This paper presents a critical reflection on the changing roles of an International NGO (INGO) in contributing to the provision of basic education services in Nepal. The traditional boundary between the government and NGOs is becoming increasingly blurred, with the expanding contribution to education being made by them and by the private sector.
The approaches to meeting the needs of school-going children taken by the government, NGOs, and the private sector are inherently different from one another. However, there is also overlap. For instance, the government and NGOs share a common concern for achieving the MDG and EFA goals by 2015. The role of the NGOs is often seen as being to fill the gap in state provision by reaching out to the poor who are most vulnerable to market forces such as the privatisation of education (Bano 2008). Although NGOs are sometimes criticised for lack of accountability and for prioritising their own agendas (or donors’ agendas, more precisely, these days), expectations of them to be innovative and to ‘remain true to the micro-level environment’ (Jowett & Dyer 2012, 734) are high.
This paper begins by discussing the roles of NGOs as education providers focusing on the Nepal context. It then presents Nepal’s enrolment trends over recent years, showing striking gains in girls’ participation rates, but continuing problems with dropout and repetition, especially in the lower grades. It also discusses the implications of the growing number of enrolments in private institutions. Finally, the paper explores ways in which NGO education provision might be made more meaningful for its intended beneficiaries in the rapidly changing political, social, and economic context.