Nepalwatch

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3rd of February 2023

Startups will not thrive unless the education system changes

Kathmandu. I have been teaching startups for the past 12 years. During this process, I also worked as a ‘mentor’ with many startups. Not only this, but I also got the opportunity to closely observe the work being done at the government’s policy-making level.

A committee was formed under the Ministry of Industry in 2017 for startup policy. I was a member of that committee as well.

My experience says that startups are facing significant policy problems. The government should facilitate entrepreneurs by bridging barriers that prevailed. Even after 12 years have passed since the entry of the startup, the government has not been able to well define startups. Forget about drafting policies, it is sad to see that there has been no progress in this regard despite all these long efforts.

Based on my experience, I am going to discuss the state of startups in Nepal, the existing problems and the role played by our education system in its development and expansion.

The interest of youth towards startups in Nepal is ‘tricky’ in itself. Let’s briefly discuss why this is ‘tricky’. With the development of technology around the world, the concept of startup has been introduced in Nepal. I had just joined King’s College when this concept was introduced. It was a time when the banking sector was booming. The dream of most youths was to become a banker. But now that thinking has changed. That craze has now ‘shifted’ into entrepreneurship.

I said ‘tricky’, because everyone in Nepal is interested in following the ‘trend’. The interest of the youth has decreased significantly in terms of in-depth studies and hard work. To succeed, one has to shed blood and sweat. But we all want to reach the peak of success quickly, but we don’t put in the necessary effort. This is a very scary situation.

The youth’s involvement and interest in startups have also been the same. This word has been glamorized, therefore, it seems that most of those who are interested have taken it as just following the bandwagon.

We cannot analyze everyone in a blanket approach. Many serious and good startups have also emerged. Our education system has also increased the awareness that startups should spread. This is a positive side.

If we look at the government data, six hundred thousand young people enter the labor market every year. A total of seventy million eighty-six thousand are employed in the country. This means that unemployment is high. Startups can play a significant role in addressing this issue.

Due to these difficulties in policies, we have not been able to work towards achieving our goal. I am a student of public policy. We still haven’t figured out the confusion created after 2046 in Nepal. Further gaps were created even after that.

Because of those ‘gaps’, confusion is being created about the role of the government and the private sector. We have always faced several difficulties in this conflict. I believe more in personal freedom. I believe the more the person develops, the faster the progress will be. I do not believe that development can only be achieved by the guidance of a limited number of people in government. The success of entrepreneurship is linked to the platform government can create, the profit entrepreneur makes and the investment he does.

What do you mean by platform? Even today, the government has not been able to give a concrete vision about startups. If we look at what the aspirations are in entrepreneurship on the part of the government, there is nothing. Although ministers, leaders, secretaries, etc. gossip about entrepreneurship, they cannot answer about what will be the perspective of the country about startups.

Since the government does not have a clear vision, it creates ambiguity about what can be done and what cannot be done. Another problem is resources and means. I am from a normal family. The majority of people come from ordinary families in Nepal.

Earlier only a limited number of families dominated business and entrepreneurship in Nepal. The dominant business was the ‘trading dominated’ business. If an ordinary person wants to start entrepreneurship, it world takes time. However, the government should invest and provide resources to strengthen him from the zero level. What has the government done so far in this regard?

The issue of ‘startup fund’ has been raised from time to time to create the environment. But it was not properly implemented.

Whenever the issue of ‘challenge fund’ arises, the inter-organizational relationship becomes dominant. The National Planning Commission, the Ministry of Finance, and other agencies are part of the program. Therefore, even if someone applies for it one will end up with nothing from these ministries. This is what the main problem is. Hence, the government has not provided the necessary support for those who come ahead facing all those challenges.

Currently, there is an election atmosphere, a new parliament is being elected. Most of the parties have included the issue of developing entrepreneurship in the country and increasing employment in their election manifesto. But slogans are not enough. For that, leaders should also listen to others. First of all, the thinking of the person going to the government should be liberal. We now need someone who will listen to change the situation. It is necessary to have a person who can understand, and listen to the young generation and work on it by forming his team.

But the problem with us is that once a person comes into power or holds a position he believes he knows everything. That is why I believe there is a huge physical as well as mental wall between youths and Singadurbar. The youths do not have interaction and access to Singadurbar as they should have.

There is a huge gap between the policymakers, the parliamentarians, and the young generation who have the creative potential for entrepreneurship. That gap needs to be bridged.

In Nepal, there is 35 percent of unemployed youth have not received any training or education. Startups have a big role to play in addressing those youths. This is also known as ‘Social Enterprise’. Let’s look at the condition of those who are educated. Our education system is certificate oriented. The ability to learn and teach is very low in our current education system. The education system must be pragmatic and we must amend it.

For 22 years, I have been saying that changes in education are necessary. Bureaucrats have the mentality that they are the only ones trying to protect the country. They believe that rest of the people are running down the country. During startup, if someone makes any mistake, regardless of apologies, bureaucrats try to control them through whatever means.

Education can make a significant contribution to addressing such problems. But have we been able to ‘facilitate’ each other’s role in society? Entrepreneurship requires creativity but our education system is itself killing creativity. Our education system does not allow people to think about new ideas.

Entrepreneurship requires self-reliance, but our education teaches the opposite. Our education system limits us only to the lectures of teachers and the content of the book. Likewise, even within our family, there is an obligation to obey what the elders say. There is no freedom to go beyond what the elders say and think. Entrepreneurship means gradually solving problems that arise during the course but our education system does not allow both to work and solve problems.

Entrepreneurship is the in-depth study of the resources and tools in the community and finding a solution from there. But there is no connection between community and education in our country. Hence, to start a startup business, there is a need for significant ‘reform’ in the overall education system of Nepal.

(Edited part of the statement given by Narottam Aryal, Chairperson of King’s College for Nepalwatch.com’s television presentation ‘Policy Dialogue-2022’)

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