Late prescription

One of the main ingredients of a good education system is the timely revision of the syllabuses of schools, colleges and universities to make the courses relevant to contemporary needs. Till a few years ago, there was only one SLC board (it still is), one Intermediate level board (the same as the then only university), which also set the syllabuses for higher education; but after the 1990 Jana Andolan, more than one exists at each level except the matriculation level; there, too, except for the SLC, exams, the private schools are free to prescribe courses. Hence, there is a confusing array of syllabuses. In Nepal, educational institutions are also allowed to run the syllabuses of foreign boards or universities. What implications this policy has for the country and whether and under what circumstances this should be allowed to continue is yet another matter for investigation and action.

If any of the boards does not update or change its syllabuses to meet the changing demands of the country, as well as of the market — both internal and international — it will compromise both the interests of the students and society. Take for instance the syllabuses of Proficiency Certificate Level under Tribhuvan University. These have not been revised for long, so TU courses have been losing favour among students and educational institutions. One reason may have been TU’s toying with the idea of phasing out this level for years. But that cannot be a strong justification for doing nothing. Even the curricula for the Bachelor level – for instance, in the Humanities and Business Studies – have run on for a decade without a change. There are other related issues, such as those of making the Bachelor level a four-year course instead of the present three-year one and adopting more flexibility in allowing students to change from subject to subject or from discipline to discipline, as several other countries have done.

Reviewing, updating or revising every syllabus from time to time, say, at least every five years, must be adopted as a compulsory routine for any board or university. The government’s Curriculum Development Committee (CDC) has always been a sluggard, as TU has been. The changes that are currently taking place in the syllabuses of 15 subjects for Classes IX and X are mainly due to the change in political situation after the Jana Andolan II and probably also to not asking questions in the SLC exams from Class 9 syllabus since last year. However, the need for revision should be felt soon enough even in the normal course of things. Besides, the textbooks written for the government schools are all in Nepali, and those wanting to pursue their studies in the English medium have been facing a big problem. It is, however, a welcome development that the department concerned has taken the right, though belated, step of starting publishing the English versions of the Nepali textbooks it prints. Particularly at school level, there is also the need to bring some order to the confusion created by the welter of textbooks at school level, in order to maintain quality as well as to discourage crass commercialism prevailing among private school operators.