring graduates with market-driven skills to the domestic and international labor market but also to contribute to the individual growth of the Nepali youth, promote societal equity, and economic prosperity.

There were some challenging questions raised during the Q&A sessions, especially from the private sector. They also highlighted the importance and urgency of NQF implementation.

“We all have personal stories of struggle because of the lack of progression pathway in technical education. If it is not ours, then it’s our brothers or sisters or neighbors. We know this is a problem and there are many questions, but now it's time to seek answers,” said Sunita Nhemaphuki, an agricultural entrepreneur and a member of the Sector Skill Committee (SSC) for Agriculture. SSC is also one of the initiatives initiated by NVQS P-II.

The seminar successfully achieved its objectives, including exchanging international perspectives on permeable education system, updating progress on Nepal's education system, and discussing key issues and the way forward. The presence of over 135 key stakeholders, experts, and representatives from various sectors underscored the commitment to fostering a dynamic and collaborative environment for future initiatives.

The event was also broadcasted live from the National Skill Testing Board and Swisscontact Nepal Facebook pages and Microsoft Teams. There was a total of 150 participants attending the seminar virtually.

During their concluding remarks, both Er. Mahesh Bhattarai, Member Secretary of CTEVT, and Mr. Khagendra Prasad Adhikari, Vice Chairperson of CTEVT, expressed their gratitude to the participants for engaging in a lively discussion and highlighting the commitment of stakeholders to enhancing permeability in Nepal's education system.

 In conclusion, the Seminar served as a platform for constructive dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders. The success of the event reflects a collective dedication to advancing permeability in Nepal, paving the way for transformative changes in the country's education landscape.

Mr. Subas Subedi, Team Leader for NVQS P-II, facilitated the panel discussion.
Initial vocational education and training
Nepal Vocational Qualifications System (NVQS)
Youths entering the labour market in Nepal are compelled to remain unemployed or underemployed and work in low-pay jobs due to a lack of skills, and lack of certification and recognition of the skills they have. To provide wider opportunities and to enable Nepali youth without formal vocational training and education, and those who have gained skills through work experience to enter the labour market with recognized certificates for better employability and career path, the Government of Nepal (GoN) has initiated a National Vocational Qualifications System (NVQS) with the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) to be implemented.