EDITORIAL: Revamp public schools

Dismissing the unqualified teachers and recruiting fresh ones through a highly selective appointment process will improve the quality of education

The initial euphoria of the students over having scored a high GPA, or Grade Point Average, in the Secondary Education Examination (SEE) is over as they scramble to apply in the different plus two colleges to study the stream of their choice in class XI. The real test of how well the students have grasped the different subject matters in school will be determined by their success in finding admission to the college and discipline of their choice. Students can normally choose from the humanities, business and science streams in class XI, with science demanding a high score in the college entrance exams. Thus, a high GPA does not guarantee admission to a college of repute. Rather inability to study the subject of one’s choice is likely to lead to frustration among the students. As with the SEE results, it is most likely that those who find admission to a good college will be from the private schools.

The SEE is held at the end of class X, much like its predecessor the School Leaving Certificate Examination, or SLC. However, the SEE does not have the charm of the SLC, as the former under the GPA system fails no one, although a D in a subject is equivalent to failing in a subject. How to improve the quality of education in the community schools is a discourse that normally takes place at the time of the SEE results. This used to be the case in the past during the SLC results also, as it was rare to see any year with even half the students passing the examination. The SEE results continue to be just as shocking, with more than half of the 459,275 students scoring a GPA of 0.8-2.0 out of 4. This is a colossal wastage of national resources, as not only the federal government but also the provincial and local levels put a lot of money in the education sector.

Year after year, it is hard to see why the community schools should fare so poorly compared to the private schools. If there had been no private schools in the country, one can well imagine just how disastrous the SEE results would have been. There is a systemic problem, and unless we can fix it, it would be hopeless to expect education quality to improve in the community schools. Quality education begins with quality teachers, and that seems to be lacking in the community schools, although not all. Unless the schools can hold them accountable for the poor performance of the students year after year in the SEE exams (and at other levels, too), one cannot expect education quality to improve at all. But this is easier said than done in a country where a teacher once appointed can pocket his or her salary and other benefits until retirement without having to worry about how the students do in school. It is an irony that many a teacher in a community school has had a poor academic track record. How these teachers came to be selected in the first place is anyone’s guess. So dismissing the unqualified teachers and recruiting fresh ones through a highly selective appointment process will improve the quality of education and help shape the students into good citizens. Experience from around the world has shown that education is fundamental to development and growth.

Rice import

The changing habit of consumers has led to the import of rice despite the fact that the country produces enough of the cereal to meet the domestic demand.

Even the people from the hills and mountainous regions prefer refined, or white rice, which is imported mainly from India. A few decades ago, people in the hills and mountains used to rely on locally produced food, such as wheat, maize and millet. Nowadays, their habits have changed due to their improved living conditions brought about by the remittance economy.

In the current fiscal, paddy production has hit an all time high of 5.6 million tonnes. Domestic demand of rice in the domestic market stands at around four million tonnes per annum. The agriculture sector has a 27 per cent contribution to the country’s gross domestic product, and rice contributes 20 per cent to the GDP. Against this backdrop, the government must encourage people to consume locally-produced food to ensure food security and food sovereignty. We can also produce more rice provided that the government strictly implements the land use policy and builds more irrigation projects in the Tarai region, which is the food basket of the country.