Accepted paper:

What is it all for? Educational distinction in Nepal's precarious labor market

Authors:

Amanda Snellinger (University of Oxford)
David Gellner (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

Educational attainment is viewed as the key to a more secure life. But what happens when young people are unable to secure stable positions? This paper examines the meanings young Nepalis give to their education as they struggle to structure their lives amidst a grim employment environment.

Paper long abstract:

In the last twenty years, Nepal's literacy rate has increased by over thirty percent and the number of people earning their School Leaving Certificate has increased ten-fold. Families across socio-economic demographics have invested in their children's education in the hopes that it will yield salaried work (jagir), particularly in the government sector. Educational attainment is viewed as the key to a more secure life. But what happens when young people are unable to secure stable positions? How do they make meaning of their education after they fail to reach the end in which they initially invested? This paper examines the meanings young Nepalis give to their education as they struggle to structure their lives amidst a grim employment environment. The level of precarity in their lives may not differ much from what their parents have experienced, but yet they make sense of their possibilities and responsibilities differently. These young people see themselves as capable of moving beyond the local sphere of agricultural work and wage labour to pursue entrepreneurial and professional paths both in Nepal and abroad. Education has imbued them with the confidence to change their own lives and communities for the better. They draw distinctions between themselves and their less educated peers, claiming that their education allows them to "speak" on behalf of others. They frame their educational development within the context of the country's and their community's development and prioritize reinvesting in their families and communities to reciprocate the initial investment that was made in them.

panel P53
Educated youth in search of enlightenment in South Asia (and beyond)