Civic Education: Present National Context
One-day seminar jointly organised by NEFAS
and FES at
30 March 2016 (Mahadevsthan, Kavrepalanchowk)
Prepared by Ritu Raj Subedi
Nepal's new constitution has envisioned 31 fundamental rights
and four duties of the citizens. This sheer dichotomy has made
the national charter an ambitious document and the people the
demanding lot. Flagging economic growth and scanty sources of
income hardly allow any government to easily implement the statute
in letter and spirit. The yawning gap between the constitutional
promises and state capacity is sure to trigger another round of
state-people conflict. Some ethnic and social groups are still
hell-bent on inserting more rights in the constitution, risking
it becoming a contested constitutional dossier. It requires a
conventional wisdom from all sides to avert the looming conflict
and convert the statute into the charter of destiny of all Nepalese.
In this context, civic education is the most viable democratic
antidote to the potential conflict because it enlightens the people
about the equal importance of their rights and duties. It transforms
the people into awakened citizens, wise and moral. It frees them
from the atavistic instincts and infantile behaviours. Once the
people are imbued with civic values and principles, they play
critical role in democratising the society and cleaning up the
The Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS) and Friedrich
Ebert Stiftung(FES) have been spearheading the campaign to spread
the values of civic education to the nook and corner of the
nation for many years. The two organisations have teamed up
to conscientize the grassroots people about their constitutional
rights and duty towards the nation. The NEFAS and FES have provided
forums for experts, intellectuals and local people to share
their concerns, knowledge and experiences against the backdrop
of nation building campaign. Such a forum was created in one-day
seminar 'Civic Education: Present National Context' organised
on the premises of Dedithumpko Higher Secondary School in Mahadevsthan
VDC of Kavrepalanchowk on March 30, 2016. Speaking at the function,
the speakers said that the civic education ultimately transforms
the people into awakened citizens, who possess moral fibre and
strength to knock the bad politicians off their pedestal. They
noted that civic education has become a necessary intellectual
instrument to evolve the nation into a robust, sovereign and
prosperous republic in the aftermath of the promulgation of
historic constitution. They dwelt on the diverse subjects of
national interests. Teachers, representatives from different
political parties, students and local intellectuals participated
in the animated interaction.
Neo-liberalisation vitiates national economy: Sharma
National Planning Commission former vice-chair professor Guna
Nidhi Sharma said that India's malign intention and hegemonic
policy towards Nepal precluded it from attaining prosperity
and stability. Nepal's economic growth never moved beyond 3.50-4
per cent because of India's policy, he said. His views can be
summed up in following sentences-
- The 1950 Treaty has constrained Nepal from framing independent
policies on employment, labour and prices. India invokes it
whenever Nepal takes sovereign decisions and executes independent
- India has mentality to extract something in return of its
economic aid to Nepal. The southern neighbour is stingy in
a sharp the contrast to the magnanimity of the northern neighbour
as seen in the border issue.
- Added to it, fatal neo-liberalisation and free market economy,
which the post-1990 government adopted impetuously, continues
to deflate economy. Four Ds- decontrol, downsize, deregulate
and denationalisation became the mantra of government but
the neo-liberalisation policies put the country's economy
- Health, education, road and transport are public goods and
the state has responsibility to provide these utilities to
the citizens but with the start of privatisation in 1991,
the public have been deprived of them. Pro-market ethos that
'the might is right' alienated the people from the state,
leaving them in the lurch.
- It is irony that private sector became strong and the government
weak. The private sector is selective. The state has to open
those areas of services and industries that can compete with
the private sector but should not open those areas sans the
- Today our dependency has grown by 70 per cent, up from 30
per cent in 1990. This amply shows the lackadaisical approach
of the government when it comes to opening new industries
and boosting economy. It has become necessary to diversify
trade to reduce deficit and dependency.
- Hydropower development requires foreign technology and knowledge.
It is a long-term investment. Since capitalism is motivated
by greed, the private sector wants quick return of its investment
so there is not sufficient investment in the hydropower sector.
- Until and unless, our political leadership is honest and
loyal to the nation, it is difficult to achieve independence
and economic prosperity.
Civic consciousness is like a spark of light: DR Dahal
FES Office Nepal head Dev Raj Dahal said that civic education
aimed at liberating people from their infantile behaviour and
self-ordination, and transforming them into awakened citizens
and human beings. Dahal notes that civic education helps acquire
maturity, make critical judgement, promote democracy and active
citizenship, build national identity and close gender and intergenerational
gap. His views can be summed up following way:
- Civic consciousness is like a spark of light, which reveals
life beyond the needs of body and mind, and help familiarize
the people with various rights and duties.
- Civic education cultivates citizens to acquire knowledge,
skills and dispositions and enables them to participate in
the public life of society and use their constitutional and
human rights. It converts the people into citizen and makes
them moral and patriotic. It bridges the gap between knowledge
- Civic education is praxis- the use of critical knowledge
to shape positive attitude towards the nation and polity and
create norms that are socially binding. The critique of existing
praxis helps transform people into citizens and hones their
- Civic learning does not mean the passive absorption of data,
facts and information or rote-learning of text books written
in a an entirely different context, but active reflection,
inquiry and discovery on the life-context, issues, actors
and rules to resolve problematic conditions.
- Nepal has not framed its policies since 1950. In order to
ensure right to self-determination, the country should have
ownership of its policies in the sphere of politics, law and
Nepal is not a tribal state but a civilisational state with
the oldest history of knowledge.
Conclusion: Civic education is important for a society like
Nepal for reconciliation of various identities through the elevation
of perspectives. It offers chance to the Nepali citizens to
converse with power elites on equal terms and create a common
ground for cooperative action. In this sense, it seeks to foster
normative consensus over democratic values across the political
parties of various hues and boost state-citizenship ties.
Know the history: Dahal
Professor Ram Kumar Dahal said that Nepal was one of 17 oldest
ancient states in the world with the dignified socio-economic
and cultural tradition. It is necessary to think retrospectively
as to how we have come to such a pass, he rued. He said:
- The citizens should pay equal attention to their rights
and duty. The lopsided focus on rights create anarchist situation
as we have seen for decades. We should apply our own lens
to define human rights narratives. It is wrong to define the
HR from the parameters of Western standards.
- Our education policy needs to be reoriented so that the
ethical values can be inculcated into the young generation.
They should be conscientized about the history, geography,
and cultural and intellectual tradition of the nation.
- We often pooh-poohed first Rana Prime Minister Jung Bahadur
for his bloody political venture but there are plenty of things
to be learnt from him. When he visited Britain, he demanded
that the British Empire fully recognise Nepal's sovereignty
and treat him as the Prime Minister of sovereign nation. He
even refused to take gifts from the British queen to her bewilderment,
saying that Nepalis are known for only donating others, not
accepting the presents from others. As he arrived in Calcutta,
thousands of people thronged to have a glimpse of the man,
who has become legend in his life time.
- There is growing tendency to abominate politics, terming
it a dirty game played by political idiots. This negative
stereotype should be removed. The youth should join politics
to clean up it. Chairman Mao had said the youth are the rising
sun but the Nepalese youths are leaving the country in search
of job abroad. It is challenging to keep them here by providing
employment opportunity to them. With the rising political
awareness, the youth should join the politics.
- Promoting civic education, good governance and rule of law
is imperative for the overall development of nation.
'Politicians have become dealers, not leaders'
NEFAS programme coordinator Shiv Raj Dahal called for purging
politics of evils and greed that are ruling the roost. "The
politicians have become dealers, not the leaders of people.
They have used politics as a means for minting money. This
egregious practice must be eliminated to democratise the society,"
he said. His views are as follows:
Civic education makes the citizens moral, wise and conscious
of things happening around them. Every citizen should be imbued
with following civic virtues:
- Good socialisation- It is a process of learning and experiencing
social values, culture, skill, language, art and literature.
- National identity- Every nation has its identity. Nepal
as the oldest nation in the south Asia has its own flag, anthem,
dress and national unity day. Nepal Army has earned its distinct
identity as the peace-keeping force in the conflict-torn nations
across the world.
- Etiquette- As a social member, all citizens should demonstrate
polite behaviour and respect others' views.
- Patriotism- It is a devotion to independence, dignity, glory,
respect, welfare, rights and security of the nation. It is
imperative to promote national culture and unity.
- Rational civic commitment- It is a commitment to Loktantra,
human rights, social justice and constitutional norms and
- Protection of national integrity- As the nation is moving
ahead to implement federalism, national integrity should be
put at the centre. No proposal should be allowed in the parliament
that hurts the territorial integrity and national unity.
- Critical consciousness- It is an intellectual ability to
see burning issues in proper perspective by analysing their
pros and cons.
Civic thinking/skill- Citizens should rise above the ethnic,
regional and communal factions and promote positive thinking
focusing on the subjects of public, community or national importance.
They should be equipped with knowledge and participatory skills
so that they can be aware of their rights, duty and responsibility
towards the society and nation.
Leaders are the role models of the citizens. They are the carrier
of public policies and morality. Imbued with national vision,
knowledge, skill and practical experiences, they mirror the
society. Statesmanship that evolves from the long democratic
exercises and experiences cannot be imported from outside. Without
a good political leadership, the politics hardly takes a positive
Today, civic virtues are disappearing from politicians. Politics
is infested with vices and filthy practices. The young generation
should join politics and remove all its anomalies. Politics
should be a service to the nation and society; it should not
be an instrument to fulfil one's own interests. It is civic
education that enables the people to revamp the image of politics,
making it a viable means of serving the people and preserving
the national interest and sovereignty.
Ram Chandra Lamsal, principal of Dedithumpko Higher Secondary
School underlined the need for promoting democratic culture.
From the chair, Ganga Kumar Mandal said that the programme
was highly propitious to inform the participants about the core
values of civic education. The people should be the centre of
development, he added.
Arun Kumar Singh of NEFAS moderated the programme and highlighted
its objectives. Singh said that the seminar sought to share
the views between the experts and locals on the social, political
and economic themes and present the conclusions to the policymakers.
From the floor
Deepa Sharma inquired how the timbers that are lying in the
forests and subject to decay can be used. Why doesn't the government
sell them to the people or distribute them? Ananda Sapkota said
that the participants wanted that they were enthused by the
seminar and made optimistic as the nation was still in some
kind of political turmoil. There are also positive sides of
political changes in the aftermath of the 1990 change, he said
and urged the organisers to come up a proposal of hydropower
development in the investment of the people . Pushpa Raj Awasthi
said that model of federalism should be based on the reality
of the country