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Nepal, officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a mid-sized country in South Asia, with a total geographic land area of approximately 57,000 square miles, making it the 93rd largest country in the world by land mass. Completely landlocked and situated in the renowned Himalayas, Nepal is bordered by the People’s Republic of China to the north and the Republic of India to the south, east and west. Its capital and largest city is Katmandu, which is also the country’s largest metropolis, home to nearly 20 percent of the population.
Nepal has a total permanent population of nearly 27 million, not counting the almost two million absentee citizens who are living and working abroad. The population has almost tripled since 1950, when the population was just over 9 million. From an ethnic standpoint, the Nepalese are descendants of three major migrations from India, Tibet, and North Burma and Yunnan by way of Assam. Even though the Indo-Nepalese, or those that migrated from India, were relative latecomers as compared to other immigrants, they have now come to dominate the country, not only in terms of the number of people, but also politically, socially, economically, and to some point, culturally.
Nepal is also very diverse from a linguistic position, with languages that have evolved from four major language groups: Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman, Mongolian and various indigenous languages. Today many languages can be heard throughout Nepal, including Nepali, the first language or mother tongue of 70 percent of the population. Other languages include Maithili (5%), Tharu (4%), Newari/Nepal Bhasa (3.6%), Bhojpuri and Tamang (3%), Rai (2.8%), Awadhi (2.5%), Magar (2.4%), Limbu (1.5%) and Bajjika (1%). Hinduism is the most dominant religion in Nepal, practiced by an overwhelming percent of the population, and Shiva is regarded as the guardian deity of the country. Other religions practiced in the country include Buddhism (11%), Islam (4%), Mundhum (3.5%) and Christianity (0.5%).
Education in Nepal
In Nepal, education is overseen by the federal government and the school system is structured into two general levels: school education and higher education. School education is broken down into three additional levels: primary education, lower secondary and secondary school, while higher education includes higher secondary education and tertiary or university education.
Primary education in Nepal spans five years (grades one through five) beginning at age six. Students are taught basic skills in the first two to three grade levels, with instruction and guided practice in subjects such as reading, writing, count and art. In the final two to three years of primary school, students are introduced to courses such as mathematics, science, religious studies, Nepali language and literature, history, geography, and physical education.
Lower secondary and secondary schools comprise the final parts of a student’s school education. They span 3 and 2 years respectively, the first representing grades 6-8 and the second grades 9-10. Following the 10th grade, which is the final compulsory level of education, students must sit for the National School Leaving Certificate Examination, with passing grades needed to proceed to higher education.
Unlike most countries, grades 11 and 12 under the Nepalese education system are considered higher education rather than secondary. These grades were once taught at universities but now, at least in most areas of the country, have been integrated into the school education system.
Higher education in Nepal is provided by both community and institutional schools. Community schools receive their funding from regular government grants, while institutional schools are funded by the school’s own or other non-governmental sources. At both types of universities students can earn Bachelor (3 Years), Master’s (2 years) and PhD level degrees in most major academic fields.
Despite recent successes in the Nepalese school system, education as a whole still faces many challenges, including the quality of schools and teachers, poor education management, a culture that routinely discriminates against female students and a lack of access for many students, particularly in the country’s rural and poorer areas. Because of these challenges and more, approximately two-thirds of the country’s female adults and one-third of the male adults are functionally illiterate.