Civic Education for the Young Generation
Organised by Nepal Foundation for Advanced
22 September 2008, Lalbandi
Lalbandi boasts of better quality education
facilities than the surroundings. Students are known to ditch
neighbourhood campuses, travel quite a distance to be able to
join the facilities in this town, a hub along the East-West Highway.
The venue for the Civic Education for the Young Generation seminar
conducted by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies with cooperation
of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung of Germany was a rapidly developing
college where enthusiastic college staffs were working hard to
garner all the support they could to turn their facilities into
a center of excellence. Indeed, for the fulfilment of the objective
of the seminar, to gather enlightened comments from stakeholders
to enrich the working paper when it finally comes out in published
form, such discussion venues are natural choices. But all this
comes as a stark contrast to other facilities that are still in
the more primitive stage in this town.
NEFAS Executive Director Ananda Srestha welcomed
the participants with introductory remarks about the activities
of his organization and appealed to them to contribute to the
discussions by giving comments. This was followed by the two
presentations by Shivaraj Dahal on Civic Education for the Young
Generation and Prof Ram Kumar Dahal on the different dimensions
of democracy. Shivaraj Dahal talks about the absolute lack of
civic sense among public figures eating into the potential future
leadership characteristics among the younger generation. Corruption,
wrong policies, irresponsible public behaviour have all been
a by-products of the absence of civic sense, is Dahal's conclusion.
His idea is to impart civic education to people early in life
so that such deviations do not form the mainstream of public
Professor Ram Kumar Dahal's presentation is
made up of the issues dealt with in "Handbook on Democracy"
published by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Apart from explaining
the balance of power needed in a democracy, he also took up
the hot topics of federal rule and good governance to discuss
it at length. He talked about the elements making up good governance
and the different examples of federal rule found in different
countries around the world to drive his point home. His complaint
was that although the topic was being debated political parties
had not been able to come out with an agreement on the model
that Nepal should follow. The baseline for such a model should
not lead to session, he said.
The participants for their part homed in on
the differences seen between theory and practice in Nepal in
the fields of good governance, balance of power, nationalism
and the like. The participants wanted more on the possible solutions
that the problems that the presenters were pointing at, either
directly or indirectly. But the presenters were quick to point
out that there were indeed solutions given in the paper that
they thought would help resolve the problems. But to build from
the bottom-up, there is no alternative to civic education, they
After the two presenters furnished their replies
Shivaraj Dahal gave his vote of thanks to conclude the event
for the day.
Excerpt of the proceedings
Ananda Srestha's welcome address: I
am happy to welcome you to this function. Nepal Foundation for
Advanced Studies is an academic organization set up in 1990.
Ever since then, we have been moving with the objective of holding
discussions on important topics and publishing them for wider
use. Most notably, the publications have been used as academic
material by the universities and schools.
Civic education is one of the topics we have
been involved in. We have held discussions in various parts
of the country on the subjects and it is in this context that
we are here. Please actively contribute to the discussion through
your comments so that they can prove to be important contribution
to the publication that we are planning to come out with.
Our discussions are geared towards seeking
ways to providing political stability to the country. And, we
think that one of the causes for the perpetual instability in
the country is the exclusion of the younger generation from
the political leadership. The youths need to be more aware about
their surroundings and their capabilities. This would provide
the dynamo to the political process towards stability. Too many
governments have been changed in too few a years and this needs
to change for the sake of political stability.
Your contributions will no doubt enrich the
working paper to be presented by Shivaraj Dahal. Prof. Ram Kumar
Dahal will also make his presentation on the political process.
Shivaraj Dahal's presentation. My presentation
is the second chapter in the civic education book being taught
Ram Kumar Dahal's presentation: The youth
have an important role in writing the new constitution which
will be geared towards building a new Nepal. We need civic education
for that. And, there is a difference between political education
and civic education. Political education aims to orient people
towards certain political objectives by political parties. This
is usually limited to party cadres. But civic education goes
beyond that, beyond militarizing them against their political
rivals. Civic education allows different kinds of political
orientations and different groups to form a common forum to
discuss national issues. Although each one may hold dissimilar
views, it does provide an opportunity to remain politically
Let me discus some of the points raised in
this handbook on democracy. [Goes on to discuss the points]
Sabin Pradhan: Shivaraj Dahal talks
of civic education for the citizen, but is this not a global
issue? He also talks of loktantrik ganatantra where democratic
exercise goes on without a monarchy. Can't we talk of just loktantra.
Shivaraj Dahal: I agree. It is because
democracy is being tainted with malpractices and this situation
ahs forced us to seek refuge in terminologies. We used the term
in this paper just to go in accordance with the constitution.
Loktantra encompasses a wide number of areas. I do not
see any fundamental difference among the terms in use.
C.P. Poudel: You talked of corruption.
There is a saying that Prithvinarayan Shah allowed one per cent
corruption during his times. King Tribhuvan allowed five per
cent. King Mahendra allowed even more. Today, there is no limit
Sangita Sapkota: I was happy to listen
to your lecture. And, this should continue so that it keeps
enlightening people like us.
Govinda: Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal said
civil society should not be politically partisan, But Shivaraj
Dahal said that they could be members of political parties.
.......: There was civics in school
curriculum at first. And, then, the name of the subject kept
changing. Now, we talk of civic education. What is the difference.
Amit Chaudhary: Politicians have party
flags put up in their homes, but nobody appears to have the
national flag with them. Will a day come when even ministers
begin to carry their party flags mounted on their cars instead
of the national one ? Where does nationalism stand today?
Bhairav Dhungel: You talked about judges
taking their oath in front of the head of government. Please
enlighten me with examples from other countries about similar
Ram Nath Yadav: Who are you trying
to point at by talking about militant culture?
Civics, moral education or civic education
do contain differences in meaning. Moral education teaches morality,
but civic education is somewhat different in that it expands
to talk of the global developments as well. It talks of the
responsibility and rights of the citizen. The paper I just presented
makes Chapter II of the Contemporary Society subject for 10+2
I agree that politicians are more obsessed
with party flags rather than the national one. It is our duty
to press them to keep the nation above their party.
When I talked of militant culture, I was talking
about the trend among political parties to train their cadres
in such a way as to make them intolerant of other party rivals.
This makes them militant and they concentrate on fighting their
rivals rather than holding dialogue to resolve issues.
Dipendra Upreti: You talk of brain
drain sapping the country's resources. But everyone talks of
problems. Please give us some solutions.
Shivaraj Dahal: We need political stability,
first. We have had autocratic rule since the Rana times and
they earned money by exporting manpower. Today, we see unemployment
and people want jobs. If they do not get opportunities where
political instability is the norm, they will obviously leave
for a place where there is stability and jobs. We must socially
boycott the corrupt to root out corruption in society. Political
stability must be stressed, trade and tourism must be promoted,
work permit for foreign labourers enforced, micro hydel projects
initiated for creating jobs. Political unity can produce stability.
Bhairav Dhungel: Is your function limited
to Lalbandi or have you been holding it elsewhere?
Shivaraj Dahal: This is part of a series
of seminars that we have been holding in different parts of
the country, not just Lalbandi.
Ram Kumar Dahal's reply
There is a difference between the civil society
in Britain and its counterpart in Nepal. I mentioned Britain
because the civil society there is strong. In Nepal, the weaknesses
arise from the fact that they have yet to mature.
Regarding political membership of civil society
organizations, there is no problem with harbouring political
opinion, but if the organization functions to suit party agenda
while pushing its own agenda, it cannot be said to be working
in the public interest.
The name of the civic education subject has
been changed to suit the political agenda of the day. The Panchayat
system wanted to depoliticize education by using it as a separate
subject called Social Studies.
I do not know of any examples of judges sworn
in by the head of government.
We need civic education to make us responsible
towards our nation not just awareness about our rights.
Vote of thanks by Shivaraj Dahal
Chairman's remarks: The efforts by
NEFAS to make the murky political waters clearer by organizing
the function here is laudable. I also want to thank NEFAS for
choosing this particular campus for doing so. The academic exercise
has made us aware and made us more responsible towards our own
duties and practice. If we can pursue this agenda further by
making those near to us aware, the attempt would be quite fruitful.