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Journalism Education in Nepal: In Search of New Moorings

By Gokul Pokharel, President, Nepal Press Union


The rapid strides in mass media industry in recent times have opened up new opportunities of employment for young people as never before. While prospects of employment require specialized skills and knowledge, it has opened up new possibilities of launching education programmes in journalism at new universities located at various geographic locations of the Kingdom. In addition, it has also received the attention of many entrepreneurs and academics. A number of private agencies have come up with offers for post graduate/Masters programmes in Journalism or communication studies with approval from new universities or overseas institutions.

Such a free-for-all situation1though welcome is bound to suffer if proper safe-guards Land parameter of standards is not observed early stages. Unplanned and disoriented endeavours are likely to jeopardise the very dignity of the profession and the social service mission of journalism. But who is going to monitor the pit-falls or lapses in the interest of the society? While the entire gamut of education is itself in a mess as regards to the observance of ethics and standards, journalism, at best, is a neglected domain left at the niercy of market forces or pressure groups. The Fourth Estate which is supposed to keep a vigil on the mal-performance of democratic institutions and chastise them throUgh objective presentation of facts, is itself suffering from its own weaknesses and short-comings.

In the backdrop of these disturbing trends, the paper seeks to examine the relevance of journalism education in Nepal in the context of Tribhuvan University, which is by far, the oldest and largest institution of advanced education in the Kingdom.

Present State of Journalism Education

Study of Journalism in the formal educational set up was introduced in Ratna Rajya Laxmi Campus, Kathmandu in 1976 as a two-year optional subject at the proficiency certificate level (equivalent to 10+2 standard) under Tribhuvan University. Senior journalists in principal media organisations were inducted to work as part-time lecturers at the newly opened faculty of journalism. In 1986, the faculty was extended to cover education at the two-year diploma level (equivalent to Bachelor level, now rendered into a three-year course). From 1986, Peoples' Campus, a private campus, in Kathmandu, introduced the course at the certificate level.

From 1997, the Higher Secondary Education Board, HMG (HSEB) has introduced courses in Journalism and Mass Communication as optional subjects at Grade Xl and Xli. Still later; starting from the year 2001, the Board of Secondary Education, HMG, has prescribed Journalism for Grade IX and X as an optional subject.

Training in Journalism in the non-formal sector was launched in Nepal from 1984 by Nepal Press Institute. By now, a host of training organisations of various genres are in the business of imparting training in journalism to diverse clientele groups. Nepal Press Institute provided professional expertise in the development of curriculum and operative guidelines at the Secondary and Higher Secondary levels.

Enrolment situation and class-room facilities

The Ratna Rajya Laxmi Campus under Tribhuvan University musters 'the largest concentration of students taking journalism as one of he major elective subjects at the two year proficiency level and three-year diploma level. A total of six classes in the day and evening shifts are operated. The total number of students enrolled at present stands at 600, out of which 200 students are studying in the diploma course. Each class takes in about 75 students in average which is still very high in terms with the physical facilities available. But the percentage of students crossing the final examination is in the average of 50 % (35 students are said to have passed this year)

The other privately managed Peoples Campus operates classes in Journalism at 2-year proficiency level only. The average enrolment figure is about 30 students a year for both the classes.

At the higher secondary (10+2) level, about 5 higher secondary schools are known to prescribe the course adopted by the Board of Higher Secondary Education, Sano Thimi. In 2001, a total of 80 students are stated to have participated in the final examination. Some of the schools are known to have discontinued the course for lack of students and qualified teachers or poor yield in terms of financial returns.

The situation at the high school level is not clear except that the Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) has published a text book. The move should be welcomed as a positive step forward.

The Problem

The expansion of journalism education and training opportunities is, moreover, unbalanced and uneven in terms of mobilisation of resources and quality. Some of the major problems can be summed up as followed:

  • Much of the learning opportunity is limited at two campuses in the capital city. The diploma level education is confined to one campus only out of 140 campuses spread all over the Kingdom.
  • The prescription of courses at the Secondary and Higher Secondary levels has created new opportunities for learning journalism to students of outlying areas of the Kingdom. But expansion of the scope is constrained by the lack of qualified teachers and back-up resources including text books, libraries and basic learning materials.
  • Journalism education as a discipline of study appears to be heading into confusion in the absence of clear national policy and resource allocation plans. This is the only development sector that is deprived of state funds and, subsequently, is obliged to look for external resources and support.
  • The courses offered at the only campus in Kathrnandu lean heavily on theoretical study of print journalism due to lack of adequate funds. The lack of opportunity of studies at other campuses has led to over-crowding of classes, inadequate supervision and management.
  • There are no specific criteria adopted for the selection of teachers in journalism. The criteria developed by the University for other subjects have not been applied in this case for several reasons. For the moment, the problem is not serious as the faculty is limited to one campus in Kathmandu which has, some how managed to assemble a bevy of staff of matchable standard. The issue needs to be resolved for the sake of uniformity and adoption by other campus also.

The study of Journalism is more vocational in application and hence distinct from other liberal arts subjects. Its study entails quite a substantive use of modern technology and financial resource.


Any future plan for the promotion of the study of Journalism and Mass Communications shall have to take into account the following objectives:

  • To promote the culture of free press, media pluralism and human rights through the development of standard education in journalism and mass communications at the higher education level.
  • To support local initiatives in introducing study of journalism at other campuses outside the capital.
  • To suggest means of meeting the scarcity of teachers in Journalism by organising condensed training courses for university teachers.
  • To support initiatives for the production of well-graded text books in journalism in simple Nepali.
  • To support the development of libraries and on-line networking facilities at the newly established departments.
  • To promote inter-links with suitable partner institutions abroad and facilitate the exchange of teachers and students.

Issues and Concerns

Despite great boom in mass media industry and unrestricted access to regional and trans-national electronic media, we must admit in all frankness that media training and education do not figure anywhere in national development planning and resource allocation. In development terminology, mass media are wrongly understood as government controlled print and electronic media and telecommunications. Telecommunications is rated as one of the high priority development sector attracting huge national budget and external loans (5.21 billion rupees under the 8th Plan).

As exception, thanks to the effort of some media visionaries, foreign funding was attracted to this sector since 1995 for strengthening the independent media as important corollary of democracy arid human rights. The Media Development Fund and Media Training Support form two important components of the Danida support. In gross estimation, the absorption of funds until 2000AD in this sector should not exceed Rs 5 crore (50 million rupees). Mobilisation of external support has been instrument to some extent, in the resurgence of local and community media through training and absorption of modern technology. This trend, however welcome, has not made any dent in the domain of media education and human resource development on a sustained basis. This partly explains the sordid condition of journalism education at the only campus in Kathmandu and even discouraging environment outside the capital city.

Now let us examine the role of HMG policy in facilitating media education. The National Communication Policy, 1992, is very conspicuous by not making any reference to this important sector of service. Another policy document, the Ninth Plan has not considered it worthwhile to refer to man-power development in mass media and information although for exception, the information technology sector has been accorded due priority.

The education policy arid programmes co-ordinated under the umbrella of the Ministry of Education deliberately prefers to drop it on the assumption journalism education is a different discipline better to be taken care of by other agencies.

Instead of leaving this sector as a pariah, time has come to decide if media education is left entirely to the efforts of the private sector precluding government role in it. The second option could be channelising partial government support to bolster efforts of private and corporate organisations having a good track record of service. The first option should envisage educational institutions forging strong links with media industry that are willing to extend support to the educational development schemes. The third option is, the University and similar State supported institutions need to be impressed that teaching of journalism is a vocation-oriented learning and as such adequate funds are provided to ensure the standard and quality of education provided.

The Development Strategy

Irrespective of whichever option may prevail in future, it is high time to undertake a high-level review of journalism education in Nepal which has remained static for over the last two decades. Let it be understood that there is already a widening gap between the man-power requirements of fast expanding and diversified media industry and the limited range of training and educational institutions to cope with the demand. Voices are already raised to press the demand for constituting a high power Media Commission to deal with the manifold problems faced by national media of which manpower development is an important element.

Hence, any strategic considerations for man-power development in mass media sector should visualise the requirements for at least the next decade. The conceptual framework of a media education development strategy could imbibe the following programme areas.

  • Develop an apex centre of excellence in Kathmandu capable of responding to the specific man-power needs of mass media industry in the Kingdom. Considerations for launching a Masters course in journalism could readily, fit in such a concept.
  • Help develop a number of feeder institutions outside Kathmandu valley, by facilitating the launching of diploma level of study in Journalism under the existing framework.

In order to avoid unfair competition, duplication of efforts and wastage of soarce resources, the University should set forth the logic of creating the centre of excellences in the peripheral areas over uncontrolled production of graduates. It means let there be one specialized faculty of study at the designated campus for at last one geographic region. To make the point more clear, if Dharan Campus is awarded approval to operate graduate study programme in journalism, let it be construed for the whole region. Similarly, other campuses could be encouraged to develop their own speciality faculties. But to put in force such an approach, it needs a lot of vision planning and co-ordination of efforts.

  • Create a multidisciplinary and well represented media education council within the University academic framework to deal effectively with the question of standards, resource mobilization, issuing approval for opening new programme areas, etc. The body can be made further effective by involving the representation of National Planning Commission and the Ministry of Information and Communication.
  • Through forward planning and phase-wise development of resource base, it might be possible at the end of 10-year period to plan for a specialised school of commUlnication studies or mass communications.

Project Financing

In the absence of a policy according due priority to Journalism education and training in national development programmes, capital investment in this sector will continue to linger for the mercy of private entrepreneurs or foreign support agencies which not health for long-term sustained development.

There are countries which have accorded due priority the development of man-power in the media sector. The Republic of Korea has made it mandatory of allocating 2 per cent of the income from TV advertisement to finance the cost of media training and education. The government of Bangladesh provides substantive grants to support media education. In Nepal also, levy on the sale of cigarettes and tobaccos are raised to support health related public advertisements. Incomes from hotels are set aside to support tourism promotion programmes.

Similar norms can be applied to raise funds to support media training and education related projects provided the programme is accorded due priority by national planners. Under such a scenario, it possible that a certain percentage of the VAT collected from media advertisements could be set aside to finance the development costs of media education and training. This provision could be enforced for a period of ten years when it is presumed that the media industry will have enough means to support the cost manpower development in their respective fields of concern.

Criteria for Launching Graduate Study in Journalism

With the rapid expansion of mass media and various forms of public communication, it is plausible that more and more educational institutions and campus will be tempted to introduce graduate study programmes in their respective area. Journalism being a vocation-oriented learning, the following criteria might be helpful in processing request for approvals.

  • The Campus/institution should have convenient location having a good commercial hinterland base, transport and communication links.
  • Initial development costs as well as running operational costs.
  • Existence of physical facilities like separate space and scope for future expansion.
  • Sizeable number of students assessed on an average yearly enrolment basis.
  • Availabilty of teachers in the proposed discipline of study and staff development plan for future growth.
  • Assurance that no similar facility has existed in the geographic region precluding the possibility of unfair competition.
  • Guidelines for assembling the required sets of equipment and appliances necessary to launch the programme. (List of equipment has been provided for reference)


  • In order to cope with the growing demand of quality education and training in journalism, it is essential to keep track of those who are the qualified persons for the job. This can be done by making a directory of media trainers and educators who are qualified to undertake the job.
  • In order to stream-line better coordination among various agencies involved in media education, it is desirable to form an inter-disciplinary body to deal with the following program areas:
    • - Gradation of training curricula for various grades of media education;
    • - Recommend the production of reference books and learning materials;
    • - Periodic monitoring and evaluation of the standards of media education undertaken at various levels and publication of an assessment report thereof;
    • - Organising inter-disciplinary seminars, workshops and consultative meetings;
    • - Finance to such inter-sector al programmes should be raised from contributions from various agencies involved in media education.
  • A set of criteria should be developed to provide a basis for granting permission to an institution/campus desiring to start the study of journalism in its faculty.
  • It is recommended to work out a 10-year media education development strategy with clearly defined goals and targets.
  • Media training, man-power development and education should be accorded due priority in the policy document on education, information and communications and the 10th Plan.
  • The government should make it mandatory to set aside a fraction of the payments made on advertisements to a special fund financing the development costs of media education and training.

Copyright©2001. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Nepal Office
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