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The Impact of Education During the Rana Period in Nepal

Education in Pre-Rana Nepal:-

The Lichhavi period at the beginning of the current millennia has been considered a period of renaissance in Nepalese arts, crafts, architecture, education, and culture. Despite this, the Lichhavi Kings looked upon education as an optional rather than a requisite function of the State. Priests and monks imparted skills and values in various disciplines to a small number of pupils and disciples in their Gurukul and monasteries. The Gurukul system was a similar system to the modern boarding schools except that the pupils were usually Brahmins or the sons of the ruling elite. Gurus were the spiritual directors in the Gurukul. The rulers would donate land, the principal form of property at the time, for the daily worship of deities. Trusts or Guthis were organized to look after and manage such landed property. Hermits, mendicants, and pilgrims were fed out of income from the trusts. These same trusts supported the Gurukuls and were organized as early as the 7th century A.D. Trusts from temples also supported education during this time. 

During the Malia period (1243-1769 A.D.), King Jayasthiti Malia believed in education as preparation for life while a later King of Patan, Siddhinarsingh Malia, attempted to implement secular education. 

The unification of Nepal was initiated by King Prithivi Narayan Shah of the House of Gorkha, the current Shah dynasty's first monarch under a unified Nepal. During the unification process, little attention was paid to education, though Prithivi Narayan Shah's policy statements compiled in the Divya Upadesh covered many areas of statecraft. His sons and grandsons were also preoccupied with the unification process which ultimately came to a halt after the defeat at the hands of the British Empire in 1814. Thereafter and until1846 the Court of Nepal was an imbroglio of intrigues and conspiracies. This culminated in a bloody coup led by Jung Bahadur Rana who put the monarch in prison and placed his son on the throne from whom he wrested all the powers of the State. In August of 1856, he has bestowed the title of Maharajah (Bhandari, 1981).

Education in Rana Nepal:-

Though not formally educated, Jung Bahadur Rana had assessed the impact of education on the general populace and its potential threat to his rule. He was determined that the populace would not be educated. This principle was followed by his successors and was similar to the policy of the Japanese shoguns. However, after his trip to Europe Jung Bahadur realized the importance of English for communication with the outside world and felt that his sons should be given a "western" education. He brought two teachers from England and established an elementary English school at his residence in 1853. Other teachers were recruited for the school from Bengal, India. Jang Bahadur's school was later named Durbar School as it was shifted from one Rana durbar or palace to another. During this time only the ruling Ranas and their nobles'. sons could attend the school. This school represents the beginning of modern education in Nepal. No other school was opened during Jang Bahadur Rana's tenure from 1846 to 1877. Wright (1877) observed that within the general populace of the time "Everyone teachers his own children or employs the family priests or pundit for the purpose. The lower classes are simply without education of any kind."

The Durbar School was later affiliated with Calcutta University. Hence the University curriculum, rules, and regulations were strictly adhered to within Durbar School. English was both the medium of instruction and examination. Students had to travel to Calcutta for their high school entrance examination before the opening of an examination center in Kathmandu in 1929. By this time Durbar, The school had been opened to the public. Students were given traveling expenses and were rewarded based on their performance on the examination (Sharma, 1981). These expenses were covered out of the income of the Guthis.

Department of Education:- 

The Department of Education (DOE) was established in 1858. General Babar Jung, one of the sons of Jung Bahadur Rana was appointed its fust director (Subba, Uprety, & Wood, 1958). Durbar school was opened to the public for the first time in 1885 when Kedar Narsingh became director of the DOE during the prime ministership of Bir Shamsher Rana. This had an adverse effect on the Rana boys as they considered themselves to be a class apart from the "commoners" whereas the common people were reluctant to enroll their sons as they might be an unwitting victim of the Ranas' wrath.

Failure to Universalize Education With the support of a handful of energetic youths, Prime Minister Dev Shumshere declared primary education universal and free at the beginning of the present century (Acharya, 1957). He issued an ordinance to open schools throughout Nepal. Nearly fllty Bhasa Pathshala or elementary language schools were opened within Kathmandu Valley and a few beyond the Valley. Pundits were provided by the government to those communities that could collect 24 students and arrange places for the students to sit and read. Patis that was otherwise used as a shelter for travelers were also used as schools. Aksharanka Siksha was the fust language primer book and was published and distributed free by the State. The fust weekly newspaper, Gorkhapatra, which is presently a daily, was also published by the State. All of these educational measures were against the dictate of Jung Bahadur Rana had stated, "Impart English education to your sons and keep mum for others." Dev Shumshere became a thorn in the side of his brothers and the Rana clique, particularly Chandra Shamsher did not want the people to demand fundamental rights and raise their voices against the autocratic Rana rule.

As commander-in-chief of the military, Chandra Shumshere engineered a bloodless coup to oust his elder brother Dev Shumshere in 1901, barely three months after the latter had become Prime Minister. Ironically, Chandra Shumshere Rana was the first Rana student of Durbar School to pass the high school entrance examination. When he took over the reins of power he did not fill the vacancies of teachers in the Bhasa Pathsahlas. Free distribution of education materials such as slates and the Aksharanka Siksha was also stopped. Aksharanka Siksha was later replaced by Sanskrit grammar, morals, and rituals. To avoid being charged with the closing of the Bhasa Pathshala, Chandra Shamsher saw that a few were reopened at district headquarters. To make the inspection of the Bhasa Pathshalas necessary he established theBandobastaAdda or Controller's Office with two sections: the Nagari Phant (Nepali Section) and the Angrezi Phant (English Section). The Bandobasta Adda was established in 1902 under the Department of Education. Chandra Shamsher opened Shrestaa Pathsala, the first civil servant's school, in 1905 to produce clerks to work in the newly organized offices in the capital and district headquarters. He did not want overly qualified individuals for clerical jobs. Therefore the curriculum consisted largely of Nepali writing, arithmetic, and law and governmental procedures which were collectively called Shrestha. There was only one such school in the Kingdom and young men were encouraged to join by providing a stipend of thirty-six rupees per annum. The Pass Jaanch Adda (Controller of Examinations) was opened in 1910 to conduct examinations and certify successful candidates from the Shrestha Pathsala. Chandra Shamsher had two purposes behind the opening of the Shrestha Pathsala. One was to suppress the aspirations of the young people concerning obtaining higher education. He understood that when the people were not properly educated there would be a decreased likelihood of their educating others and indulging in political activities. Secondly, the graduates from the Shrestha Pathsala became loyal to the Rana Prime Minister once they obtained civil service jobs.  

Gorkha Language Publication Council:- 

The newly opened Shrestaa Paths ala and the Bhasa Paths alas needed books. There was a need for an organization to produce books as A ksharanka Siksha was no longer being printed. An office was set up in 1903 to write books for children, but little is known about its publications (Mainali & Lamichhane, 1988). The Gorkha Bhasa Prakashini Samittee was instituted by the statute of 1912. Only thirty-two titles were published over a period of twenty years (1921-1932). Each manuscript was strictly edited by a seven-member board of censors prior to its printing (Kunwar, 1981). The Council was not established with the intention of publishing standard Nepali books to promote education. Rather, it was created to show that the government had encouraged Nepali writers to publish and had provided the opportunity.

Intermediate Colleges:- 

Indian students became involved in political activities for the independence of India with the establishment of the Indian National Congress. The Rana government did not want the few non-Rana Nepali students studying in India to return with a political consciousness and agitate against the autocratic Rana regime. Chandra Shamsher tried to retain students in Nepal by either appointing them to civil service or promising them opportunities for higher education in Nepal.

Tri-Chandra College, Nepal's first college, enrolled only six students in 1918. There was only one secondary school in the Kingdom that served as a feeder institution: Durbar School. Among those from the school who successfully completed their entrance examinations in Calcutta, those from influential families would get a stipend for higher education. The number of teachers at Tri-Chandra College was six as well (Nisamati Darta Kitaab, 1919). There were two graduates in medicine and two in civil engineering among fifteen other graduates during this time.

Chandra Sbumshere visited England in 1908 and felt he was at a disadvantage when was asked about the state of education in Nepal. Chandra Shamsher met with King George V in Delhi in 1911 and invited the King for sport and bunting in the Terai jungle of southern Nepal. During his visit King George V inquired about education in Nepal on a number of occasions. Chandra Sbumsbere felt increasing pressure to show that his government was making a serious attempt to educate the people. In partial response to this Chandra Shumshere's government opened an intermediate arts college in Kathmandu in 1918. Three classical languages, philosophy, mathematics, and history were offered and affiliation was sought from Calcutta University. While addressing the opening ceremony Chandra Shumsbere was heard to state, "I am not sure whether this day will be a day of happiness or a day in the beginning of the end for the Rana regime. I do not see that the result of opening a college will be good for them. I am compelled to do it because of the time and circumstances." The students of the college were provided with travel expenses and a subsistence allowance to go to Calcutta to appear in the examinations. This system examination was ended after 1923 when all of the students taking the exam passed with good marks.

An Attempt to Open a Public Library:- 

In 1930 a group of people ventured to open a public library in Kathmandu, though it was illegal to establish a public reading room or library at the time. At the same time, Nepalis living in India were trying to make those in Nepal politically aware by publishing fortnightlies and monthlies such as Gorkha Sansar, Tanm Gorkha, Gorkha Sewak, and Gorkhali out of Dehradun, Shillong and Darjeeling, India. These and others were made available through the library. Some of those who began the public library were imprisoned and others were fined after signing a bond that they would not attempt to open another library in the future.

Attempts to Open Public Schools:- 

During 1935/36 a public school was begun in Kathmandu by several young men who later become martyrs. The objective of setting up the school was to begin to educate the general populace and assist them in developing a political consciousness that would lead to change. Others began to open schools as a result. During this same period of time, a board consisting of twenty-two members was constituted by the Ranas to discuss and recommend changes in various aspects of the curriculum, examinations, and management of the Shrestha Pathsala.

A plan was devised by the Rana government to control the expansion of public schools by Prime Minister Juddha Shamsher. The Siksha Istihar or Education Ordinance of 1939 permitted the government to control both the administration and finances of these schools. Permission to open a school had to be granted by the government and the school headmaster and clerk were registered with the civil service. The Rana government granted a token sum of 1200 annually in addition to the salary of the school headmaster and the clerk. The remaining cost of running the school had to be borne by the school management committee. Every decision of the school management committee had to be reported by the headmaster to the director-general of the Department of Education. The Office of the Inspector of Schools was established. An inspector was appointed to inspect the English schools and to report on any political activities. Power over the schools was further centralized by the Rana government through the. appointment of military generals as directors of public instruction and by requiring teachers' tenure to be reviewed on a yearly basis.

Recognition of Education as a Fundamental Right:-

Once India had achieved independence the Ranas quickly recognized that to retain the power they must remain in favor of the Indian leadership. One method of remaining in their favor was to spread basic education as it had been practiced in India. In addition to giving the public permission to open new public schools, Padma Shumshere declared in 1947 that he would intact a series of constitutional acts. The relatively liberal attitude of Padma Shamsher became detrimental to the interests of his younger brothers who were in line to become Prime Minister. They consequently forced Padma Shumshere to resign and Mohan Shumshere became Prime Minister.

In May 1948 Mohan Shumshere addressed his court on the occasion of his becoming Prime Minister. Among the topics he addressed were the right to universal education, the organization of a university commission, the opening of a Sanskrit college, and the creation of adult education centers. The first university commission, consisting of twenty-five members, met on August 26th of 1948 and formed subcommittees to discuss a number of issues including the formation of a teaching or affiliated university in Nepal, the medium of instruction, and coeducation.


Despite Mohan Shumshere's recognition of education as a fundamental right and his expansion of educational institutions, or perhaps partially as a result of this, the century-old Rana oligarchy was overthrown in 1951 and King Tribhuvan assumed leadership. At the time of their overthrow, the Ranas had increased the national primary enrollment to only 0.9 percent of the 6-10-year-old age group and the overall literacy rate to only 2 percent (Wood, 1959). Nonetheless, education was acknowledged to have been a force for social change in Nepal, both by the Ranas and by their adversaries. 

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