EDITORIAL: Welcome departure

Creativity, emphasis on understanding the concepts and applying the knowledge gained should get high priority rather than rote learning

The School Leaving Certificate (SLC) students in the general stream will from this SLC examination get their scores in the form of letter grading. The government introduced this system to the technical and vocational stream of SLC courses under which there are 99 schools in the country right now. However, a great majority of students study under the general stream. This shift from decades-old percentage system to the letter grading system marks a major departure in the way the students’ performances are measured. Though there are, as can be expected, opinions both in favour of and against the letter grading system, it offers several advantages rather than disadvantages. First of all, this system agrees with the prevailing practices in most countries, including advanced countries which many Nepali students make their destination for higher education. This synchronization itself makes matters easier for students and educational institutions from various points of view.

Another important advantage of the new system will be to minimize the suicide rate among SLC examinees who do poorly in the exams. The letter grading system will do away with the old pass-fail testing system, as no examinee will be labelled as passed or failed; rather they will be put on a scale from 0 to 4, called the Grade Point Average (GPA) scale. The examinees who have been absent, expelled or who have left the answer-sheets blank get an N, which is read as ‘not graded’, i.e. 0 on the GPA scale. Out of the nine grades, the next two upper grades are E and D, E for scores of less than 20 out of 100 and D being for marks less than 40 but 20 and above. The range of marks within each of these two grades is 20. For the grades C, B and A, each is given a plain letter and a letter and plus. So these grades become a plain C and C Plus, B and B Plus, A and A plus, within each of these grades there being a difference of 10 marks out of 100 and each grade gets a different but set GPA score. A Plus (i.e. 90 or above marks), for example, gets the full GPA score of 4 indicating outstanding performance.

The new system will remove the comparisons of students in terms of a very narrow difference, and this will lead to healthy competition and comparisons. A narrow difference in marks could be caused by any of the various factors other than the performances of the students, for example, even the mood of the examinees, and the different ways of marking papers among the various examiners. As the letter grading system is new to Nepal, particularly to SLC scores, various other things may have to be sorted out, for example, admission criteria for students and eligibility for applying for a job. This system should also be considered the first step towards the way of imparting education to the school students and towards the way of testing students. Creativity, emphasis on understanding the concepts and applying the knowledge gained should get high priority rather than rote learning which prevails in the schools as well as the way questions are set and the students are tested. For this, massive teacher training is necessary, and this will involve a significant allocation of budget. There are some reservations about this system among some people, and measures should be taken to refine the new system in the days to come.

Capitalize on it

A one-and-a-half decades back the garment industry was Nepal’s top exporter. However, this is no longer the case. Since then 85 per cent of the garment factories are no longer operating and at present there are only 50 factories in operation. Now there is good news for the garment industry that Nepali garments are to get duty-free and quota-free facility in the United States whose Senate has endorsed a Bill that allows for duty-free-quota-free (DFQF) entry of these products into the US. However, the Bill still lacks the US president’s seal. Incidentally, the Nepali garment virtually collapsed after the expiry of the Multi Fiber Agreement in January 2005.

Nepal’s economy is in dire straits because of the decade-long conflict. The problems of labour unrest and electricity shortages and also the high interest charged by the banks and other financial institutions led to a decline on the export of the garments. At one time the country earned revenue of 20 per cent from exporting garments.