In Nepal, there is no provision for compulsory education although policy statements towards this
have been made. However, basic and primary education is free. This connotes free tuition and free textbooks. Schools are, however, allowed to raise donations from the community and parents to meet development and maintenance costs of the schools. In many instances, the contributions are enforced by the schools. There is a view among some observers that such donations have no place in a system which is meant to provide free school education up to basic and primary levels. Such in-built costs could have the effect of excluding children who are already the most marginalized.
The concepts and practices regarding early childhood development and pre-primary education are emerging as important developments. However, they are not currently part of the formal national education structure. Primary education, or the first level of education in Nepal, is comprised of five years of schooling.
The minimum entry age for this level is 5 years. The second official level of education is secondary which is comprised of Grades 6-10 (five years). Grades 6, 7 and 8 are called lower secondary and Grades 9 and 10 are called secondary. A national centralized examination is conducted at the end of Grade 10. This examination is popularly known as the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examination.
Those who pass the SLC examination at the end of Grade 10 can apply to Proficiency Certificate Level (PCL) of university campuses or to Grade 11 of higher secondary schools operating under the Higher Secondary Education Council and Board (HSEB). Higher secondary education is a recent development in Nepal, initiated in 1994. There is also provision of higher secondary level technical education under the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT). Currently, 18 the technical schools affiliated to the CTEVT offer skills training courses either to students who pass Grade 10 or to those having the Technical School Leaving Certificate.
Technical and vocational education is offered through nine CTEVT constituent technical schools and 118 private technical training institutes. The courses offered are mostly of two years duration.
There are currently five universities in Nepal. Tribhuvan University (TU) is unique among the five because it was the first university in the country having started about 45 years ago as a teaching and affiliating university. It has constituent institutions and campuses all over the country. Almost 95% of higher education students and faculties are with this university. The University Grants Commission (UGC) coordinates the universities to ensure consistency with national plans and programmes. After university-based PCL or Grade 12 under the HSEB, students are eligible to apply for three-year Bachelors degree courses. The Masters degree is of two years duration and follows the Bachelors.
Besides formal education, there are provisions for NFE at the basic and primary education level.
Out-of-school youths can enter Grade 3 upon completion of a nine-month course of a non-formal primary education programme, popularly known as the out-of-school programme. There are also provisions for flexible school programmes for those who cannot attend school during the regular hours, and school out-reach programmes for those who do not have access to regular schools.
Various forms of adult education programmes, mainly adult literacy and functional education, are run by various agencies.