Beyond SLC level Plus Two or PCL

The government decided to discontinue Proficiency Certificate level in Nepal around 14 years ago, as per an agreement between the Ministry of Education and Tribhuvan University. Since then, Tribhuvan University has not given affiliation to PCL nor has it added PCL to its new constituent campuses. The issue has always been politically charged. The recent Tribhuvan University decision not to enrol students in PCL was taken with respect to that earlier agreement. Moreover, the government has already said that school level in Nepal comprises 12 years of schooling. This is also important to bring Nepal’s education at par with the international standard.

Several efforts were made in the past to phase out Proficiency Certificate Level, but none succeeded. The World Bank even provided incentive grants worth $100,000 to 18 campuses throughout the country for the purpose. Only a couple of campuses succeeded in phasing out PCL. When the buzz around the issue reached a crescendo a decade ago, the parliamentarians noted in the negative.

In doing so, they gave the wrong kind of support to the agitating students; the same is the scenario today. Four years back, there was a committee formed under the chairpersonship of the then TU rector involving the Higher Secondary Education Board and other stakeholders to resolve the issue. The committee decided not to run PCL separately under TU, but TU could adopt Higher Secondary Education Board curriculum in lieu of its PCL. TU faculties rejected this decision of the TU rector. This was also a part of teacher politics in TU.

First of all, it should be understood by all that the policy of any country depends upon certain philosophy which if defied cripples the entire system. Secondly, any alternatives to the concerned policy should be explored. The major concern of the students agitating today is the imbalance in the fee structure between PCL and higher secondary education. The teachers backing the students have a separate concern. They, mostly temporary and contractual ones, are afraid they may lose their jobs if PCL is phased out. This is again another kind of politics whereby everyone sees TU as a crucible for employment where the number of teachers already exceeds demand. Lack of accountability in TU has led to this state.

Back to whether TU should phase PCL out of its campuses. Abolition of PCL will support the national education system. If universities do not support the system, who will look after the education system of this country, that has been detoriarating day by day? In this respect, whatever TU decided was highly commendable. However there are certain concerns that need to be addressed, sooner than later.

One, as the issue has been political from the beginning, this should be resolved politically. There should have been a political decision. Unfortunately,however, it was made by a single university. A couple of other universities are also running PCL level. Hence simply stopping the enrolment of students in TU will not serve the larger goal of phasing out PCL. Two, students in PCL are paying around Rs 50 a month; moreover, scholarships are available to 25 per cent of all students. This indicates that most of the students in the class won’t pay as regular students in most campuses account for less than 25 per cent. The case of higher secondary schools is different. Students have to pay exorbitant fees, which most of the students, especially those from the poor families, cannot afford. Thus, an alternate to this fee structure needs to be sought before pushing all students to higher secondary schools.

Three, since TU has been running PCL, students and/or their parents were not aware that the university was working to do away with the level. The real stakeholders were hence mentally unprepared. Had they been informed a year in advance or at least right after the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exams, this issue might not have come up at all.

Fourth, the government should be cautious about such decisions because the three major political parties have announced through their Constituent Assembly election manifesto that school level education (grades 1-12) will be free and is government’s liability. If they were not lying to the common people, it behoves them to come forward to resolve the issue.

Fifth, and not the least important, this issue might be detrimental to the leaders looking for consensus politics. At a time when the new government is in labour pain, this one-sided decision of Tribhuvan University could be another tactic to defy the coming government.

Let us all join hands and promise that nobody from today will play unnecessary politics in the education sector and put the students’ future in peril. If we want to save the nation, let us save the virtue of education and make it free from all the malevolent elements.

Dr Wagley is an educationist