Nepal | October 20, 2019

EDITORIAL: Kids’ future at stake

The Himalayan Times

The Ministry of Education should have pre-informed the schools that students faring badly in Grade VIII would be barred from SEE

The country’s education system is being run on an ad hoc basis, be it primary, secondary or higher education. The goals and objectives of all levels of education are rarely defined as per the country’s needs. When it comes to primary and secondary education they are in a total mess, especially after the government introduced the grading system that replaced the numerical marking system, which was known to all. Earlier, the government came up with the idea of Basic Primary Education way back in the 1990s, which was later replaced by the School Sector Reform Plan (2009-2015), both donor-driven projects which yielded no substantive results in the country’s education system. Studies have shown that both the systems did not help improve the quality of education in the primary and secondary levels in the public schools. The government pours in billions of rupees every fiscal to improve the quality of education in the public schools, but the results of these institutions have always been zilch.

After the grading system was introduced in 2017 to replace the old numerical marking system, all stakeholders, including the teachers, students and guardians, were in a bundle of confusion over its evaluation process. After two years of its implementation, a new problem has emerged. According to officials, more than 4,000 Grade X students from Kathmandu alone will not be eligible to sit for the Secondary Education Education Examination (SEE) next year (2020) as they had failed to score the minimum “D+” in the Grade VIII exams. According to a decision taken by the National Curriculum Development and Evaluation Council on January 31, 2018, a student has to score at least a D+ (1.6 GPA or 40 per cent in the numerical marking system) in the compulsory subjects – English, Nepali, Maths, Science and Social Studies – in Grade VIII. A student who has fared below D+ in at least two of the compulsory subjects must sit for a re-exam and repeat Grade VIII if s/he has scored less than that in more than two compulsory subjects. However, even those who had scored less than D+ were promoted to Grade IX as their results were published months after their Grade IX classes had resumed. No student can be promoted to Grade IX if s/he has not scored a D+ in the Grade VIII exams. The students must show their report card while filling up the SEE form.

The future of tens of thousands of students will be at stake due to this directive as such students will already have lost three academic years by the time they prepare to fill up the SEE registration form. Officials say no amendments will be made to the directives. The schools should have known about the guidelines before promoting the students who had done badly in Grade VIII. They should have told them to repeat the class, instead of promoting them to the higher level. The more than 4,000 students who are ineligible for the SEE next year from Kathmandu alone are just the tip of the iceberg. The Ministry of Education and the concerned agencies, including the local levels, have no data about the number of such ineligible students from across the country. Who is to blame for this total mess? The ministry should have educated the teachers, students and parents about the new provision before it was too late.

Eradicating TB

Nepal’s bid to eradicate tuberculosis (TB) by 2035 in line with the global commitment is unlikely to be realised. A prevalence survey carried out by a team of national and international experts in five provinces shows that 44,000 new cases of TB infection occur annually while it accounts for 5,000-7000 deaths in a year across the country. Many more TB cases go unreported. There are quite a few reasons why the National Strategic Plan 2016-2021 on TB has not made good progress. They include lack of staff, outdated TB diagnosis, lack of containers to transport lab samples securely and poor condition of equipment used for molecular tests to detect the presence of TB bacteria. Apparently, the people who suffer from the disease are poor people, already burdened by a host of other diseases. Hence, without the intervention by the government in their treatment, TB is here to stay, especially in the remote parts of the country bereft of treatment facilities like a hospital or health post. Now that the government knows what is hindering progress in eradicating TB, it can start working on improving the situation. The people are not amused by the constant excuses that federalism is creating a shortage of staffers to implement the TB programme.

A version of this article appears in print on June 12, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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