Modern education began in Nepal with the establishment of the first school in 1853. However, this school was only for the members of the ruling families and their courtiers. Schooling for the general people began only after 1951 when a popular movement ended the autocratic Rana family regime and initiated a democratic system. In the past 50 years there has been a dramatic expansion of educational facilities in the country.
Beginning from about 300 schools and two colleges with about ten thousand students in 1951, there now are 26 thousand schools (including higher secondary), 415 colleges, Seven universities and two academies of higher studies. Altogether 5.5 million students are enrolled in those schools and colleges who are served by more than 150 thousand teachers.
Hence, until the recent past, Nepal followed the traditional three-tier sixteen-year education system, allocating ten years to school education, four years to college level studies – two years each for intermediate and bachelor program, and two to the Masters program at the university.
The overall literacy rate (for population aged 5 years and above) increased from 54.1% in 2001 to 65.9% in 2011. The male literacy rate was 75.1% compared to the female literacy rate of 57.4%. The highest literacy rate was reported in Kathmandu district (86.3%) and lowest in Rautahat (41.7%). While the net primary enrollment rate was 74% in 2005; in 2009, that enrollment rate was at 90%. However increasing access to secondary education (grades 9-12) remains a major challenge, as evidenced by the low net enrollment rate of 24% at this level. More than half of primary students do not enter secondary schools, and only one-half of them complete secondary schooling. In addition, fewer girls than boys join secondary schools and, among those who do join, fewer complete the 10th grade. Nepal has seven universities: Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu University, Pokhara University, Purbanchal University, Mahendra Sanskrit University, Far-western University, and the Agriculture and Forestry University of Nepal (AFU). Some newly proposed universities are Lumbini Bouddha University, and Mid-Western University. Some fine scholarship has emerged in the post-1990 era.
Despite such examples of success, there are problems and challenges. Educational management, quality, relevance, access are some of the critical issues of education in Nepal. Societal disparities based on gender, ethnicity, location, economic class, etc. are yet to be eliminated. Resource crunch has always been a problem in education. Due to all 3 these problems achieving the universal goals of Education for All has been a challenge for the country. With national as well as international support, the government is committed to address the issues realistically and efficiently and achieve its goals and objectives.