| 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
Enrolment situation and class-room
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 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
- 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
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
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
- 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
- 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.
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- - 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
- - 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.